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

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Upgrade points plus DON’T GET KILLED!

June 5, 2017 § 18 Comments

SCNCA president Sean Wilson and CyclingSavvy guru Gary Cziko went to great lengths and expense over the last year to design a class for the SCNCA junior training camp, which was successfully run in January, 2017. They are now are offering a USAC-sanctioned traffic safety class this coming June 11.

One of the bonuses for this class, aside from helping keep you out of the meat wagon, is that, thanks to Sean and SCNCA board member David Huntsman, the class has been approved for USAC upgrade points. There are a lot of needs out there in the SCNCA catchment, but few opportunities to change things at the USAC level. The concept of using actual classes and education to keep junior riders from getting killed is a top priority and the SCNCA board has supported it wholeheartedly.

The class offers two upgrade points for 5-4 upgrades, 1 upgrade point for 4-3 upgrades and 1/2 a point for 3-2 upgrades. All of this for learning how to not get killed riding the edge of a narrow lane. Few efforts by the SCNCA are as deserving of praise and participation as this one.

Of course, many bike racers don’t yet see the value in CyclingSavvy-type instruction. What’s more astounding, actual “coaches” and “mentors” who are responsible for the lives of their charges somehow think that their “common sense” and “life experiences” and “racing with team Bumblefuck sponsored by Bill’s Sewage Treatment back in the 80s” is a legitimate substitute for skills, coursework, and understanding the law.

The location for the clinic is awesome: Redlands, a town with a rich history in SoCal cycling, and a place where riders don’t have to fight with the snarl of LA/OC/San Diego traffic. The cost is also incredibly low considering the benefit of the classes, the professionalism of the coursework, and the effectiveness of instruction: $50 for juniors and U23, $75 for elite and older riders.

If you’re involved with junior cycling in SoCal, if you ride a bike, or if you ever intend to ride one, this is a great time to give your riders and yourself the chance to survive and thrive on the bike for the rest of your life, not just while doing circles in a parking lot. And a “few short training sessions with CHP” will not — trust me– cut it.

The course will also include an on-road component so that participants get to practice what they’ve learned. As a longtime CyclingSavvy participant and class participant, I can assure you that this course can keep you alive. Participants will practice using parts of the Tour of Redlands, where cyclists learn to navigate some of the most intimidating spots in town safely and comfortably.

Now is the time to slow down, take a deep breath, and do some “non-race” learning that will help you ride better, race better, and most importantly, live longer. A lot longer.

Location: Bikecoach.com Fitness Studio, 700 Redlands Blvd., Suite M, Redlands CA 92373 More Information: http://www.gsandiamo.com
Contact: Sean Wilson; sean@gsandiamo.com

END

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Revelation of the Donut Tour

June 4, 2017 § 8 Comments

One of the cool things about fake bike racing on profamateur group rides is that you’ll be riding along minding your own business when some dude who you’ve kind of noticed before but never paid attention to is suddenly up at the front, driving it, in the mix. Then the ride goes on and said dude keeps turning the screws and suddenly the pre-ride favorites get real busy taking their excuses out of their jersey pockets, dusting them off, and doing show-and-tell about last week’s hard race, or how today was a rest day (at 450 watts for six minutes) and other fun stuff and nonesuch.

On the Donut yesterday I had the pleasure of watching a guy named Matthieu Broussard, who has always been pack fodder, take out a shiny new pair of steel-toed boots and stomp dicks. Unlike me and pretty much everyone else on the Donut Ride who cowers and hides on the way to the first climb up the Switchbacks, he was lining it out with the hitters who included Chris & Rex from Team Pacific Show Up and Kick Your Ass, and one or two others. Alex Barnes was there, Smasher, Kevin Phillips, beastly RJ Pearce, Bud Somethingorother, Dude in Allblackkit, Tasker, and some very deep ranks of B and C listers.

We were coasting down from the Domes after our second ascent, which had left the cremains of the peloton scattered to the four winds. “Dude,” I said to Matthieu, a Big Orange teammate who hasn’t yet learned our team’s trademark of chasing down people wearing the same jersey, “you are riding so well. It’s so impressive. Even with the French name.”

“Thanks!” he cheerily replied. “This so much fun!”

“Do you know Sam Boardman?” I asked.

“No, but I’ve seen him on Strava. He’s some pro dude, right?”

“He’s one of the top U-23 riders in the state.”

“That good, huh?”

“Better. A total assassin.”

“Man, I wish he’d come out to the Donut Ride sometime. Not that I could hang with him or anything, but it would be cool to see him come out and crush it.”

“Matt,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“You know that guy you’ve been riding with in our four-man break for the last twenty minutes?”

“Yeah?”

“That was him.”

END

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Advice to cycling newlyweds

June 3, 2017 § 2 Comments

I have some friends here in LA, Aaron and Emily, and some friends up in Colorado, Becca and Daniel, who are getting married (not all to each other), and all four of them are cyclists. They’re not only cyclists, they’re exceptional cyclists.

So now seems like a great time to dispense some cycling marriage advice. Because I will have been married for thirty years in a couple of months, and since I’ve been cycling the whole while, I think I have some useful advice to impart that can improve, if not save their cycling marriages. Here are the top ten, suitable for tattooing on a prominent body part.

Rule 1: Don’t marry a cyclist.

Rule 2: If you have to choose between things that will make incredible, amazing, unforgettable, lifelong memories, and things that will help you cook better, choose the latter.

Rule 3: Never fall into component inequity, where, for example, he has SRAM e-tap and she has Shimano 105. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

Rule 4: Marriage never gets easier, you just go farther slower, together.

Rule 5: If you want your children to love cycling, refuse to buy them bikes. Until they’re, like, 30.

Rule 6: No matter how deeply it disturbs you, accept your partner’s choice of hydration. Even if it’s grape flavored.

Rule 7: It’s okay if you ride so much together that you’re too tired to have sex. But not the other way around.

Rule 8: Carbon > Mortgage.

Rule 9: If you don’t cycle at least once on your honeymoon, you’re doing it wrong. Very wrong.

Rule 10: You both love bicycling, each other, and coffee. Especially coffee. That’s a recipe for a perfect marriage.

END

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Cuts like a knife

June 2, 2017 § 29 Comments

It’s not just bikes that went from being utility equipment to museum pieces, status objects, collectibles, or whatever. While I was looking at $2,000.00 full carbon shaving razors that were 100% pure carbon and made of all carbon, I came across a manly link that took me to knives.

In two seconds I arrived at this, which costs over $5k, and is advertised as an “everyday” folding knife. Everyday.

My dad had what we called a pocketknife. It was made by Case and might have cost ten bucks. It had a little blade and a big blade. And you know what? Every man and boy had one. A pocketknife was the difference between boys and girls. Boys had ’em, girls didn’t.

No one in my family ever collected knives. Both my grandfathers had pocketknives that they kept — in their pocket — from the dawn of my consciousness until they passed away. A man’s pocketknife was more a part of him than his wedding ring. He’d had it longer and he used a lot more and to better effect, usually.

You carried a pocketknife because over the course of the day there was so much stuff that needed cutting. String, paper, gristle that the dinner knife couldn’t hack through, the coating on a piece of wire, tape, cardboard, packaging, fingernails that had grown ungainly, splinters in your feet, and of course sticks for whittling.

Remember whittling? That is what you did forty-five years ago when you were bored and didn’t have Twitter. Or cable TV. Or a TV.

And the thing was, a man put that knife in his pants pocket as automatically as he put on his shoes. Going outside, or even downstairs, without a knife in your pocket was the same as walking around undressed. And that pocketknife wasn’t a weapon for stabbing people or fending off bears, it was your eleventh finger.

A man’s pocketknife was simple but well cared for. My dad and every dad had a little whetstone and some 3-in-1 oil, and every couple of weeks he’d go out in the garage, oil the whetstone and sharpen the knife. Because the only thing more embarrassing than being caught without a pocketknife was having one that was too dull to do the job, or having to hack at something that you should be able to slice like butter.

And pocketknives did jobs, important ones. They opened letters and packages and cut tape and such, but as important as the jobs they did were the jobs they didn’t. Having a pocketknife meant knowing that the tip wasn’t a screwdriver, the blade wasn’t a lever, you never misused it by trying to cut something too big or hard or thick, and most importantly, you never lent it to anyone, ever, for anything. “Can I borrow your pocketknife?” was not a question anyone knew how to ask, unless, for example you were naked and tied to some railroad tracks, you might have said, with great embarrassment at not having yours, “Do you have your pocketknife with you?” and the person would see what needed to be done and reach into his trousers and fish it out and do it.

I never saw one person of the male persuasion ever tell the other one what it was that needed cutting, or, dog forbid, where to cut, or, risking the end of the relationship, how to cut. Asking whether the other person had his pocketknife was enough.

I quit carrying a pocketknife when I was 22. The reason is that I lost the slim Victorinox that my grandfather Jim had given me when he went to Switzerland in 1976 and brought it back to me as a gift. Losing your pocketknife, much less one that was given to you by your grandfather, well, you might as well hand back your man card and start wearing diapers again.

Then one day when I was 41 and standing on the sidewalk in Granbury, Texas, I badly needed a pocketknife. I had a giant bundle of fliers that were bound so tightly I couldn’t slide one out from under the cord to give to a fellow who wanted a couple. He was a young city guy snappily dressed and I knew there was no chance in hell he was going to have a pocketknife.

As I vainly tried to entreat out one of those fliers, this ancient, stately country gentleman and his lovely blue-haired wife passed us by, slowly. He nodded at me kindly. “Afternoon, young fella,” he said.

“Good afternoon, sir” I said back, standing up straight from being bent double over that massive package of 10,000 bound fliers. “Sir,” I said, “do you have your pocketknife with you?”

He glanced at me and the package and the string and said, gravely and without missing a beat, “I got my britches on, don’t I?”

He looked at me with kindness and mild reproach as his hand slid into the pocket, a motion he’d done a million times before, and with one hand he smoothly unfolded the blade on that small Case pocketknife, bending his wrist quickly so that the blade snapped open on the well-oiled pin. The blade glittered in that midday Texas sun, reflecting my own past back to me.

He reached down and barely touched the knife blade to the cord. It instantaneously split in half, popping like a firecracker. With the same one-handed motion he folded the knife and put it back.

“Thank you, sir,” I said.

“Not a’tall,” was his gentle reply.

END

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Can I borrow your girlfriend?

June 1, 2017 § 37 Comments

Everybody gets in a funk every now and then. When it hits me, my usual sunny disposition turns sour, which is kind of like sour milk getting sour-er. Most of the time that my navel gets twisted into a knot it’s because of some other human being. Often, they don’t even know they’re standing on my hangnail, although most of the time they do.

Why do people have to be dicks?

Answer: Because they’re people.

Down the street there is a grocery store and next to the grocery store there is a bakery called Meyer’s. You should make a note of that name because they make great donuts. They also make lights-out lunch sandwiches for $4.99 that put the neighboring Subway in the shade, but that is another story, a story about helping people instead of multi-billion dollar corporations.

Usually a group of cyclists congregates there before starting their ride. Even though they’re neighbors I’ve never ridden with any of them and and have never stopped to chat. They are always enjoying their coffee and donuts and laughing and it’s kind of fun to walk by and check out their equipment and listen to snatches of their conversation as I pass, kind of like being a spy.

One of the dudes rides a giant yellow recumbent. I’d recognize that thing anywhere.

Several days ago my wife and I were down at the Golden Cove Starbucks. If you are reading this and you live in Stavanger or somewhere and you’re thinking about one day visiting SoCal and you like crappy coffee, you’d better mark this place down because it has the best view of any Starbucks in the world, parked as it is on the edge of the continent so that you can gaze out over the Pacific and watch migrating blue whales and Catalina Island and sunsets while you realize that the coffee doesn’t matter at all.

As I was drinking THE ONE DRINK THAT STARBUCKS GETS RIGHT, I noticed that our table was next to that big yellow recumbent. Over across the way was its owner, sitting with his buddies and enjoying the day. Bikers clumped in a little group always look happy. Always. Unlike, for example, lawyers clumped in a little group.

My wife and I were talking about — surprise — bikes. My eldest son is coming home from Vienna for a couple of weeks and in addition to making sure the couch cushions were nicely plumped up for him I had been wondering where I was going to get an extra bike.

He isn’t a cyclist but he is a cyclist. We have had some epic rides together and even though he will be slow and out of shape, or rather because he will be slow and out of shape, I had been racking my brain for a bike.

The recumbent dude finished his coffee and came to get his steed. We started chatting and I told him I always saw him up by the grocery store and it turned out that we both knew Tony Jabuka (who doesn’t?) and I learned about the terrible physical problem he has with his arm that made him switch over to a recumbent.

“What kind of road bike did you have?”

“I still have it. A steel Fuji. Super nice bike.”

“I love steel bikes.”

“Yep. It’s a bummer climbing Hawthorne on this monster,” he said, pointing to Ol’ Yeller, “but the worst bike is better than the best couch.”

Having known this guy for five entire minutes but still not knowing his name I took a leap. “Hey, my son is coming into town for a few weeks and I need another bike so we can ride together.”

He looked at me for a second, because he’d just finished telling me about some crooks who had burgled his house. I got the feeling that his faith in humanity wasn’t at its highest. “Yeah?” he said.

“Any chance I could borrow that Fuji? It would only be a couple of months. We’ll be extra careful.”

He hesitated not at all. Not even a flicker of doubt. “Sure. Where do you live?”

“Up in the apartments over by the grocery store.”

“Let me give you my cell number. I’m here in RPV too, and I’m around for the weekend. Just holler. It would be awesome to know that bike is being ridden.”

We exchanged numbers.

“Okay, man, gotta go,” he said, and rode off, just like that. And it’s kind of weird, but when I turned back to my wife to enjoy THE ONE DRINK THAT STARBUCKS GETS RIGHT and the best view on the continent, my sour mood had somehow ridden off into the sunset, too.

END

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The lives of a bike

May 31, 2017 § 42 Comments

I met a friend yesterday for lunch. He was one of those friends who I somehow know even though he doesn’t cycle or have anything to do with cycling. It’s surreal to have conversations with people who don’t ride, if only because eventually the conversation gets ’round to … cycling.

He told me about his brother, who recently got into cycling. “My brother, he is crazy for biking,” my friend said.

“Really?” I asked, hoping against hope that we would talk about the weather, politics, home improvement, dirty laundry, anything but cycling.

“Yeah, it’s really weird. Like, he rides all the time.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, huge distances, races and stuff. One time he rode a hundred miles.”

“Really?”

“Incredible, huh? And he did it in one day.”

“A whole day?”

“I couldn’t believe it, either. And his bike cost a fortune, man.”

“Really?”

“More than a car. I mean not really, but ten grand, easy.”

“Really?”

“I shit you not. And his isn’t even the most expensive bike out there.”

“Really?”

“Sky is the limit. You can spend twenty grand on a bicycle. Can you believe that? Twenty grand on a bicycle.”

“Really?”

“The world has gotten crazy, man. How about your bike? Is it one of those crazy expensive ones, too?”

“Not that expensive. Not cheap, but not ten grand or even close to it.”

“Yeah, he’s gone overboard. But you know what?”

“What?”

“He’s lost a ton of weight. And that bike is a hell of a lot cheaper than a day in the hospital.”

“Really?”

“I mean it’s crazy. He’s down seventy pounds. In one year. Can you believe that?”

“Wow.”

“He looks like you.”

“Really?”

“It’s crazy. You know I run and try to stay fit but I wish I could lose fifty pounds. It’s hard, man. Crazy hard.” He squeezed his gut with a wry laugh. “You biker dudes are all so fucking skinny. But it’s crazy, how expensive the gear is. It didn’t used to be like that, man.”

“No, it didn’t.”

“You know, I used to ride a bike.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, when I was in college. I got a racing bike, actually, a Bianchi. You know it?”

“Was it green by any chance?”

“It was! How’d you know that?”

“Lucky guess.”

“Yeah, it was a beautiful bike. I loved that bike. I rode it everywhere. It was so comfortable. And fast. Beautiful chrome parts.”

“I bet. Those were nice bikes.”

“But it’s nothing like the new ones. It only cost $700, which was a lot of money in 1988. You couldn’t buy any kind of bike now for $700. But I loved riding that bike, man.”

“Why’d you stop?”

“You ever try to pick up a chick on a bike?”

I didn’t say anything.

“It just wasn’t cool after I graduated. I got a car and a job and that was pretty much that. You know, you’re young and you think you’ll get back to it some day, and you never do. Then you get out of shape and it’s distant dream. But I loved that bike, man.”

“What happened to it?”

“I’ve still got it hanging in my garage. It’s in perfect condition.”

“Really?”

“That’s what got my brother started a couple of years ago. He came over and asked could he borrow it and I was like, ‘Sure, take it, man,’ and a year later he brings it back, all tuned up and shiny and new tires and everything and is like, ‘Thanks, I’m getting one for myself now,’ and so I hung it back up. His new bike, man, it’s fancy. He had to buy all new clothes, he lost so much weight.”

“You ever think about getting back on it?”

“All the time, man. Every day. But I’m so fucking out of shape I couldn’t hardly make it down the block. And I live on a really hilly street. Plus that bike is so old.”

“It worked for your brother, didn’t it?”

“You know, you’re right. And he was fatter than I am, man.”

“Those old bikes are so comfortable and smooth. And they ride great. Some people prefer them to the new stuff.”

“No shit? Even with the shifters? You gotta reach down to change the gears, man. Nowadays it’s all on the handlebars. I’d feel kind of uncool, you know? Riding an old bike like that.”

“You show up on that thing and people will admire the hell out of it. Those bikes have class and style.”

“Really?”

“Really. Like dropping your kid off at school in a ’66 Corvette.”

“When I get home can I send you a picture of it? You can tell me if you think it’s okay to ride.”

“Sure. But it worked for your brother. It’ll work for you. It’s waiting to save your life. That’s what it lives for.”

I got back to the office and a few hours later the picture had arrived.

bianchi2

END

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