White shoes

September 29, 2017 § 34 Comments

I was riding with a friend who had taken a liking to my white cycling shoes. “Those are really cool.”

“Thanks.”

“I’d like to get a pair.”

To which I said, “I really don’t advise you to get white cycling shoes. When you see them in the store or on the Internet they look so shiny and smooth and fast, but you know what? The chances that you have the chops to handle white shoes is pretty much zero.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

So I explained.

Used to be, you couldn’t even buy white shoes because no one made them. Who would? Cycling was a nasty activity that took place in the rain and sleet and mud and generally shitty weather. Why buy a pair of shoes that would look like a dirty diaper after a week’s training, or less?

Then one day Jeff Fields came home from Gent with a white pair of Duegis. They were track shoes, they had wooden soles, and they were shimmering white. Shimmering because they were made of patent leather … plastic coated leather that couldn’t be fouled. I lusted for those shoes, and when he went back to Belgium to do Het Volk I asked him to bring me back a pair.

He did.

I think they cost $60. At the time, Marresi has come out with a white road shoe that had green and red lettering on the white. Rick Kent had a pair and so did my ex-roommate Robert Doty, but they turned nasty and foul in no time at all. Like this, only worse.

marresi

And there I was with those shiny white Duegis. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture of them on the Internet, but here are the black ones, so use your imagination. They were gorgeous.

duegi

Being track shoes they weren’t very comfortable for 100-mile rides. And having wooden soles, it felt like sticking your foot into a hollowed out brick, kind of like the early generation Bonts, only with splinters. But oh, they were pretty. And even though they were patent leather they still had to be cleaned, and it was with those Duegis that I earned my white shoe chops.

I trained and raced and explored in those shoes until the early summer of 1987, when the soles broke on a steep dirt mountain trail outside the village of Shimogo, in Fukushima Prefecture. I’d had to dismount and was walking along, pushing my bike over rocks. In the snow. Suddenly one of the soles snapped. I guess pretty white leather track shoes with wooden soles weren’t made for hiking Old Rockytop in the snowy mountains. Who knew?

After that I never bought another pair of white shoes even though they became common, and the reason is that they were never truly white. They usually had holes or lettering or something to foul up their appearance … Sidi was a pro at taking a white shoe and making it look like it had been created by a chimpanzee fucking a palette of finger paints. Plus, they were like the old Marresis. After a while they looked like your senile grandfather’s old handkerchief.

But then Giro came up with a true white leather shoe that had treated leather for easy cleaning and carbon soles made of 100% pure carbon that were all carbon and made of carbon. It reminded me of my wooden-soled Duegis, which were also made of carbon, although they were of the deciduous carbon variety.

Anyway, I bought a pair of the Giro Empire All White Lace-Up Converse All Stars and have been wearing them for about a month now. And I’ve noticed other newbies giving the white shoe shuffle a try. I was very upset to see Sausage at last week’s Donut sporting a pair of these very shoes with black scuff marks on the toe, although he made up for it (a little) by explaining the CdA was lower than for buckle-ups (with a cool graph he carries in his jersey pocket that unfolds and can be tacked onto his collapsible easel), and by showing me an uber-aero trick for tucking the laces under the bottom lace for maximal aero aeroness with aeros.

giro_empire

Still, if Sausage, who is a pretty fashionable fellow and matchy-matchy, shows up at the Donut with scuffed shoes, the true amateurs are likely to have their whiteys looking like hobnail boots used for plowing through donkey dung in a matter of days. Don’t be that hobnailed donkey dung plough.

White shoes are hard work because after every ride they have to be cleaned. First, apply a damp cloth to remove the dirt, tar, poop, and blood. Then carefully evaluate where the leather has gotten scuffed. You will need this

kiwi1

and this

kiwi2

After you get the scuff marks covered up, you can also get some neat’s foot oil and rubber cement to glue back the leather if it’s coming up in little strips from where, for example, you destroyed the pack with your tremendous power and caused Pablo to quit doing the Donut Ride because there was no coffee afterwards.

Once you have the shoes properly cleaned and buffed, you have to spend some time hand washing the white shoelaces, but I will cover that in an advanced seminar. Better yet, just get the black ones. They are pretty cool, too. Sort of.

END

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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Your tiny niche is now a global plumber’s crack

September 28, 2017 § 25 Comments

The day you knew your weirdness was now mainstream? That’s the day that Men’s Journal came out with an article praising Strava as “The Only Fitness App That Matters.”

Notice I said “your.” Not “my.”

I remember the first day I heard about Strava. I was in Bull’s living room. We were talking about something bikish and he said, “Hey you gotta check out this really cool program, it’s called Strava.”

Notice he said “program.” Not “app.” And certainly not “fitness app.”

Bull walked me through it on his laptop. “See?” he said. “It records everything and has these segments where you can look at parts of a ride and a leaderboard. See?”

“Stupidest fucking thing ever,” I said.

“It’s super cool,” he added, unfazed. “You’re gonna love it.”

I think that was in 2012. I did Strava for a couple of years until it became as unbearable as my power meter had been, a relentless reminder of quantified suckage, and what was worse, accelerating suckage. One day I took it behind the outhouse and shot it. Then, a year or so ago, shortly after my nutsack-breaking-incident, I resuscitated it.

But Men’s Journal has now anointed Strava as the only fitness app that matters; the killer app. Before you go proudly clapping yourself on the ass, please check their home page and note that Men’s Journal features:

  • A giant, inflatable Irish pub.
  • Kelly Slater paddling his surfboard.
  • Some tatted up dude tossing an exerball.
  • How to break in raw denim.
  • Killer indoor exercise machines.

In other words, the mag has zero cred unless you’re a drunk surfing tatty-poo fashionista who exercises in front of a giant mirror.

The article is long on words but short on substance, which is like Strava itself, robustly empty. Basically, Strava is a killer app, the writer says, because it has a slick interface, yo. And segments, yo. And everyone’s on it, yo. This last part is the thing that makes it most killer for the author and therefore the type of person likely to read Men’s Journal. It’s kind of like a restaurant review that says “The food is incredible because everybody likes it.” Ah, yes. I see.

What the article missed is that Strava succeeds because it’s the digital equivalent of  the giant mirror in front of the free weights where you can stare forever at the tiny bumps between your shoulder and elbow masquerading as muscle. Every Men’s Journal subscriber will understand.

Strava lets you ogle, stare, admire, note tiny differences from the last workout (“See! A new vein! I think.”), and just as importantly gaze at the lifter next to you, the one whose arm is twice the diameter of your torso. A few more reps and you’ll be exactly like him because you both belong to the same gym.

The digital narcissism of Strava has perfectly melded with the desire to watch yourself in motion. Nextgen versions will integrate with the four personal drones that follow you on the ride, and it will also connect with Zwift riders who virtually challenge you in their basement on the live video feed while you pedal the actual street. The live feed on Facebag will show realtime power/HR/elevation/speed and a 3-D topographical map running along the bottom of the screen. After the ride you’ll relax with some diet water, eat some raw almonds, compare your performance with people who are similar enough to beat but not similar enough to beat you, and review the whole thing in a video podcast that you upload through your glasses. The world isn’t all about you. The world is you.

And really, the author did get it right. Strava is the killer app. And the thing it killed? Fun.

END

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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Tar maintenance

July 21, 2017 § 30 Comments

One of the most important parts on your bike is its tars. You can’t go far without them. They are the third most important bike part. The first is the handlebars. When you jump on your bike without the handlebars nothing good is going to happen. The second is the wheels. When you jump on your bike without the wheels you are going to hurt badly that place where your legs join up.

Tars are the contact point between you and the bike shop. Once you get a flat tar you need a tube or a patch which costs a couple of bucks. And once you go into the bike shop for a new tube you need a new 100% all carbon Pinarello pure carbon frame that is made of all carbon and Campagnolo which costs several thousand. You know how marijuana is the gateway to heroin? Tars are the gateway to Pinarellos. Chinarellos if you shop online.

Lots of bicyclists spend a lot of time doing tar research. Which tar is right for me? Well hell I don’t know and I would give you a list of things to look for in a tar except Waldo is counting my lists and he is a subscriber. So instead of a list I will give you a run-on sentence. Tars should be rubber and hold air, which is measured in pounds per square inch or something called “bars.” Back in the day an old Belgian would get a flat, patch it with a piece of asphalt, get another flat, throw the bike in the fuggin’ ditch, and go into a bar. “Y’all got any tars?” he would ask and they would say “Whyncha belly up to the bar while we go look?” Anyway it took about 6.8 beers at the bar, or 6.8 “bars” to find a tire which they would inflate to 100 pounds per square inch so nowadays Euros just say “gimme 7 bars” or eight bars and etcetera.

But back to tars which are confusing. Do you need an off road, on road, hybrid, or commuter tar? Like I said, hell I don’t know. But I do know this. The other day I got a pair of Vittoria Super Fake Racer Profamateur tars that cost a lot of money. Everyone said I shouldn’t train on them because even though they were more supple than your mistress they were eggshell thin like your wife’s radar about you suddenly dressing differently and running errands at odd times of the day. In short, everyone said I would soon be getting double flats and it would be a waste of time and money and etcetera.

However I remember once hearing someone say that the way to get more life out of a tar (and maybe a mistress too) is to rotate them regularly. That sounded easy until I learned that these Vittoria race tars in addition to being supple were tighter than my bank account at the end of the month. Or the beginning for that matter even though I got a $324.15 cash back credit on my Visa card. Do you know how much money you have to spend to get $324.15 cash back credit? Answer: More than $324.15, which just goes to prove the old adage that you can’t make money by spending it. Although I try.

Anyway, I slapped those tars on the rims on May 23 and it is now July 21, which is almost two months, and every two weeks I have rotated my tars. They still have another month left on them, easily, maybe two. And I haven’t gotten a single flat.

If tar swapping works with prima donna tars like these and you don’t mind losing a few fingernails every time you rotate them, you will get way more mileage and better yet, your tars will wear evenly. Plus even if you are a horrible mechanic and can barely fill a water bottle without breaking your seat post, once you get handy at tar swapping and fingernail re-growing you will feel a big sense of accomplishment.

And if all else fails and you are standing out on my balcony with your feet in the vinegar-baking soda anti-fungal concoction bowl and your fingernails are littering the floor and you don’t have any palms left, only big raw meat holes where you ground off all the skin, you can always call my buddy Usta Befit. He will get you fixed up in a jiffy. That boy never met a tar he couldn’t change.

END

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Cheese melt

July 4, 2017 § 24 Comments

I got back from Texas and immediately began googling “lugged steel frames.”

Of course we all know that lugged steel frames have no place in modern, civilized society.

There is no good explanation for dumbly scrolling through pictures of [your favorite lugged frame builder here] other than my brain melted while I was in Texas. It’s not to say that steel frames are bad, or not worth buying, or that you shouldn’t have three, or anything … it’s simply to say that me looking for a steel frame makes about as much sense as me looking for DIY nipple piercing equipment. Wrong dude, wrong tools.

To add to the confusion, I love steel frames. I love them so much that I sold all of mine years ago at an eBay fire sale. You love something? Set it the fuck free. You hate something? Install it in your bedroom.

Anyway, the problem with steel frames is that if you build them up with modern components they look like men’s formal wear with Ugg boots.

Steel bikes look prettiest with down tube shifters, Mavic Reflex 36-hole tubular rims, a quill pantographed stem, and a Concor saddle. That’s how they look prettiest to me, anyway. No carbon fork, either, and for dog’s sake, please polish your lugs. Sheesh.

All this came about because I went for one, that’s right, one, bike ride in Austin. It was unspeakably hot and damper than a wet t-shirt contest. And it wasn’t even that hot, only a hundred degrees or so. I usually ride 3-4 hours and drink half a bottle, maybe a full one if it’s hot here in SoCal.

On my 67.5-mile pedal in CenTex, I went through three water bottles and three 16-oz. bottles of Dr. Pepper, and I was so dehydrated that three days later my tongue is still so swollen that it sticks to the roof of my mouth and my fingertips are wrinkly and shriveled.

Texas riders are tough as nails. That heat is horrible, and the humidity is like pouring boiling water on a sunburn. The pulsing waves of scalding hot that washed over me for almost five hours scrambled my brains. I got back to my mom’s place and she asked “How was the ride?”

“It was fine.”

“Wasn’t it hot?”

“Not really.”

“You were out there for a long time.”

“I guess I am still somewhat acclimated to the Texas heat,” I bragged.

An hour later the sunstroke kicked in. I fell onto the bed and quivered for fifteen hours straight. Somewhere during my hallucinations a voice that sounded like Mom’s said, “We’re going to Barton Springs. Do you want to go with us?”

“Does it mean moving?” I asked.

“Only from here to the car. Which is air conditioned.”

“No,” I said. “I think I will stay here under this a.c. vent and moan for a bit.”

Back in California after a mere 22 hours on the road, I was still babbling and incoherent. And after my trip down memory lane the only thing I could think of was lugged steel frames, quill stems, and etc. I love steel frames. I’m going to email Richard Sachs right now.

END

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Bro deal? No thanks!

June 27, 2017 § 47 Comments

I recently had a couple of people provide me with some amazing services, both bicycle related. In each instance they went out of their way to accommodate me and did what I can only describe as top-notch professional work.

Then it came time to pay the bill.

One of the people, who had given up a Friday morning to help me out, said “No charge. It’s okay. You do a lot for the community and send a lot of business my way. I can’t take your money.” It took two days of negotiations to get her to accept full payment for her services, and the only way it happened was by flatly saying, “Hey, if you won’t take payment then I won’t be asking for your help again. If you want to give someone a break, give it to someone who needs it badly and really is broke, as opposed to me, who is just cheap.”

The other person gave me a “bill,” to which I said, “Come on, dude. Are you making any money on that?”

“No,” he laughed. “But you’re my friend and plus you gave me some cool bar tape and socks. No worries.”

“No worries? Worries! How much do I have to add so that you make money on this deal? Real money, not fifty cents.” He hemmed and hawed and then coughed up a number that actually made sense and I paid it.

There are countless other examples, like the person who refused to take payment for promoting my law firm at his event, as if by working for free he was doing me a favor. And in reality this is the tip of the iceberg–people accepting in-kind payment, businesses offering unsustainable discounts, and sole proprietors carving up their retail offerings so that after all the carving’s done there’s nothing left but gristle and bone.

These people perplex me. They perplex me because I want them to succeed, and they can’t succeed in the “bro deal” world of the fake bicycle “industry” where everyone wants a discount or wants to trade in-kind like we’re at some bazaar in 13th Century Baghdad where I give you a pregnant camel in exchange for three bushels of dates, a slave, and your youngest daughter.

Giving friends a deep discount is a terrible idea. To the contrary, they are the ones who should be paying full freight or close to it. Doctors and lawyers don’t generally give people bro deals. Car mechanics don’t. Wal-Mart doesn’t. Established, successful businesses charge what they charge in order to turn this thing called a “profit,” and only in extenuating circumstances do they do things at a loss–and doing it “for cost” is doing it at a loss, especially in retail.

To put it in perspective, as a bike injury lawyer I have never — NEVER — had anyone ask me to represent them for free, or even for a significant fee reduction. That’s not to say I haven’t done both of those things; I have. But it’s hardly a feature of my business that people expect me to work my butt off and not pay me for it. I think the word is “professionalization,” and the fake bike industry needs a good dose of it.

There’s a bike shop in the South Bay that is very successful. It’s fuggin’ expensive and it refuses to sponsor bike clubs and especially abhors bike racers. The owner, a former racer, knows that these “friends” will drive you out of business. He focuses on and fights hard to retain customers who pay the asking price and don’t look for a “deal.” You know why?

Because the “deal” is having a top-notch bike shop in your own backyard with real mechanics and knowledgeable salespeople and quality products that a real person stands behind. The “deal” is that some dude is making a profit and paying employees a living wage and acting as an anchor in the community fabric. The “deal” is that he pays taxes, buys a home, and works hard to make sure his kids get educated.

The “deal” isn’t you saving a sorry $30 because he’s your “pal” and “is doing it for cost” in order to “cut you a deal.”

Of course in 35 years people have cut me lots of deals and on a few occasions I’ve even asked for them. Over the decades I’ve had friends hook me up with wheels, helmets, bikes, chain lube, food, clothing, repairs, bike rentals, travel, lodging, and every kind of bike-related thing. I’ve benefited from team discounts, seasonal sales, or a shop manager who really wants to move a particular product — it was Jay Aust’s desire to get that ancient Masi off the rack in 1998 that caused it to wind up in my clutches for a paltry $800.

My bad; color me “hypocrite.”

But for the most part, and that’s 99% of the time, I pay the asking price. If the item is being sold at a discount, or my club affiliation entitles me to a price break, great. I’ll take it. But when it’s a sole proprietor, or a business just starting out, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I wink-wink-nudge-nudge condition my purchase on the bro deal. I want my friends to succeed, to make money, and to be around the next time I need the product or service that they provide.

END

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e-Tap and Wanky Tech Review

June 24, 2017 § 24 Comments

In the overall scheme of things, “scheme” being “since time began,” I haven’t seen all that much. In cycling I have seen exactly three technical changes since 1982 that were really significant, things that changed cycling a lot for the better. I’m sure you will disagree with my Big Three, but here they are:

CLIPLESS PEDALS

What they replaced: Toe cages, toe straps, and heavy alloy pedals.

How they made cycling better: They got rid of purple toes and dead toenails and hotspots a mile wide unless you happen to wear Bonts, in which case you pay extra for those things. Instead of falling over at lights because you couldn’t reach down and undo the strap in time, now you fall over because you can’t twist out in time. They eliminated the constant repurchase of worn out Alfredo Binda straps ($25/each), and now require the replacement of worn out cleats ($35/each), and highly specialized and technical shoes ($435/pair). But seriously, clipless pedals made pedaling easier, less painful, and more efficient. Game changer.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing, except not having old straps lying around to strap stuff under my seat with, and being able to buy a pair of Dettos for $39.

INDEX SHIFTING

What it replaced: Friction shifting.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated wing-and-a-prayer shifting. It eliminated the 12-year apprenticeship required to learn how to find the right cog. It led to handlebar shift levers, which made shifting faster, safer, and more efficient, especially since the number of cogs climbed in a few short years from six to eleven. Now it goes to eleven.

What I miss about the old stuff: Simplex friction shifters were silent and perfect once you learned how to use them. Index shifting killed downtube shifting, which was good, but at the expense of heavier, clunkier hoods and bars. That’s pretty much it.

ELECTRONIC/WIRELESS SHIFTING

What it replaced: Mechanical shifting done with wires.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated the “shifting penalty” that kept you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. Before wireless shifting you had to always consider the effort it was going to take to shift plus the fact that you might put it in the wrong gear, mistakenly thinking, for example, that you needed to be in the 11 rather than the 28. With the mechanical stuff, when you shifted into an inappropriate gear, you then had to shift again to get into the right one, which meant at least one wasted shift effort, more if you were a complete goober. Since all cyclists are lazy, even when it comes to something as effortless as modern mechanical index shifting, which basically requires the effort of pushing around a warm stick of butter, most cyclists would rather pedal along in a gear that’s slightly too hard or slightly too easy than shift twice, or, dog forbid, go up and down several cogs to find the right gear. This inherent laziness caused by the effort required to mechanically shift is the “shifting penalty” that keeps you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. However, with e-Tap and its ilk you just clickety-clickety-click and it doesn’t fuggin’ matter how wrong your gear selection is. You can mis-shift entering a turn and be in the right gear before you’re even through it. You can mis-shift on a climb when someone is attacking and be in the right gear even after being in a couple of wrong ones.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing. I hated those fat hoods with a passion, to say nothing of the droopy tentacle-design favored by Shimano’s earlier versions, where the wires came out of bar tape like bug guts.

Of course, along with the three best improvements ever, there are also the three worst things ever to happen to cycling. In order of repulsiveness:

TT BIKES AND EQUIPMENT

What they replaced: Regular bikes, good looks, common sense.

How they made cycling worse: You look like an idiot on one; they make really slow people think they are fast; they discourage thousands and thousands of people from ever getting into TTs; they are twitchy and crash easier than drunk unicyclists; they add exponentially to the cost of what is already a fake sport even on a good day; they make terrible clothes hangers, which is what they end up as. Or the world’s ugliest wall art and/or garage filler. Also, an old TT bike ages about as well as an old ass tattoo.

What I miss about the old stuff: Everything. One bike no matter what kind of race; affordability of one bike versus two; knowing that apples were being compared to apples; sharing the lineage of Eddy.

ONBOARD COMPUTERS AND POWER METERS

What they replaced: Brains. Fun.

How they made cycling worse: No one knows anything anymore. People just read and memorize data. Cyclists, who are already the world’s most boring people, when armed with ride data become duller than a year-old razor blade.

What I miss about the old stuff: I liked my brain a lot. It was soft in spots but worked pretty well in others.

STRAVA, PHONES, AND ANYTHING CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET

What they replaced: Freedom.

How they made cycling worse: You have no more excuses for escaping from the drudgery of work, family, or life. Cycling, especially when combined with “data” items above, becomes just more drudgery.

What I miss about the old stuff: Freedom. Duh.

END

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Quick product updates

June 6, 2017 § 41 Comments

One of the great things about not being paid to sell stuff is that I can say whatever I want. This doesn’t mean I’m independent or objective, it means that I have no financial interest in any particular statement. I’m still biased as hell, of course.

Below are some product updates on things I have been using.

Wend Chain Wax: I don’t know how long I’ve been using this. Two and half years, maybe? My buddy Ryan Dahl, who works for Wend, gives me all the free chain wax I can use. All I know is that I will never go back to lube. My chain stays clean all the time, no matter how nasty the riding weather. And the drivetrain shifts flawlessly. I’ve found that in order to get the best results I have to apply the wax every 3-4 rides. No mess. Simple. Superglide.

wend_combo

Timex Helen Keller Model: Since I don’t use a Garmin and I quit carrying phone a while back so I don’t use Strava, this very cheap watch makes it pretty easy to know how long I’ve been riding. The big needle points to the minute and the small needle points to the hour and the skinny long needle points to the second. So, if the little needle is on the six and the big hand is on the five and the long skinny needle is on the ten it would be “6:25:50.” You still have to do some observational analytics to determine whether it is day or night, but with practice this isn’t as hard as it sounds. This device is great because when you lose it, drop it, forget it, or run over it like Matt did to Tony’s Garmin in the TTT, you only have to pay $39.95 to get another one, instead of $599.95.

helen_keller

Apace Vision Seat Stay Blinkers: Greg Seyranian turned me onto these. I think they cost six or seven bucks each. They are incredibly bright and run forever and add that all-important “Christmas tree” effect to your bike. The more I ride the more I’ve become an adept of “lights ward off cagers.” It’s a pain to charge them(the lights, not the cagers), but it’s a pain to wipe your fanny every time too, yet somehow you manage. I hope.

apace_vision

NiteRider Solas Rear Light: I clip this to my helmet, to the side actually, because it makes me look like an insane person who might veer into traffic at any moment and scratch your Tesla bumper, which will cost $5,000 to buff out the blood stains and bone shards. This blinky is effing bright AF. Again, lane position is important, bike skills are important, having the law on your side is important, but nothing is more important than being seen in broad daylight while some PV water buffalo is slurping his 650-kcal skinny drink and texting his fantasy football pals about The Big Game.

solas_150

Vittoria Open Corsa SR Race Tars: So far no flats, although after two weeks of training I switched the front and back so that the tars will wear evenly. These tars are scary supple and grippy and cornery. I don’t know how many weeks of use I’ll get out of them (about 175 miles per week), but my guess is about ten. Maybe more. This is one of those purchases you chalk up to “it’s cheaper than being an alcoholic” or whatever meme you use to convince your wife/husband/SO that this particular bike purchase really is worthwhile.

open_corsa

END

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