Monday, August 29, 2011

It’s Not About The Bike, It’s About Hincapie’s Hair

Hincapie Hair
For the 853rd time this year Phil Liggett mentioned George Hincapie will set a record for Tour De France starts (#17) when he tows the line in 2012.  Yes Phil, we know.  It is impressive.  In his career he’s notched classics wins at KBK and Ghent, ushered 9 tour winners to the top of the Paris podium, and donned the Stars and Stripes.  While the win at Paris Roubaix remains elusive, with a nod to Fabian Cancellara who’s still young enough to lose it, Hincapie claims a step on the podium with some of the most fabulous hair in the peloton. 

Reader Jaden took this pic at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.  Look at that dark doo.  He’s 38 with the locks of a black Labrador.  It’s so perfect, the UCI should let him race without a helmet.  If only to remember what a full head of hair used to feel like, you almost want to ask to touch it.  While most mastered aged cyclists wish they could go back and train harder to have George’s legs, his power numbers, or stars and stripes on their sleeves, I’d keep my racing resume the same if only I could have hair to comb down my forehead again.  He should ink a deal with Paul Mitchell before it’s too late.

Fabian, George & Cav Good Hair at 2010 Tour of California
I’m just a few years older than George and a little salt is getting in my pepper.  George’s hair appears transplanted from a teenage Italian.  Maybe he has his soignier massage in some L’Oreal before big races and photo shoots.  Nope.  According to my exhaustive five page search of yahoo images of photos dating to the mid 90’s, George’s hair has always been the pinnacle of studliness.  Aside from a muddy or dusty Paris Roubaix snapshot, there is no touch of grey on his head nor a bottle of “Just For George” in his medicine cabinet.

Showing me a before and after promotional flyer Sharon, my stylist, nudged me in the direction of hair color a few weeks ago.  The guy in the ad was definitely more handsome in the after shot.  I asked how much.  I almost bit.  Then meh, I thought.  One day you get your hair colored, the next day you’re shopping for compact cranks.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Challenge Limus: The Waffle Making Miracle Tire

It’s August 26th.  Do you know where your Limus Is?  It’s the greatest thing since the first hipster picked up a hacksaw, it’s the Challenge Limus.  The way cyclocrossers are snatching up this new mudder, you’d swear it could cook Belgian waffles on Sunday mornings.  From all the hype I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t originally an Apple product, the iTire.  Seriously hup-hupsters, it’s a tire…not the 2nd coming.

Mythically speaking, Limus is sort of a god, the personification of starvation and hunger.   It also means mud, slime or muck.  Combined, Limus is a Greek God hungry for mud.  Bow down.  All hail, the miracle tire is here.   If you don’t have one, prepare for doom, the rapture of crosspocalypse.

Crossers see it as second coming of our Lord Rhino.  At about $30 less expensive with the same amount of bite of the demi-god Dugast and available at the 33 UCI size limit, the Challenge Limus seems like it will get you through anything including bunny hopping alligators in a swamp for $95 each, or about the same price as the tires on my 4-Runner.  There’s no question it can level snotty off camber corners and allow you to ride up the side of a mud-hut in the CX Grand Prix of Slopville. 

You should know the Limus has limits, like you'll probably still have to train for cyclocross racing.  Before you sharpen your elbows for the checkout battle at your local bike shop, here is a list of miracles the Limus can’t perform: make it snow in September, cook waffles, shave the elusive patch of hair on your hamstring, turn grey bar tape white, ring cowbells when you need them most, stop your carbon fork from shuddering, mail you an upgrade sticker, give you calves the size of grapefruits, locate the knee warmers you left at the start line, ensure the race announcer pronounces your name correctly, keep your sunglasses from fogging up 100 meters from the start, get you home from the race at the exact time you promised your wife you would be home and be useful on the concrete known as September race courses.  Other than that, it’s perfect.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hurricane Irene Upgraded to Cat 3

Despite not holding her line and forcing hundreds off the road and into the gutter throughout Puerto Rico, Hurricane Irene received a sticker in the mail, officially marking the upgrade to Cat 3.  After racing throughout St. John, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, Irene has apparently accumulated enough points to upgrade before she makes a splash on the US cycling scene in the southeastern states. 

Click Here: Train for your Upgrade With Chris Mayhew
Like a typical Cat 3, Irene will now demand her 25% shop discount be increased, shout unsolicited condescending “advice” to unsuspecting club riders, and in a continuous case of one-upmanship, ask other hurricanes what Cat they are.  Now self-considered Elite and sporting a power meter and handlebar mounted Garmin 800, according to Cycling Coach Chris Mayhew, "Irene was last seen this morning chasing down her own teammates and getting dropped in a 1/2/3 event near the Outer Banks."  Former Cat 3 Katrina said, ”Irene blows and should be downgraded before she hurts somebody.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Your Front Wheel: Things I Forgot to Bring to the MS150 for $500 Alex

When you rob a bank, don’t forget the ski mask.  When you carve a side of beef, don’t forget your chain mail glove.  When go skiing, don’t forget the jacket with the zippered lift ticket that proves to all the ladies you tore it up at L’Alpe d’Huez.  Whether you’re cashing in at the local branch, starting your first day at Fuddruckers or dropping the double diamonds at Breck, veteran cat burglars, meatcutters and swooshers have a mental checklist of the tools of the trade.  So do most veteran cyclists.  This weekend one of every 10 people at the Ohio MS 150 ride will forget one of the following: helmet, shoes, gloves or cigarettes.  It’s because their pre-ride routine has been moved from their floral wallpapered bedroom to a field in rural Ohio.  Sunscreen, chamois cream, a towel: which one didn’t you think of yet?  Rain jacket?  Hurricane Irene is coming.  See how much you need me. 

Coco: My Bike Butler
The best advice, hire a bike butler to take care of your packing, like my flamboyant guy Coco.  Or, write up a list pronto and pack for your ride today…Monday.  Ride Tuesday using only your packed items.  Then, like the MS150, ride Wednesday using the same stuff and methods available on the MS 150.  Nuh uh uh.  Using the washing machine and drying rack is cheating.  If you only have one pair of shorts, slide that soggy chamois back up those thighs.  It’s harsh but the only way you’ll learn to bring two pairs of cycling shorts or find a place to wash and dry them Saturday night.  Since I can’t account for the personal items you just can’t live without, like your Polish cleaning lady confederate doo-rag, here’s a basic idea of how to pack for the big MS 150 weekend.

Documents: Your entry information, hotel confirmation, directions, start time/location, email proof that you have dibs on the bed in your buddy’s camper.

Bike: Bike, cleaned and tuned up by Wednesday with both wheels and test ridden at least once before the big weekend.  Yes, I said both wheels.  So don’t leave the front one leaned up against the work bench when you put your bike on the roof rack and back out of the driveway at 5:30 in the morning.

Bike clothes: Helmet, shoes, glasses and wipey cleaner bag, rain jacket.  Multiplied by two: gloves, shorts, jersey, under jersey, light vest, sports bra, socks, cycling cap, confederate doo rag, arm warmers. 

Street clothes: Pants, fundies, shorts, socks, shoes that’ll be good in a muddy field, cool cycling t-shirt, jacket, hat.

All Hail The Top Banana Jersey!
Pocket stuffers: Road ID (drivers license, insurance card, emergency contact), charged cell phone, I-pod and some cash/credit card, spare car/house key.

Toiletries: Sunscreen, chamois cream, lip balm, deodorant, towel, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, soap/washcloth, gallon of water, hair scrunchies, eyeglasses or contacts stuff, plastic bag for the stench-fest of your sweaty wet clothes, toothbrush/paste.

First Aid: Band-Aids, the spray that stings really badly on open wounds, Neosporin, gauze, road rash netting, and medical tape.  Bringing this stuff ensures you will not crash.

Tools: floor pump, 2 spare tubes, CO2 and/or frame pump, seat bag, multi-tool, patches, spare chain pin, umbrella, repair stand, chain cleaner, lube, soapy spray bottle, frame brush, rags, a plastic bag and rubber bands to keep your saddle dry while your bike is on the roof when hurricane Irene arrives.

Food: Coffee and travel mug.  Cooler with icepacks.  6 water bottles because the two of them will be covered in grit after day 1 and it’s nice to have a full bottle or two waiting at the car after the ride.  While there is plenty of food/drink available, limit what you bring to your favorites: like energy drink mix, GU blocks or Sharkies, fig cookies, licorice, meatloaf sandwiches, whatever helps you turn the cranks.  Consider Sport Legs or some sort of electrolyte replacement.

The MS150 doesn't end till your bike is off your car
Recovery: a massage stick, yoga mat for stretching next to your car in the field, a camp chair, a pop up tent.

Lastly, when you arrive at home in a lactic acid haze late Sunday evening, don’t forget your $3000 carbon Trek is on top of your $35,000 Audi A4 when you pull into the garage you dufus.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cyclist Fakes Road Rash to Look More Pro

"What's Up Guys?!"
Knowingly pining for attention he pulled up to the group ride with his bandaged drive side knee and elbow facing his group ride buddies asking “What’s up guys?”  “Aw man!  You okay dood?”  The eyes of his concerned buds were drawn to the hospital fresh woven bandage-sock over his “road rash.”  Unbeknownst to them, Joe Bellante of Cincinnati had hammered the hill on the way to the Hyde Park Square coffee shop so his espresso tan quads and calves would be bulging and glistening with sweat when he arrived adding to the pro effect of the bandages. 

Super Nuclear Pro Looking Band-Aid
“It looks like it hurts, but I have to say, that looks super pro,” said a teammate.  “Super Pro Joe,” another shouted.  The group laughed.  Joe waved it off saying something like, “oh it’s nothing but a flesh wound.  Just went down doing hill sprints at Devou Park last night.  I’m good.  Let’s roll!”  Under the guise of being injured, and looking ultra-super-duper-nuclear pro,  Joe pummeled the group into pithy writhing crybabies as he “won” every climb and town line sprint for the next 2 ½ hours with his bandaged knee and elbow.  In reality, everyone gave the bandaged guy a longer sympathy leash, exactly what Joe was looking for.

So Gory...So Fake!
It all started with putting his glasses over his helmet straps.  Then the whole pro thing cascaded into a white carbon frame, bar tape, socks and shoes.  Then Joe noticed the best riders in the world all sporting the road rash net: Levi, Boonen, Hoogerland.  You name ‘em.  It seemed as if all his favorite riders were toughing it out on the Tour De France roads with eye popping white bandages or some crazy colored tape over their knees and elbows.  “Now that’s how to look pro,” he thought.  He grabbed the Parmesan cheese grater out of the kitchenette at work and rolled up his pants leg.

A Metal File and Some Ketchup-Perfecto
He stopped short of self inflicted rash.  He wasn’t crazy.  He opened the fridge, grabbed the ketchup and walked back to his corner office where a $2.95 box of gauze and a roll of medical netting were waiting.  There he went to work on his Joe pro look.  The bottle made a farting noise as he squirted a coin sized blotch of ketchup in the center of a square, applied it to his elbow and rolled up a section of medical netting.  “Ba bam!  So pro!”  He said to himself looking in the mirror.  But who has road rash only on the elbow?  He did his knee as well, ripped the back of his jersey and dabbed some Heinz 57 near the hole.  To compliment the look, just before the ride he slid a square of gauze down his bibs on his right hip.  “Perfecto!”

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cutting The Course and Other Diabolical CX Practice Tips

Katie Compton Warms Up At Devou 
As if you were 2 days into crossing the Sahara, your mouth is open gasping for breath and water.  Your legs are searing.  Your coordination follows your downward spiral.  You take a turn too wide and bobble the barriers.  Then, pop!  You’re dropped, breathless, bummed, burnt and alone.  You think, “If this is practice, I’m doomed.”

A lot of cyclocrossers don’t treat practice as practice.  Instead, it’s the midweek wee-wee contest on dirt.  I’ve been doing these practices for eight years now.  If hammering every minute of a mid-week cyclocross practice was all it took to get as fast as possible, we’d all be racing Pro/1/2 or have a Stars and Stripes jersey pinned to the wall.

At every cyclocross practice a reclusive super fast guy shows up.  In his fancy pants regional-pro jersey, you’ll see ‘em light up a lap, maybe two or three.  Wow!  All you see is a flash of carbon and meaty quad fastness.  Next time, look closer.  What you didn’t see was him pull out after the first lap and retire for a drink at the car.  Yep, this time he’s doing single lap intervals while you’re riding alone after getting drop by the hammer heads for the 3rd time in a row.  The next practice, here comes fast guy blowing by from behind.  The next thing you know he’s cutting the course, only to come blowing by from behind again…and again!  What the $%*^ is with this guy!  He’s not being a show off, he’s practicing picking his way through the pack.  The following week, when everyone is doing 10 starts, the slacker is only doing every other effort or already has his bike on the car with a Gatorade in his hand.  Fast guy knows how to be focused and how much he needs to rest between efforts. 

If you treat cyclocross practice like a race, you’re missing the point.  Drilling it at balls-out pace only to get dropped and ride alone, will not make you faster or better.  It will make you very comfortable riding alone.  Practicing cyclocross is your opportunity to hone your skills and focus on short comings.  That’s what fast-guy was doing.  So, before you clip in, have a plan Stan.  I like to choose two skills and a workout.  When you’re done with practice, you’ll feel like you accomplished something rather than got beat by the fast guys again.

Kabush & Wicks
 Right now, make a list of what you suck dirty donkey turds at.  Personally, I’m more awkward than my father at a Lady Gaga concert when it comes to barriers.  I also struggle on long false flats where the power pedal mashers get the better of me.  On the bright side, I’ve always been shotgun quick on starts and the hole shot.  I’m a fast hill runner and never worry about sand.  While my mountain bike background makes me a good technical rider, I sometimes take off camber downhill turns like a semi-truck at Pike’s Peak.  If you’re not sure where you can improve, spend your first cyclocross practice in discovery mode.  Pace yourself with riders your speed and take note of where they pull away from you and where you put the hurt on them.  Next time, pick two things to work on.

While the organized practice may have a set of intervals designed in, you may be better off doing your own thing or a variation.  Locally our practices usually do the stair step 1-2-3-2-1 series of lap intervals, which is a good general set that works for most people.  However, if you did longer intervals earlier in the week, you’ll probably benefit more by doing shorter 30 second to 1 minute efforts at practice where you attack, recover, and repeat.  Or, if you want to get a few 6 minute efforts in, ride ever other lap at speed, and noodle your way through the laps in between. 

Molly Cameron @ UCI 3 CX Clinic
Plan to test your equipment.  If you have a pit bike or a 2nd set of wheels, ride them both.  You may discover that one bike doesn’t fit quite like the other or that those big knobbies feel like they surf on hardpack.  Practice swapping out wheels or bikes in the pit and gauge how long it takes to catch back on.

Bring some tools, a towel & water.  Bring your pump to play with tire pressure and a multi tool to adjust your fit or chain catcher.  If you don’t have another set of wheels, an extra tube can save your evening.  A towel will save you from showing your jewels to the mom and the kids on the soccer field.

Maybe your workout goal is to get in ten :30 second attack/recover efforts, practice the barriers, and work on riding the tough off cambers.  Remember it’s not a race.  You don’t have to do 3 laps at lactate threshold with the group.  Split your intervals up and work them into the group plan.  At the end of the night, skip practicing starts and go practice those barriers or the off camber.  Practice is about making sure you get faster, not about bragging rights.  Who is fastest doesn’t matter until race day.

J Pow! at Devou
Ignore the other riders.  Don’t worry if your peer riders are crushing it and leaving you wheezing like a donkey between bouts of mini pukes.  Chances are they haven’t ridden since Saturday, planned practice as their hard ride of the week or had a stressful day at work like you.  No one cares who wins practice.

Cut the course if you get dropped.  It’s not a race.  Plus you'll get an awesomely sneaky cool feeling when you do it.  The premise is it's much more beneficial to ride with others than to ride by yourself.  If you get tailed off by a group of your peer riders, cut the course and latch back on.  Whether it’s a faster line through a corner or something as simple as having faith in your skills, you’ll learn what makes the other guys faster.  If you get dropped by the fast guys, cut the next few corners and get back on the train. 

Start from the back.  Chances are you’re not going to get the call-up to the front two rows, or you’ll get stuck behind a wreck in a race or two.  If you practice starting from the back, you’ll gain the skills necessary to pick your way through riders, learn where you can make up time on the course, gain confidence in your fitness, be more calm when disaster strikes and be able to gauge your efforts when you really need to close a gap.

Trebon @ Devou 2010
Divide and Conquer.  Cross races come in three flavors: 30, 45 or 60 minutes.  Split your race into segments, and practice each with intervals.  A thirty minute race becomes three 10 minute efforts: the start, the middle, the finish.  An hour long race, might be a 10 minute start, a 20 minute first half, a 20 minute second half and the finish.  That’s why practices usually feature the stair step intervals.  How you play within these guidelines is up to you.  Maybe on the single lap intervals you focus on your start and top end speed.  Then on the middle 2 and 3 lap intervals, which could be 15 to 20 minutes long, you focus on an easier sustainable effort possibly with some 30 second attack efforts tossed in.  Or, you could practice starting from the back and fighting your way to the front.  Or, you could practice your sprint by coming in with the fast guys, cutting the tail end of the course and repeating the sprint effort 2-3 times until all the riders are back in.  Tailor your workout to the framework of practice.

Ask A Brother.  Cyclocross is not like the World Series of Poker.  There’s not a cyclocrosser I know that holds deep dark secrets to their speed.  If you have trouble with the sand, ask someone fast how they get through so quick.  What do they look for when deciding whether to ride or run?  You might find out that they’ll run the sand if they're in traffic to avoid a possible wreck and try to ride the shallower left hand side if they’re alone.  If the sandpit ends with a large lip, it may be faster to run it than risk dismounting in the middle.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oil, Summer’s Ice

With the accuracy of a laser pointer Jaden stuck a finger out along his left leg.  Averting a flat on a raised crack, the group flowed to the right along the gutter.  A few miles later, somewhere near the former home of Big Butter Jesus, Rachel shook her hand on her right side.  Deep gravel.  It was an 80 mile ride and I’m sure we exhausted every gesture in the group ride hand vocabulary handbook. 

Big Butter at Solid Rock Church
There’s a sign for everything: a sweep of a right hand behind the back for a parked car, a quick double finger off the hoods says “hi” to a passing rider, a finger moved forward and backward spells out crack in the road, two fingers spread out at the ground usually means double pot holes or a pair of raised gas main covers.  A finger pointed and twirled in a circle at your helmet means the rider in front of you is an idiot.  For the few instances where a hand gesture won’t do, there are a few verbal-only warnings, like “car back, passing, car up, ice and low branch.”  Unfortunately for Don, there’s nothing in the cycling vocabulary for oil slick.

On rides we keep an eye out for the obstacles that could cause a crash or a flat and point only those out to our companions: glass, a topless sunbather, a cake-pan deep sewer cover, a raised metal plate, a pothole filled with water.  Other than that, hands belong on the bars and mouths are for breathing.  Being more of a listener than a talker, the silence of cycling is one of my favorite aspects of the sport.  In probably 15 years of cycling, from crack-fast Kentucky farm dogs to hand-carved riverfront cobblestones, you’d think I’ve pointed at it all.  I’ve never thought to look for oil on the road, in a corner, on a slight downhill.  Oil is like summer’s ice and Don went drifting.

Win This Pearl Izumi Jersey Click Here For Contest Details
It was your typical 4 way intersection with a light.  Approaching slightly downhill, we had the green for a right hand turn.  There were six of us probably traveling north of 23mph.  Riding 3rd wheel, I followed the two leaders on the inside to outside line.  By the time Don rolled through, he was at the mercy of two factors: looking through the turn and having the added man-momentum of gravity. 

Like us, Don never even saw the last 10 meters of the road before the turn.  Like the veteran cyclist he is, he saw the green light and then his eyes watched the exit of the turn.  Having at least 40 pounds on the women in front of him, he brought more speed to the corner and swung a bit wider to avoid touching wheels.  Schoop!  There it was.  I heard the metal pedal scrap the ground and turned to see Don laying in the road at the corner of the intersection.  While the first three of us skated past on the oil’s inside, Don crossed the slick like angled railroad tracks in the rain.

As Don dusted himself off, flexing the pain out of his hand, I futzed with his bike.  I put the chain in a smaller gear, spun his wheels testing for trueness and saw it.  A 10 inch section of his rear Conti 4000 was covered in thick oil.  I looked at the road.  The slick was thick, as if every car for the past 10 years had leaked oil waiting at the light.  If we had a ruler the depth was probably measurable to a 2-3mm.  Still, none of us saw it.  How could we?  It was black ice.

Aside from plumping like a Ballpark Frank overnight, Don’s hand turned out okay.  He blamed the miserable first three holes on his crash, but still managed to stay within his handicap on the golf course the next day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Share Your Ugly Jersey and Win: Extreme Jersey Makeover Contest p/b Pearl Izumi

Everyone Knows You're Top Banana!
I had to see it with my own eyes. The MS 150 Top Banana Jersey, awarded to participants who raise a huge amount of money for the National MS Foundation, was rumored to be one hideous piece of work. I put on my welders mask and prepared for the worst in my online search. After finding it, miraculously my eyes did not go bloodshot. It’s not THAT bad. Sure the tire tracks are a little cliché, but It only contains 2 of the below prerequisite characters of the ultimate ugly cycling jersey. It has yellow as a base color and commemorates an occasion. Then again, “Top Banana” does make me laugh at first and then, not so much…which meets criteria #5. Wait...wait a second.  Is that a giant smiling banana hidden in the yellow field?  Dear Lord it is!  So, the MS 150 jersey gets 4 out of 6 Mister Peanuts.  Still if I worked my butt off and raised a ton of money, I'd proudly sport this baby.  

The Baseline for Ugly Jerseys
What’s a Mister Peanut? It’s the most hideous cycling jersey in the world, the scale by which all ugly cycling jerseys are measured, and it’s mine all mine. Suck on that. Ever since I rode the back of a tandem with Mister Peanut (yes an accomplished cyclist in full 7-foot tall costume) as a leg of a cross country promotional tour designed to show the nation once and for all that peanuts are the ultimate energy food, this lovely gem has soiled the walls of my closet. It was worn once, for exactly 10 miles from Wauwatosa Wisconsin to Hales Corners. I worked at a radio station at the time, and believe it or not, broadcast live from the stoker seat with Mister Peanut’s peanuts in my face. It was a blast, until I got home and realized the Mister Peanut Jersey not only features "champion stripes" but also encapsulated all the prerequisites as the world’s most ugly jersey in the world:

1: Uses yellow base color
2: Features an obnoxiously large character/graphic
3: Oversized/Poorly Cut
4: The manufacturer of the jersey won’t even put its name on it
5: Make you laugh at first and then not so much
6: Commemorates a monumental cycling occasion or achievement

Click Here: See The New Styles from PI
Extreme Jersey Makeover Contest p/b Pearl Izumi

Pearl Izumi Launch LS
If you think you have a jersey that can measure up to the dreadful design and nasty nature of Mister Peanut, you can with this trendy, gorgeous, fast-looking Pearl Izumi Launch LS jersey in a size that flatters your physique. Yes, unlike most cycling jersey’s, there’s a women’s cut and it’ll make motorists spill gas and trip over the hose when you stop for Gatorade at the convenience store, take off your helmet and let your hair down. Valued at $80 it’s fitted, offers sun protection, great moisture wicking and being long sleeve is perfect for cool mornings and will look oh-so- pro on the cyclocross circuit. Click here to see the available colors that’ll compliment the Pearl Izumi shorts in your cycling closet.

To win, show us your ugly jersey. Simply click this link and email a photo of that bad-tempered beast to the Best Bike Blog EVER. Put something like “jersey contest” in the subject line. Oh yeah, photos must include something personal to identify you as the poor sap that owns the jersey. Preferably that would be you actually wearing said jersey or, if you’re too embarrassed to have someone see you wearing it, your name written on masking tape attached to the jersey will do. We’ll pick the top 3 most offensive and let our readers judge the winner. 

Deadline for submissions is Friday August 26th, 2011 at Midnight. The week of August 29th we’ll draw the three finalists and let our readers pick the winner by popular vote by Midnight on Thursday, September 1st.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Week Without TV (well…sort of)

Goodbye Old Friend
Granted I cheated, I fell asleep to Sports Center.  I snuck a peek here and there, at work, in the guest room.  So naughty, but for the most part I haven’t watched the lazy box, at least in my living room for a week.  This TV fast would be nobler I actually planned it like a cleansing, a Triathlon training plan or giving up cold cuts and cheese, but it wasn’t voluntary.  You'd think I would've rode 60 miles every night after work, cooked homemade candlelight dinners and cleaned the house top to bottom with all the no-TV time on my hands, but that wasn't the case.

Hello New Friend
Like a dead redwood, our 10 year old mammoth 55 inch projection TV finally fell.  Boof!  It turned off by itself and never came back on.  In a week without TV, I had to build a shelf for a flat screen, buy a new TV and figure out a way to get the city bus sized projection TV out of the built in, down two flights of stairs and to the curb.  Because of me and the 400 pound monolith, Best Buy will probably end their free TV delivery and recycling program. 

Even with the construction project and bike riding taking up some time after work, I still craved a little TV at the end of the day.  Everyone needs a little dumb time in their day.  I turned to my laptop for the fix and had this revelation. 

Internet TV is a pain in the caboosus.  Internet TV requires input from the end user and a nearly endless cascade of decisions.  Ugh!  You have to lift your fingers and push buttons, type things, compare programs and read stuff.  So much work.  I think it increased my heart rate.  For the same reason terrestrial radio and TV will never die, people like their entertainment easy.  This is precisely the reason there’s a whole industry dedicated to TV programming with the sole focus of making sure the viewer doesn’t have to do more than push the on/off button and choose a channel.  It's why there are La-Z-Boy chairs with built in cupholders and coffee tables with cushions on top.  It’s genius. 

Naruto Shippuden is popular apparently
After powering up the laptop, logging on, and clicking on your browser, you log on to Hulu.  You click on new episodes and suddenly realize you must be the only person in the world who doesn’t watch Japanese Anime shows.  Not counting the animation, There are hundreds of “new” programs.  Right now Hulu lists 1000 shows as "new episodes."  Like having your choice of any single pair of shoes at Nordstrom, you end up wrestling with yourself by trying to decide exactly which of the 1000 22.5 minute programs is worthy of your time.  Rookie Blue, Project Runway, Wipe Out, Family Guy, Nightly News or John Stewart?  Which ones will look good with these pants?  That process coincidentally takes at least 22.5 minutes.  With regular cable TV I can watch half of Deadliest Catch, a rerun of Seinfeld and a few innings of the Reds baseball game in 22.5 minutes by pressing two buttons and never once engaging a single core muscle.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Redemption of Riding Solo

Top Flats of Shadow Run
I like to think they were Cicadas.  No dis against crickets, but the head-filling sound of Cicadas fit the zen feel of a solo ride better.  I had no wheel to chase, nor any spinning hubs behind me.  After the battery died on my Ipod an hour into my solo ride at Versailles State Park in Indiana, I was bummed at the loss of my mountain biking soundtrack.  Then I realized, the woods have a soundtrack all their own.  It was me, the wind, the kayaker down below on the creek that feeds the lake and the Cricket-adas.

Riding well below donkey wheezing pace, I had time to listen closer and tune-in the harmonies of the bugs.  I could afford to peer over the edge of the Cliffside trail and check out the dead fallen trees bridging the ravine.  I filled up my phone’s memory bank with photos.  I thought to stop and snap a photo of the trail in the “v” of two trees, but the flow was too good.  At the next intersection, I smiled wiping a cobweb from my face.  I was the first rider of the day on the Grandview loop.

Deadfall on Cliffside
I love riding with friends and teammates, but here comes the but.  I enjoy the solo ride too.  I like to ride my pace of the day, stop when I want to stop, hammer when I feel punchy.  If you need a natural break, you pull over at the next big tree and don’t have to dig deep to claw back on the train.  With a song in my head, “Save Me San Francisco” by Train, I whistled and rode the flow of the Shadow Run loop.

Interesting Tree at the Time
I planned on two hours, but got back to my car 20 minutes early.  I wasn't ready for civilization yet.  I laced up my running shoes, tucked the car key under the leg of my bike shorts and headed back out to round off the time with a trail run.  The ground felt soft and springy under my steps.  Now traveling even slower, with my breath being the only self generated noise, I could hear the kids playing in the pool, the occasional car on the road far below my ridgeline trail and still, the chorus of cicadas.  While the small climbs were tougher on foot, that “v” in between the trees was just as fun to run through.

Back at my truck, I ran into a friend headed out for a solo ride of his own.  As he made a last tweak on his bike, I raved about my ride and run to Bill.  It was Sunday.  I think we were both at church.  A solo ride is always refreshing and redeeming for the soul.