Setting goals for 2012 the Toyota way

December 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

So there you are, the ink hardly dry on your computer screen and you’re all proud as a peacock about the resolutions you’ve resolved to do in 2012, ignoring for the moment that “resolve” seems like it’s made up of “re” which means “do over” and “solve” which means “fix,” so without putting too fine a point on it you’re going to try and fix again something that’s either re-broke or that never got done in the first place, else why would you be fixing it again?

The facts are ugly and numerical and statistical and scientifical and they don’t bode well for your 2012 fix-agains, as most people flail and flop to the tune of 22% throwing in the towel after one week, 40% after one month, 50% after three months, 60% after six months, and 81% after twenty-four months and that’s according to an actual scientific study written by a fellow named Richard Koestner in 2008. Yes, your fix-agains are headed for the crapper, but that won’t and shouldn’t stop you from making them because the simple act of promising to do something you’re not going to do increases the chance that you’ll actually do it tenfold. In other words, promising to stop getting drunk before work is the best way to stop getting drunk before work even though you’re highly unlikely to ever stop getting drunk before work.

Some common cycling fix-agains

Cyclists love to make a new set of fix-agains with the advent of the New Year. “This year I’m going to do three sets of functional threshold 20-minute intervals twice a week and I’m going to lose 15 pounds and I’m going to start racing smart and I’m going to work on my climbing and getting a smooth spin and develop some explosiveness plus improve my time trailing and still have time to play ball with my sons and take my wife out to dinner and most of all be satisfied with the equipment I’ve got and not covet that Dura-Ace Di2 because it’s the biker not the bike and get good on the track and get that promotion at work and drink less and not masturbate so much.”

Fact is that you’re going to flail and fail at those fix-agains, especially the last one, which you’ve been promising to do since you were thirteen and the only thing you have to show for it is a bad case of leathery palms and terribly blurred vision.

Why should it be this way? Why are New Year’s fix-agains so doomed to failure, hard to keep, yet invariably poking up like a fresh set of weeds, come what may, every January the First? Or, as Mark Twain so aptly put it, “New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

A quick look at common cycling goals and why they fail

Start training with a power meter: by now everyone knows that if you’re not training with power, you’re missing out on the single best tool to help you ride faster. Why won’t you do this in 2012? Because it requires wholesale change in your riding habits, it’s complicated and requires lots of study and reading or worse a coach and plus you’re a cheapass.

Build up to an important event with a periodized training plan: periodization is what women use to menstruate and have children, and it’s created billions and billions of little people. Periodization works. Why won’t you do this in 2012? Because it requires wholesale change in your riding habits, it requires a detailed plan, adherence to the plan, careful tracking of bio-physiological parameters, and because you are a lazyass.

Lose ten pounds in the next three months: you go faster the less you weigh, and unlike a new frame and super light race wheels, it actually saves you money to eat less. Why won’t you do this in 2012? Because the only thing more fun than masturbation is eating and drinking and to slice those pounds requires a detailed plan, a change in habits, adherence to the plan, etc., and because you never met a second helping you didn’t like.

Increase training mileage by 10%: higher training volume makes you stronger, lets you recover quicker, and makes you faster. Why won’t you tack on the handful of extra miles in 2012? Because pumping up your mileage requires a big picture plan, adherence…you know the rest…and because you are delusional in thinking that what led to failure in 2011 will lead to success in 2012.

Develop a higher cadence: flogging the big ring at 69 rpm will consign you to perpetual wankerdom. “Spin to win.” “Look at how the pros train.” Etc. Why won’t you concentrate on riding higher cadences in easier gears? Because turning higher rpm’s takes concentration and effort each time you get on the bike, and because you are a macho doofus who thinks that slog and flog = tough & buff.

A deeper look at the components of flogdom and flaildom

Strange to say, the things that inhibit implementation of your lofty, post-hangover New Year’s goals are the exact same things that inhibit the implementation of efficient manufacturing processes on the production floor of a factory. These elements have been exhaustively analyzed in a book by Masaaki Imai titled “Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense, Low-Cost Approach to Management.”

It’s odd to think that boosting the efficient production of non-defective auto transmissions for timely delivery to meet customer demands could have anything in common with your cycling goals for 2012, but it does. Oversimplifying the nugget of Gemba Kaizen somewhat, the secret to modifying most human behavior for the better is incrementalism.

This does not discount the fact that wholesale radical change can also work. Quitting the demon rum cold turkey, losing 100 pounds in two months, going from late morning sluggard to 5:00 a.m. workout workhorse…these things are all possible, and indeed we know crazyfucks who’ve done them. To make those massive changes, though, you need massive motivation, the kind we can only summon a handful of times in our lives to change careers, to go back to college, to kick a destructive addiction, or to kick out a deadbeat boyfriend. For all the other goals and aspirations, we’ll have to try something else.

The stats above and the general nature of human slovenliness mean that, for the most part, radical reinvention of the self is really nothing more than a short-term burst that will be followed by a crash and a return to the old ways of ass scratching, beer farts by noon, and the occasional urge to train hard after watching a particularly exciting stage of the Tour sometime in late July.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

We’ve all heard this ancient Chinese proverb, but it presupposes that you’ve got legs and feet. Everyone knows or has been told that small, incremental change accumulates to big things, but if it were that easy, we’d all take a single step and then voila, we’d be in Kansas. No wonder no one takes that step.

The horror of winding up in Kansas aside, incrementalism is inhibited on a practical level by the three horsemen of the Manufacturing Apocalypse: clutter, waste, and randomness. “Clutter” is defined as “that shit you’ve been intending to toss or organize for the last six months–or six years–but have never gotten around to.” “Waste” is defined as “activities related to cycling that have nothing to do with riding your bike.” “Randomness” means “today I’ll do it differently for no apparent reason.”

Classic forms of clutter include too much equipment, broken equipment, badly adjusted equipment, tools that you never use or don’t know how to use, wool jerseys, “collectible” bike parts from the 80’s, and of course the arrangement of the physical space in which your cycling apparel, bike, and tools are located. Classic forms of cycling waste include surfing the Internet and reading about cycling (like you’re doing right now), reading Velo-Crap or Cyclingspews, hanging out at the bike shop just to shoot the shit, reading bike mags, blogging about bikes, emailing about bikes, watching a Sunday in Hell more than 50 times, or calling up your buddies to talk about the race/ride/team kit design for 2013. Randomness means changing up your nutrition, type of riding, length of riding, or intensity of riding for no reason other than this is how you want to do it now.

Making a dent in your goals for 2012

Applying Japanese production concepts of Gemba Kaizen to cycling, then, the two cheapest and quickest methods to start adding incremental improvements are reducing clutter and reducing waste. You can immediately run a test on your clutter level to determine the internal resistance you will experience in trying to reduce it. Here’s the test:

1. If you’ve been cycling in earnest for more than five years, go into the closet or chest of drawers and remove five jerseys and five pairs of shorts that you haven’t worn in the last six months.

2. Then throw them away. In the trash. Right now.

If even the thought of doing this causes you to break out in hives, or you can immediately think of ten great reasons to hang onto each item, then you’ve identified a massive impediment to making even your first incremental step toward reaching your 2012 goals. You’re having a hard time reaching your cycling goals because the acquisition of things associated with cycling–the gear–now predominates over the actual activity.

Run through this same test with your wheels, your frames, your components, and all the other gewgaws you’ve wasted good money on in your obsession with this bizarre activity. Even if you successfully deplete your clutter by half, chances are good that you’ll still have enough shit laying around to start an amateur 10-man race team. If you’re Frankendave, you’ll be able to outfit them all in matching mauve aero helmets and bright yellow shoe covers.

Why clutter fucks up your quest for improvement

If you think that a couple of extra jerseys and an old Campy Nuovo Record derailleur can’t possibly be affecting your training, think again. If you happen to be married, or to share household expenses with someone, the massive amount of cycling clutter greatly impedes the purchase of equipment that you actually need. Let’s say that in order to get your 2012 groove on with a power-based training regimen, you’re looking at $950 for the PowerTap, $500 for the Garmin Edge 500, $199 for the WKO+ analysis software, and another $100 to have your LBS build the wheel from some old rim you have stuck in the bookcase.

That’s almost $1,800 bucks. And do you know what your significant other is going to say when you trot this whopper out for his/her purchasing approval? Of course you do. The same thing she/he always says: “You already have five sets of wheels, not including the ones on your four bikes. Why in the name of God do you need more?”

Etcetera.

So the first problem with excess bike crap is that it de-leverages your intraspousal negotiations for new crap. There’s another reason that bike clutter inhibits growth. If you happen to be a tinker-type, as a great many cyclists are, you end up wasting precious time jacking with your stuff. When Chris Carmichael wrote “Forcibly Injecting Steroids for the Time-Crunched Cyclist,” his theory was that a great many aspiring athletes have too many legitimate items on their plate to devote 20 hours a week to training.

Those legitimate items are work and family. “Trying to get my classic SunTour shifters to work with electronic Campy components” is not a legit item. Yet the more bicycle junk you have, the more time you spend doing precisely that. The same holds true with excess clothing. Although no sane person recommends trying to get by with a single pair of shorts, yellow armwarmers, and a helmet from 1973 a-la-Shakes-the-Clown, do you really need a dozen Assos jerseys from last year alone?

And how much time do you waste trying to color coordinate all that crap? “Hmmm, I think fuchsia goes well with bright yellow, but this accent of lime green on my frame…no. What about the bold purple and the brown socks? Nah. Black shorts and white jersey? Too boring.”

By the time you’ve gotten your runway ensemble together, the ride has left, or the morning traffic is too congested to do your interval training, or it’s time to go to work. Clothing clutter should be reduced to six or seven jerseys and six or seven pairs of good shorts, and better yet if they’re all from the same club, unless of course it’s that old Bike Palace design from a couple of years ago with the huge flame and the yellow and black and white and red jaw of doom that used to shatter windshields and stop old ladies’ pacemakers when the sunlight hit it just right.

Leaving aside tinkering and the complexities of making a fashion statement, the more shit you have, the more shit you have to maintain. Parts seize up. Chains dry out. Tires harden. Rust never, ever, ever sleeps. “I need a backup!” you plead. “What if I need a spare pair of wheels? What if I need another frame?” You need to get it through your head that you are not in charge of an intensive care unit, and the failure of your equipment will not result in the loss of hundreds of lives. In fact, by only having one serviceable bike, you’re likely to take better care of it.

If your bike or wheels break, you will lose a day or two of riding while you wait on a replacement. That’s a lot less than the time you will lose by fretting over old parts, maintaining multiple bikes, and ensembl-ing your collection of fashions from the last decade

If it won’t work for Toyota, it probably won’t work for you

Attacking clutter is at the forefront of the total quality management and Just In Time production system employed by the world’s largest carmaker. Production managers realized more than sixty years ago that clutter fucks up the system.

Clutter is, by definition, in the way. It slows things down, it literally gums up the machinery, and even more insidiously, it masks underlying problems and makes them impossible to diagnose, let alone treat. Sometimes clutter, or its close companion filth, are masking problems with machinery that’s about to break. How many times have you decided to give you bike a good cleaning, only to discover some piece that’s either worn out, loose, maladjusted, or about to break?

Other times, clutter and filth mask structural problems that pose an even bigger challenge to reaching targets. When the production floor is littered with work-in-progress items, it impedes everything from people to forklifts to materials. When your bike cave is a dreckhole chock full of old handlebars, multiple wheelsets, that old Indy Fabrications steel frame you’re never, ever going to build up, three generations of MTB’s hanging from the garage ceiling, and your closet is a packrat’s trove of old jerseys and shorts, it complicates what should be the easiest of tasks: dressing, airing up the tires, and rolling out the door.

The clutter killer

Toyota takes the twin issues of clutter and waste so seriously that one of the three pillars on which its entire production system is based is the continual reduction and elimination of clutter and waste: it’s called the “5 S” system, and it stands for five continual activities, none of which begins with “s” in English. They are:

1. Separating all your shit into two main groups, and one tiny group: keep, chunk, and store.
2. Organize the remaining shit: no more digging frantically for your arm warmers five minutes before the ride begins.
3. Clean your shit: don’t wait until your frame has a fine, antique patina of road slime before cleaning it.
4. Extend cleanliness to yourself and to the things around you: not going to name any names here, but…
5. Discipline yourself to make 1-4 continual habits.

Of course if it were that easy, we’d all dump our excess cycling shit, organize it up one side and down the other, floss daily, live the ideal of minimalism, and never again confront curly hairs on the rim of the toilet or concrete-like lasagna that’s been left to dry in the sink for three days and is so fucking hard you have to soak it in bleach for ten hours and chip it off with a diamond-tipped chisel.

Change is hard. But there is a way to implement some of these concepts so that they begin to help you turn the corner, where, hopefully, you’re not turning into a cement mixer that has slipped into reverse.

Next: “Wankmeister’s Adventure in Self-Improvement,” or “Talking’s Easy…Doing’s Hard.”

The B Team

December 26, 2011 § 4 Comments

No Sergio. No Rahsaan. No G$. No Fukdude. No Jdawg. No Brauch. No DJ. No King Harold. No Charon. No Brian-guy-from-Helen’s who beat Talking Legs for second on Thanksgiving. No Talking Legs. MMX made an appearance, but it was with a fractured vertebrae, so he was only good for about half the climb.

Instead, today’s Holiday Ride was populated by the B team: G3, Corncob, Stormin Norman, and JB, as well as Wankmeister, who got a temporary promotion from the B-minus team, or maybe from the C+ team.

For everyone used to the 28mph death roll up San Vicente that happens every time Rahsaan or Sergio shows up, it was a pleasant, chatty cakewalk. Left at the light, down the hill, right turn, and stop at the Mandeville light. Tandem Brad scoots through the yellow and takes off hell for leather. Everyone else patiently waits.

The light turns green, but no massive surge of Freds to the fore, ginning out top speed for a quarter-mile until they blow. Just a moderate pace for the first short bit, almost conversational. G3 takes a hard pull. Boeinboing takes a somewhat hard pull. Wankmeister refuses to pull. Corncob flips the “on” switch and turns on the power drill.

Wanky keeps the pressure on, then falls back a few wheels just in time to hear a shouting match between Saturn and Divepro about which one gets to sit on his wheel. Before they come to blows Wanky hits the gas, and there’s Saturn’s ponytail, tucked into the slipstream. Divepro is apparently diving down, or back, quickly.

JB throws down and after a few minutes it’s just five: Corncob, G3, Stormin Norman, JB, and Wankmeister. Looks like another win for Big Orange, as all but Ironfly Wanky ride for B.O., and a couple of them ride with B.O.

Fully expecting them to take turns attacking, Wankmeister waits for the inevitable beatdown. JB, however, begins laboring like a beached whale as the sound of a collapsed lung and fluid dripping from his ears signal a core meltdown. Not a good sign for an impending attack by JB. G3 spins through, barely, but can’t accelerate. Corncob gets dropped on one of Wanky’s milquetoast accelerations, but grinds back on. Only Stormin Norman seems to be biding his time.

On his fifth attack Wankmeister gets pulled back, although “attack” is probably not the best word to describe a slow, panting, heaving, mild increase in speed of less than .5mph. Perhaps they were “detacks,” or “nontacks,” or “flogtacks.”

As Wanky slides over to the gutter, Stormin Norman launches what would properly be called an attack. It was 5 mph faster than the current speed of the group. It came out on the far left as Wankmeister was decelerating on the far right. It began three wheels back. It created a small sonic boom. Yep, that was an attack.

Happily, the vacuum created by the sudden jump sucked Wanky into it, kind of like a deep ocean waterspout, and when Wankster finally looked up it was Just the Two of Us (we can make it if we try) Just the Two of Us (you and I).

“Yo, Stormalong,” Wank wheezed. “That gap is bigger than Dallas. You’ve been dicking off the whole climb, I’m gassed like a gasbag, pretty please let me just sit on your nice, cozy wheel and it’s all yours, buddy.”

He nodded and churned.

However, unbeknownst to him, his team leader, G3, was implementing Big Orange Team Tactic No. 348.9(b)ii. This is a standard part of their manual, and it goes like this: when you have a teammate up the road with someone from another team, and your teammate is stronger, faster, better, handsomer, quicker, jumpyer, sprintyer, climbyer, and younger by 10 years than the elderly, beaten down, achey, dispirited, grindalong, limpalong, wheezealong, C+ upgraded wanker with whom he’s away, you should chase down your teammate, drop him on the wall at the end of the climb, and make sure that the win goes to the teammate who got shelled a few miles back.

This teaches several key racing principles. One, you learn that your teammates will shaft you when you’re most vulnerable. Two, you’ll learn that even when you’re in a breakaway with a proven loser like Wanky, you still can’t be trusted to pull out the win. Three, you’ll learn that life’s a bitch. Especially that life’s a bitch.

As the final pitch came into view, G3, having successfully chased down his teammate, latched onto Wanky’s wheel. Wankmeister spun furiously until the final kick for no good reason, as he should have sat up and grabbed a wheel to recover, however, it’s common knowledge that he’s an idiot and will churn along pointlessly until he gets bitchslapped by everyone, including the 13 year-old on her fourth bike ride ever, when at that moment Corncob left everyone in his wake, followed by G3, Stormin, and JB.

I suppose you can bitch and moan as much as you want, but when Big O makes it first place, second place, third place, and fourth place…they’re doing something right.

Would you please clean up your nasty fucking mouth?

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

There are a lot of smart people out on George W. Bush’s Internets. Here’s what one of them has to say about people with potty mouth: “Your words matter. Cussing is a disgusting habit and one that can be hard to break.” You can read more about the evils of filth at Careful Little Mouth What You Say: Cussing and the Good News of Jesus. I hope it helps you.

Me, it didn’t. I had read the thing and said, “Self, what kind of person are you, anyway? A grown man and swearing like the vilest human being alive, and in print no less. What’s wrong with you?”

And Self would kind of hang his head in shame and draw circles in the dirt with his big toe, before answering like this: “Aw fuckit, I just grew up cussing. Everybody cussed. And the more you cussed the more you got whupped. And then when you was getting whupped you learned all kinds of new cusswords because whoever was dong the whupping was cussing up a blue streak calling you a little sonofabitch and a little fucker and so forth, so of course after the whupping you’d go out and practice what you’d learned and naturally some grown-up would hear you practicing and then there you’d be, getting whupped some more and picking up all kinds of new cusswords all over again. It was kind of like trying to cure your hangover with hard liquor.”

So then I’d kind of lecture Self a little more, kind of like “Self, what kind of shitass excuse is that? Just because all of your friends jumped off a high pier into shallow water, would you?”

And Self sort of said, “Well, there was the time me and Mike Martin jumped off the 25-foot high pier at the Flagship in Galveston into about five feet of water and almost killed ourselves, so I guess, yeah, I would, or I did, anyway.”

On it went until we both got exasperated and so I made Self promise that, since cussing is just nasty and a mark of ignorance, and offensive to normal people, and really doesn’t make anything better, and gets picked up by little kids, that I would just stop it once and for all. So I did.

Lead me not into temptation

Day before yesterday I went on a pedal ’round the Hill with Howard Hughes the Reclusive Rider of the South Bay. Riding bikes is a terrible place to start a resolution to quit cussing, because it seems like no matter where you turn there’s something cussworthy, and usually not just slightly cussworthy, but big ol’ cocksucker cussworthy. “Cocksucker” is the only cuss word I ever heard my old man say that made my momma gasp and say in shock, “Chandler!!!” Of course it was at the dinner table, and seeing momma all shocked and mad made us want to use that word so bad even before we’d had the chance to go out and find out what it meant, because any word ugly enough to make momma gasp was sure to be just filthy enough for a whole week’s worth of whuppings.

Mr. Schlumps's saggy ass.

Anyway, Howard and I were tooling through Portuguese Bend, and the road crews were hard at work trying to keep the rest of the road from falling off into the ocean, and we started down that last little dip before you hit the sharp little uphill before the false flat that leads to the entrance of the Portuguese Bend Beach Club, and there, at the bottom of the dip, was a stalled motorbike.

Howard Hughes was in front of me a ways so he slowed and asked the fellow did he have a problem and did he need any help and this poor old worn out fellow, worn out like a pair of salesman’s shoes, he nodded. So Howard stopped and laid his bike down on the side of the road, kind of in the soft dirt, and got to taking off his cleats.

Now then, in addition to cussing and generally taking everything’s name in vain, I do not believe in Good Samaritanship as the only time I’ve tried it it has ended badly. “What the –and there I almost said fuck but didn’t– heck are you doing?” I asked Howard.

“His battery died and he needs a push up to where it’s flat.”

“The —and there I caught that nasty word again just by the tail before it slipped out– heck he does,” I said, and was about to keep going until I saw old Howard was in earnest and I couldn’t leave him to do that nasty piece of work on his own.

Howard Hughes of the South Bay stripped to the socks.

Your motorbike is too fat

And a nasty piece of work it was going to be, too, because Mr. Schlumps had a fairly newish BMW behemoth, it was one of those big red 1200’s and looked like it weighed ten thousand pounds. Mr. Schlumps couldn’t believe his good luck. “Oh, you don’t know how much I appreciate this,” he moaned, kind of like you’d expect from someone who owns a BMW motorcycle once it breaks down.

Well we started pushing that fat bastard, the three of us, up that sorry fucking slope, and you know I was wearing my brand new Specialized Tarmac Uberpimpin cleats, but didn’t want to take them off because I was also wearing my brand new Capo Tall White Socks with Red Stripe that I’d gotten into a weeklong fight with the old lady over and I wasn’t about to get them covered with tar, and the harder I pushed the madder I got as those words started bubbling down around my ankles and then the hotter they got the higher they rose until the back of my throat was so tangled with goddamns and motherfuckers and cocksucking no good sonsabitches that I was pretty much crosseyed trying to hold them back as I thought about how undignified they were about to make me look and probably send me to hell in the bargain.

Mr. Schlumps you are a dumb bastard yes indeed you are.

Just as I thought I had the whole nasty pack contained, Mr. Schlumps, who was “guiding” by holding the left handlebar while Howard and I were at the butt-end of that fucking bike doing the grunting and groaning and slipping and wearing down the edges of those new goddamn cleats, just at the wrong moment he turns back and gives this crappy little smile and says, “Thanks, guys, I really mean it.”

“Mean what?” I snarled.

“Thanks,” said Mr. Schlumps, cheerily.

“Well you are a dumb bastard and I hope you feel as dumb as you look you stupid sonofabitch.”

His cheery mien withered a touch and he gave that uncomfortable laugh you would give if someone had your balls in a vise and was threatening to winch it on down, but on the other hand he didn’t want to say too much because for all he knew we’d just drop his old fatass motorbike in the road and let the thieves and CalTrans contractors part it and sell it in their off-hours chop shops. “Heh, heh,” he said, real nervously.

“Yeah, you’re one of those lamefucks who likes to whizz by us on your thirty thousand dollar krautmachine thinking how fine you look, and then the first blink of trouble who is it hauling your sorry ass and your overpriced candyass Hitlermobile over the hump but a pair of skinny fucks with shaved legs and leotards, while you’re all kitted out in some faux leather shit-kit and too fucking tired out hanging onto the handlebars to so much as push, you fucking fuckheaded fatassed skinnydicked fuckwad.”

Howard was laughing so hard he started to slip, and the fatbike started to wobble, and Mr. Schlumps saw his German investment fund tilt too far to the right, and then we all hove to and righted it and he gave that nervous laugh again, like it was all in good fun. “And I’m not funning you either you dumb sonofabitch,” I continued, just for good measure.

All’s well that cusses well

Once I had that big old clot of cuss off my tongue I felt spry and light and as happy as could be, and we fairly flew up the rest of that incline. Once we crested the hump, off to where there’s that big gravel wideout on the left, we told Mr. Schlumps that he’d best put down the kickstand and call for help. Howard even got to explaining to him the mechanics of a crapped out battery on a new bike, as Mr. Schlumps had put in an aftermarket battery and now it wasn’t holding a charge, but as soon as I heard the word “trickler battery” I told Howard that I had other things to do than listen to his discourse on battery maintenance, and he agreed, as Mr. Schlumps in addition to being kind of stupid was about to try and turn the bike around and “push start” it back down the hill.

“That ain’t no two-stroke Yamaha from 1978, Schlumps,” Howard told him. “You try and push start that bad boy back down the hill and it’s gonna take more than a couple of skinny bikers to put your ass back together again.”

Schlumps wrinkled his brow and nodded as he fumbled for his phone. “Let’s get —and there it came again– the fuck out of here,” I said.

Oh, well. I’ll just have to quit cussing…tomorrow.

Clash of the titans

December 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

As we prepared to prepare to get ready for the world famous Ironfly club ITT that had become the less world famous but still nationally renowned  TTT, Mel pointed to the pleasant looking if somewhat bleary young man sitting on a chair with a clipboard.

Team Flail, Hockeypuck & Mel. All race photos lifted from SPY-v-Photos without permission.

“That’s Hockeystick’s son,” she said. “He came out to watch his dad race and to time the splits. Hockeypuck, this is Wanky.”

There’s an unwritten rule about meeting the adult and semi-adult progeny of bike racers: You’re obligated to say something flattering about the parent. “Your dad sure is tough,” or “Your mom is tougher than most of the guys,” or “I can barely hang onto your dad’s wheel.” Whatever, as long as it builds up the parent in the eyes of the child.

I looked at Hockeypuck. “Your old man’s a fucking wanker,” I said. “Plus he’s fat and slow.”

“Wanky!!” Mel scolded. “It’s his son!!”

“Oh, shit, I’m sorry. He’s not a fucking wanker. He’s a total fucking wanker. And I’m going to kick his ass today. Glad you’ll be here to see it.”

“Wankmeister!”

“Aw fuck, Mel, I’m not telling him anything he doesn’t already know. What, do I have to pretend the kid’s blind and doesn’t see Hockeystick swilling beer, stuffing his gut on pizza, and heading off for a hard day at the office at the crack of noon?”

Hockeystick adjusting rig with donut tool

Hockeystick, who was standing nearby, looked up and smiled as he adjusted the airfoil on his $15,000 time trail bike. He, Canyon Bob, Toronto, and Boeingboing were raring to go. Each had brought a full time trail rig, except for Canyon Bob, who had slapped some TT bars on his vintage Trek. They had the full battle regalia: aero helmets, disc wheels, skinsuits, shoe covers, and enough attitude to beat down a rapper with a murder conviction.

Fukdude’s aero rig

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it

Thankfully, I have a short memory and never hold a grudge, with the exception of the things I always remember and the grudges I’ll be taking with me to my grave. This time last year the world famous Ironfly club ITT had confirmed my talent and ability as the fastest non-aero time trailist in a field of seven, including one elderly gentleman in his early 80’s. The club race last year had been broken down into Merckx and aero categories.

Pointy headed Canyon Bob, ready to rumble

I had devastated Canyon Bob by a full 21 seconds over the 20km course, even though he’d been riding aero bars. Take that, dog! Toronto, who had opted for the full aero bike with disc wheel, had still only managed to take a handful of seconds out of me, but even though he was in the aero category and cheating the wind he nonetheless took every opportunity to rub salt into the non-wound. He got particular pleasure out of the photo on his FB page that shows him passing me as my tongue appears to dangle in the spokes. Hockeystick had been lapped and peed on the previous year and was spoiling for a rematch.

Throughout 2011, last year’s wankers plotted their revenge. The first step was to make the race a team time trail rather than an individual event. This would play to Hockeystick’s strength of putting together teams where he is the slowest member, gets dropped in the first ten yards, but nevertheless collects the palmares, jersey, and chintzy medal to hang in the 10′ by 75′ trophy case that occupies the entire third floor of his home. This also played to Toronto’s strong suit, which is photography. He’d wind up with some great pictures, and with Canyon Bob on the team would only have hang on for dear life and rotate through briefly. Very briefly.

The only problem was that despite Canyon Bob’s legendary ability to flail and flog, there was no way that he alone could win the TTT with Toronto and Hockeystick sucking wheel for dear life and avoiding the front like a Mississippian avoids the dentist’s chair. The other problem is that the one other team would have Fukdude on it. Fukdude won a national championship this year. Fukdude won the aero category of the club TT in 2010 by almost a full lunar month. None of them had ever beaten Fukdude at anything. Ever.

Hockeystick, though, went to work, doing what he does best–finding the talent, and signing ‘em up. And he had Boeingboing in his sights.

Boeingboing rides for Southbay Wheelmen. Although he was pretty much a flailer when he raced with the 45+ masters, as soon as he hit 50 he started whupping ass. In 2010 he brought home numerous top ten finishes, and he’s known far and wide for his time trailing. So between him and Canyon Bob, with Toronto and Hockeystick doing cameo rotations to give the other two a respite, they had the makings of a team. Not a very good one, but a team at least.

“Why did I get up early for this?”

Flailers’ futile challenge to the Heroes

From the beginning, Hockeystick’s ragtag assortment that made up Team Flail was doomed to fail. Not only was the Heroes team led by Fukdude, but it included Jdawg, a monstrous pain addict who provides a draft for those in his wake comparable to that of a fast-moving barn. Although not necessarily known for his time trailing prowess, the Hero contingent also included Fireman, something of a time trail wanker but also the man with the widest elbows in the business. He could always be counted on to suffer and to drink everyone else under the table at the club party later in the day, including Hockeystick.

Pre-race lard loading

Finally, of course, the Heroes included me. In addition to my non-aero victory the year before, my amazing performance in the state’s 45+ non-prostate elderly men’s TTT with Mel’s tiny bar extenders, and my incredible blogging efforts, there was simply no way we were going to lose for one simple reason: technology.

The thing that bothered me most was how everyone would be aero except me. So I decided to do what every masters racer eventually decides to do when he races more than two time trails in a year’s time: go out and buy some more speed.

All I really needed to get aero was a pair of clip-on bars and some shoe covers. $538.88 later I returned home knowing that in addition to greater natural ability, a superior training regimen, and my matchless ability to suffer, I now had shoe covers that matched my bike. I immediately sat down and penned the entry to my victory blog, which began like this: “O, ye simpering wretches…”

Breakfast and a few text messages

I awoke bright and early on Sunday, brewed a cup of coffee, and made some oatmeal. By six o’clock the text messages started rolling in. New Girl bailed because VV bailed.  Skimpy couldn’t make it because he’d stayed out too late the night before. Loopy and Dinky had to cancel because they always cancel. Etcetera.

I fired off a quick text message to Fireman, who answered promptly, confirming our team’s 8:00 rendezvous at Catalina Coffee. When I arrived, Jdawg was already there, along with Fukdude. Neither had aero bars. Or discs. Or aero helmets.

“What’s with the non-aero shit?” I asked.

“Fuck, dude, we’re going Merckx style. It’s just Hockeystick.”

“But they’ll all have full TT rigs.”

JDawg looked over our bikes. “Well, we’ve got aero bars, I’ve got Zipp 808’s, and Fukdude’s legs, so between the three of us we’ve got one aero racer at least.”

“Where’s Fireman?” I asked.

We went into the coffee shop. There, indeed, was Fireman. In the Barcalounger. Wearing a pair of beach shorts. And sandals. And next to him was his youngest kid.

“What the fuck?” I asked. “Where’s your shit?”

“You blew it for me, dude,” he said. “That text message you sent. My wife saw it and was like, ‘You didn’t tell me you were going bike racing today’ and I was like ‘I was going to tell you’ and she was like ‘Yeah when two minutes before you left?’ and I was like ‘No five’ and she was like ‘I’m going to the gym and you’ve got the kids’ so that’s that.”

We all looked at each other. “Looks like your four-man team will be three-man,” Fireman laughed. “Fuck it, don’t worry. It’s just Hockeystick and Toronto. By the time Hockeystick gets his stomach over the top tube you guys’ll be done. Plus, how embarrassing would it be to show up with a bunch of TT shit just to beat Hockeystick? If the three of you wearing football uniforms and riding skateboards can’t beat those guys in full aero, you don’t deserve to win anyway.”

“Just smile, dude, and people will think you won.”

Beating up the blind senior citizen

As we pedaled out to Carson, we mulled over our predicament, which was not unlike accepting a challenge to fistfight a blind old woman in a wheelchair. If you won, you earned the world’s contempt by stooping to the challenge. If you lost, well, you got to spend the rest of your life known as the guy who got beaten up by the octogenarian granny.

Thankfully, by the time we reached the course Mel had arrived with several boxes of donuts. All athletic endeavors are enhanced by donuts, so I had four or five. The sugar and grease act as a kind of emulsifying agent for the oatmeal, which speeds the passage of blood through midway through the event, when it begins to pour out of your eyes.

Boeingboing had set up his trainer in a parking lot and was all lathered up. Toronto, who had been showing up on all the group rides for the past two weeks on his TT rig, was riding in circles and shouting, “Wankmeister, I’m going to stomp your head in!”

Canyon Bob glanced over at Team Heroes and decided he didn’t even need to warm up, so he climbed back into his car for a few extra minutes of shut-eye. Hockeystick made some final adjustments to the computer tracking system for his bike’s ailerons, and then brought out a wondrous thing that looked like a combo tire jack-and-forklift. Through a complex system of pulleys, levers, and hydraulic pumps, he raised his frontal portion up over the top tube and then easily swung his leg over the bike. Game fuckin’ on.

This isn't me. I'm not here.

This isn’t me. I’m not here. Please no photos.

The agony of my feet. And legs.

We launched first. Team Flail went second. They beat us handily, by 21 seconds. Hockeystick’s son sat incredulously as he tallied up the result. Shaking his head, he said to his dad, “How did the old guys beat the young guys?”

First to chime in was Toronto. “We were gritty!”

Second to chime in was Hockeystick: “We suffered more1″

Third to chime in was Canyon Bob: “That was stupid!”

Fourth to chime in was Fussy via Facebook: “There were only three of them, and you goofs were full aero.”

Fifth to chime in was Fireman via text: “They BEAT you? Haaahaahahaaaaha!”

Boeingboing had already packed and left, afraid perhaps that he’d seen and photographed at this event of ignominy.

Kissing and making up

Even though we’d been completely pwned, there was a club party that afternoon where we’d get to laugh it up while secretly feeling humiliated (losing team) and not so secretly feeling prideful and happy and euphoric and master-of-the-universe-like (winning team). Team Losers would clap Team Winners on the shoulder and say “Good ride!” and “You guys were flying!” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks couldn’t win a wheelchair race on a bet, and the only reason you beat us is because (—–insert multiple excuses here——-), and Team Winners would laugh somewhat modestly and say “It was only 21 seconds,” or “Well, we were full aero,” or “Heck, you only had three guys,” while secretly thinking “You sorry fucks think you’re so fucking good but we thrashed the shit out of you and there were really only two of us even doing anything.”

That was the plan, anyway.

What actually happened was that, as we left, me an the old lady got into a shouting match over a lost shipment of $6.00 Capo tall white socks. “What do you mean you didn’t pick it up? UPS left the fucking tag!”

“I did too go to pick it up they gave me the wrong box. It was some purple froofy underwear thing with a yellow wig.”

“Well shit, why didn’t you take it back and get the right box?”

“I did!! They lost it!! It’s not my job! And quit yelling! And if you care so much about your stupid cycling socks you should get them yourself!”

By the time we hit the club party it was World War Twelve, such is the power of a shipment of Christmastime, specially-priced Capo tall white socks, engineered to bring happiness through a brutal spousal hollerfest. As we exited the Pimpmoprius, up pulled Canyon Bob and his lovely wife. “Hey, Bob,” I said.

“Hey, Wanky. How’s it going?”

“We’re fighting!” my old lady said.

“Other than that, though, things are great,” I added.

The joy of sox

If you’ve ever gone to a party in the middle of an intraspousal feud, you know that there are only two possible outcomes. One is that the angry partners will bottle it up and put on polite pretenses ostensibly to avoid wrecking the mood for everyone else, but in actuality because they don’t want other people to see that their marriage is just as pedestrian as everyone else’s. The other outcome is that the presence of others will act as a kind of audience catalyst, in which the performers, stimulated by the spectators, will rise to the occasion and let the whole ugly thing roll out on the carpet, kind of like a big turd in the middle of a ballroom dance, with everyone trying not to step in it all the while unable to look away while still trying to keep time to the waltz.

We chose the latter, of course, and after a few moments of pleasantries went storming out like a typhoon. Fortunately, cooler heads eventually prevailed and after eight or nine days we began speaking again once UPS found and delivered the lost socks. So happy was I to have new, tall white socks that I even sort of admitted that maybe it hadn’t been her fault and that perhaps next time I shouldn’t throw a tantrum like a three year-old. Perhaps.

Epilogue

Team Flail now reigns for all of 2012 until the next iteration of the club’s team time trail. Hockeystick has ordered a new set of pulleys and cables for his GAD (Gut Assist Device), and formed a track pursuit team with its sights set on a national pursuit title for 50+ tarck wankers. Canyon Bob has decided to up his training regiment to four hours per week. Toronto now has two time trail victories against Wankmeister, precious, secret victories that he takes out and strokes when he thinks no one’s watching, and laughs to himself when he thinks of how good it’s going to feel when he gets number three. Boeingboing has constructed an elaborate story of plausible deniability to de-confirm that he even knows, much less races with, his teammates.

And me? I’m left with a year of gall and wormwood, the bitter taste of defeat left in my mouth permanently, or at least until…next year.

Extra shot and a smile, please

December 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

Airports are great places to observe the great American decline first hand. As I stood in line to get my overpriced, charred coffee mixture cut with heavy cream, the ravenous guy in front of me stared hungrily at the empty sandwich tray in the display cooler.

Five employees stood behind the counter. One worked the register, one worked the espresso machine, one stood in the corner watching the two who were actually working, one watched the one who wasn’t working, and one supervisor watched everyone else. All they needed were a few orange cones and a couple of orange vests and it could have doubled as a CalTrans construction project.

No one watched, or paid any attention to the people with the money. In the five minutes that I patiently stood in the very short line of five people, more than a dozen harried and hurried people with money came up to the sandwich display, looked desperately at it, and went on.

When the ravenous guy in front of me finally got waited on, he asked the cashier, “Are you out of sandwiches?”

“Of course they are, dumbass,” I thought. “Do you think the fucking rack would be empty if they had a fridge full of sandwiches in the back?”

“Hang on,” the cashier said, using her most polite Starbucks language. She turned around, where a small refrigerator stood, and opened the door. Out tumbled half a dozen sandwiches. The inside had been crammed full to busting with sandwiches. “Whaddaya want? Turkey and ham? Chicken? Tuna?” it sounded like she was talking to a beggar, instead of someone about to give her a huge amount of money in proportion to the quality of what she was about to give him.

All this time the girl in the corner watched. She was having a feud with the barista, apparently regarding her apron. She primped her hair. She rolled her eyes. She mouthed at the barista, who mouthed back at her. The other watcher watched. The supervisor finally sprang into action, if you’ve ever seen a slug spring.

Several more people eyed, then passed, the display case.

The angry girl finally mashed on her Starbucks cap and began carrying sandwiches around to the front, where she could load them into the case. The barista came over and took my order, aware that the register gal was going to be overwhelmed with the sandwich order for a while.

The watcher never did anything. The supervisor didn’t, either. Angry Girl dropped the sandwiches on the floor repeatedly as she loaded the display case. Even though they were wrapped in plastic, the floor of LAX has been known to have a shoe or two on it that has walked through the public toilets. Right?

There were so many things wrong with the airport Starbucks picture, from the mega-corporation to the bad service to the unskilled workers as interchangeable parts to the surliness to the mediocre product to the monopoly of the public space to the total unaccountability of the owners to the people with the money.

Last night I stopped by Sprocket to get a taillight. I was greeted. By name. I was served. Promptly. I had a tear in the sidewall of a tire mended. For free.

I got home and charged the light. It didn’t work. I took it back the next day. Paul made a minor adjustment, all the while apologizing and promising me a new one the next day if it didn’t work. The adjustment worked. The light functioned perfectly.

Although I bought the light at Sprocket, it could have been PV Cycles, Manhattan Cycles, or Bike Palace. Unlike Starbucks, each of these shops does what billion-dollar conglomerates apparently cannot: provide a good product, provide good service, and treat me right.

Terror of the tarck

December 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

Splimsy O’Mulligan, the world-famous Irish advice columnist from County of Kerry lists these five keys to living a vibrant, fulfilling life:

1. Get out of your comfort zone.
2. Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to.
3. Rub shoulders with the very best.
4. Charge the morning.
5. Fail publicly.

In other words, get up at 4:30 a.m. (#4), ride down to the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson, climb up on the 45-degree banking (#1), take up match sprinting (#2), practice in the morning when Johnny Walsh, Roger Young, Dan Vogt, and Paul Che are on the boards (#3), ride like a dork (#5).

Charge the morning

Sleep, like a discriminating taste in wine, is your enemy. Both will rob you of things that you can only do early in the morning. The only way to truly defeat sleep is to get up. We live right next to the finest tarck in the country, and it’s now open from 6:00 a.m. in the morning.  No matter what the weather or what time of year, the climate-controlled spruce boards are waiting for you to roll your bike around on them. Beginning in 2012, the tarck will operate like a fitness club, where you can ride as often as you like for a reasonable monthly fee and have daily access to the weight machines. And your excuse is…what? You need another hour’s sleep?

Get out of your comfort zone

If you haven’t done it in a while, tarck riding is simply stressful and unnerving.If you’ve never ridden the tarck before, it’s terrifying beyond belief.  There you are, locked in a wooden cage, forced to ride your bike at the top of a 45-degree bank where the consequence of going too slowly is to slide ignominiously down to the bottom with your ass full of splinters. No brakes, no gears, people whizzing by in close proximity, 6-person pacelines whipping up the speed until the riders are foaming at the mouth, inches from destruction, the slightest mistake capable of knocking down everyone and earning the undying hatred of all your fellow riders, constantly trying to figure out how to get on, how to get off, how hard to pedal, how to slow down without crashing out the person behind you…this and a million other things make tarck riding a completely different universe, and no matter how skilled you are on a road bike, the tarck will make you feel like the incompetent clod that you are in real life.

Try to excel at things people say you’re not suited to

If you’re a fast finisher on the road, give the pursuit a whirl. If you’re an endurance rider, you can practice being a sprinter. You will suck, but the tarck gives you the opportunity to try new types of riding in a controlled environment. No one will laugh at your attempts because to those who know what’s really happening on the boards you’re already marked as a flailer, and it has nothing to do with your event. The other reason people won’t laugh at you is because, unlike road riding, the tarck riders are a friendly and welcoming community. They’ll help you change cogs, adjust your bars, patiently answer any question, and give you helpful advice like, “If you’re going to ride your road bike here through LA in the pitch black early morning hours, get a red blinking light for the rear, you idiot.” Once you show up a few times they’ll remember your name, and no matter how long between visits they’ll always be glad to see you again. At the tarck you can be part of the crew just by showing up.

Rub shoulders with the very best

The Home Depot Velodrome is like a world-class birdwatching wetland during migration. If you hang around, there’s no telling what will show up. Olympic champions? Yep. National champions? By the dozen. World champions? Those, too. In addition to the international superstars who occasionally race at the tarck, there’s a regular stable of coaches and competitors who are over-the-top good. Roger Young, Tim Roach, Connie Paraskevin, Johnny Walsh, Keith Ketterer, and any other number of phenomenal tarck riders regularly hang around the Carson boards. The U.S. National tarck team is in regular attendance as well. Of course with all these great riders, you’ll feel like a complete kook, but that’s okay: you are a kook, and as long as you don’t crash anybody out, it’s all good.

Fail publicly

Road cycling lends itself to building the biggest castles in the sand. There you are, pedaling around PV or riding the canyons in the Santa Monicas thinking about this race or that race or the next stair in your stepping stone to greatness, imagining that you really can race a bike, or that this year is gonna be the year…etc. Then you go to some poorly attended race in Ontario, finish 55th, and slink home with hardly anyone the wiser. On the tarck, though, your suckage is seen by all and becomes part of the velodrome’s institutional memory: “Oh, there’s Wankmeister on his borrowed Bianchi again. Haven’t seen him since last year when he got yelled at by Walshie for stumbling down the track in his cleats like an idiot even though there’s a giant sign that says ‘Remove YOUR CLEATS.’ Hmmm, looks like he’s still clueless, let’s take a look. Yep, there he is, can’t hold a line, spinning like a sewing machine, yo-yoing off the back. What a wanker!” Like elephants, the tarckies never, ever forget.

So what are you waiting for? You’re gonna love it.

Wankmeister cycling clinic #4: Keeping your parts hot

December 6, 2011 § 5 Comments

I received a desperate text message this morning at 7:40 a.m. from a first-year cyclist, and I quote: “Wanky! Toes froze! Bundled up butt but still chill! Help!”

At that very moment I was sitting on the bench at the tarck, enjoying the warm air in the climate-controlled, peaceful, and toasty Home Depot Velodrome as I prepared my first volume of excuses for sitting rather than working out. My first impulse was to tap out a dissertation on proper attire for SoCal winters, but it was so pleasant there on the bench that I just sort of nodded off, even as I imagined all the clever and useful advice I would send to the poor little frozen bike bunny.

Now that I’m finally awake after a brief nap here at the office it seems like a good time to provide a little primer for those who are going through their first cycling winter in the South Bay and environs.

Warming strategies in LA

I see most people fall into the abyss of winter misery by thinking that “it’s going to warm up later” as a justification for starting out with inadequate clothing. By the time the sun rises and warms things up, they are frozen so solid that the entire ride has been miserable beyond belief. Worst case scenarios abound . A common one is that the forecast is wrong (surprise!) and there’s a cloud cover, so you’re forty miles from home, hands and feet completely numb, and it never gets any warmer. Another crap scenario is  that a howling wind kicks up, further freezing you to the bone.

The dress for success plan is therefore to dress so that you’re warm for the coldest temperature on offer, and to  dress in a way that allows you to strip shit off if and when it does in fact warm up. The winter months rarely get so warm that even if you end up leaving on all your stuff it becomes unbearably hot, whereas rolling out insufficiently clad is a recipe for unmitigated misery of the very worst kind.

Keeping your parts good and hot

1. It gets cold in the South Bay, and all you snickering Mainers and Vermonters can go kiss my ass. The winter average lows for  PV in Dec/Jan/Feb/Mar are 46, 47, 48, and 49 degrees. Since virtually all rides north go into Malibu, you have to take their averages into account as well: average lows for the winter months are 38, 39, 41, and 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Please don’t send me the average low for Nome, or Waukegan, or the UP–that you chose a shit place to live is not the issue.

2. If you’re leaving early in the morning or before sunrise, you’ll often be riding in the high 30’s or low 40’s. East Coast denizens will scoff at these temperatures, but they’re no scoffing matter: when you factor into the windchill a riding speed of 15mph on a 40-degree morning, the effective temperature is 23. Here’s a handy dandy chart to give you an idea of how cold it really is out there on “sunny” Southern California winter mornings. After browsing the chart for an explanation of how the wind chill is calculated, you’ll quickly realize what you already knew, which is that meteorologists don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about and can’t agree with each other on anything. You can also tattoo this handy-dandy formula on your leg if you want to convert wind chill using the formula for relative discomfort: T(wc) = 0.0817(3.71V**0.5 + 5.81 -0.25V)(T – 91.4) + 91.4

3. Bottom line is that Novice Cyclist didn’t need no wind chill chart to tell her that her parts was froze. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s in the low 40’s when you start out, regardless of the predicted high, you can be frozen solid by the time the sun warms things up, especially if you’re heading up-canyon into the Santa Monicas.

4. Lube up good. Use warming embrocation. I use Mad Alchemy, and am still waiting for those thankless bastards to reach out and send me a couple of free tubs for all the unpaid whoring I do for their sorry ass product. Rub it on your feet, tops and bottoms, and in between your toes. Rub it in really well. This will go a long way to preventing the onset of the dreaded Froze Toes Syndrome, whereby your pedicular digits turn into miserable lumps of tortured flesh that feel as if they are having to repeatedly listen to 80’s pop songs by Barry Manilow. You can rub it on the back of your neck and shoulders, especially if those areas aren’t too Yeti-like. The huge benefit to embro is that your legs aren’t bound down by tights or leg warmers. You’ll pedal more easily and with less fatigue. Some people believe that cold temperatures damage knee ligaments and tendons, although there’s no scientific research that supports this contention. Bottom line is that if going bare with embro hurts your knees, cover them up.

5. Wear a skullcap. 20% of your body heat is lost through the top of your head. For cyclists, who range from deficient to wholly devoid of brain matter anyway, that amount increases to 50%. Moreover, male cyclists of the Collins/Caron/Smith/Couderc/Glass Hip variety who are missing a head rug dissipate heat even more quickly.

6. Wear shoe covers. I’m amazed at how many people get out in the high 30’s with nothing on their feet except shoes. A cheap pair of cotton covers that go around your shoes will almost always keep your feet warm for the first hour or two while you’re waiting for the sun to heat things up. Heavy duty neoprene booties may be required if you’re a total wuss or if you dislike any significant discomfort when you cycle. Of course, since cycling is pretty much synonymous with discomfort, winter may be the perfect time to sell your junk on Craigslist and call the whole endeavor an expensive, failed experiment.

7. In addition to your undershirt, arm warmers, and jersey, consider a long-sleeved jersey over that and, if you just can’t stand the chill, a form-fitting jacket shell for the outside. Please don’t do like Arkansastraveler and wear a big red inflatable liferaft jacket that fills up with air and is visible from the moon. It creates a great draft for whomever’s behind you, but it flaffles and baffles and whiffles and biffles, it looks like you got tangled up with a spinnaker on your way out the door, and it is a hazard on windy days as you’re liable to catch a lee wind and be carried out to sea.

8. Ask around before you invest in gloves. Cycling gloves are notoriously overpriced and shitty. I finally found a pair of Fox MTB long-fingered gloves that work great. They’re thin but warm and are good for anything but the extremely cold temperatures you’ll come across at a high altitude, early season race like Boulevard. It’s better to put on a thin pair of cotton or wool glove liners underneath another light glove rather than bundling up with giant bearclaw mitts that you would otherwise use to wield an axe or wrestle alligators. The closer your fingers are to the brakes and shifters, the better, and huge thick gloves should be avoided unless you’re a total wimp who likes to crash.

9. Develop a thick skin. All your tough-ass friends in Colorado, Wyoming, and Maine will brag about how wimpy our winters are and how 40 degrees is a “heat wave.” Keep in mind they’re saying that from the comfort of their indoor trainer in the basement, parked next to the furnace. 38 degrees with a 15-20 degree wind chill is cold anywhere, for anyone. Also keep in mind that their adaptation to miserable weather, sleet, snow, mud, and subzero riding conditions is how they rationalize the fact that where they live sucks, and where we live doesn’t. If that’s too much to remember, just practice saying, “Fuck you” until they go away.

10. Stop being a candyass. In order to enjoy cycling, it’s not necessary to enjoy being miserable, but it certainly helps. What is necessary is to accept that you’re outdoors and that the outdoors don’t really give a fuck if you’re cozy or not. No matter how you prepare, there will always be some element of approximation that either leaves you too cold or too hot. Quit whining; it’s not going to kill you or even give you frostbite. Didn’t Stuart O’Grady come up with a cute little acronym once upon a time? HTFU, maybe?

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