Monday, December 31, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Basics

Found myself over at Lifehacker which I found via Warren T's blog. I read several of their best posts of the week which lead me to this excellent four-minute video on composition.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bike By Shooting


I've been under the weather the last two days and not able to enjoy the warm weather we are having. This photo is from the last ride I took before a virus brought me down. Ahhh, memories...

Monday, December 24, 2007

True or False

We need to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy.

Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.

Shaving makes hair grow back faster or coarser.

We use only 10 percent of our brains.

Hair and fingernails continue to grow after death.

Eating turkey makes you drowsy.

Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.

Answers here.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Surprising Warmth

Yesterday, it was an unseasonable 48 degrees. The snow melt made the roads wet and gritty, but other than that, it was a great day for a ride. I took the Bianchi and put on a pair of clip on fenders and was good to go. I got in 47 miles, split in half by the the required coffee stop. A really nice treat for a December ride.

Today, several thousand of my neighbors and I are paying for this. Sometime after 2:00 this morning the winds (gusts up to 49 MPH if you believe my local weatherbug station) and cold kicked in and I lost the electrical power at my house. I just called ComEd again and there is no new information except that they are working on a damage assessment.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow Riding

Yesterday, I woke up to 30 degree weather after two inches of new snow fell. We were planning to ride anyway, so it was just a matter of route and equipment that needed to be settled. The snow made the roads dicey, so we decided on the Green Bay Trail. The part of the trail near me was ice and frozen snow under the new stuff and it was bumpy and slippery and threw my mountain bike around. BT's Surly Puglsey, however, was slow and steady and just rolled over it. When we got to sections that were plowed before the new snow fell, my bike did have a speed advantage. Overall, we were out for two hours and, according to his Garmin, we covered 15 miles.

This morning was a different story. We got another five inches of powder last night. Instead of going cross country skiing, we hit the trails again, this time near Harms Woods.

Today, the Surley had it all over the mountain bikes. Again, slow and steady progress. Also, it didn't get thrown around like my bike. The only way we could make any progress on the mountain bikes was to drop the tire pressure way below the recommended minimum of 40 psi. It was grueling, but although colder today, the sun was out and it was a beautiful day.

To give you an idea just how wide the Pugsley tires are, I took this picture. The snow was actually a bit shallower here, but you can see the difference between the Pugsley tire tracks and the mountain bike tracks.

You can see from this photo just how deep the snow was. You can also see how much I was sliding around. It turned out that I had much better success riding through fresh snow rather than trying to ride on places where it was getting packed down by others. The bike got tossed around less and I was able to keep it under control better.

Here's another shot comparing how much more control the Pugsley had over the mountain bike. And, no, I'm not going to entertain any comments about our relative bike handling skills.

It was quite a workout. You had to keep pedaling to keep the bike moving and upright. Even in a low gear, it was still high resistance work and I had to occasionally stop to rest. At the end of the ride, I felt like I had done about 5000 leg presses.

Next time, however, I bring my skis.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

But What I Really Want to do is Direct

Make a bike movie and submit it to the 2008 Bicycle Film Festival. Submissions are due by February 19th. The entry form is here. The BFF usually makes it to Chicago in late summer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Illinois State Cyclocross Championships - Results

The results are posted for the Chicago Cyclocross Cup Race #6 at Montrose Park. The good news is that I came in ahead of 12 other Cat 4 racers. I just won't point out that there were 45 of us that finished that particular race.

A plethora of great photos of the races were taken by and are posted on flickr by Luke, Ed, Julie, sierraromeo, Carol Ann, and Ansgar. If you know of any others, let me know.

Kudos to Turin Bicycle Shop for a great racing experience and to the organizers of the ChiCrossCup.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Le Comedie du Bicyclette

I just got back from a performance of Le Comedie du Bicyclette AKA The Bicycle Men at the Lakeshore Theatre. This is a rather hard to describe musical comedy. It is essentially the surreal comedic nightmare of an American cyclist whose bike breaks down in a small French village. This production of the show features Dan Castellaneta, a voice actor of some note. For me, just knowing that Mark Nutter wrote the show was enough of a draw. I had seen him in several shows in the 80s when he wrote and performed in a troupe called Friends of the Zoo.

Verdict? Go. Have fun. Enjoy the show. I did.

Thanks to Luke at CBR for the tip off that the show exists and to VCR Bike Team via a friend for the tickets.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Montrose Park

Up until the Montrose Park race, the weather had been mild, if not downright nice. And, although I don’t really like playing in the mud as much as this guy, I was pretty much expecting to experience a range of fall conditions. Even the Lansing race, just three weeks ago, wasn’t all that cold. At Montrose, there was snow on the ground and it was (somewhat) cold.

I got there around noon, plenty of time to register, visit with friends and get in a practice lap after the women finished their race. It was a technical course, challenging and fun. This was also my first time racing in mud, so it was going to be interesting to see if I could keep the bike upright or if was going to be one wipeout after another. For a really good description of the course (with pictures) see Tristan Schouten’s blog. Jim also has a nice description of the course at his blog. Other blog reports of the race here, here, here (pics and video!) and here. This guy will have something soon. I'm sure there are plenty more. Feel free to put a link in the comments. Maybe I should have trained harder and blogged less..?

I spent most of the next hour warming up on the road, occasionally stopping to watch the race. With about 20 minutes to spare, I went back to the car, drank some water, dropped off my ski gloves and decided to keep my Lake 300 winter shoes on figuring that dry feet are more important than lighter shoes. I headed out to the start.

There were about 40 of us and I was right smack in the middle. There were the usual preliminaries and we were off. Right off the back someone bumps me and somehow we both stay upright, but it was a slow start for me. Well, slower than usual.

By the time the 4As raced, the course changed from icy and slippery to muddy and slippery. The turns around the trees were treacherous, but I managed to keep the bike upright the entire race. I love how you can get a cross bike sliding all over the place and still keep it upright if you just keep on peddling through it.

The first challenge was the double barrier at the base of Cricket hill. Running up, riding down and running back up this sledding hill killed me. The first run up it told me I wasn’t in any shape, running-wise, to be doing this hill more than one time. Each lap it got harder until the last lap it wasn’t a run up the hill so much as a trudge. Note to self…

Sometime during the first lap, I felt my saddle shift. It didn’t feel uncomfortable, but I was sitting pretty far back on it most of the race. At the end of the race, the saddle was pointing upwards at about a 30 degree angle. Turned out to be the end of the line for that saddle post as the teeth in the clamp had worn down. Anyway, I don’t think it affected my race much, except it may have contributed to me catching my tights on it on one remount. I didn’t fall, but it wasn’t pretty either.

The race went pretty well for me. I executed the dismounts, carries and remounts with some measure of confidence and grace. I pulled off a couple of passes in tight spots and generally rode smart, if not very aggressively. I didn’t have time to stick around for the race results so I’ll have to wait for them to be posted on the web site. I figure I came in somewhere around 30th.

For my first racing season, I happily achieved the following:

Finished all six Chicago Cyclocross Cup races.
Got at least 8 points as a Cat 4 (A group).
Met some quality people and had a ton of fun.

Some of those quality people caught me on digital film (either by accident or on purpose). Thank you Luke, Ed, Julie, Ben, Kristin, Carolyn, Brendan and anyone else who shot me.

For next year, I need to:
Polish my cross skills.
Work on strategy, power and fitness.
Take a few more risks in the turns.

Oh yeah. There’ll be a next year. Count on it.

I love this sport!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Distractions

While I'm assembling my thoughts on the race today, I came across some bike porn that distracted me. Should have something on the blog tomorrow.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Motivation

I've been listening to the Scientific American 60-Second Psych podcast for a few weeks now. The most recent episode has some useful information about how to motivate yourself to work out. They summed it up this way:

Those who have a negative view of their bodies, were most persuaded by fear messaging, like, “If you want to fit into those jeans, better get those thighs on the treadmill!” But those who have a positive view of their bodies were the most persuaded by encouraging messaging, like, “Wow, you do a great downward dog.”

Of course, you could alway hang one of these on your wall.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cross Country

Not being the proud new owner of a Surly Pugsley (you know who you are), I had to settle for some time off the bike this morning. Luckily, the snow was perfect for cross country skiing and I was able to get out for a bit. You might call the picture on the left the cross country skiing equivalent of a panda portrait. Then again you might not.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wimped out

I checked the Sunday forecast early Saturday night and decided that I wasn't going wake up early and drive 80 minutes to race in the freezing rain (freezing snow would have been OK--that's my story and I'm sticking to it), so I stayed late at a party instead. Woke up with a headache and, even though it was 40 degrees and not raining, I decided to skip the Daniel Wright Woods ride as well so my day was a total waste.

Friday, November 30, 2007

News

Hey look! Cyclocross made the Chicago Tribune Magazine and the New York Times. Although the web site doesn't show the picture, our friends at Chicago Bike Racing point out that the picture in the Sunday magazine was not the rider whose name appeared in the caption.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lights!

I really like my Light & Motion ARC light for illuminating my way when needed. Even when a friend just recently acquired a new Lupine Betty with its 1400 lumens (vs 675 for the L&M), I don't feel any light envy (or heavy jealousy). Of course, if you want style points, you can get one of these.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's the Weather

I was wondering what the "normal" weather was for this time of year. I'll settle for average temperatures since what is normal, anyway? I found this cool tool. Put in your zip code and out pops a histogram of monthly average high and low temperatures.

Seeing the numbers in metric doesn't help at all.

Not that I thought it would, but this doesn't make getting up in the dark to ride in the winter any easier.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Pre Ride Check

Last night in a rare fit of forethought, I decided to check to make sure my bike was ready for the ride this morning. With a 5:00 (sharp) departure, the bike's either ready, or I ride alone. Since I cleaned the bike and lubed the chain after the Sunday ride there shouldn't be much to do. Or so I thought.

While topping off the front tire, the top of the valve broke off in my fingers. OK, change the tube. Better now than right before the ride, right? Next, I topped off the rear tire, wiped down the chain and...hmmm...the saddle looks a little...off. I take the bike off the stand and sure enough, the saddle is pointing up at about a 30 degree angle. I wonder how that happened. No matter. A few quick adjustments and it's back to where it should be. Finally, I reinstalled the rear fender and tail light and gave the chain a quick wipe. All done and now off to bed.

So at least my bike was ready for the ride this morning. Turns out my body wasn't. I nearly got dropped on the ride to the trail head. Then I did get dropped on the trail. I took the shortcut through Old School and got caught in the Savannah. I was cooked, baked, done, fried. Probably braised and sauteed, too.

And, worst of all, I couldn't even blame the bike.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trail Ride

For a nice description of the Sunday Daniel Wright Woods ride see the Go Faster Jim blog. This gives me an excuse to post a post-ride picture and compose a baiku (I think Fritz's beeper just went off).


Sun warmed frozen trail.
The spray of mud hits my frame.
Still life with crank arms.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lan Oak Park Cross Race

I got a late start so I didn't race the 40+ Masters race as planned. I would have liked to see how this strategy played out. Would gaining familiarity with the course compensate for the energy expenditure of a 45 minute race? My guess is no, it wouldn't, at least not for this course. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Getting to the race was easy. With the work on the Dan Ryan nearly complete and light Sunday morning traffic, I got there in about an hour. I arrived during the women's 1-2-3 race and got a chance to take a few pictures and take a ride around the park. As soon as it ended, I jumped on the course and got in two laps to check it out.

It was obvious even to my rookie eyes that this was going to be a fast course. There were no really sharp turns, one single barrier and one triple barrier section, two roundabouts on asphalt and a long sand pit. One of the roundabouts was made interesting with tree roots pushing up the tarmac and some leaf cover, although this was more visual scare than actual problem.

I was advised to carry the bike through the sand pit and I noticed that many of the Pro 1-2 and Cat 3 men did just that. During my preride, I decided to try to ride through it figuring I had nothing to lose. My first attempt was nearly perfect and gave me what turned out to be a false sense of confidence (note foreshadowing). On my second attempt, I nearly collided with three riders who were carrying their bikes, so I had to dismount. OK. Even though I won't be able to steer through the sand, I'm going to have to find a way not to hit someone in the sand. This just might get interesting.

I finished warming up by doing laps around the park. Took a few photos of the men's race and had some last minute water and a gel (yummm...banana flavor). 42 of us lined up at the start and after the usual announcements we were off. I got a better start than usual, but it wasn't long before I found myself in the back third of the field. If I'm going to do better next year in this series, I'm going to have to work on my fitness and power. For now, I'm going to take pride in little victories like passing a rider, or taking the barriers cleanly or not coming in DFL.

My first attempt at the sand pit was a stunning success. Not only did I ride clean through it, but I passed 3 guys in the process. My second attempt wasn't quite as good. And, wouldn't you know it, someone photographed the whole thing:


On the next lap, I wasn't going to make the same mistake, so I made a different one. I came into the sand fast, lifted my front wheel on the entry and gave it all I had. I exited the sand pit so quickly and was so surprised and happy with the effort that I wasn't paying full attention to where I was heading and I nearly missed the jog left around the tree and had to hit the brakes hard to avoid a collision. I'm not sure if the guy behind me was amused or pissed (or both), but no matter, I'm two for three in the sand. Another small victory.

In the second half of the race I was one for three in the sand. In retrospect, I realize that my main problem was that I needed to keep my weight further back so my front wheel didn't dig in. I'll try to remember that for next year.

On my last lap, I marked one rider that I might be able to pass. As I entered the sand trap, I was gaining on him (he carried his bike), but I had to dismount near the end and he exited with a few bike lengths on me. He had a little trouble with the left turn after the jog around the tree and I got on his wheel. As we rounded the backstop fence the course opens up into what is mostly a straight section into a gentle turn to the finish. With about 200 yards to go, I jumped out of the saddle and sprinted around him. As I passed him, I heard him say: "Oh, just go ahead". He was more cooked than I was. Another small victory.

I took 31st place. Not as good as I had hoped, but a decent effort. Montrose Park is the next Chicross Cup race on the 9th, but I might do the Wisconsin race the week before. Yeah, I'm hooked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

ID on Trial

Last night I watched "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial" a fascinating documentary that covered the trial in Pennsylvania where a group of parents sued the school district over the inclusion of intelligent design in the science curriculum. The show does an excellent job of explaining what the Theory of Evolution is (and that the scientific use of the word "Theory" is much different than the common use of the word) and how the history of ID demonstrates without much doubt that ID is just rebranded "creation science". If you haven't seen the show, you can watch it online after November 16.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Recovery Ride

Earlier in the week, I needed a break, a solo ride, an easy ride, to clear my head and legs (respectively). I decided on the North Branch Trail, a route I haven't taken in quite a while. This turned out to be an excellent choice as it had been recently repaved and the fall colors were gorgeous. It was dark on the way out, adding to the quiet and the solitude. At one point, my light reflected green in 5 pairs of eyes, deer on the trail who scampered away when I got close. As the sun came up I was able to see more of the forest and lagoons.

Another advantage of a solo ride was that when I saw an opportunity for an interesting picture, I was able stop and take it on my own time. I had to detour into a parking lot to take this shot.

I got back on the bike and continued home. As I crested a small rise I saw a deer over on my left. She stayed perfectly still as I approached and slowed down. I stopped when I was even with her and carefully reached to get my camera. I was sure the sound of it powering up would scare her away. Well, as you can see, it didn't and I was able to get a few pictures before the deer decided to run off.

I've heard it said that a true recovery ride is one that is so slow that you take a secret route so that your friends don't see you and mock how slow you are going. That secret route just might have other advantages as well.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Letter to the Editor

This letter (in italics here) appeared in today' s Chicago Tribune. The letter writer is from Highland Park.
Do you ever find yourself driving and out of nowhere a bicyclist cuts you off? Bicyclists are a huge nuisance.
Swap bicycling for driving and cars for bicyclists and the statement is just as true. Oh, and if you ever just "find yourself driving", I suggest you give up your keys before you start to drink or take your medication.

Why do they perpetually insist on riding on the streets?
Because that's where they belong. I am assuming that the writer means adult bike riders.

Do they have a death wish?
I'll assume that's a rhetorical question.

Have they ever wondered why sidewalks were created? Clearly, to bicyclists, they serve no purpose.
Sidewalks belong to pedestrians. In some suburbs, anyone over the age of 12 can be ticketed for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. In Highland Park, not every road has a sidewalk and not every sidewalk is permitted to bicycles. You might want to read this.

It's for their own safety that they should stay on the sidewalks. I know I have almost hit a bicyclist before, as have many.
Seems the issue here is your poor driving skills. May I suggest you read these tips for motorists. I won't even press the obvious point of how dangerous distracted drivers are to other drivers, bike riders and pedestrians.

The frightening thought is that just a few seconds more and the biker could have been hit.
Why suddenly the passive voice? Guilty conscience?

Why don't the rules of the road apply to bicyclists?
They do. You might want to read those rules of the road again. Or once even.

Just because they aren't in an automobile doesn't give them the right to ignore a stop sign. These bicyclists are asking to get hit by disregarding the rules of the road.
Ah. Here's the heart of the matter. You don't like seeing bicycles ride through stop signs. I have news for you. That is, indeed, illegal (point for you). But please, no one is asking to get hit. And not all bike riders do this. And of course, you come to a complete stop at all stop signs, right?

And the funny thing is, we as the drivers are accused if bicyclists were to get hit because they are considered pedestrians.
Ummmm...no. When a bicycle is on the road, they are vehicles. See that link to rules of the road above. And if a bicyclist gets hit, your main concern is that you might get accused?

To me, this is a joke. Bicyclists should just ride on the sidewalks.
I'm not sure that even a sidewalk would be safe when you are behind the wheel. You need to deal with your road rage, improve your driving skills and, above all, share the road. You should also know that the Illinois vehicle code was recently amended to require motorists who are overtaking bicycles to leave at least three feet of room until safely past the rider.

OK now, group hug.

Give Yourself a...

I just like the name of this blog.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Campton Cross Race

I arrived at Campton Park during the women’s race and got a chance to snap a few photos before registering. It was another beautiful day for a race. Temperatures were in the mid 50s and there was a fairly strong wind competing with full sunshine which kept things comfortable.

As soon as the women were finished, I jumped on the course for a lap to see what I was up against. In addition to the usual barriers and sharp turns, there was a small gully to ride through (similar to the one in the Carpentersville race), a short sand trap leading into a sharp left turn and something new for me to learn, an off-camber section. By the time I rode it, the earlier rides had worn a slight path and the grass had dried out which made it somewhat easier. Still, I was tentative through it and probably should doubled back to practice it a few more times. There was also a section through trees that was muddy and required hitting the right line where the mud was packed. If you miss this, the deeper mud on either side slows you down quite a bit. This leads into a section with four partially buried railroad ties. The first of these was high enough to require a bunny hop, but most riders rode around it cutting a narrow lane between the tie and the brush. I rode around it the first two laps, but did the bunny hop thing afterwards, only hitting it hard once (luckily no pinch flat). This saved me a little time as I had to slow a bit to hit the lane around it. The last two railroad ties were low enough to just ride over. This took you into a downhill and fast approach to the last barrier before the finish line.

The mens 1-2 began to line up and the 3s were right behind them. I snapped some shots of my teammates, registered, dropped off the camera at the car and put the number on my jersey. I used pins from a previous race and wondered what all the other racers do with their pins after racing. It seems wasteful to throw them out, so I have decided to hold on to them and either reuse or return them. Also, I am happy to relate, my number attaching skills are improving. I locked the car, stashed the key on a lanyard around my neck (has anyone ever fallen in a race and gotten strangled this way?) and took off to warm up.

With about 15 minutes to go, I headed over to the starting line. I adopted a new strategy this time and lined up in the second row. Similar to last week, the start leads into a sharp turn, although this one was more of a challenge. We go from grass to a 180 degree turn which hits a dirt walking path and goes back onto the grass. I knew that with at least 40 of us it would stack up here (experience has its benefits) so I made up my mind to start off as hard as I could to get through this without losing much time. This was probably my best strategy even if I had to go slow for a while to recover afterwards.

They called the start and I got through the first turn OK and began to settle in. My cross racing skills are improving, but I still have to work on my handling skills, especially around sharp turns and crossing gullies. These are costing me time and effort that I just can't afford to waste. I am very happy with how I handled all the barriers during this race. I did trip once, catching my foot on the barrier as I jumped over, but having my hands on the bike kept me from falling and I actually remounted without losing any time. A few times I entered the final barrier at faster than running speed and still was able to clear it and remount. I'm sure a video replay would look ugly, but I got the job done. I lost the most time when I hit the sand trap poorly and couldn't handle the sharp left turn, taking out a stake (sorry guys). I was also too cautious during the first two attempts at the off-camber section, but had it mastered after that.

Near the end of my second-to-last lap, I got passed by the leader which meant that the race was actually over for me. I still took another lap. Hey, it's good practice and I must be getting better, since there is no way I could have handled another lap at Jackson Park or Carpentersville. I hung around waiting for the results, and saw that I got 28th. Not as good as I had hoped, but I'm staying close to the top half.

While packing up I got into a conversation with another cat 4A racer that I recognized from a couple of other races. He advised me to try racing in the masters race earlier in the day to use as a warm up and preride. His thinking is that it is a good way to warm up, the experience on the course is invaluable and, if you don't race all out, you have enough time to eat afterwards and recover. I think I'm going to give this a try at the Lansing race in two weeks.

I got home, started unpacking and someone seemed happy to see me.


Either that, or I forgot to feed him this morning.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Daylight Saving Time Part 2:00

As both of you undoubtedly recall, I hate the longer daylight saving time this year. It turns out, we may have the candy manufacturers to thank for this. You think I'm kidding.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Great Pumpkin

I was listening to a Scientific American podcast last night between visits from trick or treaters. The current episode, fittingly enough, included a discussion with the author of the book, Backyard Giants, The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever. So, what do you think the current world record weight for a pumpkin is? It's much more than you might think.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Daylight Saving Time

I hate the longer DST year. Sunrise today was 7:22 which means that it's just getting light as I'm leaving coffee after my morning ride. That's OK for December, but it just shouldn't happen in October. Especially since we are having a nice Indian summer. Anyway, on my way home, I stopped and took this picture. Something good has to come of this.

And for Fritz, a baiku:
Daylight Saving Time.
Post Morning Bike Ride Coffee.
It's Still Dark Outside.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunrise Park Race

My next adventure in bike racing was the ABD Sunrise Park race in Bartlett. This was another Chicrosscup race and again I raced in the Cat 4 A group. It was a beautiful day and when I left my house, weather.com reported that it was going to be sunny, windy and in the low 50s. I stocked up on a variety of base layers, arm warmers and gloves in an effort to be prepared for the actual conditions upon arrival.

Well all my planning wasn’t enough. When I got there, it was nearly 60 degrees and with the sun out, all I needed was shorts and my short sleeve jersey. Unfortunately, I was convinced that it was going to be colder and had already dressed in knickers (which wasn’t a bad idea--protect the knees and all). Worse, somehow I didn’t bring a pair of summer gloves so I decided to go bare handed.

Fashion and technical wear decisions out of the way, I rode along the trail from the school parking lot to the registration area. I signed in and said hello to a couple of fellow Alberto’s teammates and warmed up. The course consisted of two sections of double barriers both ending on hills, a number of long straight sections, a number of sharp turns that seemed awfully narrow to my rookie eyes and a short, but very steep hill that came after a sharp right turn. I'll have to remember to get in to my lowest gear in advance for this.


This time I decided to take a practice lap and, of course, wound up starting in the back of the field of 44 racers. This did give me a much needed look at the course, but cost me a decent early field position. The race began into a long straight section which then stacked up at the first sharp turn. I’m going to have to change my strategy for the next race.

I felt better in this race than the previous ones which I am chalking up to experience (80%) and improved fitness (20%). I handled the barriers well, running to the top of the hills and passing a couple of riders who were remounting their bikes on the incline. I was also able to pass several riders on the long gentle inclined section. I ascended that short steep hill each lap without having to dismount as a few riders in front of me were forced to do when they ran out of forward momentum. During the second lap, I took a fall on one of those tight turns and this made me more tentative in the turns for the rest of the race which I’m sure cost me a few places. On the plus side, for the first time I actually remembered to check to see how many laps were left. On the last lap, I set a goal to pass the six riders in front of me, two close and four further ahead. On the incline, I overtook the duo and, with three quarters of a lap to go, started to close in on the group of four. At one point, I was right on the wheel of the fourth rider, but my tentativeness in the turns allowed them to gap me enough that I couldn’t catch them. I made a final effort over the short, steep hill and a final sprint, but it wasn’t enough. Still, this was my best race yet and I took 27th place, good enough for 4 points in the standings. These were my first race points ever and it felt good to achieve that goal.

Next up is Campton Cross in St. Charles. And a new goal...crack the top 20.

Monday, October 29, 2007

News of the Weird

Man who had sex with bike in court.

The headline is a little misleading. A quick read of the article and we learn that the incident happened in a hostel, not the court. We also learn that the sex with the bike was "simulated" (as opposed to...what?) and the accused was placed on the sex offenders’ register. Is that because the bike was underage or didn't give consent? And if it was this bike, does that make it a crime of passion?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Carpenter Park Race

(photo by Carolyn)
After hosting 79 of us in the Cat 4 race in Jackson Park four weeks ago, the Chicago Cyclocross Cup committee decided to split the men’s 4 into an “A” and “B” race. Since this was my first year racing cross, I qualified for “B”, but I decided to race “A” for no other reason than stubbornness. Or maybe it was pride. Either way I get to lower my expectations of grandeur.

On the drive to the race, I got a call from Barry who had raced the Masters 40+ that morning. He warned me that this was going to be a lot more difficult than Jackson Park, telling me tales of ravines I would have to jump across and about the sand pit where just yesterday they held a monster truck competition. I gritted my teeth and drove on.

As soon as I arrived, I could tell that this was going to be a different experience than racing the Trash Dash the previous day. The park was beautiful and there was music playing, giving this race a festive, party-like atmosphere. Unlike the gritty prelude-to-pain of the previous day, today was inviting in the same way a bear seems to smile at you before the mauling.

On the way to the bandstand where I would sign in, I ran into another Alberto’s rider, Debbie, who had been tearing up the Cat 4 races and had just upgraded and raced 1/2/3 where she took 5th. She wished me luck.

A quick ride around the perimeter of the course showed me just what I had signed up for. This was going to be far more challenging than either Jackson Park or Whitewater. In addition to the sand pit, there were other added attractions like the two small ravines. The first had a barrier in front of it and required a dismount and carry/jump across while the other was more of a deep “V” and could be ridden (more on that later). There was a double barrier into a climb up a short steep hill and then around you go to ride up and down that same hill.

I took a few easy laps around the park on the road to warm up and met up with Franco, a strong Masters rider that I’ve ridden with on the occasional weekday morning. Knowing I was new at this, he passed on some words of advice that wound up saving me some time. First, he showed me that on the first ravine that it was better to carry (or roll) the bike around the tree so the remount can be done on ground that was flat or slightly downward sloping. If you remount too soon, it’s on an uphill and you lose time. During the race, I actually passed two guys on two separate laps this way. Franco also made sure I knew proper shoulder carry form and that I shouldn’t try to ride the sand pit. I thanked him and continued on my warm up.

I couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures, but time was short so it was just a few shots of the sand pit before returning the camera to the car and making my way over to where the riders were lining up by the start line. After the Cat 1/2s were done they let us onto the course and we lined up at the start. At this point, I could either keep my position in the front line, or preride the course and wind up in the back. This was bad decision #1. The lap would have given me some much-needed practice on the course and saved me the embarrassment of starting up front and having nearly everyone pass me long before the first barrier.

A few final announcements and the race was on. It was a fast start and I fell through the pack like a salmon coming up lame halfway upstream. One advantage of this was that by the time I reached the first barrier, I had plenty of room to clear it. Hey look, one bike, no waiting.

My first near-crash-experience was with the crossing of the “V” ravine. All the racing before me had carved two deep channels across it and I saw that the 1/2 racers were able to ride into it, lift their front wheel and ride out at a pretty good clip. Thinking I could duplicate their skill was bad decision #2 and I hit the opposite side hard, but kept the bike upright and was able to continue on. I diagnosed the problem as not enough wheelie and vowed to do better the next time around. My next challenge was the sand pit which I cleared beautifully. Remount the bike, zoom around the curve, downshift, accelerate up the hill click down three cogs to continue to accelerate down the hill and I was feeling good.

On the next lap, I attempted to ride through the “V” ravine again. This was bad decision #3 and my unpracticed wheelie skills resulted in a crash and a dropped chain, but no damage to either man (alleged) or machine. Dismount, replace chain, remount and go. Second crossing of the sand pit was a little harder, but I was still looking good. Around the tree, up over the hill and down and I began to get into a rhythm.

With a little time to think before the next barrier, I decided to carry the bike across the “V” ravine this lap. OK. Dismount, jump, run, remount and ride. Hey, I thought, maybe my problem was I was going too fast. Yeah. That’s it. Ooops, coming up fast, brake, turn into the “V” ravine, shift my weight back and voila! Success. Now I’m racing. Now I’m thinking. Here comes the sand. Dismount, shoulder carry and I’m through. A little slower, but my skills feel good. Around the tree and…that’s funny...I’m on the ground. Never mind. Get up remount, over the hill and go. I figure that I must have caught my pedal on the ground sloping away from the tree. I must not have had enough clearance (Clarence). Roger that, Roger.

Around again and it’s a clean lap. No hits, decent runs and no errors. I’m just getting slower (and Leon is getting larger). The sand is getting deeper and I pass a guy who makes the identical error on that turn around the tree that I did. I clear the hill and pass the band stand and, the race is over. All this time that I was concentrating on what’s coming up I never thought to look to see how many laps were left. I thought there might have been one more, but I’m cooked. I gratefully pull over to the side get off the bike and gracefully drop to the ground and lay there on my back spread eagled and breathing hard. I open my eyes to an Alberto’s jersey asking me how I felt. I managed a “Next time, Lucy, don’t take the football away.”

Erik wound up coming in just ahead of me. I placed 35 out of 45. Of course, I raced the day before, so I was pretty tired going in.

I cleaned up, changed, put the bike on the car and headed home with one thought on my mind. Can salmon really pull up lame?

Your Bike is Hot

While putting off finishing my blog post on the Carpenters Park race, I found this cool web site. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trash Dash Rehash

Via the MadCross website, I was able to locate some pictures of me during the Whitewater Trash Dash. In case you're interested, the whole picture gallery is here.

Looking fully color coordinated and like I know what I'm doing.




That face. An impervious mask of concentration hiding all the suffering and pain. And humiliation. Hmmm...some company is going to have to make arm warmers that stay up. Either that or I'm going to have to get some of those, what do you call them? Oh yeah, biceps.



And the results are in. Turns out I beat every other entrant in my race from Illinois. Both of them. I also beat three guys from Wisconsin including someone named, I kid you not, Uphill. There were also 14 guys I didn't beat including more unattached riders than a CBF Veggie Bike and Dine. 15th out of 20. Of course that's because I was saving myself for the Carpentersville race the next day. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Trash Dash at Whitewater

decided to do the Trash Dash cyclocross race in Whitewater. Even though I was planning to race the next day in Carpentersville, and I knew this would be hard on my body, I figured I could use the skills practice and it would be a kick. After all, I'm only in this for fun (not that a podium finish seems to be in my near, or any other future) and this would be an adventure, something to tell the grandkids someday (you know, while they're playing 4-D interactive holographic games and not paying any attention to me) and, most importantly, a chance to race against Cat 4 riders in my age group. In the Chicrosscup, there are Cat 4 races and Masters races, and since I give away age to the former and ability to the latter, I thought, why not give this a shot. To top it off, the race was less than two hours away and the weather report was unseasonably beautiful. Sounds great.

Mine was the first race of the day so I set out bright and early packed up with food (both pre- and post-race), water, ice (there's that thinking ahead stuff) and the needed clothing and gear. With the bike secured to the hitch rack, I set out for fun, adventure and glory. The ride up was uneventful, taking just an hour and 40 minutes, beating the GoogleMaps estimate by 15 minutes without speeding (honestly).

I registered, and had mild success with the first challenge, attaching my number to my jersey. Then, being an hour early, I warmed up by pre-riding the course. This may not be the best way to warm up, but I got to know the course very well. Essentially, we were riding on a grassy field that was as smooth as a freshly harvested cornfield (yeah, I used the word field twice in that sentence, deal with it). The course started out on a long bumpy straight away into a single barrier, then a hard left turn. Next, it's down a small hill and a 180 turn into a barrier, drag the bike up the hill and remount. After a couple of turns, dismount, over the barrier and a decision to either roll or carry the bike down the short slope and gentle curve up the short steep hill and over another barrier or remount and coast to the second barrier. I tried both and liked the second idea best. It didn't seem to cost me any time and saved me some energy. From there you ride up a gentle incline, and eventually get to the staked off left turn, right turn, left turn that I'm sure there is a technical cyclocross term for, but it just reminded me of a maze. Exit, turn left and repeat. On the last lap, after the exit you continue straight to the finish line. As I understand it, not a very technical or interesting course, but it's a beautiful day, right?

I began my last preride loop and I see two people carrying an additional barrier and stakes towards the first barrier. Even my newbie brain understands that they are adding a barrier, not attempting some kind of repair. I finish the lap, more than warmed up, and it's nearly race time, but I want to see what I'm going to face, so I begin another lap. The barriers are spaced such that you just lift the bike and roll between them or just suitcase it. I decide to use a shoulder carry, as it seems the fastest way to do this and it will give me some needed practice and it will also impress my rivals so much that they will award me the podium on style points.

At the start, I see a mix of cross bikes, several mountain bikes with front suspension and one fully suspended. What a doofus, I think. The loss of pedal power transfer efficiency plus the increased weight will put him at a real disadvantage.

The race officials offer their pre race announcements and encouragements. Oh, and one more thing they say. "We added an additional barrier in front of the first one." Groans by a number of racers who ended their prerides before seeing the addition. Advantage me. I'm so cool.

The race starts and quickly I find myself in the back third of the pack. No one has any trouble with the new set up (rats). My first racing shoulder carry lies somewhere along the continuum of elegant grace and a drunk farmer moving irrigation pipe. About halfway between, I'd say. No matter, it's fast and I settle into the pain and rhythm of the race.

I'm about an hour into the race and I check my watch and see that only five minutes has passed. I'm feeling fully anaerobic, my mouth is a dry as a sand martini with no vermouth, my legs are screaming, it seems like 100 miles to the end and I'm not passing anyone. But I'm having fun, right?

After a while, I find myself in a game of pass and be passed by the guy on the fully suspended Klein mountain bike. The jaw-rattling course is taking it out of me and isn't attenuated at all by my laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant Aluminum frame or the 45 psi I put in my 35c wheels. It makes me long for rides on smooth roads like Sheridan in Wilmette, or maybe on the cobblestones in Kenilworth. It occurs to me that the guy on the Klein is a genius.

Second to last lap, I pass the Klein hard. Take that suspension-man! I'm feeling good, relatively speaking. Hey, look at me! I passed someone. Out of the maze and just as I turn left, they open up the finish line for the winner. So I get beat by nearly a full lap, but at least I didn't get lapped. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Last lap. Klein passes me and I never see him again. So he either gave up and snuck off the course to abandon after the huge effort it took him to catch me or I was so cooked at the end that I really didn't see anything. Yeah, it's probably one of those.

Into the maze and I'm gaining on a guy in a red jersey. We exit and I launch a sprint and blow past him guaranteeing that I don't come in last. Hooray for me.

I wobble over to my car and lean on the bike rack, just breathing. Hard. I'm tired, sore, crushed and strangely euphoric. Or is that delirious? Who knows or cares. I had fun. At least I remember it as being fun. It helps me to remember that cyclocross is one of the most difficult forms of bicycle racing. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?

I don't know where I placed. The results aren't up yet, but will be here when they are. I drink, change, eat, drink some more and head home where I take a quick nap and then mow the lawn. Carpentersville is next. Can't wait.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Accessories

Not sure how to complete that Campy Record-equipped Meivici with Lew wheels? How about one of these lights? And while you're at it, get one of these phones. My guess is that you'll be driving one of these.

Ten Ways to Not Get Hit by Cars

This is worth reading, if only to review what we already know.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New StreetView Contest

Cyclelicious is running another Google StreetView contest. I posted a few links there that undoubtedly will win me the prize, but in case you want to enter, you have until Saturday. Oh, and here's another one. And one more.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Inaugural Chicago Criterium

Chicago Athlete has this story that the Inaugural Chicago Criterium will be held Sunday, July 27, 2008. This is great news for cycling fans. The rest of you should also come out. It's going to be fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Bean

I had a chance to walk around Millennium Park last Sunday and, with Google Street View coming to Chicago I just had to see if I could find "The Bean" on it. And yes, I can.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Vegas Sucks


Vegas Sucks
Originally uploaded by richardmasoner

Sticker on sign spotted at Interbike. I'd put in a vote for moving it to Chicago (Interbike, not the sticker). More discussion on this at Cyclelicious.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bike Path Coming


Bike Path Coming
Originally uploaded by frankshapiro

We've been riding this road and watching the construction progress for a while now. Today, there was this sign. It will be interesting to see if the new traffic pattern helps. No news about estimated completion date.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Cyclocross Race

The Cat 4 Mens results from the Jackson Park race are in. I'm told the race began with 79. 70 finished. I came in 33rd, tired, but undamaged.

Fun With Photoshop

This photo was taken at the Jackson Park Cyclocross race last Sunday.


I didn't like how dark Barry looked and was looking for a different way to lighten him up (pun intended) without washing out the background. This is what I came up with.


More photos from my first 'cross race here. Results of my race are not yet posted.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Reckless Driving Incident

Chicago Bike Racing has this report of a driver intentionally cutting in front of a paceline and braking. It's worth reading the entire post and the comments that follow. Luckily no one was seriously injured and the driver was arrested and charged.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Safety

At the start of the North Shore Century last Sunday, right about here, the group I was riding with was passed by a black Dodge Stratus. Crossing over the double yellow line, accelerating to over 40 MPH and nearly taking out an oncoming SUV before swerving back to the right lane just ahead of the paceline, it was an unnerving start to the day.

That experience, coupled with the events of the last few days, got me wondering about the relative safety of bicycle riding vs. other activities and just life in general. A little net surfing and I came across this interesting chart. The data is from 2003 and is the lifetime odds of one's dying from the specific activity as reported by the NSC.

Of course these are averages and does not account for those of us who ride 6000 miles per year or drive like that moron in the Stratus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Glencoe Grand Prix Pictures

In addition to the shots you can see at the Flickr group, Jon informs me that the organizers had a professional photographer shoot some of the races and the photos are available for purchase.

Bad Week

It's been a rough couple of days for cyclists in the Chicago area. On Monday, a cyclist wearing an iPod was trying to ride across some tracks near Burlington and was struck and killed by a train. On Tuesday, a woman was struck and killed by a garbage truck as she rode her bicycle on Chicago's Northwest Side. Police report that she was apparently talking on a cell phone at the time. The driver of the truck was ticketed for making an improper right turn. Wednesday night in Matteson, a XXX Racing-AthletiCo team rider crashed during a race and never regained consciousness.

It's a horrific series of events, a reminder of how fragile one is on a bike and that safety is not something to be taken lightly. My condolences to all family and friends.

Bicycle Arch Entrance


Bicycle Arch Entrance
Originally uploaded by neilcrocodile

Something you don't see every day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Failed Photos


Last March, I saw Floyd Landis at a picture framing studio in suburban Chicago. I took a lot of photos with mixed results. There was this one shot, though, that I was able to crop and it would have been a really fun shot, but I happened to take it either a moment too soon or too late. Had I noticed just what was next to him, I would have taken a few shots to make sure that he at least had his eyes open. Hope he has better luck with his hearing (pun not intended, but left in anyway). Oh well. At least I got to drink some Three Floyds beer.

Under the Influence of Cycling

USA Today published its ranking of the 25 most influential people of the past 25 years and Lance Armstrong is #8. That ranks him as more influential than Pope John Paul II (#9), more influential than Bono (#10), but not as influential as Oprah (#3).

Also, Floyd Landis was listed as #15 in the list of the 25 biggest sports scandals of the last 25 years.

Greg LeMond was unavailable for comment.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Biking in the Bible Belt

Cyclelicious points to an article that suggests that the town of New Llano, LA might ban the use of bicycles in town. The proposed "no wheels" ordinance will prohibit the use of skateboards, roller blades, roller skates, bicycles, etc. anywhere in the corporate limits of the Town of New Llano with the exception of the individual's private property. The reason? Skateboarders have been tearing up city property. I'm surprised they didn't ban strollers and wheelchairs, too.

This story also reminded me of a short film I saw at last year's Bicycle Film Fest called Biking in the Bible Belt.

Friday, September 7, 2007

New Rule 2

If an SUV blows a stop sign in Highland Park and cuts you off, it does not mean the driver was on the phone, applying lipstick, selecting a song from their iPod, and drinking an iced low-fat soy 1/3 caf 2/3 decaf no foam hazelnut frapadapuccino with one Spenda and a half package of Equal double cupped. It might have been only two of these.

Stop Means Stop


Stop Means Stop
Originally uploaded by frankshapiro

I guess the stop sign alone wasn't doing the job. The additional directions showed up a few weeks ago. As soon as I saw this, the song "No!" by They Might Be Giants popped into my head. Never heard it? Sample here.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New Rule

New Rule: The King of the Mountains jersey should not be available in sizes larger than medium.
With apologies to Bill Maher.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bicycle Art

Taliah Lempert is an artist in New York City who clearly loves bikes. I love how she describes her paintings which is more a description of the bikes and their owners. And you can see how she "builds" this Seven. And, oh my, she has jerseys!

Downers Grove Through The Rain


Downers Grove through the rain
Originally uploaded by Luke

I saw this picture and just had to show it to you. You're welcome.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Picture From GGP

After looking through the pictures I took at the Glencoe Grand Prix a number of times (and wondering if I should blame the camera or just my inexperience photographing moving cyclists), I decided that this was one of my favorites. The tree with the face is right after turn 2. I like the contrast of the sad "face" on the tree and the determined face on the rider.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Onion on Cycling

Maybe it's just me, but I didn't find The Onion piece that ran yesterday (and has made the email rounds from my riding friends and a mention on a number of cycling blogs) all that funny. Yes it was nice that cycling made it into that prestigious news source, but the joke just didn't work for me. Yes, I "got it". The TdF is so hard that you have to dope to finish on time, yada, yada, yada. I just didn't find anywhere near The Onion's usual brilliance.

I'm not saying it was entirely without laughs. The part about it being carried on "Versus-2, the little-sister network to Versus" was brilliant. I guess I just didn't buy the premise. Also, see #9 and #12 here.

Yada, yada, yada has it's own Wikipedia entry? Now that's funny.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cyclocross

Info on the Chicago Cyclocross cup races here. First race is September 23 at Jackson Park. I plan on making this my cyclocross racing debut. I'll try to get in some practice Wednesday nights at 6 at Mt. Trashmore in Evanston. This guy's excited for 'cross season. If anyone has other links of interest related to local 'cross events or practices, please post them in the comments.

Glencoe Grand Prix

Nice race summary by Chicago Bike Racing here. FattyM has his take on the Cat 4 and Masters Cat 4 races. More photos are up at the GGP flickr group.

Just Off The Top Of My Head

Next time I'm having coffee and I find the half and half in my fridge has gone bad long before the expiration date, I'll try to keep my disappointment in perspective by remembering that a faulty fridge can do a lot more harm than that.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Glencoe Grand Prix

Yesterday, the first annual (I was going to say inaugural, but I couldn't spell it) Glencoe Grand Prix was held in beautiful downtown Glencoe, Illinois. By any measure, it was a success. There was a full day of competitive racing under perfect weather. I spent my day watching the races, volunteering as a course marshal and taking snapshots with my Canon Elph. I got 81 pictures before the battery failed. My raw photos are now on a Flickr group that I creatively named "Glencoe Grand Prix". Feel free to post your own photos of the event there or add comments. I will eventually post a few of these shots after a little time with photoshop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Perry DeAngelis

I never met Perry DeAngelis. I only knew him as a voice of wit and reason on a podcast called The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, a highly entertaining and informative weekly podcast talk show that discusses, from a scientific point of view, the latest news of the paranormal and fringe beliefs. I heard of his untimely death the same way that I have come to know him, on a podcast. I don't remember how I found the SGttU, but the first time I heard it, I instantly liked it. It is a rare combination of science, intellect and entertainment made all the more enjoyable by the personalities involved.

Perry, I never met you, but I will miss you.

Good News Everyone

I may be a little late learning about this, but one of my favorite shows is coming back.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Glencoe Grand Prix

Remember that the Glencoe Grand Prix is this Sunday, August 26. Same day registration opens at 7:00 am, but why wait? Go ahead, register online.

I'm told they can still use some volunteers and the weather forecast looks great.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Potter Mouth

"Wands are only as powerful as the wizards who use them. Some wizards just like to boast that theirs are bigger and better than other people's."
--Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Funny thing. This was the second time in the book where phallic humor penetrated the story. Without giving too much away, in the story Harry has to use someone else's wand. It's, ahem, smaller than his and he refers to using it as like "having someone else's hand sewn to the end of his arm." One of the first spells he tries with it is engorgio and it doesn't work (Viagra joke anyone?). Hermione's comment to this failure is: "It's all a matter of confidence."

Really enjoying this, the seventh book.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Three Feet. It's The Law

Governor Rod Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 80 yesterday which amends the Illinois vehicle code to require motorists that are overtaking bicycles to leave at least three feet of room until safely past the rider. I wonder if this will change the attitude of Mr. GOTFR from last Sunday's ride?

Many thanks to the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation for their work on this.

Now if I can only get a police vehicle as a pace car.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I'm With David. And He's a Fred.

The FredCast is a weekly podcast about cycling news and gear. I listen to it (free from iTunes). It seems that the staff of a certain TeeVee actor who may or may not be running for President is using the name FredCast for their podcasts. David Bernstein, the creator/host of the cycling FredCast has written this letter to politely ask them to stop. There is a story about this that you can Digg by clicking here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

SUVs to Pay $50 Daily Fee to Drive in London?

In 2003, London instituted a $16 per day fee to drive within their "congestion zone". This reduced traffic and provided money to invest in their transport infrastructure. Now, Mayor Ken Livingston has proposed to charge owners of SUVs $50 a day to drive them within the congestion zone.

(Just a note about attribution. I first saw this story in today's Chicago Tribune. Since links to their web site require registration, I linked to the autoblog story for convenience.)

Imagine what a fee to drive within the Loop might do for Chicago? Yeah, like that'll ever happen.

Getting Through to McQuaid?

UCI president, Pat McQuaid, blames organizers of Tour de France for scaring away sponsors saying that sponsors are reluctant to invest when there is no guarantee the team will race.

Wellll duuuh!

Later in the article, McQuaid takes another shot at Lance Armstrong as if allegations are just proof of doping that haven't yet been confirmed. This of course is part of the problem. One that Mr. McQuaid doesn't yet seem to understand.

Let me state it clearly so Mr. McQuaid understands. Most of your sponsors are large corporations. They have many sponsorship opportunities. Corporations are risk averse. They do not want to be associated with controversy. Right now, cycling is seen to be a risky association (this point you seem to understand). Therefore, corporations are likely to spend their sponsorship Euros elsewhere. This is even more true for new sponsors. You know, the ones you need to replace the departing sponsors.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'd Rather Ride

While Alberto Contador, winner of the 2007 Tour de France, proclaims his innocence, Tailwind Sports, owner and operator of the Discovery Channel team, his team, a team which also placed riders third and eighth in this year's Tour, announced that they will cease operations at the end of the season. Two years in a row, the team of the winner of the Tour de France shuts down. Doping is certainly destroying the sport. Just not exactly the way you're being told.

And Christian Prudhomme writes this editorial showing he is completely out of touch.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

GOTFR

Wow. This may not mean what I thought it meant.

Bicycle Film Festival

The program information on the Chicago Bicycle Film Festival is up. This was fun last year. I'll probably be there this year as well.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fun With Physics

Brewster Rockit: Space Guy is one of those comics that I read mainly because I'm already on the comics page reading Dilbert and several others that I like. BRSP's humor usually ranges from juvenile to obvious and is occasionally funny. So imagine my surprise when I saw this one:

It's not laugh out loud funny, but you do have to remember your high school physics to get it. Also, for some reason, I hear the voice of Dr. Farnsworth from Futurama in my head when I read Dr. Mel's lines (it's his shrink ray above). I also can't believe that Dr. Farnsworth has a Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Little Fun With That Warning

I saw this sign at Starbucks after our morning weekday ride. Isn't this another way of saying: "Get your coffee and get out"?

I took this picture two weeks ago, did some photoshop magic and was about to put it up as a fun posting when tragedy struck. The hard drive on my trusty 4-5 year old desktop showed me the blue screen of death. In other words, it gave up the ghost. To make a long blog entry short, I bought a new computer, reinstalled my favorite software, and restored my music and pictures from an Iomega backup drive I had been using. I only lost about a dozen pictures from a recent trip that hadn't been backed up (damn!) and a lot of time. The moral of the story. Get a back up drive and use it.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Doping at the Tour

"It ain't cheating if you don't get caught." --Billy Martin

Yeah, but if you cheat to win, it's an empty victory. Don't believe me? Consider where Bjorn Riis kept his yellow jersey from his 1996 tour victory. It wasn't displayed in a prominent place. It was "in a box at home."

That's one reason the Floyd Landis situation bugs me. No matter what you may think about whether he doped or didn't, we will never know. The flaws in the lab's procedures and documentation shown in public by the mediation hearing make it impossible to know if he was doping and got caught or wasn't doping and his results were a false positive (remember that the 'B' sample was known to be Floyd's and the lab analyst was confirming her supervisor's 'A' result. A clear conflict of interest and poor laboratory procedure). Even if you think Floyd doped (and I don't) you have to hope he is cleared by the arbitrators. It is the right result and it just might help reform the system or at least open WADA's eyes to a problem it must fix. One of many before the Tour can recover.

"I win on my merits; my opponents win by cheating." --Mason Cooley

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Moose Drool

I was up in far northwestern Wisconsin last weekend (more on that in a future post). It was so far northwestern WI, that I had dinner in Duluth, MN where I had the pleasure of a Moose Drool beer. Loved it. A really tasty, dark brown ale that was so good I went through all the trouble (yeah, right) of looking them up on the web. Big Sky Brewing Company in Missoula, Montana. They even have a great tag line: We make water fun. Fun yeah, but not available (yet?) in Illinois.

News

This was the headline on the front page of today's Chicago Tribune:

The 237 reasons to have sex

Let me repeat myself. This was on the front page. Above the fold. With everything else going on in the world and in our country today, this was deemed worthy of the front page. Important. I'd link to the article, but you have to login to read it.

Besides. Who needs 236 other reasons?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Charity Event

On August 26, if you're not racing (or volunteering) in the Glencoe Grand Prix, there is a bike ride through Highland Park, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff to raise money for Hedge Fund Cares which gives grants to organizations to combat child abuse and neglect. More info here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Future of the Tour de France

While Fritz at Cyclelicious is optimistic about the future of the Tour de France, Pete Geyer of Cycling Fans is not. In his July 26 editorial, he writes at length of the political problems of the Tour and of the importance of a strong riders union that is "capable of getting [Franck] Bouyer back on a bike, capable of protecting riders from their own teams, from unethical team doctors, from their own sponsors, from the collateral damage done by all the political battles. A rider union capable of getting the riders a better base salary and longer contracts, like in other sports, so that they don't have near-constant pressure to perform, 'or else'. A strong rider union capable of helping young cyclists avoid the pressure to dope to begin with."

Hear Hear.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Music on the Web

There are a number of interesting music sites on the web. Here's one with cool visuals that allow you to stream music selected by various characteristics (mood, genre, decade, etc.) Within this chart, you can select a song to listen to and let the player continue on to similar music or you can keep clicking to sample and move on to other songs. I've only just started to play with it. Check out Musicovery.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

North Branch Trail Reconstruction

Looks like all 20 miles of the North Branch Bike Trail will undergo reconstruction in sections July 9 through October 9, 2007. (h/t to Chicago Bike Racing).

Why So Much Doping This Year?

A thought occurred to me this morning. Aside from the weirdness of how and why Michael Rasmussen was pulled from the Tour, what if there is another reason why so many cyclists are testing positive this year? Why is this year different than last year? After all, riders signed the pledge not to dope this year, penalties are stronger and riders were prohibited from starting the race if even suspected of doping. So why is it worse this year?

If there is one thing we learned from the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing it is that LNDD has lax chain of custody controls and problems with their equipment and testing procedures. Can it be that riders thought they would be able to get away with more this year because LNDD won't risk additional embarrassment to their now-damaged reputation?

I don't know if this is the case, I just know that as much as the UCI, ASO, WADA, and AFLD say they want to clean up the sport, it's not just the athletes that they should be looking at. And let's face it. The athletes want the sport to be clean as well. Let's hope this year is a turning point.

Let's hope, I don't accidentally write that last line again next year, too.