South Bay round-up

May 17, 2016 § 8 Comments

Lots happening in the South Bay and environs, especially, say, France.

  1. How do you say “asskicking” in French? Big Orange rider and French transplant Evens Stievenart won the Route de l’Oise, a stage race just north of Paris that has over 200 racers and that includes the town of Compiègne, best known as the starting city for Paris-Roubaix. Evens is best known in the South Bay for riding everyone off his wheel on training rides; what’s less known is that he has only been racing for six years and already has close to 50 Cat 2 wins in France to go along with his most important victory, a win at the local Telo training crit a couple of weeks ago. Congrats, Evens!
  2. Blazingly fast! VC La Grange junior rider Ivy Koester won a state crit title at Barrio Logan Grand Prix on May 8. She is super fast, super smart, and has one of those smiles that let you know she’s having fun.
  3. I’ll have some victory on those pancakes, thanks. Southbay Wheelmen might consider changing its name to “Wheelwomen” thanks to junior rider Makayla Macpherson, who continued her batteringly good year in Bakersfield a couple of weekends ago, winning the Jumpstart crit, the road race, and then placing second in the women’s open 3/4 San Luis Rey road race. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that she’s 13.
  4. For a fistful of dollars. Big Orange junior  Bąđĕŕ Āqîł got his first race win on the challenging tough guy course out at Rosena Ranch this past weekend. Hats off to a dedicated and hardworking young man.
  5. Over the moon. Swami’s junior racer Ryder Moon Phillips picked up two more wins in what has been a breakout year, with victories in the time trial and crit at the Kern County Stage Race. We’re all looking forward to more great things from a talented competitor.
  6. The nerds strike back! Local South Bay riders were assaulted by a cager in a McLaren and they took what is now becoming the default defense for cyclists who are fed up with the casual violence directed against them: They went to the police, in this case the Palos Verdes Estates PD, and filed a complaint. The police not only took them seriously, but they opened an investigation. This clown’s world is about to get a lot more complicated. Please take a minute to read this post to see what you can do to defend yourself when you’ve been buzzed with a deadly weapon.
  7. Return of EA Sports, Inc. Rumor has it that the most feared sprunter in the South Bay, and the nicest guy anywhere, Eric A., is back on his bike after rebuilding his house from the nails up. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  8. Watering the grass. Joe Yule of StageOne Sports, a company otherwise known for making the best fitting, most comfortable, most stylish apparel in the cycling world (go suck an egg Rapha, ThorfinnDopesquatch, etc.), has single-handedly revived the venerable Torrance institution of the Telo training crit by posting a leaderboard, keeping track of finishes, rustling up sponsorship with the generous help of Dave Perez and Samsung, and has now even created a weekly winner’s jersey (I wear a men’s S, thanks). Telo now regularly hosts the best riders in the South Bay, including Evens S., Smasher Alverson, Derek the Destroyer, Paul Che, and any day now, YOU.
  9. People who make a difference. If you don’t know Joann Zwagerman, you will. A California native, she has come back home from the East Coast and thoroughly embraced cycling. She has singlehandedly created rides that focus on fun, friendliness, and welcoming people regardless of ability (whatever that is) who share the passion to pedal. Her legendary FDR Saturday ride in the South Bay, a wholesome alternative to the Donut Ride, is massive and actually features real donuts. More than that, her smile, her selflessness, her pro knack at getting the best selfie angles, her toughness (did the BWR Wafer ride without a hitch and finished it smiling!), and her willingness to help get done whatever needs doing are unmatched. One Joann has sent out ripples of kindness and enthusiasm that have, at last count, touched thousands.

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There is no try

February 27, 2016 § 25 Comments

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

This was recently lectured at me and it sounded way too fancy for this particular person to have dreamed up, so I Googled it and found that, of course, it came from a movie and, of course, from Star Wars which means, of course, that everyone knows about it except me.

I saw Star Wars once in 1977, thought it was a pleasantly funny movie, and haven’t thought about it since.

Apparently, I don’t know the “there is no try” thingy because it comes from the Yoda movie, which I never saw, but which was alleged to be more philosophically deep than Plato. Not bad for a muppet.

The context of my buddy’s comment was, of course, bike racing. “Why do something that you’re not gonna win?” he asked. “No one gives a shit if you try. Trying’s for losers. Either win it or don’t.”

“Yeah!” I said, and dashed off to the race next morning all prepared to fuck trying and get on with DOING, i.e. WINNING. BECAUSE TRYING IS FOR LOSERS AND I’M TIRED OF TRYING.

Unfortunately, instead of doing, I wound up with another 19-placed try.

To rub salt in the wound, the friend texted me that afternoon. “Did you DO?” he asked.

“Fuck off, you petersnizzle,” I almost texted. Then, remembering that Manslaughter is a subscriber, I refrained, and figured I’d respond in my blog, which he never reads past the first paragraph to see if he’s mentioned in it.

I think a lot of people subscribe to the Muppet Philosophy of It’s Better to Stay Home Than to Fail, and not just in bike racing. This is why couches keep getting bigger: They have accommodate ever-widening asses.

It’s very different from how things used to be when I went to Japan in 1987.

Of all the things that struck me most, aside from the squat toilets, the strikingest was the notion of “ganbaru,” or “try your hardest.” There wasn’t a word for “talented” in the way we use it to explain success. No one ever said, “He’s a talented athlete” as an explanation for a victory. But you couldn’t get through ten seconds of an interview with an athlete without him saying he was gonna “ganbaru” and he “hoped to ganbaru” and his analysis of the race was that he was gonna “ganbaru his ass off.”

The problem with getting your life lessons from a muppet in a bad movie, aside from the obvious, is that in order to win something you had to try at it. And since no one always wins, it means that sometimes you gave it your best shot and fell short, and instead of a trophy and the top step all you got was fifteenth place and a “try.” And since you never know whether this particular try is going to result in victory or defeat, and since all victories require the try, if you want any hope of winning you have to try.

It doesn’t make for warm couches with big, permanent ass-indentations.

And in bike racing, where the winningest pro of all time *only* won a third of his races, and where winning a single monument among a career of losses makes you a giant of the sport, it seems like not only is there try, but try is pretty much all there is. Servais Knaven tried really hard one day, like he’d been trying his whole life, and wound up kissing and hoisting the pave on the velodrome at Roubaix.

I’m heading out to the Boulevard RR shortly, Manslaughter. I may do. I will definitely try. And thank you for subscribing!

END

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The three pieces of the performance pie

November 6, 2015 § 12 Comments

I decided to write down everything I know about performance cycling.

There. That sure was quick.

Then I decided to write down the things that, although inappropriate for others or unorthodox, have helped me achieve competitive success on the bike.

Okay, done.

So that leaves me with my observations, and the problem with those is that they’re filtered through a brain that is politely described as “eccentric” and clinically described as “in need of strong medication.” But I regress.

The performance cycling pie has three equally sized slices. Well, they should be equally sized but they aren’t.

I. The training slice.

This is the one that in most pies covers  90% of the plate. I won’t tell you about training because you already know everything there is to know about it, which is why you won Paris-Roubaix last year. But I will tell you about my training slice for 2016 because it meets the only two criteria for a training plan that matter: It’s simple and I can do it.

  1. Don’t tire myself out. For decades I slogged and flogged, never passing up a long ride, never refusing an offer to take an interminable, stupid pull, never hesitating to follow up one hard workout with another, and then after that, another. But no mas. My new rule? If my legs feel flat I’m not riding. Why? Because I am old and wear out quickly, and if you’re over 40, so do you. You know how steel will wear out eventually? We’re not steel.
  2. Two hard efforts a week. Or less.
  3. Avoid any training regimen that involves data, or worse, social media, or worst, data and social media.
  4. Keep my weight at 150.
  5. Study Chinese more.
  6. Continue to finish each day with several tall, cold glasses of un-drunk beer. Recently I’ve been super enjoying not drinking Racer 6 IPA.

II. The aero slice.

This is the piece that some people focus on, but typically only as it concerns equipment.  The current battle for “Most Aero” is being viciously fought between Strava Jr. and Sausage. The one ground down his carbon stem (full carbon, that is) so that the bolts no longer protrude. The other booked a room in the Specialized wind tunnel for his tenth wedding anniversary.

Fully 1/3 of your performance pie should be devoted to aerodynamics. The easy part is buying shit and loading up on 100% carbon components that are full carbon and taking your wife to the wind tunnel. The hard part is riding aero (and ever getting laid again).

Riding aero differs from buying aero, and as an inveterate cheapskate I’ve failed at both. In addition to a lifetime devoted to poor training habits, I’ve also developed bad positioning into an art form. The idiot out on the edge of the peloton, catching all the wind? Me.

The dolt riding three bike lengths behind the last rider? Me.

The clod who’s always on the wrong side of the echelon? Me again.

Unsurprisingly, stupid training and bad positioning go together. The bulk of your aero efforts should be comprised of wheelsucking, something that most cyclists gravitate towards naturally, and selective drafting, something that few riders excel at. None, it should be noted, surpass Vinny D.

Selective drafting is like having to sample fifteen wines before you pick one to drink. You don’t guzzle the whole tasting glass, just like you don’t commit to Twitch Thudpucker’s wheel for half the race. You put a little in your mouth, swish it around, then spit it out. Same with drafting. The wheel you suck should itself be well positioned. It should be ridden by someone who typically makes the split. And it should feature a big old ass, one that is wide and with overtones of blackberry, perhaps even including a tart yet buttery finish that goes well with fish. The rear panel should not be beyond its expiration date a-la-Brad House. And if Kjar isn’t around, you must learn to never follow riders who are smaller than you.

This can be a challenge, because little people are often the best racers. No matter. Spit them out and ride behind the bigger butt.

One difficulty I have always had in wheel selection is the delusion that I am small. Because I sometimes end up with the climbers, I mistakenly assume that I’m like them. I’m not. They are tiny and delicate and cute and you want to cuddle them and hook them up to a cheeseburger I.V. bag. But I am not. I am long and stretched out and a kind of elongated wind sail. So sitting behind tiny people doesn’t work for me, and henceforth I will not sit behind them. You shouldn’t either. What you will find, however, is that tiny people are constantly sitting on YOU. Use this to your advantage by throwing back your rear wheel, veering unpredictably, or stopping for no reason. Think PREZ.

The final piece of aero riding is navigating within the pack. This isn’t that hard (I’m told), but it is terrifying. The lugs who occupy the middle of the pack are using 78.3% less energy than I am as I slog over on the side in the wind, but they are scary because they have head tattoos, pierced teeth, facial scars, jangling ear dangles made of brass that play jingle bells against their top tubes, and they don’t cry when their bars bump. If you can develop the steel nerves to sit in this viper’s den of angry killers, you will arrive at the finish fresh and rested. Good luck with that.

III. The strategy slice.

For a very few riders, this is 90% of the pie, and they always win a few races a year. Do you know Gibby Hatton? He shows up to races with no teammates, not very fit, and always wins a few. Why? Because he has perfected aero pack riding and because he knows exactly when to pedal hard–once, in the last 200 meters, sitting fourth or fifth wheel in the last turn.

The rest of us had strategiotomies at an early age and are more or less profoundly stupid and incapable of thinking during a race. That’s too bad (for us, not Gibby) because it means that at no time in the race do we actually try to answer this question: “How am I going to win today?” [Note: “Go from the gun and solo the whole race” is not a strategy, just like “Be president of the United States” is not a career plan.]

Why are we so stupid? Because strategy involves constantly evaluating your “plan to win” against what’s happening on the ground. It’s a great idea to attack on the final climb unless there’s already a break three minutes up the road. It’s a great idea to come around Charon at the finish but 30 other people have the exact same plan and most of them believe in open carry. It’s a great idea to splat on your face in the last ten meters but Prez already has that sewn up. Plus, it’s not really a good idea.

Although dynamically strategic thinking is impossible for me, it is possible to pick one concept and stick to it. For example, “Don’t be the strongest one in the break.” Or “Don’t lead out the sprunt.” Or “Pay off the best rider.” That last one generally works very well.

So that’s it. Go forth and win. And remember who taught you how.

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Turdy France predictions for Stage 3

July 2, 2012 § 9 Comments

Stage Three of the 2012 Turdy France is shaping up to be the most interesting one since Stage Two, which was stupid and boring beyond belief unless you enjoy watching colorwheel puree roll in a big sausage clump until the last ten minutes, when it strings out into a line of testosterone and EPO and the lazyfucks who’ve done nothing for twelve hours dash to the line, cop a pose, and pretend that their win is somehow similar to anything ever done by Merckx or Gimondi or Coppi or Anquetil or Hinault or Lemond.

About the stage

The race begins in Orchies, a French city better known for its two cobbled roads that are used in Paris-Roubaix, the “Path of Prayers” and the “Slaughterhouse Road.” Orchies comes from the Latin word for “testicle,” as the rough roads, paved with giant cobbled flagstones from the days of the Roman Empire, would result in a punishing beating to every man’s testicles who crossed these roads in a wooden cart.

With the advent of Paris-Roubaix, early participants suffered severe testicular torsion from the battering atop the cobbles, and it was not uncommon for physicians traveling with the race to perform lateral “orchiectomies” in the field, often without anesthetic, before putting the hardmen back on their bikes to continue on to Roubaix. Thus the town of Orchies has contributed much to medical terminology and to the lore of the sport.

The stage finishes in Boulogne-sur-Mer (“Baloney on Toast” in English), where the riders will face a series of tough finishing climbs designed to weed out Horseface and Humpty Ugly, while still giving a chance to gritty workmen like Fabs and Jensy.

Note to douchebag wheelsucker Sagan: Don’t even fucking think about it.

The Badger’s picks and pans

This stage won’t win the Tour for anyone, but it will be the death knell for several, as the time gaps at the end will show who’s on form and riding smart and who’s a pudgy wanker now paying for all those donuts. This page of the official Tour site has an excellent analysis by Bernard Hinault. My translation is below:

Riders nowadays are pussies. This stage will strip away the pretensions of the manorexic little body-waxers and beat them into submission. Look for Monsieur Mullet to do something stupid here and miss the break or crash out. The narrow roads and succession of hard climbs at the end while much of the wankoton is still fresh will test not only his ability to follow complex drugs protocol, but his ability to maneuver in tight places. I fully expect him to deflate or miss the key move. If I were still racing, this is the stage where I would attack, take the jersey, and then beat up a few socialist women protesting for equal pay.

Wankmeister calls ’em

Horseface will cling tough like a dingleberry, but ultimately be wiped off when the toughest climbs stare him in the face. Humpty Ugly? Hopeless.

Darkhorse whose day has arrived: Few people other than his mother and aunt Sophie know the name of Jean-Christophe Peraud, the routinier from Ag2R La Mondiale, and indeed, we have to go back to 2010 for his best result, a case of septicemia that developed after a crash. Tomorrow Peraud will inflame the peloton like his very own bacterial blood infection and lay waste to the weak and the infirm. Watch for a solo glory finish. And yes, I guarantee it.

Odds on fave you all wish would win: Fabs has everything in place to win this sage. He has the fitness. The experience. The cute mangled English tweets on Twitter that keep @mmmmaiko all hot, bothered, and sleepless in Seattle. But you know what? He’s gonna lose. Peraud will follow Fabs after he accelerates away from the field. They will trade pulls to the end, when Peraud drops him with 3k to go. Now shut the fuck up. It’s gonna happen, I’m telling you.

Best of the rest: Sagan, followed by Yauheni Hutarovich of FJD-Big Mat. Why Hutarovich? Because of how much fun it’s gonna be watching Phil Liggett try to pronounce his name.

Finally, a good book!

June 25, 2012 § 10 Comments

“A Century of Paris-Roubaix” by Pascal Sergent has all the makings of a wankerbook. The format is coffee table. The original French has been translated by Joe the Plumber and copy edited by his sister in between jar-shaking sessions while cooking meth. Worst of all, at the outset at least, is the approach to rendering Paris-Roubaix’s history into words, which is done like the race itself, beginning at the beginning and slogging through every cobbled, rutted, nasty, miserable year from 1896 to 1995, listing the palmares of every winner and listing the top ten finishers of every race with detailed descriptions of what happened to whom at which juncture.

But what looks bad out the outset turns into a very solid read.

Paris-Roubaix is really simple

The whole fucking century of races could be summarized thus: Legit contenders, plausible hopefuls, and what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-heres line up to race. Everyone bonks, gets worn out, crashes, punctures, or breaks some weird part of the bike like the handlebars or the pedal or some other part that never fucking ever breaks even when you get hit by a car.

Six racers or less remain with 20-km to go. Some Belgian dude named “–inck” or “–ooy” or “–erckx” wins. Like all great French races, the last time a Frenchman won was back in 1766.

Strategy

Winning Paris-Roubaix is even simpler than describing it. 1) Stay towards the front but not at the front. 2) Don’t crash more than four times. 3) Attack with 40-km to go. 4) Solo in or win the sprint. ) Be Flemish. There. Now you too can win at Roubaix.

The devil is in the details

The real treasure in reading this book lies in the details. Sergent’s annual recaps bring life to the small things that make the race a monument. The dude who first rode the course to see if it was suitable for a race found it ghastly, nightmarish, and undoable, while the man who came up with the idea in the first place thought it would be “child’s play” for any worthwhile racer.

In 1904 they held a second Paris-Roubaix in the same year, only the entire 265-km were ridden on the Roubaix velodrome. What a bunch of nuts…hunh?

In the early days there were controls where the riders had to get off their bikes and sign in; they likewise dismounted at feeding stations. For many years the first big split in the race occurred at a hill in Doullens, and the split there was often the deciding move of the race. It wasn’t until 1968 that the Arenberg Trench made its first appearance. These and numerous other fine points show how the race has fluctuated and shifted over the years.

The human element is as detailed and fascinating. When the first Italian, Jules Rossi, won in 1937, the flummoxed band at the velodrome didn’t know the Italian national anthem, used as they were to dominance by the Belgians and the occasional French winner, so they played a soft, stylish tune that sounded suspiciously like the Marseillaise.

Honey bait

The awesome thing about the coffee table book format is that it’s filled with pictures; fantastic ones. So even though everyone in your family yawns and walks away when you start talking about cycling, and especially when you mention Belgians with unpronounceable names, this book will absolutely attract interest. Before long, they’ll be asking you questions, and allowing you to play to your strong suit, which is making shit up.

“Hey, Dad, who is this?”

“That’s Toady Wampers, 12-time winner of the Tour. He won P-R that year in a 300-km solo break.”

“And what’s this?”

“That’s the finish line in Helsinki. One year they raced from Madrid to Helsinki, all on cobbles. Everyone died. It was very sad.”

Finally, you can appreciate this book by reading this review, as it’s no longer in print and is hard to find, and when you can find it (I got this from Alibris) it’s a whopping $25. Compared to some of the other dreck in the Cycle Sport reading list, though, it’s worth every penny.

Why Lance matters a lot and not at all

June 15, 2012 § 30 Comments

The lines split clearly: Leave the guy alone vs. Hang him from the neck until dead. Great arguments exist on both sides, and not because Lance is “polarizing,” as the media love to say. The lines split because The Lance Problem is really two problems. The camp you fall into depends on which question you’re trying to answer.

The sporting question

Cycling has rules for two reasons. The first is so that everyone knows how the game is supposed to be played. The second is so that people who deviate from how the game is supposed to be played can be punished. When a cyclist breaks the rules, his punishment will generally be determined in large part on whether or not he intended to break the rules or didn’t intend to break the rules. Hence, André Mahé lost his 1949 victory and was ruled a “co-winner” of Paris-Roubaix with Serse Coppi because Mahé had gotten off course in the last kilometer and had to enter the velodrome from the press box’s back door. At the other end of the spectrum, Riccardo Riccò and Tyler Hamilton were kicked out of the sport for the next 10,000 years for repeated intentional doping.

The sporting question has little to do with doping, and has everything to do with getting caught. You can cheat and break every rule in the book in order to win, and as long as you don’t get caught, you’re the winner. Sports like NBA basketball institutionalize intentional rule breaking as a key strategy. If a good scorer happens to be a poor free throw shooter, you foul him often to limit his effectiveness. In the early days of cycling, classics were won when the victor hopped in a motor car for a few miles over the roughest patches of road. It’s not cheating if you’re never caught.

People who think Lance should be left alone believe that for purposes of the bike race he was never caught cheating. He never tested positive according to the rules in place at the time. After-the-fact accusations about cover-ups and forged TUE’s and pressure from high places and eyewitnesses to team doping will never overcome the fact that during the window of time to protest his performance in the race, he cleared all the hurdles.

Whatever rules he did or didn’t break, your time to catch him is over. The game clock has expired, dumbshit. Move on. If you’re so fucking concerned about the sanctity of clean sport, why don’t you run a few tests at the local USA Cycling masters races? You’ll catch a lot more cheats and inspire a lot more confidence among participants that there’s an even playing field.

The justice question

People in the other camp view this as a matter of justice. If Lance cheated, then he defrauded a lot more than a few bike racers and their fans. He built an empire of philanthropy on a lie. He exemplifies the morality espoused by the most evil people in history, that the end justifies the means. He is a tyrant, and the things he has done on and off the bike strike at our most deeply held convictions of justice and truth.

For these people, Lance’s Tour victories and the way he achieved them are beside the point. The way he has relentlessly attacked, defended, bullied, vilified, and ruined the lives of his accusers makes him one of the truly despicable fraudsters of the 21st Century, especially since he has done all of these things under cover of being a cancer warrior while amassing a personal fortune and cult following in the process. If his actions were part of a conspiracy, so much the worse for us who were wronged, and for him who broke the rules with impunity.

These people can never lay down arms. A fraud and injustice this great goes to the core of who we are. Those who would lie and cheat on a global stage deserve a global noose.

Can we please stop talking about Lance now? Please?

If you’re a sporting type, you stopped caring long ago. You stopped caring because as soon as we began declaring non-winners and putting second-place Pereiros and Schlecks into the yellow jersey long after the race ended, the silliness of system was exposed. We’re supposed to follow the Tour on the edge of our seats for three weeks, celebrate the victor, and then wait for a year or so to see if he gets stripped of his jersey, and if he does, we’re supposed to laud the dude who got dropped on all the climbs and finished second?

You also stopped caring because at this point doping is factored into your view of the pro peloton. You know some people are doing it. You know that extraordinary results from ordinary people are suspicious. You know that just like in every other sport, some people will cheat and get away with it. And you know what? Who cares? Catch them if you can, but please let me sit back and enjoy the freak show and don’t remind me every ten minutes that it’s professional wrestling on bikes. And grab me another beer while you’re up.

Can we please pursue Lance to the ends of the earth? Please?

If you’re a justice type, or, Dog forbid, one of the people named Simeoni or Basson or Betsy or any other of a long list of people who’ve wound up in the Armstrong crosshairs, you’ll keep turning over stones and reading the news with glee and dissecting the battling legal memoranda forever. Someday you’ll write a book. You’ll never watch another bike race again, let alone enter one. You’ll die bitter and angry, even after Lance is sentenced to death by stoning, as you reflect on how he snatched the best years from you, when you were in your prime.

Let Wankmeister help

I believe that we can have the best of both worlds. We can keep following the sport that fascinates us and we can keep acknowledging that some of the feats performed by professionals are truly remarkable. We can pay some homage to the freaks, and sniff the occasional jock when the opportunity presents itself. We can also laugh at the athletes a little bit, knowing that, like you and me, they’ll cheat from time to time.

I also believe that we can recognize that the Lance Affair is something that has taken on a life of its own. Its scale and scope, the sheer number of people affected, and the arenas of sport, policy, healthcare, law, and politics that are involved mean that it has transcended the small, insignificant, and inbred world of competitive cycling from whence it came. The Lance Affair is now about the grand movements of the legal armies, the USADA armies, the cancer survivor armies, the political armies, the media armies, and the army of public opinion.

Life has finally gotten around to imitating fiction: Lance’s story is truly not about the bike, and hasn’t been for a long time. Long live the greatest Tour rider ever, RIP Lance.

Your bike outfit looks like dogshit. Other than that, it’s fine.

May 17, 2012 § 13 Comments

Okay, so when people want to know what to wear, Wankmeister isn’t on speed dial. I get that. But I do know a thing or two about fashion. Just because I always wear that black t-shirt, ratty jeans, and those Vans with the holes in the back doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what.

What’s What

For example there’s a difference between chick fashion and dude fashion. Chick fashion follows “TPO,” which means “Take my Panties Off.” Dude fashion follows “FOMI,” or “Focus On My Income.”

In other words, chick fashion is sexy, whereas dude fashion is all about brand recognition and money. Cycling fashion, however, is a unique blend. Tight, slinky, revealing stuff that is also designed to make you remember names and buy shit while hopefully not drawing too much attention that your junk is really tiny. Cycling clothes were gay before gay was the new straight.

Got that? Good.

A brief history of cycling fashion

A long time ago, cycling fashionistas wore wool shorts with real leather pads that scrunched up around your groin and acted as involuntary butt wiping rash inducers. You’d pull off the shorts along with a pound or two of brown crud. Yeccch.

Shorts were black. Shoes were black. Socks were white. Jerseys had a couple of sponsors’ names in big letters. Primary colors all the way, except for the occasional gay Italian ice cream sponsor who liked lime green and purple.

And that was pretty much fuckin’ it.

Modern cycling fashion

Then someone realized that plastic fabric was better than wool. It tore up easier. It was less comfortable. It didn’t breathe at all. And the synthetic chamois was originally a variant of sandpaper. But unlike wool, when you sweated it didn’t smell like an old tampon. So it prevailed.

The other thing that happened with cycling fashion is Adobe Illustrator. Every moron with a computer now had a 56-million color palette and the template for a bike outfit. At about the same time, local clubs realized that they could defray some of their beer money by selling ad space on their kits.

Real estate became scarce. Good taste became scarcer. Legit fashion and design skills became extinct. Pro and amateur teams alike wore whatever vomit some junior high school pre-accounting major with a laptop threw together. Design wasn’t an afterthought. It was an afterbirth.

Rewarding ugliness

Bicycling magazine recently posted a list of the best cycling kit designs in the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a shame that so little thought went into the piece, which could have shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the grotesquely ugly kits that generally blotify the pro and amateur pelotons, not to mention the “ride jerseys” and club outfits that litter our beautiful California landscape.

As a public service announcement, I’ve decided to review their list and comment on it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can sum it up thus: Get Joe Yule and StageOne to design your stuff. It’s really that simple.

1. Black proves you can’t design

“These lads know how to dress. Black jersey, black shorts, and stealthy black bikes—it’s all so punk-rock.” Uh, are you fucking kidding me? Black is the ultimate non-test of design. ANYTHING looks good in black. It’s the default color for slimming a double-wide butt, for repositioning curves that are in the wrong places, and for lifting saggy belly lumps that belong above the belt line…Black is such an addicting and easy color to design and dress with that once you get used to it, it’s hard to wear anything else, kind of like a vampire. But the problem isn’t that it’s “punk rock,” it’s psychotically depressing. It’s what people wear to funerals. It’s the color of religious clothing, judges’ robes, executioners’ masks, Ozzie Osbourne. Worst of all, it demonstrates zero design skill, because it goes with anything. Black bike. Black helmet. Black jersey. Black tires. Black deep dish rims. An occasional red highlight if you like the police car look, or a yellow one if you fancy bumblebees. Boom. You’re done. For cycling, as a design motif black sucks because it’s a slow and boring color. That’s bad, because for spectators, cycling is already a slow and boring sport. You want excitement on two wheels? Watch a fucking formula motorcycle race or some dirt bike action. Manorexic weenies with spindly arms who are clad head to toe in slow black women’s clothing? I’d almost take NASCAR. Almost.

2. If you’re even thinking about Orange, you’d better be nicknamed “G$”

“Those orange stripes! So swoopy! Swoopy is good, in case you were wondering. An orange and black pairing often evokes thoughts of Halloween, but on these Optum Orbeas, orange and black mean fast and stylish” Wow. Someone really wrote that, someone who supposedly wasn’t smoking a crack pipe. Her name is Jen See. Jen, the orange stripes aren’t “swoopy, swoopy.” They’re buttlicking ugly, especially with the lightened orange squares and slashes blended in with the regular orange. The other problem with this nasty looking kit is that you can hardly read the sponsors’ names even in a still photo. Are we really supposed to tell what this says at 35mph? Which brings us to the “money and brand” part of the design package. On a pro bike kit, you sure as shit better be able to read the sponsors’ names. And what brand of LSD was it that suggested the black/white/orange combo would look good with…green lettering…yellow shoes…bright red bottle? Kill the mutant now, doctor, before it spreads.

3. Everything looks good on a winner, right? Wrong.

“Does it matter what color a four-time Paris-Roubaix winner wears? The sea-foam and white jerseys are paired with black shorts—never a bad choice.” Actually, Jen, sea-foam is always a bad choice, unless you’re in a Jello marketing focus group or unless you happen to actually be an ocean. This color is so fucking ugly that it wasn’t even popular during the 70’s disco boom. The idea that winning makes everything pretty is doubtlessly true if your objective is to give Tornado Tom a fangirl fucking, but all the pave trophies piled up in a heap don’t make sea-foam green anything other than fugly. The epaulettes, arguably the most valuable real estate on the kit, have a tiny-ish red “S” for Specialized and a completely illegible scrawl for “innergetic,” along with some squiggly shit on the world champion sleeve striping. Poisonest of all, the sea-foam is really similar to the Astana “Blood Doping Blue” made famous by Vino, Tainted Meat, and a whole host of crooked drug cheats. When all you’ve got is a nasty coke habit like Tom, you don’t want to wear colors associated with dopers.

4. Garmacuda was styling when Jen See was still calling pale orange “swoopy”

“But with this year’s kit, the Garmin-Barracuda boys have hopped on the style train.” Jen has dealt out a true left-handed compliment, but at least she gets that the Garmacuda kit designed by Joe Yule is badass. In fact, Garmacuda has been on the “style train” from its inception. The last two years in particular have seen forceful, noticeable color combinations that do an extraordinary job of highlighting sponsors’ names and looking fantastic. This is shit you’d wear to a job interview. To a first date with a rich girl. To your fucking wedding. And it’s not “swoopy.” It’s “leg rip-offy,” Jen.

5. Your kit is boring and blah, but I love your Pinarello.

“How did Bissell get on the most stylish list? Two words, my friends: Pinarello and Campagnolo.” At first I thought, “Shit, this girl is funny.” Then I realized she was serious. Yep. Your kit is stylish because of your bike frame and your Campy gruppo. So, like, you could just ride naked. Jen, honey, your LinkedIn profile says you fucking went to Claremont College, Georgetown University, UCSB, you have a Ph.D., you speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch…and your critical analysis calls the Bissell kit stylish because of the BIKE FRAME? Our country is so fucking doomed it’s not even funny. Note to the computer programmer who designed the Bissell kit: That red and white swooshy thing on the ass that looks like a tuning fork or a toothless barracuda’s jaws…drop me a line when you finally figure out what the fuck it’s supposed to be. Thanks.

6. Just because it’s a color doesn’t mean it looks good

“Quite simply, this team oozes style from head to toe…Liquigas is all about color, lime green to be exact. The color isn’t for everyone, but the men of Liquigas totally own it.” No, Jen. The men of Liquigas don’t “own it.” They are contractually obligated to wear it. There’s a difference. You are sort of right when you say lime green isn’t for everyone, but to get it exactly right you should probably say “lime green isn’t for anyone.” For starters, it’s a total JOC, or “junk outline color” as we say in the trade. This means that it totally highlights each dip and curve of your package. For bike racers, who are scrawny little fellows with scrawny little toolboxes, that’s bad. Lime green doesn’t go with anything, but it especially doesn’t go with blue. Now I know what you’d say, Jen: “Does it matter what a four-consecutive-stage winner of the ATOC wears?” And again, we’d say, uh, yeah, it matters. Like, it really matters. And if you don’t believe me, try googling images for something called “Mapei.”

And when you get around to looking at the rest of the peloton, check out Spider-Tech. Shoulda been number two, after Garmacuda. Ciao, baby.

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