Dollar Bad Shave Club

May 25, 2017 § 27 Comments

Cyclists shave. And they shave a bunch, all over. Here, there, you-know-where. And eventually they get around to Dollar Shave Club because hey, there are only so many times you can drag your wife’s Barbie razor over your 1/2-inch man leg stubble that’s stiffer than concertina wire before she opens an artery trying to shave her pits with the razor that your legs turned into a chain saw.


I tried Dollar Shave Club and liked it because, dollar.

The problem is that along with the cheapie razor cartridges they also send a newsletter and it’s all about shaving. They should not do that. They should send a newsletter that’s all about how to make a good cup of coffee, or how to properly lube a chain, or how to get GoJo out of your wife’s toothbrush.

Because when they write all about shaving it gets you to paying attention to shaving, and in general no man worth the name spends any time at all beyond the absolute grooming minimum unless he’s in heat, i.e., single. This desultory attitude towards shaving is why we have disposable safety razors.

Have you ever tried to slit your throat with a safety razor? Can’t be done. But just as it can’t open a jugular, nor can it cut facial hair very well, even when your chin is adorned with soft, sparse, feathery, little-girl down like mine is. And here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how many stupid blades they put on the cartridge because one crappy blade followed by six more crappy blades still won’t give your man weeds a clean cut.

What it will do is cover your face in clear slime, because in addition to being too lazy to get a good shave, Gillette divined that most men are also too lazy to put anything on their face before shaving besides soap, which causes them to get an even crappier shave and gruesome razor burn and blame the razor.

So the modern shaving experience is taking a dull child’s butter knife, dragging it carelessly across your face, scraping off the gelgoo, and staggering in late to work under a cloud of bad cologne.

Dollar Shave Club and their newsletter get you to thinking about how good is your shave, really, and after about six months you go to their website and learn that to get an actual good shave you have to upgrade to the fancy model which is no longer Dollar Shave Club but Many Dollars Shave Club. So then you start googling because you are a bike racer who likes 100% carbon that is made of pure carbon and you don’t want any cheapass clincher razors on aluminum rims.

That’s when you find some nutty millenium dude’s 42-page blog post about shaving with a straight razor. Yeah, those things that people used to kill each other with.

I can sum up everything you possibly need to know about shaving with a straight razor in a few words: Don’t you dare fucking do it. I’m talking to you, wanker.

I can tell you this because I almost did it, and even though I avoided slit throat syndrome, I wound up with most of my face scraped off and a dangling, half-shorn lip. Here’s how it happened.

I went to the CVS to get a cheapo straight razor, one of those plastic deals that the hair gal uses to shave the hair on your neck. I figured that before spending $2,500 on a carbon razor (yes, carbon) that will last my great-great-grandsons all their lives, and buying a whetstone, razor strop, a luxury badger hair shaving brush, and a roll of facial Tegaderm, I would try straight razor shaving with a low-budget model to see if I liked it.

Fortunately for me, the CVS didn’t have what I was looking for. Instead they had one of those old-timey safety razors like your dad used to use if you are over 50, a steel handle with a steel head that opens up and takes an actual two-sided razor blade.

“Yeah,” I thought. “It’s only twenty bucks and if I like it maybe I can graduate up to a straight razor, which, come to think of it looks kind of gnarly.”

So I went home and canceled my Dollar Bad Shave Club membership and eagerly awaited the morn. When it came I showered, wet my face, and — oops — realized I was out of shaving cream. “No big deal,” I thought.

Note to reader: BIG DEAL. VERY BIG DEAL.

So I took a couple of passes over my face with a bar of Ivory soap, loaded the razor blade, and got to work.

In this case, “work” meant shaving like I do with a Dollar Bad Shave Club razor. Fast, hard and long strokes. Mashing, baby. Gonna mow the fuggin’ face lawn today, so GTF outta my way.

I will pause here to note that a two-sided German razor blade made of tempered steel is a very different beast from a Dollar Bad Shave Club throwaway toy razor. I will pause here to note that unhappily, in my haste, I did four mega-monster swipes all the way down to my Adam’s apple. I will pause here to note that my face and throat were suddenly covered in the bright, Christmastime-red of a freshly gutted cat and my upper lip was mostly separated from the flesh nearest my nose.

You see, with a real razor (and keep in mind that this isn’t nearly as sharp or as lethal as a straight razor), you have to take very slow, careful, short, deliberate strokes that are made on top of a thick layer of shaving cream, otherwise you simply scrape off most of your face, leaving only exposed nerve endings, sliced capillaries, an open vein or two, cascades of gore, and a dangling lip that looks like cleft palate surgery gone bad.

In a real stroke of good luck, I did not bleed out, and more importantly, I had stopped shaving my legs years ago. If I had started off in the shower with this beast I would certainly have sliced right through my Achilles tendon, and perhaps all the way to Guadalajara as well.

Eventually my face scabbed over, which was attractive. I will pause here to note that face plaster doesn’t work for gashes more than four inches long by two inches deep.

Once the scabs fell away and the keloid scars smoothed over, I resumed using the razor. Slow, short, gentle, deliberate strokes and you’re good to go.

But you might want to stick to your wife’s Barbie razor on your legs unless you’re handy with a needle and sutures.



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Ill health

April 21, 2017 § 36 Comments

I’ve noticed that cyclists seem to get sick a lot, and bike racers, crazy sick. One person gets a cold and then everyone gets it. You’d think that with all the fitness and healthy lifestyle, especially the deep-fried kettle chips, bike racers would never get sick. But they do.

And if they’re not sick, they’re hurt. You don’t hardly have to ask a bike racer how they are doing. They will never say, “Great!” or “My legs are off the hook!” or “Amazing!”

Instead they will tell you about their whooping cough, or their dysentery, or their inflamed urethra, or their separated shoulder, toothache, etc. I know that Tour de France riders are so fit they constantly hover between immaculate form and dropping out of the race due to a summer cold. Apparently the fitter you are, past a certain point, the weaker your immune system.

I never say never, but I’m never sick. Maybe once every couple of years I get a legit cold with sniffles and an annoying fever, but the last time I was in bed due to illness was a long time ago. There was the time in 2015 when I broke my nutsack and got laid up for a short while, but other than that, pretty much nothing. And although I always feel gutted after a hard ride or race, it only takes a day or so to bounce back and feel great again.

One reason I don’t get sick is that I’m never really all that fit, certainly not razor fit. The only way my belly muscles would ever get cut is if I shaved them with a rusty razor. So there’s no way I’m going to ever be hovering on the precipice of supreme fitness with a compromised immune system.

The other reason is that growing up I was a filthy little kid. I bathed once or twice a month until I was thirteen. The only way to get the dirt and grime off was to sweat, and in Texas we did that a lot. Our dog Fletcher was covered in fleas and the fleas always had a secondary feast on us. Plus there were ticks. Sometimes you wouldn’t find them for a week or so, until they had swelled up into giant green blobs that exploded like blood bombs when you popped their abdomens. Then the head would stay lodged under your skin and get infected, and you’d usually end up cutting open the infection with a filthy pocket knife to drain the pus. As a little kid bonus my brother and I would always sniff the other one’s festering sore. “Gross!” we would shriek happily.

We had lots of cats, and they’d scratch us and bite us pretty regularly. Nothing is nastier than a cat scratch. The giant red welts would last for days and sometimes get infected. Outside we’d get stung by everything, mosquitoes of course, but also honeybees because we loved to try to catch them and put them in jars, bumblebees, and yellow jackets. Nothing was more fun than pelting a giant yellow jacket nest with rocks and then running. No matter how many times we learned that you can’t outrun wasps, we’d do it all over again.

My point is that as a child I must have developed a very strong immune system as an alternative to being dead. I’m sure I got sick, but I sure don’t ever remember it. What I remember is playing sick to get out of school, but that only worked a few times a year.

As a cyclist I think a lot of my immune system strengthening comes from water bottles. There is nothing as nasty as a water bottle. You can try to clean them as much as you want, but the manufacturers make the nozzles so that they can’t really be cleaned. They’re like mini-toilets that can’t ever be flushed. Finally it just gets so disgusting that you throw it away and buy a new one, otherwise, who would ever replace a water bottle? I never do that. I will drink from a nasty water bottle until the rubber rots off. What’s a little gangrene or encephalitis?

Between my water bottles and my mediocre fitness, I hope to not encounter sickness for many years to come. But you can still tell me about yours.




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How marketing works

December 23, 2016 § 14 Comments

Someone posted a link to this Velonews podcast on Facebag: Why you are an idiot for riding in cold weather with bare legs. I usually ride with bare legs and am always attracted to people who call me an idiot, hence my involvement in bicycle advocacy issues and my involvement with bike racing.

I don’t often listen to podcasts about bicycling unless it’s SoCal Cyclist because bicycling themes bore me horribly, especially when they are devoted to how I can improve, get faster, better cope with my decrepitude, etc. I have been doing this long enough to know that I stopped improving at around age 28 and have been declining ever since.

But the link caught my eye so against my best judgment I clicked on it and was treated to Exhibit 1 of Why Roadies Are Assholes. The podcast was so contemptuous of everyone who didn’t know that riding with cold legs was bad, and the “physiologist” who pontificated on how bad it was for you exhibited two amazing qualities.

  1. He broke out into a hot sweat every time he said the word “pro,” which was every fifth word, rolling the word with love and smoky adulation off his tongue.
  2. He illustrated his point with that most awesome of roadie techniques, giving an example of the time he chewed out some rider in front of other people for wearing the wrong clothing, shaming the rider into hiding at the back for the rest of the ride. In real life this makes you a dick. In road cycling you think this makes you cool, but not really.

It didn’t escape my attention that the “expert” was a physiologist whose photo I’ve never seen leading the peloton up La Redoute, but was rather some wannabe, over-the-hill, not-good-enough hobby biker who compensated for his failings as an athlete by being a dick who lectured others with unasked for “pro tips.”

The podcast was miserable in other ways as well. It had three salient points that could have been made in two minutes, but instead he crammed them into an interminably boring lecture that I never reached the end of. The points were:

  1. You should overdress, not underdress.
  2. Keeping the chill off your legs prevents damage to the muscles.
  3. Professional cyclists dress warmly when it’s even remotely cool.

My winter wardrobe is painfully thin. I have one pair of knee warmers and an ancient pair of Pearl Izumi thermal tights that saw much use in Japan and Texas but have seen zero use in SoCal. And despite the condescension of the podcast it made me nervous.

Was I ruining my muscles by riding unprotected? Were my patellar tendons turning into rusty piano wires? Most importantly, was I jeopardizing my chances of  pro contract to ride the Tour in 2017? And most most most importantly, would Alberto Contador smirk at me if I ran across him on the Donut and he saw me riding bare-legged, forcing me to ride in shame at the back of the group?

I did my best to resist the temptation, but could not. The PayPal account was positive. The call of new clothing was a siren song. I crawled like a drunk, fallen hard off the wagon, down the aisle of Competitive Cyclist Men’s Clothing, hands trembling, mouth dry, and clicked “purchase.”

Oh well. It’s Christmas somewhere.



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Collision cost

September 24, 2016 § 39 Comments

Cyclists get hit by cagers every day. They aren’t “accidents.” They are collisions, and they happen for specific reasons. In the case I’m going to tell you about, the collision happened because a drunk guy decided to drive. He smashed into a group of cyclists, changing at least one life forever.

It wasn’t an accident.

The point of this story is three-fold. First, it’s an explicit command for you to check your auto liability insurance and make sure that you have at least $500,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If your carrier won’t let you insure to that amount, change carriers.

Second, it’s a commentary on the trajectory of injury. We see Facebook posts of friends in the hospital, or gory aftermath photos, or black-and-white images of pins and bolts drilled into bone, and then we move on to the next item. It’s difficult to comprehend that after we’ve glanced at the photo, the person is still living with the injury, suffering from it, and in some cases is going to be dealing with it the rest of their life.

But what these injuries often entail is impossible to understand or even empathize with because we don’t really know what the procedures involved are. The trajectory of injury is grisly, gruesome, painful, and life-altering.

Third, this is the story of how one person deals with having her entire life upended as a result of one drunk driver. It’s not an easy story or a saccharine one, and it doesn’t have a happy ending because there is no “ending.” There’s just a story about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and moving forward with what you’ve got left.

When Deb Banks was hit on January 30, 2015, at about 3:10 PM, she didn’t feel anything. This is almost always the case in serious car-bike collisions. The victim might feel a bump or a light tap, sometimes nothing at all until she regains consciousness in a ditch, in an emergency room, or days later in a hospital room recovering from surgery.

On the day she was hit, Deb’s initial injuries included a gashed right arm requiring fifteen stitches, a cracked pelvis, and severe road rash that left permanent skid marks on her backside. The big one, though, was a pilon compound fracture of her right tibula and fibula.

The pilon fracture required an external fixator to stabilize the leg and calm the initial trauma before reconstructive surgery. A pilon fracture is one in which the lower ankle, just above the joint, is shattered. Think of a force pushing up through your ankle joint into the lower shin, so the explosive nature is up and out. That’s what a pilon fracture is, and hers was made worse by it also being compound, meaning bones sticking out from the skin.

The problem with these fractures, aside from the obvious pain and the fact that this is a key load-bearing point of the human body, is that they are really tough to heal due to low circulation, lots of broken bone, and the requirement of lots of time to heal. Most people that get these injuries are contractors who fall off a ladder, people in car crashes, or extreme snowboarders and skiers. They are said to be the worst fracture you can have and one of the hardest to heal.

The word “pilon” is derived from the French word pilon (pestle), an instrument used for crushing and pounding and usually used with a mortar. The pilon fracture is often described as an “explosive injuries” and subsequently, as noted in Orthopaedia Main, they have are also described as “explosion fractures.”

Pilon fractures have the worst outcome of all ankle fractures. They’re incredibly significant injuries, and if you look at surveys that try to measure overall function, pilons on average are more detrimental to the patient’s level of function than heart attacks.

On February 13, 2015, Deb had reconstructive surgery. Her doctor spent eight hours in surgery, taking out the external fixator and then adding two long plates and tacking them into place with twenty screws. One rod was twelve inches long, the other was five inches, and it took fifty stitches to hold it all together.

She then went into non-weight bearing mode for three months, after which she began physical therapy to begin working on walking.

Once Deb was able to get on a trainer, she did, and by May she was outside hobbling around in a black boot and riding around town on her mixte. By June she was on the back of a tandem and by August she rode 200km, the “easiest” length for a randonneur. She kept working on this, getting stronger and walking, although still limping, and her long-planned cycling trip to South America was a go.

Deb’s plan was to go to South America and ride from Santiago down the Carretera Austral to the southernmost part of Chile. She was to depart in early November; it was her comeback ride and a much deserved vacation.

Deb left for Chile and rode the Carretera Austral. During the first week, she was walking down a low sloping walkway and her left ankle twisted and instead of trying to use her right one, which was the injured ankle, to hold herself up, she dropped to the ground. The long plate had broken, also breaking more screws.

She was in incredible pain. She had walking hiking sticks and used them as crutches for a week. She started slowly to ride again and the trip, while fantastic, turned out to be a trip that included some cycling, versus a cycling trip.

On December 27, eleven months after being hit, Deb had her third surgery. It took seven hours, out with the old hardware, and in with new versions of the same plan, only this time they added a graft from her right hip that brought new scars and numbness, which she still has, and some stem cells to stimulate growth.

She was upbeat. For sure this was going to do the trick. Most people (over 90%) whose non-union doesn’t mend, end up getting the bones to union with this procedure. It was however the same drill: non weight bearing for three months, then the boot, etc.

She was smarter about this now. She had read a ton of medical articles on this, and at first Deb felt great. She had minimal to no pain and at the three-month marker she waltzed into her doctor’s office with crutches and walked out without the crutches or the boot. The surgeon gave her the go ahead to do PT and to ride, which she carefully began.

“Carefully” meant no clipping into or out of pedals, no standing on pedals, and spinning only. She put flat pedals on her bike and used power straps to keep her clogs on the pedals. “Yes!” she said to herself, “I ride my bike in my clogs! They are comfy, they support my foot and if I need to put my foot down fast, they absorb quite a bit of the impact. In fact, I think I may go to this plan forever!”

Forever, of course, is a real long time when you’ve only just gotten started. In early May, now fifteen months after getting hit by the young drunk who, in the interim, has been sentenced to prison and will spend nine years in jail, Deb has a standard appointment with her surgeon and she’s not feeling as good as she was. She felt like her leg was out of kilter, and it wasn’t holding her anywhere near as well as the two months prior. She told the doc and he took x-rays.

Essentially, if a non-union hasn’t shown signs of union after three months, then the likelihood of it getting to mend go dramatically down, and more than likely the end result will be another non-union. By now Deb was really getting tired of her expertise in orthopedics, more particularly, in her necessity of applying it.

She pushed for a CT scan because the x-rays weren’t conclusively showing whether or not the bones were healing, whereas there’s no arguing with the CT scan. Her doctor agreed, and the bad news hit home, hard. Non-union. Again. He was frustrated and she was beyond bummed.

In June she took every test they could think of to try and find out why the bones weren’t growing back together. Blood tests, CT scans, bone scans revealing the happy news that physiologically she had the bones of 29-year-old, but emotionally the bones of a teenager in full rebellion – “You can’t tell me when to heal!”

She had thyroid tests, a liver panel (Did you know that your liver makes enzymes for bone growth? Right! Why would you want to know that?), etc. She took tests all month long in the run-up to her informal Ph.D. in boneology, and in the end the good news-bad news was that there’s nothing about her chemistry that was preventing the mend.

The next step was going to be terrible. The surgeon put an Iliazov fixator in her hands, a contraption that oozes horror and pain, and asked her to read up on the device and to think about it, because the fixator was in her very immediate future.

Deb took a trip to Colorado to see friends; it’s an annual trip as she lived in Boulder for thirty years, after which she came home and on July 8 she went in for Rebuild No. 3, Surgery No. 5. It was with a lot of trepidation, because after the last surgery she had gotten an infection that required a full surgery on top of that to open the wound and make sure that the infection hadn’t gone to the bone. Such infections can end things permanently.

By now the nurses in the surgery pre-op area knew her by name. They’ve seen her three times, and if there’s anyone you don’t want to know you on a first-name basis, it’s a surgical team. Again, they pulled out all of the old hardware, in with another graft which this time was from a pig, plus stem cells from the left side of her pelvis, plus biomorphenegenetic proteins (bone doping), two days in the hospital completely laid out. It had now been close to two years since she began paying for the driver’s few moments of drunken oblivion, and she knew that her sentence had already been worse than his.

As I write this, her surgery was ten weeks ago, and there’s still no sign of healing. The surgeon’s timeline? The fixator stays until the bone heals, period. When it comes off she has a year of physical therapy. Dr. Google says that you can see signs of recovery for up to two and a half years after the last surgery. Add up all the months and she’s looking at five years of hell with an uncertain outcome.

His timeline? The fixator is on until it heals. Period. And then, when it’s off, finally, looking at a year of PT and getting stronger and riding and gaining strength. The research says that you can see signs of recovery for up to 2.5 years AFTER the LAST surgery. Add that she’s closing in on two years of surgical procedures, she’s expecting this to be close to a 5-year ordeal. Gabriel Ray’s 11 years won’t have this type of hardship attached to it. Too bad.

All of this, however, is nothing more than a physiological chronology, the prison equivalent of marking off days with tally marks on the wall. The real jail sentence has been the collateral life damage, and it’s something that every injured cyclist knows about intimately.

Superficially, Deb can tell you that her new fixator friend is made up of external rings and three 4-inch pins that are drilled into her shin. It requires constant daily care. It hurts all the time. It gets infected. She can’t swim, can’t bike, can barely walk, sleeps with her leg on a foam pad, and can’t sleep under the covers. In other words, her life has completely changed as she’s been thrust into the alt-Universe of the catastrophically injured, i.e. those who carry massive disruptions to their daily life and emotional well-being along with the catastrophic physical injuries.

Business, a/k/a making a living, dinner, meetings, everything collides with the injured leg, they’re no longer compatible. “Can I do this? Laundry used to be easy.” Simple things take on the aura of an uncleaned Augean stable and it’s been like this for two years with no reprieve. Throw in the massive uncertainty with regard to what the future holds and the destabilization is intense.

And of course there is the spiral of declining visions of the possible. “I’ll be back on my bike doing a 500k rando,” has become “I just want to be able to walk.” And when well-meaning people see her pedaling her mixte and say “Thank God you can ride a bike again,” she silently knows that waking trumps riding a bike any day. If she can walk, riding will come as a result. But if the ankle never mends, life today becomes a template for the rest of life, which means dealing with a leg that is permanently disabled.

With this experience comes the other horseman of the apocalypse, depression. Life contracts as you do less, and what used to be natural optimism and a positive outlook becomes a full time job trying to maintain. She watched a TEDx piece about the power of positive thinking and tries to focus on how that process releases dopamine, helping productivity and creativity. But looming behind the depression is the constant, intense pain, and no matter how tough you think you are, you will eventually take pain meds in the evening just to get some relief and to give yourself a breather from the chasm of not being able to keep fighting, without end, a terrible and terribly painful battle.

One unexpected benefit to constantly struggling is empathy. Deb now “gets it” in a profound way. However big her challenges are, she understands and empathizes with people who are in even bigger pain, in even more dire straits with no hope, ever, of recovery.

And of course there are the parallel lives of the people who were also hit that day. She was the first hit of five. The other four are back to their daily activities, cycling all over the world and getting back to their normal lives. She’s the only one still injured, and although she can’t help but occasionally wonder “Why me?” she doesn’t think much about the driver, Gabriel Ray. He’s not on her radar and she doesn’t replay the collision, and perhaps that’s because there’s so little to replay. She felt a tap and woke up in a ditch. Far from dealing with the past, she deals with what’s in front of her, taking care of her leg, running her business, running her life, and getting healed.

It’s not intellectually stimulating and it’s mundane, but it takes all her energy and attention. With regard to the question “Where are you now?” it’s indeterminate, like her injury. Deb will find out where she is once she gets there, but for the moment the new her is more compassionate, and that’s nothing but a positive. When she was hit she was at the top of her cycling game, doing the hardest randonneur rides there were, knocking out four 1,200 km rides in a single year, in the best shape of her life and all at the age of 58.

When you feel like you’re invincible, large and in charge, except that in a few seconds you’re not. She was hit and now she struggles with laundry. Easy, right? One day 1,200 km on a bike. The next day, fighting to wash your socks. But at the same time, she realizes that when you’re on the mountaintop it’s hard to see what’s going on down in the valley. For her, she has a whole new place to learn from, and she’s learning something that in the past has always eluded her, patience. She’s determined and wants to climb the mountain again, but maybe this time she’ll appreciate the trek more than the destination. Maybe.

Little things along the way make life better, too. She has a trainer and is working with him to try and regain some fitness in this limited state. It takes Deb as long to get dressed as it does to do her fifteen-minute workout. One day a woman saw her in the gym and remarked how great it was that she hadn’t given up. It’s true, she realized, she hadn’t and she won’t, and in the process she’s gained compassion for others because now she’s fighting like hell for each bit of progress a minute at a time, unwilling to concede the field to the inertia of not being able to act, to the inertia of the passive tense.

In blots and jots it hits her this way: Just take the parts when you were feeling your worst and string it out for two straight years. That’s where she is and the intoxicating whisper is always at her shoulder: “Just give up,” it says. It’s there because you’re in pain and the pain meds don’t fix it. At the same time, she’s also planning her next 1,600 km ride, and she’s planning it for next June.

Whether it ever happens, the plan is there, and you never hit the target unless you aim for it. She wants to prove that she can come back, that she can do it again, and then maybe she’ll be done with it. It’s occurred to her that cycling for hundreds of miles may not be her thing anymore, but if she does bow out, she’s vowed to do it on her terms, not on the terms of Gabriel Ray. “He doesn’t get to decide how I choose to live my life. He doesn’t.”

[Deb is the owner of Rivet Cycle Works and has chronicled the first year of her recovery here, with photos and a much in-depth picture of her ongoing recovery.]



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10 ways to get worse on a bike

August 31, 2016 § 22 Comments

There is a whole industry devoted to making you a better cyclist. Whether it’s coaching, tips from Bicycling Magazine, or tech web sites that tell you which component has how many extra milligrams of weight, everyone knows how to make you better.

Yet, you aren’t.

This is mostly because although there a billion ways to improve, the marginal gains for any one item are minuscule and the mental effort to do any one of them consistently is harder than doing five push-ups every morning. Sure, everyone knows that five push-ups only take a few seconds. So? The day I start my morning off with a push-up is the day I start my morning with a bullet in the forehead. My day begins with coffee, period, so GTF out of my way.

Unlike improvement tips, deprovement tips number only ten, and each one of them has a catastrophic effect on riding, and chances are you do most of them. If you never did a single improvement tip and cut out a mere one or two deprovement items, you’d probably win the Tour.

Here they are:

  1. Diets. Please stop dieting now. It doesn’t work. If you’re really overweight, dropping a few pounds might make you go faster, but you’ll be so weak and cranky and angry and hair-trigger-ready-to-kill (otherwise known as “hungry”) that you won’t be on your bike. You’ll be roaming the sample aisles at Costco with lust in your heart and there’s no fitness to be found there.
  2. Equipment. With the exception of carbon, the more bike stuff you have, the worse you ride. Take Shirtless Keith. He owns one old, rusted-out hybrid bike with fat tires. He has one chain ring (a 55). He rides in work boots. HE STILL STOMPS THE SHIT OUT OF 84.2% OF THE PEOPLE ON THE DONUT RIDE.
  3. Race clothing. Race clothing is aero but it shows your multiple tummy rolls and pinches tender places, which makes you not want to ride. You are never going to get better not riding.
  4. Riding. If you have to choose between riding and not riding, always choose the latter. Riding a lot will initially make you a better cyclist, then it will make you broke, then it will give you a weird physique, and finally you will only know people who talk about bicycle topics = LIFE FAIL. One day you’ll wake up and go, “This is dumb,” and quit riding completely, which will in turn really make you a bad rider. So mostly don’t ride if you want to ride better. Knoll rides to the guitar shop to pick up new strings once every six weeks and he does just fine, thank you.
  5. Coaches.
  6. Cyclocross. Do you know why they wear face masks and stuff when sparring? It’s to prevent getting beaten to shit so badly in practice that you can’t do the actual fight. Cyclocross is like sparring with brass knuckles and no protective gear. It will first make you tough, then unconscious, then a tube-feeder.
  7. Group rides. These are fun. So is heroin. Neither is banned by USADA because neither one makes you any good.
  8. Anything that comes in a big plastic tub. Magical elixirs that replace crucial fill-in-the-blanks operate on the proven scientific principle that there’s one born every minute.
  9. Crossfit, running, weights, stairs, anything that requires a membership or is trademarked. If you want to improve, get out there and ride your bike a little, then treat yourself to a Twinkie. Ignore everything else.
  10. Bed. That place you lie in? It’s killing your performance gains.
  11. Internet cycling blogs. If any of those clowns knew anything worth knowing, they wouldn’t be giving it away for free.



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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 19: The dreaded off season

August 7, 2016 § 13 Comments

It’s August. The sun is still beating down. There are still races on the calendar. February is so far away it might as well be in Micronesia. Yet for all that, people are already starting to ponder The Question and its bastard variants, i.e. “What should I be doing for the off season?”

Glad you asked.

First you should take out a calendar for 2016 and see how many races you did. By “races” I don’t mean NPR or Telo or coffee cruises with a sprunt or Strava contests or any ride that features a “sag,” “rest stop,” or a floppy bag filled with goodies.

By “races” I mean events where you pay money, pin on a number, get shouted at by an official in an ill-fitting golf shirt, get pushed around in a pack of doped-up insane people, run the risk of crashing and getting a brain injury, and ultimately either get dropped, get chopped in the sprint, or finish cursing the day you were born and swearing to never do a another one as long as you live or until next week, whichever comes first.

So after toting up all those races you can effectively plan your off season as follows:

  1. 1-5 races: There is no off season.
  2. 6-10 races: There is no off season.
  3. 11-15 races: There is no off season.
  4. 16+ races: You should have taken a break back in April, because there’s still no off season.

“B-b-b-b-b-but!” you complain. “I’m tired! I’m worn out! I’m mentally fateeeeeeged! I gotta rest!”

All of that is true, but it’s unrelated to the three races you did back in March. In other words:

  1. You are tired because you are old.
  2. You are worn out because you are old.
  3. You are fatigued because you are old.
  4. You gotta rest because you are old.

And guess what? Next year you will be what is known as “older.” This will require even more rest. It will not require an off season. Off seasons are for ski resorts, not chubby hobby bike profamateurs.

The single biggest obstacle to rest is what we colloquially refer to as the “weekend,” but is more commonly known as “the opportunity to do 200 miles of riding in 48 hours.” This may sound like a mere warmer-upper if you do events like RAAM or have a nickname like “Metal” or “Mr. 10,000.”

For old people, though, it will not work cramming all your weekly miles into a couple of days, somehow hoping that it will compensate for doing little or nothing the rest of the week, and somehow hoping that ((beer+shitty food) x (Mon + Tue + Wed + Thu + Fri) – Big Century Ride = Fitness.

The only thing that will remove your non-season’s season-ending fatigue is an old trick used by hunter-gatherers who had to scrap for every meal every fuggin’ day. It’s the old “get up early trick.”

Yes, your August doldrums are not the result of too much riding but of sloth, and your off season training plan shouldn’t feature anything special at all except this: Get the fuck up early enough to get in your weekday rides, and go the fuck to sleep (there’s a book on this) early enough so that you can get the fuck up early enough to ride again the next day.

Please email the reasons that you can’t go to bed early or you’re a night person or whatever else to:; don’t email them to me because I know why you can’t go to bed early and get up early: You’re lazy and you’d rather pound the extra carafe of tequila or watch the BIG GAME, you know, the game that’s so big they will never have another one like it ever again until next week.

Go ahead, set your alarm for 5:00 or 4:00 or 3:30 or whatever the magic number is, and go the fuck to sleep so that you get the necessary 6 or 7 hours of beddy-bye time. You’ll run into people like Craig Hummer, Doug Murtha, Jim Bowles, and the MB Morning Crew, and never need another off season again.



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Wankmeister cycling clinic #30: Descending clinic

July 28, 2016 § 6 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

My biggest goal starting Jan. 1, 2016 was to be a better decenter. But I still decent like crap. Some people on my club, Rawr-Rawr Roadies, tell me to lift my butt higher off the seat to decent better but that seems to wobble. Other people tell me to put my butt lower on the top bar but that hurts my balls and is more wobbly. Then I watched some videos with Sagan and Froome doing the top bar + peddle action. Is that my decent solution?


Dear Eddie:

I see lots of idiots like you going downhill, a/k/a “descending,” with their asses up off the saddle, stuck high in the air like they’re trying to pick up a TV transmission or air out their peg-hole. Don’t do that. The way gravity works, when you stick a bunch of mass up high over a tiny bike, the two get separated really easily. So put your ass on the saddle where it belongs.

I see lots of other idiots doing the Sagz and Froome tuck. That is marginally okay when you weigh 48 pounds, you race for a living, and you can wheelie across the line after a stage in the Tour after throwing down an 1,800-watt sprint. But when you are a 245-pound Heffalump who couldn’t ride in a straight line when hitched to a rope, wedging your massive ass in between the saddle and the stem in order to get into a top tube crouch will:

  1. Shatter your carbon frame.
  2. Crash out anyone behind you.
  3. Get 12 billion YouTube hits.

So it’s a tough decision. Choose wisely.


Dear Wankmeister:

I often get beat on long climbs even though I’m a really good climber. I’ll be going good and then *pop* I’m done and everyone rides away. What’s the deal? Is it my gearing?


Dear Freddie:

No, it’s not your gearing. Or your cadence or even your power. There is a point in every climb where it is simply no longer efficient to pedal, and you can go faster on foot.


Next time you start to feel like you’re going to blow and come off the wheel, jump off your bike, hand it to your team mechanic or girlfriend and jog along behind the leaders. Pretty soon your heart rate will come down, the lactic acid will drain out of your epithelial scaphoids, and after a couple of minutes you’ll be able to get back on your bike and pedal away.

Working smarter not harder,

Dear Wankmeister:

I saw this picture and I’m in love. How do I get to look like this?

Danny Diet

Dear Danny:

Truth be told, it’s not that hard. I think if you put your mind to it you can get there in a couple of weeks; 20 pounds sounds like a lot but in reality it’s not. With some self discipline and the help of a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting all the right stuff, you can look like this quickly and not notice any big changes other than the fact that your clothes won’t fit like they used to — but that’s why we have department stores. If you turn it into a fun family or workplace challenge you’ll be there before you know it and you will feel 100% better about yourself. Watch your body image skyrocket; trust me, I’ve been there. Living in an unhealthy, ugly, and socially abnormal body isn’t good for your life in general, to heck with bike racing.

You’re talking about the photo on the right, correct?




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