December 26, 2019 § 26 Comments
Back in the day, when dirt was new and God was a boy, as the weather got cold we would take an old pair of ragg wool socks, pull them over our shoes, and cut a hole in the socks for the cleats. These shoe covers were the best ever. They stayed warm when wet, they were cheap, and they kept your toes toasty.
The problem was that the yarn unraveled after about a dozen rides and then you had to get new socks. It was pretty wasteful.
My feet started freezing again this winter and I went for a ride in the rain. My neoprene shoe covers that I’ve had for about twenty years now, and whose backs I have to hold closed with safety pins because the zippers are shot, didn’t work very well. But to their credit, they never did.
So facing more cold, early morning rides, I bought some wool socks. These were giant; they went up to mid-shin. But because I didn’t want to be wasteful, I took them to the lady at the cleaners who does alterations and asked her if she cut cut the hole and then hem it so the yarn wouldn’t unravel.
“No way,” she said, and sent me across the street to the cobbler. “He might be able to help.”
The cobbler listened to my plight. “Nope,” he said.”But that lady down the street does tricky alterations. Might try her.”
I walked over to the shop that said, “We Do Difficult Alterations.” The lady listened to my plight. “Sure, I can do that. But it will be be very difficult because of the yarn. And it will be expensive.”
“$60,” she said.
“Wow,” I thought, calculating the $6 price of the socks. Then I thought about my cold feet. “Okay,” I said.
I came to pick them up and the price had raised to $90. Those are expensive socks. I paid and took them home.
On Tuesday’s NPR everyone made fun of me. “Ugg socks!” they said. Everyone agreed that they are the ugliest thing anyone had ever seen. But my feet were so warm.
Then yesterday I rode to Trancas, leaving at 5:30 AM. It was in the thirties. The other riders were bundled up but not their feet. My Ugg socks got a fair amount of negative attention until we were two hours in and everyone started to get really, really cold.
“You’re starting to look like the smartest one out here with those socks,” said CTB with a grin.
My feet stayed warm the whole way. I think I overpaid, though. But then I think about cold feet. Maybe I didn’t.
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December 14, 2019 § 7 Comments
The one thing about cyclists is they love to carry around useless junk, and lots of it. The other thing is that they love to carry it around in some cheap-ass bag that doesn’t work, like a Zip-Loc, or they use a mini-suitcase strapped under their seat that’s barely small enough to fit in an overhead bin.
The thing I’ve used for years is a little zippy thingy that we bought a bunch of at Nippon Daido. They eventually fall apart but at $1.50 each, you go through about one every five years.
The downside to these little boy-boy ho-bags is that they don’t work all that great. If it’s a Zip-Loc it eventually tears, usually during a rainstorm. If it’s a little zipper bag, the ends tear and out fall your precious belongings at the least opportune times. “Where is my condom?” you’ll find yourself asking in the middle of a big ride while stopped behind a bush.
And these little boy-boy ho-bags are environmentally unfriendly. And they are made in prisons by slaves.
But the worst thing about using a little boy-boy ho-bag for your credit cards and DL and cash is the look you get when you whip it out, because you hate swapping back and forth between the bag and the wallet and now you’re seated at a swanky restaurant and fishing out a sweaty credit card from an equally sweaty zippered-up boy-boy ho-bag. Doesn’t matter how much you tip. You still look like a total loser.
Which I was fine with me until I heard that Frankie’s Fierce Hazel Bike Thingy had dropped.
These are made for bikers, designed by a biker, constructed of bullet-proof material, look classy, are sleek AF, and are exactly the right size for your credit cards, cash, and spare tampon. But Fierce Hazel doesn’t simply want you to abandon your boy-boy ho-bag in order to level up your wallet game at the 7-11.
She also wants you to shrink your carbon footprint, just a little, and so the bags are made from recycled fabric scraps. And she wants the people who make the bags to earn a living wage, so she uses a factory in Vietnam, run by women, that does exactly that.
I got my Fierce Hazel two days ago and took it on a maiden run to Santa Monica. It worked even better than it looked. The zipper enclosure has a tiny tab on either side for you to grip so that the zipper closes or opens quickly and easily. The inner area is big enough for a cell phone, but so is the outer pocket. It’s all waterproof and sweat-proof.
Best of all? When I whipped it out to pay for coffee, the barista eyed it. “That’s really cool,” he said. No one ever said that about a Zip-Loc sweating human fluids off the sides.
And of course it’s Christmas GIFT SEASON and all those other holidays too, including my favorite, Goat Sacrifice Druid Day. Hint, hint!
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November 29, 2019 § 20 Comments
I got a call from a cycling pal in Long Beach who I haven’t seen in a few years. “Dude,” he said, “I was reading your blog.”
No conversation that starts like this is ever good. Ever.
I steeled myself for the words “bully,” “asshole,” “defamation,” and “lawsuit.”
“Yes?” I said, trying to sound normal.
“Man, I read your post about new year resolutions and I’m getting the jump on it. You inspired me to start commuting.”
“Hell, yes. There’s no reason for me not to do it. My office is ten miles away and there’s a bike trail that practically goes from my front door to my office. I see people on it all day long and I’m always wishing I was out there, too.”
“That’s great!” I felt so happy. The conversation wasn’t going to be a demand for a retraction, and I now had proof positive that by blogging about commuting there were two actual people who had read any of it. In addition to reading, they were taking action. I felt like Adolph Ochs.
“But I got a couple of questions.”
My heart sank. Here it comes. “Yeah?”
“What gear do I need?”
“Yeah. What do I need to commute?”
“Uh, a bike?”
“Dude, I got that. But it’s a very nice road bike. Not sure I want to turn it into a commuter.”
“Check. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a list.”
So he did, and I did. Here it is. When you are wondering what to buy yourself for Black Friday, or Purple Tuesday, or whenever, start here!
For a bike: Any bike will do as long as it has tars and pedals. I use my ‘cross bike because it is beefy and because I suck at ‘cross. A f’rinstance is the Giant TCX Pro, about $2,900. One fact is that if your commute is in LA, you will beat the shit out of your equipment. The roads are variable and you will wear shit out if you commute much. So eventually you might want to think of something sturdy AF if you’re going to be doing this a lot.
Tars: I’d recommend the IRC sand tire tubeless. They roll smoothly but are grippy AF. When I wore out my rear tar I got a different IRC and although I like it, it’s too much tar for urban roads. Key point for tubeless commuting, per Gary Z. and Boozy P.? Run the pressure low. I have 40 in front and 45 in rear. Never (yet) flatted.
Pedals: I could go on a long time about pedals. Boozy P. set me up with these beasties. They have competition-grade bearings which means they spin as well or better than your Look/Shimano clip-ins. Flat pedals develop a whole different set of muscles. You are mashing down all the time, and if you are practicing #fakestarts at the lights, you will start to grow new thingies in your legs. Flat pedals are way more comfortable because you can move your feet around as conditions require. They also strengthen the muscles in your feet, which is a whole ‘nother piece of awesomeness. Plus, the big platform lets you really mash. And mashing is the best.
Pants: Pants are a big deal. Jeans get sopped with sweat and sag and rub. You’ll need suspenders, or at least want them in order to complete the #fakehipster look. I have two pairs of riding pants, both from BetaBrand. However, after getting them and liking them very, very much, I found out that Chrome makes what look like equally or perhaps more awesome pants. Bike pants stretch, don’t get soaked easily, look #fakedressy, and have all the pockets you need to store stuff. Most crucially, the paper over the plumber’s crack that likes to creep out when you’re hunched over the bars.
Suspenders: You can go low-rent and get clip-ons, or you can get button suspenders. They look better and don’t come unclipped, but they are a pain in the ass to take on and off the pants. You’ll need to take your riding pants down to the tailor and have her sew on suspender buttons. If you’re one of those people who’s always suffered from droopy pants, these are the best. Plus, no plumber’s crack, ever.
Shoes: With the above pedals, your tennis shoes might not cut it because the pedals have little pegs that hold your feet in place. You’ll feel these pegs through a soft or thin sole and it won’t feel good, especially at about mile 50. Normal shoes are also very flexy and it kind of sucks to be giving away all those watts to the thin air. Fortunately, Adidas makes an MTB shoe that you can walk in, has a stiff, thick sole, and only vaguely looks like it belongs in a coal mine. I wear the Adidas Five Ten Freerider.
Underwear with cycling pad: If you have a really short commute, you don’t need anything special. If you are sitting in the saddle for any length of time, or in the rain, or in the heat, you will get raw ass. I grabbed a few pairs of the Zoic Essential Liner; it’s underwear with a cycling pad. I find it a little bunchy, kind of like wearing a big ol’ maxi-pad, but it is thinner than bib shorts and they work just fine.
Lights: Okay, here’s where I get fanatical. Combined with lane control, this will make the difference between riding as a normal part of traffic and riding as a gutter bunny always on the verge of getting smushed. Please don’t be a cheapskate and get a nice bike before you spend every penny you can on lights. It’s dumb and lazy. The Christmas tree effect has changed my riding experience because cars see me and avoid me. Even the occasional punishment pass is fine because I know they see me.
Rear: Cygolite 150 x 2 for seat post and to clip onto your rear pants pocket. These little bastards shoot out crazy bright blasts that penetrate steel. I actually have three, one on my seat post and two clipped to my rear pockets.
Rear: You can’t be overlit. Apace Vision Seat Stay Light x 4 will clip onto your seat stays. Individually they are not super bright, but together, each one set on a different blink mode, they are incredibly hi-viz. And they last forever, are waterproof, and are cheap.
Front: In the past I’ve always used the Diablo MK11. However, its runtime isn’t sufficient for commutes of over eight hours or when, for example, I did the Sags Fondo and then rode home from San Diego; i.e. I need something that can run for 10+ hours. For normal commuting the Diablo is plenty of light; if you really want to do it right, get 2 of the MK11 lights and put them on your bars so that you have twice the illumination and they act like car headlights. You can also run one on strobe and the other on steady beam for night commuting. If you don’t care about weight you can go with the Toro MK11 and auxiliary battery pack. That’s my birthmas gift to Seth this year.
Please don’t skimp on the lights and please consider running your lighting rig, including the headlights, on ALL rides. The total cost of the best lighting setup is way less than an ambulance ride. I see so many cyclists now with daytime lights, which is awesome, but many of them use the cheapest, smallest, most worthless ones they can find … and pair them with $10k bicycles. So lame.
Lights and therefore survival require planning. I’ve found that the toughest part of commuting is being organized. If you chuck all your shit in a heap after riding and wait until the next ride to sort it out, you’ll have problems, especially with the lights. It has to become habit that THE RIDE ISN’T DONE UNTIL THE LIGHTS ARE PLUGGED IN FOR RECHARGING. Spend a few bucks, get a couple of power strips, and set up a dedicated light charging station. Otherwise you’ll wind up with uncharged lights or worse, you’ll leave them on your bike because they haven’t run down all the way, and they’ll die mid-ride. In the dark. With 20 miles to go. I’ve learned this the hard way. The ride’s not done until they’re all plugged in. It’s as important as having air in your tires, maybe more so, because without air you can’t ride, but without lights you are begging get hit.
Gloves: I ride with full-fingered Giro gloves but also have a pair from Pedal Industries by Todd Brown in San Clemente. My hands are thin and girlish; the PI gloves are a better fit for a thicker, meatier hand.
Backpack: I have a small commuter pack for clothes, laptop, and lock. It is the best bike backpack on earth. Unfortunately it was a one-off promo model distributed by FastForward and I don’t know where to get another. For a mid-size pack, and I’ve just ordered one, go with the Chrome cargo or similar (Timbuktu and Ortlieb make great stuff). Rolltop packs are the best for commuting, I think. They make it a cinch to quickly get and stow stuff on the fly. And when commuting, you’re always on the fly.
Socks: I usually use cycling socks with the Adidas shoe; they aren’t too thin and fit well, but you can go with a thicker sock, too.
Glasses: Your favorite cycling glasses. Mine are still the SPY Quanta.
Helmet: Nope but thanks anyway.
Toolkit: With tubeless you should still carry a spare tube and tools to put the tube in if you get a bad gash or the tubeless won’t seal for some reason.
There. You can start your shopping engine now.
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November 15, 2019 § 3 Comments
I had to run a couple of errands yesterday. Now that I don’t drive anymore, errands are a much more serious business than they used to be, me living at the top of Mt. Everest and all.
What I needed was the old lube & tube so that my chain would stop sawing and so I could to fix a flat if I got one. Easiest thing? Order online. Hardest thing? 14-mile ride to the Bike Palace in San Pedro.
As my #fakecoach says, “If it’s not hard, you’re doing it wrong.” So I was for sure doing it right because pushing those fat commuter tars up the hills on PV Drive felt like I was dragging a piano.
Baby Seal was at the shop, where he apparently lives, working his flippers to the bone. I hope Tony pays him $25.00/hr., minimum, for all the fuggin’ business he brings into that place.
“What do you need?”
“Lube & tube.”
“You want that taken care of it back?”
“Poker in front, liquor in rear?” I asked.
“Kinda.” Baby Seal looked at my tubeless setup. “You ever flat on those?”
“No. But one day it’s gonna happen and I’ll be stuck deep on Fig and 56th on a Friday night and if I can’t get it rolling again you’ll be reading about me in the crime reports.”
“You’re worried it won’t seal?”
“I’m worried, period.”
“Best bet is to take some of this.” He whipped out a giant bottle of goop with an attachment for what looked like a mini-enema bag.
“What is it?”
“If your flat won’t seal, you just pull the valve core, put some of this sealant in there, and you’re good to go.”
This reminded me of the time that I switched over to tubulars, in 1983. “How do you change a flat?” I’d asked Cactus Jack.
“Slap on a new one tar. The glue from the old one will hold the new one in place til you get home.”
“Can’t you glue on a new tar on the road?”
Cactus Jack looked at me from behind the beard and the drugs. “You can try.”
So I bought an extra tube of rim cement and when I got my first flat I tried to glue on the new tar. What I ended up with was rim cement everywhere except on the tar.
I thought about all that glue in my hair and on my fingertips back in ’83 as Baby Seal was jabbering on about valve cores and sealant and enema bags and “in a jiffy.”
“Can’t I just put a tube in there if it won’t seal?”
This wasn’t what Baby Seal wanted to hear. “Sure. It just takes longer.”
“Is there anything wrong with that?”
“It can be trickier than just shooting in some sealant, especially if the tire has been on the rim a while and doesn’t want to come off.” He paused. “Easily.”
This was like Cactus Jack trying to tell me not to try and glue on a tire mid-ride. Thankfully, after almost 37 years, I’d learned nothing. “I’ll just take the tube.”
“You got it,” he said.
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July 10, 2019 § 30 Comments
MY TOP TEN:
- Power meter. All it told me what was I already knew: YOU SUCK.
- Deep dish wheels. Deep dish belongs on pizza. Period.
- Anything ‘cross. Everything ‘cross. Cross is my personality, not my bike.
- Masters race entry fees. Subsidizing other people’s drug problems? I don’t think so.
- GoPro. I am not a pro. I can barely go. So, no.
- The Stravver premium subscription. Kidding. Even I’m not that lame.
- Turbotrainer. I had one of those in 1984. Still haven’t recovered from the extensive brain damage.
- Skinsuits. I already have skin. Suits I wear to court. Ergo, bad combo, like “fun interval.” Nup. Nah. Nuh-nuh. Nopey nope nope.
- Track bike. Do road or do track, doing both is like cross dressing. It only impresses a few weird people.
- Aero bar extenders. When you have the form of a pig hunching a greased football, them bar extenders don’t mean squat.
May 22, 2019 § 10 Comments
It has been years since I last encumbered my bike, and more importantly my brain, with gewgaws that disgorged ersatz stats about when, how, where, and what transpired on my ride.
The summary eviction of Strava from its tenancy in my life, not to mention the death penalty levied on Cycling Peaks has restored the best thing about riding my bike, which is enjoying the ride, and then being done with it until the next time I throw a leg over.
Yet for all this purity, which includes riding without my Apple tracking device or a Garmin, I have continued to ride with a wristwatch. Why? Because there is only a single data point you need to know in cycling, and it’s called “time.”
Time answers the only two questions that any cyclist can ever possibly want answers to:
- How long have I been riding?
- How much longer do I have to ride?
Everything else, unless you get paid to pedal your bike, is flimmer-flammer.
The wristwatch, unlike all the other junk that gets peddled as “gotta-have,” is no accessory. It is, after the bike itself, the only thing between you and getting scolded badly for not returning in time to [celebrate your anniversary] [take the kids to soccer] [get your colonoscopy]. And far more importantly than mere timeliness, the wristwatch links you directly with the most awesome dude to ever pedal a bike.
Was it good enough for Eddy when he was winning Roubaix or the Tour or MSR? It’s good enough for you.
In addition to the square-edged utility of the wristwatch, it is an incomparable fashion statement. “I don’t need no fuggin’ computer or Stravver or Garminator. All I need to know is how many more seconds before I overhaul the rider ahead and ride her off my wheel.”
Of course this leads to the next issue, “Which wristwatch should I buy?”
Before I begin, let me say that the Apple Watch is not a watch any more than the iPhone is a telephone. They are tracking devices with a time function whose primary goal is to distract you from life, especially from cycling. A wristwatch is something that tells time and little or nothing else.
For years I’ve used a Timex Helen Keller model, so named because of the giant numbers on the face and the absence of any functionality besides a date. The Timex is cheap, sturdy, manly, painless to replace if you smash it, and about as workmanlike as it gets. After hundreds and hundreds of sweat-soaked rides, not to mention assault by filth and rain and the elements, the watch case began to corrode, which added a very cool look that you can’t purchase in the store.
The only two things I disliked about it were the fact that it had a leather band with a buckle, so it wasn’t flush against my wrist, and that it had a date on it. No cyclist buried in pain at Telo cares what day it is.
That’s when I came across this gem, made by Nixon. It cost me $100, about three times more than my Helen Keller. But it has a crazy nice flush metal watch band and the face is easier to read. Best of all, no date, no twelve time zones so that I can know the time in Bangalore, no alarm, no stopwatch, nothing but a big hand, a little hand, and a second hand. It is beautiful, thin, and you can’t call home on it.
Eddy would approve.
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February 16, 2019 § 18 Comments
I’m not sure why women generally have worse bike equipment than men, but they do. It may be because they don’t see the value in spending a lot of extra money for things that have little or no added value. And women seem to ride their stuff for a lot longer. I know serious women cyclists who are riding bikes six or seven years old.
That’s a Stone Age bike to the average guy enthusiast.
When I got my wife her bike it was a pretty basic deal. Carbon frame, Shimano 105, and aluminum rims.
The first thing I upgraded were the wheels; a nice set of super light FastForward carbon climbing wheels. Why? Because wheels make a huge difference, but also because I ride the same wheels and they are very nice.
Why shouldn’t she have the same things I have, especially at upgrade time?
After a while the Shimano 105 thing wasn’t working out so well. She could shift okay but actually she couldn’t, and I quit trying to explain it. Part of it was because those levers aren’t easy to move. The other part is because at age 51 she wasn’t all that interested in gear-inches.
A month or so ago I scraped up all the spare change I had, sold everything I never used, and got her e-Tap. She loved it and it made riding so much easier. For both of us.
Then the other day, Baby Seal was riding with her. “Hey,” he said, surprised. “Are you riding e-Tap?”
“Your shifters. Are they electronic?”
“I think so. Seth had them put on. They are really easy to use.”
“Oh, he got a new set?”
“And he just put his old stuff on your bike and the new stuff on his?”
“No, this is the new thing. He has the old thing.”
Later on, Baby Seal and I were riding together. “Dude,” he said. “You bought your Freddie wife e-Tap and kept the old stuff on your bike? You didn’t give her the old stuff and put the new group on your bike? It’s the NEW generation e-Tap, man!”
“Why would I do that?”
“Everybody does that,” he said. “Everybody.”