10 Steps to better cycling in 2017

December 26, 2016 § 20 Comments

These will make you better.

  1. Take a pull.
  2. Stop half-wheeling.
  3. Show up on time.
  4. Call shit out.
  5. Keep your head up.
  6. Climb more.
  7. Compliment someone.
  8. Intervene when someone’s being a dick to a new rider.
  9. Ride early.
  10. Quit comparing your stats.
  11. Eat more fruit and nuts.
  12. Give up a wheel.
  13. Give someone a push.
  14. Buy someone coffee.
  15. Wave at a cyclist.
  16. Wave at a cager.
  17. Introduce yourself.
  18. Ask a Fred to join your club.
  19. Ride just a little > No ride at all.
  20. Shop at an LBS.



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A Christmas story

December 25, 2016 § 27 Comments

I had used some words that were not the best words. Then my pride got in the way of taking them back. Finally I broke the rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

Just like that I lost a friend. Words and ego, the twin horsemen of loneliness, drove a good person from my door.

For a couple of months I stewed on it, low simmer like a good pot of tomato sauce, cooking off all the excuses, the self-justifications, the indignation, the anger, and finally, when everything else had been boiled away I was left with a thick, glutinous residue of pride. I fished it out of the pot and put it on a big blue Fiesta plate I’d inherited from my grandmother.

The lump of pride was rubbery and tough. I tried to cut it up into manageable pieces but nope. Even the sharp Japanese steel we had bought in Kappabashi wouldn’t so much as nick the surface. It stank, too.

As much as I had tried to put the blame on my friend, all that remained was that big, nasty lump of tough, indigestible, stinking pride.

While I sat there trying to figure out what to do I remembered a sermon I’d heard in the First Methodist Church of Bumfuck, Texas, a place I once lived. Our preacher was insane and saw devils and homosexuals behind every bush. We were the only devout atheists in the church, which was the “liberal” one in this tiny Texas town of 588 people and fifteen churches. My kids always used to ask me, “Dad, how come we go to church if we’re atheists?”

“I don’t know,” I used to say. “What else are we going to do in this dogforsaken town on Sunday morning?”

“Sleep!” everyone would roar in unison. They had a good point.

Anyway, the insane preacher had gotten onto his weekly roll about the homosexuals and the bushes, and the devils and the homosexuals behind the bushes, and then more bushy homosexuals, and he was pretty lathered up. I always felt like he was the kind of guy who would really benefit from some homosexualizing on a frequent basis, but then I reflected that as with most people who live in avowed fear of homosexual demons, he probably already was.

He had taken a homosexual break to wipe off the sweat and drink some water when it occurred to him that since Christmas was a few days off he might as well throw a bone to Jesus, and off he went on a rollicking rant about forgiveness. It went something like this:

“Now you are a sinner and going to hell and you will burn forever that is how Almighty Dog made you and you will burn with the homosexuals but do you know what will save you, do you know what our Almighty Dog has blessed us with to save us from the eternal homosexual demon flames? That’s right my brothers and sisters he has given us forgiveness from the infinite mercy of his heart and even the homosexual can cast aside his perversion and ask forgiveness, even the murderer, even the Muslim, even every sinning soul in Muslania and every homosexual sinner in California can get down on his knees and cast aside his infidel beliefs and his homosexual sinning and ask forgiveness from Almighty Dog our Dog Jesus Christ and be forgiven and live in the bliss of the afterlife forever after.

“Now what does this mean? It means you must look inside your own sinful heart and cast about for those who have wronged you, for those who have done you grievous insult and sin, for those who may even be homosexuals destined for hell and eternal flames and you must forgive them.

“The mother who cast you out, you must forgive her, the father who disowned you, you must forgive him, the neighbor who stole your wife, the child who took from you your savings, the banker who took your home, the neighbor who refused to mow that little strip between your houses that you have been fighting about for the last thirty years, you must look into your own sinful heart and forgive each of them as Dog has forgiven you.

“And do you know what you will find when you forgive the homosexual and the neighbor even though he has also put on an addition that blocks your view of the feedlot? You will find love in the stead of hate, you will find peace in the stead of war, you will find contentment in the stead of turbulence and you will gladly mow that strip of lawn and not worry any more if your neighbor files suit and gets declaratory relief for that strip and has it added in fee simple to his lot, and you will feel no hatred for the homosexual for he knows not what he does. This forgiveness is the gift of Jesus Christ our lord dog.”

I thought about that sermon and about how it really didn’t apply to me. I didn’t have anyone to forgive. I was the one who needed forgiveness. So I took the Japanese steel again and after a lot of hard labor cut that slab of pride into little pieces and I ate them one by one, gall and wormwood every bite.

Then I sat down and wrote a letter to my friend. It’s the longest letter I’ve ever written, or will ever write. It went like this:

Dear Friend,

Please forgive me. I was wrong.


And then the friend never wrote back, which hurt all over again. But even though I felt terrible about having lost a good friend, I felt good at having gotten down on bended knee and asking forgiveness. It is hard to humble yourself, especially in writing, filled with pride as I am, overflowing, in fact. It reminded me of the time I texted a friend, “My ego is bigger than the county,” to which she responded, “There’s an ‘r’ in ‘country.'”

Every day thenceforth I thought about my friend and about how badly I must have wounded him. But my pride, slowly eaten, had digested and it allowed me to accept without bitterness what was. Some things you can’t unsay, and some things you can’t undo. This was apparently one of them.

A couple of days ago the mail came and I was flipping through it. There was a fat card with my friend’s name and return address printed on the upper left-hand corner. I had given up on ever hearing from him again and stared at the card in disbelief, but I didn’t open it because I was afraid.

I was afraid that this was an automated Christmas mailing with a pre-printed greeting that hadn’t been purged from the year before. I was afraid that I was going to open it and find out that I hadn’t really found out anything at all, except that I was still part of the secretary’s mail merge. So I finished the day and went to bed, thinking about that card.

I got up the next morning at five and made some coffee and talked with my teacher in Shanghai and brushed my teeth and shaved and got dressed and looked at that envelope sitting on the coffee table. I sat down on the couch and carefully slit the end of the envelope, drawing out the card. The front showed  several scenes of a happy family. I slowly turned it over.

In bold, strong letters, stroked with a pen, it said, “Seth, I miss you. Blessings on you, Yasuko, Cassady, Hans, Woodrow, and all of your loved ones.”

Superimposed on the back of the card was the word, written large, “Joy.”



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How marketing works

December 23, 2016 § 14 Comments

Someone posted a link to this Velonews podcast on Facebag: Why you are an idiot for riding in cold weather with bare legs. I usually ride with bare legs and am always attracted to people who call me an idiot, hence my involvement in bicycle advocacy issues and my involvement with bike racing.

I don’t often listen to podcasts about bicycling unless it’s SoCal Cyclist because bicycling themes bore me horribly, especially when they are devoted to how I can improve, get faster, better cope with my decrepitude, etc. I have been doing this long enough to know that I stopped improving at around age 28 and have been declining ever since.

But the link caught my eye so against my best judgment I clicked on it and was treated to Exhibit 1 of Why Roadies Are Assholes. The podcast was so contemptuous of everyone who didn’t know that riding with cold legs was bad, and the “physiologist” who pontificated on how bad it was for you exhibited two amazing qualities.

  1. He broke out into a hot sweat every time he said the word “pro,” which was every fifth word, rolling the word with love and smoky adulation off his tongue.
  2. He illustrated his point with that most awesome of roadie techniques, giving an example of the time he chewed out some rider in front of other people for wearing the wrong clothing, shaming the rider into hiding at the back for the rest of the ride. In real life this makes you a dick. In road cycling you think this makes you cool, but not really.

It didn’t escape my attention that the “expert” was a physiologist whose photo I’ve never seen leading the peloton up La Redoute, but was rather some wannabe, over-the-hill, not-good-enough hobby biker who compensated for his failings as an athlete by being a dick who lectured others with unasked for “pro tips.”

The podcast was miserable in other ways as well. It had three salient points that could have been made in two minutes, but instead he crammed them into an interminably boring lecture that I never reached the end of. The points were:

  1. You should overdress, not underdress.
  2. Keeping the chill off your legs prevents damage to the muscles.
  3. Professional cyclists dress warmly when it’s even remotely cool.

My winter wardrobe is painfully thin. I have one pair of knee warmers and an ancient pair of Pearl Izumi thermal tights that saw much use in Japan and Texas but have seen zero use in SoCal. And despite the condescension of the podcast it made me nervous.

Was I ruining my muscles by riding unprotected? Were my patellar tendons turning into rusty piano wires? Most importantly, was I jeopardizing my chances of  pro contract to ride the Tour in 2017? And most most most importantly, would Alberto Contador smirk at me if I ran across him on the Donut and he saw me riding bare-legged, forcing me to ride in shame at the back of the group?

I did my best to resist the temptation, but could not. The PayPal account was positive. The call of new clothing was a siren song. I crawled like a drunk, fallen hard off the wagon, down the aisle of Competitive Cyclist Men’s Clothing, hands trembling, mouth dry, and clicked “purchase.”

Oh well. It’s Christmas somewhere.



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Fall is in the air

December 22, 2016 § 34 Comments

The Internet is a weird thing. You make friends with people first, get to know them, and then you make friends “in reality.” Perhaps epistolary relationships were once like this, but not really. On the Internet you get photos, social media updates, and so much more information about the stranger with whom you’re friends. It’s not like you have to wait six months for a steamer to carry your letter to China.

Anyway, my friend and I met up at the Center of the Known Universe, shared a coffee, swapped some stories, and then he offered up a choice bit of blogging that you can read here: If you don’t laugh, there’s something wrong with you.

And plagiarism being the first legitimate son of flattery, and the profligate deadbeat dad of copyright infringement, I immediately took his idea and decided to imitate it as best I could. Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments.

Unlike Vlad, I don’t remember all of my falls, but like him there are several that stand out, proving the adage “It’s not if, it’s when.”

  1. Childhood bicycle falling off incidents: There were many of these but I don’t remember any of them except the time I wasn’t paying attention and rode my bicycle off the edge of Galveston’s 15-foot seawall onto the rocks below. I still remember my father screaming as I plunged. I landed on a massive granite boulder, unhurt, looking up at my dad peering over the ledge in horror as my brother peered over in glee. I noted at the time and still note that fifteen feet goes by rather quickly.
  2. Junior high school bicycle falling off incidents: I rode my bike to school every day for three years and never fell off.
  3. High school bicycle falling off incidents: These were the only three years of my life that I didn’t ride a bicycle. And I never fell off.
  4. Head under the car falling off incident: I had just bought my first road bike, a Nishiki International, in November, 1982, from Phil Tomlin at Freewheeling Bicycles in Austin. I would later note that the purchase of a road bicycle drastically increases one’s chances of falling off. I was swooping around the turn from E. 30th onto Speedway when my bike slid out and I slid with it. There was a parked car on the far curb and I slid under the car. My body went beneath the car and my head slammed against the bottom of the door. It hurt. I made note of the dangers of excessive swooping and went on to class. My bike was unhurt.
  5. Chris Hipp bicycle falling off incident. This was a Cat 4 race in Dallas in 1984, a downtown crit. On the second lap Chris Hipp moved over onto my front wheel and I fell down. I was amazed at how hard the pavement was and how everything came to a stop in my world, while everything in the world of the other bicycle racers didn’t change at all, as evidenced by the fact that they kept riding and I lay there. My bike was unhurt, but I hurt my finger and quit.
  6. Japan wrong-way bicycle falling off incident: For many years I didn’t fall off my bicycle despite much racing and training. Then I moved to Japan and one day was bombing down a twisty little hill in Utsunomiya. I caught the green light at Heisei Dori just past the little stationery shop called Silver Business, went right full speed, and set up to make a swooping left the wrong way up a one-way street. They had a green light and I was so enjoying the swoop that I failed to notice I was swooping directly into the front of an oncoming car, followed by swooping onto the hood and even more swooping onto the windshield. I was unhurt but my front tire flatted and my pink Tommasini got scratched. The driver later tried to get me to pay for his bent hood and threatened me with yakuza.
  7. Japan wrong-side-of-street falling off incident. I was bombing a descent coming back from Nikko. It had straightened out and I was slowing down when a car appeared. The road was narrow and the driver moved over as far as he could to the left, which is the side he was supposed to be on. I panicked and forgot which side of the road I was supposed to be on, and hugged the right, which was his left. There was a tiny gap between his fender and the sheer rock wall. My handlebars wedged, I flipped, and landed sitting up at the rear of the car. My butt hurt and when I raised my head the little girl in the back seat screamed, as my face was just an inch or two away. My bike was unhurt but my butt was not. I hurried home in case he too was friends with the yakuza.
  8. Houston wet patch falling off incident. One day I was riding home along the Buffalo Bayou bike path. I exited the path onto South Braeswood, and as I turned I hit a wet patch and fell off my bicycle. I felt really stupid and I am pretty sure I looked even more so. My bike was unhurt but my pride was wounded, grievously.
  9. Ganado backflip bicycle falling off incident. One day I tried a wheelie on Ganado. The first part of the wheelie worked, but the second part didn’t, as it kept on going, all the way until the wheelie stopped with the back of my head slamming against the pavement. A lady and a lawn guy watched in amazement and rushed to my aid. My bike was unhurt, my helmet was mortally wounded, and I was a few more IQ points down.
  10. Wheatgrass bicycle falling off incident: It was my first season of cyclocross so I was pumped with my great skills. As we swooped from PV North onto the right-hander at the reservoir, my front tire flatted. In mid-swoop I hit the ground and tore an armwarmer. My bike wasn’t hurt and neither was I. My armwarmer was hurt.
  11. 2013 BWR bicycle falling off incident: On the second BWR we dropped off the bike path and rode along some dirt and then came to a big wall. I hit something and went flying for a long way in the air. When I landed, Johnny Walsh rode by laughing. “That was the funniest crash I’ve ever seen,” he said. This carried some weight, because he has not only seen a million of them, but been involved in several hundred thousand himself. My bike was unhurt.
  12. Orange County Cyclocross falling off incident. My first ‘cross race on a BMX course, I hit the deep sand and several people in front of me did too, only when they hit it they fell, so I naturally hit them and fell, too, and naturally the people behind me hit me and subsequently fell. Everyone fell. My front derailleur was so hurt it broke but I finished the race, unhurt.
  13. Eldorado Park Cyclocross falling off incident. I was charging along (not swooping) when suddenly I went over the handlebars and landed on my head. No one was nearby as I was comfortably positioned in last place, the road was straight, and there were no bumps or roots. My bike was unhurt but again, thankfully, my brain bore the full impact of the fall.
  14. 2015 BWR bicycle falling off incident: I had just charged out of the deep sand at Sandy Bandy and went swooping onto the gravel road which had a bend in it. Too late, I realized that there was too much swoop and too little bend. I hit a cactus and landed in another one. There were a billion prickles but amazingly I hit none of them. My bike was unhurt, which was doubly good because it wasn’t my bike.
  15. Dana Point Grand Prix bicycle falling off incident: This particular year there was a standing pool of blood where the screaming wide descent hooked right onto PCH. Many people fell in the blood, adding more blood, but I fell on the straightaway for no apparent reason except that maybe someone else did something at some time in such and such a way and etcetera. My bike got hurt and broke a spoke and Matt Hahn broke a hip. I got the spoke fixed, had a beer, and did the next race, finishing DFL. Matt, whose hip wasn’t fixed quite as easily, gave up bicycle racing, and presumably bicycle falling off as well.
  16. Velodrome falling off incident: I was riding around with Tara Unversagt and heard some riders coming up behind us fast and panicked and jerked my wheel up track and fell, sliding down track with many ass splinters from the spruce boards. Bike was unhurt, but ego was battered because Roger Young jerked me off the track for the day.
  17. Great October 2013 NPR mass bicycle falling off incident. There was a huge crash on the NPR. I wasn’t implicated but as everyone around me fell, I inexplicably slammed the eject button a/k/a the front brake, and catapulted myself onto my head. My bike was mortally wounded with a cracked integrated seatpost but Giant replaced the frame for free and the only thing I permanently damaged was my brain.
  18. Nutsack breaking incident of 2015. This has been well chronicled. I fell on the Via del Monte hairpin and shattered my nutsack. My bike was unhurt but the nutsack required advanced nutsack resuscitation and the use of paddles to revive it.

I’m sure there are others, but thankfully I remember them not.



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Holiday greeting card

December 21, 2016 § 16 Comments

Dear Friends and Family:

It has been a wonderful year that we can all look back on with great happiness and satisfaction; not just at a job well done but at all jobs done superlatively well.

Although 2016 began with a crushed nutsack and mandated time off the bike to allow it to grow back, things quickly became wonderful and great in pretty much every way. At the Santa Barbara Road Race I was leading the charge and positioned to win first place in the Somewhat Elderly But Not Yet Dead category, when I got a puncture. Still it was very satisfying to stand by the road in the mud holding up a wheel and looking very spiffy, along with that “But for this wheel I would have won” look, which I have patented.

Next came my favorite race of the year where I typically am unstoppable and have in the past dominated with numerous impressive moves that have almost resulted in winning or even finishing, such as the time I flatted on my way to victory in a two-man break with a couple of miles to go with Jon Flagg who although I have never beaten would surely have beaten that day but for the flat tire. This year Boulevard Road Race saw me unleash a tour of force and I was on the cusp of snatching victory were it not for deciding that on Lap 2 of the three-lap race that it made more sense for me to prepare for next year by helping my teammates when they came through the start-finish so I pulled out and sacrificed what everyone agreed were impeccable chances for victory that was almost sewn up.

I had another impressive victory facsimile at Vlees Huis Road Race, where I dominated the field up until the last little bit and decided to then ride by myself for a while, giving the peloton, which included my teammates Greg Leibert and Greg Seyranian, a chance for a victory because it would have been rude and lame to beat them. Although I technically finished behind everyone, in fact I finished ahead of everyone who quit and finished even farther ahead of those who didn’t even race, which was over seven billion people.

Few race results, however, were as satisfying as the UCLA Road Race. A couple of hard efforts in the first ten minutes signaled to the field that I was the rider to beat, so they all worked against me to make sure that I was isolated fifteen minutes into the race and forced to ride by myself. I won the time trial that day and it did not bother me at all that other riders were ahead of me, drafting and riding tactically while I showed the true grit of riding solo some few minutes in the rear along with a truly impressive pair of Cat 5 riders who had been dropped from their group and I taught them several important riding skills and techniques. Which they appreciated.

But enough about me, if such a thing is possible. Many great things were achieved by others in our humble cycling community as well.

Prez purchased one of the new Samsung invisibility cloaks and vanished. Somewhere someone is buying $423,000 worth of used cycling equipment and bright green bicycle clothing on eBay. Prez has been missed, most especially on the Donut Ride and Wheatgrass Ride where he climbs in his 54 x 11 to build amazing off-season power and provide job security to his knee specialist.

Homegrown pro Krista D-H won her first national title thanks to the coaching advice and instruction I provided when she first began cycling. I remember it like it was yesterday. She had not asked me for any advice, so I gave her some. “Don’t listen to anyone who you’re not paying to tell you what to do. Especially me.” The rest is history.

Local hero and jockstrap model Dopefinn Dopesquatch was tested more times than Lance Armstrong and rode his way cleanly to 10,000 of the toughest Strava KOMs in Los Angeles despite a federal criminal conviction for the illegal sale and distribution of bad things. Then retired professional racer Phil Gaimon moved to town, and Dopesquatch’s KOM count now stands at 2, one for the .002-mile stretch of pavement behind the security gate, and one for the hallway between his kitchen and bathroom. But we are rooting for you, Dopefinn! You can take back the Mandy KOM if you’ll just drink more fruit juice.

Adventure capitalist and very tiny bald Internet troll Robert Buttchaps is rumored to have embarked on a “Save the Cyclists” program designed to support the installation of Bikes May Use Full Lane signage in Palos Verdes Estates, in conjunction with a “Lunada Bay Boys Love-In” featuring a tummy-rubbing of various middle-aged men still living on mom’s couch. If this report is true, we are hopeful that “Shrimpy McTroll” will show up at the city council meetings to lend his pint-sized authority and prestige to this worthy cause, or at least come dressed in his best sandwich board!

Hope all of you cyclists out there in cycle land have a great holiday season and much cycling success in 2017, too, but not so much success that you keep beating me in races or on the Donut Ride. This means you, Derek.



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Bone idling wanker

December 20, 2016 § 9 Comments

I have a bad memory. That’s why I write shit down. But some things stick, and none more than Sir Bradley Wiggins’s famous insult in 2012 that anyone who questioned the purity of his athletic achievements was a bone-idling wanker.

And then it turns out that in the year that he bone-actived his way to victory at the Dauphine, he had received a mysterious medical package, hand-delivered to his doctor for administration the day before Wiggins won the overall classification.

Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Sir David Brailsford, the boss of Team Sky committed to clean sport and transparency, to discuss the contents of the package.

CitSB: So what was in the package?

Sir D-B: Which package?

CitSB: Wiggins’s package.

Sir D-B: Oh, no one’s ever going to get Brad’s package.

CitSB: Uh, we’re not talking about his junk, Sir David.

Sir D-B: Heh, heh. Couldn’t resist a little joke there.

CitSB: So can you give us the chronology, starting with why Simon Cope, the guy carrying Wiggo’s package, was at the Dauphine the day before the final stage?

Sir D-B: Of course. Nothing simpler. Simon Cope had come to La Touissiere to meet up with Emma Pooley.

CitSB: Who?

Sir D-B: Emma Pooley. She was our Olympic silver medalist in 2008 and Simon was the coach of the women’s team. Nothing simpler. Just checkin’ in with one of his charges.

CitSB: Emma says, and I quote, “I absolutely was not at the Dauphine Libere in 2011, or any other year, and I absolutely did not meet Simon Cope there.”

Sir D-B: Did she say that? Oh, right. Of course. Yes. Well, that’s odd isn’t it?

CitSB: It is. So what was in the package?

Sir D-B: I don’t know. I have no idea. Really, this whole thing was brought to my attention recently. I never saw a package. Obviously, now I can’t go back and know what was in the package.

CitSB: Did it contain cheating drugs for cheaters who cheat?

Sir D-B: Oh no, absolutely not. Never. Impossible.

CitSB: But didn’t you just say that you never saw the package and can’t go back and know what was in it?

Sir D-B: Did I say that?

CitSB: Yes. A couple of lines up.

Sir D-B: Goodness. That hardly makes any sense, does it?

CitSB: No. So what was in the package for Sir Bradley Wiggins?

Sir D-B: Well I suppose it’s quite obvious by now. It contained Fluimucil.

CitSB: It did?

Sir D-B: Yes, of course. Which is legal and not banned and doesn’t aid performance.

CitSB: And Simon Cope, the women’s cycling coach, flew from Manchester to Geneva to deliver the Fluimucil?

Sir D-B: Why yes, obviously, which is perfectly legal and not banned and doesn’t aid performance.

CitSB: But Fluimucil isn’t sold in the UK, is it?

Sir D-B: No, I suppose it isn’t.

CitSB: So it wasn’t available in Manchester, where Cope was flying from, and was available in France, where Wiggins was racing, for about eight euros, right?

Sir D-B: Well yes, I suppose it was.

CitSB: So Simon Cope flew a thousand miles to deliver a legal over-the-counter medicine not sold in Britain that Wiggins could have picked up for ten bucks?

Sir D-B: It sounds a bit preposterous, I must say.

CitSB: Okay, stranger things have happened.

Sir D-B: It is cycling, remember.

CitSB: Right. So what did Wiggins do with the legal non-performance enhancing Fluimucil the day before the big stage race he won which was his biggest professional road victory to date?

Sir D-B: He didn’t “do” anything. The package was given to his doctor, Dr. Freeman. And Freeman administered the Fluimucil.

CitSB: He did?

Sir D-B: Yes, of course. Put it into a nebuliser, you know, a little spray thingy that goes up the nose. A spritzer type thing.

CitSB: He did that with Fluimucil?

Sir D-B: Absolutely.

CitSB: It says on the Fluimucil web site that Fluimucil is for oral ingestion only. You drop a couple of tablets in water and drink it. Why would he have needed a doctor for that?

Sir D-B: That’s a very good question. An excellent one, actually. However it’s important to note that Fluimucil is not banned, is legal, and is not a performance enhancing drug.

CitSB: Neither is sand.

Sir D-B: Good point, that. I say, you’re a bit of a clever chap.

CitSB: Thank you.

Sir D-B: We’ve got a couple of openings here at Team Sky if you’re interested.

CitSB: Really?

Sir D-B: Send me your resume after we finish. And try to make this look good, okay? Perhaps you could spin the angle about other teams doping, or perhaps we could give you a ride in the team bus? Have an espresso with Wiggo and the boys?

CitSB: You got it, Sir David.



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Mechanical dopes

December 19, 2016 § 23 Comments

As the revelations unfold, it’s deja vu all over again. Cheaters use new technology to cheat. What a surprise.

The difference this time is that the cheating is in the bike, not in the dope who rides it. And the other difference is that even though as a percentage only a very few people will take drugs like EPO and testosterone to improve their bike performance, virtually every rider ever born will spend money to upgrade a bike so that it goes faster.

Ergo the distinction between bikes and motorcycles, a distinction that evaporated with the advent of mass-produced e-bikes and has now, with tiny motors, completely obliterated it. The bike used to be a thing that you pedaled. When your pedaling stopped, so did the bike.

Now the bike is a hybrid. Even though your pedaling wilts, the bike can either replace it completely with 100% electro-assist, or replace it in tiny watt-increments for very short periods of time, allowing you to hang on just long enough to get over the climb. And since no one knows whether you have the bike motor on the group ride, you might as well go big, right? Go big or go home. Isn’t that a saying somewhere?

We can also expect that technology will continue to make smaller motors that are even more powerful. Eventually the cranks and pedals will be part of an illusion that masks what’s really happening underneath. People who genuinely suck on a bike in every conceivable parameter will be able to go as fast as Phil Gaimon.

Of course they won’t actually be able to descend safely at speed, or navigate a pace line at speed, or thread a peloton at speed, or do any of the things that keep really good riders from falling and getting hurt/killed. And of course they will, with their miserable skills, endanger others. But none of that matters because they will be able to GO FAST while LOOKING LIKE A CYCLIST.

We are quickly reaching that point of perfect destruction, where racing fails because no one wants hard races, where cycling becomes a fashion competition of clothing and equipment, and where performance has more to do with motors than it does with your bodily engine.

Hey, it’s motor sports for slow people, and by the way, go ahead and have that second bacon cheeseburger.

The positives abound. We’ll be able to wear actual protective gear because the weight and comfort penalty of thick padding and legitimate helmets that truly protect your skull will be zero. That will save countless collarbones, hips, wrists, concussions, and especially lives.

Motorized fake cycling will push bike speeds to the point that the rider can absolutely hold the speed of traffic. No more edge riding, no more silly fights about “Bikes May Use Full Lane,” no more assholes screaming at you to “Ride on the sidewalk!”

Distances will melt. Instead of being limited to the same 50-mile route, you’ll be able to throttle it for the first 80 miles until you get to where you really want to ride, then do your motor-assisted “workout,” then motor back home, all for the price of a single battery charge.

Racing (it’s already happening) will become the equivalent of 50cc competitions. The really good riders will have phenomenal high-speed handling skills and will judiciously know when to add in a huge effort for the last 3-km sprint (forget the 200m-to-go marker), and they’ll know just when to combine motor with legs to initiate the break, bridge, or surge.

Group rides will likewise boil down to informal contests that involve ballsy, high speed moves, some degree of fitness, top-notch motors, and skilled use of legs at just the right time in just the right amount. Power meters and battery life will no longer be training tools, they will be absolute outcome determinants. Just as car racers win by managing power output, fuel reserves, and tire tread, cyclists will have one eye on the power meter and one eye on the battery level. Charging devices aren’t far behind, either, where descents will power your battery back up as you ride.

Best of all, the pathetic egos of old men will be massaged by finally being able to buy their way into the head of the peloton–not the peloton of weekend hackers, but the head of the field with actual professionals. As with the existing masters racer who owns the lightest bike and the best equipment, purchasing power will now catapult the lamest, most over-the-hill, delusional old farts to la course en tete.

I’d argue, in fact, that we’re already there. Electronic shifting has changed the game in so many respects. By removing all physical and mental penalties to changing gears, battery powered components give you an edge. You can try two or three gears in a split second to find the right one. Imagine doing that with down tube shifters and six cogs.

Battery powered components will increasingly provide an energy supply for other drive train and braking components. As mental and physical energy is no longer devoted to the workings of the bike, more is left over to pedal hard and to race. You’ll go faster, farther, and use less energy to do it.

The only casualty is bicycling. Power meters and onboard computers have meant for years now that no ride really happens until the microprocessor begins recording. Strava increasingly defines the significance of your ride. Was it viewed? Was it liked? Did it reflect various amazing trinket-worthy milestones?

If today you can’t throw a leg over without a charged derailleur battery, charged lights, a functioning power meter, and a charged personal tracking device, how much of a qualitative change is it, really, to add in a tiny motor? Or a large one? It’s better than sitting on the couch, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

The bicycle is no longer an inert lump of rubber and metal, dead until a person mounts it and presses down on the pedal. It’s no longer a measure of strength, a promise of improvement, or a hammer to smash the fetters of daily life and spring you into the freedom of your dreams.

It’s just another appliance. So don’t forget to plug it in.



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