Category Archives: cycling

Getting crafty at the velodrome

velodrome_certificate

After getting certified at the velodrome, the next thing to do is to get a bike. After scoring a perfectly “mini me” black track bike the best way to make it real is to go Italian.

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cannondale_italian_flag

After that (and because the certificate says I have “acceptable knowledge of track etiquette”), it’s good to be prepared in the pit with tools. Plus it’s nice to help others out in case they forgot their wrenches. Track people are nice. There’s a self-filtering thing that seem to happen at the track where the dicks show up for awhile, then go back to hammering on the road. I’ve got a theory, but it’s not exactly formed so I’ll hold back for now.

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Space time continuum at the Velodrome

velodrome
At my second lesson to get certified riding the track at the Velodrome things got weird. Not like some law of physics failed to keep me from sliding down from the balustrade, which I did manage to claw my way up to, for around four laps, but weird like one of us (there were four of us riding together) fell into a space time warp.

alien_velodrome_bikes

We started riding happy as can be (a “warm up” is 40 laps!) in proper order, white, black, red (that’s me), and teal. All the way to lap 32 teal was right behind me, but then he must have taken a turn into the pit of nylon teeth because as we rounded the turn all of sudden there he was, in front of us.

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Teal swears he never stopped riding, and the three of us riding in front know he never passed us. He came out of nowhere. He blipped. Maybe the three of us were going so close to the speed of light we were tossed into a space-time warp. Maybe if I stop worrying about whether I’m going fast enough, and why the tires against the wooden boards sound like fingernails on a chalkboard I might be able to pay attention to where the other riders are. All I know is that if all you’ve ever done on a bike is road cycling, having someone that you know is behind you end up in front of you without them ever passing you is a sign you need to pull over and eat something.

There’s a story Sam Spade tells in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon often called the Flitcraft parable. It’s about a man who almost dies from a falling beam and completely walks away from his life, only to pick up a few months later in a different city with a different wife, doing the same thing he was doing before the beam fell. The last sentence in Spade’s telling of the story is: “I don’t think he even knew he had settled back naturally into the same groove he had jumped out of in Tacoma. But that’s the part of it I always liked. He adjusted himself to beams falling, and then no more of them fell, and he adjusted himself to them not falling.”

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Cycling D.I.Y and how not to be a drag

In cycling there are a lot of nicknames, for the person who always has chain grease on his calf, for the guy who passes you at the red light only to slow down or the dude wearing shorts that are too old and too sheer, but one of the worst has got to be reserved for the person that doesn’t carry their own tool kit. (OK, it’s a toss up—no tool kit or the guy who always assumes a woman riding alone wants company. Now that Strava’s got what they’re calling “fly-by activity” I can see exactly who it was that didn’t, ahem, just “fly by”).

strava_stalker

Like most outdoor activities, a little DIY goes a long way on a bike. So get a tool kit. Learn how to fix a flat tire (they kind of go together), and don’t toss your CO2 canisters into the landscape.
Carry all the food and water you are going to need, plus money for coffee (and if you do forget the $, buy the round the next time) and always take a pull in the front. (This is awful scary the first time. It feels like you’re a little person trying to bust out of the Earth’s atmosphere for a closer look at the moon, and you think everyone is shaming you for something, when all they are is grateful for your effort. It’s kind of like making dinner for a chef. They’re so glad not to be doing the work that all you have to do is make something. But don’t just open a can, you do have to try your best).

And seriously here’s one of the important ones: if a friend of yours has been collecting Thomson bags for quite some time, and offers them to you, you go all the way and make something totally awesome for him. Who knows, with something like this, maybe he’ll win his next race.

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It helps if part of your company description is “We make cool stuff for cool people.”

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It also helps if you pick a project that matches your cat’s coat on the outside, and her temperament on the inside.

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Don’t forget pockets and adjustable straps. And no gear bag is worth anything unless you can fit two helmets inside.

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Thanks to the Grainline Portside Travel Set pattern (it’s been modified only slightly, we used two buckles instead of D rings, and added the shoulder strap cover), and also to the customers who didn’t take their Thomson seat post bags home with them.

Casualties: 1

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Happy campers: 1

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If sewing an entire bag is too much work, try a simple cycling cap instead. They seem to multiply like bunnies in our neighborhood.

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riding in a centrifuge

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When you dream about riding a slingshot to the moon as a kid, or you think it’s normal for your father to explain centripetal force using an orange, a chopstick and a inclined hard back book, or you do full arm swings holding a mesh-bag-inside-of-a-larger-plastic-bag instead of using a salad spinner, riding in the largest indoor velodrome (The Stubhub) in the country is more than a little awesome.

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First thing to go through my mind was that I had no idea how to get off, much less stop, having never ridden a fixed wheel bike before. That was soon alleviated by my friend Lucie who told me to just get close to the rails and grab it, which seemed reasonable since the rails were large and soft like a stuffed-animal snake (quite different than grasping/bashing into the wooden barricade when I was learning how to ice skate). Her next piece of advice was that when in doubt, pedal harder. As counter intuitive as that may seem, when you are clipped into this thing on wheels and there are no brakes, your adrenaline will actually kick in when the bike begins to feel wobbly and you will actually pedal faster. Or at least it did for me. Although at one point I was reminded of my cat, who once got a back foot tied up in the handle of a plastic bag, and the faster she ran away the more air went into the bag resulting in a much larger evil thing chasing her down, and more drag, causing her to run even faster.

stubhub

I wanted to spend my time on the boards riding either the black or red line as consistently as possible. This is awfully hard, since the best way to stay on the line is not to look at it. Just don’t. If your head is down when you go into the curve, you will see just how banked it is, and your mind screams “Holy crap that’s crazy steep” just before the bike follows your gaze and heads down the slope and then you are screwed. Looking ahead (and you’ll need a little bit of “being in the zone,” or “using the force” type of thing) is something that applies to all sports where the body is supposed to go somewhere, like skiing and track and field, as opposed to tennis where you really should keep an eye on the ball until the last moment, requiring “the zone” or “the force” to come save you in a wholly different way (ask any tennis player who all of sudden can’t serve or any basketball player air-balling free throws). Believing in friction works pretty darn well too.

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(If your eyes glaze over when looking at graphics like the one above, just know it’s the “normal” force that keeps you from flying out of the county. It might help to envision the “normal” force as a string bean, or toothpick. The chopstick was normally used by my dad to represent velocity.)

Riding on the track felt like a completely different sport than riding on the road. There’s no “I’ll just push real hard here and coast for awhile.” There’s no escape from the curved part, after each straightway there’s always another curve. There’s no ‘glory’ from riding indoors, and by ‘glory’ I mean the dirt and pollution plastered all over your face, but there is certainly nothing like the look-Mom-I’m-sideways feeling of whizzing around a banked curve. Holding one’s line is where it’s at, whether on the road or track.

The track is also much more fatiguing on the legs, and the muscle ache will catch up with you as you cruise around forgetting how many laps you’ve done. One of the best techniques for post-rides is to use the foam roller to relax the legs. As with everything sport recovery related, proper technique of the foam roller is critical.

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My visit to the Velodrome was made possible by the Fireflies and Connie Paraskevin from the Connie Cycling Foundation. It’s not every day you get to hang with Olympian athletes, she’s terrific (although I didn’t get to see how big her legs were), and her cause completely worth donating to. She’s the only American woman to ever earn an Olympic medal in track racing, and she’s a four-time world champion, and, she doesn’t have a bike named after her?

Shim-miel! Shim-mazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated

Since I started tooting around on my bike, I’ve noticed an odd pain on the outside of my wrists. It’s sensitive to the touch, and annoying when trying to open jars. My latest theory is that my hands are too small for the average distance between handle bars and brakes, and it’s causing me to twist my wrists and put pressure on some nerve that doesn’t like to have pressure put on it.

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In the biking world as anywhere there are shim-eisters that will sell you all sorts of fixes and magic pills for your bike-related woes. To be sure your Bike Fitter is the real thing you have to Face Time with him over a chunk of caramel. Then when he says use a shim, you got to use a shim for everything.

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Bundle Love and GRL power

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I’ve always had a thing for words that describe a group/cluster/measure of things. There are just some phrases that feel good to say: “lashings of scones,” “a garrison of cheese,” or “a screaming of Shelties.”

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Bundles of merino wool from Rapha though, until today, have only been available for men. It isn’t enough that women get the short shrift when it comes to bike fit. It isn’t enough that when the person in the back of a tandem bike is a girl, the most common thing people say is “She isn’t pedaling.” A ha ha ha! It isn’t enough that guys on anything other than a non-Costco bike get “stared at like a boob” by other guys for only the time it takes for the light to turn green and not a second longer.

At least *you* guys get a bundle discount on the shirts that make beating your ass up the hill less sweaty and more pleasurable. When I asked the folks at Rapha why the men’s merino shirts had the discount but not the women’s their short reply was that they fully agreed.

Today they came through, bundles in short sleeve or long, and I put in the first order. It’s a sweet way to put your money where your mouth is.

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My brain/bike on drugs

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I’ve always dreamed of being able to straddle a bike and not rack my nough-nuts. No standing on tip-toes, no one foot up the curb. I also hate everything behind “girl” bikes, from the idea of “shrinking everything proportionally until she fits – she won’t miss/need/understand the power, control and comfort,” to changing the name of a bike from Roubaix (the finish in the famous Paris-Roubaix road race) to Ruby (?) to give it a more “je ne sais quoi WTF ‘Ruby’ means.” And let’s not talk about just slapping on some purple paint. Have you seen what purple looks like when it’s going really fast?

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Getting a new bike is like trying to photograph a trout by holding down one part of the fish. It flops like a mother, and flips this way and that. Hold the top tube steady and the seat tube flies backward. Hold the head tube still and the handling goes out the window. In addition, smaller sized bike frames have this funny thing called Toe Overlap, where the foot in its most frontward position will hit the wheel if the wheel is turned far to one side.

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Turns out I am 1/4″ taller than what some people say the cut-off height is for people to ride regular sized wheels without getting litigious with Toe Overlap. This 1/4″ is huge, it allows me to ride certain roller coaster rides, and I am able to get my bike on the car rack (yes tip-toes involved, plus I have to smash myself against the side of the car, but no curb necessary), but it won’t get me anywhere close to being able to straddle a bike. That’s because proportionally I am 50:50 torso:legs. I fold like a book. I wear 30-30 jeans. I’m cuboidal.

Here it is: my toe clearance, coming in at 7mm. Makes me want to keep my toenails trimmed.

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You can’t always get what you want.

My bike-fit guy looks at the numbers and sees a bike. What I get is a bunch of numbers that don’t make any sense, only I think “They’re numbers! My buddies!” and if I stare at them long enough the mathematics will present themselves in some equation of a bike, only my vision comes with lunch.

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