November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments
In a month and a half we’ll begin our third season of the SPY bicycling team. Lots of people wonder what it’s like to be an old creaky fellow with a leaky prostate and bad vision while riding for the premier old fellows racing team in California and therefore the galaxy. I’d sum it up like this:
Riding for SPY is fun.
In the first two years we saw that there were other teams with better racers. We’ve never had the fastest racers on our squad, but despite that our 45+ team was the winningest one in SoCal, our cyclocross masters teams are hands down the best, and our 35+ team, P/1/2 team and development riders mean that each year more and more people want to ride with us. Add into the mix that our women’s team, led by Jessica Cerra, is already primed to have a super year, and I think the reasons that people want to join the SPY cavalcade are simple : Swag and fun.
When you’re an old fellow, if you have any perspective at all, you realize that if your hobby is best measured in wins and losses, it’s probably no longer a hobby and has become what the rest of the world calls a “job.” You realize that as much as you’d like to win, even more than that you’d like to compete — and win — with people you actually like, doing things you actually enjoy, decked out in swag that makes you feel like you’re winning even when you place 78th.
SPY’s ethos is best described as having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at life. Put another way, “Beware of the usual!”
Living up to our mandate
We’re not told to go forth and win races, although we’re given plenty of leadership and racing and training opportunities to do so. What we are told is that once we put on the kit, we’re ambassadors for a brand. Not sales staff, or preachers, group thinkniks, but ambassadors, people who are here to deliver a message.
What message? This message.
1. Ride the front as much as you can on group rides, wherever you may train. Be a leader. Why? Because the usual way of doing things is to hide in the pack and show your face, if at all, at the coffee shop. The usual way of doing things is to use the work of others in order to benefit yourself. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to put your share of work into the group effort, and maybe even a little bit more than your share. If you’re too afraid of getting dropped or of not making the split, bite the bullet and … go to the front.
2. Take care of one another, and take care of others. The usual way of doing things is to only stop when you’re the one with the mechanical. This is your Sunday ride, right? You’ve waited all week for this, right? So if someone has a flat, well, that’s bike racing. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to recognize that there will be another Tuesday morning ride, and it’s probably not gonna kill you to help out a fellow cyclist. You’ll make a friend, you’ll energize the person you help to pass on the good karma, and you’ll go from being “all about me” to “serving others.”
3. Represent SPY and its team sponsors in the same way that you’d want them to represent YOU. Success doesn’t mean a podium in an old fellows criterium. Success is the sum of a life predicated on our collective good deeds, leadership, and the vicious clubbing of baby seals (to whom we apologize in advance and posthumously).
4. As a bike racer, or more accurately, as an elderly fellow drowning in a delusional vat of swag and beer and navel gazing, when you race your victory isn’t what matter. What matters are your actions and how they affect your team. What matters is whether you were ready to toil in anonymity and lay it all out there for the sake of a teammate.
5. Make people HAPPY. Collective groupings of old people racing bicycles isn’t a formula for happiness. Smiling and spreading positive energy is. So go forth and happify. Now.
From the touchy-feely to the hard facts
You probably expect me to praise SPY for all the usual reasons, but what are those “usual” reasons? And aren’t we supposed to beware of the usual? Rather, my affinity for the company, begun through personal friendship and swag, has transcended those two things to reach a level of discrimination I never thought I’d reach.
Because you see, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about bike products. Of course I love nice stuff when I can get it, but I’m not now and have never been a “bike guy.” I have one road bike and one ‘cross bike. One extra wheelset for the ‘cross bike. My road hoops are the same ones I train on and race on. For me, it’s always been about being lucky enough to cycle and to be part of a cycling community. The bike and the clothes and the parts are icing on the cake.
Of course, there’s one exception to that, and it’s the unusual exception of my eyes. I began wearing glasses at age 13, bout six or seven years after I first really needed them. My vision was so bad that I could only see movies from the front row. I’m still convinced that much of my early problems in school stemmed from an inability to see the chalkboard.
Having terrible vision has affected me throughout my life. I never learned to surf above kook level despite decades of trying. Why? Because I’m horribly uncoordinated and weak. But being unable to see the wave until it was breaking on my head didn’t help. Ball sports were always impossible, and even though I could see on a bike, my eyes were constantly irritated from the wind that incessantly screamed around the edges of my Laurent Fignon frames. Wearing superb prescription eyewear from SPY enabled me to win the Tour in 2011 and was directly responsible for the winning Powerball ticket that I bought down at the corner 7-11.
In actuality, my vision transformation on the bike thanks to SPY wasn’t accidental or the result of lottery-like luck. This eyewear is authentically bound to technical performance. The prescription glasses work in an incredibly demanding range of light and weather situations, including getting bounced on my head at 40 mph and remaining intact (the glasses, not the head).
This authenticity is so much more than, “The glasses work, dude.” It’s part of the background of the product, where and why it came into being, and what drives its evolution and subsequent iterations. Plus, SPY has never sponsored Lance.
The combination of “ride at the front” and “this shit works” forms the core of the proposition when you’re thinking about buying glasses. Do you want a product made by non-cyclists for cyclists and owned by a giant Italian conglomerate that also handles leather handbags, or do you want a product that’s made by cyclists who have to live with the shit they create, and who have to answer to the product’s utility in their own races and group rides?
Putting glasses on your nose … who knew it was so complicated? Well, it is, because when you wear SPY you’re choosing between Italian luxuory monolith or a variation on ZZ Topp: “That Little Old Performance Eyewear Company from Carlsbad.” Do things like happiness, irreverence, riding at the front, helping those who need it, and buying locally make a difference to you? If they do, maybe there’s something in this story for you.
The pros who ride SPY gear are chosen in order to transcend their stereotypes as “jocks” and tap into a multicultural lifestyle based on a love of outdoors activities. Us grizzled old dudes with leaky prostates believe in that transcendence, too.
September 29, 2013 § 21 Comments
I was charging up the narrow track, taking what Manslaughter later called “an aggressive line,” when the bike spun out, fishtailed, and stopped. Figuring I had run out of legs due to the severity of the pitch, I jumped off and started to push. The rear wheel wouldn’t spin.
I looked down and saw the reason. The rear tubular had come off the rim. I looked more closely as I reseated the tire and saw that the rim, which was new, had very little glue on it.
“I’m done for today,” I shouted up to Manslaughter, pushing the bike up the trail to where he waited, simultaneously pissed at ending the ride early and euphoric that it hadn’t happened going downhill.
I’d bought the wheels about a month ago, my first tubular rims since 2008, when I had sworn off them for good. Despite having ridden nothing but tubulars for almost thirty years, when I traded in my steel bike for a plastic frame, the new Specialized had come with Zipp clincher 404′s. I still remember talking to the sales guy.
“I’m not sure about clinchers,” I said.
“Dude, everyone uses clinchers. Tubulars have been dead for twenty years. No one even stocks them. They cost $80 each. They are a huge pain to glue on. No one has a spare if you get two flats in one ride.”
“Yeah, but I kind of like them … “
“It’s not ‘back in the day’ anymore. Time rolls on. The new clinchers are just as good as tubies, and in some cases better. And they’re cheaper. And they last forever.”
He had me at “cheaper,” and I think he knew it. “I suppose it’s time to ditch the whole tubular thing and move into the new century,” I reasoned, for no good reason.
When the first big clincher revolution came about in the late 1980′s, I had continued using sew-ups only because I didn’t know how to change a flat. It was easier to glue on tubulars, ride with an extra 15-lb. sew-up, and do the infamous tubular-flat road change than it was to learn how to deal with a simple clincher inner tube.
Junkyard still reminds me of the first time he ever saw me change a clincher flat, which happened to be the first time I’d ever done it. “Never, ever, ever saw someone try to put the tube on top of the tire. That was fuckin’ amazing.”
Still, I learned, and am now pretty darned proficient at changing clincher flats. I helped Tink get her tire changed about a month ago in less than thirty minutes.
And the old shall become new again
You can imagine how pissed off I was when I realized that tubulars were back in fashion, and for cyclocross, they weren’t simply in fashion, they made the difference between 37th and 38th place due to the lower tire pressure you can run. When it became clear that I would have to race ‘cross again this year in order to avoid being assigned house chores, I nutted up and bought a cheap set of tubular rims.
“37th, here I come!” I muttered gleefully.
Of course I’d thrown away all my tubular gluing equipment, which consisted of a busted stretching rim, a couple of coat hangers, a plastic baggie, and rim cement. Rather than reassemble this pro toolkit, I then made a mistake. I asked someone to glue the tires on for me.
It’s called “non-delegable” for a reason
Some things you delegate, and the older you get that becomes pretty much everything. But three things you never delegate: Having sex with your own wife, drinking your own beer, and gluing on your own tires. And if you have to delegate any of them, you better make damn sure that it’s #1 and #2 before you delegate #3.
Tire gluing is a non-delegable duty because when it’s done badly the result is almost always a catastrophic crash. If it’s the front tire, it’s guaranteed to be a bad crash. And if you’re riding with someone else, they’re probably going down, too. For me it was stupid luck that I happened to roll it on the uphill rather than going through the fast, steep, sharp, rocky, high-speed, plunging descent a few hundred yards ahead.
When I asked the friend to glue on my tires I had known I was making a mistake, because even though someone else can have just as good sex with your wife as you can (probably better), there’s simply no way they will care as much as you do about gluing on your tires. Why is this? It’s simple. The more glue you put on the rim, the more of a hassle it is. With a big schmear of glue you have to either hang up the wheels for a few hours to let the glue harden, or you have to try and put on the tire (which itself has a nasty bead of sticky shit all around it) and risk covering everything in glue.
When I say “everything” I don’t mean the obvious — rim, tire sidewall, maybe a dollop on the spokes. When a gluing session goes south you get glue on the floor, your feet, your teeth, underneath your nails, your hair, your glasses, your hubs, your tools, your palms, and, in a complete meltdown, on the interior of the wall that you punch through screaming in frustration. The friend who is gluing on your tires, even for a fee, doesn’t love you enough to coat himself in adhesive, and he’s probably trying to save some glue for his own wheels, and he’s not about to cover his workstand in mastic.
I knew all that.
I also knew that even for someone with the mechanical aptitude of a newt, this was the one mechanical failure that is typically both catastrophic and ALWAYS YOUR FAULT. You either did a shitty job gluing on the tire, or you delegated it to someone without first making them screw your wife and drink your beer.
So when I contacted my buddy to let him know what had happened I wasn’t surprised when he said, “Sorry.” There was nothing for me to say, because regardless of how it had happened, it was my fault.
Not having glued on a tire in several years, and never having glued on a ‘cross tire, I made a fair mess of it, slathering glue on the sidewall of one tire, and gluing on the rear tire with the tread pointing in the wrong direction. But it took two full tubes, and the next day when I hit the trail at full gas with Tumbleweed, the Gooseman, and Google Wills, I did it knowing that whatever mechanical I had, it wouldn’t be a rolled tire.
And it wasn’t.
September 25, 2013 § 22 Comments
Interbike this year was awesome beyond words. The prostitutes looked even younger than they did last year, the liquor was just as strong, and the products on display were mind-blowing. Next year I might even go. Here’s a recap of some the show’s highlights, in case you stayed home due to work, fears of STD’s, etc.
- Jaw-based power meter by S-WANK: Unlike traditional power meters, which read output at the crank, hub, or pedal spindle, the “Powerwanker” reads wattage at the place where cyclist generate the most power — their ever-yakking mandibles. According to Sven Svenson, the next generation of the “Powerwanker” will read wattage at the cyclist’s second-greatest output source. “His finger when he’s all a-typin’ on the Twitter and blogger forum crap.” Suggested retail price: $3,999.99.
- Rope-a-Dope home drug testing kit: Brought on largely by the growing SoCal masters racing scene, this handy-dandy home drug kit can tell you just how much more EPO, testosterone, tainted beef, or volcano dope you can ingest before you test positive and aren’t allowed to win any more Clif bars. A supplemental “Rage Gauge” allows simultaneous testing of your violent, steroid-induced mood swings, allowing you to know when you’re more likely to beat up a competitor or kick your dog. Suggested retail price: $289.00 for the kit, testing refills @ $4.99 each.
- Krispy Kreme nutritional bar: Made out of pure butter, flour, and deep-fried in fresh canola oil, the Krispy Kreme “Healthnut” is an oval ride snack with a little hole in the middle for easy grip/fishing out of your back jersey pocket. The Healthnut contains one essential nutrient (sugar), and several nonessential ones that nonetheless taste great (butter, oil, more sugar). The Healthnut comes in four flavors: glazed, chocolate-covered, sprinkles, and old-fashioned. Suggested retail price: $1.00/ea.
- The Ride Excusifier: This clever app, downoaded onto your smart phone, provides a quick and appropriate response through your phone’s mic every time your significant other complains about your excessive cycling. Including old standbys like “At least I’m not a whore-hopping coke-head,” and “This new carbon rig is cheaper than heart surgery,” the folks at Stand Your Ground, Inc., have added some excuses that are sure to keep the missus (or the mister) tongue-tied long enough for you to clip in and roll out the drive. My favorites were “I promise I won’t be late again!” and “Aaaaaaaahhhh!” shouted in a suicidal wail. Suggested retail price: $4.99.
- Mr. Sockmeasure: How many times have you pulled out a pair of socks and discovered that they’re slightly unequal lengths because you have several identical pairs but they’ve been re-paired with socks that aren’t their “true” partner? Think of all the times this has ruined your ride or made you late as you try on all forty-two pairs to get the exact match. Well, with Mr. Sockmeasure, those days are gone! This handy sock-shaped measure, which attaches to the outside of your dryer, lets you carefully check each sock before folding. From OCD Products, Inc.: $16.99.
- The Ronco “Tireflopper”: How many times have you been eating shit ten miles off the back in a brutal road race with 40 miles to go, uphill, into a sandstorm, with no chance of anything except failure, but still too much pride to quit? The Tireflopper attaches to the inside of your valve stem and is voice-activated by shrieking “Oh, fuck!” or “Kill me now!” which triggers a complete release of all the air in your tire. You can then stand by the road looking faux glum and ride home in the sag wagon. (Note: must be used with the “Derailing Derailleur,” a spring-loaded mechanism that prevents any other rear wheel from fitting into the rear drop-outs. Without this, the follow car will simply change your wheel and send you on your way.) Suggested retail price: $98.99.
- Aaron Rents “Hand-up Bitch”: Tired of running around at the last minute trying to get some chick or dude to give you hand-ups in the middle of a 110-degree dropfest out in Bakersfield? Embarrassed by not having anyone to cheer wildly at your 37th placing in the Cat 5 crit? Aaron Rents now offers a male or female rental Hand-up Bitch who will stand out in the hot sun, give you shit that’s not going to help, and clap happily when you achieve the impressive goal of not dying. $150/hr., blowjobs extra.