Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nice day!

According to VeloNews:, the Astana team is in Albuquerque this week for a pre-season training camp. Because temperatures there yesterday remained in the 20s and there were patches of black ice on the roads, the team canceled the day's ride.

Also in the same hotel in Albuquerque is a race-training camp for juniors, guys 16-18 years old, focused on teaching them the skills and fortitude they'll need if they seek employment as bike racers.

The junior boys did not cancel their ride yesterday, but did three hours in sub-freezing temps on sketchy roads. If a boy appeared to be unclear on certain aspects of the racer mindset or racer technique, the instructors, old racers themselves, corrected them vigorously. And loudly.

The boys, VeloNews reports, thrived on the in-your-face instruction style at the camp. In the cold, on the icy roads, far from their warm suburban homes and loving, supportive parents.

Am I jealous of those boys? Of their youth or commitment or resilience? I am not.

I can turn my head and there's my bike out on our ninth floor patio, leaning on the railing, snow on its seat. Do I wish I were in Albuquerque, two hours out with the guys, nothing but pain in my fingers and toes, some Euro ex-racer screaming in my ear that I just don't get it...?

I believe I'll boil some water and have another tea, thank you - and one of Tamar's homemade scones. After a while, I'll bundle up warm and go out on the patio to brush the snow off my bike seat. Looks bad, snow on the seat...

Monday, January 28, 2008

The way we never were....

Because I'm afraid that I didn't make my feelings perfectly clear in my last post, here is a (first) paragraph from an essay glorifying those wonderful old days and those wonderful old bikes - and my comments, in bold:

There was a time when we took our road bikes everywhere, in all seasons.

There was? I recall riding my road bike on roads, almost always in nice weather. I remember taking it to races in friends’ cars, VWs primarily, but Hondas too - to be perfectly candid.

Our frames and forks came ready with braze-ons for fenders as well as plenty of clearance to accommodate more rubber.

They did? I remember being unable to insert a finger over the front tire and under the fork crown. I don’t recall being able to mount tires larger than 28C or fenders or racks – without gadgets designed to serve as temporary eyelets.

We’d swap out wheels, mount fenders, and ride all week to school, train in wet weather, and ramble unpaved lanes and across fields---then we’d pare down, put on our best sew-up skinnies, and head for the weekend races.

Brits did that in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Most could not afford VWs or Hondas. Yanks who could afford racing bikes did not do that.

We rode our bikes to school, sure enough, and to our bike shop jobs. Those of us with money and patience rode sew-ups, but most in the ‘70s rode newly introduced 700c clinchers and were happy to do so.

Guys who could afford sew-up wheels and tires could also afford BMWs and Volvos, so that how they’d “head for the weekend races.”

We had one bike that could really do it all, smartly designed for versatility and as uncompromising on trails as it was at races.

We did? We had bikes that did all the things we wanted them to do. Our bikes were designed for racing. Because they were bicycles, they would do anything we asked of them, but they were not all-purpose. We would not have bought “all-purpose” bikes.

There is no bike “as uncompromising on trails as it is at the races.”

Well, I take it back. There is such a bike. It is all the things you claim.

It exists in brochures. The bike we offer, brochures state, recalls a golden time when all the claims made above were true and genuine.

That time never existed, but has been co-opted by marketers to sell bucks-up cyclists yet another niche bicycle, often a do-all, last-forever, road-and-trail, hand-crafted uber-bike.

I don't have negative feelings about those bikes. I'd enjoy owning a 'cross bike, I'm sure.

I'd imagine that those bikes could be sold on their own merits. No need invoking the smell of wet wool, the ping of a just re-tensioned spoke relaxing in a rim, the feeling of cable guides trying to penetrate your butt cheeks as you sit on your top tube. We all experienced those things in the age you appropriate for commercial purposes and call golden.

The difference: No purchase was necessary.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A week's break from my blog. You'd think I'd be mellow...

I wrote this as an email letter to my friend David. Because I respect the people at the bike company, I've changed the name. Fill in whatever upscale brand you like...

My buddy Justin is talking about a 'cross-style bike. On our ride this morning, I suggested he check out a Chablis Cycles model. When I got home I checked out the Chablis web site.

I like the bikes but the site seems clubby and self-congratulatory: isn't it lovely that we are the nicest, most civilized people and have the class to appreciate these bicycles. And the money to buy them without a second thought - except perhaps to ponder whether Chablis or some other distinguished marque represents the proper "fraternity" to buy into.

We're not offering polo ponies or private railroad cars here, after all. Probably we're not afraid to lose sales to common marques like Surly, Black Sheep or Voodoo.

I clicked on a link to some dude's idea of why we would buy that particular Chablis. We'd buy one, he says, because it's like those multi-purpose bikes we had back when, bikes with clearance, eyelets and sensible geometry.

You remember those versatile, go-anywhere bikes, doncha? We foolishly abandoned them, seduced by models that were lighter-better-quicker-faster.

I don't remember it that way. I never had a "sensible" bike like that and neither did you, David. We had racing bikes. Even the ones before the advent of short-reach Campy brakes were close-clearance. Some builders offered models with long stays, relaxed angles and eyelets front and rear. The Raleigh International comes to mind.

We didn't want those bikes. We didn't know who did want them but we didn't want to ride with them. Real bicycles were racing bicycles.

Where do guys get their ideas about '70s bikes? Did your Lighthouse have eyelets? Your Masis? None of my bikes had any of that Swiss Army stuff either.

Do-everything bikes were compromised. We would never buy a compromised bike. We didn't want touring bikes. We wanted pure racing bikes.

We were racers, by God. We were Davenport Wailers. We didn't need long wheelbase. Lights? Fender clearance? Cadillac ride? Eyelets?

I've written bike-biz catalog copy. I've had to stir smoke to sell stuff, but I never had to rewrite history.

Those days were not golden because of the bikes and parts. The bikes were okay; the parts sucked. The guys were the gold in the golden age. But those guys or that era are not for sale, and we need to sell something. Let's offer a model or two as time machines, conduits to Back Then.

It's curious that folks who market bikes figure that some connection with the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will make certain bikes more alluring to today's buyers. I wonder if it works. My suspicion is that the buyer of the one bike that does it all already has five bikes and needs a seductive reason to buy a sixth - on which he'll do precisely what he does with the five.

Surely I'm wrong and far too cynical. Forgive me.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Challenging Project? I'd say so....

This link leads to an article about a 16-year old Quebec high school student and his school project.

"I decided to build a functional wooden bicycle. There was to be no metal used in its construction, only wood and glue. I wanted a project that would be a challenge."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Unlikely RAAM Riders

These four ladies, clubmates from the UK (plus an alternate and a manager) have announced that they will contest the '08 Race Across America. The racers' ages range from 55-60, long past the point where many weekend athletes have decided that they're "too old for this s--t. " Cool, huh?

Even if you're bored by RAAM and older athletes interest you even less, something about this combination and these women may charm you. Here's a link to the site dedicated to their effort:

Monday, January 21, 2008

...and this is the tikit that folds slowly!

Here's a link to a YouTube video. A Bike Friday employee demonstrates how easily and quickly you can fold and unfold the new, slower-to-fold, $999 tikit travel bike. Even if you aren't interested in small-wheeled travel bicycles, the video is short and fun to watch.

Impressed by the joyful style of the demonstrator? He's the grumpiest guy at Bike Friday!

You don't HAVE to be Jewish...

You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy reading about Gino Bartali's smashing, come-from-behind Tour de France victory at Dave Moulton's blog site.

If you are Jewish, please be sure to read the entire post. We've always thought of Bartali, who died in 2000, as Fausto Coppi's rival, the devout Catholic foil to Coppi's secularism. But there was more to Gino than we knew.

Thanks once again to Dave Moulton for his consistently fine work! This post is called "Gino Bartali - A Cyclist who Saved a Nation"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Paying for Breakfast

I'm just back from our Salvagetti Cycles Sunday breakfast ride - not much of a ride but ride enough on a 25-degree Denver morning.

After breakfast, we (10 of us today) never ask for separate checks; we pass the bill around and pay by cash or card, each of us indicating on the back of the check how much we owe - including tax and tip. We always err on the side of generous tips.

One of the guys mentioned that he'd been at a breakfast with a different group earlier in the week. The payment, after everyone had paid his/her share, had come up light. I'm embarrassed just typing that sentence. I'd rather pay the entire bill than sit and pass it around to see who didn't chip-in his/her share. So painful.

I thought about lessons like that one and how we absorb them. No one says, kid, always pay a bit more than you figure you owe. We watch guys or women a few years older and more worldly than us, and we figure it out.

Many of the people who taught me life lessons wore blue collars. They were guys I worked with in jobs my father found for me when I was in my teens. I don't know if my father knew that there were lessons I learned from that rough crowd that would be serving me half a century later, when I'd forgotten everything I ever learned about geometry or the Old Testament.

I don't know what I learned in my parents' home about how to behave around women, about how guys relate to guys, about how cutting in line in an Armani suit or a Mercedes-Benz is a sure sign of low class...about 1,000 things no one ever told me in so-many words.

If I did learn those things, and I hope in my heart that I did, I did not learn them at our dinner table. I learned them from guys we wouldn't have had over for dinner.

Friday, January 18, 2008

From the NY Times: Exercising in the Cold...

Here's a link to a piece in today's Times about getting out and doing athletic stuff when it's cold, even below zero. According to this piece, exercising in the heat is more likely to hurt you than cycling or running in what many of us consider prohibitive cold.

Gotta keep moving, the article says. Good advice in many areas of our lives, I'd say.

I don't know why I'd think to post this piece on my blog in January in Colorado at 5,280ft of elevation. I suppose I thought you might find it interesting. If indeed you do, please paste this link into your browser:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flat Out! The Rollie Free Story

My friend Corey sent me a copy of Jerry Hatfield's biography of motorcycle racer/tuner/icon Rollie Free. An image of Free in a bathing suit and tennis shoes, stretched out prone at 150mph, half-on, half-off of a Vincent at Bonneville is the most famous motorcycle photo ever.

I'm about a hundred pages (half-way) into the book at this point. Those pages focus on pre-war riding, the Harley-Indian wars and Free's rise as a rider and Indian dealer in Indianapolis. After serving in WWII, he and his wife moved to southern California, where Free became involved with the British bikes just entering the country, including J.A.P., Ariel, Triumph and Vincent.

As several reviewers have commented, I cannot put this book down.

The photos are worth the $55 price of the book. The text is written by a rider and shows a rider's fascination with Free's motorcycling life and times. An audio CD accompanies the book featuring Hatfield's 1980 interview with Rollie (nickname for Roland; thus Rolly, not Raleigh) Free.

This is a big, wonderful book. If you remember or love the old days in motorcycling, don't deny yourself! Whatta book!

Here's Hatfield's information:

Jerry Hatfield 605 Hinsdale Dr, Arlington TX 76006. 817-861-2822

Monday, January 14, 2008

From "Bicycles and Icicles:" Thanks, but I'll ride...

Brought to my attention by my friend Brendan Leonard, here's a terrific post from a blog about cycling in Alaska. Brendan raved about the post. I think you will too.

NY Times Video - "Europe's Smart Car in America"

I don't know how to post a link to this video, if indeed that's possible. The video is short, like the Smart Car, and cute, like the Smart Car. As luck would have it, the NY Times reporter stops to talk with a couple of cyclists - who can't get over the room in the tiny but sturdy car.

According to the Times, 1,000s of Americans have placed refundable deposits on Smart Cars. At the same time, also according to the Times, forthcoming new pickups from the big three and Toyota are just as big, just as heavy and just as thirsty.

Good luck to all of us....

Friday, January 11, 2008

citycycling Magazine - from the UK

Here's a link sent to me by my bike activist friend Ron Richings in British Columbia. Check out citycycling e-magazine, all good reading. Please read the article called "cats versus dogs" about cycling in Holland. It's about how we know things are in US and UK cities - and how they don't have to be that way.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Today's NY Times: to protect Portland's cyclists!

After two cyclists were hit and killed in '07 by large, right-turning trucks, America's most bike-friendly big city is doing its best:

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cute shot of the two winningest motorcycle road racers...ever!

I could not resist posting this link - to a photo from Superbike Planet by photographer Joe the W. It's Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi, both at one time or another Yamaha riders. The photo was taken at a gathering of Yamaha champions in all areas of motorcycling, not a small group by any means. These two guys share... On second thought, if you're reading this, I figure you already know...

Business as usual...

Here's a piece I wrote some years ago about an incident that happened in the early '70s. You'll read the piece and the reaction to it from Duane Ausherman, who figured prominently in the action. I don't know how this will make you feel about me. I was so caught up in the accident, the attempt to repair the BMW and the emotional aftermath that I can't get totally clear about it all.

See what you think:

Blaming ourselves

As you will see if you follow Dave Moulton's blog and mine, we are enjoying a dialogue about cyclists in traffic, about the way drivers view us and treat us - and how we cope with their lack of respect for us as human beings and sharers of the road.

Here's a link to Dave's blog:

Dave's feeling is that we are treated as most minorities are treated, and I readily agree. He feels that drivers point at the cyclists who behave worst in traffic - scofflaws and guys with big attitudes - and the drivers say, "Look at that asshole! All cyclists are like that!"

Dave's hope is that our subculture will police itself, that the cyclists with outlaw attitudes will grow up or realize suddenly that they are in truth worthless cretins who bring scorn and retribution raining down on the rest of us riders.

He hopes that exposure in the media of the low esteem in which we are held will bring drivers to realize suddenly that they are in truth worthless cretins, incomparably worse than their cretinous cousins on bicycles, who almost never hurt anyone.

I hope all those things will happen in the fullness of time, but I'm not holding my breath. Many minorities have fought for years to be seen as people, neighbors, worthy elements of society.

Who's gonna fight that battle for us? We're too busy buying roof racks for our SUVs and deciding which carbon frame (or collectible steel one) we'll be riding when the black Tahoe runs us down.

Here's my fear. John Forester talks about a Cyclist's Inferiority Complex, a fear of getting hit from behind (and perhaps deserving it) that keeps us from taking our proper place on the road - taking the lane if need be.

Suggesting that we bring this abuse from motorists on ourselves is another kind of inferiority complex. It isn't the few bad guys riding bikes stupidly and antagonistically who are bringing motorists' wrath upon us. The anger is already there, and we look like handy targets.

Talking about how some of us attract driver anger exaggerates our role in this sad drama. Are the worst of us, as one of Dave's commenters suggested, worse than crummy, aggressive drivers? Are they worse than most drivers? Do they scare people and threaten their lives?

If we have a role in this, if in truth we are the arrogant scofflaw idiots drivers claim, should we be given traffic citations for our evil deeds and attitudes - or should a nation of anonymous, armored vigilantes hunt us down in the bike lane and make our riding lives miserable?

As cops on the TV are always telling kids after their parents do awful things: It's not your fault.

It isn't. It's isn't your fault.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Is it our fault? Are we as bad as drivers say we are?

I enjoy Dave Moulton's Bike Blog: Today, I read a sort of dialogue Dave has with himself about bikes in traffic, a particular obsession of mine.

The question: Do we bring it on ourselves? I think not.

We ask for no more than the law allows us. We'd like to be able to ride our bikes without interference from our fellow road-users.

We want drivers to pay attention, to be aware of us on the road and to treat us with the same respect they would show to anyone. We'd like them to think of us as equals, if that's not too much to ask. We'd like to be thought of as neighbors who choose to travel on two wheels - for whatever reasons. Not as people whose purpose in life is to piss off everyone we can.

We'd like to be treated as elements of the traffic mix. And that's just what they do! They treat us just as badly, just as rudely, just as carelessly as they treat everyone else.

Take bikes out of the mix, on the freeway for instance. No cyclists to get mad at, no cyclists to point out as arrogant or inconsiderate or stupid. No Lycra. Should be a near-paradise out there on the freeway, right?

Drivers don't need cyclists to piss them off. Drivers are already pissed-off. They're angry before the garage door closes behind them. That's not a cycling problem; it's a societal problem.

If a cyclist filters past a line of stopped cars at a light, is that cyclist guilty of a traffic offense, or of offending the drivers of those cars? What have they lost? Will their commutes take even one extra second?

Ask those drivers why they get upset; they will lie. They'd like us to think that they're as centered in there behind the wheel as the Dalai Lama on a meditation pad, so they lie.

They lie to cops. They lie to lawyers and judges. They watch themselves do things they know no sane person would do. There's no way to explain why they do those things, so they lie. They're no more to be trusted when they explain why they hit you than they were when they did it.

Even discussing their flimsy excuses and finger-pointing honors those lies. It makes their excuses sound like reasons.

They're drivers. You can't trust them and you can't believe them. Get hit and then read the accident report. Read the driver's description of what happened. Your fault, wasn't it?

It certainly wasn't his fault. Your Lycra made him do it, you arrogant creep.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

One answer to "Why Blog?"

For some years I've been urged by friends to create a web site, more recently a blog. I was reluctant, unable to understand how offering work online for free would help me at checkout time at the market. Perhaps I'll figure that out in time.

Meanwhile, this blog, while not earning a nickel, has been a major source of joy in my life. It has enabled people I have not seen or heard-from in years to reach me. Those occasions are worth whatever minor effort it was to set up this blog and feed it content.

Two people from the past have reached me via this page. One is the daughter of an old motorcycling friend from the early '70s. He passed away years and years ago, but she has become a bicyclist, quite a bicyclist in truth, who maintains her own blog.

Jackie recognized my name through our mutual loyalty to the folks who make Bike Friday travel bikes. I've ridden my Bike Friday in Arizona and Colorado. She's ridden hers all over the world.

She's still friends with San Francisco Bay Area people who were friends of her daddy's and mine back when. Connections that had failed long ago may well be remade.

Then, just two days ago I got a comment from a blog reader who asked, "Weren't you my uncle in the '60s?"

I was. Nick's mom is the sister of my ex-wife Jacquie. He and his wife live now in Minneapolis. He raced bicycles in the '80s and remembers seeing my work in Winning Magazine in those wooly days. He spent years away from cycling but has returned to riding and even racing...and took the trouble to get in touch with his uncle from long ago.

I haven't lived around family since the mid-'60s, and I've moved a number of times since then, leaving behind friends and places that had been dear. This blog has brought some of those friends and a few of those places back into the present in my life.

If this is an unintended consequence, I'd like more please...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cell Phone Users Slow Traffic... Unbelieveable!

Here's a link to a NY Times blog post about...stuff we already know. I wish I wish I wish that the worst thing about motoring cell phone users was that they slow traffic. I'll bet you wish that too.