Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Dozen Reasons Winning a Case-O-SunChips Prime Is So Killer

12 It totally justifies the purchase of a $5k+ Kuota KOM pro tour bike from BioWheels.

11 The PR guy for blog sponsor Ryders Eyewear can email this photo to his boss and leave work early without anyone noticing today.

10 SunChips rhymes with fun-sh@*!

9 I beat a guy riding a pink bike to do it at Ault Park.  Outside of the Giro, a pink bike should never win.

bad kitty.
8 When it’s empty, I can turn it into a kitty condo for our two cats.

7 With the $15 entry, it brought the price of SunChips down to a reasonable 62.5 cents per bag.

6 It was the first night racing in my new team kit, making the extra manscaping under the white leg panel soo worth it.

5 It’s the only gaudy trophy my wife will let me display on a shelf in the house, even if it’s in the pantry.

4 I'm WINNING like Charlie Sheen.

3 It made me feel like the grand marshal of a one man parade riding home one-handed through Mount Lookout Square.

2 The box with my bib number taped to it looks awesome mounted on the wall in my office.

1 I’ll make a killing charging 75 cents/bag for them in the office vending machine! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TDF 2011: It's the Leather Jersey That Matters

Obviously there’s some disagreement as to if Contador should not have attacked and/or waited after Schleck dropped his chain in last year's tour.  Some cried foul.  Others insist there are no gifts in the Tour De France.  There will never be any cut and dry rule.  We could debate the tire-width line between winning and sportsmanship till someone from France wins the tour again, or we could award acts of heroism, respect and coolness in the Tour De France.  With another Schleckador battle looming, for  2011 I propose a new jersey competition to stand atop the podium along with the yellow, green and polka dot.  Introducing: The Leather Jersey, Le Maillot Cuir.

There’s no argument that the world’s coolest person ever in the world is Arthur Henry Fonzarelli, aka The Fonz.  Modeled after Fonzie’s leather jacket from the hit TV show Happy Days, the Leather Jersey would be awarded each day to the points leader in the coolness competition.  Of course it’d be a faux black coolmax leatheresque jersey, pleather if you will.  It’d have an authentic “thumbs up” silk screened on the back and topped off with an extra tall popped-up collar.  The Leather Jersey would be sponsored by Ryders Eyewear and come with a pair of cool Seeker sunglasses.  Fabian Cancellara, a cool guy who remarkably resembles the Fonz the most, would award the jersey each day.  Instead of kissing, the podium girls, dressed like sexy Pinky Tuscaderos, would stand back, give a double thumbs up and say, "AAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!"

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Points would be awarded to riders demonstrating acts of sportsmanship, heroism, respect, kindness and general coolness.  Double points would apply on extreme stages, such as those with Hors category climbs or on days when the weather is bad.

The Cool Points scale could look something like this:
2              Heroically making the time cut but coming in DFL
5              Offering water  food to a racer on another team
7              Helping unpile the bikes after a mass wreck
10           Checking to see if that dude that just rode off the cliff is moving down there
15           Waiting for or not attacking a rival who just suffered a mechanical or a crash

In a multiple jersey winning situation, instead of giving the lesser jersey to the runner up, the Leather Jersey would be worn layered as a cool vintage-style under jersey in conjunction with the green, polka dot or yellow jersey.  In Paris it would be an extra honor, showing the world that it is indeed possible to win with respect, integrity, sportsmanship, heroism, kindness and just being a cool Joe Biker.

(joe biker note: No, you're not seeing double.  This article originally posted on July 21, 2010.  With Le Tour starting this weekend, we thought it was worth a repost.  Love you.  Mean it.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Podium Flowers on the Mantel

They Do Look Nice
Another man gave flowers to my wife.  Who?  Which guy?  Him?  Even with my little biker bean arms I can puff up my chest like a protective walrus when someone steals my chivalrous thunder.  It was our anniversary this weekend.  I should be the dude dolling out the pretty flowers.  I knew I should’ve picked some up, but we already had an orchid on the mantel.  However, like bikes, the optimal number of flower bouquets in a woman’s house is always +1.  I reasoned that I had already overspent on the gift…a sweet trendy white watch.  I’ll get it wrapped real nice and pick up a card.  Flowers aren’t necessary.  You’d think, after 13 years, I’d learn flowers are always necessary.

See the Flowers in the Winner's Left Hand?
I’ll admit, he was charming, speaking in his down under somewhere accent.  I overheard him say something like, “I’m up in the states for 6 months and then it’s back to Tasmania.”  Puh-lease mate.  Tasmania?  Who do you think you are?  Russell freaking Crowe?  Then again stepping off the top step of the pro-podium at the Madeira Centennial Criterium I’ll admit, in a bike racer kind-of-way, he was a bit dreamy.  There’s not a girl in the world that could resist the combination of 10 o’clock shadow, beefcake behind wrapped in clean spandex and that accent.  At the moment the dude was the cycling equivalent of The Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the World. 

Clay @ Iron Hill 2010 from Cycling News
A friend mentioned, “I heard he won the USA Crit Championship Series race in Grafton Wisconsin last week.”  “Ooh Grafton, you mean the freeway exit ramp between Milwaukee and Green Bay?” I thought.  Really, I’m lying.  I wasn’t a bit jealous or over protective.  Clay Murfet, a pro riding for team Ride Clean/ is a true gentleman and an all around nice guy.  After the podium ceremonies in Cincinnati on Friday night, he hung out and chatted with the crowd, answered every question with a smile and asked my wife if she’d like the flowers.  Of course she would!

Thanks Mate!  Couldn't have planned that better.
Clay made my weekend, a weekend of bikes, gifts, food, drinks, cowbells, friends and fun with my sweetheart of 13 years.  Flowers from the local Kroger grocery store would’ve been nice, but a beautiful bouquet that was the center of attention at a pro bike race and handed to my wife by the Tasmanian winner with a handsome smile was da bomb.  He won last week in Wisconsin too, our home state.  I couldn’t have planned that better.  Thanks Clay!  Let me know what I owe ya.  ;)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hyde Park Blast/USA Crit Series Cheering For Dummies

How do I cheer?
Clap like a spaz.  If you don’t own a cowbell, craft a recession version using a wooden spoon and camping skillet and clang it like dinner time at the monkey exhibit.  Yell only as a last resort.  You’ll find out why when you call your mother on Sunday morning.
How do I look like I know what I’m cheering for?
Cheer for a USA Crit Championship Series leader.  Impress the cutie next to you by asking them, “Did you know ‎8 of the top 20 men in the overall series are at the Hyde Park Blast today?  And, by the way you look hot in those shorts and my van is parked around the corner.”
Luke Keough of Team Mountain Khakis is ranked 2nd overall.  They’re the team wearing tan trousers with the zip in the front. 
Aerocat’s Juan Pablo Dotti is in 3rd.  His teammate Emile Abraham is in the top 10 and their kitty litter mate Serghei Tvetcov is in the top 20.
Clayton Barrows of Stans No Tubes is in the top 10.  Plus, Clayton Barrows sounds like a millionaire’s name like Thurston Howell the Third.
Clay Murfet of RideClean won in Grafton, Wisconsin last Saturday and will be here.  Grafton is the 9th planet in our solar system.
Lisban Quintero of the Foundation Team is in the top 20 and...what?  STFU!  According to this article posted Thursday 6/23 at he tested positive and has been removed from the Foundation Cycling New York team roster.  I guess someone will move up into the top 20 and we can cross him off the Hyde Park Blast confirmed riders list.  Okay.  Well.
Cheer for Your Favorite Sponsor.  If you have a name for your beer belly and lost track of your personal tattoo count, cheer for the XO/Harley Davidson team.  Like drinking wine (you lush), cheer for Jamis/Sutter Home. If you like getting high at work, cheer for Kenda/5-Hour Energy.
Cheer for a Local Team.  Our local Ohio Valley guys are fast, a few could go pro, a couple were, but lets face it the bulk of these guys with real jobs on Monday will be crying for mama between bouts of the pukes 45 minutes into the race.  Local teams include: Panther, The Cleveland Clinic, Huntington Bank-Revolution Fitness, Alderfer Bergen, Indiebike, Ghisalo, Team Hungry and any guy getting his $5000 bike off the roof of his sweet TDI VW Jetta with low profile tires.  So when cheering for the local/regional guys it’s a big deal for:
1: A local guy in a breakaway. If there’s a group of riders ahead of the main pack and there’s a local guy in it, that’s a pretty big deal for a yokel local to hang with the big pros.  Give him lots of cowbell…this is the moment of stardom he’ll be telling his grand kids about.
2: A Prime lap.  Throughout the race, officials will ring a bell and the first rider to cross the finish line on the next lap will win a prize, like a giant barrel of Cheetos or a couple hundred bucks.  While the big teams are in it to win the race, the local guys will do anything for Cheetos.
3: The Dangler.  When the race is near the 1 hour mark, no doubt some of the local guys will be dangling in danger of getting dropped from the pack and be out of the race.  Like working one out on the toilet, give the dangler all the cowbell you got to keep him hanging on another lap.  He’s giving it all he’s got Scotty!

Where’s a good spot to watch?
Where the beer is dummy.  It’s best to change positions as the race progresses.  On the hairpin near the pit is a great early spot.  You’re close to the beer tent and can see the early riders come into the pit, fake having a mechanical issue and get a free lap (see below).  After the first 10 laps or so, make your way up to the hill.  That’s where the attacks are made, breakaways started and the less strong riders lose their lunch.  You might even be able to bribe a neighborhood party to let you watch in their yard if you put a six pack in their cooler.  Toward the end of the race, make your way down toward the start/finish to be closer to the beer wagon again and see the blistering sprint. 
Why Are People Waving $20 Bills at the Riders on the Hill?
That’s because they owe the Aerocat riders for the good time in the van an hour ago.  No really, that’s a spectator prime.  Unofficial prizes, some neighbors pool their money and have their own race in their own backyard.  The first guy to their driveway at the top of the climb wins $20!  It’s for real.

Those guys were dropped.  Why do they get a free lap?
According to the rules, a free lap may be granted for a mishap like a flat tire.  The rider pulls into the pit and squishes his tire to make believe he has a flat in front of the official.  The official “inspects the bike” and either grants the free lap or tells the rider to pack their bags.  The free lap rule may only be in effect for a limited time as determined by officials.  Historically, there are so many riders and the course of the Hyde Park Blast so technical that officials may grant a free lap to riders dropped early in the race who may have had a poor starting position to begin with.  Watch the start of the race and you’ll notice while the guys in the front are powering up the straightaway close to 30mph, those at the back might be on the brakes going into the first corner.  Those riders can be granted a free lap and re-enter the field for a second chance.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dude, Where’s My Giant Foam Thumb?

It’s the if-then philosophical algebraic method of cycling.  If you don’t have a spare tube and air, then carry a cell phone.  If you don’t have a cell phone, then ride with friends who do.  If you don’t have any friends…uh…you should either have two Nike’s or a giant foam thumb sticking out of your jersey pocket.

Occasionally I ride with Dude.  Dude’s cool and a steady strong heads up rider.  Dude is new to town and lives in an adjacent neighborhood.  Dude and I aren’t Facebook besties.  Dude doesn’t feed my cats when I go on vacation.  I don’t know Dude’s full story.  Our conversation has never went past paceline pleasantries.  I don’t have Dude’s number nor know his address.  He doesn’t know mine.  We’re like barbell friends, on the opposite ends of the same group ride.  I show up when I need a moderately paced civil ride.  He shows up when he wants to ride with familiar faces.  I’ve been the new dude, dropped between Loveland and Morrow my first year in town and sympathize. 

Dude’s hamstrings and quads are big enough to be featured on the sale poster at the cannibal neighborhood deli.  Friends on the ride marvel at his beef sticks.  Nicknames like Dude-asaurus Rex and Hamhock don’t even come close.  The legs of his shorts should be reinforced with Kevlar.  After a recent ride, he may consider running a motorcycle chain. 

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I equate riding in Northern Kentucky like this.  Take a piece of paper.  Crumple it up in a ball.  Unwad it and there you have a topographical map of NKY.  On your typical everyday Northern Kentucky riser, Dude got up on the pedals, took two stabs and the chain snapped.  Pop.  We turned to see Dude doing the top tube dance of death.  Putting a foot down, he saved it without injury.

“Anybody got a chain tool,” someone asked.


Tonight 6/22 in Cinti Click For Info
5 riders, an hour and a half from home and no one has a chain tool nor a spare pin nor a quick link.  In our defense, 4 of 5 don’t have the legs to break a chain.  To be sure there wasn’t a pin rattling around somewhere, we checked our saddle bags.  Nope.

“Dude, you got anyone you can call for a ride?”


Dude’s new to town, living single in the city.  We’re his friends.  We’re all here.  So we did what any good riding buddies would do.  We left him.

Well not really.  Being at least an hour’s walk from the nearest intersection with a stop light or anything you could remotely call a town, we advised him to sit tight on this tiny road in Nowheresville, KY.  In two hours one of us would come back in a car to pick him up. 

“Dude.  What’s your cell phone number, so we can call and find you when we’re on the way back with the car?”

“I don’t have a cell phone on me.”  Dude quickly added, “Who am I gonna call?”

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We desparately held back the dumb found looks.  He’s serious.  Who’s he gonna call?  Dude was so matter of fact about it.  I tried to wrap my head around the fact that, if it wasn’t for us, he was completely prepared to walk home, like it was no big deal.  We figured he was at least 27 miles or a brisk six hour walk from home in bike shoes, 90 degree weather, with one water bottle.  Dude started asking about the fastest route back by foot.  If that’s what had to be done, he would’ve done it. 

Thankfully, another dude on the ride had enough time in his Sunday schedule to run back out in the car to save Dude’s day.  The thing is, and Dude specified before we pedaled off, Dude didn’t want a ride.  He asked for either a spare chain or the tools to fix it with.  That’s exactly what happened.  After sitting in spandex at the side of the rural NKY road for two hours not looking out of place at all, another dude drove back fixed Dude’s chain and Dude rode home.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Things Your Garmin Can’t Capture for $500 Alex-Flat Joe Biker Early Photo Contest Entries

Mike Fun With Photoshop
Morning fog hides the bridge on the Ohio.  A four foot garter snake suns on the trail.  Your buddy’s conversation makes your 22mph effort seem like 17.  Those are the things that stick in your melon when someone asks, “How was your ride?”  That’s why I think, after only a week, the Road ID Flat Joe Biker contest is off to a great start.  You want to share those moments that your Garmin can’t capture.  I wish you were here to see this!  Flat Joe Biker is almost like having a friend on the trail or on your wheel…almost.  It’s the Kewpie doll for the cyclist.  The contest ends a week from Thursday, and I’m already impressed and humbled to be a part of your adventure.  Thank you and keep the photos coming.  Contest details in the upper right hand column of the page.

Jeni-Lumberjack 100
In a way, I do feel like I was at the Lumberjack 100 with reader Jeni and friends this weekend.  Not like I’m a snooty art snob, but her entry featuring Flat Joe Biker in the commemorative Founder’s Ale pint glass captures the event perfectly.  No matter how good or bad your showing, that’s the real trophy.  It’s probably out of frame, but I bet there’s a friend close-by lubing a chain and simultaneously drinking a beer, plastic grocery bags of energy mix and gallon water jugs on the counter, an iPod playing, gross dirt in the bottom of the shower, jersey’s hung up to dry on the stairs to the loft, a view of the Michigan countryside out the cabin window, and someone on the couch watching a grainy local newscast.

Big Dave Sports Masters 40+ Podium
While I eschewed the Ohio State Masters Road Championships in favor of a mountain bike race that ended up getting rained out, Big Dave put Flat Joe Biker on the Podium.  Seriously.  See the bottom of the photo.  While I’m not worthy of stepping on the Masters 40+ podium with these local hammers, I’ve certainly raced against each one of them at some time or another and know the feeling of raising your hands in the air.  Our judges are super impressed with Big Dave’s attention to detail, one big Flat Joe Biker for the top step…three Gu sized Flat Joe Biker’s for bronze.       

Rod-Tsali Overlook
It appears Rod took Flat Joe Biker to Tsali and Waterrock Knob in and around TN and NC.  3-D Joe Biker loves Tsali.  You got the lake, the cliff side, the bermed corners, and the color contrast of the red earth on blue water.  Tsali is a great trail to ride.  You miss so much if you only race there.  Rods photo makes me want to stop on an overlook and pull the sandwich out of my Hydrapak.  Thank you Rod.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hoarders: Extreme Water Bottle Edition

The ones I could see, I counted.  2-4-6.  15-17-19.  28-30-32.  Wedged into the plastic bin on the pantry shelf, next to the liquor in the fridge-top cabinet, lined like stout soldiers in front of the cookbooks we possess enough water bottles to outfit a pro tour team for a Hors Category stage of the Tour De France.  44-46-48.  With 6 more in the dishwasher and 4 on the drying rack, I can’t believe what my wife said the other night after a teammate kiddingly scolded her for not having team water bottles on her bike.  Joe takes all the good water bottles.  Who me?

Granted, I do have a habit of leaving two or three rolling around the inside of my 4-Runner at any given moment.  Maybe there are 2 in the bedroom and another pair in my backpack.  On a hunch, I bet there’s a couple on the workbench in the garage.  Oh yeah, there might be 4 I left in the dumbwaiter…yes we have a tall house and a dumb waiter…and okay, I confess, she’s right.  We have 55 or more water bottles in the house and somehow we’re still short on “good bottles.”  WTF?

Having “good” bottles is as key to the bike outfit as a nice watch or matching shoes for a work dinner.  She’s right.  They’re not all “good” bottles.  Some are leaky.  However, I can never remember which ones.  The blue ones look too patriotic on the red and white bike.  A half dozen are still pristine, but not from our team sponsor shop BioWheels…can’t use those on group rides or we’ll get teased by teammates.  Others are lame with flimsy tops.  Small bottles are good for lap races, but not all-day rides.  At least a dozen have mis-matched tops.  The Hydrapak Gel-bot is cool and works fantastic, but if I ever start worrying about nutrition while riding the cruiser bike to the grocery store, please, hit me over the head with a garden shovel.

I’m on my tippy toes.  I know there’s some on that top shelf that I can’t see and that shelf is at least 2 ½ feed deep.  I’m up to 55.  Enough bottles that, for the next month or two on any day-to-day two hour group ride, I could toss them like a pro tour rider over the hedgerows when I empty one.  However, I don’t think property owners along Route 8 in Northern Kentucky would appreciate my souvenir. 

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Hoarders is on TV.  If you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen them all.  Crazy old coot grows an emotional attachment to what appears to be garbage, crazy old coot’s family steps in and throws away the garbage, crazy old coot rebels but surrenders, crazy old coot and family cry and hug in the newly cleaned house.  Dear Oprah, Tom Cruise and little baby Jesus please help me from being a water bottle hoarder.  I’m still young.  In ten, twenty or thirty years I don’t want people to walk by our house and marvel at the multi colored objects stacked 3 feet high in our window sills. 

Still I can’t make myself part with them.  I won that one for placing 5th in my age group at a sport level mountain bike race eight years ago honey!  I’m protective about them.  With my trusty black Sharpie, I label them with our last name so teammates, friends and strangers named Joe at races and rides don’t mistakenly take them.  How absurd is that!  You probably have more than us.  No you say.  Count ‘em up!  Don’t be scared.  See.  See!  Hoarder hoarder new bottles on order!  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Be Your Own Sports Fan: Shaking Cycling ADD

OBEY Jimmy
My self diagnosed ADD friend seemingly stumbled upon an epiphany of spectacular clarity.  He says, “I’m my own sports fan.”  Wha huh?  Did someone hear a heavenly chorus?  Now and then, in the trough between loud and colorful waves of distraction, Jimmy Road Rash rides a tsunami of incredible focus.  Yes, this is the same guy who rode right off the road and into a snow bank while looking at birds or something not too long ago.  When he first mentioned being your own sports fan, I wrote it off as sort of a hipster comment to eschew the pillars of cycling and training.  He’s been known to wear skinny jeans you know.  Now that I find myself bobbing in the trough between the Mohican 100 and Cyclocross season, fit with no clear direction for the next few weeks, I find it unbelievable.  Jimmy’s making sense, even with those queer Day-Glo freak glasses and wise-man beard.

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I had no clear plan after the Mohican 100 other than a secondary goal of bagging one stinking point at Cincinnati’s Ault Park criterium series.  Now that we’re on week 4 of the series, 10 days after Mohican, I’m realizing I’m like a 5000 meter speed skater trying to beat Vancouver in the NHL playoffs.  The endurance training necessary to be successful at a six hour event, doesn’t necessarily translate to the stabby efforts of crit racing.  Besides, my focus for training waned with Mohican.  The thought of sprint training makes me urk up a tiny puke.  Feeling like Hugh Grant explaining his call girl escapade on Leno, what the hell was I thinking? 

I Was My Own Sports Fan At the Sub 9 Death March
Being your own sports fan is ultimately selfish, a concept I have trouble with.  I’m a giver.  While I don’t blame my teammates, friends and readers, it’s the exposure to so many facets of cycling that’s given me cycling ADD.  I’ve consistently found myself dipping into every facet of the sport, sometimes at the same time.  This spring I’ve built trails, raced a 4+ hour cyclocross death march with no set course, attempted a 6 hour mountain bike race and raced criteriums.  In the past 3 months, I’ve raced every bike I own!  It's not Jimmy that has cycling ADD.  It's me.  

Check out your Facebook today.  No doubt there’s plenty-o-blab about the Ault Park crit Wednesday, the Ohio State Masters Road Race championships on Saturday, the Tower Park mountain bike race and the Hyde Park Blast and Madeira Criteriums.   Like Hugh Grant and call girls, I feel like I need to do them all.  Then a video of Jimmy in a toga sheet outfit, a wise-man beard and the queer sunglasses popped in my head, “Be your own sports fan.”  Yes Jimmy.  You're my Shepard Fairey and I will OBEY.

It’s not crazy to do what you want to do.  I think of my buddy Andy training toward the Lake Placid Ironman, Murray on the cusp of RAAM, and Chad laying sweet tread at Devou Park’s new mountain bike trails.  They’re doing their own thing, enjoying themselves, being their own sports fans and, in a non-psychopathic way, winning in their own minds like Charlie Sheen. 

It Still Has That New Bike Smell
What do you want to do Joe?  I wanna have fun and adventure wise-man Jimmy!  I’m tired of clocking hill repeats and logging hours.  Now that things are dry, I want to ride some sweet trails on the mountain bike I got in January but have ridden only 4 or 5 times.  I’m mountain bike race fit and even though it’s on the weekend of the two biggest criteriums in Cincinnati, I’ve never been to Lake Hope and that OMBC race sounds like fun and adventure.  Then I want to take a break from competition in July, run with my Ipod and maybe do that Iffy Ride and go for a swim afterward.  Is that a problem?  Not if you’re your own sports fan.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Win a Road ID! Enter the Flat Joe Biker Photo Contest

Click, Print and Win!
I’d love to go to Iron Man in Idaho, kayaking in da U.P. of Michigan, and mountain bike in Pisgah.  That’s a lot for three weeks, but not for Flat Joe Biker.  Even though he’s two dimensional and can’t swim, Flat Joe Biker floats, doesn’t require sunscreen or a passport, fits in a jersey pocket, doesn’t have a real job, doesn’t cry when he gets lost, and makes your Facebook adventure posting so much more fun!  Tell a friend to like us on Facebook and enter.

Enter the Flat Joe Biker Photo Contest and you could win a $35 Road ID e-gift card.  Here’s how it works:

PRINT your incredibly handsome Flat Joe Biker from this Flickr link or above image.  Click and print the page.

AFFIX Flat Joe Biker to a piece of cardboard with staples, glue, tape or chewed up hunks of energy bars.

CUT Flat Joe Biker out, leaving a handle at the bottom.  A triangle shape works best.  Lamination and wetsuits are optional.

Flat Joe Biker On Tour in Northern Kentucky
SNAP a photo with Flat Joe Biker on your next adventure.  It doesn’t have to be cycling related or far away.  Be a tourist in your own hometown.  

POST your Flat Joe Biker photo to The Best Bike Blog Ever’s Facebook page (link here) before Midnight, on Thursday June 30th.

WIN! The Best Flat Joe Biker Photo EVER will be chosen on Friday, July 1st and awarded the $35 Road ID Gift Card via email.

Pretty Swanky Prize eh?  Thanks Road ID!
In the meantime, visit the Road ID website and see all the great things you can get for $35.  From Firefly safety lights and laces to Road ID Wrist ID’s and accessories, you’ll find something you can use.  It’s more than an ID.  Your Road ID can list emergency contact information, even a note to take care of your pets if you get into trouble.  Now get out there and have some fun with Flat Joe Biker and Road ID.  Special thanks to James Billiter for Flat Joe Biker artwork.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Seven Stages of DNFing

Screw it.  We never train to say screw it, to let go.  Instead, we hang the medal for the Nowheresville Criterium on the wall and arrange the trophy from the 6 Hours of Whatever on the shelf like mojos to ward of bad bike race spirits.  We spend so much effort training to get a hold of something that we never think of what to do when we need to let go of something.  We need bad days on the bike to know what a good day feels like.  Of all the days in the year, it sucks when that bad day falls on race day.  If we had more experience saying “screw it,” a DNF wouldn’t feel so bad.  However, cyclists aren’t like that and find ourselves wallowing through the 7 Stages of DNFing.

When I say “screw it,” I don’t mean it with a poor attitude and gang gestures, but with a sense of clearing the slate.  Letting go is the key to reversing a DNF.  Taking a deep breath and letting it go seems so easy in yoga.  Maybe it’s the expense of racing.  Not only the entry fees, but the months of training and the travel that make a DNF feel like you got a lemon instead of a new car.  You get wrapped up in feeling like you’re only as good as your last race, when in fact; you should feel good just because you ride a bike. 

Today, paying at the gas station, the overweight man behind me was buying two fatty cheddar-filled hot dogs topped with onions and pickles at 7:30 in the morning.  I smiled and chuckled after I got outside.  I felt good after that.  Not that I diabolically enjoy witnessing the onset of heart disease and diabetes, but it made me remember that even though I didn’t reach my goal at the Mohican 100, I was still at race weight. 

There were hundreds of successes, including passing up delicious gas station hot dogs, before my DNF at the Mohican 100 on Saturday.  I set faster times each week doing hill repeats.  I pulled off a headstand in yoga by myself without kicking the instructor in the face.  I rode a century and it felt like the easiest 101 miles I’ve every ridden.  I’m still the fast guy I was last Friday.  So, I just let it go. 

There's Nothing Better Than White Bar Tape Therapy
The key to taking the exit ramp from the 7 Stages of DNFing is to go on doing what you planned on doing if you hadn’t DNF’d.  If that’s not enough, get new bar tape, go for a solo ride in the woods, touch your monkey, deadhead the rose bushes or find another household project you put off for the race.  Above all, remember, in the grand scheme of things it’s a bike race, not a cheddar dog stuck in your aorta. 

If not, you’ll find yourself tripping through the 7 Stages of DNFing:

1 Rescue
In the passenger seat of a stranger’s Subaru, the air conditioning soothes and the cool leather hugs you on the way back to the start line.  Stage 1 is euphoria.  Like death, it’s over, a long yoga Savasana.  It’s a greasy Gyro after a night of drinking.  It’s a cold shower after filling potholes in August.  This is precisely what DNFing is so luring: a world of Gatorade, long showers, massage, HGTV House Hunters and hoagie sandwiches abounds.  Bliss.  Problem is, unlike actually dying, you live.  Your brain, unfortunately, is still working.  You start to think, if you finished at least you could consider yourself one of the masses, but instead you’re the DNF freak.  If you don’t shrug your shoulders, realize you’re just as fast as the day before and get on with your life; you’ll slip into stage 2. 

2 The Blues
Grab the tissues because it’s about to get heavier than watching the Bachelorette.  Now that the race adrenalin has worn off, in the time that it takes to eat that sandwich, like you just put your dog to sleep, you’re overcome with emotion.  An inventory of every hill repeat, long miles, set of crunches and rainy rides it took to get you fit runs through your mind.  You see the credit card bill for the DNF race entry, pay your buddy gas money for your DNF, and clean your dirty DNF bike.  Everything seems to relate back to your DNF.  You wanted it so bad, but it escaped.  You’re empty.  You well up.  You become a hug seeking missile and call your wife to take your mind off it.  If you can’t…it’s full on stage 3. 

3 Second Guessing
Soon enough you’re sulking turns to ifs and buts.  It’s the thing I hate most about cycling, guys after races saying “if only” followed by a filling in of the blank.  If only I didn’t flat, go out so hard, didn’t attack on that hill, relaxed on the down hill, or touched my monkey the night before the race.  Only now you’re the dufus that’s saying it to everyone.  Rather than finding fault and expressing it verbally to every poor teammate you have,  STFU and take silent note.  Make a list of changes for next time.  If you don’t turn it into a positive, you’ll seek solace and ease into stage 4.

4 Failed Redemption
You’ll scour the race calendars looking for redemption.  You’ll tell yourself you’re at the peak of fitness.  You’re a balloon slowly loosing air.  WeeeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeeeee!  You need to take advantage of what’s left.  You need to prove you’re fast.  You’ll consider anything…5k’s, dear God, even time trials.  Don’t do it.  You completely stressed your body at the race and your emotions over the past few days of stages 2 and 3.  Try to come back too quickly and you will fail again and find yourself resorting to the cycling equivalent of punching a wall, stage 5. 

5 False Confidence
After failing your 2nd race, a race you didn’t even train for, you’ll settle for anything.  You’ll attack the retired guy doing a bike path century in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon.  Like a Sumo wrestler beating a toddler, you hit the weekly 17mph average club ride, crush them all on every climb, outsprint them at the town line and point at your jersey in celebration.  While idiotically gratifying, this unfortunately lulls you into a false confidence and step #7.

7 Mediocrity
Sort of recovered and brimming with confidence from slaying unsuspecting club riders, you’ll race a 3rd race or go out for the Saturday Morning beatdown versus your true peers.  You won’t get dropped.  You won’t win the Town Line or be KOM either.  You’ll be pack fodder, another jersey in a sea of color.  Then, you’ll realize…you could’ve had that from the beginning.