Tag Archives: bike culture

A funny thing happened on the way to Saluda

Something strange happened while riding today: cars were giving me lots of room when passing. On multiple occasions cars — and trucks even! — slowed behind me and waited for a clear chance to pass.

No horns honking. No shouts from drivers as they passed. No aggressive accelerations as they went by (yeah, I always love that … like it really makes a bold statement).

I gave a wave of ‘thanks’ to drivers a half-dozen times.

This couldn’t be just an odd coincidence, so I’m concluding that it’s something with the drivers here in the area — from Greenville, SC up into NC. Maybe it’s because George Hincapie is pretty well known around here. Or maybe it’s because so many people here cycle, or come here to cycle.

Or maybe the local cycling community has done something to engender such ‘sharing of the road’.

I stopped for coffee in Saluda, NC and a local guy struck up a conversation, asking where I had ridden from, which way I was going back, etc. Said he used to ride a lot too. I mentioned the drivers, and he said that people are used to bikes on the road.

But back at home people are “used to” bikes on Chagrin River Road, but that only seems to make it worse.

Something else is going on, and I’m guessing that it’s something about attitude. They just accept — however that came to be — that it’s OK for bikes to be on the road. They are not viewed only as an impediment or an inconvenience. I felt this way riding around Europe also. People don’t question that bikes belong on the road. Everyone knows someone who rides. It’s not a problem.

I wish I knew how to transplant this attitude. It would mean fewer riders in the hospital — or worse — as a consequence of road rage and impatient driving.

I think it would be healthier for driver’s mental health too. If only they could see it that way.

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From 0 to 60 (km/h) in a week

[Note: this started out as a single post that quickly got out of hand]

Back when I decided to learn to snowboard (10+ years ago), someone commented, “oh, you mean you want to strap your feet to a plank and throw yourself down a mountain?”

I was reminded of that comment the first time I drove up to the Cleveland Velodrome for “Track 101”, just one week ago. I looked at the steepness of the banking and thought, “there’s no way I can ride on that.”

I’d seen pictures of people riding it, but at that moment no way could I picture myself doing it.

I was reminded also of how my kids had no self-consciousness when learning to snowboard. They had no problem not knowing what to do. Nor did they have any fear of falling. As an adult though, you have to get over that feeling of needing to be competent even though you have no clue. And get over the fear of falling down.

And so with some trepidation I threw my leg over the fixed-gear bike and slowly rode around the infield. I’d been warned by several people that it takes a while to suppress the reflex to stop pedaling and freewheel. I was told I would be in for a nasty surprise if I tried to stop pedaling while going fast. So I also had that fear in the back of my head.

It as an odd sensation at first. The little movements you do without thinking — like adjusting the pedal position before pushing off — you can’t do in the same way. But after riding around for a while I started to get the feel of it.

Then it was time to start, for real. We first rode around the plywood apron. Then up on the track in the straightaway then back on the apron. Then higher up on the track and back down. We did this several times.

Brett Davis, who was teaching the intro class, told us we needed to go 18mph to ride the banking in the curves. So if we followed him and kept his speed, we would be fine. I wanted to believe that.

We did 3 laps on the track and no one fell. OK, I was convinced. We did this a few more times, then time was up, and the class was over.

In the meantime, another experienced rider (Jim Behrens) had shown up. Brett said, OK let’s do some paceline. Uh oh. I had just ridden the track for the first time, and now he wants me to ride in a paceline.

Part of me wanted to say. “thanks, but I need to get going.” But the other part was jazzed at riding the track and wanted to take the next step.

Next thing I know we’re going around at 23-24mph, with the lead rider pulling off to the high side every 2 laps. The first time coming through the line, with the rider up above me on the track, was a bit scary. I pictured him sliding down the track and into me.

One of the things I learned that first day: you need to have some amount of trust that the others around you are competent and are going to ride in a straight line.

So around we went. And around some more. Until at one point I realized I was starting to get motion sick. I took a break, then rode some more. And got more motion sick.

I felt like I had just gotten off the Raptor at Cedar Point. At that point I’d had enough and needed to stop.

This was now a dilemma. I’d had a taste of riding fast around the track. But could I do it without getting dizzy every time?

Next up: Can you ride while taking dramamine?

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Filed under cycling, track cycling, Uncategorized

Can’t fix stupid

I get annoyed when people say that cyclist should follow every traffic law to the letter so that drivers won’t get so pissed off and will give us more respect.

My argument: the drivers who are hostile towards cyclists are just hostile in general, and do the same thing to other drivers.

They are the same ones who aggressively tailgate me when I’m driving to work, and who honked at and flipped off my daughter when she had a learner’s permit and couldn’t go over the speed limit.

My theory is that these people just can’t stand the feeling of someone being in their way or inconveniencing them.

Tonight while riding I got direct confirmation of this theory.

I was out on the TT bike, moving along at a pretty good clip on a fast section of country road (Music St, for those who know). From behind I hear someone laying on the horn. Not a beep but a long sustained blast that intends to say, “get the f*** off the road!”

It was a diesel pick-up truck. He got in front of me and tapped the brakes like he was going to brake-check me. He then slowed and turned onto a side street. I caught up and pulled alongside.

He rolled down the window. Instead of saying “what is your problem”, I decided to ask, “why the hostility?”

Basically it came down to: bikes shouldn’t be on this road because I might not see them coming over a hill and my truck is big and has side mirrors. Yes, that’s it.

So it’s really about someone perceived as being in the way and being an inconvenience.

After a minute or so, I knew that talking to the guy wouldn’t make any difference. A rational discourse doesn’t change that kind of mindset, because it’s not rational.

So I tried the irrational approach, and just told him that he should be careful because he doesn’t know which cyclist might just have a concealed-carry permit.

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What do normal people do?

What’s your first thought on a snowy Saturday in January? (That would be last week for those of us “up north”; yesterday for those “down south” in Akron).

After “coffee”, it’s thinking about what is the training plan for the day. On a day like this you have to get into the right mental state to head to the basement and get on the trainer.

Is that what a normal person does? (no answer needed)

Most days are like this — not just snowy days. There is always that undercurrent of “where am I going to fit today’s training”, planning the next day, thinking of the next race coming up.

I’ve long felt that people who choose to race bikes have a compulsive nature. If it wasn’t bike racing it would be something else. The triathletes that I know are like this too.

I used to like brewing beer. I probably still would if I could spare the time. I couldn’t do it the easy way. I had brew all-grain, starting with the whole barley and grinding (I had a grain mill even). I made my own copper-tubed chiller to cool the wort before adding the yeast. It was an all-day affair.

A normal person just buys beer.

I used to think this was limited to bike racers and other athletes. But I know people at work like this too. The ones who are exceptionally good at what they do have a sort of compulsion about them too. They can’t do things partway. I’m pretty sure this is a characteristic of anyone who engages deeply in an activity — whether it’s bike racing, beer brewing, dog training, stock trading, writing, music …

So choose your activities carefully. The byproduct being a great brewer is that you have a lot of beer to finish. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

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If I don’t race, everyone else will be getting faster

Some years ago, when people asked me what “I do”, I would tell them that I ride my bike. Then I would add, “oh, I have a job too.”

That’s what it felt like. Even when racing at an amateur level, bike racing has a tendency to dominate your life. Just to be a decent local-level racer requires a pretty big time commitment. You’re always thinking about getting the training session in, or obsessing about not being able to train.

I think that is one reason why it’s tough for young racers to stay with the sport. The sheer amount of time is overwhelming.

If I wanted to concentrate on running, I think I could be pretty competitive on about 1/2 the time required for bike racing.

And then there is all the driving to races week after week. Once the racing season starts, I feel compelled to race every week if at all possible. That’s another oddity with bike racing: if you don’t race every week (or multiple times in a week), you feel like your competition is leaving you behind.

It all adds up to a lot of compulsive behavior. Last year, for me, it was over-the-top. Lots of volume early in the year, lots of races, and a focus on doing well at Masters Nationals. And not enough rest. That ended up being a disappointment.

I told myself that this year I was not going to be so neurotic, and would try to simply enjoy riding, training, and racing. I wasn’t going to feel like I needed to keep this crazy schedule.

But I notice that I’m already getting that “I need to race every weekend” feeling.

So when the weather forecast for today was not looking too promising, I decided to pass on the two racing opportunities that were available. Instead, I went for a thoroughly enjoyable, hard after-work ride on Friday followed by wine and pizza (would never do that the day before racing). Then I was blessed with a weather-gift today. And I didn’t have to spend 7 hours in a car, $40 in gas, and $35 in entry fees.

And my house has been cleaned, laundry has been washed, groceries have been bought.

Now I just need to lose the “everyone else got faster today” feeling.

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Lunatic Fringe

To those of us who do it, riding nearly every day doesn’t seem all that unusual. It’s just what we do. Riding becomes just another part of the daily routine. But every so often something happens to make me realize that it’s an obsession.

I’m looking at the rented road bike leaning against the wall in my hotel room in Phoenix. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one here at the conference who has that in his room. If I didn’t have that bike, I would be spending the entire time here thinking about how I’m not riding in the sunshine and warmth. It would gnaw at me every day.

I know some guys have golf bags leaning against the wall in their rooms, but they don’t have the same level of obsession.

Now with the bike, what I’m thinking about is how I want to get rid of its stupid reflectors. You’d think a bike shop would have some appreciation for that. But I came to realize that even in the relatively obscure world of cycling we are the lunatic fringe.

When they wheeled the bike out, my first comment was, “um, could you remove that (wide-load) saddle and put on one that I could ride for more than a few miles?”

“20 miles? No, more like 75.”
“Which pedals? I have mine”.
“Don’t need a saddle bag.”
“I have my helmet.”
“Brought a computer.”
“Also brought a stem, because the 80 that’s on is way too short.”
“Really? You can’t take the reflectors off?”

Unfortunately I didn’t bring a screwdriver to remove the reflectors myself. Next time that goes on my checklist.

I just have to make sure to ride extra fast so I don’t get tagged as a “Fred”.

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20 years of progress

Here’s a measure of progress in the last 20 years: when Greg LeMond won the 1989 World Championship (in an amazing finish), we had to grovel for token TV coverage and scraps of news buried on page 10 of the sports section. 20 years later, on a rainy Sunday morning, I sat and drank coffee and watched the race LIVE via the Internet (http://www.universalsports.com).

Also in 1989 — the year LeMond won his 2nd Tour de France — I remember going out at lunch to pick up the New York Times to get Samuel Abt’s reports on the race. That was as good as it got back then. I never imagined we would ever be able to actually WATCH it, other than on condensed, tape-delay summary shows.

Pretty amazing when you sit back and consider the explosion in information availability and connectivity. We’re getting close to the point where we take it for granted. What, no Worlds streamed live on the Internet? We’d be PO’d. We just expect that now.

And that Worlds race in 1989? Yeah, you can find and watch the finish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJSgzHTRg38. It’s an awesome finish, too. As good as the 2009 race was, this was better. No one really thought LeMond would win, and he came out of nowhere on the final climb, covered the attacks on the run to the finish, then won the sprint against no less than Sean Kelly. I don’t recall seeing a more exciting finish.

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