Shine a light on me

December 23, 2012 § 25 Comments

I still see bikers riding at dusk, or just before dawn, or sometimes even at night, without a headlight.

They are stupid or cheap or both. They are going to get run over by a car. They are going to spend thousands to fix their stupid bones and their stupid bike, they are going to lose income from being bound to a hospital bed and peeing through a tube, their wifeband is going to fucking ream them to a fare thee well because s/he never approved of cycling anyway, and the jarheaded cop is going to assign them liability for the accident, cutting off a lawsuit and potential recovery against the offending driver.

They are going to spend tens of thousands to fix themselves, when they could have prevented the whole mess with a $150.00 purchase.

Oh, and of course they didn’t stint on the $2,500.00 racing wheelset, and no, they don’t race.

Stupid and cheap people don’t deserve death or horrible injury just because they’re stupid and cheap, but the world often disagrees.

The temerity of the review

I’m usually first impressed, then quickly contemptuous of, people who review new cycling products. It’s impressive because the responsibility is so enormous, and blogger/Bicycling Mag types seem to assume it for no more than a free shipment of swag.

When you review a product you’re telling people how to spend their money. This is like telling them how to do their job, or how to talk to their wife, or what school to send their kids to, or which religion to believe in, only way more personal than those things.

For cycling crap, reviews are more than telling people “buy this, not that.” Depending on the product, reviews are also saying “trust your life with this, not that.”

I’m thinking tires. Glasses. Brakes. Frames. Shoes. Wheels. I’m thinking any of those numerous items on a bike which, when they catastrophically fail, can result in catastrophic injury.

I get contemptuous of the new product review pretty quickly when the product is one of those things we depend on to keep us alive when we cycle. Why? Because there’s no way to review a new product on one of its most important qualities: Durability.

The reviewer may see his mailbox regularly fill with free crap, but most cyclist consumers buy shit and use it for a long time, often way past the expiration date. Shakes the Clown comes to mind, the only cyclist I’ve ever seen actually wear out the color neon yellow. He wore this hideous jersey for so many decades that the unfadable color finally faded.

Or John Saggyshorts, what about him? Dude wore out the stretch in his lycra such that the bottoms of his shorts look like flair jeans. He doesn’t care. he’s in his 70’s, and he knows that bell bottom shorts will be in fashion again someday. Not they ever were, of course.

These cheapskates, and millions like them, are going to buy the product you recommend after careful thought and comparison, and they’re going to use it until the end of time or until it falls apart, whichever comes first. So the reviewer who slap-happily gives a “two thumbs up” to some product that hasn’t been battle tested over thousands and thousands of miles, varying conditions, and preferably a couple of years, is doing a service to no one but himself (gets more free swag) and the manufacturer.

Which, by the way, is fine, as long as it’s disclosed, which it never is, with a disclaimer like this: “WARNING: This is a bullshit review of a bullshit product that has not really been tested against the conditions in which you will use it for the length of time that you will use it. I’m a paid whore for [—–] and my opinions count for shit.”

A quick overview on headlights v. taillights

Bike shops are replete nowadays with salamander lights. These are headlights and tailights whose beam is no bigger around than the rectum of a salamander. This is the kind of light I’m talking about, and the market is flooded with them. I’ve seen countless “serious” cyclists with these or their equivalent strapped to their bike. They are stupid and pointless and a waste of money and when seen from behind cannot be seen from behind. When used to illuminate what’s in front of you they don’t illuminate what’s in front of you. They do, however, identify you as a stupid cheapass.

Since there’s some confusion about what a bicycle light should do, let’s first cover the basics.

  1. Taillight: This should blind anyone behind you and alert them to your miserable existence. It should be so red, and so bright, and so screamingly obvious that the driver coming up behind you should wonder whether or not you’re an emergency vehicle. I’m talking about something like this. How do I know it works? Fellow cyclists beg me to shut it off when I meet up with the group and they have to ride behind me. Since getting this thing two years ago, on my nightly commute cars swerve wide to pass where they once used to pass so closely that I’d regularly get brownshorts. The taillights’s purpose is not to save weight, or to be aero, or to awesomely blend into the architecture of your frame. It’s to keep the fucking traffic from crushing and killing you. So, take a look at your taillight, and if it’s not the brightest, most annoying, badass beam of death out there, throw it in the trash and get a real one. Can’t afford the $60.00 price tag? Then how the hell are you going to afford the catheter that drains the excess fluid off your brain post-collision?
  2. Headlight: This is not really to let people know you’re there. It’s to light the roadway in front of you. So there’s no sense in having a “blinking” front light unless your eyes open and shut uncontrollably and everything’s a strobe to you anyway. The headlight should be a powerful beam. How powerful? So powerful that when a skunk or possum runs across your path, the beam clearly illuminates his spinal cord underneath the fur and skin. So powerful that if you leave it focused on one place for too long, it will start a fire. So powerful that when you plug it in for a recharge the entire apartment complex’s electrical system momentarily sags. In lightspeak, it should be no less than 500 lumens, which is basically the brightness of commercial aircraft landing gear. Can’t afford the $150.00 price tag? Sorry to hear that your brains and bones and internal organs and children and wife and job cost less than $150.00. Or rather, envious. “Green with envy” envious.

Down on Nite Rider stuff, possibly forever

A week ago I was planning this blog post and thinking about all the great things I was going to say about Nite Rider. First, I was going to castigate them for misspelling “Night.” Cutesy names chosen to avoid trademark infringement are nothing more than testament to a feeble imagination, and if you can’t think up a catchy, available name, how good are you going to be inventing something that actually works?

Quite good, apparently.

I’ve used Nite Rider lights for three years, starting with the MiNewt 350 and then, at the end of 2011, upgrading to the MiNewt 750. The beam is bright, and although the brightest beam never seemed to last very long, and certainly never lasted for the 1.5 hours bandied about on the web site, the lower beams were plenty bright to light my way.

I liked the MiNewt because the headlamp was tiny and aero, fit snugly on the bars, and was very solidly built. The $250+ that I paid for the 750 was a downer, but a few extra bucks for a whole lot of extra light was worth it.

The other downside to the MiNewt was the battery pack, which you have to strap to your frame or your bars. When I was riding with my stem jammed all the way down, I’d bump the battery pack with my right knee when climbing out of the saddle. And the lashing-down process with the velcro strap before each ride was a pain in the ass, but the baseline comparison for me was always the same: How much of an inconvenience is it compared to a spinal fracture at C2 and spending the rest of my life navigating a wheelchair with my tongue?

Exactly.

Planned obsolescence: Don’t get me started, or rather, please do

Two weeks ago the Bull and I were descending in the pitch dark on the way to the NPR. He was missing a taillight and the conversation got around to headlights. He was using the new Serfas TSL 500+.

“What’s up with the new light? What happened to your Nite Rider?”

He and I had used the same light for a while now. “The battery pack died.”

“Why didn’t you get another one?”

“Nite Rider has it conveniently set up so that the cost of a new battery pack is about the same as the cost of buying an entire new lighting system.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

He wasn’t. A new 750 MiNewt battery costs $129.00, and with shipping and tax is right around $150.00. Bottom line: Nite Rider sells you a product that is designed to wear out, then rapes you on the replacement part.

I’ve come to expect this from Shimano (replaced the covers on your brake levers lately?), and would expect nothing less from Campy and longtime cycling manufacturers who treat consumers like cows to be continually milked and given nothing in return, but for some reason it came as a shock that Nite Rider has also bought into this philosophy.

It’s a shock because the light market is competitive. Fucking over loyal consumers will send them elsewhere, which is what happened to me. I popped over to the LBS and bought a Serfas TSL 500+. It plugs into the wall, doesn’t have the clunky battery pack with lame velcro strap lashdown system, is super bright, is lightweight, and seems to work just fine.

The only downside is that it’s larger than the MiNewt atop your handlebars and doesn’t look as sleek. However, it easily unclips and fits into your back pocket after the sun comes up, something you could never do with the MiNewt.

So, fuck you Nite Rider. The Serfas may also be built to fail, and it’s only been given one test run, and I can’t vouch for the its quality, durability, or ease of use over time, but for now it has replaced you, who were as of a few minutes ago deposited in the garbage chute.

I don’t mind being screwed around by a light manufacturer…oh, wait a minute…yes, I do.

Good Nite, Rider.

Good Nite, Rider.

So, like, what’s a “Between Bike”?

September 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

This marks the sixth consecutive year since learning about Interbike that I haven’t gone. Back in Texas, mid-September was always so intolerably hot that you were still trying to find a telephone pole for shade, so the idea of going out to Las Vegas, a/k/a THE BLINDINGLY HOT FUCKING DESERT to look at bike stuff wasn’t exactly exciting.

In September of 2007, though, I noticed that suddenly everyone in the South Bay had vanished.

“Yo, where’s Junkyard?”

“Interbike.”

“Oh. Uh, what’s Interbike?”

Withering look of contempt, unmixed with pity. “It’s nothing. Just the biggest annual bike expo on the planet that showcases all the upcoming stuff for next year. It’s a must if you’re in the industry.”

“Oh. Well, what about Sketchy?”

“Sketchy?”

“That dude who’s on all the rides, has the cool shit, but, like, doesn’t seem to have a real job.”

“Interbike.”

“He’s in the industry?”

“No, but he knows a lot of people who are. So he has to be there, you know, to be seen.”

“Ah. Of course. And Twitchy? Where’s Twitchy? He never misses the Pier Ride.”

“Twitchy?”

“Yeah, Twitchy. The old retired dude whose shorts are so ancient the elastic is worn out of the waist and cuffs so that they sag on his can and flap on his thighs. The dude who never buys anything, ever.”

“Oh, Twitchy. Interbike.”

“What the fuck’s he at Interbike for?”

“He likes to see the latest stuff.”

“But he never buys any of it!”

“He’s good friends with Zoner and Pooter, and they’re…”

“…in the industry.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, Zigzag’s not here. Don’t you dare tell me he’s in the industry. I know for a fact he’s a mechanical engineer with Megadeath Contractors and Global Radiation Products.”

“Ziggy? He’s tight with the Specialized rep. Every year he goes to Vegas and gets the bro deal.”

“This place is a fucking ghost town.”

“Welcome to Interbike season, Wankster.”

The many reasons I’ll never go to Interbike, ever

My biggest problem is semantic. I can’t get past the name. What the fuck is an “Interbike”? Eurobike, I get. It’s bikes in Europe. Or bikes for euros. But “inter” means “between.” Between bikes? The only thing between bikes should be open space, specifically, 3-4 inches to keep from overlapping wheels.

My next biggest problem is money. I don’t like to spend it. I especially don’t like to spend it in Vegas. Plus, I don’t have any.

My final biggest problem is that Interbike and its ilk exist for one reason, and one reason only: To solve, improve, ameliorate, or eliminate the Three Laws of Cyclodynamics, which are natural and immutable physical laws. I’ve listed them below for your easy reference.

  1. You’ll flat.
  2. You’ll fall.
  3. You’re too fat.

Fixing the problem of flat tires

From time immemorial, or at least from the time they graduated from steel wheels to rubber wheels to pneumatic tires, bikes have gotten flats. I’m not going to Vegas to look at someone’s newest great idea on how not to get them. If the idea’s any fucking good it will show up at my LBS quicker than herpes at a frat party. (Hint: if it promises to drastically reduce flats, or make them lots easier to fix, or eliminate them, it’s not.)

On the other hand, the latest greatest flat elimination concept is more than likely something along the lines of a tubeless tire. Those who swear by them eventually swear at them. Any bike device that requires injections of sticky green goo is a device whose time has not yet come.

Fixing the problem of falling

From the days of the high wheeler, when riding a bike meant “taking a header” and falling from six feet up in the air onto a rock or into a mud pit or under the hooves of a horse, cyclists have come unhitched from their bikes. The severity of falling has been somewhat reduced by the safety bicycle (that’s the thing you ride today, with two equally sized wheels rather than a giant one in front and tiny one in back).

It’s been reduced by helmets, though they now make you look like a cockroach.

And of course it’s been reduced by our national highway transportation system, which discourages cycling and keeps the brains of countless millions intact, safe inside their cars where they can run over the few idiots crazy enough to think “share the road” is more than a political sop.

Ultimately, though, all of the crap at Betweenbike engineered to increase stability, improve braking, improve helmets, make lighting more powerful, and generally safety-ize the bicycle will never eliminate the rendezvous you’re soon enough going to have with gravity. And I’m not going all the way to Vegas to look at things that will be rendered obsolete by the first bimbo who’s texting with one hand and scratching her ass with the other.

The true purpose of Betweenbike: Fat reduction compensation

But the true holy grail of Betweenbike is to make you faster. No matter what anyone says, the bike industry is all about speed. The naked hookers at the booths, the screamingly bored pros trying to pretend that they’re interested in the 4,000th person to say, “I’ll never forget the time you attacked in the Hooterville Crit with two to go and Snots Buggerly bridged and the two of you won that box wine prime, and it looked like you’d hold off the field until Herndy Doo took a flyer and nipped you at the line!”, the fanboys and blogboys and mediaboys and Tweetboys all trolling the aisles desperately looking for something original to say about things that aren’t original…they’re all there in Vegas to pimp speed.

One year it’s a powermeter in your pedal! The bomb!

Another year it’s electronic shifting! The bomb!

Another year it’s textiles that cheat the wind! The bomb!

But after all the hype recedes into interest-only payments on your maxed out credit card, and no matter what anyone says, the cheapest and quickest way to go faster is to drop twenty pounds. Or forty.

Since dropping extra weight is so damned hard, and since it’s so much easier to drop $2k on a “fast” set of wheels than to drop 2kg off your third chin, the bike industry annually churns out newer, lighter, faster, more complex stuff to do what a good, old fashioned famine could have effected in 90 days or less.

Tested in a wind tunnel! Dimpled for drag reduction! Particle image velocimetry proven!

These and other complex and totally legitimate scientific principles get applied, each year, with greater precision and with wider application to the entire field of bicycles, clothing, and components. The problem is that you can get all of their benefits, and lots more, by just laying off the double cheese Sicilian deep dish and the three Hag bars.

Of course, Betweenbike and “the industry” aren’t stupid. Which one is more fun? Giving up life’s greatest pleasures to become a lonely, recalcitrant, ill-tempered stay-at-home blogger, or indulging in them AND adding trick swag to your bike cave?

Case closed.

See you next year, maybe.

In Vegas.

New Strava algorithms announced

September 13, 2012 § 53 Comments

Strava CEO Michael Horvath posted an entry on the company blog today about sportsmanship, competition, ethics, and a new focus on the social media site’s core users. “After doing a six-month analysis of rider usage patterns,” he wrote, “we were able to pinpoint the key characteristics of our avid regular users and of our paid ‘premium’ users. Our user review team has classified our customers as something known in the industry as ‘delusional assholes.'”

According to Horvath, Strava’s current KOM/QOM algorithm no longer correlates to the behavior of the web site’s most dedicated users. “KOM’s started out as virtual datapoints to mark your progress. Unfortunately, they’ve become real in the minds of countless users. People actually believe that because Strava describes them as a KOM, they are in fact the king of some mountain somewhere.”

Horvath relates the fistfight that broke out between cyclist Elmer Thudpucker and a local landowner when Thudpucker claimed feudal demesne rights to Pighumper Mountain in western Arkansas by virtue of his Strava KOM. “First they beat him senseless, then they tied him to a post, then they made him grunt like a pig. We decided something needed to be done.”

Too much of a bad thing?

Problems also arise when KOM holders interact with other actual cyclists and get their shit handed to them on a plate, according to Horvath. “The cognitive dissonance that arises when you think you are the king of a mountain, but then on a group ride you are the last person up the mountain you’re supposedly king of, creates so much depression, self-doubt, anger, and disillusionment that our most committed members are letting their memberships lapse,” he explains.

“We’ve decided to revamp the KOM algorithm so that all of our Strava users know exactly what their KOM’s really mean, and hence aren’t so dejected when they get crushed by the kid on restricted gears who hasn’t started shaving yet.”

Preview of the new, improved Strava rankings

“We’re in the process of gathering more personal data from our users in order to perfect the algorithms, but in a nutshell here they are. This entire system was dreamed up by Steven L. from San Diego, so we owe him a big debt of thanks even though he won’t see a dime from all his hard work, as we intend to pirate the shit out of his idea.”

COM: Chicken of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider never rides with others, and instead sets all of his best times alone.

FOM: Faker of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider never tells others he’s going for a particular segment, so they will do all the work as he moves from the back to the front of the group to collect the FOM.

POM: Peon of the Mountain
Idicates that the segment has been ridden less than 500 times, and the rider is literally a smallish-fish-in-the-tiniest-of-ponds.

WOM: Wanker of the Mountain
Indicates that the segment has never been ridden by a UCI pro or Cat 1 roadie.

Cit-OM: Citizen of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider doesn’t do road races.

FROM: Fraudster of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider is the one who created the segment.

SPROM: Sprunter of the Mountain
Indicates that the segment is less than 5k in length.

CHOM: Cheater of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider achieved the time with motor pacing or other pacing assistance.

EPOM: EPO of the Mountain
Indicates reliance on PED’s.

KOV: King of the Valley
Indicates net decrease in elevation, ergo it’s not a climb, stupid.

LOM: Lawsuit of the Mountain
Indicates idiot took outrageous risks on a descent or other twisty, dangerous road in order to score points on a stupid web site.

TOM: Triathlete of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider isn’t even a cyclist.

DOM: Delusional of the Mountain
Indicates that the rider thinks that his performance on Strava correlates to his racing ability.

“This is just the outline; we’re hoping to get it tweaked in the next couple of weeks,” writes Horvath. “Once we’ve gone through the AMA’s Index of Psychiatric Disorders to fully categorize our customers, we should be ready for launch.”

Here, try this water. It will make you faster.

September 12, 2012 § 14 Comments

On the bike, I’m somebody. Somebody ridiculous? Yes. Somebody clueless? Uh-huh. Somebody no one takes seriously? That, too. But at least I’m somebody.

In the gym, I’m nobody.

I’m so weak I’m not even ridiculous. Today there was a gal about 200 pounds overweight, Dog bless her, busting out of a skintight leotard that, if it hadn’t been stitched together with wire and Kevlar, would have torn asunder and killed whoever got hit by the flying fabric. Big Chick and me, we were the gym nobodies of the day, her for being so prodigiously fat and trying to work some of it off, me for being so prodigiously weak and trying to get just the slightest bit stronger.

It sucks to be a nobody.

The advice sausage magnet

The reason it sucks to be nobody isn’t the “nobody” part. It’s actually fun to just be an ordinary, anonymous wanker who everyone ignores once they see you’re straining to deadlift the 40-lb. kettlebell.

The sucky part about nobodyism is that you become the default magnet for all the advice sausages. Fortunately for the fat girl, she was there with a trainer, a very cool dude who knows his shit and from time to time offers me little tidbits I can use without being condescending or obtrusive.

“Hey, Wankster, trying keeping your back straight so that all those discs don’t pop out of your lower spine like discs coming out of a Nerf gun.” Stuff like that.

Unfortunately, last night the only person in the gym besides me was Phil the Advice Sausage. He was doing leg extensions while I fiddled with my tiny medicine ball. It’s a really small gym, so you can’t go off in a corner.

“Hey, there!” he said.

“Hi.”

“I’m Phil. But all my friends call me Advice Sausage.”

“Hi, Phil. I’m Dave. Dave Perez.”

“Good to know you, Dave. Do you live here?”

“No, I live in San Pedro.”

“Very cool, very cool. I’m on Day Two of a 3-day detox.”

“Oh. Trying to climb onto the wagon, huh?”

“No, no. Not alcohol detox, no, you know, a natural detox. To get rid of all the toxins in my body. No solid food for three days.”

“Toxins in your body? You must be from Long Beach.”

He smiled and put on the condescending look. “Your body naturally builds up toxins from the food you eat, and so to be healthy you have to detoxify your system.”

“Oh, that. Yeah, I detox every morning. Big cup of coffee, some granola, and baby, I detox those fucking toxins to a fare-thee-well. Problem is after I detox the body, I’ve pretty much toxed up the rest of the apartment. But you know what they say. Everybody thinks his own shit smells good.”

Phil got a funny look on his face. “This is a specific program I’m on to purify the body. It’s scientifically proven. By going off solid food for three days, your body purifies and becomes healthier.”

“What about all the holes in the wall?”

“Holes in the wall?”

“Yeah, all the fucking holes you punch in the wall for being pissed off and angry at not getting to eat for three days.”

Now he was thinking it was time to switch topics. “So, what are you working on?” This was a typical advice sausage intro line, which really meant, “What is a pathetic weakling like you trying to achieve that a stud like me might help you with?”

“I’ve had a gut all year and am trying to work it off.”

“Ah, yes. I once had that problem.” Then he nonchalantly gets down on a mat and takes this little wheel thingy and starts doing roll-outs. I watch him do about a zillion of them. Then he sits up. “Don’t have that particular problem any more. Heh, heh.”

You’re so weak I can probably lie to you all day and you won’t even know it

“So, do you play a sport?” he asked.

“No.”

“You really should. Sports are great for you.”

“Really? The only thing I do is bicycle, and all it seems to do is make people mentally ill or put them in the hospital.”

“Oh, you cycle? Well, that’s certainly a sport.”

“Cycling? A sport?”

“Oh, yes. It’s actually quite competitive and difficult. You’d be surprised.”

“I sure would be.”

NOTE TO READER: THIS NEXT PART REALLY HAPPENED

“I used to race bikes, actually,” said Phil. “I grew up here in Southern California and raced a lot here.”

“Really? Like, with categories and everything?”

“Oh, yeah. Absolutely.”

“What category were you?”

“I didn’t have a category. But one time I jumped in a race with a bunch of Category 1’s and beat them all.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“You must have been fast.”

“I was pretty fast when I was young, yeah. My specialty was criterion and road racing, like they do in the Tour de France.”

“Did you also run marathons with Paul Ryan?”

“What?”

“Nothing. So after beating all those Category 1 dudes in that race you jumped into, what happened? Did you turn pro?”

“Oh, no. Professional cycle racing is way beyond what you or I could ever do. I was just a local racer, one of the top guys around here, actually.”

“No shit? When was this?”

“I got started in the early 90’s. Late 90’s. 1997.”

“Gosh, that’s a long time ago. Which races did you do? You must have been fast.”

“I was best on track racing. I was a track racer. It was kind of my specialty.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a track like a race track for cars, except no gears or brakes. My best events were the missing out and the careen.”

“What’s that?”

“The missing out is where you race in a timed thing against the clock. The careen is behind a motorcycle where you careen past the motorcycle. That’s why it’s called the careen. There’s like a hundred guys out there with you all trying to careen at the same time. You have to be really fast and not flinch.”

“Man, that’s fricking incredible. Hey, I know some dudes who used to race back then. Who did you race with?”

“Oh, I, ah, can’t really remember anyone’s names. Mike. I raced with Mike. And a guy named Fred. Mike and Fred, yeah. Mostly, though, I raced in the Midwest. I did a lot of racing in the Midwest.”

“The Midwest?”

“Yeah, in the 1980’s. I started racing in the 80’s. Before your friends’ time. It was a long time ago.”

“How old are you?”

“Forty-nine.”

“I’m forty-eight. I’ve got some great buddies from the Midwest who were star bike racers back then. Ever hear of Jeff Fields?”

“Oh, yeah, sure, Jeff Fields. I knew him.”

“Tall, skinny guy?”

“Yeah.”

“Long blonde hair?”

“That’s him.”

“It is? I always kind of remembered him as being short with dark hair.”

“Oh yeah, he was, wasn’t he? Well, my main place of racing was Penn State and Ohio. I raced a lot there.”

“No shit? Do you know…”

But I never got to finish my sentence because he suddenly realized an important television news program he had to watch, and he dashed out.

You can’t keep a good advice sausage down

Like the Cat in the Hat, though, Phil was back in a flush, carrying a big jug of water. “How’d you like to be an experiment?” he said with a big friendly grin.

“I feel like I already am. Are you the mad scientist?”

“This is called Kangen Water. It’s super low in pH, minus 750. Green tea is minus 80. Antioxidants. You know what those are?”

“Antioxidants? Sure. A recent article in DC Science came out that said there’s no such thing.”

“That’s what traditional medicine is always saying. They have a financial interest in keeping you hooked up to the doctors and big pharma. Alternative medicine works. Trust me.”

“Have you ever had surgery?”

“Oh, sure. I had my appendix taken out.”

“Did they use traditional anesthesia or, like, acupuncture and green tea to knock you out?”

“Oh, it was traditional. But that was my appendix. I’m here to talk to you about your cycling. I can make you 20% stronger and faster just by drinking this special low pH Kangen Water.”

“Really?”

“Yep. It’s proven by mystic Japanese Buddhism Shinto priests. They lower the pH until the water completely detoxifies your body and infuses your cells with pure water. It’s like putting the highest grade oil in your engine. Everything just runs better.”

“I already told you, man, my detox program works like clockwork. It costs zip and the smell’s gone with a match and a candle.”

“Look. Just try this water. Drink it all day long for two days. Then get out on your bike. You’ll be the fastest guy in LA County.”

“Is this what you used when you raced bikes?”

“You bet I did.”

“And that’s what made you the fastest road track racer in Pennsylvania Ohio Midwestern Southern California?”

“Damn straight.” He had that crazy preacher look, burning with devotion to save my bank account from the devil by putting it in his safekeeping.

“Okay, man,” I said, taking the water. “I’ll try it. Now can I finish my workout?”

“Sure.  But I’d like to make an appointment to show you the full program for how this stuff works and how you incorporate it with a detox. I’ve got a video program and some equipment. Only takes an hour, two hours max.” He handed me the jug with his business card. “What was your name again?”

“Dave Perez,” I said, as I gave him Dave’s phone number, email, and home address. “Feel free to drop by anytime.”

I love it when you sit on my face

September 7, 2012 § 14 Comments

By now you may have become so bored with the DemRep pep rallies that you might have scrolled down far enough in Google News to find the story about SPY Optic’s billboard scandal. In order to promote their new “Happy” brand of lenses, the North County company slapped up a billboard that said “SPY: Happy to Sit on Your Face.”

SPY is a huge supporter of grass roots cycling and bike racing, and makes performance products that are proudly worn by bikers everywhere. They also sponsor the amateur team I race for.

The day after it went up, Clear Channel Outdoors, the owner of the billboard, removed the sign under cover of darkness. Given Clear Channel’s corporate censorship policy, this is hardly surprising. They’re the same douchebags who censored a proposed billboard touting gay marriage in Clearwater, Florida, prior to the RNC’s gay-bashing hatefest. They’re the same First Amendment vandals who banned 150 songs with questionable lyrics after 9/11, including subversive ditties like Louis Armstrong’s ” What a Wonderful World” and terrorist compositions like Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train.”

But this isn’t about the growling, repressive, closeted impulses of a reactionary corporate media conglomerate. It’s about surfing and fucking.

Surfing and fucking

It seems that some of the good folk in Encinitas, California, where the sign went up, were dismayed at the sexual innuendo of the sign. They complained, because, you know, “sit on your face” implies cunnilingus, or maybe even sticking your nose and tongue up your date’s rear end.

How terrible. How filthy. How un-American. And most of all, how inappropriate for a good, clean, wholesome, family oriented coastal town.

These are all great grounds for outrage, unless, of course, you’ve actually been to Encinitas, which is the surf capital of the world. You can’t walk five feet down the main drag without seeing a zillion surfers and their smoking hot, barely clad surfer babes with taut nipples busting out of tight bikinis and buttfloss so deep in the crack that you’d need a spelunker to fish it out. Epic breaks like Cardiff and Swami’s, as well as dozens of other excellent waves in the vicinity make Encinitas an epicenter of surfing.

And unless you’ve been dead since the Beach Boys first released “Surfin’ U.S.A.” in 1963, surfing is all about riding waves, drinking beer, getting stoned, and fucking. Human nature being what it is, and naked bodies doing what drunk and stoned bodies naturally do, much of the surfer fucking is interspersed with face sitting.

A recent study showed that every single person over the age of 21 who has lived in Encinitas for more than a month has had their face covered by the naked ass and exposed genitalia of a spouse, neighbor, casual acquaintance, lifeguard, teacher, doctor, lawyer, fireman, cop, letter carrier, UPS delivery person, or Indian chief.

In other words, Encinitians, your complaints about the location of this risque ad are, shall we say, misplaced.

But what about the CHILDREN???

When I lived in Miami, Texas, I got to know the editor of a local newspaper called the Clarendon Enterprise. It was a radical, right-wing whackadoodle of a rag, and the editor’s favorite battle cry was “But what about the CHILDREN?”

A recalcitrant bachelor, he decried every liberal/socialist/communist attempt to regulate or govern in the name of helping children. School lunches, medical care, education, you name it, he opposed it, and frequently did so with witty and intelligent attacks on the Mommy State and its assumptions that parents were too stupid and inept to raise their own kids.

The undoing of his argument was first the fact that he lived in the Texas Panhandle, the teen pregnancy and teen meth capital of America, where parents really are, for the most part, too stupid to raise their own kids, and second, the fact that he eventually got married and had children, at which point he became an ardent advocate for government expenditures of tax dollars to raise, educate, and care for his own progeny.

In any event, one of the key complaints in Encinitas about the SPY billboard went like this: “What are you going to tell your kids when they pipe up in the back seat, ‘Mommy, what does that mean?'”

Why you really are too stupid to raise children

The assumption that any child in the 21st Century would be reading billboards rather than fiddling with a video game console in the SUV or playing games on his iPhone is of course absurd. The idea that your child isn’t already exposed to graphic sexual language and references on television is even more absurd.

But the kernel of truth is that you probably are unable to talk frankly with your children about sex, which is why they’re getting all of their lessons from the iPhone: the same device that speeds them funware also connects them to 24/7 lessons in cuntology and cocksmanship.

In sum, if your child really did ask you what the billboard meant, and you were unable to say, “It’s about sunglasses sitting on your face, honey, and making you happy,” or “It’s a play on words that implies two people having sex,” or “Ask your father,” then you’ve flunked the parenting test. Please return them at the counter, no questions asked, and get a pet iguana or rock in exchange.

Happiness is coming

Never easily dissuaded by prudes, SPY’s follow-up billboard says, again touting its Happy lenses, “Happiness is Coming.” The ad adds that the lenses, of course, will be “released” soon.

I’m sure this will set off another round of agonizing among the Mommy Class, i.e. those who have graduated from buttfloss to an expensive house by the sea. What it won’t do is bother the surfers and surfettes. They’ll be sitting on each others’ faces and coming just like they always have, while the rest of the world looks on in fond reminiscence and outright envy.

The best bike gadgmo I ever didn’t buy

August 19, 2012 § 36 Comments

I was sitting in my office last December when the secretary buzzed me. “Wanky,” she said. “Mr. Geiger is here to see you.”

“Who?”

“Mr. Geiger. Mr. Alan Geiger.”

“I don’t know any Alan Geiger. What’s he want?”

“I’m not sure but he says he has something for you.”

“What? He’s selling radiation readers?”

“Do you want me to tell him you’re busy?”

“If he knows me at all, he’ll know that’s a lie. I’ll come out.”

Wanky, meet Mr. Geiger. Mr. Geiger, Wankmeister.

I went out into the lobby and he was sitting in the chair as if he owned it. He was short, looked like he was in his late 50’s but he had that fit cyclist look which meant he could have been in his 70’s. He hopped right up. “I brought a couple of things for you,” he said.

In my line of work no one ever just pops in to “bring me something” unless it’s a summons and complaint. I raised an eyebrow. “Okay…”

“First, I want you to have this magazine. It’s the best bike mag in Japan. You’ll love it.” He handed me a giant, full-color bike magazine, all in Japanese, that makes anything ever put out by Bicycling look like it was done on recycled tissue paper.

“Uh, thanks.” How did he know I read Japanese?

“But most importantly, I want you to have this.”

I tensed, waiting for the hammer. He fished into his pocket and pulled out a little plastic zipper pouch. “I got it at the hundred-yen shop in Harajuku. Perfect for your iPhone, a couple of bucks, and a credit card. Waterproof. Fits in your back jersey pocket like it was made for it.” He held out the little plastic pouch, which was made of clear plastic and shot through with reinforcing strips.

“Are you fucking kidding me, dude?” was what I thought. But incredibly, the only thing that came out was “Wow. Uh, thanks. Thanks a bunch…Alan.”

“Gotta go,” said Alan, then he said, “That is that.” And then he was gone, with a tip of his hat.

My secretary had watched the whole thing, and after he left, she couldn’t suppress a giggle. “Who was he?”

“Damned if I know.” And damned if I did.

Change your life forever!

My life partner

I looked over the little pouch once I returned to my office. It was sturdy as hell. It had a nice, easy grip ring on the zipper. It was perfectly sized for an iPhone. Curiosity being more than a land rover on Mars, it got the better of me. I put my phone inside. Then I clicked the round hole at the bottom of the phone and up came the screen. “Will it really work through the plastic?” It did. Then I placed a call to Mrs. WM.

“Hello?” she said.

“It’s me. Nothing.”

“Okay. Bye.” This was one of our deeper conversations. Amazingly, the sound came right through the plastic.

Two weeks later I and my pouch had become inseparable, so much so that it had led to a rift with my trusty leather wallet. I’d transferred all my stuff to the pouch, and in the process had weeded out all of the crap that accumulates in wallets, kind of like the spontaneous regeneration that occurs in shoe closets.

That pouch went with me on every single bike ride. It was bullet proof, rain proof, sweat proof, and key proof. Soon I took to dropping it into the pocket of my suit coat. The sheriff’s deputies would look at me kind of funny when I showed them my bar card as I prepared to go through security at the courthouse. It’s not every lawyer in a wool suit and shiny black shoes who whips out a plastic zipper pouch.

Hard travelin’

After six months of constant use, and no small amount of abuse, the side of the pouch began to tear. No problem. We had a roll of Granny’s Special Japanese Duct Tape at home, and I taped it up while also reinforcing the other corners. Some things are disposable. This pouch wasn’t. It was without question the best non-bicycling product I’d never not bought for cycling. No more fumbling for shit in my back pocket. No more swapping stuff from wallet to jersey. No more forgetting shit in the jersey until the credit card and the Jackson got new and improved with a stiff dose of hot water and Tide.

Best of all, it was the ultimate fashion statement. As it got rattier, the deputies’ eyebrows raised higher and higher. And to say that it matched the ding in the rear bumper of my Camry, well, that hardly needs saying.

By last Thursday’s edition of the New Pier Ride, however, as I sat on the bricks and fiddled with my phone, it became apparent that the pouch was not going to last a whole lot longer without another round of duct tape surgery, which was fine with me. But it also occurred to me that if I knew where to get replacements, assuming they were to be had somewhere other than Harajuku, I could lay in a few for stock. With care and a roll of duct tape, they’d last me the rest of my life.

I turned to the SBW dude on my left. “You know Alan Geiger?”

“Alan? Sure? Why?”

“What’s his email?”

My neighbor gave it to me. I sent the email. In five minutes Alan had pinged me back. “You used to only be able to get them in Harajuku. But there’s a new Daiso, a couple of blocks down from the big Marukai in Gardena. Don’t go to the Daiso in Torrance. They won’t have ‘em. In the office supply section. You want size B7. The price has gone up, though. They cost a buck fifty now. If they’re in stock, buy a fistful. That place is funny. They’ll have something you like, and then you’ll never see it again.”

What goes around, comes around

Mrs. WM and I made the trek out to the Daiso in Gardena. Everything was exactly as Alan had described it, down to the location. His perfect description made it a five-second affair to choose from the plethora of pouches: B7. I scooped up ten of them. At a buck-fifty, that was a price even I could afford.

This morning as I got ready to roll out I happily chose a new pouch from the new stack, stuffed it, and consigned the tattered one to the trash. Then it occurred to me as I looked at the remaining ones. Maybe, instead of hoarding them all for myself, and despite the vagaries of the supply chain, maybe I should try and pass on the karma? I grabbed two extras and shoved them into my jersey.

As we rolled out of Malaga Cove I handed one to New Girl. “Here,” I said. “Don’t ask what or why. Just put your phone and money in it. You’ll thank me later.” She nodded.

When the wankoton hit the bottom of the reservoir I grabbed Sparkles’s jersey. I could see her phone making a sharp outline in her jersey pocket. “Hey, Sparkles. Here. For your phone. You’ll thank me later.” She looked at it, smiled, and tucked it away.

I got a funny feeling that lasted the rest of the ride.

Back at the ranch

Later today it occurred to me to find something out about this mysterious giver of pouches and Japanese bike magazines. I made a few calls until I hit pay dirt: Cary the Elder, he who knows everyone, connected me with Alan. Moments later we were chatting on the phone.

“Oh, yes,” he said. “Everyone in Central Park has one of those. I discovered them ten years ago at the Hundred Yen shops in Japan, and since I go back and forth, I always brought a few boxes with me to hand out. I thought my popularity in New York, such as it was, depended on it!”

“You just…handed them out?”

“Oh, absolutely. People had no idea what they were or what they were good for until they used it. Then it was like, ‘How did I ever live without one?’ followed by ‘Where can I get a replacement?'”

“I saw Tara with one.”

“Yes. A friend of mine was having lunch with a friend, and my friend took out her pouch to pay the tab. The other woman looked and said, ‘Do you know Alan?’ They’re everywhere now.”

“We picked up ten yesterday, and I…well…I gave out a couple.”

Alan’s voice warmed even more over the phone. “Oh, then you’re carrying on the tradition. That’s how it should be. They’re small things, but somehow, they’re bigger than they look.”

I thanked him for the gift, but I wasn’t talking about the pouch. And he knew it.

The unbearable heaviness of racing

June 13, 2012 § 35 Comments

Fukdude was musing about the high cost of elderly gent bike racing. “I’m gonna need a fuckin second job to pay my fuckin entry fees.”

Richard Sachs says less, using more words. “What incentive is there to continue? The costs escalate. The prizes don’t cover anything at all. You have to be committed to a training program to even approach being competitive enough to get a place.”

And finally, from the crack whores at VeloNews, on the orgasm that is the new Dura-Ace 11-speed group, there’s this. “Yes, the new Dura-Ace is lighter, yes it has another cog, yes it’s more expensive…”

More expensive.

Not less expensive.

More expensive.

How much more expensive? Does it even matter? I mean, it’s more than the $3,100 price tag of the “old” Di2 10-speed, so how much more expensive could it be?

How much more expensive it could be

The crack whores tell us that the new 11-speed is going to be in the neighborhood of $4,200. Dollars. And if that seems like a lot of money to spend on an extra cog, you can comfort yourself that the hemorrhage is just getting started, because the 11-speed stuff won’t work with any of your wheels. Chuck the $2,700 Zipps and any other wheels you have in your quiver. You’ll need new ones.

Don’t bother adding any of this up. It will be too painful. Just do some touchy-feely accounting, though, and ballpark the frame, the group, the wheels, the coach, the analytical software, the power meter, the shoes, the clothes, the drugs, the gas, the food, the race entry fee, the Barbie food you need for long rides, the sugar drinks you need for every ride, the gym membership, the spare bike, the tubes ($15), the tires ($70), the license, and you’ll easily hit 25k for one year of serious racing.

That’s assuming you don’t crash, upgrade components, replace worn parts, or drop your bike off at the shop for a tune-up or overhaul.

Not doing cocaine isn’t a real good justification

We’ve all heard this one. “Yeah, I spend a lot racing my bike, but at least I’m not screwing hookers and doing cocaine.”

So those are your choices in life? Bike racing, or hookers and cocaine?

The fact is that cycling at all levels has gone far beyond what most people can afford to pay. The shrinking pool of bike racers, despite the explosion in the number of cyclists, is a result of this technological free-for-all, in which only the rich can compete. If you don’t think 25k a year in disposable bike income makes you rich, you’re proving my point.

Yachting solved the problem by developing races in which the equipment was standardized. One-Design class races feature boats that are essentially the same, and in which the race isn’t decided by the person who spends the most. Cycling is desperately in need of this. When Cat 5 racers are forced through ignorance, peer pressure, bad judgment, or necessity to purchase thousands of dollars in equipment just to do a stupid 4-corner crit and crash on the third lap, there’s something terribly wrong.

Wankmeister’s One-Design bike racing solution

Always eager to get his hands dirty with the poopy, corn-studded problems that others won’t touch, Wankmeister has devised a system that will equalize the competition, make bike racing affordable, and allow him to stop siphoning off college tuition money to pay for Charon’s next crit win. Regulate race equipment as follows:

1. Frame: steel or chromoly only
2. Group: mechanical down-tube shifters only
3. Wheels: aluminum rim, 32 or 36-spoke only
4. Tires: clinchers only
5. Analytics: no speedometers, power meters, GPS devices of any kind
6. Drugs: RuggedMAXXX2 only
7. Coaching: Cap’n Taintbag’s free online coaching only
8. Helmet: DOT-approved motorcycle helmets only
9. Drinks: water only
10. Food: bananas, peanut butter, bread only

An idea whose time has come? Probably not. Just don’t send me a nastygram about how important technology is to safe and competitive bike racing. They raced the fucking Tour for the first thirty-one years with no derailleurs. Want to go uphill? Get off your fucking bike, yank the rear wheel and change gears. So don’t go whining about how you can’t race without 11-speed electro-shifting bullshit.

And remember this: As race fields dwindle, fewer young people get involved in the sport, and the only market growth is among 40+ men and women with a professional career and lots of disposable income, it might be time to level the playing field where it matters most–in the pocketbook.

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