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.

END

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Strava announces anti-doping policy

March 25, 2016 § 21 Comments

The popular social media running-cycling app Strava announced today that it has instituted an anti-doping policy, effective immediately.

“We’re going to go back and re-analyze every segment ever recorded,” said CEO and co-founder Michael Horvath from the company’s San Francisco headquarters. “First we’re going to use a proprietary algorithm we’ve developed to match every single segment against our proprietary Body Type Database. If the number doesn’t match the body type, the segment will be automatically flagged.

“Once flagged, the member will get an ‘Uh-oh, looks like you’re a fuggin’ cheater!’ email, and have a five-day window to lodge an appeal with the new Strava Performance Integrity Team. SPIT will review the appeal and then make a final ruling.”

When asked how many segments would likely remain in Strava’s global database of 15,923,281,066 recorded segments, Horvath responded “About six.”

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Wind is a cruel mistress

March 16, 2016 § 6 Comments

One of the really great horrible things about cycling here in the South Bay is that there are so many opportunities to get on your bicycle and go have a wonderful miserable ride. One of the best most terrible rides is the Telo World Championships, held every Tuesday at 6:00 PM after the switch to daylight-saving-but-sanity-losing time.

Telo is often referred to as a training crit but no one is sure what it really trains you for except perhaps to make poor choices and suffer unpleasant consequences. I’m not sure that by age 52 I need any more of those opportunities, having already elected marriage, children, law, and a host of other fantastic awful choices.

Still, the hallmark of truly stupid people is that they apply poor judgment skills across a wide spectrum of experience, and Telo is no exception. As a beneficially destructive training crit, the mythology goes like this.

KK: What do you think about me doing Telo?

Wanky: You crashed in the Cat 4 race and said you were going to quit racing for a while.

KK: But I was told Telo is a great training crit by really experienced people.

Wanky: Are these the same people who encouraged you to race your bike?

KK: Yes.

Wanky: Well okay then.

KK: But do you think I should so it?

Wanky: My coaching services have been suspended by the state so we’ll pretend this is Scrabble and all I have is a “q” and an “x.” I’ll pass.

KK: But my thinking is that since I’m really freaked out by Cat 4 races that maybe I can get acclimated to racing better by doing Telo.

Wanky: That’s possible. I’m just not aware of any 27-second crits being promoted by Lotts. Or anyone else.

KK: What do you mean? I thought Telo was a hour long.

Wanky: It is for some people.

KK: What’s that supposed to mean?

Wanky: Unlike sanctioned crits, Telo lumps everyone together. So the leaky prostate profamateurs like me and the boot-shaking Cat 4’s like you have to race with the young, the strong, the fast, the quick, the savvy, the relentless, and basically everyone who has a 30-second recovery whereas we have like, 3 minutes. Plus we have to race with Smasher who specializes in attacking the shit out of everyone all the time, especially his breakaway mates with a lap to go so the breakaway can fail and get caught by the swarm and all our efforts can result in 38nd place.

KK: But why 27 seconds?

Wanky: That’s the average time that a newcomer lasts at Telo.

KK: So it’s harder than my Cat 4 race?

Wanky: The first 27 seconds will be. After that you can leisurely pedal around the office park and memorize the lessees of all the offices.

KK: So why do you always do it then?

Wanky: I don’t. I didn’t do it at all last year, and only a handful of times the year before. It’s a really fun unhappy race with lots of very safe deadly opportunities to get hit head-on by traffic in the chicane, plus it has a 25-mph headwind for half a mile every lap that feels really good fucking awful beyond belief.

KK: So I shouldn’t do it?

Wanky: Still nothing here but x’s and q’s.

Shortly thereafter, KK and I lined up and did Telo. KK’s race lasted a lot longer than 27 seconds but it was nonetheless very helpful in a tearing-down, lonely, and defeating kind of way. We chatted afterwards.

Wanky: So, how was it?

KK: I loved it! It was awesome! This is just what I need! I can’t wait ’til next week!

Wanky: Oh, brother.

END

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Taiwan by the numbers

March 12, 2016 § 11 Comments

$1,672.23–Round-trip coach airfare for two with one stop in Shanghai, not necessarily at the airport listed on the itinerary.

$1,200.00–Five nights at the Shangri-La Hotel Tainan. Presidential suite, lights-out breakfast (all you can gorge on) that includes full Chinese buffet, Western style breakfast buffet, ordering off the menu, or all of the above. You will start your day with a massive waddle. Also includes a happy hour with free drinks and exquisite food which, if you are like us, quickly becomes happy dinner.

$0.00–Amount spent on dinner for seven days.

$3.25–Average daily cost of lunch for two at the noodle shop down the street.

$0.00–Amount spent on coffee and cakes and snacks because the hotel’s Presidential suite package includes all-day coffee/tea/cake/snack service.

10–Hours spent in the gym on the stationary bike vainly trying to work off breakfast and happy dinner.

4–Hours per day spent walking around the city.

$0.00–Cab fare.

$1.50–Bus fare for five days.

$76.00–Cost of a four-hour personalized tour guide who won’t speak to you in Chinese even though that’s what you’ve ostensibly paid him for.

$6.00–Cost of souvenirs which comprised a loaf of Castella pound cake.

$150.00–Cost of two round-trip bullet train tickets from Taipei to Tainan.

125–Pages I conquered in Ulysses.

5–Times I washed my Team Lizard Collectors kit in the bathtub.

2–Pocket umbrellas we bought.

6.50–Cost of pocket umbrellas.

165–Times that people spoke to Mrs. WM in Chinese.

0–Times people spoke to me in Chinese even after I spoke to them in Chinese.

15–Bird species I successfully identified out of a total species list for Taiwan of over 500.

$0.00–Amount spent on tips.

$4.50–Amount spent on postcards and postage. Yes, they still have postcards.

1–Days we got rained on while out tramping around.

5–Nights we planned to go to the Night Market, famed for its food stalls.

0–Nights we went to the Night Market thanks to the Horizon Club’s happy dinner.

$175.00–Amount left over from my 7-day spending budget of $500.00.

4–Pairs of underwear brought.

1–Wend baseball caps lost at LAX.

1–Artsy, kanji-covered baseball caps bought in Tainan.

1–Pairs of pants brought.

1–Pairs of swim trunks brought.

0–Times swim trunks worn.

3–Massages gotten by Mrs. WM at the hotel spa.

0–Times I didn’t wake up between 2:00 and 3:00 AM.

2–Days I stayed awake past 7:00 PM.

0–Angry days.

24–Hotel staff who recognized us as “The Hungry Davidsons.”

END

 

 

 

Does anybody here speak Chinese?

March 10, 2016 § 14 Comments

I am an easy tourist to please. I don’t care about the food, the bed, the bedbugs, the rats in the kitchen, the pickpockets, the surly wait staff, the closed attractions, the lost baggage, the little ant-mounds of filth in the door-corners of the airplane lavatory, or the highway robbery airport exchange rate.

The only thing I want is the one thing I can’t have. Of course.

If you thought that after making your way to a dusty little corner of a dusty little island stuck off on the edge of a dusty little ocean where everyone is Chinese that it would be really easy to get people to speak to you in Chinese you would be wrong. Frightfully, terribly, credit-default-swap-mortgage-backed-securities-wrong.

From the moment we got to Taiwan, everyone did in fact speak Chinese. But they refused to speak it to me. This was pure racial discrimination. No matter how many times I said, “Where are the oxtail suspenders?” or “How do we get to the plutonium?” or “What is the cost of a young girl like your wife?” and no matter how smilingly I said it, the result was always the same: The person being addressed ignored me and spoke to Mrs. WM.

“Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese,” she would answer, upon which utterance they would repeat themselves. It was like being the ugly American in reverse, where instead of shouting slowly in English to make the locals understand, the local shouted quickly in Chinese because whether or not Mrs. WM could speak Chinese she looked Chinese and when forced to choose between someone who looked Chinese but couldn’t speak it and someone who looked tall and white and who was urgently asking “Which cow to the upper bowl of noodles?” they defaulted–every single time–by talking to the fake Chinese person.

At one point Mrs. WM even said, “I’m Japanese!” at which point the person said to her, in perfect English, “All of Asia is our little brother.”

If we’d had Kim Jong-Un around I’m sure the nukes would have been loosed.

Of course the hotel staff was super pro at ignoring people who tried to foist off their bad Chinese thereby complicating their lives, confusing them about what was actually being asked for and generally giving everyone a headache, so they simply smiled and answered everything in English.

“Ni hao!” I’d brightly say as we showed for the 6:30 AM breakfast at 6:31 and have thirds before the next guests even arrived.

“Good morning!” they’d say.

“Qing gei women liang bei kafei,” I’d ask to which they’d reply “Cream and sugar?”

Before long I was enraged as I watched my entire trip swirl down the toilet, although it wasn’t exactly rage because four days in I still had only spent a hundred bucks, and nothing salves a wounded ego like a bargain. Still, fo this I’d spent the last seven months torturing my family with 5:00 AM radio programs? For this I’d memorized two dozen Chinese characters? For this I’d paid $46 each for books 1 and 2 of the New Chinese Practical Reader?

No and hell no.

So I went to the concierge and asked for a town tour guide who would conduct the whole tour in Chinese. “Sure,” he said. “$2,500 okay?”

I did the math and it came out to either $76 or $760, so I took a chance and said “Yes.”

The next morning Mr. Zhou showed up and we started off. “How are you today?” he said. “My name is Zhou.”

“Please only speak to me in Chinese,” I said.

“Okay,” he answered, and began a torrent of Chinese, none of which I understood. However, having been married to Mrs. WM for 30 years and still not understanding much more than 5% of everything she says, I handled him easily. You can fake anything with a smile and a nod and $76 bucks.

An hour or so went by and I was completely not understanding anything at all, not even a little, and Mr. Zhou knew it. He feebly tried to switch to English a couple of times but I smacked him down. “Chinese only, please,” I said.

As he began to stare into the maw of an 8-hour day speaking to the human equivalent of a tree stump, his sails visibly slackened. Two hours later he was completely exhausted, depressive, and sunken into despair. I of course was thrilled. I’d finally found someone I could force to speak Chinese. So what if I couldn’t understand anything? What the hell was there to understand, anyway?

“This old place was founded by this old person and these old people killed these other old people and here are some pots and a painting and bunch of stones.” History is the same everywhere.

However, Mr. Zhou’s momma didn’t raise no dummy. He eventually realized that he could realize his secret goal, which was getting me to hire him so he could practice his English, by “translating” everything from Chinese to English for the “benefit” of Mrs. WM, who was about as interested in historical facts as she was in learning to iron, probably less.

Pretty soon it was all English, all the time. “Hey,” I’d protest “what about the Chinese?” Mr. Zhou would then ask me in Chinese “Do you need to use the bathroom?” or “How old are your children?” and go right back to Englishifying with Mrs. WM.

By the end of the day I was completely exhausted, depressive, and sunken into despair. What kind of loser can’t even pay someone in a country filled with Chinese speakers to speak to him in Chinese? Wait a minute. You don’t have to answer that.
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In our backyard

March 10, 2016 § 45 Comments

Life, the real kind, unfettered and un-faked by the Internet and social media, is a personal thing. It’s encapsulated by these phrases which remind us that it’s not the masses that matter, it’s the person.

“All politics are local.”

“Nothing ever happens until it happens to you.”

And this: “Misery is news but tragedy is personal.”

The closer it is the more you feel it, and even though I was 7,000 miles away yesterday I felt the death of Jonathan Tansavatdi, a cyclist who rides for my club, Big Orange. Jon was killed when he was hit by a truck as he descended Hawthorne Blvd., a road that every cyclist in the South Bay knows intimately.

These words were written by his best friend and riding buddy, Matt Miller:

On March 8, 2016 Jonathan Tansavatdi died doing what he loved. Riding his bicycle.

Jon was a true friend. He was my partner on the bike. We rode together more than we rode alone, and we rode a lot, thousands of miles. Over those miles we became brothers. We shared our dreams, our fears, and our water bottles. My wife took care of his dog Leia when we’d spend entire days on the road, and he would always bring her a bag of Groundworks Coffee as a thank you. 

When he learned we didn’t have a coffee grinder, he bought us one.

Jon was a man of unlimited potential. On the bike he was becoming unstoppable. He was so strong that even after 180 miles he couldn’t keep himself from going off the front of our peloton time and time again at the Camino Real Double Century. On our last ride together, the FDR, we approached a cyclist who had passed us on Crest and was running out of gas. “Let’s come up on him slowly, then step on the gas and drop him,” I said.

“Let’s just go now,” was Jon’s reply. And then he dropped us both.

Jon wasn’t just strong, either. He was kind. After the last bro ride, we sat on our top tubes for 10 minutes outside his apartment while he gently encouraged Bader to ride hard, but also to ride more safely and obey the rules of the peloton.

Off the bike He was a prodigious success. He was a founding member of the Rubicon Project, a tech startup that made it big. He just left to found another start up company that had already secured several million in investments.

Perhaps most impressively, Jon had invented his own photosharing app, nearly at the beta testing stage, that allows users to automatically share photos with friends nearby via bluetooth. We mused how useful an app like that would be on our rides.

More than anything, Jon loved his family. He spoke of his sisters and mother and wife with compassion, understanding, and a clear desire to protect them.

No one was more proud to be Orange. He wore our kit with honor and distinction and guts and a smile. He embodied our club’s only rule: Don’t be a dick.

Jonathan Tansavatdi was a beautiful human being that paid the ultimate price for living his dream every day. He was a hardman of the road, and he was my brother. He leaves this life aged only 29 years, but I will carry him in my heart and on my bike for the rest of my life.

Rest In Peace, brother. May a tailwind carry your soul to eternity.

Matt Miller

It’s all about the bike

March 9, 2016 § 14 Comments

Today there were no plans for cycling. Nor are we in the South Bay. (This meets Blogbot 4.5.7 system requirements to mention “cycling” or “South Bay” in order to generate today’s machine-written post.)

There were, however, plans to test the breakfast buffet, which had stir-fried vegetables, dim sum, baked sweet potato, curry & rice, bamboo shoots, and the best Oolong tea I’ve ever imagined.

Note: After careful observation I’ve concluded that the Chinese are somewhat expert at tea. Possible business/import opportunity here?

We were late for breakfast, which opened at 6:30 AM, arriving at 6:31-ish. After my second trip through the buffet I realized that this was going to wreck my diet for master’s states the week after we return, so I abandoned the Chinese buffet and ordered eggs Benedict and a waffle off the menu.

Mrs. WM looked askance. “Your tummy onna poppin’ your top button if you keep onna food shovel.”

“We’ll walk it off,” I said.

Mrs. WM took out her calculator. “What are you doing?” I asked. “There’s no tipping. It’s not even a place in China.”

“Thirty-five miles,” she said.

“Thirty-five miles to where?”

“To your skinny. Thatsa how far you gotta walkin’ today to lose one pound. And the way you onna eatin’ breakfast like starvin’ blogger you got two new tummy pounds my guessin’. So 70 miles walkin’ today. I’m onna taxi though.”

We left the hotel and it was a gorgeous morning and we started tripping. There are 3 to 12-inch drop-offs and step-ups along the sidewalks every fifty feet or so which either keeps you on your toes or puts you on your ass.

To get to the other side of the station we took an underground passageway reeking of piss and the refuge of a few bums on cardboard mats. One guy had shit his pants and rolled over in some old chicken bones and curry and seemed to be getting a pretty solid sleep or was dead or both.

I gave $50 NTD to a beggar and felt like a Rockefeller even though it was only about $1.50 USD.

We walked over to an old fort and strolled the grounds which were alive with birds. I got spotted dove, red collared dove, and black-vented bulbul, three outrageously beautiful birds. There were a couple of other obviously common birds I couldn’t identify, one with a striped breast and the most amazing red eyes I’ve ever seen not at a Grateful Dead concert.

It rained on us but we didn’t care, stopping at a tea shop and again enjoying this tea thing. I’m really starting to think that Westerners might like it.

Mrs. WM was super impressed when I ordered tea and we got coffee. “Your Chinese gettin’ better,” she said. “Lady knew you talkin’ Chinese anyway.”

END

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