Sunday, December 16, 2012

Alone With My Thoughts

It was too cold to ride yesterday.  I just couldn't make myself do it.  So I stayed inside, down in the basement near the warmly radiating furnace and worked on a scale model.  A phone call came it from my Mother in Law Margaret pleading for tech support, she had replaced the batteries on her iMac wireless mouse and now it wouldn't do anything, and she was in the middle of writing an important paper.  So I dropped what I was doing, put on my heavy jacket and gloves, and mounted the Kaptein Dutch bike for the 6 block ride to her house.  Man it was cold, and it made me glad I didn't go on a road ride.  I fixed her mouse and TV remote control then rode home.  It hadn't warmed up a bit.  When I got home I had the house to myself and I spent the whole day in the basement working on my project.  I don't know where the time went.

I used to build models exclusively back in the mid '90's.  We had a very young son and I found going off to my little outdoor closet to work on a model was a great temporary escape from constant home duties.  I found that the process of working on the model allowed me to tune out everything.  I am so focused on the process that everything else disappears.  Its like magic, and it gives me a feeling of contentment.  Yesterday for example, I couldn't tell you what I was thinking for 6 hours.  I don't think I was thinking at all, which is astonishing.  That's the beauty of a hobby you can fully immerse yourself in.

In a way its the opposite of cycling, at least solo cycling.  When cycling I find my mind is engaged in constant chatter, observations, and random dialogs.  Today for instance.  The weather had warmed enough to be inviting.  I bundled up in my winter kit from head to toe, although in reality it was only 51 degrees at the coldest.  I know a lot of you in cold climates are laughing right now, but this is California, not Norway.  This is cold for us.

I woke up at 6am or with a bad headache.  I hate it when this happens.  I call it the "random headache" as it happens occasionally but I can't really pin down the reason.  It's pretty bad, in the sinuses, and it makes me a tad nauseous.  Once I get up and out of bed, vertical, it usually goes away in an hour of so.  The random headache is closely related to "the unfair hangover", which afflicts me once or twice a year.  The unfair hangover is a full on hangover brought on by no more than one or two glasses of wine or beer, amounts that normally have no effects on me.  Why this happens I don't know.  The worst unfair hangover I can remember happened on the day I was attempting the epic feat of climbing Mt. Diablo (elevation 3200') three times in one day.  I woke up feeling like shit.  I had only had two beers at a party the night before because I knew I would be testing myself the next day.  I woke up feeling like I had drank an entire barrel of cheap beer.  I still managed to bag 2.5 climbs of Diablo that day, each pedal stroke was like a hammer banging on my head.  Oh man, it was bad.

All this was going through my mind as I mounted my bike and set off for the hills.  I vowed to go easy and just enjoy being out, and I did, the bike felt smooth and fluid, my legs fresh and strong.  The sky was still and gray, with a hazy yellow glow here and there.  I like the way the world looks on a day like this.  I started thinking how lucky I am to be able to still ride the hills, that I am healthy enough to do it, that fate has been kind to me, things happen everyday to people that puts a sudden end to the things they love.

I started pondering last week, in which I did two back to back hill rides, and how that drained me over the week, an energy drain that I call "the hollowness".  The hollowness is an actual physical feeling of not having anything inside me, like I am an empty shell of muscle and bone, but the internal organs are gone.  I get through work fine, but around 5pm, I feel so hollow that I am virtually useless.  Eating always helps, and with each passing day the feeling fades, until around Friday, I feel like myself again and eager to do it all over again.  I've come to find that big exertions on the road, such as spirited challenging of other riders are definitely a cause of the hollowness.  I use up so much extra energy going hard that it drains my batteries deeply.  I usually start feeling it two days later for some reason, and last week I gave myself a double dose of it.  When I am hollow I have zero interest in riding.

I was enjoying today's ride and as I was climbing Tunnel Road, I was getting warm under my layers.  I wondered to myself just what causes warmth during exercise?  What is it about the way the body's cells are turning glycogen into energy that actually makes heat?  Is it a chemical reaction?  It must be I suppose.  And what about sweat?  Why does water and salt start to excrete from the pores of our skin?  That one is easier, its about evaporation and its cooling effect, which, really, is nothing more than wind chill.  A wanted and needed wind chill.

Just then my anatomical musings were distracted by three riders who passed me, one was a young woman all in white.  I noticed the flesh colored roundness of her butt contrasted with the white chamois of her shorts.  Dang, its almost as good as X-ray vision!  Those shorts, in that light, were translucent, and I was enjoying her display of riding prowess.  Then it occurred to me that someone ought to make either all flesh color, or clear plastic bike shorts, or large mesh boudoir style back panels for those who want to flaunt their buns of steel.  After all, super tennis star Venus Williams does it and I have to say she really pulls it off:

But maybe its not such a great idea because its only a matter of time before this guy is wearing it:

So upon arriving at the summit of Tunnel Road, I stopped at Sibley Park to use the bathroom.  Standing in front of the toilet, I dug down beneath my layers to get at the plumbing parts, and as I touched my stomach I thought "hmm, cold and clammy down there".   It dawned on me that I had been using this expression all my life and in reality I had no damned idea what a clam actually feels like.  Who does?  Maybe if you are a clam hunter and suck them into a bucket with a long tube-like thing, or maybe you work at a fish market, then I guess you would know what a clam feels like.  Cold?  Slippery?  What does that have to do with people sweating?  And this one "happy as a clam"  What the hell does that even mean?  If there ever were a case of inappropriate anthropomorphizing, that it it, right there.  I suggest replacing "cold and clammy" with "dog nose-y" because we all know what a dog's nose feels like, cold and snotty-slippery, but playfully so.  If you are a guy, you reach into your cold, sweaty, saturated with chamois creamed shorts and think,  "hmmm, dog nosey---nice!"  So, as I was draining the lizard... wait a minute, there they go again!  What is it with animals that make us want to relate to them?  Busy as a bee.  Slow as a snail.  Spank the monkey.  And on and on.  I jumped on my bike and beat it out of there like a bat out of hell!

And on it goes, random sights or happenings trigger chains of thought that lead to other chains of thought.  I think this is why I became a bike blogger, because when I ride, all this stuff comes up, I can't stop it unless I focus way inward on something like modeling.  

I had a fine ride of 28 miles, and it was only a tad slower than my normal pace.  Not slug-like at all.  I don't feel the least hollow right now.  Check back with me on Tuesday about that.

Pedal on,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rainy Day Bike Fun

We finally ended summer here in sunny California, and the rain came this week, we just had two nice storms blow through that dropped a lot of rain.  It looked like the weekend was going to be a bust for riding, but we got lucky and the rain fell all night and stopped each morning, so I got out for two nice sunny with wet pavement rides around my hometown, which is flat as a pancake.  Wet pavement is a bit of an understatement as in places there are temporary small lakes up to 4" deep.  Of course no one wants to ride their nice bike through water like that, so one needs a proper rain bike.  So without further adieu, I present my Fast Commuter bike redux as a rain bike.

Improvements since the last time include a modern stem and adapter to get the bars up, a nice detachable luggage rack on the rear, traditional pedals and toe clips, and the most important thing, FENDERS front and rear.

 Did I mention the Scuba Wrap I gave the frame?  Using old 700c tubes, I wrapped the frame making it waterproof and saltproof to 50 meters below the sea, should I find myself suddenly riding off the end of a pier.  Or something.

Here's my view at the end of the Island... San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, and Mt. Tam to the right.  Lots of people fly here from all over the world yet they don't know about this world class viewpoint.  In summer I like to ride here after work, sit on the bench and have a beer.  Just like Otis Redding sang in "Sitting by the dock of the Bay".  Very nice.

So yesterday while riding in this area, I spied a large bird in the road ahead.  As I cycled closer, I could see it was a Red Tailed Hawk sitting on top of a dead seagull.  Right in the middle of the road, and cars were going by, but this hawk did not want to part with the most potentially Epic meal he ever encountered.   A woman and her young son were in a parked car nearby, and when I stopped she told me the hawk was trying to carry the gull across the road to the other side.  Not wanting the hawk to get killed by a car, I decided to carry the gull across for him, where he could then safely stand on it all he wanted.  The hawk gave me a dirty look as I approached, and he tried to fly off, but no way, his talons might as well have been embedded in a sandbag, he could hardly budge it.  He did let go and flew up, circling me, so I grabbed the gull, which must have been a 10 or 12 pounder, and carried it to the parking lot across the road.  Meanwhile, cars coming started pulling off and parking, curious about what was going on and wanting to see the hawk closeup.  The hawk alighted on a streetlight right above the woman's car, and started preening himself, the gull easily within view.  I waited a bit to watch him fly down but he didn't, so I rode away.  That's the closest I've ever been to a raptor, and man, they are magnificent birds, as noble as they are gorgeous.  Nice to see them making it in the urban environment too, they never used to be around the city.

So the rains have come but there are respites, times to get out for an hour or two and get a little wet, the world is still turning out there.  It certainly beats sitting indoors on a trainer.

Pedal On when you can,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Watch This Video

This is a very nicely made velo-homage featuring Greg Lemond and the Rapha crew riding the awesomely beautiful roads of the Death Ride---Ebbetts and Monitor passes.  So it has two special meanings for me to see my favorite cycling legend still on the roads that, are for me, my personal benchmarks of one day cycling achievement.  Greg has taken on a middle aged sturdiness, but he still rides the mountains he grew up with and still displays the simple joy of life that cycling imbues upon one's spirit.

Thanks for watching and keep pedaling!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Velopaced Metromint Weekend

Hey there!  I'm Flash and I'm here to recommend a refreshing Metromint.  Actually, I've never seen one thus never tasted one, but I can recommend it based on its robust cycling commitment, which I encountered this morning on my Sunday ride.

A little backstory first.  Yesterday was my Saturday ride which I elected to take solo.  It turned cold here this week.  Last week we saw the last days of Double Secret Indian Summer, Monday and Tuesday were beautiful with highs in the '70's.  By Friday, it was cold out, and Saturday was almost freezing in the early morning.  But sunny.  It hurts Flash to get up at 6:30am to ride at 8am when the outside feels like the inside of a meatlocker.  So I waited until 10am, bundled up and set out for Berkeley.  Once there I stopped for a cappuccino at Strada Cafe alongside the UC campus.  I just like to stop there so I do.  Then across campus, and up the hill, around Tilden Park, down to Orinda.   There I parked at Peet's coffee and sat on the bench in the warming sun and ate half my turkey sandwich I had lugged along.

You might recall that a few weeks ago when I did this same ride, I ended up with a neck ache and headache, and I've concluded that skipping lunch had a lot to do with that.  So I brought a sandwich, a Clif bar, and a 2x Turbo gel, which I did not use because I already had that java in Berkeley.  I met a gorgeous Irish Setter dog there who I think was coveting my sandwich, then I remounted and rode to Moraga, through the forest over Pinehurst and up Redwood.  That was a 40 mile ride, and I felt good at the end, although me legs did get sore later in the day.

I'll add that my Lemond-V is running exceptionally smooth and quiet.  The KCNC pulleys are working great as is the SRAM PC-991 hollow pin chain I installed to go with it. (swapped off Lemond-R)  Its just a pleasure to ride.

So today I joined the Team Alameda group ride partially, out to Berkeley again.  There were around 16 of us, and once over the bridge into Oakland, things got interesting.  Anthony "TAKE THE LANE!" DiSalvo showed up on an electric bike, a heavy looking commuter type thing, wearing ordinary clothes.  His wife was demoing this vehicle, and AD was on his way to the farmer's market and decided to join us.  I immediately thought "hey... I could get velopaced by this thing!".  So on the Embarcadero, which is long and flat alongside the freeway, I looked ahead to the point of our peloton and there he was, taking the lead and gaping the nearest rider to him, so without even thinking about it, I reacted and sprinted up to him and got on his wheel.  He asked me to read out the speed as he gained momentum, the e-motor whining away.  "17...18..19...21...22!"  He was pedaling like a dervish  trying to reach max speed, and 22 was it.  As he was sitting bolt upright, he really split the wind in front of me, so I was having an easy time sitting in at this speed.  The group was way back there, with 3 people trying to bridge up, one of them made it easily.

Alameda's answer to Germany's Jan Ullrich is our own Ralph Bruni aka "Captain Eurotrash".  Ralph is also German and has his unique signature Euro style when he rides:  fully color coordinated outfits and slammed low bike setups with aerobars for maximum aerodynamics.  Herr Bruni rode up alongside side us at 22mph and said something about our slow pace, tucked into his aerobars, and pulled away from us!  Mein Gott!  That was a lot of fun, and yes, we did take the full lane through the construction zone.  I surprised myself at this output of energy so early into the ride, but hey, I do what I have to do when its the time to do it.

In Berkeley, the TA group continued onto Point Richmond, a 45 mile flat ride, and I turned at University Ave. towards the hills.  I meandered over to Tunnel Road, enjoying some quiet residential streets and a beautiful morning.  Its uphill all the way from the Bay if you didn't know already, not steep, but you do feel it, and it does steepen around the Claremont Hotel, where the hill starts rising as a hill should.  Then its up the 4 mile climb to Grizzly Peak.  I guess I'm saying it can feel like a looong grind from the bay.

So about a third of the way up the hill, I spy in my micro mirror what appears to be a stage of the Tour De France closing in behind me.  Guys in these funny (to me) white kits with blue dots all over.  I instinctively sped up a little, at the same time knowing they were going to pass me, which they did rather slowly.  They were going maybe 2mph faster than me, but knowing the power of being pulled by a group, I latched onto the back of this group of 20 for about a mile and rode 2mph faster.  Then came the steeper grade just past the old tunnel monument, and at the top of this I decided I was working a little too hard.  Maybe if I was fresh, if it was Saturday, I could hang with them, but it wasn't so I didn't.  I resumed my earlier pace and enjoyed the rest of the climb then made my way to Sibley rest stop.

At Sibley, the Metromints were gathered also taking a leisurely break.  Did I mention a lot of these guys race?  I pulled in to no acknowledgment, as it should be in these cases, sat down and refueled.  I pulled out the Turbo gel and sucked that down along with half a Clif bar and some water.  I didn't feel all that tired, but rather sought a boost for the remainder of the ride.  I left before the Metros and turned south on Skyline.  It got COLD fast, and I had to stop to pull on my vest and fingers.  As I resumed, two women came riding up behind me, one in all black and the other in black shorts, white tank top, and orange construction worker safety vest, which looked ridiculous and cold to boot.  But looks aside, they could ride their bikes and they dogged me up the hill, chatting all the way. I did manage to put some road between us, and glancing behind to see where they were, my mirror was filled with a distant wave of white and blue dotted minty-fresh cyclists approaching my six.

I resolved this time to buckle down and keep them off me as long as possible.  I was in the slight downhill trough by Piedmont Pines, between two small hills,  so I got into the drops and then stood up and powered over the small rise at the Pines.  The next half a mile is difficult because it appears flat but it is slightly uphill thus it feels like I should be riding faster.  The trick is to go hard here because it doesn't last too long time-wise then there is a slight downgrade respite before the road rises.  Looking back, the two women had been absorbed then spit off the back somewhere.  They must have found that exciting!  The Metros were about 50 yards back.

Now I passed my workplace, Chabot Space Center, and I was on very familiar ground as I know every crack and pothole in this road.  I kept in the drops and pushed for the "sprint" hill at Robert's Park, thinking they were going to contest this, but no, they stayed in a formation and I crested the top maybe 10 yards in front of them, not a lot of distance and now I had to worry about them overtaking me on the downhill.  But I know the fastest lines on this road, so stayed ahead until the 180' turn, and they were right on my wheel, but I went through it fast and they didn't pass me.  Then I turned left on Joaquin Miller, they did too, but they didn't attempt to pass me on the long downhill to Redwood Road.  Curiously restrained group for some reason.  More likely that FlashFast is just a tad quicker than their training pace.  I turned down Redwood and they continued straight on Skyline towards the zoo.  This group added some real spice to my ride which caused me to ride with much more vigor than I would have solo.  You never know what you will encounter out there!

I attribute my extra output to the Turbo gel, catching a rest at Sibley, my fine-tuned bike, familiarity with the road, and my overall fitness by which I seldom use full power, so when I do its a thrill and a revelation to push hard for that length of time.  I'll most likely feel wooden on Tuesday, but right now I feel fit as a fiddle, and just damned grateful that I can ride the way I want to, when I want to.  This is why I ride and blog about it, and try to spread the word.  You can't buy this feeling and its worth more than gold anyway.

Keep pedaling, 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bike Afictionautos

Welcome to Flashblog.  I'm Flash, and I discovered a cool new useful phrase in the orthopedic department of my hospital the other morning.  I was there with Flashette getting her arm inspected, we were sitting in the waiting alcove with another older couple, the woman with a splint on her pinky.  The conversation, as usual in places like these, started with "what happened to you?"   After Flashette told her story, the woman one-upped her with a story of a cycling doctor she knows who, due to his flamboyant riding style, visited the ER 9 times in one year.  She said he was a real " a-fiction-auto".  (I tried to not laugh out loud at that one) She also said he only rides his trainer in the garage now.  Yeah...right.  I highly doubt the validity of her story.  That guy would not quit so easily!  In fact, I accuse her of afictionautoing to get attention of Cathy, officially an afflictionauto due to her injuries.  Nice!  I like wordplay.

I'm happy to see the old Flashblog ticker turned over 20,000 visits recently.  My guarantee to you is that there will be no fictionautoing unless disclosed.  I report the real world which is much stranger than fiction anyhow.  I'm in a happier mood now, Flashette is in pretty descent shape considering, I had two very good rides last week, back to back, and I've purchased some neat new bike parts for my 20,000th view celebration.   Nothing like a good excuse to spend money on parts I already have.  But these are special!

 I have an admiration for the tuned products produced by KCNC of Taiwan.  I installed a set of their aluminum headset spacers on both my Lemonds and are extremely pleased with the quality.  So I've been wanting a set of derailleur pulleys to replace the Shimano black units and I found these.  7075 alloy, ceramic bearing, two color anodization, and most importantly:  Drillium!  These are lovely pieces that speak of high level engineering and fabrication.  I got them from Fairwheel bikes, the go-to place for weight weenies.  I'm not a weight weenie, but I admire most products that are derived from that obsessive passion.

On the bike.   The Ultegra derailleur looks underdesigned compared to the pulley wheels.   I just remembered... I have a Campy Chorus 10spd unit sitting in a box.  Yes!  That could work as a replacement! (Maybe...)
And look Oh So Much Cooler with its carbon bits and such...stay tuned for this future project. (possibly)

More on LanceGate:
I've been reading the 200 page indictment against Armstrong written by the USADA.  Its very interesting up until around page 60 or so, then it gets boringly repetitive.  One statement, on page 54, got my attention:

"A few weeks later Armstrong had won his third Tour and the Armstrongs were having 
dinner in Villefranche, France with a few friends, including the Andreus.  The Andreus recall 
that during the dinner the conversation turned to some unflattering comments Greg LeMond had 
recently made about the Ferrari controversy.  Armstrong was incensed with LeMond and vowed to exact revenge, saying “I’m going to take him down” and that Armstrong could make one call to the owner of Trek bicycles, which carried a line of LeMond bicycles, and “shut him up.”

There has been a dramatic forgiveness of Lemond in the media.  He is being called "America's only TDF winner".  Lemond is taking US media point to overhaul the UCI and sack its president, McQuaid, who I think is guilty as hell of complicity with Armstrong.  Maybe Lemond could become the new UCI president?  Ok, that's a bit of afictioningauto right there, but I can dream, can't I?  My other dream is that Trek apologizes to Lemond and offers to build his bikes again.  New Lemonds!  There I go autof'ing again.  Sorry.

My take on full carbon wheels:

"Oh... you HAVE to have carbon wheels!  So light, so fast, so everything your current wheels are not!"  Or so the manufacturers would have you believe.  They cost an arm and a leg, they brake like hot crap, especially in the rain, and they make awful noises.  Last week I was descending the hill but had to stop to clean my glasses first.  As I performed this ablution, two cyclists past me, both with full-on carbon wheels so wide they could probably be used as sails on the Oracle racing yacht.  Cyclist 1 looked fit and worldly, but his damned wheels made popping and snapping sounds over the relatively smooth road surface.  Like two drums.  Cyclist 2 slowly summitted the hill, his wide carbon rims barely turning over.  This guy must have weighed in at 250lbs, his jersey stuffed to the bursting point with excess baggage, yet here he was rolling on $4 thou wheels that might have saved him a few grams over basic alloy models and a second or two in his time trials.  And the things were just creaking, snapping and thumping like bongos.  What is wrong with this picture people??  I don't have any problems with the material, I think it is perfect for many things, but it is a composite and has drawbacks.  Its noisy and makes some bikes sound like boxes of gravel.  I mean expensive rigs too.  I've ridden alongside these bikes.  If this guy rolls 100lbs overweight and thinks carbon wheels are going to help him, well, then that is the definition of afictionautoing, right there.

Me, I like smooth and quiet.  I like to roll like a Ninja.  I like to hear the soft hum of rubber on pavement, the watch-like ticking of the gears turning over the chain.  My bike is not perfect, there is a shoe/cleat squeak I live with, but overall it is just the way I like it.

That's it for now.  I've got not one, but two Team Alameda rides to lead this weekend, plus one big party Saturday night.  That should make for a good story.

Keep pedaling!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It Happened Today But I Said It Two Days Ago

So you may not have read through that last rant and rave post, but if you did you'll recall I made two quite prescient  statements that have actually melded into a breaking media event today.  I have to admit I'm quasi-proud that Flashblog has its chain-blackened fingers on the pulse of pro cycling's twitching corpse.

The two things were:

1.  Where is Greg Lemond during this doping scandal?
2.  I said UCI President Pat McQuaid has to go

Go here to see how these two statements merged to became a reality today.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Testing My Faith

Its been one of those weeks.  Mostly a week of bad news in my Bike World.  It puts me in a contentious frame of mind and when I get in this state I question the meaning of things.  So I am going to write in a stream of consciousness way what's up in Flashworld.

First up was Cathy's aka Flashette's third major bike crash last week.  We were taking a ride with our student Egor in SF, showing him the Golden Gate bridge, which he has not visited before.  It was all going well, the day was beautiful in an Indian Summer way, we crossed over to Marin and stopped along with all the tourists to watch the overturned wreck of the Oracle racing yacht float by, under the bridge and out to sea.  We rode back to SF, stopped at the Warming Hut for afternoon coffees, then, in the golden glow of the afternoon proceeded to ride to North Beach for foccachia sandwiches.  We never made it.

We were descending the slightly downhill path to Aquatic Park, and a roadie was riding briskly toward us.  As he passed me (I was leading) I heard the sickening sound of body and bike hitting the pavement.  My first thought was that this guy had collided with Flashette.  I stopped and threw down my bike, and she was on the pavement on her back, the roadie had stopped and looked stunned.  He said she just went down.  You see, there are embedded parallel railroad tracks in this path that were never paved over completely---the rails protrude slightly and I think Flashette veered right to give the roadie space and her front tire caught on the parallel rail.

The first thing out of my mouth was a pained shout: NO!  NOT AGAIN!  A perfect afternoon had suddenly turned into an instant waking nightmare.  I went into ride leader mode and started to assess her injuries.  She was talking and asked what happened---she had no recollection.  Then she said she thought her collarbone and wrist were broken.  I put a jacket under her head, then she asked what happened, then repeated the broken bone comment, then a minute later, she repeated those two comments again, then again.  She said she was woozy.  Alarmed, I phoned 911.  I got a dispatcher in Richmond, who tried to transfer me to SF.  After a long time, a ringing sound, then a woman who said she was not 911 and would try to transfer me.  I hung up.  Dialed again, and this time it worked.

Because of her repetition, the paramedics feared a head injury so they wanted to take her to SF General which has the best trauma unit.  I said fine.  Her helmet was broken over the left temple.  But...I had our bikes I had to somehow take care of.  I had to make a lot of fast decisions.  I told Egor to ride himself to BART and take that home.  The firefighters offered to take our bikes to their fire station for storage, then I could go with Cathy to the hospital, so I said yes, and scribbled their contact info on a scrap of paper, and we were off to the hospital.

Long story short at this point is that we were there for 9 hours--until 3am.  They took X-rays, CAT scans, and reset her arm in that time.  I had free roaming of the trauma unit, no one tried to restrict me.  People lying in gurneys in the hallway, holding bloody towels to fingers or heads.  Others unconscious, one guy with a blanket covering him over his head.  Sheriffs, SFPD officers watching over suspects, all kinds of medical personnel.  Heart attacks, old people, indigents, drunks, people in fights, I saw a lot and it was not a boring 9 hours.  No dinner, eating out of the vending machine.  By the way, Cathy accurately predicted her injuries: broken left clavicle at the sternum, broken right wrist, no head injuries, gash on hip and back.  Thank god her previously twice injured left shoulder was ok save for some road rash, a silver lining.

When it was time to go, Egor drove over to get us, Cathy could barely walk she was so hurting and drugged up.  It was a rough night, even after I got her into bed, we woke up several times to address pain or other issues.  I can't recall ever being so tired.  It seemed like a bad dream I desperately wanted to wake up from but that wasn't going to happen.

I stayed home Wed. and nursed her and she was comfortable once I got the heavy duty pain meds from the pharmacy.  I worked Thurs/Fri. and nursed her in the evening, and we had friends helping which is great.  So weary, I needed a ride and really looked forward to riding Saturday.

Not the best ride ever:

On Saturday, it took me 3 hours to get her properly fed, medicated, dressed, washed and put back to bed, so I got out of the house to ride around 11:30am.  I rode up Tunnel Road, then up to Grizzly Peak, spending much of my time processing what had happened that week.  I descended South Park and Wildcat, then rode to Orinda.  I stopped at Peet's for a coffee and scone.  It was already around 2pm and way past my usual lunch time, but I wasn't that hungry.  I then rode to Moraga where it was very windy, then up Pinehurst.  My neck was starting to ache on the right side, which hasn't happened in a long time.  The neck ache soon turned into a headache, and riding back into the glare of a 4pm sun made it worse.  When I got back after 46 miles, I felt bad, worse than when I had left.  However not riding eased up on my head pain and after a few hours I started to think it wasn't a half bad ride after all.  I rode by myself, no encounters with other cyclists except the one guy below, at the least, it was good to get out.

One thing that happened on this ride that is new and a bit concerning for me is that I verbally confronted another cyclist for his bad riding.  This young hipster guy ran red light after red light in front of me so I easily caught him and told him if he expected to get any respect from motorists then he should ride seriously and stop for red lights and thereby set a good example for all of us.  He looked at me and said "cool.  thanks".  The next red light he came to he blew right through it.  Ok, Fuck Me then.  See you in the trauma unit dude.

Sunday Cathy felt good enough to go to church, so I took another ride.  This time a little earlier, about 10am, shorter, up through Piedmont and Montclair for 20 miles or so.  My legs felt enervated, and my neck started aching, although less than the day before.  I suddenly felt like the ride was too harsh so I let some air out of my tires, then some more.  I was acting out of sorts.  This short ride felt like enough.  I was tired.

On Lance et.all:

I've been devouring many articles and affidavits the last week on the whole LanceGate mess.  His is a glorious bloody fall from grace, the likes we haven't seen in a long time.  His tour wins gone, his endorsements and income cut off, no longer part of his beloved Livestrong organization.  That must really hurt.  If he has a soul or conscious.  I've never been a Lance fan.  As you know by my writings, I'm a Lemond fan, and it stuck in my craw that Lance leveraged Trek to discontinue the Lemond line back in 2008.  Lance did this because Lemond was one of the few voices in the wilderness questioning Lance's performance and basically calling him a doper, and Lance in turn tried to destroy Lemond.  The press lashed out at Lemond calling him a crackpot, jealous of Lance, a loose cannon.  Greg must feel vindicated by all this but I've not read any statements from him in the last week, he is remaining curiously silent.  I wonder why?  When the dust settles Lemond will stand alone as an honest American champion.

The last 10 years are basically rotten to the core in pro cycling.  Hincapie, Leipheimer, Landis, Zabriski, Hamilton, and other American Heros have all fallen.  I understand why they had to do it.  But there is more, much more, to uncover and I think the UCI's current regime has to fall, McQuaid is complicit and has to go down.  He covered up for Lance, took bribes.  Dr. Ferrari, Johan Brunyeel, they have to pay.  Doping at this magnitude is like an insect infestation in your home---if you don't kill every last pest they will breed and the problem resurfaces yet again.  You have to put a big bag over your house, get out, and gas it, killing everything in it.  I for one don't know what the answer is.  I don't know if I can follow pro cycling after this.  Its been gutted for me, there is little left of interest.  Its sad, and it makes me a little upset.

I'm becoming a Bike Nazi? :

Today I ran a messenger errand by bike over to Emeryville to obtain some meds for Cathy.  I needed an excuse to get out and it was a nice afternoon.  I got into regular ride kit and chose the Lemond-R.  The 8 miles there went smoothly and felt good.  I got the meds, then rode to Aquatic Park in Berkeley to use the bathroom.  After that, I decided to ride up to Telegraph, then head south to Alameda.  Soon enough I stumbled on the Actual Cafe, on Alcatraz.  This is a cafe that features indoor vertical bike parking, so on a whim I decided to give it a try.  I ordered a cappucino and gazed upon the twenty-somethings with laptops all intent on doing things online.  I seemed the only person without a device.  The bikes on the wall were all pretty ordinary, except for one which was festooned with all kinds of junk, including a 5 gallon bucket on the front handlebars.  The java was ok, but certainly not good.  Overall, not too impressed.

Resuming, traffic was heavy on Alcatraz and I soon realized that Telegraph was going to be bad, its  a major artery as people funnel towards the freeway.  At the corner of Alcatraz and Telegraph, three cars were lined up to turn right, signals blinking, waiting for the light.  I stopped behind them.  I spied in my mirror another cyclists coming up behind me, something large on his back, a big box or something.  He rode by me on the right and stopped on the corner, effectively blocking the cars turning right.  The first car in line was looking left at the stream of cars coming, and when the light turned green, started to go, then had to abruptly stop as the cyclist wobbled out into the street but suddenly saw the car was turning, so veered back and bounced off the curb, then saw the car had spared him from being run over, so wobbled back into the street, made almost a U-turn, and proceeded across the intersection.

I hated this moron.  What a fucking idiot.  It really made me mad, but I was turning on Telegraph.  Soon enough I encountered another Fucking Moron on a bicycle.  Another twenty something, no helmet but yes on the U-lock swinging on the handlebars, who was having some trouble with his bike and weaving all over the bike lane, so I had to shout ON YOUR LEFT when I passed him so as not have him veer into me.  A couple blocks passed and I seemed to hit all the red lights, traffic was heavy, not pleasant.  Then I see this same guy ahead of me... how did that happen?  The only way for him to get ahead was somehow run the red lights and I didn't notice it.  I followed him and sure enough, come the next red, he stopped half way out into the intersection, looked around, then rode through it.  That was it, I was pissed off at this guy.

I caught up to him easily, and knowing I only had a moment, turned to him and loudly stated HEY DUDE, I HAVE A QUESTION FOR YOU---WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GET SERIOUS?  He said "what does that mean?"   IT MEANS NOT RUNNING RED LIGHTS.  WHEN YOU RUN A RED LIGHT IT MAKES MOTORISTS THINK WE ARE IDIOTS. IF YOU WANT RESPECT FROM MOTORISTS THEN YOU NEED TO STOP FOR LIGHTS AND SHOW THEM WE TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY.  I was half shouting I think, the wind noise, traffic and caffeine  all amping me up.  All he said was "yeah, ok".
The next intersection he came to, he blew through the red light.  Fuck Me again I guess.

I saw guys like him in the trauma unit last week.  They live in a self constructed reality where nothing bad will happen to them, until it does.  Cathy's crash again shows just how fast things happen, how your life can change in literally 1 second.  Riding poorly, without a helmet, taking risks assuming drivers will stop in time, its suicidal. And it seems to be endemic among young people on bikes these days.  At least from what I am seeing on the streets.

And the risk to myself seems more raw, more omnipresent since last week.  We are so precariously balanced on our bikes, two small squares of rubber the only thing holding us up from the merciless combination of gravity, g-forces, and hard pavement upon our fragile bodies.  The emotion rising up from all this is anger.  I'm angry that my ride world has to include self-entitled people in their cars, many of them ignorant of what cycling is or what we as cyclists have to put up with.  Idiots threatening me, getting in my way, polluting the very air I breath.  I'm angry at cyclists who are equally ignorant, who don't care, make no effort to be effective, efficient parts of the traffic flow.  I'm angry they're so cavalier with their young lives.  I'm mad as hell that my sport has been vilified as corrupt when many other sports are equally as bad, but testing is poorer in them so the whole mess is well concealed.  I'm mad that life is not fair, and some people like Flashette, who is a trained and safety conscious cyclist,  have much worse luck than foolhardy others and have to sustain recurring injuries.

So my faith is tested again.  Somedays I wonder why I still ride.  I ask myself is it worth it.  And the answer is always the same.  I live to ride.  Without riding I am just a shell, a dried husk.   Cycling is my religion wherein I find Oneness with the universe.  I will not stop riding until I can no longer do it.  You have my word on that.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saddles And Other Sore Subjects

Welcome to Flashblog.  Today I want to tell you of some simple tweaks and changes to my primary road bike that have made significant improvements in comfort and enjoyment to the point that I can say it is as finely tuned as it can be for my body and performance overall.  That is to say it is nearly perfect.

In my last Lemond V update you will recall I made some preliminary changes early on---I put on a drilled-out Prolight racing saddle which gave me moderate (25-30 miles) distance comfort, and 44cm wide handlebars.  I found the performance of the bike to be very good, but over time felt it was not all it could or should be.  My neck would ache after long rides, I was prone to sore butt as well, and I was having some hand numbness.  Mechanically, it was losing its tune on the front derailleur, so almost every ride I would have to tighten the barrel adjuster so the chain would not rub the cage in my highest gears.  No one thing a big deal, but added up something of a vibe harsher.  Here are my solutions to these issues.

Here's a better image in better light

1. Saddle: This Avatar Gel unit is flat top style as opposed to traditional rounded.  It feels firm yet does not produce hot spots.  It features a soft tissue cut out channel down the middle.  Oh, so nice!  It disappears beneath me.  Interestingly, two months ago I bought a Specialized Romin Expert which is a similar but more expensive saddle but it was too unyielding and hurt so I returned it.  In my quest to find a perfect saddle in recent years I've installed these saddles on my road bikes with mixed results:

Selle Italia Flite:  too firm, would hurt after 25 miles
Bontrager Select:  dense foam, good for medium ranges, although I did ride 120 miles on it in the Death Ride. Pressure points on soft tissues.
Prolight: too firm, too rounded, too slippery.  Pretty much same as the Flight, fixed the firmness by drilling it out.
Bontrager RaceX:  very similar to Select, this is the saddle on my Lemond R.
Bontrager Race Lite:  a flat style saddle, but too firm.
Specialized Romin Expert:  too firm, after two hours produced sitbone aches
And others I don't recall.

2. I flipped the stem up for a handlebar rise of about an inch.  This makes all the difference for my neck on longer rides.  So easy, so effective.

3. I double wrapped the upper part of the bar with black foam tape and this cured some recurring finger tingling and numbness.  I left the drops below the brakes single wrap as I am only in the drops on downhills, for the most part.

4.  I swapped wheels and tires from Lemond-R, my steep climbing bike.  The PSL-1 wheels are a bit lighter, a bit wider, and newer tech.  I'm also a fan of Michelin Lithion 2 tires.  They ride like Pro Race but cost half as much for only a few grams weight penalty.  I swapped cassettes as well to get them onto their proper bikes.  The PSL's, while only a quarter pound lighter than the OEM Bontragers, have a much livelier feel.  This may be due to the wider rim or subsequent contact patch of the tire, or the tires themselves.  Not sure, but I do know that I can feel the difference, and the difference Rocks!  This combo brings out the full suppleness of the carbon/steel frame, the effect is rather intoxicating.  It's like the bike is singing.

5.  I solved my front derailleur problem by spending an intense half hour taking it apart, reassembling, and shifting it about 500 times.  Through trial and error I discovered that the cable slip was caused by, I think, a not fully tight bolt AND inaccurate cable routing.  I rerouted the cable over the arm the capture nut lives on which changed the angle of pull on the mechanism, and this allowed things to work perfectly, including two trim selections, one on the small and one on the middle chainrings.  I only had trim on the smallest ring before.  It shifts perfectly now with no chain rub in any gear.  Voila!

Click pic for larger view

So there are my fixes that took my bike from 85% to 100%, and there is much pleasure in that last 15%.  Aside from the derailleur tuning these are changes you can make yourself by changing parts.  I guess the trick is knowing which parts to change and why, and having the time and know-how to do it.  But working on bikes is pretty simple and I encourage people to start with little things like flat repair or brake adjustment, and slowly add to their bag of tricks.  For me a large part of the enjoyment of this sport is the machine and working on it.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Google's Bike Navigator---Does It Work?

Good Evening, my name is Flash and I love to ride my bike in San Francisco.  SF is a world class city with world class beauty and attractions.  I was recently on a tour in France, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark, and I have to say I saw nothing like San Francisco in my travels.  Great things and places yes, but nothing like our city by the bay.  I've lived in the Bay Area all my life, but it wasn't until just a few years ago that I Got It about the city.  The thing I like best about it is that the bike becomes such a superior way to get around the city---I can avoid long lines of stopped traffic, just zip along in the bike lanes.  I love the feeling of superiority, that I made a clever transportation choice, that in a sense I am doing battle amongst the motorized Trojan Horses---motorists, taxies and buses.  And emerging victorious.  It gives me a great feeling of living fully.

I look for excuses to BART my bike over to downtown, where adventures begin.  Yesterday I scheduled a day off to go see the Fleet Week Air Show at Marina Green.  This outing took some planning as it was Friday, which has limited bike on BART hours, and other huge events like the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival was happening nearby with maybe 100,000 music fans, many competing for a BART seat in the evening.  So accordingly, I planned to stay late, so packed plenty of sustenance and layers, lights and locks.

I passed throngs of stopped cars along the Embarcadero.  For some reason, the brains at city planning decided to choose this time to re-paint the stripes in the road, so traffic was funneled into one lane down where they are building the new Exploratorium.  It felt SO GOOD to non-nonchalantly roll by this motorist's nightmare.  At Fisherman's Wharf I spied a Peet's hidden inside the Boudin Bakery, so braked for a Java upgrade with scone.  Ah, sitting on a bench at the wharf watching the world go by.  Pretty damned nice.

Back to The Plan:  the air show ran until about 4:30, then the America's Cup trials were running just offshore until---it came time to ride over to Golden Gate Park from Ghirardelli Square to catch the last act at the Hardly Strictly Arrow Stage named Reignwolf at 6:15.  The only way I've ridden to the park previously is through the Presidio beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a nice way to go, but indeed hilly.  So I decided to give Google route planning a try and see what bike route it advised.  What you do is go to Google Maps, ask for directions from point A to point B, and it gives you the auto route that it thinks is best.  Simply push the bike icon above the directions window and the route changes to accommodate the cyclist.  I did that , and here is what it gave me. (this is the enhanced Flashblog version using Google Earth.  It looks better than maps and allows you to see terrain changes given a very low view)

The purple route is the bike route, yellow streets are major arteries drivers use.
click pics for larger view

So after a thrilling and totally worth it 3 hours of air show and America's Cup yacht watching, I unlocked the bike, helmeted up, and set off to see how good this route was.  I wrote the directions on a scrap of paper which I repeatedly pulled out of my pocket for reference.  

The first street was Polk st, 8 blocks south.  I realized quickly that I was starting at sea level and going up fast, these 8 blocks were all uphill and I found myself standing on the pedals at least half the time.  I was on the Miyata, which does not furnish the lowest gears--- the lowest being 36x26 which is almost a medium gear on this terrain.   I was also carrying 5lbs of locks and chains, two large water bottles, and  a 20 lb backpack.  But my legs were fresh, and I took it slow (please read the preceding Flashblog) not to blow out any tendons, so it was actually fun and challenging.

Here's the route up Polk St., followed by the right on Broadway

I took a right on Broadway.  Broadway!  I think of this as almost a highway, but damned if the traffic wasn't the lightest I've ever seen it, and thanks to double parked cars in the right lane I pretty much had that lane to myself.  Broadway was a climb as well, and I recall looking up Gough, the steepest street in SF and thinking that Google better not direct me up a wall like that!  As well, I was riding into the late afternoon sun and it was rather blinding.   But beautifully blinding as the sun was blazing amid or through a towering wall of gray fog off the coast, which had a silverish lining at its top.  It was as if I were on a Knight on a Quest in a strange kingdom.   That is the feeling I had, atop my trusty steed.

Left turn at Webster presented even more uphill climbing, but thankfully nothing like Gough.  So Google got it right and directed my around the flank of the hill, more or less.  Only four blocks and I had summitted in delightful neighborhood of nicely kept Victorians, then a quick right on Clay.

Gough is the yellow street on the left, Octavia is in the center, my route in purple cutting across.  This almost gives you a sense of how steep it is.  Its steeper!!

Clay descended, then ascended and I was reminded of the training rides in Oakland that I have been taking Flashette on.  Not too different, really.  But the joy in this ride came from the newness, the not knowing of the way or even if the way were good or not.  After a long 15 blocks or so of Clay, almost every street a four way stop or light, I came to Arguello, which skirts the east end of Golden Gate Park.  

I crossed Geary and some other major streets, avoided a Muni bus that wanted to stay in front of me, then turned right on Cabrillo.  Arguello should be called 2nd Ave. as every street west of it is a number, all the way to 48th, which is one block from the Pacific Ocean.  My destination was 30th Ave.  27 blocks of four way stops, rolling up and down hillettes, and blinding sun in my eyes.  Finally I came to 30th, made a left and rolled into the park, which was of course closed to cars due to the concert.  

I found a no-parking sign and locked my bike to the pole.  Every pole in the park had a least 2 bikes locked to it.  I got lucky and found one that had 3 bikes locked to it, but on one side only.  So I took the other side and positioned my bike to get the U lock around the pole and through the frame and back wheel.  I then took my custom cut 12" super heavy duty chain and put it through the frame and front wheel and locked those together.  I also locked my helm and removed the front light and pump. 

I found I had overshot the stage by about 2 blocks, which required a walk.  I had already walked a couple miles earlier from the Maritime Museum over the hill to Fort Mason, and on to Marina Green, and back.  After the ride to the park, I was starting to get a tad tired.  I found the stage and listened to performer who goes by Reignwolf, an amped up young guy who has flashes of Hendrix in his playing. He's rough but plays his axe in a unique way, the sound is primal but conjures up sounds of British rock in the 60's as well as blues and grunge.  Maybe Soundgarden was a big influence for him.  Really enjoyed the show.

I met Flashette and Sweeps McNulty there, we all crowded on a jam packed Muni bus, my purple bike proudly hanging on the front of the bus just daring a taxi to get in its way!  At Civic Center we boarded BART and arrived at Fruitvale 10 hours after I had started my SF adventure.

So... Google bike directions....does it work? I say Yes it does.  It made no major errors in route design, did not direct me up any ridiculous hills or dangerous streets (19th Ave anyone?) and kept me in bike lanes or four lane streets for the most part.  I thought it was a good route and I would take it again.  I mean I will take it again, for sure.

Never stop pedaling!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Some Subjective Elements

Thanks for checking into Flashblog.  I'm Flash, resident scribe around these here parts.  Today I'd like to discuss some elements of our rides that are non-quantifiable.  Whatever that means, right?  Well, it occurred to me last weekend that my ride---when my impressions of that ride---were compared to my bike computer, were way off.

I had to begin a two week antibiotic course last week, and I was told by the doctor to "ride easy", no hills.  You see, one of the known side effects of this drug, Cipro (not to be confused with Cipo, the Italian world champion cyclist....damn, too bad as I could use some Cipo) is that it can cause tendon rupture.  I don't want any of that, so I agreed to ride easy for 2 or 3 weeks.

But last week, being a very nice Sunday, and my legs fully charged, I made my way across Oakland towards Berkeley, and there are some small hills in between.  Those certainly rolled under my wheels easily, but I was going very moderately and using my lowest gears, which was funny and had me laughing at myself.  But my legs wanted more, and before I knew it my brain had been hijacked and I found myself climbing up towards Tunnel Road in Berkeley.   Brain kept saying "Legs say we'll just go slow and use the low gears and everything will be fine".  And so it went, and I had a nice, slow climb up to Skyline.

Surprisingly, there were riders going even slower than me.  I was limiting myself to around 8mph instead of the usual 10mph.  There is a big difference in output between those two speeds.  I recalled being tired and riding up Tunnel many times after a hard ride the day before and barely being able to hold 8mph.  Yet it seemed an easy pace on Sunday.

Once again, I had the realization that speed is not the bar that measures the ride.  I've talked about this before, about how  I felt really great and fast, only to find at the end of the day my average speed was, well, average and no more.  Then other times when I felt sluggish and had a mediocre ride only to see my speed was higher than average.  Its hard to reconcile this reality that doesn't mesh with kinesthetic feelings.

Sunday's ride, as slow as I made it to be with the low gears and not pushing, was only 1.5mph slower average than my normal ride for this time of year.  I would have predicted 3 or 4 mph less.  Wow, that's a head shaker.  It makes me wonder why some of us are obsessed with personal bests, Strava challenges, and like minded competitiveness.  It makes me question why I ride the way I do sometimes, pushing it, kinda edgy, using a lot of energy that requires days of recovery.  If I ride just a little slower I think I would ride much smarter, and not give it all to the bike.  I wonder if I can do that.  Or if I just have to be me, in whatever form that takes?  Important questions indeed.  Well, that's all for now, I have some great visual material from the Oakland Grand Prix I need to put up, so tune back in for that really soon, I hope.

Keep pedaling!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Stranger Things Have Happened

Greetings Flashblog readers!

I hope your rides are all you wish them to be.  I hope you are finding your strength, and if not that, then your courage to go forth and pedal in the world.  Today was an especially nice day for that, and I did.

Being a super nice day, sunny and bright, warm but not hot, many people are lured out of their domiciles and into their automobiles to go...somewhere, anywhere...just go, it seems.  Being the nice day that it is, they don't want to waste it, so they need to drive as expediently as possible to get to where they are going.  This translates as speed and frantic-ness, and I was dished several doses of it as I rode through the flatlands of Oakland towards the hills.  One urgent chap in a Chrysler 300 didn't like the fact that he had to wait in a long line of cars at the light while I rode up to the front at the light, so when the light turned green he accelerated hard then cut right in front of me, just a few feet ahead.  What was he rushing like a bat out of hell to turn into?  A gas station.  I yelled at him and rode on. Sheesh.  Reminds me of when people in Danville would exit the freeway, speed down Danville blvd. in their SUVs like maniacs, only to careen into the Starbucks parking lot, get out, rush into the store and wait in a long line for their dose of overpriced steamed milk with a little coffee in it.  It makes no sense.  At all.

Anyway, I made it to the "shoreline" of Piedmont, as I like to call Grand Ave. and Lakeshore Aves.  Things get a lot more civilized in this higher rent district, at least once out of the shopping district.  I rode up Lakeshore and veered right on this little street that connects with Wildwood, the pathway to Piedmont proper.  Another roadie cyclist on my right seemed to be riding downhill, then turned up the street I was on and rode right behind me.  I figured he must be riding some kind of secret loop circuit, so I eased up a bit and asked him if he was.  He replied that no, he lived just up that other street, so he comes this way to climb the hill, and he was headed for Butters Canyon.  We discussed routes a bit, he was a little surprised I came from Alameda, then we came to a split and went our separate ways.  Nice guy, I would ride with him.

I then traversed Piedmont, which for those of you unfamiliar with my area, it quite the ritzy neighborhood.  Piedmont is its own little kingdom in the hills within Oakland proper, with its own zip code and police dept.  Huge mansions with gorgeous grounds surround them.  Not much of a downtown to speak of, blink hard and it is behind you.  This traversal leads to Moraga Ave, not to be confused with the town of Moraga or Moraga Ave in that town on the other side of the hills.  Moraga Ave wends its way up Moraga Canyon, a relatively short but nice canyon with an open space dog park-like area and ranch style homes.  Its steeper than the usual ways to get up the hill, so a nice workout on the bike.

This leads to side streets in which I make my way over to Tunnel Road.  Coming down Tunnel were two guys old enough to know better, who looked like Saturday Night Live parodies of road cyclists.  Guy #1 was wearing short shorts a gray sweatshirt, flapping in the wind, aviator sunglasses, an old styrofoam cooler style helmet, and a goofy looking bike from the 80's.  Guy #2 was wearing black shorts, which I wished he wasn't, because he was looking like an overstuffed sausage in his bright green and blue jersey.  His blue commuter style helmet had a huge video camera mounted on top of it.  They were in the full throes of their Awesomeness in downhilling.

Oh Please!  How embarrassing.  Cmon...give me a break!!

I work hard to look professional on the bike.  Not Pro, mind you, but professional, which for me means riding at a high level, which means looking competent, with a quiet authority, with situational awareness, and authenticity born of many thousands of miles in the saddle.  I hate it when Greenhorns go out and spend a small fortune on a bike and gear, and then head out on the streets.  Its so obvious they know nothing other than how to pedal the bike forward, turn it, and stop it.  The problem is that even non-cyclists, read: car drivers, can see this too, and they also think the newly minted rider is an idiot who should not be on the road.  Therefore, in the simple get-out-of-my-way-minds of motorists, ALL of us cyclists are bad riders who have no place on the road.

Case in point:  I was standing in my front yard and a road cyclist was coming down the street during rush hour.  I watched him because from afar he flouted all the signs of a serious roadie:  the blazing red Cervelo bike, the Rapha winter black kit including full head balaclava (it was a warm day!!) and as he approached I saw he was An Old Man.  By that I mean over 70, maybe even 80.  A bus had pulled to the corner to disgorge people and the old guy did not know how to react to this obstacle, and started braking behind the bus, but then, in an ungraceful maneuver went out into the street around the bus,which cut off a line of cars behind, and seemingly disappeared.  I mean, if it was me I would have been around the bus in 2 seconds tops, so I was fascinated by this non- emergence, until finally he came shakingly around the front of the bus, mouth agape, with a look like a deer caught in the headlights.


For the reasons stated in the above paragraph.  He made a bad impression on all cyclists.  Driving behind him you could not tell he was ancient and fossilized, and just think he was a bad cyclists, like all the others---the others who ride the wrong way down the street, cross without looking, ride on the sidewalks, blow through red lights and all the other stuff we see as motorists that give us the overall impression that people on bikes are idiots.  Why did this guy decide, at his age, to either resume cycling or start cycling?   He should be golfing or lawn bowling, or playing checkers.  The road is not meant for him.  Darwinism will exact its terrible toll, I'm afraid.

(since writing this, I've stumbled upon this well written article that goes into the psychology of why)
Also, check out this similar article  sent to me via Debi Palmer. (added 10/7/12)

Cut to upper Tunnel Road.  I saw ahead of me a small woman cranking up one of the steeper sections past where the tunnel used to be.  Actually it is just above where Tunnel turns into Skyline Blvd.  Anyway, the woman seemed to be struggling with labored, uneven pedal strokes, rocking about, steering unsure.  So I caught up to her in little time and decided to offer a tip or two.  I noticed right away her low gear setup...big cassette on the back and small ring triple setup on the front.  Very much like my Lemond Reno.  So I said hello and commented on that and asked her if she modified her bike.  She looked like she had no idea what I was talking about.  So I explained briefly the low gears concept.  She then said "a bike shop set it up this way...I don't know".  Again, I was struck at how little people know about their machines. They buy them and have the bike shop do all maintenance and repairs and mods, all they do is mount them and ride.  Such a shame.  Finally she said " they're not doing me any good because I need to ride more than once a year".  That explained the struggling part.  So I bid her adieu and rode off.

It was a beautiful day and I seemed to have the hill roads to myself until coming down Joaquin Miller, which I almost never do, I was followed very close by some driver even though I was going 40...I think he was trying to intimidate me by "riding my bumper", but no way, I was not going to budge at that speed, in fact the speed limit is 35 there.  I held the lane.  Then for paybacks, I took my sweet time at the bottom stop sign.  Made a full stop.  Clipped out one side, put my foot down.  Looked both ways, then forwards and backwards, then decided to slowly resume ahead of this guy.  I didn't see a gas station there, so not sure what his hurry was.

Finally, I turned north on Monterey, and there in front of me was a road cyclist slowly rolling along on the flat stretch before the speed builds up.  Taking his sweet time. He was a lean and tall guy, festooned in blue kit and bike.  What struck me first was his head of dark hair atop the field of blue.  No helmet.  Instantly my rightous programming kicked in with thoughts of "organ donor", or "Euro wannabe", or "crazy-ass dude".  But... as I followed him, I noticed his nonchalant demeanor... his right leg was extended down and his left leg was lazily resting on the top tube.  He was in no hurry, he was perhaps contemplating something meaningful.  As we descended the faster part, I easily caught him and had to brake, but I didn't go around him.  Because he fascinated me.  His style of riding was other-wordly somehow.  Or maybe from a time past... the time of Eddie Merkx.  Authority.  Mastery.  Experience.  Authenticity.  It was subtle, but I could make it out.  He rode differently, he had style, he had  je ne sais quoi.. an intangible quality that makes something distinctive or attractive.

At the bottom he finally noticed me and I rolled up and asked him "Hello...are you from Europe?" He looked a little surprised and said in a noticeable accent "yes I am, how did you know?"  I replied, "you ride differently, what part of Europe?"  I couldn't make out his accent, which was moderate.  "France".   I added " I was just in France in June, around Annecy, in the Alps"  To my great astonishment, he replied "I live 20 kilometers from there, on the border of Switzerland!  It is so beautiful, the climbs... so..."  and he made a kissing sound with his mouth.  Instantly, I was honored to be in his presence.  I wonder if he is a retired pro racer, if he ever rode the Tour or any of the great one day races.  I didn't get his name.  But I got his vibe.

That was my ride day.  Some bad moments, but mostly really, really good, and it ended on that high note encounter with a French Velominati.  Living the bike life.

Stop reading!  Go out and ride!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

From No Avail To New Avail

Flashette's 2009 Avail with my Miyata behind

Flashette's beautiful 2009 Giant Avail was unfortunately stolen from a bike valet parking lot at a Crab Cove music concert three weeks ago.  The bike was not recovered and we were upset that it would be very hard to recreate that bike, as it was perfect for her.  And the color scheme of orange/white/silver was unique for a woman's bike.  However, the Alameda Rotary Club, who sponsored the bike valet parking lot, have been outstanding in their resolve to make right the loss, and today via the great team at Alameda Bicycle, we took ownership of Flashette's new 2012 Avail.  Its basically the same frame with some component differences, mainly she went from a triple setup to a compact.  She loses only 1.6 gear inches in low gear as the lowest rear cog is a 28.  A 30 cog would put her a tad lower than her old triple.  Perhaps a future upgrade for her to a 32 is in order?  (wink)

 Flashette was honored to borrow Z rider's veteran trusty Giant OCR1 road bike in the interim.  Although one size too small, it's still a nice ride.

Here's the new bike, the photo is not great as I forgot how to use the camera settings..Doh!.  The white/red/silver color scheme reminds me of my Lemond Reno, only more elegant and classy.  Its as beautiful as the orange bike.  Note the cruiser bike pedals that feature a rubber surface for high traction.  Flashette chooses not to use clip-in pedals so we had these put on so that when she stands up on hills her feet won't slip off.

The Rotary insisted that the bike be recreated in all its details, so they not only financed the bike but all the accessories like the pump, bell, computer, lights, saddle bag, bottle cages, and pedals.  Gene at Alameda Bike worked with Jeff from BikeAlameda to set up the deal, so all we had to do was go in and get the bike.  Jeff was totally sincere in his efforts to replace the bike, whatever it took.  Gene gave the bike and parts at wholesale, what a great guy and asset he is to our town! AWESOME!  This is a great town we live in, with exceptional people going above and beyond to make things right.  I am proud to say I'm an Alamedan, and I will pay this forward through ride leading and mentoring those coming up in road cycling.

A modern velowoman's busy cockpit:  Cateye headlight, Cateye computer, stem mounted bell, front reflector, and tissue caddy for runny nose.  

Bike thieves are a cowardly lot and I believe their karma will catch up with them one way or the other.  I hope the orange Avail somehow ends up with someone who will care for it and appreciate it.  It has a measure of Flashblog built into it---I tweaked it, cleaned it, adjusted it, admired it--- and so in my eyes it will always be special.  But now we have a new member in our bike family, lithe and beautiful, and eager to please.  Only one thing left to do...

Time To Ride!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lemonds In The Wilds

click the pic for details

Monday's group stop afforded a rare side by side presentation of a 2007 Lemond and the 2006 design which preceded it.  Anthony's silver Zurich on the left represents the all carbon Min/Max frame Lemond fielded in its last year and went on to become Trek's Madone.  My Versailles on the right as I've previously written about, was an example of Lemond's Spine concept, with a OS Platinum 'spine' and a carbon 'cockpit'.  Both frames are 53cm.  Note the Zurich has a compact with Flashblog approved 34 tooth rear cassette for better climbing leverage.  The Versailles has a standard 26 tooth 9 speed cassette with standard 30/42/52 chainrings up front.  I now advocate the low gear compact setup for its lighter weight and shifting simplicity, although a triple offers far greater low gear tweaking potential ala my Lemond Reno.

Labor Day wrap up:
Saturday I led a team ride on my low gear Reno up some very steep grades above the Tunnel Road area.  That ride was 33miles, 3,000 climbing.
Sunday I enjoyed a solo ride on my Versailles, through Piedmont and again up Tunnel Road proper, for 30 miles and 2900 climbing.
Monday I joined a team ride on the Versailles out Fairmont/Redwood/Pinehurst for 34 miles and 3000climb
Tuesday, riding my Reno,  I took Flashette out for a short hill training, 10 miles, 1100 climbing.
Not to mention the numerous errand trips around town on the Kaptein, my Holland hauler.

Safeway and Trader Joe's in one trip!

107 miles, 10,000 climbing for 4 days.  Rode both Lemonds equally more or less.  The Reno is solid, reliable, descends great and climbs even greater.  The Versailles is nimbler, faster rolling, more supple, sprints better, even faster downhill, a super all-arounder, but lacks the really low gears for the steeps.  They are both great bikes and I would be hard pressed to pick one over the other.

As I write this my legs are sore but I feel really good.  Cycling has made my life so much better;  I'm about as fit as I can be, healthy and happy, and have made many good friendships from it.  (My carbon footprint is minimal as I've gotten my auto useage down to under 50 miles a week, so you see, I bike more than I least this time of the year)

Keep on pedaling and thanks for reading,

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fan Mail Reports I'm Doing Something Right

Team Alameda group portrait, 8/25/12, 5 Canyons Road
photo: Bruce Bothwell
I'm 8th from the left , in the aerodynamic position, because... I'm always READY

This gentleman, a friend of mine, a good rider who throws a kick ass party, wrote me this note the other day.   I thought I would share it, as I find it deeply gratifying that even when I am not out there, things I have done or said before are imprinted in other people's bags of tricks.  What more can I ask for than to know I am influencing people in a positive way?   I like to think that's the whole point of this blog.                      
  Pedal harder,

Dear Flash,

I just like to thank you for showing me some of the routes in Oakland/Berkeley hill to me. This past Saturday, I was not able to ride until 10.30 AM , so I set off then on my own with the goal to make it through Oakland/ Berkeley and over the tunnel road. I decided once under way to try the route you have showed us where we ride up &down in the neighborhood and eventually end up by the park by the freeway before climbing the road to the freeway overpass and tunnel road. I did not remember the route but went on my instinct and I was successful. I had such a nice ride: no traffic to speak of and I did not get lost at all.  I gave you many thankful thoughts and I toasted you in the evening!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

New From Flashblog R&D

Greetings!  Flash here with a question for you... where is my signature helmet mirror in the above photo?  (taken yesterday by Bruce Bothwell, see his link in the right hand column)  Correct!  I'm not using the helm mirror, if you look very closely at the enlargement (click the pic) you will notice a small black something just to the side of my glasses.  That something is a small rearview mirror I created from some simple parts, parts...when combined, create a complex and accurate optical tool I call.... FLASHBACK!  My riding buddy Sri thought that was pretty rich and had a good laugh when I told him what it was called.  Runner up name was Flashbackwards which I like because is sounds a lot like assbackwards, a great descriptive

Please read my previous post all about my philosophy on helmet mirrors so I don't have to repeat myself and I can just move along.  Thank you.

As good as the CycleAware mirror is, over time I've come to find some small drawbacks.

1.  the viewing image, thus the mirror itself, is larger than it needs to be---its like having a car door mirror a foot in diameter
2.  the large size blocks some of my forward view of the world, the 10 o'clock position mostly and I've come to find this distracting and annoying.
3.  removing the helmet and putting it back on would invariably disturb the precise setting of the mirror, resulting in adjustments often.
4. the helmet mirror is dorky looking as it looks like an add-on appendage, which it is

I wondered if a small mirror could do an adequate job and solve these issues, so I set off to the craft store and purchased some half inch round mirrors.  I cut a length of hardware store generic wire off the spool, straightened it, filed the ends smooth and round, hammered flat some attachment points, and epoxied one end to the backside of a mirror.  When that was dry, I started bending the wire into approximate shape before test riding with it.

In this view its apparent the mirror lines up with the glasses eyepiece, but the scant sideways angle of the mirror shows me whats behind when I slightly turn my head to the left.  

Attachment is via 2 rubber bands made from discarded bike tubes, this allows some up and down adjustment of the mirror.  Also, the mirror is easily removed and installed.  The design as-is would only work with wide earpieces.  The large bend up of the forward wire just sort of happened organically.  The Z bend along the side keeps the wire, and thus the mirror, from rotating.

The critical thing is the bend adjustment obliquely to the plane of my forward vision.  It took me several rides with much stopping and bending (with pliers as the wire is stiff) to get just the right angle.  When properly aligned, what I see is the top of my left shoulder in the lower portion of the rearview mirror with the road behind me.  This setting only works with my road bikes with my neck bent back.  So when used while riding my Dutch bike where I sit bolt upright, my neck is relaxed, so what is see is the sky behind me.  Great for plane spotting!

So I would call this mirror a "pro" mirror, not for beginning mirror users.  Its for someone ( already adept at larger mirror use, so can adapt easily to a smaller view where less visual information is coming in.

 Flashback at left, at right is the CycleAware helmet mirror I have been using.  Flashback is the essence of minimalism as well as keeping it simple and ridiculously cheap.

This little mirror passes all my tests, as I've used it both solo and leading group rides.  Another plus is on fast downhills, it holds its position under assault from the windstream, unlike the helm mirror which actually can get blown out of alignment.  I've already gotten one request from a rider in our club to make one for her, and I've gotten lots of curious questions about this gadget, so I think the gestalt of the roadie community is very open to something like this.

Thanks for reading, ride safe, and CHECK YOUR SIX!