February 20, 2017 § 14 Comments
You own a Fitbit, admit it. And after the first month, the only thing it measures is the fitness of the socks in the bottom of the drawer, where it permanently lives now. Right?
But wait. Fitbit and other fitness trackers, also known as sock drawer weights, are supposed to provide “real-time feedback that may be particularly useful to enhance lifestyle changes that promote weight loss in sedentary overweight or obese adults.” In other words … data!
Unfortunately, after billions were spent on the false promise of changing the way America eats through Apple Watches, Fitbits and etcetera, some skeptic, probably related to Billy Stone, decided to do an actual study using science and numbers and shit to see if the sock drawer weights actually work.
One such study started off by “recruiting 197 sedentary overweight or obese adults from the greater Columbia, South Carolina area.” I bet that was pretty easy to do. What would have been a challenge is “recruiting four non-obese adults from the American South.” But I progress.
So they took these poor folks, literally, and put them into four groups.
- Standard Care Group. Participants received a self-directed weight loss manual based on two evidence-based programs, Active Living Every Day and Healthy Eating Every Day. The manual’s focus was to help individuals adopt a healthful eating pattern and increase their physical activity levels through the use of cognitive and behavioral strategies consistent with the Transtheoretical Model and Social Cognitive Theory. Now I don’t know what that manual or model or theory are, but they sound a lot like Coach Castoria’s 7th Grade gym class at Jane Long Junior High back in August of 1979, where a rabid and sadistic football coach would spread a class of weaklings out on a 110-degree asphalt slab and scream at us to do leg lifts until we puked, which was about twice.
- Intervention Group: Same manual as above, along with a diary for participants to record daily meal and lifestyle activity, emotion, or mood. The mood section was pre-filled in with “hungry and pissed off about it.”
- Peer Weight Loss Group: 14 sessions with a facilitator using the manuals, with a weekly weigh-in and greater emphasis on weight loss than in the original programs. One-on-one telephone counseling sessions to provide continued support and enhance weight loss maintenance.
- Fitness Tracker Wearers: You know who you are.
- Peer Weight Loss Group + Fitness Tracker: Lecturing/scolding along with a fitness tracker.
Now before we get to the results and how it affects your cycling pro masters career, a couple of key facts. First, a bunch of people quit, which tells you all you need to know about fitness and weight loss. To recap: PEOPLE MOSTLY QUIT. Get it? No matter what you buy or how many power meters you own or how studiously you learn the CdA, most people quit.
THIS PROBABLY MEANS YOU. So, save your money and go buy some socks or some super stylish underwear. I recommend products by Stance:
Moving on, what the study found is that when you do a study there are a lot of numbers. And making sense of those numbers isn’t possible because the only number that matters was previously discussed and indicates that you are going to give up, which your sock drawer weight proves you already have. More importantly, the study found — and this is truly amazing — that doing something is better than doing nothing.
And unhappily for the Fitbitters out there, it didn’t matter whether you read a manual, got counseled, or did both in tandem. As compared to doing nothing, doing something was better.
I know, I know, let’s call up the Nobel Prize committee now. However, there were a few sad qualifiers that seemed to throw the entire study into doubt, raising the awful specter that doing nothing may be just as good as doing something.
To wit: The study noted that if your participants are university students, they are pretty much worthless at doing anything: “Students were the most unreliable group in this study, and their adherence was especially poor for homework assignments and other assignments.” Parents, time to start asking for some tuition refunds from those deadbeat kids! Also, we learned that since so many people quit, weight loss is hard.
Finally, we learned that the study was conducted by one “Dr. Blair,” who receives book royalties from Human Kinetics and honoraria for service on the Scientific/Medical Advisory Boards for Alere, Technogym, Santech, and Jenny Craig. In other words, this study, which so conclusively shows that your sock drawer weight is no better than Coach Castoria, also conclusively shows that even that flimsy conclusion is dubious at best. Because, industry bias and university students.
But back to your data driven cycling career. Tell me again how all those numbers are going to make you faster? Because first we’ll need to get together a control group, and I’m not planning on going to Columbia any time soon.
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February 4, 2017 § 31 Comments
Last year I got a Cannondale Super Evo 6, or maybe it is an Evo Super 6, or maybe it is a Super Motel 6, I’m bad with names.
What it is, is carbon. Full carbon. It has so much carbon in it that if it had any more you’d have to spell it “carbone.” Which is Italian for “carbon,” only more so.
The reason I started riding this bike is because it was time to start riding a new bike. You will know when this time happens. It is different for every man, like menopause. But you suddenly don’t feel right on your current ride and you need a new one.
This is usually because your bike loses carbon as it ages. Bicycles are made from a special kind of carbon called carbon-14, which is radioactive and decays over time. You can actually date your bike frame by analyzing its carbon-14 radioactive isotopes. The fewer the isotopes, the older the bike. A typical full carbon bike that is made of all carbon, 100% hugely big carbon, the best, loses about half its carbon every two years.
That’s why you’ll be pedaling on the stiffest frame known to man one year, and the next year you’ll be pedaling around without a front fork. Which is awkward. Or maybe it’s because Boozy P. gave you a tune-up. Either way you need a lot of new 100% carbon.
The best solution is twofold: Get a new carbon-14 frame immediately and all new carbon parts. Or get disc brakes.
Disc brakes have revolutionized cycling since they were first used in 1982. Bicycling has never been the same. Now, the revolution that changed everything is something that you need to buy (a lot of) so that you can be part of The Spirit of ’82. Disc brakes are important because you can stop real quick on them.
Think of all the times you need to stop quick! There you are, pedaling to the porncery store, and a giraffe crosses your path. Bam! Grab a handful of front brake and fall on your head, causing permanent brain injury! Disaster averted!
Now, with full 100% all-carbon disc brakes you can stop a lot faster and you can slam yourself on your head even if a giraffe is nowhere in sight. Trust me, what’s good for a high performance motorcycle is even better for a recreational hobby bicycle. Plus, you can never have too much front braking power. Super good for fast, wet, downhill, off-camber turns. Trust Wanky on this.
But back to my Cannondale Motel 6.
It is the best bike I have ever had. Why? Because it’s all carbon? Nope. Because it handles great? Nope. Because it is more aero than Strava Jr. after a month of fasting? Nope.
It is the best bike ever because it is black. Fact is, Cannondale Super Motel 6 makes one of the best black bikes anywhere. It is better than ALL the black bikes Stern-O has ever had, and Stern-O only rides black. In fact, the Cannondale Motel 6 has blackness comparable to deep space. No light is reflected whatsoever from the Cannondale Super 6 Flags.
But just because it has the best black color, that doesn’t mean you should buy one.
It means you should buy TWO. Three if you can afford it or if you get the special Wanky discount (coupon code is #fullcarbonMotel6).
Still, it is possible that you are a comparison shopper, truly a despicable creature. And it is also possible that you really do like your hand-lugged Pegoretti with that unique Italian flavor that only comes from having a sweaty old man with garlicky breath and cauliflower farts lovingly join the lugs to the handlebars with a rubber hammer and pliers handed down from his great-grandfather, who died in prison due to his connections with the Mafia.
But whatever. We both know that your Pegoretti lives on the wall because no one rides art. Ever seen the French president gallop around town on the Mona Lisa? Of course not.
When it comes to stomping dicks, you’ll need carbon, and you’ll need a black Cannondale Super Motel 6 Stomper of Dicks.
Here are some things I’ve achieved this past year with my Cannondale Dick-6 Stomper that I could never have achieved on a much worse-black-painted Giant.
- Won the 50+ CBR rain crit, decisively beating Chris Lotts who was so weak he flatted, that dude who started late and wasn’t eligible to sprint, that other 66-year-old dude who had won the previous race in a one-hour solo break, that dude with the one knee pointing to Rome and the other to Beijing, and that dude who was racing in a different category. Not possible without the Dick Six.
- Had a natural way to chat up local Cannondale pro riders Krista Doebel-Hickock and Phil G. “Hey y’all, I ride a Cannondale too!” They think you are really cool when you do that.
- Set over 500 PRs this year on Strava. (*I deleted my account a couple of years ago and started a new one in 2016 but that has nothing to do with the plethora of new PRs.)
- Put on new handlebar tape.
Anyway, I hope you run out and get a Cannondale Super Evo Motel Dickstomper 6, black model only. You can get a great deal on them at Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, or Manhattan Beach. You can also hang around outside the shop and wait for someone to leave one unattended and borrow it. That’s what I would do. Did.
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September 5, 2016 § 25 Comments
My off season started in earnest on Tuesday, so I didn’t ride on Wednesday, Thursday, or even Friday. On Saturday I went down with some L.A. riders to San Diego, where they got a taste of what they call “fun” in North County.
I rode my bike to a few coffee shops but that was it, and in preparation for the San Diego trip I took off my cameras and lights and removed my tool box thingy that fits in the rear water bottle cage. I set it on the top of the cheap Ikea storage thing next to the bed, where I keep my bicycle tool.
On Sunday night, the last day of my off season, I began reassembling my bike for the Holiday Ride 18-minute beatdown. After bolting on all the cameras and strapping on the lights and filling up the water bottle I went to put the tool kit thingy in the bottle cage, but it was gone.
My apartment is pretty small and I don’t own much stuff so it was easy to search it from top to bottom. Nothing. We couldn’t even blame it on the grandbaby because it was too high for him to reach and too big to hold. We tried anyway. Nothing.
I did the Holiday Ride certain that I would have a flat because even though it’s been a year since my last puncture, we all know that the one time a flat is guaranteed is the time you don’t have a spare. Luckily, I didn’t flat, but Special Ops did. He blew out his entire tire. He’s a good friend and we had ridden out together, so I abandoned him immediately.
I felt a little guilty about it until EA Sports, Inc. helped me out. “Do the math, Wanky. Former Special Ops. Flats bicycle in city of 10 million people. Bike shop five minutes away. Has phone. Has money. Knows the natives and even speaks their dialect. I think he’s gonna survive.”
After the ride I tore up the apartment some more but no toolkit thingy. So I made an inventory of the important stuff and started thinking about replacing it.
- Tube with a stem that is too short for the rim.
- Multi-tool which I don’t know how to use but maybe someone in need someday will.
- Old CO2 inflation head that doesn’t work.
- Empty CO2 cartridge.
- Flimsy plastic tire lever.
- 10% discount coffee card at Peet’s.
Obviously the only thing that mattered was the coffee card.
The first bike shop I went to was closed. Then I went to Sprocket Cycles on PCH, which is owned by Paul Che. Paul has built a thriving business out of nothing in what has to be the world’s toughest market, the local bike shop.
They were open and fully staffed with three people. In a matter of minutes they had loaded me up with everything I needed, including a fancy pair of screw-in handlebar plugs to replace the ones that kept falling out.
Was it more expensive than if I’d bought it all on the Internet? I don’t know and don’t care. What I know is that they were there with great service and good products at a time when they were needed. Keep that in mind the next time you buy online. You may (or may not) save a couple of bucks, but Mr. Internet won’t be there on Labor Day to make sure you’re back on the road by Tuesday.
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Group rides. These are fun. So is heroin. Neither is banned by USADA because neither one makes you any good.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bed. That place you lie in? It’s killing your performance gains.
- 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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August 3, 2016 § 25 Comments
Or “PEE” as I like to call it.
A couple of months ago I ordered the new SRAM electric wireless shifter thingies from my ace mechanic, Boozy P. One day he called. “Yo, Wanky, you still want that stuff?”
“Bring it,” I said. “It’s about time for me to crack the top 10 out at Telo, and what’s a couple grand if it guarantees me a placing or two?”
A week later there was a family car crisis which led to the purchase of a Chevy Volt. It was the most awesome car in the world for seven days, but after one full week of flawlessness it quit working and it’s been in the shop ever since. “Part’s on back order,” Service Dude said.
That was July 18.
So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I bought a new broken Chevy Volt and we have some financial issues and I have to choose between the SRAM electrothingies or food.”
He waited, wondering what the problem was. “Yeah?”
“So I’m going to have to pass on that stuff I ordered unless it puts you in a bind, in which case I’ll take it and lose that last 35 pounds.”
“Nah,” he said, “I can return it; actually I got a great deal and several people have been asking about it. No worries.”
Shortly thereafter I got 2nd or 3rd in the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016, which is the best I’ve ever done there in eight years but who’s counting? About that time Boozy P. stopped answering my phone calls and texts which was disturbing because he’s super responsive. Unbeknownst to me he had taken a five-day trip to the Sierras, going up to 12,000 feet with nothing but beer to sustain him.
I had no idea he’d gone Jeremiah Johnson on me. I thought he was mad because I’d crawfished on the PEE or perhaps somehow because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
I interrupted Manslaughter’s vacation in Hawai’i to see if he could intervene. “Boozy P. isn’t mad,” Manslaughter assured me. “He’s never mad. Take a Xanax.”
Then I called EA Sports, Inc., who was excited to hear from me but not that excited. “Dude, it’s 2:00 AM and you woke up the whole family. What’s up?” I told him the sad story about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and Boozy was not taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
EA Sports, Inc. advised me to get some sleep. “Boozy probably dropped his phone in the toilet. He’ll get back to you once he gets a new one.”
Finally I called Dawg. “Don’t ever call me at 3:00 AM again,” he said. “Even if you’re in jail. Especially if you’re in jail.” He hung up and I didn’t even get a chance to tell him about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and how maybe Boozy wasn’t taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?
After I’d given up all hope, Boozy P. returned from the Sierras. “Yo, Wanky,” he said. “I saw you called me 473 times and left a thousand text messages. What’s up?”
I went over to the shop and apologized for crawfishing and for the 2nd or 3rd Place Controversy (my best Telo finish ever, btw). “No worries,” he said. “You still want the SRAM wireless? I was going to take it back today.”
I thought about the Chevy Volt which was still in the shop at Martin Chevrolet and how the part was on back order indefinitely although they’d promised to speak with the subcontractor factory in Vietnam to find out when the part might be manufactured and how Mrs. WM was going to kill me when she found out I’d bought something that I couldn’t even explain what it was or what it did. That’s when I looked at the SRAM electrothingy box.
“You know,” I said, “my PEE has been grossly exceeding my dedication since I swapped a SunTour derailleur, Sugino cranks, and Dia-Compe brakes for Campy Super Record back in 1984. And I can’t possibly afford it but that box is so sweet so yeah, put that shit on.”
For all you tech heads out there, the first key performance difference between SRAM electrothingy and Dura-Ace mechanical is overwhelming, dominating, extraordinary beyond words: The second you post a picture of the cool boxes on Facegag, it breaks your fuggin’ timeline.
If you’ve always been in the running for awesome Facebag posts but have never been able to crack the podium, SRAM electro is the real deal. You gain, on average, 150 extra likes, 50-ish smiley faces, and envious posts from Ol’ Grizzles that don’t even mention guns or how our great nation was built on easy access to suicide and firearm accidents in the home.
The SRAM electro interfaces incredibly well with FB and is easily uploaded to your timeline, where it simply outperforms any other PEE, even wheelsets that are full carbon with extra carbon and photos of Charon. I’ll admit that it’s a costly Facebag upgrade but it’s worth it for the hour or two that you eclipse all of the stories about Trump until he beats up another squalling infant, calls the mother of a dead soldier a fat cow, or urinates on a TV interviewer.
When I actually got to ride the new electrothingy stuff, it was better than watching the ads in my timeline that said “Batshit Crazy Republicans So Fucking Terrified of Trump That We’re Voting for Hillary.”
Less importantly, I also got to use the electrothingies while actually riding, and got to test the PEE out at Telo last night, which kind of broke the rule of “Never try new stuff out for the first time on race day.” After 50 minutes of an amazingly brutal race, Headdown James attacked for the 25th time into the wind after Dawg had brought the break to within view. Everyone was screaming friendly advice to me.
“Pull through, you bastard!”
“You wheelsucking piece of shit!”
“Damn you, Wanky, you asshole, pull through!”
However, in addition to being really tired I am a really bad person, so I hunkered down until Headdown James launched. He is really tiny and accelerates like a gnat but I managed to latch on. He glanced back and saw that it was Sir Deadweight. He knew better than to flick his elbow, and not just because Heavy D., who was up the road in the break, had admonished me the week before.
“What is wrong with you, you nut?” he had asked.
“What do you mean?” I fake answered.
“You chased me down ten times during the race!”
“I did?” I fake said.
“Hell yes, you did. Every time I looked back you were driving the front with ten guys on your wheel!”
“Really?” I fake said. “I thought I was bridging,” I fake excusified.
“You were, with everyone else. Please don’t do that next week. It’s bad racing and bad etiquette. I’m your teammate, dude.”
“I won’t,” I fake promised. Heavy D. didn’t know that I love nothing more than chasing teammates. It’s not out of hostility, it’s because I like them and want to BE with them and if they’re up the road the only way I can be with them is to chase.
However, with my new PEE I had sworn not to chase and I didn’t. Headdown James rode like a demon and got us to the break. I was so tired and happy to see my friends that I cried. Heavy D. had been monitoring the situation and knew that I hadn’t dragged up the field. “Good work, Wanky,” he said. “For once.”
Out of the six-man break I put in an amazing effort and convincingly beat everyone in the chase group for an impressive 6th, which was three or four placings less than the 2nd or 3rd I’d gotten the week before in the Great Controversy when I was using the D/A mechanical.
“How’d you like it?” asked Boozy P. after the race, who had gotten second and scorched me on a bike and components that had, frankly, zero Facegag performance edge.
“Its Facebag game is strong,” I said. “But its on-the-road performance hasn’t translated into a Wanky training crit victory yet.” I watched as Emily pulled on the winner’s tunic, an awesome StageOne production given to the women’s weekly winner at Telo.
“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe you need some new wheels?”
My stomach rumbled as I thought about facing the next couple of weeks eating nothing but water washed down with H20. “You’re right.”
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June 27, 2016 § 20 Comments
Old bicycle racers focus a lot on their physical fitness but don’t pay as much attention to their mental faculties, which decline even faster with consequences even more dire than losing the 55-50 KOM for 225-lb-and-over on the Garbage Can Alley .01 Mile Segment.
Here is a quick test to see if your mind is rotting due to senility:
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
- You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
If you answered true, you have memory loss.
Rather than going out and doing a bunch of hill repeats, the best thing to beef up your soggy neurons are brain intervals. What is a brain interval? It is something devilishly, fiendishly difficult that will leave you gasping for air after a mere 2-4 minutes of effort.
The important thing is that you select something you used to be good at rather than something that you always wanted to try but never did. For example, when you are an old dude and you take up math, even though you were always horrible at math, you will quickly give up. So even though the fierce brain interval caused by trying to, say, add up five numbers in a column, will cause a great increase in brain sharpness, you’ll quickly give up by day three and be back to the same old, same old.
If you were one of those people who liked to study foreign languages when you were young back in the 1920’s, my advice is that you study Chinese. Now, a couple of qualifiers: If you’re already Chinese, this won’t help. Also, if you’re not already Chinese and you try to learn Chinese, you’ll sound like a complete fool no matter how many years you study it.
This is because Chinese has tones that completely change a word’s meaning. Problem is, you can’t hear the tones. Only Chinese people can. And while you’re sitting there smiling into your video cam while you do your online lesson with a cute teacher in Shanghai, and you think you’re saying, “I ate a hamburger last night,” because you got the tones all garfed up you’re actually saying, “I licked the dog’s butt last night.”
You’ll never know that, of course, because your teacher is very polite and she doesn’t give two hoots whether you ever learn Chinese or not as long as you keep paying the monthly lesson fee.
Still, even though you will never learn Chinese, it is so terribly hard that you will spend the rest of your life struggling with it and making practically zero progress, so it’s a lot like bike racing. Plus, each time you memorize a kanji (even though you forget it the next day), it will build approximate 200 new synapses. Example: Memorizing the characters 互聯網圖片is the neurological equivalent of growing three new brains.
Perhaps you don’t want to learn Chinese and figure that instead of three new brains you’d be happy learning Spanish, or Russian, or Igbo, and only getting the equivalent of one new brain’s worth of synapses. Regardless, you should visit www.italki.com, a language learning web site that offers instruction for pretty much any language in the world by native speakers at incredibly cheap rates. Its tag line is “Become fluent in any language!” which is of course a complete lie. You can also use the web site to do a free language exchange (these never work, by the way), where you swap a half-hour of conversation with an English learner who already speaks English better than you do, for a half-hour of murdering your target language with the fluency of a cat.
Check it out. You’ll soon be chattering away, and even though no one will understand you, you’ll be synapse-rich and doing crossword puzzles backwards while your bike racing compadres are drooling in the Alzheimer’s ward. If they aren’t already.
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