Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rhymes with Alone

Landis in a strappy summer dress, photo courtesy Sacramento BeeAhh, Sunday. To many, Sunday is a day of atonement. A day to make up for the sins one has committed. To others, it is a day of 'at-one-ment', or communing with one's self, in a posture of sin. In the world of pro cycling, this was a week of accused sin, and eternal suffering. From the introduction of Italian mountains in the Giro, or yesterday's time trial stage at the Tour of California, or even the scandal to which this sport is now accustomed, it's been a punishing weekend to be a cyclist.

If you're not a pro, and celebrated what most of the nation called, Bike to Work Day, this weekend was one of recovering from Friday's commute-stop-induced sugar high. Rest assured, our collective cycling hedonism has not gone unpunished. Here in Seattle, our punishment arrived in the form of a thunderstorm on the way home. Thunderstorms are, otherwise, uncommon here, so it stands to reason that we, cyclists (as is often assumed to be the case--wrongly or rightly,) must have been to blame.

Today, the Giro riders climbed Monte Zoncolan, with an occasional, twenty-two percent grade. The name of this mountain, alone, sounds like level fifteen of some video game featuring some horrible creature dressed in pink, with green-, white- and red-striped, horns. Or maybe the goal is to free this creature from some kind of captivity. (I'm not good with video games. I imagine the conversation goes something like, "Dude, I made it to the Zoncolan today. Totally kicked my ass, too." "Really? You're full of shit; they would never put that thing in.") I'm not sure which sin these racers are atoning for, but my guess is that it has something to do with shaving.

Anyway, I'm not one to make spiritual judgments on anyone. I'll leave that to those that feel they are qualified to do so, which is to say, I have not met that person yet. Nonetheless, I learned, while hanging out in the comments-section of BikeSnob's blog, that Buddhist monks create sand mandalas for the benefit of everyone else's eternal souls. An altruistic act of creation and destruction, similar to those of other faiths. Apparently, this inspired Team Garmin to simultaneously baptize each other, after winning the Team competition in the Tour of Califiornia. I'm not familiar with the faith they practice, and why this was a sin requiring ablution, but bless them, and their and their newly washed souls.

It is in this extended spirit of atonement, that I will be taking next weekend off from posting. I don't know that I've reached the pudding-like gooey tastiness of this blog to deserve a break yet, but it's probably time to act like I have a soul, and scrub it a little cleaner. Like a small business still learning the disciplines required, I venture forward in my quest.

Ride safe. I love you all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hey look! I can post no hands too!

Oh my god. I published mid-week.


If you missed it, the Tour of California featured Washington's own, Phil Miller, as the start line ref today. Yea, us! This race ends tomorrow; more to follow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Are you man enough? ... To ovulate?

The big news in the world of sport is the confession and accusations by Floyd Landis, (or as the Spanish commentators of the 2005 Vuelta a Espana called him--Flllooohoyd Landeese!) The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, and the blogs of the interwebs have been burning hard like cigarettes after an international flight, since.

I'm not going to form an opinion as to whether or not the people Landis has accused used performance enhancing drugs or not. In all frankness, I don't have an opinion on it today, and I'm not about to start. Sure a few years ago I may have had an opinion, but whichever side I had chosen, I've forgotten now, because my opinion just didn't matter then. It doesn't matter now either. The only opinion that I get to have is which sports I choose to tune into, and the good news for sports in many forms, I am still choosing to 'opt-in'.

The reason I say my opinion doesn't matter is that I'm not a race ref, organizer, manager, or financer, so I have no political, nor financial sway, in any judgments I cast. Similarly, I like cyclists, and as long as you're riding your bike, I don't care all that much about what you do on it, as long as you stay out of my way. (Yes, I'm referring to 'while on my bike', just to be clear. In my car, I'm happy to give cyclists space.) Forming an opinion on this only causes heartache for me, on one side or the other, and it wastes time that I could be spending watching other sports, like say, lushly-bearded, Stanley Cup hockey.

But the truth that I have taken notice of, is that performance enhancing drugs do bad things to you. In 1967, cyclist Tommy Simpson died of an amphetamine overdose during the Tour de France. That prompted the IOC to develop an official definition of doping, put together a list of banned drugs, and created a stinking Pandora's Box of testing and guilt that gets opened every three years or so.

We've seen this across the sporting world, though:

According to WebMd (I figured they would know something), McGwire's supplement of choice, androstenedione, "causes whopping increases" in the levels of the male hormone testosterone in the blood. Sounds pretty good, if you're already a dude, and McGwire sort of qualifies. But here's the crazy part:
  • Finklestein and colleagues from Harvard... studied the blood taken from healthy men given either 100 mg or 300 mg of androstenedione. At 100 mg, he says, there is no effect on blood levels of testosterone. But, even at the lower dose, androstenedione does affect the levels of estrone and estradiol. Both estrone and estradiol are potent forms of the female sex hormone estrogen, which is normally present only in minute quantities in men.

    "Estradiol is so high it looks like these men are getting ready to ovulate," Finklestein says.

Personally, I like it when I ovulate. It's kinda fun when you're voice changes just a little, and you get...

nah, this isn't about that. Suffice it to say, that I can't imagine these are good things if you're male. This does not even begin to discuss the effects on the genitalia (of either gender), and how steroids can confuse the external sexual attractiveness of the user. And what else is there in life, really?

That's just one example. There's also this bit from that same site:
  • blood booster EPO, human growth hormone, and insulin. The full list covers nine pages. All are safe when used, as intended, to treat illness. None are safe when used to improve athletic performance.
One of the reasons why too much insulin is bad, is that it burns up all your blood sugars, and makes you tired. Having done some endurance cycling, I can't see why a cyclist would want to use this. Moving on, human growth hormone, HGH, too much can cause bones of the face, jaw, hands, and feet to grow larger than normal. In other words, HGH causes ugliness.

EPO increases your red cell production. This is great if you're anemic, but if you're already healthy, it just turns you blood into maple syrup. Next time you're at IHOP, if you see someone slice a vein over their shortstack, don't just assume that it's a depressed cry for help, you may have encountered a doping athlete. (Either way, you should probably call the cops.) But Nine pages of drugs? Really? My brain hurts already. That's another negative effect for Performance Drugs.

So then, the WebMd list serves up a link for Why People Cheat. Okay, so I had pasted in a section about why college students 'borrow' essays from the web, but it felt a little weird, so you'll have to go to the actual link to learn more about copying and pasting material. What I understand from it, is that people cheat because they feel, somehow, inadequate. If you're not good enough, perhaps you should consider another field. (Yeah, I have a mirror. I am greatly entertained by this.)

So, if you want to prove to other people that you find yourself to be inadequate, then you should probably try a performance enhancing drug. Rest assured that after you've done so, you will in fact, be less adequate.

Which brings me to the 'nut' of the problem. Many performance enhancing drugs create negative impacts on the scrotal contents. Why create further abuse of these lowly creatures? The testicle (and it's many nicknames: nut, nutters, nards, sack, junk, gibblets, gonads, bollocks, teabags, family jewels, cojones, ...etc,) are the least appreciated of the sex organs. They are the first target, that any self-defense class teaches. They're completely unprotected and exposed. They're a step below hamsters in the evolutionary scale. They're not even very cute as far as small, furry creatures go.

But, as everyone who's heard the scientific version of the birds and bees legend knows, they also play a major role in this species' baby making process. And babies are lovable, even if they also are not very cute. Family Jewels may not get a lot of respect in our society, but the same is true of Playdoh. It turns out both feel good in your hand.

The one comment I haven't heard yet in all the flames across the web today is one that I will say here.

Please! Won't somebody think about the children?!!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beard Season 2010

The Stanley Cup Western Conference Finals are in the first intermission of Game 2. I realize you're probably just checking your email while you're waiting for the game to come back on, but be careful not to miss any of the action.

Here's a treat, for the next intermission. Be sure to share your playoff beard at NHL Digest's Facebook page, while you're at it.

Beards are like orgasms. If you have the ability, you should enjoy it.

Oh yeah, and Way to go, Tyler!!!

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Raced in the Rain, and All I Got Was This Lousy Shirt

Google Plane over EarthOne thing about the American races: The podiums don't offer cool, European sounding jersey names. The Giro has the maglia family; the Tour de France features the maillots, (not to be confused with the Mayo's), and the Vuelta a Espana treasures 'el jersey oro'. Though, what if the races went the other direction. What if, instead of jerseys, we call it like it is. In the major races, the top prizes should be called just 'shirts'. That would make this sport much more accessible to the media-consuming public.

I can imagine the marketing pitch to the various professional teams: "And if you donate half your body weight, three of your team members, four ounces of skin, gallons of testable bodily fluids, and your dignity, you get a shirt!" Oh yeah. That's marketing genius right there.

Much of the coverage in the Tour of California has been 'offline' today. The airplanes sending the race feed are unable to take flight in the heavy rains. And the TOC footage is beamed back via airplane, it seems. The Giro coverage, on the other hand, is lassoed to helicopters.

What I think happens in bike racing is some kind of technical hi-jinx involving motorcycles, and aircraft, such that, the motorcycles following the racers have a guy standing up on the back of the bike, filming the non-motorized bikers, and then by some antenna, they beam up the feed to the aircraft. I'm under the impression that the 'beam' technology is akin to the same sensor and infrared that's used in most TV remotes, and has about the same abilities. This is why the race feed is greatly affected by weather, forestry, cell phones, guitars, cats, dogs, annoying people, and tin foil. In truth, this technology is more effective than many garage door openers, but part of me hopes that the moto-camera guys start investing in iPhones, or something.

Over a half hour into the coverage now, and there's been zero footage of the actual race course, other than some confused, dampened fans and some organizers puttering around a puddly finish line. My heart goes out to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen; they are having to ad-lib like crazy. It's clear that this mishap has occurred way too early in the week for Versus to have filmed enough of the usually insipid "human interest" stories to fill the space.

I confess, I'm hoping someone will do a piece about how Mark Cavendish combs his back and butt hair into the the coiff he fits under his helmet. Okay, yeah, I don't actually know if he has that ability, but I'm hoping somebody in the peloton does, and that it gets reported. It's my understanding that racers don't, quite, shave everything. And some of what they choose to shave, and what they don't, just confuses me. Please Versus, or Universal Sports, Body hair is an, as yet, (vast?) untapped resource in cycling's .. uhh... landscape.

Oh wait. The race is on! .....Okay, that thirty seconds went quickly. Way to go Brett Lancaster! Giro coverage starts (in my world) in fifteen minutes. Thank goodness for the tape delay.

Universal wasted very little time in introducing the race coverage today. No sooner, had Photo courtesy CyclingNews.comI turned it on, than the race was already 40 miles in. Apparently, it's raining everywhere in the world that isn't Seattle today. We were supposed to see a bunch of rain, but it decided to travel the world like lost luggage. The puddles in Italy are outlandish. Kudos to Astana, for their appropriation of carbon fiber, 'swim' technology.

The Tour of California had an ace in the hole for today's coverage. It's common during a multi-day race for the TV coverage to skimp on some of the race notables that are not part of the actual General Classification. I'm not sure that was the case yesterday, or if I blacked out after the race ended. Whatever the case may be, I seemed to have missed seeing the TOC King of the Mountains winner from yesterday, Paul Mach. Oh yes. He's a Californian, and on one of the American teams, Bissell. Not only that, he's a fellow blogger!

Not satisfied with the, "I was abducted by aliens part way through the race," that many riders experience during slower than expected race times, Mach takes it to the next level. He writes:
  • "When did the break get all that time?" and "Where did I lose those 5 seconds?" are a couple questions I ask a lot. is a web application I developed to find the answers.
Mr. Mach, you are amazing. Someone who can balance the beauty of numbers with the vicissitudes of racing, while, not making my skull rupture from the expression of data, is a true American hero, in my book. I'm now a fan.

Ride safe. I love you all.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's Back! Mud is Just Part of Life

(photo edited, so as not to be same as another, better-tasting blog site.)

So, if you noticed any major events last week, you may have noticed that this blog, suddenly went into convulsions, and passed out for a bit. Okay, so it wasn't a major event when you compare it to the continuing efforts in the Middle East, the US Economy, or the Miss USA Pageant, but it was a moderate inconvenience in my world, and that's close enough.

Today, the Tour of California competed against the Giro d'Italia in a television Time Trial of coverage. I same time trial, because the two media outlets televising pro cycling races these days, Versus and Universal Sports, didn't 'roll off' at the same time, the way a standard race does, and they each had to push they're skills to the limits of what they could do for cycling coverage.

Initially, Versus (showing the Tour of California), stumbled right out of the starting gate, when they had two different Phil Liggett audio files (not to be confused with the Phil Liggett audiophile,) playing at the same time, creating a fugue of lilting, British fury. They quickly recovered though, with a return of the 'Epic Cycle' graphics.

Not to be outdone, Universal Sports pulled out all the stops by extending their daily two-hour coverage by a full, extra half-hour with the uncategorized mountain-top finish at the top of Monte Termination, (or something like that, but in Italian.) It turns out that the Giro organizers decided to not categorize any of the mountaintop finishes, to keep them in a shroud of mystery, like when large-busted women wear puffy sweatshirts. (Yes, you can tell that there might be some breasts under it, but is it a nice set of womanliness, or some mutant form of chicken breast? In a sweatshirt, it looks pretty much the same.) And just like hiding in a big sweatshirt, one can guess that the Giro organizers are trying to cover something up. In the case of today's race, the finishing climb edged over 12% grade at one point, putting into what the Tour de France would describe as Hors Categorie, or in English, uncategorized.

Back at the Tour of California, the race profile exposed a largely downhill course. Snooze. The fact that cycling celebrities are choosing to race TOC, rather than the Giro made it a little more interesting. Barring a catastrophic mechanical failure or massive crash, chances of a Mark Cavendish win were pretty good. He did. There was a crash mere feet from the finish line involving Tom Boonen, where he displayed that American roads tear up modern cycling clothing much faster than that of the French. He's tested the crashability of roads all over Europe, so it was easy to predict that he would want to crash-test Cali's, as well, but it seemed he got more than he bargained for.

So, Universal Sports brought the fight to the wheelhouse, and declared the term 'epic' is overused in descriptions of cycling. Ooooh. A direct hit! Rest assured, as the race climbed into final mountain's fog bank, the word 'epic' slipped out like a nipple from a bathing suit. And who doesn't like that.

It was also revealed that, during yesterday's Giro through the Strata Biankay--as Steve Schlanger called it (don't ask me if it's right, nor how to spell it)--or the dirt sections of the race course, Cadel Evans changed his bike from a typical road race bike to the roadie equivalent of a cyclocross bike. Okay, sure so it was kind of a messed up, almost dickish, move of the race organizers to suddenly divert a bunch of pavement-loving road cyclists onto the terra firma, but what's the point of allowing the richer teams to trade equipment before hitting this section? It's sort of like if you're in school taking a test, and halfway through the test, when you get to the essay portion, the guy next to you hands his pen over to James Joyce to finish. Yes, racers are allowed to change equipment during the race due to mechanical failure, and I confess, I don't know the rules on changing equipment for no good reason at all, but this seems like a douchey move, unworthy of the rainbow stripes.

Watching the race slog through the mud, made me pause. It was slogging through the blogtacular mud that made this blog go into the aforementioned convulsions. I'm guessing that it contained a toxic parasite of some kind. Nonetheless, it's back now. Whatever.

But, back to the 'muddy-mudskipper' Giro: this seems fishy to me. It's sort of like letting your bike take a performance enhancing drug. If one guy is allowed to do it, everyone should be allowed to. Heck. There should be a triathlon-like changing station where everyone swaps to a different ride, and the race should be renamed, The Giro d'Italia d'Douche, and the stuffed, plush, soft-drink looking thing they had out at the podium, should be changed to a, ...well...

On a lighter note, the Seattle media reported on a guy that saved a bald eagle on the Columbia (Photo by David Lee Myers)River, recently. Say what you want about the way that patriotism has been thrown around in the past decade as some kind of political litmus test of some kind, and the bald eagle seems to symbolize that, but it's not uncommon to see them while on a bike, during the spring and summer months. Sure, it's possible see them in the car, but it's more likely to be, "Hey look! that's a really big bird!". On a bike, when the eagle is searching the surface of Lake Washington for tasty vittles, while you're riding past on Lake Washington Blvd, nearby, it gives a much better perspective on how huge, amazing, and beautiful our national symbol truly is. Here's the rescued eagle, post-release:
(photo courtesy KOMO4-News)

Speaking of lycra-clad sports and weather, the sun and 70-degree weather has reached the typically gray and sedated Seattle weather-schema, meaning summer is essentially here. This means donning that other lycra, sporting gear, the swimsuit, and getting a little wet. If you're interested in a swimming adventure opportunity, schedule a trip to NYC and visit the waterways around Manhattan. I've heard that you can even dip yourself into the wetness that is (as one of the locals calls it,) the Big Skanky. You don't even have to get a hepatitis shot first!

But, no need to start swimming just yet. We are still in Bike Month, and are beginning, now, Bike Week.

Ride Safe. I love you all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I said, "Ouch", This Really Hurts!

What a mind blowing weekend for sports fans! The sun was shining, baseball season is in full swing (no insult intended for Mariners' fans,) MLS soccer is happening, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are into 'win or go home' mode, and pro cycling is on TV. Forget the recession, and all the wackiness out of Washington, and in the Gulf, really; sports are all that truly matter, right?

First the bad news. The Detroit Red Wings were eliminated from competition. Granted, this is great news if you're in San Jose. The Sharks have not been able to do anything in the most recent post-seasons, so to see them get the monkey off their back was a bit of good news. However, I'm into beards, and the Red Wings had some of the best in the business. Maybe now that they're out of the playoffs, someone will pick up one of the more hirsute players for the commentary desk. Hmmm..

In other Stanley Cup news, our very own (if Seattle can make a claim to something Canadian,) Vancouver Canucks are still in it. Sure, the gold-medal-winning goalie, Roberto Luongo allowed a distressing, seven goals Friday night, but with the shut-out he's sitting on well into the third period of game 5, he can be forgiven.

Speaking of distressing, I had just reset my jet-lag clock to the week behind-or-so coverage of Versus "Epic Cycle" cycling coverage, when out of the blue, they did a "Tour of California Preview Special". What? I was all set to hear about the TOC at the end of the month, when all of a sudden, I'm whiplashed into future coverage. The race doesn't actually start until May 16. I've never gotten a buzz off of water before, but with the way my head is spinning right now, I'm starting to think I could be. (Cheers to you, recession beverages!)

Luckily, back over at the Universal Sports network, life is continuing as it was yesterday, with another day of same day coverage. Out here on the west coast, the 'live' coverage starts at 6am. I'm pretty thick skinned about a lot of things, but having any functioning brain cells at six in the morning, is not something I'm tough enough to do. I caught it much later in the day.

With that said, Happy Mothers' Day to all the mom's, grandmom's, and future mom's out there. You know who you are, and you know why you're special. Only a mom can spin the most interesting yarns about the importance and intricacies of poop, and for that, among many other things, we all thank you.

Back to the Universal coverage, I must point out that my liege, and cycling's uber-blogger, BikeSnobNYC is crafting, what I'm hoping will be, daily articles about the goings-on in the Giro d'Italia. If you want to enjoy a beefy burrito of reporting goodness, be sure to check out his take on yesterday's and today's action. Now that everyone knows what the 'real' BikeSnob looks like, I think it's only fair to pictorialize him as accurately as possible. Given that there's still not a lot of footage, I will substitute Matthew Broderick from 'The Freshman', as an adequate avatar.

(Here's Snobbie with his celeb-friend, Rick Astley.)

As I mentioned, this year, the Giro is 'competing' against the Tour of California for the attentions of the racers. I can understand why the Giro might feel a little insulted by this, as the more tenured, established beauty that the cycling world has loved for over a century. Along comes the 'Golden State' with her shorter skirts--I mean course, longer commutes for the usually favored Europeans, and titillating insanity of the American cycling fans. Oh sure, former Tour de France winners and other cycling greats, chose Cali over Italy this year, but I'm still a huge fan of the Giro. In fact, I'm convinced that this year's competition will have the unique ability to crown cycling's 'maglia zesty' for cycling's hottest racer. Will it be Basso, Pozzato, the dark horse-Petacchi, or will Christian VandeVelde prove he can hold his own against the Europeans at long last? (To be clear, I have no idea which race Nicholas Roche of Ireland chose to ride--as long as he shows up at one or the other, I won't mind.)

As the commentators all pointed out, there was a lot of crashing during the race today. If you've never had the experience of crashing on a bike, (or as the British call it, 'falling off',) allow me to elaborate. Crashing is one of the few experiences life where you can be up and riding one minute, and down on the ground instantly, covered in tubes and metal, and not know why. Okay, so this also could describe having sex in a proctologists office, but if today served as an example, crashing on a bike may happen more frequently.

So to see the peloton crash not once, but something like seventy times, I felt for the boys out on the road today. It's one thing to want to do better than the next guy, but to do so because the other guy skidded across the pavement on only a thin film of lycra, you gotta wonder. After the first couple times, wouldn't the group start calling out warnings to each other? Sure, they don't all speak the same language, but I expect they would all respond to something like, "AAACCKKK!!"

Maybe they just don't like each other. Give them a few weeks, I suppose. Either way, I'm glad to see that Svein Tuft and Tyler Farrar are racing the Giro, rather than the TOC. Congrats to Tyler for his awesomeness in winning the stage after falling victim to the crash plague. Better luck to everyone tomorrow.

Ride safe. I love you all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

You Sound Smart, Can I Buy You a Drink?


Double-post bonus today, I was able to find the article I wrote last week, and thought I had deleted. I'll admit to being a bit of a geek, but I'm still getting used to doing this blog thing.

Anyway, it's a little hard to sit back down at this .. thing (I don't own an 'actual' computer--that's just too bourgeois, even for me,) after writing the Best Book Review Ever Written. Oh sure, some guy did a write-up about some books a long time ago that was pretty great at the time, but it was more of a product review. What I composed was definitely a book review. If you've written a book, and want a rock-solid review of the coffee-table correctness of it, be sure to contact me soon. This star's rising fast.

So, that same, prolific writer recently described a bloviation summit, where cycling happened to insert itself into the discussion, or something like that. (It sounds like what we do here in Seattle in discussion forums, but we're not organized enough to do in a public meeting.) Bloviation is not a word that is often used out here on the west coast, (or maybe I'm just spelling it wrong.) It's more of an electronic contact sport, than a vocabulary enhancement. In fact, the word itself sounds a bit like it may be in more common usage as a slang term for throwing up while fellating someone. ("Sorry about getting so trashed last night. Did we do it?" "Umm..not exactly.")

As I was cogitating the proper incorporation of this term, I checked My Facebook (that's where I get all my news now,) and learned that drinking alcohol leads to being more smarter and screwing more. There was something about a religious component thrown in there, too, but that just made me question the sample size. Well, let me say, Whew! Thank god for that one. I would like to discuss this in greater detail, but frankly, I'm not sure that I need to. Moreover, my glass is empty, and you've still got a wallet on you.

Either way, without further ado, my favorite of the Grand Tours started today. The Versus Channel finally saw fit to air coverage of the Tour de Romandie. This is great; don't get me wrong. The race took place some time ago, though, and so I'm guessing they sent the tape back from Europe for US broadcast via single-speed bicycle. I'm pretty laid back, and yes, I'm willing to wait for the HD footage of our sport's "cream of the crop" stretched into their lycra, like an army of helmeted, mobile David-Lee-Roths, but I'm starting to lose my sense of time and space.

Luckily, the Universal Sports network is broadcasting the Giro with same day coverage. The Dolomites, Perugia, Venice, the regions and cities the Giro visits are some of the greatest in the world. It leaves me at a loss for words.

We have sunshine here in Seattle, so pasty white legs are on the trails everywhere this weekend. Be sure to bring sunglasses, if you ride. And if you do...

Ride safe. I love you all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Going Epic: My First--Totally Unsolicited--Blogtastic Book Review

(Snobbie's book, nudity censored. See the uncensored cover here.)

Part 1: Cover to Cover

Like many in the cycling--or book-reading--universe, I now own the new book, hand-crafted by BikeSnobNYC. While my copy arrived with the super-not-so-secret stickers, I was surprised to learn that it was not supplied with a dust jacket of any kind.

I wondered if warehouse gremlins had stolen it in a rogue plot to gain legitimacy for their underground ping-pong leagues. Or maybe it was an error in the first pressing that will make all early copies of the book, collectors' items worthy of bubble packaging. Or maybe the book suffered chafing, and opted to 'go commando', instead.

Whatever the reason, I decided I could not allow Snob's publication to live in my place of residence without proper protection. Sure, the book itself seems sturdy enough to handle the kind of punishment any lycra-clad, vegan, road cyclist can dish out, but it wasn't the book I was worried about. No cyclist, who is still fertile, and has spread hipster cysts, is allowed to enter my humble abode without proper protection.

So, I endeavored to build a book-related, raincoat. I went to my engineering cupboard and extracted my trusty, mechanical engineering tools.
This all would be so much simpler, if Snob had bothered to publish on the Kindle.

I crafted the cover first.

And upgraded it with a rear, sketch-mounted, brake lever:
(Not to be confused with a bent 'member' with a raging STD)

Then, I made sure to apply some awesome, hand-crafted, 3M book lugs.
(The fuzzy camera-work cost me extra. Be sure to spend another five-minutes enjoying how this enhances your appreciation of the lugwork.)

So many trees had to die:

If only this book had arrived on the Kindle, instead. I'd probably have finished reading it by now.

I'm not actually ready to open the pages, and start reading yet. I don't know if I can be bothered to. I'm still skimming Voltaire and re-reading the sex scenes.

More to follow.

Ride safe. I love you all.

My First Book Review: a Prologue

(Snobbie's book, riding barebacked on my coffee table.)

Later update: Salty's first attempt at reviewed publication:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ahem! Ewww...I tasted that one..

So, I'm still trying to find my voice. I figure I better write more, either to find out if I'm actually any good at this, or if I'm just a hack, like I am at a being a [quotey fingers] musician. Blogging feels weird, like I'm exposing a body part. Performing on a stage in front of a crowd is much easier than this.

The other day, I mentioned that I would be posting on the weekend next, and it's not that yet. I need more practice than that. Either that, or I just changed my mind. I just learned that, even, gum is doing that these days, so this must mean that fickle is the new committed. Thank goodness for progress.

Way back in the dark ages before I really discovered what the interwebs was all about, someone suggested to me that I should start keeping a blog of my bike commuting tales. In those days, I was riding 22 miles to work, across lakes, freeways, forests, hills, parks, and Bill Gates' neighborhood. There was always a story to tell. Lucky for me, I found a readable blog that told such stories in a better way than I could, I decided it was unnecessary to try to do the same thing. Moreover, now, my commute is half the distance it was, and isn't nearly as exciting. Before, I had a ride; now I have a commute.

So, what will I write about? I'm not really sure, but I'm hoping it turns out well. Chances are good, that I'll write something that will forever damage my blog's opinion of itself and put it into years of therapy. Maybe then, it can run away to a higher learning institution, run up an insurmountable debt, share late night bonding moments with other, similarly damaged blogs, and stop speaking to me for a while. Then, I guess that means I would have done a good job after all; it has something to share with intimate friends. One can hope.

As such, I leave my bike commuting as a backdrop, like a persistent rain. I'm not trying to sound negative; rain is know as 'liquid sunshine' around here. There are other things known as liquid sunshine, though too, that taste much better. I'd like to think I'm a cyclist first, before I'm other things, but it probably comes second. It's tough to be anything other than a woman, first, even in our 'You've come a long way, baby,' world.


With that said, it is Bike Month, and like every Bike Month, people ask me for tips about riding to work.

Every year, I get at least one person that asks me about riding with clipless pedals. A lot of riders take attitude against flat pedal riders. Sure. Once you know how nice it is to pedal your bike in a circle, rather than one side at a time, it's tough to imagine why anyone would continue to ride without them. Sorry, Senor Clipless; you weren't born with cleats attached to your feet. You had to learn to. Flat pedal riders, just don't know any better yet.

Here's a quick how to:

It's important to be aware, that when you're learning how to ride with clipless pedals, you have to accept that the term itself does not make any sense, and therefore, some of things you will do while riding your new pedals will not make sense either. With flat pedals, you could pedal right up to the point of stopping, and then put your foot down and the bike won't fall over. With clipless, you will crash. Bring bandaids.

The simple fact of the matter is, you probably already know how to turn the pedals, it's the stopping that you have to be careful of. For some it's more easily said than done. If that's the case for you, then do that. As you're stopping, remember to remind yourself, "Click out, before you stop,"and you'll be fine. If you say it, you will be more likely to do it. If you're like me, however, and you talk so slowly that your brain has to wait until you've finished speaking to know what you have to do, you may want to shorten this to something more actionable, like 'AAAAAACCKK!!' Say it out loud if it helps.

With that, I also want to point out, that it's important to keep up on proper nutrition and hydration. After you've been working out, or riding around, for a while, your body will be burning calories, electrolytes and sugars. Don't quote me on the exact science of this, but it has something to do with the fact that, because you're doing something, something else happens. If you burn up too many blood sugars, your mind starts to do wacky things, and you will be more likely to fall over, especially if you're just learning clipless. As you're learning, be sure to keep a sports drink with you. With that, I'm sure you will find success. If you don't, remember to take your bike back to the shop where you purchased the pedals, and say that they're defective.

Ride safe! I love you all.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Start Spreadin' the News..

Welcome to Sunday. A day for taking life at a leisurely pace. Whether you’re puttering around the house, roaming around outdoors, working on your yard, working at your job, making love, going to your favorite place of worship, or just staying at home.. uhh.. something else, I wish you a leisurely day.

If you’re finding this page from my comments over at BikeSnobNYC’s blog (buy his book!), I thank you. I’ve been following his writings for years now, and it fascinates me to hear what cycling is like in another town, moreover, in New York City. Yeah, I hate to admit it, but like many people, I’m awed by the Big Apple. I want to take a minute to let you know a few of the things that stand out to me about New York cycling, as opposed to what it’s like here.

But first, I have to give you a little background. I actually lived in upstate New York as a small child, and remember the first time I really ‘saw’ New York, the city. It blew my little mind. It was like I didn’t know what the night sky was, until I had seen it lighted the way that only NYC can.

My next solid memory of a location outside my small neighborhood, though, was of Newark, New Jersey. I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but I remember it because it’s my first memory of puking my guts out. And I didn’t just vomit, I threw-up so bad, that it made other members of my family sick too. Since I was so young, I didn’t have any opinions about the state of New Jersey at the time. I can say that I’ve had difficulty keeping an open mind ever since. Not that I’m trying to espouse an opinion common in pop culture, but I’ll just say that I understand.

(It’s important to note that my experiences in the tri-state area were during the American Medieval Period. Mead was still popular then. In fact, I think it was before the invention of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not that I was allowed to drink either of those beverages as a child, of course. My parents made sure that I was raised on proper Scotch.)

Fast forward to the modern world. A close friend of mine in Seattle was offered a job in Midtown Manhattan that included an all-expenses-paid apartment in Jersey City. Of course, the job eventually ended, and she ended up in a roach-infested unit (do they call it a ‘flat’ there?) in Newark. Sigh. But, I finally had a good excuse to finally get back to New York.

I made the sojourn from Seattle to Newark in 2004. There’s actually a non-stop flight from here, one of the few east coast cities, we can fly to non-stop. I’m not sure how that worked out; I love to fly, but hate the airline industry. To her credit, my friend showed me that it is possible to spend more than a few minutes in Newark without falling ill. This was a big highlight of the trip for me. (I confess, I’m still leery, of it, though.) The other highlight of the trip was getting to just walk Manhattan.

I have to offer a point of reference here, that it was Fourth of July weekend, 2004, and we spent part of a day, watching the newly released (at the time) Michael Moore film, Fahrenheit 911. Say what you want about the director or the film, but I couldn’t go back to my neighborhood in Seattle with its, “Impeach Bush” flyers everywhere, without having seen this film. Everybody saw it that weekend. I gained extra credit for seeing it in Midtown, and on the 4th of July.

So, yeah, we ventured around the city like the kind of tourists that everyone hates. Seattle has a thriving cruise industry, so we get a regular batch of tourists here, too. Our tourists have a ‘season’ though, sort of like deer, in Michigan, but it’s not okay to shoot them. When tourists get realllly annoying, like taking up the entire bike path walking, when the sidewalk is right next to it, I try to breathe deep and remember that they are visiting my city, that I love so much, and that being an asshole to them will not instill my sentiment of appreciation.

By turns, when I was visiting New York, I tried hard (really) to be respectful of the residents, and not just stand in the middle of the sidewalk and gawk. New York is a busy place with lots of stuff going on all the time, that in some cases, I admit, are more important to the US economy than the stuff that I deal with on a regular basis. They have shit to do. But please forgive me, New Yorkers, your city just has a lot of cool and crazy shit to see. It was painfully hard not to stop and stare.

As a cyclist, I made particular note of the cycling conditions, as we were strolling around. I happen to enjoy, what some people call, “Urban Cycling”, and what other people call, “Riding in the Street”. In addition to sites and smells of the city, I was actually looking for riders that might be in the process of commuting to, from, or even during, work. The city is so flat, it made me wonder why anyone had a car at all. And I don’t just mean flat; I mean ff-ff-ff-ff-ff-fflaaaaattt!! It’s like Florida, but with less vegetation, and taller buildings.

But looking around, I was glad that I’m a Seattle Commuter, and that I don’t have to suffer the indignities of riding in New York. First off, the roads (at the time) sucked. There were potholes so cavernous that homeless people had set up makeshift man-caves in some of them. I think I remember a bike lane on one of the streets we cruised, but I also remember it was about as appealing as a filth-laden divebar on the outskirts of town, where only the grittiest folk dared go. To read BikeSnob refer to this as his ‘comfy chair’, a couple years later, made me sad for your city. (Sounds like it’s changing though.)

And. There was yet another terrorist threat in the city this weekend. Why? What’s the point, terrorists? Making a terror threat in New York is like littering. It happens a lot, doesn’t offer your situation any value, and confirms you are a complete douche. But maybe the threat of terror is not an impediment to cycling. Maybe it’s more of another excuse to keep a bike with you at all times.

So that as background, I've always thought of Seattle as New York City's little sister. A little less sophisticated, a little less disciplined, and according to some, a little cuter, too. Seattle has bike lanes in the downtown area, and like any downtown, they get obstructed by rude drivers, impatient delivery vans and poorly constructed scaffolding. But in Seattle, our downtown is not actually very big. It’s hemmed in by water on one side and the freeway on the other. It doesn’t actually take more than about five or ten minutes of riding before you get to one of the several bike paths in the city.

If New York’s bike lanes are like easy chairs, Seattle’s bike paths are like oral sex. Yeah. Our pedestrian paths are used predominantly by other riders, rather than the mixed-use pedestrians for which they were commissioned. I know that I’ve seen a mixed-use pedestrian, and sometimes they can be difficult to navigate around. Further, the routes are typically wide enough to ride two-abreast in two directions, though they’re curvy enough that it’s considered bad form to actually do so.

The only ‘filth’ these biking superhighways generally contain is from the trees. Don’t get me wrong, though. Our trees are rather messy and disrespectful of the cycling community. During the fall and winter rains, when trees fall, it’s either on somebody’s roof, or directly over or the bike trails. They never just fall in the forest unheard. The municipalities always take care this pretty quickly, though. And, they actually maintain the surface integrity of these paths, too.

The one thing Seattle riding is not, is flat. In fact, everything in the region is either a hill or a lake. Fixed-gear bikes, by turns, are not very popular in most of our neighborhoods. (Yet more evidence, that we have to establish our own fashion trends, rather than follow someone else’s. Therefore, we will always be dorks somehow.) As a community, we don’t just map out the safest, most fun, or fastest routes around the area, we also have a tendency to offer up the flattest, as an option as well. Nor do we have an effective transportation system, such that if you have a catastrophic failure, you can’t just pop over to a subway or train system. We have a bus system, but some buses only arrive once an hour or so. We’re still working on that.

Okay, so I’m not trying to say one city is better than the other. I just want to offer up why they’re different. Whether you ride in an easy chair, or enjoy it with virtual oral sex, be sure to get out and have fun.

Like a lot of people, I have stuff I have to do this week. So, I will see you again next weekend.

Ride safe! I love you all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Digging Holes: When Beauty Isn't Enough

Okay, so I’m officially committing to this Blog thing now. I’m going to actually hit publish too. (I'll find my way around this blogtool, yet.) Woohoo! Like a newborn foal, stretching her legs for the first time, I feel a little unsteady, but one step at a time, as they say. And isn’t there a salt lick somewhere?

Today is the first official day of Bike to Work Month. If you work over the weekend, and rode your bike to work, I commend you. I also thank you for working on the weekend, so I can do stuff on my days off, like shopping, dining out, getting stuff worked on, or just generally doing the things I can not do on my own. You rock.

I expect many people will honor Bike Month, and keep it holy. I’m not particularly religious, but my bike receives the treatment afforded some deities. Over the years, it’s received a small fortune in components, and on occasion, bits of human sacrifice. There are times that small animals, from what I could tell, are so overcome by the majesty of my machine (no, it’s not a Serotta, or even in that class, but I think highly of anything I allow between my legs,) that they even offer themselves as sacrifice. I won’t let my bike accept such offerings.

Also, if you aren’t already aware, BikeSnobNYC’s book ‘dropped’, recently, and you should go buy it. I can’t say if it’s any good or not yet (there's now a review up Amazon that says that it is), but the cover is very nicely done, so you should still go buy it. If his blog is any indication, the book will be time well spent. I’m sure it’s going to be the hot, new cycling accessory this year, other than spoke cards. By the way, the gold tone (is it brown?--I've only seen it online, so far--still waiting for my copy) on the cover is nice, but I’m hoping it eventually comes in other colourways in later printings. That would be sweet.

Anyways, one of the things I love about the ‘sport’ of cycling (I confess, with the way I ride, the word, ‘sport’ is a bit of a stretch,) is that some people actually get paid to do it. The concept of ‘Pro Sports’ in general is a little odd; people get paid to do fun stuff, just so other people can watch. They don’t ‘just do it’ either; they sweat, breathe hard, get excited, and occasionally collapse. Really, professional sport is sort of like porn, but with more clothing. That said,

Yeah, I’m a sports fan.

So this weekend, in a confluence of awesomeness, I got to enjoy a televised bike race on the VS channel. Oh sure, I could’ve just started this whole topic with, “Liege-Bastogne-Liege” was on this weekend, but that doesn’t really capture my feelings about it. First off, I’ve been waiting all season for this race. I’m a huge fan of the word, "liege". I confess, I’m not exactly sure what it means, but it’s somewhere between, ‘dude, you’re totally more awesomer than me,’ and ‘lordship’. Secondly, I was pissed at VS for making me wait a whole week just to find out exactly how Alexander Vinokourov put together his win. The cycling websites that I occasionally pay attention to, or hear about, and, had scooped the story when it was still news. Lastly, the footage, as per usual TV coverage of cycling, skipped all the parts of the race that the riders probably enjoyed, and only showed the sections where they were most likely to be dickish to each other. In truth, dickishness is the essence of all reality TV, including sporting events these days.

The big thing about the commentary, though, had little to do with why this is a race that so many pros want to include in their race calendar. As a non-racing cyclist, I’m pretty sure I get it: it has beautiful countrysides, cherry road surfaces (a cherry road surface--smooth pavement, free of potholes--mmm--like fresh powder to a snowboarder,) interesting terrain, and a challenging course to test your soul. Phil Liggett’s and Bob Roll’s comments were a treat, as usual. I never get tired of hearing about how Phillippe Gilbert likes to make ‘cheeky moves’, nor do I ever lose interest in the varying ways that Bob Roll can describe a rider’s “pain box”.

What I did not like is that Jonathan Vaughters was ‘sitting in’ on the commentary in Saturday’s coverage. I actually want to like the guy; he’s in charge of one of the American teams. But, every time I try to get into his train of thought, he comes out with something I absolutely cannot stomach. Okay, yeah. I’m guilty. I’ve made some off-color remarks, and probably will again soon. But what I do does not even compare to one of Vaughter’s remarks today. Scratch that; I can’t even call him by his given name anymore, I’m so disgusted. Today, he’s Captain Douche.

No, that’s not enough. He’s Captain Tampon.

No, that’s too useful. He’s Captain Enema-Face.

No, I’m going to do that. He rides, supports USA Cycling, and busted his ass to get an American team in the Tour de France, so I can call by his actual name. Besides, he dug his own hole, and then climbed into it. Whether you watched it or not, I’ll break it down the way it appeared to me. Here’s how he did it:

Vaughters was speaking to the race tactics and how the course would likely shape-up. In truth, he offered some interesting insights. I’ve never done ‘race recon’ on a European course, and so I wanted to hear his thoughts on this. Then, Liggett started asking him about different riders, both on Garmin and possible team prospects. I wasn’t paying close enough attention to catch who they were discussing, but there’s, apparently, a young European rider Vaughters is interested in signing. He went on to say, that the guy hasn’t signed yet, because he’s concerned that Garmin’s training program is more rigorous than he would prefer. (I’m guessing the kid might be French, or something.) Okay, no big deal.

And then it happened. I couldn’t believe that I had heard it, but I didn’t need to wait for confirmation because it came all too soon.

Jonathan Vaughters actually stated that the pro races are experiencing an “Anglo-Saxonization” that is improving the sport. What? Are you kidding me? Did you just say that with a straight face? One of the things that I find quaint about the Garmin (now Garmin-Transitions) team is their nerdiness. Can’t say why, but there’s something about nerdiness on a hot guy that’s just cute. (Nerdiness in an ugly guy is just unfortunate.) But this, ... this was not nerdy. Since when, did Anglo-centrism become acceptable commentary? What about the rest of Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter? Okay, so the rest of the world is largely unrepresented in professional cycling. And on top of that, are you saying, Mr. Vaughters, that racing shouldn’t be fun?

The biggest reason I like riding my bike is that it’s fun. The reason why I like cipo in yellowone of my all-time favorite pros, Mario Cippollini--an Italian, not an American, nor Englishman--is that when he raced, he seemed to actually have fun, too. That’s why this ‘sport’ is awesome. Sure, say what you want about his race ability, integrity, or whatever, but he likes to ride his bike, and I give him credit for that. And he’s strangely hot, but who’s counting.

So then, we get to the point in the race where Vinokourov pulls away from the pack. He ended up working together with professional breakaway artist, Katusha’s Kolobnev, and pulled out a great win. Liggett’s comment: “He’s back from disgrace!” Like during his recent doping suspension, he was really just visiting his inlaws or something.

But then, JV had to jump in. “Well, I have mixed feelings about this. Mixed feelings.” Umm, okay, yeah, your team makes a big deal about racing clean and redemption. One of your best riders was an ex-”doper”, and somehow that’s different? Vinokourov won this same race back in 2005, is famous for dropping both Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in the mountains of France, and has thunder thighs like a speed skater. Yeah, I think he can hang and be clean at the same time. Sure, he’s quirky too, but show me a ‘normal rider’, and I’ll show you someone with some native strangeness. It’s part of the deal.

Though, maybe the doping thing is not what was so upsetting. Maybe it’s the fact that the race finish just shattered his whole ‘Anglo’ idea. The winner of the race was Asian. So, Mr Vaughters, was that it?

Damn, I’m ranting today, and I generally don’t like to make a habit of that. Let’s all take a moment to kick back and enjoy some rainbows and unicorns.

So, this blog is off and running now. I’m not sure if I can be interesting enough to keep it updated every day, but I plan to ‘post up’ on weekends.

Ride Safe. I love you all.