Friday, April 30, 2010

Facebook Friday! The Best Bike Advice I Ever Received Is…

With a collective millennium of racing and riding experience, The Best Bike Blog Ever asked our Facebook Fans what the best bike advice they ever received was.  What seems elementary now, once was a revelation.  Hopefully one of our fans will help you out on your next ride.  Plus, it's your chance to meet some of the like minded people like you that read The Best Bike Blog EVER*.  To become a FB fan, look for the link box in the right hand column of the blog or click here.  Thanks for reading!

The Best Bit of Bike Advice I Ever Received Is…

Cutoff jeans and a 50 mile ride?  Dont do it.  Just dont.  When cutoffs were almost “somewhat cool,”  I rode anyway, what a stupid idea that was.

Glasses outside the straps. 

Apply suntan lotion first then butt butter.  Never change the order.

Nobody's your friend in the last 200 meters.

When you're deep in the pain cave it is pretty likely that everyone around you is too. That bit of advice helps me hang in when the going gets really tough.

LOOK at where you WANT to go, NOT where you DON’T want to go.

"Smash the Big Ring!!!!!"

You're usualy better off ignoring advice from the guy you just lapped.

Keep the rubber side down.

Get your knees in! Stop cross chaining! Don't run those stop signs unless you’re with me and we are in a break!

If it's not fun, you're probably doing it wrong.

Eat...or you'll bonk! Get off the front!

Do not mix embrocation with chamois cream.

The wise T.F. gave me the obvious (to me now) insight that everybody hurts at the end of the climb...just keep pedalin'.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Turkey Attacks Bike, A Conspiracy Brews

Turkey’s are taking over the world, according to yesterday’s article in USA Today.  It’s foul!  With wild turkey populations on the rise and the hot gobbling love of Turkey mating season upon us, they’re breaking into bakeries in Nebraska, suicide bombing semi-trucks in Tennessee and now have taken up drumsticks against cyclists in Ohio.   While it remains to be proven that Turkey’s have a carbon fiber fetish or that this Turkey outburst against cyclists could be a thanksgiving related conspiracy in retaliation for traditional Thanksgiving beatdown epic rides followed by eating lots and lots of turkey, the occupants of the car in the photo are thankful to have survived the flap.  While it may not make the TV drama, “I Survived,” the guy who recently bought my old kick-ass Jamis Xenith Pro and Best Bike Blog Ever fan, DF, had a face to feather encounter with Wild Tammy Turkey in Eastern Ohio.  In, more or less his words, here’s DF’s story on how the Turkey became his new water bottle and how a 16 pound bike became a 36 pound delicacy.

Dateline: Athens, OH

So, my wife and I were en route to Athens, OH on route 32. The turkey was sitting in the median and decided to take off at a very bad time/direction. I saw it pass over head and then heard the very unsettling crash. It was basically the same sound you hear when you run a bike into a parking garage.  Which I've done…too.

There was a car in the right lane that I had just passed.  II bet they’re at home telling some sort of interesting story right now.  It took me about a quarter mile to pull over off the highway and this is the sight (photo) that greeted me when I got out of the car.

The Jamis is my bike.  As you can see it was basically covered in blood, guts, and feathers.  You can see some of the entrails hanging off of the back wheel. The turkey's heart came out and ended up resting on my window wiper on the back window.   (Collective: EWWWWW)  I'd imagine the poor girl never knew what hit her.

The front crossbar on the roof rack was pushed back about six inches on the right side. The bike rack holding my poor Jamis is trashed, although it held up well enough to get the bike home after the application of some bungee cords. The rack holding my wife's bike was bent due to the movement of the front crossbar, but seems to be functional. Her bike escaped fine, other than being covered in the left over turkey remains.  (Collective: EWWWWWW)

Currently, my bike is up at BioWheels Bike Shop. As of now, it looks like the main damage is to the fork. One of the dropouts is bent. The bar and stem seem to be okay, other than just being whacked out of position. The verdict is still out on the frame, so we'll have to see how that turns out.

Only three days later, DF saw the article in USA today and realized, “Clearly I'm the victim of some greater turkey-related conspiracy.”  I agree DF.  I smell a conspiracy too…a juicy 12 pound cranberry and gravy covered conspiracy.

Of course, immediately after the photo was posted on Facebook, the caption contest began.  Here’s the large photo followed by some favorite captions:
BC: The New Shimano Flight Deck
JM: That’s Foul
CA: Who Wants a Drumstick
WF: Hey Honey, Got KFC for Dinner!
CM: What Do You Mean This Isn’t Under Warranty?
RT: Is That UCI Legal?
DR: I Think You Need A New Water Bottle
RA: And You Were Worried You Might Forget About The Bikes And Pull Into The Garage
MH: Got Taken Out On The Road By Some Turkey
SM: Anybody Ever See a Turkey Hump a Bike? 
KC: One Shot Of Wild Turkey Coming Up
CM: I Was Just Riding Along
CB: Where’s the Stuffing?
MS: Gu Just Wasn’t Giving Me The Boost I Needed
AB: When Turkeys Attack!
TBBBE: I Told You, You’d be able to drop all the turkeys if you bought my bike.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Manwich and 3 Other Reasons You Got Dropped

From time to time I get asked for cycling advice.  Being an expert at Radio Commercial Production, I am supremely qualified to offer opinions and guidance on all things cycling.  What more do you need?  Bike qualifications?  Well, I once jumped 23 Tonka trucks in my front yard.  What if I told you that the bunny hop was invented in my neighborhood?  It was.  In fact it was originally performed by this guy named Wambolt a few streets down from me in Menomonee Falls, WI.  Within weeks, everyone in our neighborhood was doing the Wambolt Hop.  I guess the name didn’t stick.  If you must press for credentials, I’ve worked at a bike shop.  However, don’t ask me to build a wheel or glue a tubular.  I’ve been riding bikes since I was a kid, built my first BMX bike from an old Schwinn.  As a 110 pound 8th or 9th grader, I circumnavigated Waukesha County WI on my first road bike, a Royce Union with a boombox blasting The Who strapped to the front rack.  I later took it apart, down the frame, and gave it the most hideous multi-colored splash-paint job you’ve ever seen.  I’m pretty sure I left it locked up outside when I graduated from a University of Wisconsin college and drove away to wonderful career in radio.  Later in the 90’s, when I first started racing I bought my first mountain bike, a yellow, made-in-Wisconsin splash-painted Trek 830.  Realizing the marketing genius of my splash paint job was precisely the moment I knew I had missed my calling and in fact was a cycling savant.

As a savant, I get questions on road cycling etiquette and how-to all the time, most of them stemming from a humbling experience where the poor soul was left sniveling and crying for mama between bouts of the pukes as their riding companions rode away to the great place where the sides of the road meet the horizon.  That said there are really only two reasons one gets dropped on a ride.  95.7% of the time you get dropped is because your either not strong enough, or did something stoopid…I mean, something that you shouldn’t have.  4.2% of the time, can actually be attributed to something else like someone crashing into you or making the smart choice to not chance darting out in front of a car to stick with the boneheads that did.  .1% of the time, you’re actually a pro that sacrificed themselves for the benefit of the team.

My gym teacher once said, “your friends won’t tell you, but I will…you stink.”  There’s two ways to stink at road cycling: either not being strong enough to ride with the bunch or just not being smart enough.  As far as strength, other than healing up, getting well, taking your allergy medicine, continually getting beat until one day you hang, or getting a coach and’re on your own to HTFU.

For the rest of you that felt as if you were strong enough to “hang” with the bunch, but got dropped, obviously you did something, uh, you shouldn’t have.  If you don’t have the brawn, use your brain.  Most of the time cyclists get dropped because they put themselves in a position that could’ve been avoided.  The most common reasons I’ve seen people get dropped are as follows: Pulling The Ripcord, The Manwich, Shy Elbow Syndrome, and Cyclist Unawarus. 

You pulled off the front just before or midway up a short roller climb.  Buh bye paratrooper.  This is the #1 reason I see people get dropped.  I’m talking about those little hills that are just tall enough to test your mettle holding the pace from the bottom to the top.  The root of the issue is that you either don’t have the legs to hold the pace to discourage others from coming around on the climb, knew you didn’t have the legs and waited too long to get off the front, or you knew you didn’t have the legs but didn’t anticipate that you would be the one that would end up on the front on the roller.  The main symptom is someone just as weak as you made it up the hill with the group. 

The truth is bikes go faster up hills, except for yours.  Know this.  The pace will get slightly harder on a hill.  It always does.  If it doesn’t, well at least you’re prepared.  You have two choices: either take a shorter pull and leave yourself room to latch onto the back BEFORE the group hits the hill.  Or, commit to grunting it out to the top fast enough to discourage people from attacking or coming around.  If you can't make that commitment, you should pull off and get to the back of the group before the climb.  Live by this rule.  The exception is the .1 percent of the time you're leading out a teammate for a KOM or a sprint, essentially sacrificing yourself. 

Avoiding getting dropped on this short hill starts a mile or more from the hill.  As a weaker rider in the bunch, you need to be smarter.  Position yourself in the paceline so you don’t end up on the front going into the hill.  You need to look ahead.  We all ride the same routes on group rides.  You know where the hills, stoplights and corners are.  You ride with the same people.  You know who’s strong.  You definitely know who’s not.  You know your bike is filled with lead.  You have all this information at your disposal.  So, make sure you’re safely tucked into the middle of the group when you get to the hill.  With the hill approaching, take a shorter pull or sit on the back to rearrange your position in the group, so you hit the hill in the middle of the group.  If you’re on the front approaching the hill, pull off leaving yourself enough time to get to the back and catch your breath before the hill. 

Never, as a weaker rider, position yourself with the fastest rider in the bunch directly in front of you OR directly behind.  Avoid being the meat in the Manwich.  Instead, sandwich yourself between two riders that are only slightly stronger than you.  There’s always a hammerhead or two on every ride.  There’s always a bunch of mid-level riders in the bunch.  When one of the weaker riders is in a Manwich, directly behind or in front of one of the stronger riders, eventually the weaker rider is going to get dropped. It takes the most energy to ride on the front, it takes the 2nd most energy to ride 2nd wheel.  If Big Hoss Manwich is driving the front at 24mph with a heart rate of 80% and you, Skinny Legs, are behind going 24mph with a heart rate of 85%, what do you think will happen when Manwich has to dig a little deeper?  His heart rate may come close to 90%, and you, Skinny Legs, are going to hit 95% and blow.

Now imagine if Big Hoss Manwich is behind Skinny Legs.  Skinny Legs is taking a pull with their heart rate at 85%.  Skinny Legs pulls off and Big Hoss takes over.  Skinny Legs is now out in the wind by himself in the fall back lane.  Big Hoss Manwich unwittingly takes the pace up 1 or 2mph.  Skinny Legs is now left in the wind, trying to go even faster, and expending more energy than what it took just moments ago.  Goodbye Skinny Legs.

To avoid the Manwich, position yourself between two riders that are only slightly stronger than you in the paceline.  You can do this on a corner, at a stoplight, or by sitting on the back and pretending to blow your nose as you strategically wait for another wheel besides that of Big Hossman.

You're staying on the front too long.  Realize that your pull at the front isn’t over till you get behind someone else.  Don't wait till you're tired, cross-eyed or drooling from all orifices to pull off the front.  You still need to ride hard until you get your draft back.  I usually say, the second you start to feel the lactic acid burn start in your legs, throw the elbow.  Sometimes that'll be a minute or two, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, or when you're traveling at warp speed, not even 1 second.  You need to save some guns (in a double paceline) to stay at the front in the fall back line till the rider behind you comes over in front of you or (if it's a single paceline) latch back onto the pack.  Do this, and you'll find you'll stick with the group longer and have more left in the tank for when it matters, like the end of the ride or the last hill.  Road riding is kind of about being selfish.  It’s tough for nice people to throw the elbow.

You’re not thinking ahead, way ahead, and anticipating changes in the paceline and the route.  While the Manwich refers to being more aware of who’s in front of and behind of you, and Pulling the Ripcord is about your position in the bunch going into a hill, Cyclist Unawarus has to do with being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Be aware of the route, the strengths of the riders around you, and where the optimal place in the bunch is for your survival.  If you know the pace is going to be crazy fast at a certain point, think ahead and position yourself so that you’re safely in the group at that point.  If you know the bunch is going to be strung out going through some tight corners, you don’t want to be dangling on the back through those corners.  If you’re headed into a descent, you don’t want to be behind brake monkey the whole way down.  If you’re headed into a long climb, be aware who’s in front of you.  Weaker riders will likely create a gap and cause you to lose contact with the leaders.  Keep an eye out for that gap.  Prepare to go around and close it up before it becomes insurmountable. 

Now, hopefully the only reason that you get dropped is that you just aren’t fast enough.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Schmirth Day

Earth Day, what a bunch of hooey.  It’s just another Hallmark holiday to me, not any different than Valentine’s Day.  My wife and I don’t exchange cards or gifts on Valentine’s Day, even though it is in fact the anniversary of my proposal.  It’s Earth Day and the Earth shouldn’t expect anything extra from me today.  If you have a good relationship everyday should be as love filled and celebrated as Valentine’s Day.  If you really care about the environment, everyday should be Earth Day.  If the green websites and NBC logos are making you feel a little guilty about it, I guess it never hurts to put a little more umph into “doing your part” for fat mama earth today.  There's no such thing as too much of a good thing for Earth Day.  (Pictured: beautiful El Yunque National Forest-Puerto Rico)

Earlier today I updated the status of The Best Bike Blog Ever*’s Facebook page.  It read, “Happy Earth Day.  Do your part.  Pick up a piece of trash or two on your ride today.”  I had an early meeting and rushed it.  I wish I thought it out more clearly.  I guess that’s what I’m doing now.  If you’re a cyclist you should be pickin’ up a piece of trash whenever you can no matter what day it is.  I’m not saying to lock up the brakes at the front of the peloton and break a few collarbones to stuff a gum wrapper in your jersey pocket.  Seriously, if you ride a bike, stop at an intersection and see a piece of trash, pick it up and put it in the next recycling or garbage can you see.  It makes the ride that much more enjoyable next time you pass through.

That got me to thinking of other things an everyday cyclist can do to make everyday Earth Day:

You should never buy another water bottle again.  No lie.  I have at least 50 of them in my pantry dating back to God knows when.  It’s ridiculous.  If you need one, let me know.  Ask a friend.  Or, take a look around at the next rough railroad track crossing, chances are there’s one lying in the brush.  Trash becomes treasure.  I’ve heard pro tour teams this year are using bottles made from recycled or biodegradable material.  So you don’t have to cringe and wince when you see them whip a bottle into an empty field in a remote part of Spain.  They say at most pro races the fans snatch them up pretty quickly.  However, I don’t recall seeing too many fans in the desert during the Tour of Oman earlier this year.  The next time one jangles out of your cage probably best to go pick it up, unless you have cheering souvenir hunting fans along your training route.  Plus, Karma’s a bitch.

It was likely brain cell killing toxic and costly, but I used to practically clean my entire bike with degreaser.  Idiot.  Looking back at my carelessness, probably a few gallons of degreaser flowed out of my garage and into the storm sewer or through cracks into the ground.  Now, I drop a rag on the floor under the drive train; spritz a spray or two on the chain cleaner or tooth brush and scrub the drive train only.  When you’re done, you can use that degreaser dripped rag to wipe off your cassette and chainrings.  I’ve heard there are chain cleaners that allow you to recycle the degreaser with a filter.  That’s what the bike shops do, but on a huge scale.  That’s what that big 50 gallon drum in the back of the shop is for.  Degreaser never really loses its cleaning properties.  You can use it more than once.  Like motor oil, it just gets dirty.  The rest of the bike is cleaned with a squirt of dish soap into a recycled spray bottle of water.  We have 5 bikes that are ridden and cleaned at least weekly.  I probably fill up that old circa 2002 409 cleaner spray bottle three times per year.  That’s 3 squeezes of soap for hundreds of bike wipe-downs.  I don’t buy shop rags.  Instead I recycle old t-shirts into rags and use those to clean the bike.  Don’t tell me you don’t have a surplus of hideously ugly t-shirts from charity rides and races.

Not only will it keep you from littering the drive through at Arby’s with heavy metals and carbon fiber during a run-in with the overhang, it saves a ton on gas.  I’ve tracked the mileage savings.  With my car, there’s probably a 3-4 mpg difference between having a bike on top of the roof as opposed to being inside.  That makes a huge difference when traveling to races or on vacation.  Plus it stays dry, maybe saving a re-lube of the drive train when you arrive at your destination.  Lastly, your bike might be a little more secure locked behind tinted windows instead of advertising to the world that you have an expensive bike.  Of course there’s going to be times when you need the roof rack, hopefully that’s when you’re carpooling with teammates and friends, saving the gas you would’ve burned taking individual cars, and getting lost in the boonies trying to keep the caravan together.

While it’s fantastic to have new trails and bikeways, I am always surprised by the amount of trash and junk deep in the honey suckle jungle of unused park land.  At Devou Park in Covington volunteers from Give Back Cincinnati carted out literally hundreds of 5 gallon buckets full of ancient whiskey pint bottles, tires, old fencing, tarps, tents, single shoes, and some things that just made us scratch our heads.  So, when you help build a trail, you’re also helping to clean up your local public land, leaving you feeling double happy.

A Facebook Fan of the blog the other day mentioned that there must’ve been a quarter of a million dollars worth of bikes in the local Cat 3 race this past Sunday, fifty racers on five thousand dollar rigs.  He summarized a lot of the Cat 3 races have decent jobs and can afford a little luxury in their hobby.  Consequently, with wealth comes waste.  No doubt many of these riders simply whip in a new inner tube whenever they flat and toss the old tube in the trash.  I concur; most racers would hate to be sidelined in a race by flatting on a repaired inner tube.  However, for a few years now, I save my flatted tubes for a rainy day tube patching party.  I look forward to the bottle of Sierra Nevada and using up three patch kits.  While I still prefer to run unpatched tubes during races, the spare tube I carry on local training rides is usually a patched one.  Additionally, that makes it pretty easy to lend a tube to someone in need.  What goes around comes around.