Sex, lies, and handlebar tape

March 29, 2016 § 34 Comments

That’s the name of a biography about Jacques Anquetil. It’s also a fitting title for the thread that went sideways on my personal Facegag page when I posted this photo and this comment:

Another example of how Specialized doesn’t get it. Women are cyclists and customers, not sex objects. Of course tucked away at a trade show in Berlin, maybe Specialized thought they could do their thing under the radar. Talk about a company that represents the worst in cycling. I guess if you can’t sell your bikes because they’re good, rip a page from Budweiser and sell it because you think your customers might be dumb enough to think that buying one will get you laid. By a Playboy Bunny. Right.

What I thought was a goodnight kiss to my echo chamber turned out to be anything but. One poster defended the two models by saying that it was the German subsidiary who made the decision, implying that Specialized’s HQ in the liberal, equal-rights supporting Republic of NorCal would never have done such a thing. The same person also pooh-poohed the problem by saying that other companies in the same situation have done worse, then threw down the old Litmus Test for Social Commentary: If you’ve ever [—–] before, you have no right to comment on [—–].

His defensive reaction was not out of place. One person happily commented on how he loves “tits,” another about how he loves gazing at attractive women, one about “Uptight Yanks” (he’s an American), and the old standby whenever we’re criticizing Specialized, “Cannondale does it, too.”

The women who joined the conversation mostly had in depth, thoughtful, and strong opinions on the matter, like this one, but who cares about them? I got some mansplainin’ to do, so STFU.

And my mansplanation begins with this: I’ve done and said sexist things before, I’ve purchased products from sexist companies with sexist marketing campaigns, and if I had to make a list of times that my dick has overridden my brain it would be a very long one. So you can call me a failed feminist or a hypocrite or a bored late-night blogger or whatever else makes it easy for you to discount my criticism of Specialized. But even though (you think) that chops off my credibility at the knees when it comes to making this argument, it doesn’t take away the argument itself, which is this:

Whether it’s Peter Sagan groping the woman on the podium, whether it’s the practice of having women on the podium, whether it’s unequal prize lists, whether it’s events of unequal duration, whether it’s advertising that shows sexy women on bikes who are obviously not bike racers versus men on bikes who obviously are, whether it’s Specialized’s sexist product marketing and sales, whether it’s unequal team sponsorship, whether it’s unequal junior rider development, and whether it’s unequal support at the local, state, and national level, cycling is doing a poor job of providing equal opportunity and equal respect for women.

I’ve had people tell me that women only race bikes because they’re “looking for a guy.” I’ve been criticized for offering equal prize money when I’ve put up cash primes because “women’s fields are smaller.” I’ve seen guys on group rides aggressively push women who “dared” to contest the sprunt. And I’ve heard every possible criticism of women as participants, from casual riding to big-day racing.

With an environment this gnarly, it’s unfair to pretend that Specialized’s sexism stands out. If anything, their sexism is pretty ordinary. If you want to find a company that really doubles down on sexist marketing and the objectification of women you need to look at the company founded by Anthony Sinyard, the son of Mike Sinyard, who is the founder and owner of Specialized.

Anthony, in his 30’s and not what we’d call a super successful dude, has invested in a venture called Supacaz. Supacaz makes handlebar tape, and has taken Specialized’s sex-symbol sales approach and doubled down, then tripled down.

Check this promotional video.

Then check this link for Google images associated with ol’ Supacaz.

The apple didn’t simply fail to fall far from the tree, it never even hit the ground.

Of course none of this is really surprising, as noted by another poster on my thread, a woman who wasn’t shy about slapping down the justifications offered up for Specialized’s playboy bunnies as a “mistake of the German subsidiary.”

Studies have shown that sex doesn’t sell. Many, many, many studies. What selling sex does, however, is allow the dumbasses in marketing to go home at 5pm and stop thinking about how to market a shitty product with very little appeal. And THAT is why people use sex to sell. They use sex to sell objects because they’re lazy motherfuckers with no big-picture thought patterns, no understanding of sport sustainability and zero respect for the gender they’re so apathetically objectifying and dehumanizing. Marketing departments use sex to sell stuff because they have little respect for themselves and absolutely no respect for their audience; there is no art, no creativity, no meaningful engagement. And why should there be? When so much of their audience stands up and defends such useless existence, that means that Specialized (and Maxxis and 661 and Colnago and Sidi) don’t have to. They have mindless consumer drones who will do the PR for them.

Of course, when you get right down to it, I blame Lance. Because at the very moment in time that Amgen is offering better and longer women’s events, at the very time that European classics are offering more comparable women’s races with rumblings of equal prize money, at the very time that women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of cycling and its fastest growing segment, Ol’ Yeller teams up with a sexist blowhard gambler to time-trial from Vegas to Hollywood. That what cycling’s biggest story is for the non-cycling public.

Specialized, it looks like you’re going to have to up your game, by which I don’t mean succumb to more of the sex-sells-bikes myth. People who own Specialized bikes, and companies who compete against them, recognize that Specialized makes good bikes. It beggars belief that anyone who’s making a purchasing decision says to herself, “Hmmmm, Tarmac or EVO Super Six? I guess I’ll go with the Tarmac because, bunnies.”

Nor do I believe that Specialized’s focus groups show a customer base longing for “more images of scantily clad women to go with my bike.” What they want on the road is a better product, and if they also want something better in bed, well, they’re not going to get it from a full carbon frame, even if it’s 100% full carbon.

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Amateur stripper

February 26, 2016 § 35 Comments

Used to be, you could strip the bolt on your seat post without any special tools. You wanted to adjust the seat so you took an Allen wrench and loosened the bolt, put the saddle at just the right place to give you patellar tendinitis, and cranked down the bolt until it got tighter, then tighter, then you gave it one last crank “to keep ‘er from slipping” and ping! The bolt would spin freely in the bolt-hole thingy, completely stripped.

Then you would cuss and yell and kick something gently and go rummage around in your tool box and not find another bolt and then go down to the bike shop where Uncle Phil would sell you a new bolt, never saying a word but looking at you like, “Wow, you are a 14-carat maroon with chocolate fudge on top.”

You could pick the generic bolt for $4.95 or the Campy bolt for $8.95, so you always chose the Campy one, went home, and then tightened away but this time you were so afraid of stripping it that you didn’t get it tight enough and so you did your next few rides with the seat post slipping and you kept stopping to move it and everyone would be pissed off at having to wait until after about five stops you’d get it magically right so that the seat height was right and the bolt was tight.

All you needed to create this bleeding migraine headache was a little 4mm Allen key.

I said goodbye to all that when I got an integrated seat post with my fully carbon Giant TCR frame back in 2013, which was made of 100% full carbon. The seat post was part of the frame and to set the seat height you just sawed the thing off until it was right. If you cut it too short you were in the market for a new frame, but once you got it cut right it never jiggled up or down and there were no bolts to strip. When I say “you cut it” what I mean is “Manslaughter cut it.”

Then, I said hello to all that when I got my new all carbon Cannondale bike, which is also 100% carbon. It has an old-fashioned seat post with a bolt that you can strip the shit out of, but Smasher had warned me not to dare to even try to tighten it.

“Yo, Wanky,” he said, “you got to use a torque wrench for that.”

“A what?”

“A torque wrench.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a wrench that lets you measure the torque on the bolt.”

I gave him my don’t-get-technical-with-me look followed by my monkey-examining-a-semiconductor-look. “What are you saying?” I asked.

“Your 100% carbon frame that is made of full carbon isn’t like your old 95% steel frame made of 95% steel and 5% manganese, chrome, nickel, molybdenum, and niobium. You used to be able to tighten the shit out of your steel frame and only strip the bolt, but with full carbon frames that are 100% made of genuine all-carbon, if you over-tighten the bolts you crack the frame and then you have to go buy a new frame or give it to Fireman to fix for $43, which is fine except that when he slaps on a few sheets of carbon and duct tape things can go sideways when you’re whizzing downhill at 50.”

“What are you saying?”

“You need a torque wrench.”

“What is that?”

“It’s a wrench that measures torque so you don’t over-tighten or under-tighten things.”

“Like Old No. 72?” I asked.

Smasher rolled his eyes in despair. “Yeah, just like that, only completely different.”

“Where can I buy one?”

“You don’t really want to buy one.”

“How come? You just said I’d crack my frame without it.”

“Yeah, but you’re the kind of guy who can really hurt himself with tools. You know how you used to create a week’s worth of hell and misery with a fifty-cent Allen wrench?”

“Yeah. So?”

“A torque wrench set costs $40 and has about thirty sockets. That’s a year’s worth of misery and a couple of new frames at least.”

“Forty bucks?” I said. “You can get a Snap-On wrench for $40?”

“Whoa, Wanky. I never said nothin’ about Snap-On. That’s $40 for a Made in Chinese Slave Kitchen special. But you don’t need Snap-On. It’s above your pay grade, trust me.”

So we fought for a couple of hours about whether I needed a Chinese Slave Kitchen set with fifty pieces, a driver, and a cool box for $40 or a Snap-On handle and a single 4mm socket for $400.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never going to use either one, but at least if you have the Slave Kitchen Special you can have more sockets and break more shit.”

“I only need the 4mm socket.”

“Why’s that?”

“I only have one 4mm seat post bolt.”

“You’re a nut job. Look, I’ll loan you my Snap-On and my Slave Kitchen Special. Try them out for a week and tell me which one you like best.”

“Sorry, I never borrow tools.”

“You’re not borrowing. You’re testing.”

wanky_torque_wrenches

Well-stocked Wanky tool box with toquey wrenches and stuff.

“I can tell you right now that Old No. 72 won’t want to be anywhere the Slave Kitchen Special.”

“Whatever. Just try it out.”

So I took the two items home and got to work on my seat post, which was perfectly positioned at the perfect height and perfectly snug, not slipping even a tiny amount. After five minutes of diligent work I had stripped the shit out of the seat post bolt. So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I stripped my seat post bolt and may have cracked my new frame.”

“You idiot,” he said. “I told you not to work on your bike.”

“Yeah, but I got some new tools.”

“You idiot,” he said, “I told you not to own any tools.”

“I couldn’t help myself.”

“Seat post was too high?”

“It was perfect.”

“Was it slipping, then?”

“Snug as a bunny’s butt.”

“Then what the hell were you doing?”

I got ready to tell him, but then he cut me off. “Bring the bike by,” he said. “I don’t want to know.”

(P.S. New Cannondale Evo Super Six, size 56 mm frame with less than 500 miles on it, in almost mint condition, is now for sale for $150 bucks. Message me for details. No refunds.)

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Cannondale Evo Super Six v. Giant TCR

February 17, 2016 § 42 Comments

The last time I got a new bike was July 2014 after the great bicycle falling off incident of October 2013 when many of us on the NPR jumped off our bicycles together in a big heap and broke each other and things. My Giant TCR had a cracked seat tube but I continued riding on it until Brent Garrigus at RIDE Cyclerly in Encinitas was working on it and noticed the crack.

Fortunately Giant warrantied this obviously defective frame that couldn’t withstand the normal wear and tear of bouncing along the asphalt at 40 mph on its seatpost. However, the replacement frame was identical to the 2012 model I’d been riding, so technically I’ve been riding the same frame for four years, which is a billion years in bicycle coffee shop smack talk time.

Yesterday I picked up my new Cannondale Evo Super Six, courtesy of Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, after having my trusty mechanic Boozy P. fine tune it. This morning on its inaugural ride it was humming along even with the fine-tuned rear brake pad dragging against the rim, which was easily adjusted but not by me.

So after 180 minutes on the Cannondale I’m thoroughly prepared to compare it in detail with the Giant TCR which I rode for four years and 40,000 miles.

WANKY’S BICYCLE COMPARISON CHART

  • Wife Handling

TCR: The TCR handled wife quite well. Offered at not much of a discount, it nonetheless escaped spousal ire by being associated with new team and a cash stash I had in an old sock.

Super Six: Terrible spousal handling characteristics. Delivery clumsily planned on Valentines Day, in tandem with thoughtlessly forgetting a spousal gift and trying to make up for it with leftovers from Rite-Aid’s card rack (“Dear Jesus Thank You for Our Heavenly Love,  To My Wife”), and a $25 Starbucks card. Came close to catastrophic failure; needs major redesign.

  • Bank Account Weight

TCR: Weighed in way over budget, but camouflaged with savings stuffed in old sock and timely purchase of a new Italian leather couch for Mrs. WM in lieu of son’s college tuition.

Super Six: Extremely light, so light that it was hardly noticed except for the aforementioned Valentines Day issue, which ended up in a nasty spat along the lines of “Happy Valentines Day for you onna new bike and I’m onna cheap coffee and ugly Jesus card.”

  • Wheelset Sleight of Hand

TCR: Superior wheelset swap-out while Ms. WM was out of the country, allowing replacement of shitty wheels with full carbon FastForward F-4 100% carbon clincher wheels and carbon FastForward tubular climbing wheels that are 100% carbon and full carbon. Unbeatable wheel swappiness.

Super Six: Requires lots of careful, technical work not found in the manual, for example, when planning to replace the perfectly good F-4’s, it is necessary to buy the new ones with behind-the-couch-cushion savings, then stick the old wheels in Boozy P.’s shop while waiting for them to sell, and being sure to never, ever, ever come home with an extra set of wheels. Tricky, can result in complete incompatibility and spousal relational failure.

  • PayPal Slush Fund Upgrades

TCR: Pretty good for saving a few blog subscription bucks and then secretly buying Ceramic Speed BB and jockey wheels without being caught or having to do “equivalent purchase” restitution in the form of nice restaurants or new granny underwear.

Super Six: Very poor PayPal application due to generally low balance in account. Unable to effectively hide major wheel purchases, resulting in borrowing from friends and promises to pay Jon D. for the new wheels next October.

  • 100% Carbon Full Carbon Composition

TCR: Drop-outs were not full carbon, so completely worthless POS frame and I’d never own another one. Thinking about class action.

Super Six: Full carbon 100% carbon everywhere, including full carbon drop-outs, carbon bolts, and carbon bar tape that is 100% carbon. Buy the bike for this reason alone.

  • Peloton Envy

TCR: No longer the shit because, fad.

Super Six: The new hot chick/sexy guy everyone wants to be around.

  • Shoe Rack Leanbility

TCR: Leaned pretty solidly against the shoe rack in our apartment without upsetting the clogs and ratty sneakers.

Super Six: Seems to take up less space, probably due to higher carbon content.

shoe_rack

  • Performance Tool Requirements

TCR: Could pretty much fix anything with Old No. 72.

old_no_72

Super Six: Requires torque wrench and a new set of tools that I won’t be able to use, to go with the other ones I used to use until Smasher made them all pretty and put them in a box where they’ve been for the last fucking month because when I was younger I didn’t care if they were trashed but now I’m older and know the value of money and a clean tool (you read that right) and I’m afraid to touch them. However, Smasher did send me some purchase options, a $350 Snap-Off torque wrench set or a $40 Spin Doctor torque wrench set that was just as good, so I went with the more expensive one that I’d never use. “I like your style,” he said.

  • Wind Chatter Aerodynamics

TCR: Did a good job of muting unwanted spousal criticism because it came with Team SPY and she was distracted by the awesome kits.

Super Six: Terrible at breaking the wind resistance of angry Mrs. WM, whose tirades about that $25 Starbucks card and the Holy Jesus Loving Wife card are going to be a feature of the family landscape for a while.

  • Climbing

TCR: Too heavy to effectively scamper away up hills avoiding family troubles, life problems, and penury.

Super Six: Spry, quick as a gazelle, offers endless hours of escapism.

  • Kit Integration

TCR: Went pretty well with the SPY-Giant-Ride color scheme, which improved yearly.

Super Six: Same black-and-white pattern as TCR, but glossy black and goes great with Team Lizard Collector’s 2015 classic black kit. May not work as well with the 2015 Calvin and Hobbes design, but the jury hasn’t hung itself yet.

  • Conclusion

TCR: Best bike I’d ever ridden.

Super Six: Best bike I’ve ever ridden.

END

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What a tool

February 3, 2016 § 31 Comments

snapon1

Old No. 72

When I was a kid my dad had a toolbox that lived in the garage. It was gray with a red tray inside. It was made of steel. Inside there was a big hammer, two screwdrivers, a crescent wrench, some pliers, and a big steel file.

I learned early that tools were the enemy. When something broke you had a problem, but once you put a tool to it, you suddenly became the 100% owner of the problem in fee simple with no remainderman, like the time our record player stopped working and we took it apart. We got a whipping for that. “What the hell are you taking it apart with a hammer for?” my dad had yelled.

The hammer was my tool of choice. I would take it out to the gutter and pound away at the cement curb, sometimes for hours at a time. Occasionally I would use the wrenches for bike repair but the bike always ended up lots worse than when I started, so eventually I quit trying to fix anything. I was the kid whose handlebars were always crooked and whose banana seat was missing a couple of screws.

When I started cycling I really learned to never work on anything, ever. The bike was a mysterious black box, where the ankle-bone was connected to the eye-bone and only Ph.D.’s in bikeology were competent to repair them. It got to the point that I was afraid to even carry tools with me. Better for the bike to explode than for me to have to adjust my saddle.

I was living in Japan when one day a Snap-On truck drove by my house. I remembered Snap-On from Texas, where you’d see their little trucks driving around. I thought they were cheap-o tools because of the name, “Snap-On.” It made me think of “snap-off.” I flagged down the driver and we started talking. He was a really nice dude and showed me inside his truck, which was filled with tools. I didn’t recognize any of them except the screwdrivers and the crescent wrenches, so I bought a couple. They were really expensive, but I chalked it up to buying U.S. products in Japan.

Next week he came by again and I bought a couple more tools. After a couple of years I had a big red box about two feet long by three feet high filled with Snap-On tools. I didn’t know what any of them did, but there were a couple that I could use around the house when something got loose. “Here, let me tighten that screw with this $150 screwdriver.”

Also, I had an old Bridgestone commuter bike with bolts instead of quick releases, so I used the socket driver to change flats. I bought the socket driver because it had an orange handle and because when you snapped on the socket you could grab it with your hand and twirl the driver, which made the coolest whizzing sound.

When I got back to America a buddy saw my tools and his eyes bulged. “Damn!” he said. “Is that all Snap-On?”

“Yes. Why?”

“That’s the best stuff there is.”

Over the years I lost various pieces or they got corroded from being left outdoors for months at a time and stopped working so I threw them away. Plus, the tool box was heavy and we moved around a lot. Finally I was down to a couple of dozen tools so I gave most of them away on Facebook. You never saw anything get snapped up so quickly.

Still, I kept a few screwdrivers and wrenches, especially the Old No. 72. Old No. 72 was the biggest crescent wrench in that guy’s truck and it cost like $400. It wasn’t good for anything but I used it to loosen the lock ring on my cassettes. The wrench was so heavy that when you tightened the lock ring you’d strip it instantly if you weren’t careful. I went through a lot of lock rings.

One day Smasher came over and saw my Snap-On stuff laying all over the balcony in various stages of rust. “Dude,” he said, “WTF?”

Smasher is a pro motorcycle mechanic and his shop floor is clean enough to build microchips on. I’ve seen his tools and they are cleaner than a woman’s wedding day underwear. Smasher came back a few days later with a bag. “You know that stuff is all Snap-On, right?”

“Yeah. So?”

“How about I give you some cheap Chinese tools that will last you a hundred years since you’ll never use them, and you give me those?”

“Okay,” I said.

He put them all into the bag and left. A couple of weeks went by and the replacements never arrived. Pretty soon I got a hankering to go strip a couple of lock rings so I called him up. “Where’s the cheap-ass Chinese tools you promised?” I asked.

“I’m out of town, dude. Susan will drop them off.”

“Okay,” I said. “But hurry. I’ve got some lock rings that need stripping.”

Susan came by while I was gone. Mrs. WM put them on the couch. They were in a little soft black case.

I got home and saw the case, laying face down on the couch. My urge to go ruin a few hundred dollars’ worth of bike equipment had faded so I just left them there for a couple of days. Then Smasher called. “Hey, dude,” he said. “What did you think about the tools?”

“Hang on and I’ll tell you,” I said.

I went over to the couch and grabbed the bag. I flipped it over and saw it was quite immaculate and had “Snap-On” embroidered in bright red lettering. I unzipped it.

Smasher had lovingly reconditioned every single tool, even down to my one socket. “Dude!” I said. “You polished it all up! Even my socket!”

“You idiot,” he said. “I showed it to everyone at the shop. No one’s ever seen a Snap-On socket driver with just one socket. How come you only have one socket?”

“I only have one bolt.”

“And why three adjustable wrenches?”

“It reminds me of my childhood.”

Smasher had also cut out perfectly formed shapes for each of my random tools so that they would nestle in the case’s foam backing.

“This is pretty rad,” I said, “but I can already see a few problems.”

“Problems? What problems, you nut job? They’re nicer than when you bought them.”

“I’m afraid to use them. They’re too beautiful. I suppose I can season them out on the balcony for a few months, though.”

“Don’t you fuggin’ dare.”

“Okay,” I said, taking out Old No. 72. Its jaws purred open and shut, begging to wrap their shimmering edges around the tender aluminum of a slim lock ring. “I won’t.”

snapon4

snapon3

snapon2

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My goals for CTS in 2016

January 16, 2016 § 24 Comments

Carmichael Training Systems, founded by exercise guru and former pro cyclist Chris Carmichael is looked up to worldwide for its ability to help people get the most out of their bodies. CTS recently published a fantastic list of six goals NOT to make this year, and since CTS has done the community a great favor by listing these six important “Thous shalt nots,” I thought I’d return it by giving them some goals for 2016. Chris & Co., you can PayPal me any amount you think appropriate.

  1. Expunge all Internet traces of Carmichael’s relationship with Lance Armstrong. Chris advertised for years as Armstrong’s coach and rode the syringe’s coattails all the way to success even though he was purportedly aware of Lance’s doping for decades. Fortunately, once Lance was revealed to be a cheater, a liar, and a fraudster, CTS has put more distance between Chris and his former protege than there are miles between here and the Crab Nebulae. However, inconvenient Internet links still exist that remind potential clients of Chris & Lance. For 2016, let’s get all those links deleted!
  2. Not dope any juniors against their will. Chris was sued by former juniors on the national team for allegedly force-injecting them with PED’s, leading to horrific injuries and side effects. Coach Carmichael is believed to have settled the allegations under a confidential agreement, so without admitting wrongdoing he was presumably able to pay off his victims without having this nasty chapter of cycling history attached to his Teflon brand. For 2016, let’s not dope juniors against their will!
  3. Sell another 50 containers of snake oil. CTS has mastered the art of selling people what they could get for free, i.e. bicycling fitness and health advice which anyone with a brain knows is this: 1) Ride more. 2) Do what you enjoy. 3) Decline the fourth trip down Ming Yang’s $4.99 All U Can Inhale Chinese Buffet.
  4. Double training camp reservations. The high point of any CTS sucker’s, er, member’s membership, is attending a training camp where you can dream of briefly rubbing shoulders with Chris or receive an extended jock-sniffing session with his old riding shorts. These camps are led by accomplished amateur and pro bike racers who think you are a fat, worthless pile of cattle crap even as they smile, wait for you on the clumb, eagerly paw at you for tips, and seethe at making $9.99 an hour while CTS is raking in all the cash.
  5. Expand the number of profamateurs who get full evaluations. Because you are a profamateur bike racer who may one day enter a Cat 5 race or get your Wanky Cat 2 upgrade after 25 years, it’s important to know your body composition. Whereas the typical Internet coach will just tell you, “Your body is composed mostly of water,” or simply “oxygen,” at CTS they will make you blow into a funny tube and pedal a bike that is stuck to the floor while trying to self-induce heart failure. They will take pictures you can post to show how much you suffered.
  6. Get more people to wade deeper into their cycling delusion. At CTS, after determining your body’s oxygen content (Hint: lots!), you can sign up for a life-changing experience that the rest of the world will regard as madness, i.e. sign up for a “tour” of sections of P-R, Flanders, etc. These will closely replicate the races themselves except that they will come with 4-star lodging, fine food, coach coddling, and lots of supportive emails to help you reach your personal best, even if that means riding 10k in rain along a cow path lined with pig poop.

But perhaps our biggest resolution for CTS is that it continues to succeed with its sports performance by ensuring that “CTS Athletes experience a 10% increase in sustainable power in the first 6 months of coaching.” If a 10% increase in power doesn’t translate into a happier, healthier life then nothing will!

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Lost in planet scroll

December 14, 2015 § 12 Comments

Cracked pelvis ehab and recovery have their benefits: Lower grocery bills. Less laundry (waaaaay less laundry). Zero monthly bike equipment expenses. And of course, fewer showers. Waaaaaay fewer showers.

But the downside is extra time. People evolved having to scrounge and scrape from dawn to dusk. They don’t do well at all with extra time. This is why they invented war and writing and art and television and Facebag and the Twitter, to kill all that extra time.

The excess hours have caused me to sink into the cesspool of planet scroll, where I scroll down the Twitter endlessly. That’s where I came across Planet Fitness and Shushanik Gabrielyan. Planet Fitness is a gym that caters to first-time and (very) occasional gym users.

It discourages gym rats, squat racks, grunting, and it only has up to 80 pounds of free weights. Everything is done in a nurturing “judgment free zone.” No one is made to feel inadequate or intimidated by some ripped fitness freak who is curling a Smart car.

In case the workout experience tires you out, once a month Planet Fitness offers free pizzas and bagels. And free Tootsie Rolls 24/7 at the counter. It’s hard to say whether they’re successful, but they have over 1,000 franchises and are publicly listed.

Shushanik Gabrielyan is a young woman who graduated from high school and is now suing the Glendale Unified School District. As a member of the school’s water polo squad, she was subjected to workouts in which her coach Casey Sripramong conducted drills that were “extremely intense and egregiously inappropriate,” and that even left her “pushed to the point of exhaustion.”

With regard to Planet Fitness, gym rats hate the place. “Worst gym ever.””It’s not a gym.” Etc.

With regard to Shushanik, comments generally hover in the region of disbelief. Suing a coach because her workouts hurt and made you sore? Really? I mean, really really?

And the answer is really, yes. But the bigger question is whether or not Shushanik and Planet Pizza herald the onslaught of the zombie apocalypse, and if they do, how in the world are we going to battle it with nothing but pizza-and-bagel gorging candy-asses armed with Tootsie Rolls, and the occasional whiny “athlete” who’s upset because she had to sweat?

Alas, if it were only limited to gyms and water polo squads! But it’s not. Competitive cycling is awash with Shushaniks–from thin-skinned juniors who can’t handle losing to glass-ego masters who foment a revolution because they’ll have to (Gasp!) compete against 35-year-olds instead of 40-year-olds.

This begs the question, “Is there anything wrong with being a cupcake?” Of course not, just as long as you understand that the purpose of cupcakes is to be eaten.

And then there’s the bigger picture. Planet Pizza claims that its business model ($10 monthly membership) accommodates people who need a gym to help them get ready to go to a gym, but that’s utter bullshit. Planet Pizza’s clientele are like every other gym’s clientele: They sign up and don’t go.

However, unlike CrossFit and SoulCycle and all the other ridiculously named, mirrored meat markets, at $10/month it’s easy to maintain your membership at Planet Pizza without actually going, almost like having a $2.99 blog subscription that you never actually read.

This is one reason Planet Pizza hasn’t raised its rates since 1999. The other reason is that when you discourage actual “gym rats,” i.e. “people who use what they’ve paid for,” you eliminate the gym members who wear shit out.

Running a gym requires continual equipment maintenance and replacement if you have a contingent of heavy users, and the stuff isn’t cheap. It’s much easier to stretch the life out of a treadmill that’s never used, cf. your Lemond indoor trainer gathering dust in the garage, and the lifespan of the equipment affects every gym’s bottom line. Problem is, excluding heavy users to focus on members who never come gives the lie to Planet Pizza’s marketing ploy. They don’t exist to help the uninitiated get fit, they exploit suckers. Which is kind of the same thing.

Worse, this type of behavior, once accepted and entrenched, makes it unexceptional when an athlete sues a school district for making them uncomfortable and sore. I shudder to think who Gabrielyan is going to sue the first time she has marathon sex. The promise of “all gain, no pain” and the cynical sale of gym memberships-cum-pizza ties in perfectly with people like Gabrielyan who are outraged that progress requires discomfort, discipline, and, yes, nut-crunching misery. Donut Ride, anyone?

Of course there’s an easy solution to all of this: Quit scrolling.

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Cyclist, Cover Thyself! [More … ]

December 1, 2015 § 29 Comments

Although I generally disdain using this space for anything useful, here’s something useful: Using MedPay insurance to defray your medical bills.

If you get hit by car, you now know (because you religiously read this blog–and by “religiously” I mean “daily,” not “becoming an angry white Christian man and shooting up an abortion clinic”) that it’s a great and inexpensive idea to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

However, whether you have such coverage or not, once the driver’s insurer admits liability and issues you a check, you have the problem of healthcare insurance liens (and so does your lawyer, and frankly, whose problems are more important–yours or his?). In short, when your healthcare insurer pays for your medical bills after fighting tooth, claw, nail, fang, whip, hammer, icepick, baseball bat, and slingshot, the terms of their agreement with you allow them to assert a lien against the bodily injury settlement money you get from the insurance company of the driver who hit you.

In other words, you finally got them to cover your accident, and your humble lawyer finally dragged a few dollars out of the offending driver’s insurer, and lo! The health care insurance company wants its cut. “After all,” they piously intone, “we paid your hospital bills.”

Now you’re probably thinking, “Like fuck you did. I paid them–it’s called a fuggin’ insurance premium. Why should you have any claim to the money I get from the baddie who mowed me down?”

Answer: Because they have the gold and they write the rules, and California rules say that they can. Don’t like it? Become a major insurance company. I hear it’s a growth business.

If this seems like it sucks, that’s because it does, and as time goes by health care providers are getting harder and harder to negotiate with regarding these liens. Used to be, your savvy lawyer could phone them up and say, “Look here, Mr. Dikbag, I worked my butt off to get this settlement. If it weren’t for me you’d be getting zero, so cut me some slack and reduce your lien.”

They’d hem and haw and do it. Now they still hem and haw, but the reductions aren’t as high, and in many cases they don’t reduce them at all.

It’s often the case, especially when you get hit and your injuries are moderate or minor, that the ambulance ride and the follow up treatment greatly reduce your eventual recovery. In essence, by filing a claim and hiring a lawyer, it can seem like all you’re doing is working for free for the healthcare provider: Getting the driver’s insurer to cut you a check which then gets (mostly) handed over to the healthcare provider. They think it’s great. You (and your humble lawyer) think otherwise.

Since the healthcare insurer has first priority over the settlement check, he gets paid before you, and before your lawyer. Lawyers don’t like that very much, and neither do you.

So although the message might seem to be, “If you’re going to get hit, make it a catastrophic injury and get hit by someone with a billion dollars of coverage,” it isn’t. The message is that there is at least one low-cost way to keep the healthcare provider’s grubby paws off your money so that it can remain in your grubby paws and the even grubbier paws of your lawyer.

Here’s how: Get MedPay coverage added to your auto liability coverage. If your insurer doesn’t offer MedPay, switch insurers. MedPay coverage is an add-on that lets you send medical bills directly to your auto insurer when you’ve been hit by a car. Your healthcare insurance pays zip, and therefore has no lien on your recovery. For small and moderate cases, MedPay coverage is great, and some insurers will offer benefits up to $25,000.

You submit the bills directly to YOUR auto insurance company, they pay you or the doctor/hospital/ambulance directly, and you submit your claim for pain, suffering, and lost wages to the insurance company of the offending driver. When you reach a settlement, your healthcare insurer (Kaiser, Anthem, Providence, etc.) has no claim to any portion that was covered by MedPay.

The other good (great) thing about MedPay is that it kicks in regardless of fault. In other words, you don’t have wait until the mud wrestling match is completed with the offending driver’s insurer to receive the benefits, and in the event you’re tagged as being the one who caused the collision, your MedPay coverage still pays as long as your injury isn’t covered by worker’s comp.

One added note about MedPay: In some states, and California is one of them, MedPay does have a right of reimbursement in the event you are “made whole” by your settlement. Although it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to discuss the “made whole” doctrine, even a MedPay insurer may be able to claw back some of its payments from your settlement. In any event, MedPay gets you paid more quickly and will cover co-pays and other out of pocket expenses that your healthcare insurer will not.

Be sure to check the policy for exclusions, reimbursement rules, and read the fine print; every insurer’s policy is different.

So before you lawyer up, MedPay up.

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog, or you can get some MedPay coverage added to your auto liability coverage. You know which one I’d recommend. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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