March 25, 2017 § 33 Comments
Every parent has their secret horror, the words their child might utter, words that would make a mockery of everything the parent has tried to teach. Here are the most common parenting fears:
“Dad, I need to talk with you about my retail heroin operation.”
“Dad, would you still love me if I voted for Trump?”
“Dad, I’m having an affair. With mom.”
But for me none of those awful scenarios is nearly as frightening, terrifying, or depressing as this one: “Dad, I’ve gotten into cycling.” Because that’s what my daughter said.
Where did I go wrong? I thought I had showed her the folly of bicycles, how riding them would, in the words of the immortal Fields, “Lead to the bottom of a dumpster.”
I had talked with her about my friends who had pursued “bike racing,” “bike touring,” “grand fondues,” and worst of all, “the bicycle industry” only to wind up washed up. The list was endless. Cyclists turned Buddhists. Cyclists turned bankruptcy lawyers. Cyclists turned brewers, politicians, consultants, adult video actors, yes, even cyclists who had sunken to the worst depravity of all, triathlons.
And it seemed like my efforts had worked. I even took her on a couple of “fun” 40-mile rides on a bike with no gears and 4,000-feet of elevation to make sure she hated it, and she did! For years the mere mention of the word “bicycle” made her angry. Best of all, I could look her in the eye and say, “Do you want to be like me?” and watch the color drain out of her face before adding, “then be a cyclist.”
So I slept soundly for twenty-eight years, safe in the knowledge that another kind, decent, well-adjusted person had been saved from the mindless insanity of madly dashing hither and yon in search of new ways to waste more time and even more money.
Until a couple of months ago, when I noticed the warning signs, which for me were roaring, screeching, sirens. “Hey Dad, I went for a bike ride today!”
After that it was only a matter of time before she began wearing something other than her husband’s six-year-old hand-me-down shorts, baggy t-shirts, and leggings with skeleton prints on the outside. THE LAST TIME I SAW SOMEONE FALL HOPELESSLY, INSANELY HARD FOR CYCLING WAS WHEN MMX RODE WITH A SKELETON-PRINT JERSEY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT SKELETON PRINTS????
We rode together. The first time up Silver Spur, she walked. The second time, she walked half-way. The third time, she rode.
A month passed before she broke the terrible news, with a smile of course. “Hey, Dad! I’m on Strava!”
I sobbed softly, hand trembling for the beer I wished was there. “Yes?” I asked quietly.
“Yeah! And I got 2nd on the Monero segment!! Behind some girl named Frenchie!!”
“Oh,” I mumbled.
“Do you know her? Is she really good?”
“No,” I said. “Yes.” This was what it felt like to have a child go off to war and never come back.
“I’m only a few seconds down,” she said excitedly. “I’m gonna try hard to get that QOM!”
I looked at her tennis shoes, her MTB handlebars, and her 35-pound chromoly bike. Here was my dear child, coming to me with a Strava problem. How would I tell her the insanity of it all? The madness? The addiction? The waste of a young and beautiful life? How would I tell her to burn her bike and buy a Range Rover?
Our eyes met. “Look, honey,” I said, taking the deepest breath of my entire life.
“Yeah?” she said.
“You gotta approach Monero from Granvia and Hawthorne on the downhill. Slam the right-hander, rail the turn and let the momentum take you up the first quarter of the bump before you have to dig. Then hold about 90% to the crest, but save your last 10% for the flat after the top. That’s where people bog. You’ll nail it.”
She looked at me, giddy. “Thanks, Dad!”
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December 28, 2016 § 37 Comments
I used to have a friend in real life who vanished from Facebag one day. “Yo, dude,” I said. “What happened?”
“I couldn’t stand all the happy people.”
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone was surrounded by a loving family in a beautiful home with a new bike and a cute dog. My life felt like shit.”
“Oh hell yeah. I was like ‘There’s no way that all 1,500 of my Facebag friends are that happy.’ You know? Divorce and suicide and drunkenness and jail and cheating on each other and debt and getting fired and loneliness and you know, reality. But even though I personally would see a friend at AA, there he’d be smiling on Facebag as if he weren’t on the knife edge of suicide and collapse.”
“People want to be happy.”
“I get it. But it made me feel like a loser. So I’m out.”
“I feel great. No more time spent looking at other people’s happiness. I can focus on my own miserable fucking life and how to make it better.”
“Yeah. So for someone on Facebag it may not mean a lot when I get through Christmas without having a screaming match with my parents, but for me that’s progress. Feels great. My success is mine. Don’t have to compare it to some dude’s Ferrari that his wife bought him for the holidays so he can drive the fucking twins to Harvard en route to cashing in their billion-dollar winning lottery ticket.”
After that, every time I ran into Friend, he really was happier, and each time I asked him if he missed social media.
“Oh sure,” he’d say. “Like I miss having my big toe gnawed off by a pit bull with rabies.”
So I recently joined my club’s Strava page. On Strava I don’t follow anyone because I only use it to keep track of mileage. I don’t ride with a Garmin or a power meter or a heart/jock strap, don’t know how fast I’m going, how far I am from home, or when I’m getting back. I don’t give a fuck how far anyone else has ridden or how many KOMs they’ve harvested or how many miles they rode this week or month or year. Why not? Because crappy though it may be, my training plan has remained the same over decades:
- A little > nothing
- Ride with people when you can
- Go hard
As you’d expect, the results haven’t been spectacular, except in the one simple metric that matters, i.e. I’ve kept riding all my adult life, with almost zero interruptions. As people I used to ride with and race with have fallen off the radar screen and gone over to the dark side of Cheesecake Factory, unlimited servings of alcohol, or even triathlons, I’ve kept plodding away. Without any goals, without any targets to hit or to miss, and with nothing but the pleasure of riding a bike to keep me going combined with congenital meanness, it’s kind of worked. I’m hardly the last man standing, but many have come and gone and I’m still at it. Wish I had a nickel for every cycling enthusiast who was going to keep riding until he died and quit after five years with a quiver of bikes, a closet full of kits, and a garage turned into a professional indoor training space-cum-mechanic’s lab.
In other words, just plodding the fuck along, immune to the awesomeness of everyone else, works for me.
So when I joined the Big Orange Club Strava page I got a huge shock. Like, I suck. Not just the usual “Oh well, I suck,” that I accepted long ago, but the “Man, you are probably the worst cyclist in history and should donate your bike to an underprivileged fixie rider.”
The reason I suck so bad is that the club’s leader board is astounding. People ride 300+ miles a week and climb more hills than a Sherpa. It used to be satisfying to knock out 150 or 190 miles and think “Great week! Way to rock it, Wanky!” but no more. That won’t even get you up to the middle of the club scatter graph. Dude, if all you got is 200 miles a week, YOU SUCK and why are you hanging out with us?
At least that’s how it felt. And the following rationalizations, by the way, don’t work.
- My rides are quality, not quantity.
- Most of the people ahead of me on the leader board don’t race.
- Miles don’t equal speed.
- I dropped him and him and him and him and her and her and her last week and wasn’t even pedaling hard.
Those rationalizations don’t work for the same reason that my buddy’s observations about the imperfect lives of his Facebag friends didn’t work. When you see more miles and more climbing, it automatically makes you feel slower and less fit and more like a worthless slug. What’s worse, looking at some college kid with 389 miles makes me want to compete, even though it’s that very type of obsessive competition that I have never done and the avoidance of which that has allowed me to keep pedaling my bike for 35 whole years.
In fact, I even had it summed up in a little aphorism: “If you ride to achieve you’ll eventually quit. If you ride for fun you’ll ride for life.”
The huge challenge with cycling, especially as you get decrepit and your wife gives you birthday cards that gently make fun of your erectile dysfunction, is forcing yourself to roll out–not out of the house, out of bed. Once that battle is won, a fierce life-and-death struggle that begins and for most people ends with the gravitational pull of the warm pillow, everything else takes care of itself. But when you think that you’re already behind the 8-ball on Wednesday morning because you’ve only got 51 miles for the week and the club leaderboard has a dozen people already knocking on 150, it makes you want to give in to the siren song of “sleep more, ride later.”
The later, of course, never comes.
The other problem is that our club’s Strava leaderboard seems to feature people who are at completely different points in their cycling lives from me. Maybe they’re new or new-ish riders who are still on fire for all things bicycling. Maybe they have a coach. Maybe they are in their 40’s and doing their first athletic activity since high school. Maybe they’re trying to upgrade in 2017. Maybe they have one of those things, what are they called? Oh, yeah, goals. I’ve heard of those!
Whatever they’re up to, they’re doing something different from me, which is struggling simply to keep riding because nothing looks fresh and rosy and pink and fluffed when it’s in its fourth decade. I’m not fired up by having big miles or lots of climbing or racing or the Donut Ride or anything. My fire was doused in ice water years ago and all that’s left now is a 53-year-old bag of skin trying to slow the inevitable skid off the edge into the abyss.
Sure, I get fired up when I’m finally on the bike and pedaling, but that’s like saying I feel good when I win the lottery. Any fool can be happy when he’s doing something fun. But the trick is to get fired up beforehand, because without that you never make it out the door, and igniting the spark at 5:00 AM when you’re only seven years younger than a dead Princess Leia, two years younger than a dead Prince, the same age as a dead George Michael, two years older than a dead Michael Jackson, and eighteen years older than a dead Mozart, striking the flint is harder than you think.
And since the club leaderboard makes the battle with the pillow exponentially harder than it already is, I finally succumbed and hit the “leave” button on the club leaderboard. No offense, but I feel better already.
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June 21, 2016 § 10 Comments
I have recently devised the best training loop ever in the history of bicycle riding, called the Wanky Super Power Loop. I also hold the Strava KOM on this fantastic, amazing segment so please don’t bother trying to take it. In fact, since it’s my only KOM I really hope that all of you cyclists in the South Bay will be sure to not try and take it from me, as it would really hurt my feelings a lot, kind of like the time that I set a secret KOM on my home street and showed it to Eric and he went out and took it away from me the next day.
I’m not bitter about that.
Also, I trust that Wanky’s Super Power Loop will remain with me atop the leaderboard at least for the next five or nine years. However, today’s post isn’t (only) to point out how totally I crushed the Wanky Super Power Loop segment, it’s also to gin up recognition for this as, really, the best riding loop anywhere, ever. Why is it so good?
First, it has plenty of elevation but none of it is steep. This means you can use it to clear out your legs after a weekend of racing or eating donuts. It also means that if you want to go racing around as if your power numbers and Strava doodads really matter, you can do that too. In other words, it’s good for slow and it’s good for fast.
Second, it has plenty of shade. Los Angeles is not known for shade, and in the summer of the hottest temperatures ever recorded at the South Pole and an El Nino that has bleached dead hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine coral reefs worldwide, there is a premium on trees (until you need them for a new floor, of course). Wanky’s Super Power Loop lets you pedal in comfort no matter how many people die from heatstroke over in Gardena.
Third, since it runs through a gorgeous and quiet neighborhood on the edge of Palos Verdes Estates, you will piss off all the curmudgeons who think that the street is theirs. Nothing makes a fun ride funner than waving a cheery “Good morning!” to some codger with an impacted stool who just wrote three angry letters to the mayor and donated $5 to the Trump campaign than the sight of a happy bicyclist pedaling down his street.
Best of all, Wanky’s Super Power Loop reprises sections of the infamous Thursday Flog Ride, so while you’re spinning along you can pick out the most judicious place to launch your attack or to chokingly wave “Easy week!” as the peloton rides away.
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July 4, 2015 § 24 Comments
Occasionally people sidle up to me on rides and say, “Listen to this.” So I listen. Of course what they really want is for me to blog about it, so I invariably don’t, unless of course I do. Yesterday was a double whammy. On the one hand you had the Alto Velo bicycle riding club in Richfolksville, CA, suing the Alto Velo Seasucker bicycle riding club in Wankerville, NC, for trademark infringement.
I was all prepped since it had to do with law and stuff, until Wily tipped me off on the new Garmin 520. “DC Rainmaker has a write-up on it. And you won’t believe what it does.”
“What does it do?”
“It shows Strava segments in real time so you can ‘race’ other Strava wankers who are still in bed waiting for a more favorable wind, less rain, or better air pressure.”
“Wow,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Wily. “Just think of all the people who are about to die.”
“How do you figure?”
“Are you kidding? Face glued to the stem while your Garmin eggs you on to your top-10 in the 55+ men’s age group between 210 and 218.6 pounds? Just as you nail down the 32-second Festersore segment, out pulls a garbage truck and wham! KOC.”
“King of the Cemetery, dude.”
I went home and looked up the DC Rainmaker’s review, which is here. I skimmed it, since ol’ DC has a bad case of graphorrhea, and only noted the following, which came after a lengthy explanation of all the computer fiddle-faddle you have to set up in order to race Strava avatars while you train: “With all the prep work taken care of we head out for a ride.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I ride in the morning when time is tight and “prep work” generally involves unloading a pair of corn-studded bowl breakers, wolfing down a cup of boiling coffee, airing up the tires, and making sure my arm warmers match.
So now you’re telling a guy who’s lucky to make it out the door without a couple of skid marks in his shorts and TP stuck to his cleat that he has to pre-load a fuggin’ Garmin (which he doesn’t own) so that he can race an absent stranger while he trains? And isn’t “race while you train” one of them oxymoron things, like “driving while you walk”?
The whole thing makes my head hurt because it is the next ripple in the new wave, which is to further divorce humans from each other and wed them more tightly to their computers. I mean, we have a ride that leaves at 6:35 AM pointy sharp every Thursday that is so fucking hard it will make your gallbladder pop out your eyes. The people who do it aren’t looking at their fuggin’ Garmin, they’re either cross-eyed or staring at the wheel in front praying it doesn’t speed up, or they’re dry heaving or seeing big black spots or lying in the ditch. Oh, and generally they are very familiar with race podiums.
And of the hundreds of serious bikers in the South Bay, there’s never more than a dozen who show up, and why should they? With the new Garmin 520 they can compete in comfortable privacy against 0’s and 1’s; mostly 0’s.
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PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.
May 1, 2015 § 35 Comments
The verdict is in on power meters, Strava, and computerized ride data. They make you faster.
A professionally designed power-based training plan, scrupulously followed, and including adaptations for the times when you are sick, injured, or beset by the things otherwise known as life, will turn you into someone who turns the pedals faster.
What it will also do — and the verdict is in on this as well — is make you unhappier.
If you are a professional, that is a meaningless consequence. Your sponsors don’t give you money to ensure your happiness, they do it to ensure your success, which theoretically leads to better sales. But what about YOU?
I have three case studies, not including my own, that I’ve followed over the last six years. Here they are. Judge for yourself.
Case Study #1: The happy racer
This guy got into cycling from marathoning and “high risk” action sports. When he came onto the scene he fit the profile we’ve all seen, zooming from freddie to feared hammer in a single season. We’ll call him Tom. Tom rode his bicycle with abandon and zest, and saw nothing wrong with Mile 1 breakaways on the Saturday Donut Ride, breakaways that sometimes succeeded but that always inflicted carnage on those left behind, not to mention those who foolishly tried to follow his wheel.
He rode instinctively, and though his instincts were often wrong, occasionally they were right and they put him on the podium. More importantly, the act of riding was an act of irrepressible joy. Win or lose he embodied the same pleasure that you can find in any little kid zooming full speed down the local hill. Not that little kids are allowed to do that anymore, of course.
As part of his “progression,” Tom’s engineering mind made technology-based training a natural area of investigation. He “computered up,” and over a few seasons mastered the fundamentals of power-based training. His natural ability, an already sharpened knife, became a razor. His grasp of training and innate desire to share made him a lightning rod for new riders in his club, with whom he gladly shared training information, workout plans, and swapped training data.
After about three years, Tom no longer took risks on group rides by attacking early. He became calculating and efficient. If the pace exceeded his training targets, he sat up. If it wasn’t hard enough, he went off and did something by himself. Tom became a slave to his data. It made him faster, but it also turned the freedom of cycling into the prison of golf, where you are constantly reminded that there are absolute numbers beyond which you can never progress. Tom’s beauty, which had always been the bright light in his eyes, had dimmed.
Enslaved to the numbers, when Tom had a really bad year with some significant medical problems that ruined his carefully regulated train-by-the-numbers approach, instead of digging into the mental bucket, bucking up and rallying, he began doing something he’d never done before: throwing in the towel, DNF-ing, quitting. The thing that had always sustained him, his mental attitude and his enjoyment of the sport, had been replaced with numbers and data that had no real strength to carry him through the rough spots other than their unflinching message of inadequacy and defeat. The last time we rode together he was still struggling.
Case Study #2: Escape from New York
I’ll call this guy Snake Pliskin. He was whatever type is more aggro than Type A … Type A positive? He also came from a running background and migrated to cycling when his knees gave out. Mentally tough and physically gifted, for Snake the act of riding a bike was the act of riding away from the stresses of work.
Snake had a grind-em-up attitude to riding. He didn’t race but he approached every ride as a competition. And though he was often put to the sword on long climbs, when placed in his element of flat or undulating road, preferably with a stiff crosswind, he could put paid to all but the very best of the best. Snake finished his rides spent and satisfied, regardless of whether he was the last man standing. The act of full commitment and giving it his all recharged him for the real battles that remained to be fought in his workaday world.
For him, cycling was the beautiful escape.
Somewhere along the way he became a complete Strava addict. Multiple devices to record rides, pages and pages of KOM’s, and a ferocious response on the bike to those who took his trophies. Yet the more he buried himself in the world of Strava, the more he opened himself up to attack, as countless riders took shots — many of which were successful — at his virtual winnings. This of course drove him to ride more, ride harder, create more segments, and further extend his pages of KOM’s.
Along the way cycling mutated from a refuge into a prison. With everything measured and quantified, with every foot of roadway a possible place to take a KOM or lose one, he spiraled from the incredible pressures of his job to the equally crushing pressures of riding his bicycle.
As with Tom, Snake’s numbers told him that however good he was, on some segment, on some day, someone else was better. The awfulness was reflected in the fact that not only had Snake’s escape become a wearying burden, but it was now on full public display. Unlike the real world, where your buddy kicks your ass, rubs your nose in it, and you remind him of the drubbing you gave him the week before, Snake was locked in Strava kudo hell, where anonymous people with strange nicknames have the same right to comment as your closest buddies who suffered stroke for stroke all the way up the climb, and where the interaction is a binary “kudos” or an “uh-oh.”
The humanity of friends trading jokes and trading pulls, laughing at the funny shit that happens on a ride, commiserating about life, sharing triumphs, and making fun of each other’s foibles had been reduced to a fake interface of 0’s and 1’s artfully designed to imitate real people, real relationships, real lives. The escape was now the cage and it wasn’t even gilded.
The last time I rode with Snake he crushed everyone, grimly.
Case Study #3: The old school
I will call her Harriet. She had been around forever and was still dominating the local women’s race scene into her late 40’s, outsmarting and intimidating women half her age. She eschewed data and Strava and wattage-based training plans. Harriet’s MO was simple: ride and train with the fast men. She couldn’t beat them, but she could hang on and it made her strong enough to beat her peers, even when they were young enough to be her daughters.
She paid no attention to technology and refused to join Strava. She’d ridden as a pro and knew three things: how to train, how to win, and how to have fun.
And in her own way, her pleasure in riding a bicycle remained as vibrant and undiminished as it ever was. The last time I rode with her she gapped me out, shouted at me for running a red light, and dusted me in the sprint. Then she pedaled gaily off to work, ready to start the day.
This great empty is hardly confined to cycling. It repeats itself in myriad ways for modern Americans whether they ride bikes or not. When people think about the rise of the machines they imagine cyborgs and androids and sci-fi creations, but those aren’t the machines that rule us. The machines are pieces of software that are piped to us by phones, Garmins, desktops, and laptops, they are algorithms that have reduced the complexity of life and human interaction into 0’s and 1’s.
And they dominate us because at its most basic form, life is that simple. But who wants that level of simplicity? Isn’t life better with messiness, with the nonlinear slop and jostle of emotions and feelings and real human contact?
Of course it is, and that’s the big lie that the great empty has to spend billions to paper over. When your emotions are tugged by the 0’s and 1’s that show the precious pug or the newborn of your best friend or the KOM on that 200-yard bike path segment (tailwind, natch), something deep inside is left empty and unfulfilled, the zipless fuck of the digital age. How do I know? Because after the little jolt you have to hit refresh or like or kudo or scroll eternally and in desperation down the feed.
Answers I don’t have, but this I know — when you ride a bicycle untethered to 0’s and 1’s, you may not become any faster. But you will, over time, become happier and more at peace with the ragged, raging, sloppy and jostling world that, despite the best PR efforts of Facebag, Google, SRM, and Strava, hasn’t yet learned that reality is denser and more complex than two simple numbers.
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January 14, 2015 § 20 Comments
Two weeks after revealing the new Empty Cups and Trinkets program for 2015, Strava proudly announced the first major lawsuit of 2015. Puddsy McPutz, age 75, collapsed atop Mt. Landfill, a local KOM in eastern Kentucky situated between the Flemingsburg Meat Packers and the Fleming County Cemetery.
According to the Fleming County Coroner and Horse Veterinarian, Bubba Workman, “Puddsy’s ticker done popped. Which is a durn shame.” The massive myocardial infarction occurred at exactly 12:01 AM, January 1, 2015, according to Mr. McPutz’s Strava data, a few seconds after he took the 2015 KOM for Mt. Landfill. EMS attempts to revive Mr. McPutz with paddles and a few swallows of moonshine were ineffectual, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to Mr. McPutz’s widow, Elvira McPutz (nee Heffalump), “Puddsy found out that Strava was resetting all the KOM’s for 2015, so he left the house at 11:50 PM on New Year’s Eve, we live just up the street from the landfill, you know, and he finally felt like he had a shot at getting that KOM because we usually get a good southerly wind after sundown which you can tell because that skunky smell from the landfill fills up the house. He wanted to be the first bicycle rider up Mt. Landfill in 2015, that was his goal, to get one of those empty cups he had been telling us about over dinner, we were having his favorite meal, creamed corn with tuna casserole. And it killed him deader than when Reverend Smoots got struck by lightning at the water treatment facility that time he was giving a holy Baptist massage to Mrs. Hutchins while her husband was on a fishing trip.”
According to papers filed in the Fleming County Courthouse, McPutz’s widow has named Strava as the sole defendant in a wrongful death action, accusing the virtual bike racing company of “encouraging, aiding, abetting, and downright acting like sonsofbitches” with regard to McPutz’s death.
Attorney Seffy Tootincamp, local Flemingsburg attorney and noted notary public who filed the lawsuit, said that “Ol’ Puddsy ain’t never hurt a flea. Them folks at Stravver done made him ride up Mt. Landfill and get hisself killed. And that ain’t the half of it. Elvira’s sister Hortense Heffalump had been bicycle riding with Puddsy for the last few years, you’d see her straddled all over that bicycle seat spread out like a warm breakfast, ‘course it made people talk, what with Hortense havin’ split up with Farmer Dinkins back in ’69, but Puddsy done said there warn’t nothin’ to it they was just exercising together even though the way Hortense had all her groceries on display with that skintight bicycling outfit, you know ever’ time she threw a leg over that bicycle you was durn near ready call in for a cleanup on Aisle 9, but anyway Hortense said that Puddsy had given up on Stravver several years ago ’cause couldn’t nobody get the trophy-dealie for the landfill climb anymore not ever since Hoss Sagbottom had quit lawnmower racin’ and got into bicycle Stravver racing, can you believe Hoss rode his bicycle up that dang hill in five minutes flat? It’s darn near long as a football field and steep as a wheelchair ramp.”
According to attorney Tootincamp, “Them Stravver fellers is gonna have to fork over some real dollars for takin’ Puddsy’s life like that. He was a good ol’ boy, had the best durn still in Flemingsburg, and that’s sayin’ somethin’.”
Fleming County Judge Jimmy Foxworthy was less sanguine about the prospects of the litigation. “I can sort of see where Elvira is coming from, we all liked Puddsy, and his Christmastime Fire on the Mountain Mason Jar Special would grow hair on a carburetor, but from my way of thinking, you tell a jury of your peers in these parts that an old boy died riding a bicycle in his underwear at midnight out by the landfill because of the Internet, and you blame it on anything except the fact that he was a few burritos shy of a full fiesta, well, your average Fleming County jury is probably going to think that Mr. McPutz needed killing. But that’s just my opinion.”
Attorney Alistair Bilkington, of the Palo Alto high-tech defense firm Hoity, Toity & Preen, was dismissive of the suit. “What we have here is a lack of personal responsibility. Our 21-page, 2-point-type EULA and Waiver and Unqualified Admission of Guilt, which every Strava user must sign, specifically says that ‘Everything is my 100% my fault.’ It’s the most comprehensive waiver in the business. We are confident that the good citizens of Fleming County will wholly reject the baseless claims of the McPutz estate.”
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January 12, 2015 § 52 Comments
I have a really bad imagination, which is why I ride my bike all the time. There’s no better way to limn crazy than by delving into the real world. And few parts of reality are as dark, bizarre, and hysterically weird than Strava.
Here’s the big blog release for 2015, wherein Strava announces a whole new way to earn valuable cups, crowns, and medals. It’s surely not by chance that, unlike the old nonexistent virtual trophy cups, the new ones are empty.
Fortunately I was able to get hold of Annie Vranizan, Strava’s Advocacy and Communications Manager, who explained the whole empty cup concept to me in plain English.
CitSB: So now Straddicts can get a whole new set of crowns, cups, and medals?
AV: Yep. It’s gonna be awesome!
CitSB: What was wrong with the old ones?
AV: Absolutely nothing. And they’ll still be there for you to pore over at 3:00 AM with your favorite box of tissues.
CitSB: So why the new system?
AV: We’ve heard from many Strava athletes that it’s not easy to top a PR set in peak fitness, during a race, or when they were younger. So we’ve heard that concern and given them something new to strive for. “Strava” means “hopeless” in Finnish, after all. These new empty cups are our way of saying, “You’re not getting older. You’re as strong as you always were. You’re never going to die.”
CitSB: Wow. That seems, you know, patently false.
AV: Oh, it is. But these are Straddicts. Their paid memberships depend on keeping the fantasy alive. And we had other problems.
CitSB: Such as?
AV: After several years and thousands of efforts, the KOM’s on most segments have become unsurmountable, even for the fellows with $20k rigs, four-man TT teams, and onboard Doppler radar to perfectly time the wind. Even by only showing up to work occasionally, abandoning all pretense of family time, slimming down to 1%, hiring the super-extra-pro-level of online coaching, putting a physician on retainer to manage the EPO-induced blood clumping during sleep, our premium members were realizing that at the end of the day they simply weren’t going to snatch back a KOM set by some 22-year-old kid.
AV: Well, that’s a problem. Most of our premium addicts have got to get one KOM per month, minimum, or they let their subscription lapse. We even toyed with a moped-assist category, but a customer survey nixed that idea.
CitSB: Straddicts refuse to cheat, huh?
AV: Oh, not at all. But it’s too complicated to cloak an engine’s output so that it mimics the irregularity human-generated wattage.
CitSB: I wasn’t aware that it was all about the virtual trinkets. I mean, you can’t even hang them on the wall. I thought people really valued Strava for tracking routes and logging mileage.
AV: Well, our unpaid users may. But with regard to logging mileage, Scott Dickson, the first American winner of Paris-Brest-Paris, cracked that problem long ago using a type of technology that frankly stands up pretty well even today.
CitSB: What is that?
AV: I think they call it a “pencil and notepad.” I’ve seen it at the Technology Museum here in Silicon Valley, but don’t know of anyone who can actually program it. The other problem is that our premium members can’t do what they’ve always done to earn more virtual trinkets.
CitSB: What’s that?
AV: Create new segments. We ran a GPS analysis of North America and found that, in North County San Diego for example, every roadway, driveway, dirt trail, and parking lot has been broken down into 1-meter Strava segments. There are over 12 billion segments there. And every segment has a leaderboard thousands of riders deep.
CitSB: Surely there are some uncreated segments from, say, the front door of the apartment on the 25th Floor to the breaker box on the 12th?
AV: Possibly. But our analytics show that premium members prize competition with other riders. There will always be a place on Strava for secret segments that only you can ride, but most addicts want the thrill of combat. It’s all about sending and receiving “the letter,” you know?
CitSB: So why don’t they just race? CBR has a great crit coming this Sunday. I think for $35 bucks you can actually race your bike against real people. And it’s cheaper than Strava. And the trinkets are mostly edible.
AV: Racing is too dangerous for Straddicts, and often times a premium member who is really good at his age-weight-gender category on Strava turns out to be a lummoxing sack of shit in a real bike race. And it hurts their feelings when they get dropped.
CitSB: I see. So why don’t they train harder and race more so they don’t get dropped?
AV: Let me give you an example.
AV: Let’s say you could choose between getting your face punched so hard that it rams your front teeth so far up into the gums that they punctured the lower part of your skull and lodge into your brain. Or, you could go a Thai massage and have someone cover your body in oil, rub you down for a few bucks in all the right places, and tell you you look like a movie star. Which would you choose?
CitSB: Well, that’s easy, because I’m a bike racer.
AV: Right? But our premium members aren’t. That’s why they like Strava. As long as they get a virtual empty trinket they’ll keep paying the monthly fee because there’s always a happy ending.
CitSB: Just like the Thai massage?
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