Waffling reader can’t make up mind about power meter

September 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I’ve been cycling for three years now. I started with a hand-me-down Nishiki that my brother used in college, and have gradually worked my way up to a new Specialized Venge with Zipp 800′s and Shimano Di2. I started doing the Donut Ride about a year ago and although the first part is tough but doable, I have a lot of trouble when we hit the bottom of the Switchbacks. I’ve also done some USCF road races and tend to come unhitched when the road tilts up. After reading Coggan’s “Training and Racing with a Power Meter,” I’ve almost made the decision to up my game and get one, but it’s a tough sell on the home front as my wife doesn’t really “get” why I need a power meter after buying such an expensive bike. I’ve tried to explain power to weight ratios to her and stuff like that, but her eyes just glaze over, she starts talking about the kids’ orthodontics, and then I don’t get any sex for a couple of weeks. Any suggestions on how I can make my case? I’m primed for some serious training this winter and an upgrade to the 4′s in 2012.

Tired of Talking to the Hand,
Billy Budd

Dear Billy:

Pardon me while I puke. There, I’m almost better. Dude, you haven’t “gradually worked up” if you’ve gone from a Nishiki to a Venge in three years. That’s like getting triple D breast implants before you’ve even reached puberty. Back in the day you had to ride a shit bike for three years just so you could upgrade to 32-spoke GP4′s, you spoiled little showoff snotnosed sonofabitch. Your letter indicates that on the Donut, prior to hitting the Switchbacks you’re already in trouble, which should be a Wanker Alert of the first order: the Donut Ride should be a fucking cakewalk until you hit the climb. If you’re so much as cracking a sweat before then, your problems have nothing to do with a power meter, and everything to do with power, of which you apparently don’t have much. Getting a power meter to increase your power is like getting a longer tape measure to increase your height. And by the way, your wife’s not the only one who doesn’t “get” it; I don’t, either. You’re getting shelled at the bottom of the climb on $10,000 worth of bike? You need to study Newton’s First Law of Cyclodynamics, which is that idiots can never be created or destroyed, they can only change bikes. And if you feel stupid flailing off the back on the equivalent of a Ferrari, think how stupid you’re gonna feel when you introduce your friends to your kids and their teeth are growing down into their chins. IT’S A FUCKING HOBBY, MORON, NO MATTER HOW MANY PARTS AND KITS YOU OWN THAT LOOK JUST LIKE FABIAN’S! Plus, the fact that you can even think about sex is proof that you’re not logging the miles, and are logging something else instead.

Disgusted,
The Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’ve done some reading on tubulars v. clinchers. Which do you recommend?

Glued to My Inbox,
Sammy Snuffles

Dear Sammy:

A long time ago, when hard men with names ending in a string of unpronounceable consonants plied the cobbles between Compiègne and Roubaix, there were good reasons to use a tire that leaves you covered up to your eyelids in glue, that falls off the rim when it’s too hot resulting in catastrophic accidents, that can only be repaired by a master seamstress, that requires you to carry an entire other 2-lb. tire for flats on the road, and that costs ten times more than a replacement clincher inner tube. That time was long before you were born, during a Golden Age of Cycling when it was honorable to be stupid. Now, the only reason to use a tubular is if you’ve purchased every possible component and whacky invention to increase your speed (think elliptical chain rings, Power Cranks, etc.), yet you still suck. They won’t make you any faster, but you’ll take out the field when you rip through the state championship crit on the last lap and roll a tire.

Snickering,
The Wankmeister

Holiday to Hell

September 5, 2011 § 3 Comments

Holiday: [From the New Intergalactic Panlinguistic Dictionary] n. “A period in which a break is taken from work for rest. Many holidays of the world tend to occur at the approximate dates of more ancient, pagan festivals.”

In the South Bay, the Holiday Ride occurs every Monday on which there is at least a 3-day weekend commemorating a national holiday. Unlike other “holiday” events, which in America generally focus on beer or working overtime at the office, the Holiday Ride, far from being a break from work, is a celebration of suffering, akin to having nails driven into your eyes, or beating your knuckles over and over with a hammer. It coincides with the ancient pagan festival of Huitzilopochtili, in which a living human heart was ripped from the ribcage of a sacrificial victim and offered to the Aztec god.

You Actually Get to Keep Your Heart. Sort of.

The Holiday Ride always begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and leaves from the center of the known universe in Manhattan Beach. In decent weather, such as we had today, it easily draws 150+ deluded idiots and an even smaller handful of the truly crazy. Blocking traffic and often spilling out into the opposing lane, it lazily rolls through Santa Monica and makes a right turn onto San Vicente, where infuriated motorists have alerted the Santa Monica police, who in turn lay in wait, praying that someone is foolhardy enough to run a yellow light.

This morning we moved up onto San Vicente in a giant clump, and after a few seconds the sound of a squad car’s PA spewed out over the whirr of chains, cogs, and echoing carbon rims. “Single file,” an idiot bellowed, unaware that one of the men in the group was Rahsaan Bahati, the undisputed King of the Peloton.

“Single file?” Rahsaan mused. “We can do that.” In a matter of seconds the clump turned into a single file of idiots, wankers, pretenders, dreamers, schemers, wannabes, couldabeens, shouldadones, and gonnatries. Thirty seconds into Bahati’s effort, the scab-like, globular accretion of  cyclists became a tight wire line stretched to the breaking point before, of course, it broke. Egos shattered with the force of eggs on marble, dreams came crashing down onto the rusty and pointed nails of reality, and tales of Holiday Heroism, carefully rehearsed for the wife and kids, became labored, grunting, panting wheezes as each drowning rat lunged for the life-saving slipstream of whatever wheel lay immediately ahead. We hit the red light at 26th Street with five guys. The remainder of the group caught up and exhaled a collective heave, reminding everyone that the climb hadn’t even started, and that it was going to be a hard, nasty, unpleasant, ratfucking business.

“Game On.” Make that “Game Over.”

We queued at the light before Mandeville Canyon Drive, the tired and nervous group waiting for the execution. The light turned green and Noel slapped the snot out of the peloton with a hard jump. Those who were still hoping for a gradual windup were sorely disappointed, as he drilled the first mile full bore before blowing up in a shower of sparks.

Rahsaan’s subsequent acceleration at the front after he pulled off unleashed the mother of all wind-ups. More than a hundred hopeless souls were instantaneously consigned to the hellfire and damnation of an 800-watt acceleration that scorched the lungs and incinerated the spirits of all but the hardiest.

The hardiest, of course, included Devon, King Harold, DS Jaeger, Stathis the Greek, and Doug P. I brought up the rear of the group, making sure that bits of puke, lung, and blood were deposited in the appropriate places. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to sit on the wheel of a national champion or of a guy who’s won the Athens Twilight Criterium along with a slew of other major pro domestic races, all I can tell you is that I don’t really know. There’s a feeling of helplessness and pain, of defeat mixed with gagging, suffocating, despair, and of course the sensation that every elephant in India has decided to step on your legs at once…other than that…

He’s the Teacher, and You Just Got Schooled

Rahsaan towed the struggling line of hackers for most of the climb, swung off, and watched as a small group detached itself and rolled up the road. Doug P. then sat up and waved me ahead as his deuterium isotope fused with his tritium isotope, setting off one of the more memorable blow-ups I’ve yet to witness on Mandeville. Unhappily, as I sprinted through the fallout to catch Rahsaan’s wheel, the fallout from Doug’s blast contaminated my drinking water and set off a chain reaction in which my lactate ions fused with my crack-and-whimper ions, leaving me adrift between the break and the wanker brigade. Just as it appeared things couldn’t possibly get worse, Rahsaan sat up, finally spent from his superhuman effort. The break was in sight, now comprised of King Harold, Devon, and DS Jaeger. But they were gone.

It Ain’t Over ‘Til it’s Over. And it was Over.

As we hit the final 300m wall that concludes the canyon climb, I was tucked on Rahsaan’s wheel. The three leaders were wobbling and weaving with a massive gap on the chase. The Man jumped out of the saddle, and despite having towed the entire group up the entire climb, rocketed up, caught and dropped the leaders, and reached the gate first. South Bay Tom, Jay the River, and Doug P. blew by me and even took time to kick sand in my face.

On the way back we stopped at the off-center of the known universe, Peet’s Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. Shreds of self-respect were carefully scraped together as we all sat in a circle around Rahsaan, hoping that some of his greatness would rub off on us, but knowing deep down that it wouldn’t.

But that’s okay. There’s always another holiday.

The Rock and roll, chicks conquer all

September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

The game plan was 100+ miles out to The Rock at Point Mugu. MT4 miles. Steady out, steady back. No attacks, no single-file death drills, no sign sprints. Just try to average 19mph and be home before noon, with a pee stop, a fuel stop, and time budgeted for the inevitable couple of flats. Everyone welcome, including our local bike chicks.

Of course, as soon as that message went out, a single complaint came in.

“The chicks are coming? Aw, man, we’ll be waiting all day for ‘em. It’s too rolling on PCH for the chicks to keep up. They’ll fade off the back and we’ll do in seven hours what we can do in five. Hope you know what you’re doing. Chicks on the ride means sloooooow.”

I considered these various objections and dealt with them as politely and diplomatically as I knew how: “Have you ever thought about going and fucking yourself and the bike you rode in on? Chicks are welcome. Chicks are just as tough as any of us, and most of them are tougher because they have to put up with small-peckered athletic men who can’t stand to admit that women are their equals, causing the insecure guys to make the extra effort to push the pace to shell the chicks.

“This is a steady pace ride. Our women can hang and they’ll benefit from the miles and steady pace just as much as we will. Money in the bank for those of us doing MT4, money in the bank for the women doing the MS 150. It will be hard for everyone, and if they get into trouble on the rollers they’ll have to pace themselves back up to the group. No hand holding and no baby coddling, but no deliberate ass-kicking accelerations, either. Anyone who doesn’t like it can ride the fuck with someone else’s group.”

MT4 Celebrity Checklist

The 6:00 a.m. meet-up at MBSB featured a singular assortment of the very best that Ironfly has to offer, true heroes of the South Bay: the Chief, sitting primed on the stoop, Paul D., Doug P. Dave A., Neumann, Big Mike, Marc, and Yuletide. Other celebrity guns included Haaron W., Chris J., Jim M., Jens, Robert M., SB Wheelmen Tom, Taylor and Renee, Vicki V., Jonesey, King Harold, and Occidental Dan. At the Ocean Park toilets Matt J. and Santa Monica’s most renowned County of Mayo Irishman/Ukrainian Jewish therapist joined the ride as well.

A couple of riders were chagrined to learn that a 6:00 a.m. departure means, oddly enough, that the ride departs at 6:00 a.m. This entailed a bit of chasing until they overhauled us at the toilets. Elderly prostates were relieved at Ocean Park, and Jens took the opportunity to flat. This brought into play Rule #2: Make sure you’re not joining the group ride on a pair of paper-thin, worn-to-the-thread tires, and the Good Tire Rule’s corollary–don’t bring the deep dish Swagmaster two-spoke wheels with the high tech CO2 gun if you don’t know how to remove the tire or use the gun. I learned this the hard way back in 2009, when I switched from tubulars to a pair of Zipp clinchers and flatted going up Seven Minute Climb with Joe Y. and Rudy. They watched in amusement as I tried to put the tube atop the tire…Joe reminds me of it at suitable intervals.

We had all expected German precision and a quick tire change, but Jens ended up admitting to Big Mike that he had no idea how to use the CO2 gun, and moreover he had brought a tube with 48mm stem for his deep dish Swagmasters. This left a tiny little penis tip of a protrusion around which he fumbled the cartridge, prematurely releasing most of the gas. We all hoped that his tire change methodology wasn’t a metaphor for his sex life. Big Mike introduced him to the intricacies of the valve extender and we were on our way.

Manly Men and Their Many Manly Meanderings

When we hit PCH at Will Rogers State Beach, the wind was blowing straight into our faces. By the time we hit Trancas, it was clear that the “chicks” were going to hang, and hang tough. Dave, Jonesey, and Noel took long turns on the front, and the final five-mile slog to the rock saw Doug hunker down on the point and motor into the teeth of a sapping and relentless headwind. We stopped briefly at The Rock, had a candy bar, and turned around.

Noel came to the front and battered on the point all the way back to Santa Monica. “I like to be where the pain is,” he said as he ramped it up to 27 and held it for most of the return from Cross Creek. It was only my repeated whimpering that caused him to back it off in the last few miles to Temescal. The women displayed impressive grittiness as we tackled each successively steep roller, ascending the sharp walls out of Ventura County Line, Trancas, and the roller before Latigo. When we hit the bike path at Temescal and ratcheted back the pace, we all looked at each other and realized that the exhaustion and fatigue wasn’t a gender thing…it was a bike thing, and the bike thing is an equal opportunity ass-kicker.

Unlaboring for nationals

September 2, 2011 § 4 Comments

Monday is Labor Day, a time of celebration and rest for those whose efforts and occupations keep this great country moving. It less well known that the Friday preceding Labor Day is also celebrated as “Unlabor Day,” a time when we doff our hats to those who have been able to milk the system so that they may enjoy a wonderful lifestyle without having to lift a finger. One among our small cadre of South Bay cyclists stands particularly tall in this regard (not naming any names), and today a stellar lineup including Rodley, Marcus Aurelius, King Harold,  Howard Hughes of the South Bay, the Chief, and Jaegermeister spent Unlabor Day morning on the stoop drinking coffee, telling lies, and watching a dog urinate on the bikes leaned against the hitching post. My bike.

Big Mike accompanied us from Malaga Cove, but turned back at MBSB in order not to be photographed and therefore publicly associated with the unwashed. Mr. I’m In Trial was in trial, and the Honey Badger sent his regrets. Jack from Illinois (not his real name) was a no-show, but with us in spirit. A very angry and evil spirit, might I add.

Jeff K. made a cameo ride by and nodded in our direction without actually saying “hello,” “good morning,” or “fuck you, losers.” That’s okay; I’m sure at least one of those thoughts crossed his mind, and that’s good enough for me. Jeff and G$ are representing the slackers of the South Bay at Master’s Nationals in Bend this weekend, and in further celebration of Unlabor Day we gave thanks to those godlike men willing to labor in the saddle for glory even as we ordered a second round of scones. The Chief, who is in serious training for MT4, got in a particularly hearty ride by going all the way back with us to Hermosa Beach  before heading home, which gave him a total of five miles for the morning. Unlaborers of the world, unite!

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