Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Power - Cycle-Ops

At Interbike 2009, one of the many seminars I attended had to do with power. They called it the Power Summit, sponsored by SRAM by the fact that they rented the room.

Saris, aka the folks that do Cyclops and PowerTap, was there, displaying a whole slew of products. The things I went to look at included two new power meters and their corresponding trainers.

I felt some affinity to these new gizmos because I might have taken part in a focus group thing over the course of 4 or 5 weeks.

I really liked (both now and back during the possible focus group) the idea of a power trainer. Ideally it would have all the various adjustable fit things (saddle and bar) and allow you to control the resistance of the unit. This would allow you to experiment with your position as related to power, and by being able to step up resistance, you'd be able to do your own threshold testing.

There are a few systems out there that allow you to step up the resistance, both trainers and full fledged "indoor bikes". The trainers I've used typically slip at higher resistances, as they are relatively old designs with an inexpensive resistance unit.

The other kind of "trainer" is the one where the bike gets clamped in place, like a CompuTrainer or the like. You still get some slippage but the system seems more secure. The CompuTrainer doesn't allow you to step up resistance, although I guess you could program a course that has distinct grade changes. Not ideal though.

Ultimately, no matter what, you get slippage with any system where your wheel rolls on a small diameter roller.

What if you got rid of the roller thing? What if the resistance worked directly on a non-flexible tire? Like, say, one made of chrome-plated steel?

Oh, speaking of which...

The 400 Pro

Well, they addressed that. Check out that flywheel, with the resistance brake working directly against the wheel. Check out the massive amounts of position adjustments possible.

So what do you use on a machine like that?

You use an Ant+ Sport compatible power meter.

The Joules. As in "Crown Jewels", maybe. 2.0 to the left, 3.0 to the right.

Those are fake ones are easier to see, but you can't use them to do stuff like actually record your power and heart rate and stuff. For that you need the real thing.

The real 2.0

The 2.0 is a bit smaller than its brethren. The Saris folks optimized it for outdoor use, portable use. It fits easily on your bars, it tries not to inundate you with data, and it uses a plain black and white display to extend battery life.

The CycleOps folks talked about getting data now, comparing it to the past, and figuring out what you want to do. Or, as they put it, "knowing where you are, where you have been, and where you need to go."

One of the cool things you can do is check out your wattage on your ride you just finished versus where you've been in the last 6 months or year. Or week. Basically you don't have to go home and download everything before you figure out if you totally sucked today or if you were flying.

(That's just in case the fact that you forgot you either got shelled or you killed it on the ride.)

The real 3.0, a bit blurry.

I might have been shaking with excitement. Or maybe it was just the long shutter exposure. Or that potent margarita. Whatever, you get the gist of the thing, right? Bigger, more colors, more columns. It's made to be used plugged in, indoors. You can use it outside but it's battery will die a bit quicker.

Using the two computers, you can go and ride a course you like. Or maybe one you don't like, say, for example, a really hilly road race course.

And the Joules remember it.

Then you can go and repeat that ride on the 400 Pro.

Or, if you prefer, you can ride that same bike on your new PowerBeam Pro trainer. Inside. Again and again.

The trainer version

With a bike on it.

So what's all this mean to you?

It means that you can use a power device that uses the Ant+ Sport standard to transmit power data - those including the Ant+ Sport PowerTap, SRM, and Quarq. You can use them to record course data to your Joule and then replay the course to your PowerBeam or 400 Pro.

Wouldn't that be cool? You go out and ride some course. You can move the data inside and ride it inside.

That race you want to peak for next summer? Yep, you can train on it all winter.

Heck, if you feel like boasting in real to your friends, you can send them the file and have them ride the course - at their house.

So, for example, I could send you the Palomar file. And then you could do Palomar in the comfort of your own basement.

Or I could send you Bethel. Or you could send me, say, the "L'Etape" you did in France.

And I'd curl up and die on my 400 Pro.

At least I'd be in my basement. I could just crawl up the stairs and collapse on the couch.

I know. I'm making it seem like you really, really need to get an Ant+ Sport power unit. And an Ant+ Sport computer. And, preferably a 400 Pro indoor bike.

Well, I am.

So there.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Power - Quarq

Until Interbike 2009, I've had little exposure to this new power crank company named Quarq. I saw them briefly last year at IB 2008, but I didn't feel like they offered a compelling product.

Now, with a year of refinement under their belt, I can't imagine trying to compete against them.

I got a nice intro to their current status when they spoke at the Power Summit, a great seminar about power held during IB 2009. It was standing room only and I managed to listen to the whole thing while leaning on the propped-open doors leading into the seminar room.

During the Summit we got to hear a very amusing history of Quarq as well as some of their new developments.

So how did Quarq get started?

By a starving, unemployed triathlete who wanted to get a power meter. He'd moved to Australia to train full time (don't get jealous yet), got engaged to a starving MBA student (don't get jealous yet again). Well, something like that - I'm adding the "starving" bit on my own to dramatize things.

Anyway, if you priced out power meters a few years ago, you know they ran in the thousands. Buying one was just out of the question for two starving (my embellishment, remember), kinda unemployed people. Being a bright guy he decided that, heck, I'll just make one.

Now you can get jealous.

They even have a picture of the scene where he's working on the first every Quarq, one where he's fiddling with some bits and pieces on some table. He later attached this thing to a pedal, so imagine a pedal with a big, square aluminum box hanging off of it.

Then he had to figure out how to test it.

Luckily they were staying about a mile away from some power meter center of the world, where the Australian cycling folks test all sorts of stuff, including - ta da! - power meters.

The test went well and they were on their way.

Well, first they made it back to South Dakota. They set up production in a perfect storm facility, a small place that happens to both machine metal and make circuit board type things. Located only 40 miles from their offices, the folks at Quarq could keep a close eye on changes, problems, and whatever else you keep an eye out on when you manufacture stuff.

So what did they make?

Crank based power meters that were user serviceable, user friendly, and took advantage of some of the newer ideas in the electronic world.

First off, they made the battery user replaceable. Those with SRMs (me included) understand that it can cost a bit of money to replace the batteries in those things. You have to send it out to Colorado, wait a bit, and then you get it back. Yeah, there are hacks online on doing it yourself, but it's still a hack, and if you mess up, you just messed up a $2500 piece of equipment.

The Quarq, on the other hand, is easier - it's like replacing a watch battery.

Second, they used an open source Linux operating system to code the electronics. Linux stuff, although diverse, use computing capacity very efficiently, and you can use 1-2 generation old CPUs to get impressive results. I know because I supported such systems for a while.

This means nothing except I think it's cool. Obviously there were some other geek types at the Summit because the room murmured approval when he mentioned "Linux".

Finally, when Garmin introduced Ant+ Sport, the Quarq folks adopted it right away. This means any of the standard head units that communicate using Ant+ Sport can communicate with a Quarq.

So what's a Quarq look like?

It sits in the crank arm spider. The CinQo is the power measurer and transmitter. There is a full circumference spider to connect the chainring bolt holes - apparently this helped clean up the power readings or something. It uses the manufacturer's arms and rings.

For those with compact cranks, it works on those too.

The original size CinQo, but one that's being phased out of production. Note the reinforcing ring running around the bolt circle circumference.

The smaller CinQo, the ones that will be shipping going forward. It's a bit thinner but otherwise not too different from the original. Note the reinforcing ring on the inside of the big ring.

The Quarq guy (the starving triathlete one) then showed their original head unit, a big, clunky Linux based thing. As he pointed out, since they didn't know what they wanted, they put everything in there. Since Ant+ Sport didn't exist, they had to figure out how to transmit all that stuff in their own language.

It was, as he put it, the kitchen sink approach - just dump everything anyone would possibly want into it.

It's like the original Nissan Pathfinder. Nissan had no idea what folks would want in what would be called an SUV so they had all these "truck" features. Two doors. Two fuel tanks. Two trip odometers. Two fuel gauges. Clunky transmission. Adjustable shocks. Ladder chassis. Heated mirrors. Big honking tire gate. Tow hooks all over the place. Massive alloy wheels. Reclinable rear seats. So on and so forth.

You didn't need all that to get yourself a cool SUV (although it'd be cool to have one of the first generation Pathfinders).

Likewise, Quarq realized that, look, we don't need everything.

In fact, they decided to go the other way - they figured they'd get the thing as small as possible.

And they did.

Enter the Qollector (pronounced "collector").

In fact, the "receiver" doubles as the pick up for the speed sensor. You can mount it on the rear stay so it'll pick up speed off the rear wheel. But other than that, there's nothing to it.

No display.

No buttons.


Let me say this - for all those folks convinced that watching a powermeter affects their riding negatively, the Quarq Qollector will hide either on your stay or even in your pocket. You can't look at any data even if you wanted to do so. So it won't affect your riding, even if you want it to.

It'll receive and store every single datapoint broadcast by whatever Ant+ Sport broadcaster, not just in one second or longer intervals. Even so, with 4 GB of RAM, it'll record pretty much a lifetime of data.


You can back it up easily, restore just as easily, so if your bike with the Qollector on the stay does a swan dive off of some switchback, you can restore your data to your new Qollector pretty quickly.

Assuming, of course, that you weren't with the bike on that swan dive.

If the Qollector was sitting in your jersey pocket, you may not even need to do that.

In addition, using a built in application, it has its own powermeter software. Plug it into a PC, for example, as the guy did at the seminar, and the PC automatically reads both the application, and, using the application, the stored data.

And not only that, it'll work across different platforms, Mac or PC. Or probably Linux, since that's what they used to write it, but that's a guess.

Basically it's a total kick-ass USB magical thing.


Initially I was too awed that I was holding a prototype, and I handed it back without taking a picture. I made it back the next day, just having downed a margarita, and managed to talk without slurring anything and took the picture without trembling too much.

Kudos to the crew there who looked at me without blinking an eye.

Their new super cool recording device - it worked in a live demo when they shoved it into a laptop and it ran and everything.

In my haste I forgot to ask how much they wanted this thing to cost. So I have no idea. But as a backup to your primary display, or even as a portable "lemme borrow your bike with your power meter and still record all pertinent data without you having to email me any files when I get home" thing, it should work great.

Yeah, I want a Quarq. BB30, stiff, light, serviceable, wireless, Ant+ Sport compatible.

Oh, and about $1500.


About the price of 2/3 of an SRM crankset.

And no scheduled maintenance costs.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Track Stuff

One of my recent discoveries in the cycling world - track racing.

So, with that in mind, I looked for stuff for the track. The first thing I saw was this helmet, a "city helmet" by Kask. I was looking for the following things - minimal ventilation holes, a rounded tail, and some kind of eye shield setup.

Kask helmet

The "aero" aspect of this helmet caught my eye. You can turn your head up, down, sideways, and the helmet should still remain kind of aero. It may lack ventilation for cooling, but in a short race, who cares?

The cool part: plaid padding ("Scottish" on their site)

The leather straps too, actually. I turned the helmet over to check for any ANSI or SNELL stickers. Since most of the helmets at Interbike were prototypes, they had some version of "for display only" on the inside. This one didn't have that, but it didn't have any ANSI or SNELL stickers either.

An Italian company, it seems there are no distributors in the US at this time. I'll see if I can't find any info, and will post an update if I do.

And if I forget, figure this. If I'm wearing one at the track next year, it passes some US standard. If I'm not, it doesn't.

Okay, bikes.

I strolled by the Jamis booth - last year I drooled over the Sonik, a complete-except-pedals track bike for $1250 or so. This year I glanced over at the MSRP card, my bleary eyes not working really well. Kevin saved me the trouble of stepping over to the frame - $1800. I decided not to take any pictures.

However, Fuji had a couple track related things on display, a bike and a frame.

The bike fit my budget, coming in at $1200 retail.

Heck, you even get an integrated post at $1200

The Fuji is a for-real track bike, with the right geometry, aggressive angles, and a no-nonesense build. I figure this'll be a hot bike for 2010, at least for the small population of track racers out there.

They also had a frame for those who wanted a little more cutting edge and didn't mind spending a few more bucks.

Aero tubes and massive stays

The frame alone retails for $2500, so just over twice that of the complete bike above. I figure, though, for a fancy frame like that, it's not bad. I can't justify such a frame for me - I'd be better off getting the bike above and a power meter of some kind. But if you have budget left for power, this would be a sweet place to start.

Another place to start would be the green machine displayed at the Museeuw booth. As Kevin pointed out, I thought Museeuw was the schnizzle back in the Mapei days, even to the point of riding around in a Mapei kit. Fast, I might add, since, as someone so rightly pointed out, you better ride fast if you're wearing a clown suit like that. Heck, I even raced in the shorts when I could get away with it.

Although we missed the man, I still got a good look at the frame.

What a green

Love the frame decal. Well, it's not really, but still.

"What kind of tubing is that?"
"Lion of Flanders"
"What the heck kinda tubing is that?"
"BAMF tubing, dude."

I didn't read the tech specs on it, nor take any expensive brochures. I figure there's flax in there somewhere, but that's just a guess. Whatever, this has got to be one stiff mofo.

Massive, and I mean massive stays.

The rear end screams "relentless rigidity". Imagine a nice 2600 watt acceleration, tapering to a 1800 watt pounding, rounded out by a 500 t0 800 watt gasp 60 seconds later. If you're putting down world class power, this frame looks like it'll eat it for breakfast.

I can't imagine that, come to think of it. I run out of imagination at about 1500 watts, with maybe 1000 watts for 10 or 20 seconds, and I think this frame would handle that fine.

No brake hole up front

The immense fork had no brake hole, no way of mounting a front brake. And that's the way it should be. A track bike should never have brakes. It shouldn't have the frame slop to get clearance for 25c tires, fenders, or mud. An track car doesn't have more suspension travel than necessary, it doesn't have to deal with a stereo; nor does a track bike. It's a bike made for racing on a track and that's it, so it should be built like that.

Finally a few bikes from Look. For 2010 they have introduced a nice, standard bike, the black beauty below. It's spec'ed out as you'd expect, with a few nice touches like a Thomson post. I have no idea what it'll cost.

Nice mix of stuff on this one.

Of course the one behind it was a bit more "interesting"

The straight top tube makes it the 496 or at least one that looks like it. I know nothing about it. Okay, I know little about it. I should point out that the gap between the rear tire and seat tube is due to the fact that the display bike has a long chain on it, or just the wrong gearing. A bigger ring or a shorter chain would allow you to move the wheel forward a good inch or so.

The 596

This one is a bit more interesting. $10k for the frame and stuff, give or take. It comes with a one piece carbon crank and bottom bracket (which slide through a 65mm tall BB shell), aero fork, post stub, and the adjustable carbon stem.

Nice fork

On an aside, I am absolutely convinced that these kinds of forks will appear on road bikes. I think that the head tube will be thinner, flaring out at the headset cups. Since the steerer tube doesn't have to fit inside the head tube, the head tube can be reasonably thin, thinner than even the steerer tube. A normal size steerer tube, sitting forward of the thin head tube, should give the front end good stiffness along with a more aero profile.

Having said all that, I didn't see anything to prove my point.

Big BB, aero shapes everywhere

Note: flash pictures make it look dark, no flash pictures capture the real light; this is a flash picture to capture the carbon texture.

This is one bad bike. I think the guys at NEV would laugh if I showed up with something like this, because I'm so bad compared to some of the other racers. I mean, seriously, if I showed up with a $14-15k bike after I went 25% slower in a 3k pursuit, you can imagine the smirks and giggles. But, yeah, it'd be fun doing sprints on this thing.

I'd have to trade in my car to buy this bike.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Camelbak Ice

For today, a quick and easy one.

showed two innovations. The first was a version of their normal back mounted fluid resevoir, except that it was built into a base layer garment. Although I'm witholding opinion for now, it would be good for someone doing speed-emphasized rides, who isn't going to need a backpack to carry anything, and who wants to be as aero as possible.

Time trialers, anyone?

I guess I never got over the fact that, in warmer weather, the first 3 sips of a given "sip" would be kind of warm, then just as you got the cool fluid to feed through the tube, you needed to breathe. It's kind of like running the hot water briefly before it gets hot - you need to remove the "wrong temperature" fluid from the pipes before you get the good stuff.

But, unlike the base layer fluid things, I really liked the idea of their newest bottle. Call me old fashioned but I like the bottle being separate, ditch-able, replaceable (even during a ride, like when your teammate hands you a bottle of ice cold electrolyte drink).

I figure that of all the products displayed at Interbike, their bottle will be one of the things you'll see everywhere. I mean, yeah, it's cool checking out a $10k carbon time trial frame, but you're not going to see them everywhere.

In the old days the insulated bottle was kind of a joke. The double walled bottles held about two sips of fluid, and although the fluid stayed cold (or warm), you barely got a hint of it before you were out.

With more modern materials and design, you end up with a much higher volume of fluid in a similarly sized bottle.

The regular bottles.

Okay, the regular bottles, I don't see them selling as much. Specialized tried doing a different drinking nipple and the idea kind of flopped. I figure that looks count more than an innovative nipple. Folks will buy bottles with their favorite team or their LBS imprinted on them.

Now you're talking - Ice and Chill.

On the right is the Chill. That's the insulated bottle already out there. The slightly larger than a normal bottle holds a good 21 ounces, the same as the uninsulated version.

On the left is the Ice. It has a double layer of insulation, bumping up the temperature change resistance by two times. It, too, holds 21 ounces of fluid.

One of the guys at the booth through around $20 as an approximate retail price. That's not bad considering that you can spend half that on a normal bottle, and some of those stainless jobs can run $30 or $40.

I figure we'll see more of these in both hot and cold weather rides and races. Having warm tea during a chilly, wet, rainy 38 degree race would be great. And dropping a bunch of ice in the bottles would make sipping from such a bottle during a ride like our 80 degree ride yesterday just a touch more comfortable.

Or, if we'd ridden midday here in Vegas, the 100 degree temps more comfortable.

I'll start doing some more intricate product posts shortly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Day Three

Three and the last one.

We started the day off kind of early, going for a ride in the nice, warm, dry Vegas climate. We had to do a few detours but the ride was nice, with some seriously wide bike lanes (sometimes 14 feet wide - wider than the car lanes). The pavement was, of course, smooth.

The bike I rode, a loaner with my stem, my pedals (the latter courtesy a birthday present from Kevin).

Thanks to Venture Sports in Avon, CO for the bike.

I realized that I couldn't stand for more than, oh, a pedal stroke or two, and I couldn't pull up to save my life. So I sat and ground out the gears.

On a positive note I could actually shift the gears without slamming on the brakes. We rolled pretty well on the flatter sections, and I found myself in the smaller cogs on the flats.

After we finished, we swapped out the stem, removed the pedals, and packed the bikes into Kevin's truck for the drive back to the mid West (he goes there, I'd be returning to the East Coast).

We got showered, dressed, and headed out for the third and final day of Interbike (or IB) Vegas 2009. I really wanted to sit in on a seminar on employee training and teamwork building, and it was probably one of the best things I did this whole IB.

We went around and got some shots and verified some data for future posts. Sat down and discussed my proposed rule changes with a few people. Met up with some newly found friends.

And then it was over.

I got to attend quite the party, with some seriously chi-chi kind of people. I felt kind of out of the loop but the friendly people that brought me there made me feel welcome and good.

I think the 4 Margaritas helped too.

Dude, it was an open bar. How could I resist?

And then it was back to the room.

Another Interbike done. Another long flight home. Another readjustment to reality.

I'll be posting stuff on what I saw, what I found, for a short bit.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Racing - USA Crits Final Corner

I dragged Kevin down to the USA Crits Finals at Mandalay Bay. We walked around the course, a wider version of last year's course. I felt relieved and disappointed I wasn't racing, but, yeah, given my druthers, I'd have been on the bike.

After some quick recon, I realized where I should be on the course. I'd situated myself at the exact spot I stood because, if someone went into the turn too hot, they'd end up at my feet.

Anyway, we watched our newly minted Cat 1 friend Matt in the race. He did well, but missed the final break.

Probably a good thing. Led by a Kelly Benefits racer into the final turn, it looked like it would be a straightforward finish.


Ironically, the guy who won? He fell at another race I watched, from this angle, using, coincidentally, the same video camera.

Ouch again.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Day One

Okay, another long day.

We attended a bunch of tech seminars. Well, if two is a bunch, we went to two. We got seminar-ed out at that point. I promise that I'll cover them more completely, one with so much information that it'll take a good few posts to cover.

We stood in line for a few autographs. We got autographed out at that point. That may warrant a post, probably not.

And we did get to see a few things. I took few pictures, trying to get an overall view of things, but again, a few things popped, and those will get posts later.

Finally tuckered out, we headed back to the room. We wanted to get a ride in before it got dark, and we had to get the bikes ready.

I had to install the stem I brought with me, a nice 130mm jobber from my local LBS, initially meant for the tandem's 31.8mm bar, now a perfect sub for the shorty on the borrowed Cervelo.

I also had to install the pedals.

Um. The pedals.

I looked in the first rolly suitcase thing. No pedals.

The second. No pedals.

The carry on.

No pedals.

Bang, over to the laptop. "Bicycle Shops, Las Vegas".

Kevin walked over. "You should look for Look dealers."


Go to Look's site. Find dealers.

Jot down some directions.

Off we go. Sun blinding us, can barely see. A few miles into our drive, the shop isn't there.

We turn in at the next parking lot. I call the shop. No answer.

Of course, they're all at Interbike.


Kevin looks up.

"Hey, there's the shop. Uh.. it doesn't look open."

We start looking for another shop. Kevin starts.

"Hey, someone's in there."

We asked if we can come in, the guy let us. The door's hydraulics are a lot tougher than I thought, and I really wrenched my bad shoulder. I sagged in pain, rallied, and pressed on. I walked into the shop.

He has Keos, but he didn't know about the prices and stuff. As I'd guessed, the rest of the shop was at Interbike, along with the cash register.

We bought a pair of nice black Keos. We thanked him profusely and prepared to leave.

I noticed that there was a really cool home-made looking 20" wheeled recumbent bike. It looked too long, the drivetrain too compact, and the frame too home-made.

It screamed landspeed record bike.

Sure enough, our friendly host verified that, yes, it was indeed a LSR bike, sans fairing.

He looked at us, thought for a sec.

"Guys, come over here. Lemme show you something."

We walked over to another room.

"The fairing?", I guessed.

"No... let me show you."

We walked into a room dripping with rims, a center workbench with a wheel truing stand.

"You know prowheelbuilder.com?"

Hell, yeah. I even have it bookmarked. But I held back a bit.


"Well, this is it!"

I looked around. Wow. It's like seeing the machinations behind the Wizard. Suddenly the sleek aero bikes, the one-off LSR bike, those all seemed kind of, well, normal. But to see a site that I have bookmarked in my browser... well, that was something.

We left him to build wheels (he had 10 to do) and went back to the hotel. In the parking garage I put on the new pedals, installed the stem. My shoulder really bugged me. It felt like I'd undone two weeks of healing.

But I managed. The bike came together nicely. Checked the brakes, and tried to throw my leg over the saddle. Turned the bike around, tried to get the other leg over.

No dice.

I had to tilt the bike down and step over it.


I pedaled the bike, the first time I'd ridden outside since August 11th, the first time I rolled under my own pedal power. The bike felt nice, the longer stem fitting me nicely, the lower saddle height (to avoid too much leg angle) secure. After rolling past 8 or 10 rows of parking spaces I u-turned and rode back to the car.

All set.

We hurried back to the room for an 8 o'clock appointment, Kevin's call to his family. He seemed strangely complacent about the calls he had to make, though, when someone knocked on the door.

Who? Who even knows which hotel we're in?

Kevin opened it and a tuxedo clad guy walked in, holding a tray.

And on the tray...

Aw. Happy Birthday!

I figured it was from Kevin, because, well, he's the one that's here. But it was from the missus. I guess she and he had conspired to surprise me here on my birthday.

So, to them both, thanks :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Travel

Today I flew the same plane three times.

Three times.

I did get off the plane twice during the trip. I should clarify that I got off the plane when it was on the ground. Not while it was flying.

Actually one of the flight attendants said something about that.

"Smoking is not allowed on this plane. You may not smoke in the potty. If you do, we will throw you out. If you want, you may smoke outside. And if you can stand the 500 mph wind on the wing, you're welcome to enjoy our feature presentation - 'Gone With The Wind' "

By the time I realized I wanted to record what he was saying, it was too late. So I can just say that we had to turn off our "Blackberries, Crackberries, Strawberries..." and that if the "plane suddenly becomes a boat, you should reach under your seat cushion and grab the life vest".

So on and so forth.

But I digress.

I got off the plane at the first stop. Walked out into the terminal. Looked at the screen. Flight to Vegas... Gate A2.

Sign above on the wall - A1 to the left. A3-15 to the right.

Where the heck is A2? Is it like the 13th floor? Or the mysterious gate in Frankfurt for boarding on an El Al flight?

I peered down the terminal each way.

Then I had that "Aha!" moment. I turned around.


I guess I was getting back on the plane.

At the next landing, armed with the knowledge that I'd be staying on the plane, I hobbled off, got some Quiznos, and hobbled back on. This time I didn't have to wait to board, so that was nice. By this time my seat felt like home, so I settled in quickly.

I had some ideas to get some work done, but none doing. I slept almost the whole way, waking up just in time for the cloud cover to break and stun me with views of the canyons around Lake Mead.

Finally, in Vegas, after the typically bumpy approach to the ground, I got off for real, saying goodbye to "my" plane. Three flights on the same plane, three "cycles" in airplane talk, I figure that's enough to claim the plane as mine.

My friend Kevin met me at the airport and kindly got my luggage. We picked up our badges and headed over to the Outdoor Demo.

We got there late so we didn't get to do much, forget about riding, but it was a nice break from sitting on a plane. I felt a bit out of it, my leg was starting to really bother me, so I wasn't myself.

I declined to take pictures of the Liquigas girls, but I snapped a pic or two of other somewhat esoteric things. I figure the next few days will make up for it.

Oh, I should mention. 90 degrees, dry, sunny.

Kevin drove pretty much all night and hadn't gotten any sleep. His normal modus operandi when I first met him 17 years ago (he was one of my two housemates), because he apparently did this all the time.

He did manage to hook me up with a sweet Cervelo to ride around while I'm out here. I hope that we get to ride, but based on how exhausted I am already, I have my doubts.

I think I'm going to miss the TweetUp.

Hm. Let me stop typing and work on traveling a bit.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Interbike 2009 - Predictions

Well, with Interbike 2009 bearing down on us, it's time to start making some calls. Last year I was off on pretty much everything, so this year I'll try to improve on that. It shouldn't be hard since all I have to do is get one thing right to improve on last year's predictions.

I had to hurry up this post because Interbike for me won't start for 2 more days, but for others it's starting right now as they set up the Outdoor Demo booths. So as to keep things honest, I have to post today.

My calls for 2009:

1. Aero mass start helmets that still offer ventilation.

I think that with the emphasis on bike aerodynamics, it's only natural that the powers-that-be tackle the most unaerodynamic part of a bike racer - the racer itself. On the racer the most unaerodynamic parts are the head and feet, both of which coincidentally wear shapeable gear.

Likelihood: Moderate

2. Along those lines, some aero claims on shoes.

Forget those shoe covers, if you have wind-slick shoes, you're on your way. I figure they'll be TT specific but usable in a mass start race.

Likelihood: Low

3. BB30 bikes and frames, lots of them.

This is my safety prediction, like my safety college application. Really a no-brainer, but it's the only BB standard that offers any improved function. It retains a narrow frame (68mm), is an open standard, and allows the use of aluminum BB spindles. It's big enough that I will post on this later (it's in draft stage... I need some pictures).

Likelihood: High

4. Sub-$500 60mm aero wheels.

The minimum profile for significant aero gain seems to be about 60 mm. There are a number of 58mm rims, and a few in the 66-69mm range. The biggest sticking point - price point. In order to get used to racing on such wheels, one must train on them. Therefore it would be good to have an inexpensive pair of training wheels with a similar profile. My $500 price point is extremely aggressive and lowers the likelihood of such a thing showing up. Big sacrifice? Weight.

Likelihood: Low

5. Aftermarket "blade" fork/stem units.

I'm referring to the forks that sit in front of the head tube, fairing it from the wind. I figure someone will be selling something that combines the fork, stem, aerobars, and perhaps the front brake. It could even be mass start legal. This would allow racers to configure a much more aero road bike and still use the wider, stiffer, lighter headtubes in vogue (1 1/8" upper and 1 1/2" lower). It would also make room for things like computer mounts, Di2 batteries (already done by one of the Cannondales), lights, things like that.

Likelihood: Low

6. Related to the above, we'll finally see a vertical blade fork, one that drops straight down to the hub axle.

A vertical surface is the most aero, and there is no engineering reason to have any slope on a carbon fork. You can tune such a fork using lay-up techniques, so the shape becomes less important. There's no reason for a non-vertical fork if you're using a blade design fork (like above). The only exception is if the UCI thinks it's not legal.

Likelihood: Medium

Things we aren't seeing:

1. Tubeless clinchers. Aluminum non-aero wheels cost as much as aero wheels, they require some initial pressure to seat them, they require an expensive tire, and they don't have any truly significant advantage.

I haven't ridden them so I actually don't know, but if they were so good, we'd all be switching over to tubeless. For riders to do that, tubeless needs to come down dramatically in price, and manufacturers need to offer competitively priced wheels. That means $40 tires, $500 aluminum wheelsets, and $1200 60mm carbon faired wheels.

2. Electronic shifting. Okay, yeah, it seems to work fine. But is the difference worth a couple thousand dollars?


If the price delta drops to maybe $500 for a group, you're good. For not needing trimming in the front, who cares? With Campy you can trim to your heart's content, and it's pretty much automatic. Only indexed front shifters have trim issues.

Anything else?


That's it for my predictions. A bit weak this year, but other than the normal stuff everyone expects (yet another light bike, yet another 900 gram wheelset), I can't think of any world shaking stuff.

If someone does show something like that, though, I'll be the first to admit that it was a good idea.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Racing - Rule Change Proposals on Suspensions Etc.

I started writing this post because I realized something.

I could never crash a rider on purpose. I just couldn't.

In the now defunct West Hartford Crit, in the late 80s I think, I entered the P123 race. I was a relative new racer, only 6 or 8 years of experience, but I had a lot of drill experience touching wheels, bumping, bunny hopping, picking things up off the ground, stuff like that. I could handle a bike but I was still learning about how that translated to racing.

I struggled like mad in that race. It was a fast race, with some good local pros there, lots of teams, and I was totally out of my element.

Desperate to move up, tired of the accordion effect, I made some bold moves to get to the front. I squeezed by on the inside curb on the third or fourth turn, one where the road narrowed severely.

And I almost slammed into everyone.

I barely squeezed by, coasting so my pedal wouldn't hit the high curb. As soon as I cleared it - everyone sort of made room, to be honest - I got back on the power, squeezed through another hole, and finally got to the front.

But I felt so bad about that "just squeezing by" that I decided that I didn't deserve my place. I looked to my side, pulled off, and drifted to the back of the field, all my hard work evaporated in 20 seconds of coasting.

Once again I struggled at the back of the field, the accordion effect making me jump hard out of each turn. The heat wore down on me and I ran out of water. Ironically I took a semi-feed towards the latter stages of the race. A friend, at a prior arranged signal ("I need water, NOW!!"), left a tall water bottle a foot away from the curb, on the outside of the main stretch, just after the last turn.

It took a few tries but I finally managed to pick it up at 30 mph. Sitting dead last, 10 feet off to the side of the field (on the side of the road with no officials), no one really noticed. Frankly, no one would have cared either, based on my pathetic racing that day. I tucked back into the race, thankful for the now plentiful fluids for the rest of the race. Technically I happened to find a full water bottle on the road, so technically it wasn't a feed.

That I could do without feeling bad about it, because I hadn't endangered anyone, and I wasn't going to be setting the world on fire at the finish.

I fought for position towards the end, but I lost motivation as I thought about my idiotic move up the inside early in the race. I swore that I wouldn't pull stupid stunts like that again. I sat up out of the last corner and watched someone raise his hands at the line. As I rode by the announcing booth, I heard it was Adam Myerson, winning once again.

He was one of the guys I almost took out.

Later that day I found another one of the guys in that fateful turn. I apologized to him for what I thought was my overly aggressive move. He laughed it off, said it was nothing. Then he asked if I cramped or something because I'd stopped pedaling right after I got up there.

I shook my head, left.

How do you explain what guilt feels like?

Well, although I may not be able to do stuff like chop someone's wheels and take them out, I know that there are guys who not only would, but they do it regularly.

And based on the rulebook, it seems that USAC encourages racers to crash other racers. It would be a legitimate tactic from what I can fathom, checking the rules against dirty riding.

"Waitaminute," you say. "Crash someone on purpose? Certainly that can't be legal."

Legal Schmegal

Well, it's not like the rules never change. Even the most thoughtful set of rules may omit something.

For example, until 2009, according to the rules, you could always feed your racers at a crit unless otherwise specified. USAC had no rule saying that feeding at a crit was by default illegal. In 2009 they fixed that (page 102, or page 10 of the linked document).

That means that in 2008 you could feed riders in a crit. It may not have been safe, but if you didn't break any other rules doing the feeds, you were home free.

Ironically, I took a non-feed in a race where feeding was legal, sort of, because I didn't realize that feeding was, in fact, legal. I couldn't find a rule anywhere to say it, but I figured that if there were rules on feed zones and such, then feeding in a crit probably wasn't legal.

But back to the point. How can crashing others be a legal tactic?

Because the rules don't make a provision for preventing it or punishing it in a way that would keep the racer from doing again and again.

Since it's hard to prove intent (and I'm no lawyer, but I watch some TV shows with lawyers in them), it's hard to say anyone intentionally crashed someone.

USAC has a rule applying to those that cause crashes by not holding a reasonable line. They call it making an "abrupt motion" (page 60 of the rulebook or 51 of the linked document), and the penalty for it is "up to a 20 day suspension".

There's a slight mention (page 16 of the rulebook or page 7 of the linked document) of the fact that subsequent violations ought to be punished with a bit longer suspension, but no specifics.

Overall the suspensions appear a bit twisted in their priorities.

For example, if I swear at a race ("foul language"), I could be disqualified and suspended for 15 days.

If I short-cut a race (and it's done much more often than you may think), it's 30 days if I try and cross the finish line after doing so.

Fixing races? Racing under a forged license or fake identity? It's unclear what kind of penalty such riders face. "Suspension or other lessor penalties."

Note that there are almost no monetary penalties, penalties that would actually hurt a rider in the real world.


How To Crash People And Win Races Legally

Here's a great tactic you and your teammates can use for the upcoming season.

Note: If I see a hint of this at Bethel or any other race I help with, I will use the very vague rule about disqualifying a rider based on being a "dangerous rider" (page 60 of the rulebook, page 52 of the link), which can happen before, during, or after a race.

1. Get a ruthless team together of perhaps 7-10 riders. You need to have one powerful rider ("Leadout"), maybe one that can't sprint as well as others but is strong enough to consistently be 2nd or 3rd going into the last few hundred meters. If there's a turn there somewhere on the course, even better. Ideally this rider would have his own leadout in the approach to the finish.

2. The rider behind ("Sprinter") will act as if he were the protected racer. However, his real task is to sweep Leadout's wheel, literally. Sprinter should hang back just a bit, and when the first opponent starts to pass Sprinter's back wheel, Sprinter moves sideways to launch his own sprint, "accidentally" not realizing someone was there.

Justification: Leadout is leading out Sprinter, and Sprinter started his sprint just as someone happened to overlap his rear wheel. Sprinter didn't see him so it wasn't entirely his fault.

To guarantee the outcome, Sprinter should sweep sideways an extra foot or three, pretending to be affected by the rider behind him, who by now is toppling over onto the pavement at high speed. If necessary Sprinter will slow and topple or ride off the course or something that takes him out of the running. Ideally Sprinter will not finish the race in good place, making "relegation" a non-option as far as punishment goes.

3. The resulting huge stack up holds up the next 10 or 15 riders, everyone else is swerving to avoid downed bikes and bodies, and everyone sort of forgets about sprinting for a bit. Leadout goes as hard as possible to the line, unhindered, wins, and acts surprised.

At best Sprinter will get either relegated (if he doesn't sprint, who cares). At worst he'll get a "possible" 20 day suspension.

I guarantee you that there are many racers that could easily make it look totally accidental that they took out someone.

Guarantee it.

So they'd be looking at, say, a 20 day suspension at worst. Or a relegation at best.

But they'd be happy. Because Sprinter was the decoy!

See, Sprinter was never the protected rider on the team; Leader was.

And that's where USAC fails.

Because with racers with no conscience, ones that holler at their teammates telling them to show everyone who's boss, to yell at them to push with their arms, legs, thighs, knees, elbows, hands, those guys could do stuff like this (and I hope they're illiterate).

And they'd get away with it. How? Read on...

How The Rules Work On Suspensions

Take a worst case scenario and figure a 20 day suspension. The following week, the team uses another "Sprinter" ("because, you know, that first one got involved in a huge stack up last week"). Unfortunately, ahem, the same thing happens. Sprinter starts his jump to the line and wipes out the top 20 riders in the field. His exhausted Leadout man wins again.

The following week the racers switch roles again. Maybe the course isn't quite right for Leadout. He's now the Sprinter ("because, you know, he won the last two races"). And someone else takes over for Leadout.

Repeat huge crash scenario. Repeat Leadout's win.

I can hear all the stuff that team could say while hanging out after the race.

"Man, those guys around here just can't stay upright. They always go down. They really suck, don't they?"

21 days after the first Sprinter/Leadout scenario, the original Sprinter is now un-suspended. He can become the new Sprinter, again trying to jump just a touch late and causing a huge stack up.

Repeat throughout the year. Make lots of money. Reduce competition simply by crashing them so many times that they start riding less expensive replacement equipment, get a bit nervous going into finales, and start sitting up at the bell. Heck, if a bunch of them don't start because of broken bodies, all the better.

How can you punish these riders? What are they doing wrong? You're suspending them, but they have other teammates. 20 days. Maybe the next one, 25 days. Maybe 60.

Maybe even, get this, 20.5 days. Because there's nothing anywhere in the rulebook that talks about a concrete suspension for flagrant unsportsmanlike violations. There are just murmurs of possible this, maybe that.

What can USAC do about this?

They can prevent this from happening by making it hurt. You make it hurt in their pockets, in their riding.

Penalty Escalation Defined

First, they need to have a defined escalation schedule for punishment.

Second, since you need to keep track of history, you have to, well, keep track of history. I figure it's fair to keep a record for as long as say a state keeps a driver's record, so 5 to 7 years.

For each subsequent violation, you ratchet up the penalty, by the book.

The first offense should be not a weak "up to" or "possible". It should be a rock solid suspension, mitigated perhaps by some phrase about experience or skill. So a rider that has crashes due to someone else (like me, on August 11) won't get penalized for an abrupt motion. Because, hell yeah, I made an abrupt motion when I hit the deck.

Likewise, if the rider that makes the abrupt motion is a lessor skilled rider, a new racer perhaps, there needs to be a clause in there about warnings or "doesn't count if it doesn't happen in the next 60 days" or stuff like that. Because even with DUI you get a first chance.

However, if it's a more experienced rider, maybe a multi-year Cat 4, and definitely anyone from Cat 1-3, then there's no question. Bang, you're out, 20 days.

Figure half the riders will get away with a DQ instead, because they'll be able to fake that they didn't mean to do it (as illustrated above). Some of them would legitimately have made an error, especially in the less experienced Cat 5s, so they would just be DQed or otherwise let off easy.

So, in my example of an "abrupt motion" for a more experienced rider (Cat 3 for sure, Cat 4 maybe), it's 20 days suspension, rock solid, no arguing.

The escalation schedule would read something innocuous like 1x, 10x, 50x, 150x.

That means the first violation would result in a 20 day suspension, or 1 x 20.

The second, 20 x 10 or 200 days.

The third, 20 x 50 or 1000 days.

The fourth, and any subsequent violations, 20 x 150 or 3000 days.

Each violation of that same rule.

What? Am I nuts? 3000 days? Am I off my flicking rocker?

No way.

I'm the one sitting here who can't ride a bike because I have a twice broken pelvis. I'm the one who has to use his left hand to reach for my wallet because I can't pull my wallet out of my right pocket with my right arm.

I haven't caused a crash in forever. I literally cannot remember causing a crash. And yes, that means I invite folks to respond and say, "Hey Jerkface, you totally caused this 60 rider crash at your own race so shut up about not causing crashes loser." Well, hopefully more politely than that.

I mean, yeah, I remember almost causing two crashes in West Hartford, and I was so ashamed, felt so guilty, that the images of that day are drilled into my brain.

I crashed a few years ago when I loosened my SPD-Rs, pedals notorious for being difficult to release. I was hitting my shoes with my fists to get them out, so I loosened them up, literally just before the race. Then, on a bumpy exit in a corner in some crit, sprinting out of the saddle, I unclipped and fell.

Fortunately I only took myself out, and suffered no great damage except some road rash and a gouge in a frame that I now consider "disposable".

Before that, I fell mainly in rain, when riders skated into me because I slowed for a turn and they didn't. I guess they thought they could go faster on a manhole cover or white line or whatever it was to my inside. They'd sweep my tires off the road and I'd land right next to them, sliding over to the curb. I remember a few crashes like that, including a doozy at Danbury where guys kept piling into the curb where I lay. For the EMTs it was like fishing by holding a net over the water and the fish just jumped in.

The last dry pavement crash before the SPD-R one was in 1992, when I had a series of crashes in the May/June season of crits. All of them were caused by maniacal riders moving up the inside and promptly sliding out. All of them were reasonably high prestige races, and in all of them I was in the top part of the field. I would add that all of them were in the closing laps of the race. Two were P123 races, two were 3s, and in the big P123 stack up, I was sitting 4th or 5th behind one of the Carney brothers with only 400 meters left in the race.

The riding was simply just way too optimistic. No one did any switching, chopping, nothing. It was just full out into a turn, lean over, slide, and crash. I just happened to be in the area when it happened.

Not only do I not remember causing crashes, I spent a long time learning skills to avoid falling. I learned to touch wheels, elbow, bump, all sorts of things. When I ride rollers I regularly use my elbow or shoulder if I stray towards the wall. I even dd shoulder exercises (lifting weights) to mitigate any potential crash damage, something my physical therapist commented on yesterday morning.

Back on topic.

So, no, I am not nuts. I am serious when I say a 4th violation should result in a 3000 day penalty for the offender.

First of all, it would force everyone to realize that you can't pull crap in races and get away with it indefinitely.

Second, it would make riders much more aware of how serious some of these offenses can be. For example, in another training race crash in a different state, about the same time I crashed, someone died.

He died.

Now, if they died because someone made an "abrupt motion" and took them out, what then? How can anyone justify taking someone out, taking the chance of literally killing them?

You can't.

If you think about what it would do to suspend me from racing, well, it would be a bummer for sure. I love racing, live for it.

But I don't make a living off of it. It's not my profession. I sometimes have bad racing years. I sometimes have bad racing multi-years. Heck, I've gone to races and lasted 2, 3, 4 minutes.

Yeah, I'm proud that I race bikes. I identify with it. But if I got suspended for a year, I'd just wait a year and start racing again.

You know what would hurt, though? And hurt right now?


Monetary Fines

Suspensions should cost money, and it should hurt. I saw some mention of $50, $75 fines in the rulebook. Helmet fines are $20.

What, is this a joke? Are you serious?

You get someone riding a $5000 bike, they're paying $60 in gas just to get to and from the race, and you think a $20 fine is significant?

It certainly is not.

Neither are the $50 or $75 dollar fines.

If you really want folks to wear a helmet, you have an escalating penalty grid defined for monetary fines too.

$20 the first time. $200 the second. $1000 the third. $3000 the fourth time.

Okay, it seems a bit stiff for helmets. But what's that, really, to a rider? How difficult is it for a rider to slap a helmet on their head.

It's a pathetic thing that someone who trains umpteen hours a week, knows a watt from a kilogram, can recite exactly what wheels in their arsenal have what tires on them, knows how to do bike stuff, can't remember to put a friggin helmet on their head.

It's like they already hit their head.

You know, without a helmet. Duh.

Like, "Um, I, um, want to protest my fine, because, like, I am such a freaking idiot that the helmet won't do me any good anymore."

It's only serious if someone dies, or gets paralyzed.

Or if they get fined $200 for not wearing a helmet. Even an idiot understands money.

I figure that after word gets out that the fine is for real, and that you can't race until you pay it, well, everyone will be extra careful to be wearing a helmet when they roll up to registration.

For suspensions? $10 per day up to 30 days, then level at that amount until you exceed it using a $1/day rate.

So a 10 day suspension, $100 fine. 20 days, $200. 30 days, $300. 40 days, still $300. Until 300 days of suspension, it would be $300.

But after that, it would go up, $1/day. 1000 days? $1000. 3000 days? $3000.

If you don't pay, you don't race.

Oh, right. How would anyone know you haven't paid your $200 or $1000 or $3000?

Online Records

Along with the escalated schedule, all riders should have their records online. All suspensions in the past, along with a special page with easy access for all currently suspended riders.

Why should racers hide their records?

It prevents promoters from helping enforce the rules. Or other racers from protesting that a particular rider is supposed to be suspended, and therefore isn't even eligible to start. Instead of informing one or two officials (at, say, the race I promote), there should be 300 riders who may have an idea of who should or shouldn't be there.

When I register people at Bethel, I have no idea if they're suspended or not. How should I know? The information should be available to the public.

Heck, Connecticut puts all their delinquent tax (non-)payers online. That's serious stuff, taxes and government and not paying their fair share and all that.

USAC should post suspended and penalized riders and make the list easy to retrieve.

Why wouldn't you want your record online? Are you ashamed of what it would say? If you are, then you shouldn't have done whatever it was that makes you have a record. If you're ashamed of your record, you ought to have the opportunity to feel ashamed.


Why this diatribe? Why these words? Why this long soapbox thing? It's a freaking bike race, get over it, right?


I can point to two incidents from two years ago that took a good 20 riders out of circulation. Not because they died or anything like that, although a few got hurt.

They disappeared from the racing scene because they decided that it was too dangerous. The bullies had the run of the races, and they figured that if that's the way the game is played, they're not playing it.

It wasn't worth it.

They are smart folks, successful folks, folks that have a lot to lose. They help support their families, their kids, they make mortgage payments, stuff like that. At some point the risk-reward balance gets tilted too far into the risk side. When it does, a smart person backs off.

The incidents two years ago literally convinced a lot of racers I knew, despite my cajoling, pleading, begging, story-telling, everything, that crits in the area were just way too dangerous.

Their solution? Sit them out. Skip them. Don't race them.

Basically the two crashes took maybe 200, maybe 300 entries out of the year (at a conservative 10-15 races a year).

And it wasn't because the races were necessarily dangerous. It was because there were perhaps half a dozen individuals, tops, that wreaked havoc in the fields. These yahoos took out everyone from umpteen time national champions to lawyers to financial IT folks to teachers to ordinary you and me type people.

I haven't seen them in a real crit since.

And that really sucks.

It sucks for the sport because the bullies started gaining the upper hand, and the system was in such a state that it couldn't do anything.

It sucks for the sport because a bunch of intelligent, nice, kind, conscientious people gave up on the sport.

It sucks because all those people that quit made a reasonably smart decision, a logical one, and they'll tell their friends that they prefer running or swimming or tris or golf or something, anything, other than bike racing. When their friends ask them, "Yeah, but I was thinking about getting a bike, I watched the Vuelta and it looks really cool!", they'll tell them, "Okay, but don't think about racing. It's a dumb sport, for dumb people, ruled by bullies on bikes."

And we lose potential racers, potential teammates, potential friends.

It comes down to this.

Race well, race with dignity, race with a conscience.

And all of the above just won't apply to you.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Life - First Attempt

A bit dejected.

It took me somewhere in the range of 3 hours to get the bike set up on the trainer. It's not as easy as it may seem, although it wasn't quite as hard as it could have been.

I got the bike downstairs, got the heart rate belt for the SRM, even got the SRM. Optimistically I wanted to see how I would do, heart rate and cadence. Power, too, but that was just extra.

Ironically it's been so long I forgot where I stashed the front wheel stand, but it was right there, next to the trainer.

I also brought down a laptop so I could Netflix something (World War 2 thing if you must know). I'd spent some time upgrading the RAM in three different machines recently so it felt good to be using some of that RAM for a good cause.

In a twist of fate, I decided to wear the shorts that I had on when I crashed. Almost in perfect shape, just a few small holes in the side.

In case you forgot what a pair of Verge shorts looks like after a fall that fractures a pelvis in two places and causes a bunch of road rash under said pair of shorts.

I am a huge fan of Verge gear and their support of the sport. I can't emphasize that enough. The support for the sport, fine. But their gear is absolutely top notch and super durable. I still have my Verge gear, worn regularly on the trainer, that I got as long as 6 years ago. And they make the best, brightest, and rich looking winter jackets as well - I have a few of them now, two old team ones, one from my 2009 team. Excellent pieces, all of them. Great bib knickers too. Hm. I'll have to do a separate Verge post or something.


I got my socks on (Verge also, and on their last legs after 6 years of daily use, both on and off the bike), probably the most challenging part of dressing myself due to the sharp pain of the ankle wound. Although I try not to touch it, just stretching the sock around my ankle hurts because the skin tugs on the wound.

My shoes went on - I realized how much my feet have swollen as I was about 7 or 8 clicks looser than normal. Riding should bring it down, so I looked forward to bottoming out the click strap.

When my feet are normal those straps are snugged down all the way. The haphazard look is how the shoes were after the EMT took them off. Or maybe it was SOC. Someone I can't recall in my pain haze.

I also brought my cell phone and cordless home phone in with me, just in case something (like my right leg) kept me from getting off the bike. If I got totally stuck on the bike, I would call the missus. In fact, during a phone call before I got on the bike, she asked that I call her when I got off the bike, just so she knew that I was okay.

She loves me. Well, that and she has a reason to be worried.

I've been known to fall off the trainer (or technically fall over with the bike and trainer, as a unit) and not say a word as I try and figure out how to get out of the bike-trainer trap. The missus ran into the living room after one such incident and found me turtled on the floor, feet clipped in, heavy trainer weighing my bike down.

See, I was watching the Giro, and Bugno on Spinergy Rev-X wheels, and the guy near him leaned way over and stuck his knee out like he was on a GP motorcycle. I thought, no, could it really help? Is it possible? It's on the tape, but can it work for real?

I leaned off the side of the bike, stuck my knee out...

And toppled over.

Luckily my knee was all of a foot off the floor, so I didn't fall that far, but I couldn't unclip and I couldn't really reach the pedals.

The missus helpfully banged on the shoes, unclipping me, and I got back up and on the bike.

Anyway, since then and until just recently, I think the missus worried more when I got on the trainer than when I started a race. My "crash" record on the trainer is pretty high. I have to admit that there were a few other incidents in the basement of the old house, plus one trainer that short circuited and literally started smoking while I was riding.

Lots of trainer incidents.

In races?

Not as many.

More recently I've had two falls. One topple at Hartford, where I stopped and toppled, and one unusual unclip where my back wheel skipped, my shoe unclipped, and I fell over, all while trying to sprint out of a corner.

I have to go back to about 1993-4 before I fell before that, a series of crashes while setting up for the finals laps of some hotly contested races.

P123 at Scotch Plains, sitting 5th, guy came up the inside and lost it. Slid through me and a few other guys as he went across the 3rd last turn. I think J-Me (as he was known back then) Carney won. If only...

3s at Nutley. 2 to go, sitting maybe 10th. Guy moved up the inside, got squeezed, went down. A bunch of us ended up tumbling to the ground. I'd gotten 11th a different year, led out the sprint.

P123s at New Britain. Massive brake check on the main straight. I bailed going left, avoiding a huge stack up. Looked up to see a guy lateral his baby kid to his wife as he started leaping backwards. I slammed into him, went flying. Baby, mom safe. I was banged up but okay. I tried to apologize but the dad was a racer, understood.

One more in a 5 week period. Then a wet skating fall in Danbury, maybe two years later.

And then nothing for a long, long time.

Anyway, the missus thinks I fall off the trainer more than I fall on the road, and for the last 15 years, that's been true.

So, I prepared once again to get on the trainer. First time in 5 weeks and a day that I've had my cycling gear on, first time I was about to get on the bike.

I threw my leg over the bike.

The phone rang.

I grabbed it. The missus.

"I just threw my leg over the bike."
"Are you finishing up or starting?"
"It's been 3 hours. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, it just took a while to get everything down here."
"I was working when I realized it'd been 3 hours since we talked and I got a bit worried that I hadn't heard from you. Okay, have a good spin."
"Okay, talk to you later."

I clipped in my left leg, my good one. Placed the right shoe on the pedal. I wasn't sure if I could unclip that side so I didn't clip in.

I pedaled down once on the left pedal.

My leg felt like a caveman just grabbed it and tried to rip it off my body.

I let my right leg dangle, resting my toes on the trainer. The one-leg drill position.

Pedaled again.

It felt like a fancy French chef was delicately slicing through my pelvis with a set of finely honed knives.

I picked up the phone, dialed the missus.

"I just want to let you know I'm getting off the bike now."
"That was quick."
"I can't pedal so I'm stopping. I wanted to let you know so you wouldn't worry."
"Oh. I'm sorry it hurt."
"I thought I could ride, but it just hurts too much. Even if I just pedal with my left leg, it tugs on the right or something."

A pause.

"I wonder if you spoke too soon when you said you'd be able to go for a spin in Vegas."


"Um. I'll be okay. I'm healing really quickly. It's a week away."

Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Life - Recovery, Continued

I've been quietly and slowly recovering from the crash over a month ago, but today I'll post an update.

See, early this morning I went to physical therapy for my shoulder. I did a few different exercises, nothing too strenuous. I'd done some of the exercise routines in the past, in my uninjured life if you will.

Now, before I go on, I should admit something. When I first saw the stacked-weight machine at the PT office, I thought it was a joke. I mean, come on, the first weight on the pulley machine was actually just a hollow plastic shell, it couldn't weigh anything.

Or half a pound, as it happens.

Although officially not really injured in my shoulder area, it hurt enough that I couldn't lift my arm at all for the first week or so.

Now that seems back in a somewhat distant past.

Because, ta-dah! I can lift that joke of a weight. I can now move my arm laterally pulling 3 pounds of weight. That's double what I did last week, at 1.5 pounds, and six times what I did the week before that - a whole 0.5 pounds of weight.

Yep, I struggled to move 0.5 pounds with my arm.

To put it in perspective, I'd do about 40 or 50 pounds with my left arm.

I also did some rows, for the second week (the first week I pulled with my left and hung my right hand on the bar). My normal range of weight for rows is 140-160 pounds, with 200 pounds being on the higher side, maybe for just a rep or two. I once did a whole stack, 240 I think, but that was a one time thing just seeing if I could do it.

Last week, the second week of PT, three weeks after the crash, I struggled with 10 or 12 pounds, one plate.

This week I could do about 15 or so pounds, and could do three sets of 15.

So a big improvement.

With all the time I get to spend with my arm, I've learned that the top of the shoulder, one rotator cuff, and some muscle that goes down the inside of my triceps all hurt like the dickens. If I use other muscles, fine. If I try and use those three areas, it hurts.

I still wince when I try to reach my back pocket - my wallet, the two times I've carried it, sits in my left rear pocket. I still feel protective of that arm, holding it to my side like I have it in a sling. I try and let it hang, casual-like, but I catch myself frequently holding it up and close to my chest.

My pelvis seems to be doing better. I think this every morning. But then, after I walk around a bit (figure 200-300 feet), it feels like I pulled a groin muscle (that's the quad side complaining) and my glutes feel like I have a deep down bruise (that's the hamstrings complaining). The two sets of muscles complain because they're connected to bone pieces that are still not quite connected to other bone pieces.

Then I get kind of grumpy and stuff as I feel like I've made no progress with the pelvis.

I still get insanely fatigued in the middle of the day. I sleep through the night, though, unlike before. The fatigue is weird, just bang, like I hit a sleep wall. I figure it's my body, recovering, so it can't be a bad thing.

My ankle still hurts. It's crazy, 4 full weeks after I fell on it and it still stings like I cut it yesterday. It's literally a pain. I took a cell phone pic of it but it's kind of grainy. I need to retrieve my regular camera so I can take a proper picture.

Finally, I mentioned the clots in my right calf in my last injury post, and I guess they'll be there for a bit. A worried friend called me a few days ago - as he pointed out, he lost two close people recently due to strokes. And strokes are caused by clots.

I called my doctor to make sure that I wouldn't be another statistic, and not only did he say I should be fine, he also, eventually gave me clearance...

To ride the trainer.


I'm already figuring out what to hold on to when I try and get on the bike. I don't want to fall just trying to get on the bike - that probably wouldn't be good for my pelvis.

You know how when you're training, an easy day is better recovery than a totally off day?

Well, I'm hoping that doing a bit of pedaling will help stir things up in my body, mix things up a bit. Maybe it'll get better sooner.

Whatever, at least it'll get my heart rate over, say, 80 bpm.

It's a bit late now to ride, but tomorrow I'll see what happens.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Racing - My Funny Season

I'm not sure where the term "funny season" came from, but it refers to the time of year when racers (in the case of bike racing) are racing for their current team with the knowledge that they'll be racing for another team next year.

It's tough to race for your own team when you're kinda sorta racing for another team.

Nowadays you can't mention who you're to race for until after September 1. Well, not really. But you sorta can. In the old days, it was different. Not so old, because the story involved Roche in his historic season in 1987. Anyway, back then, they made announcements during the Tour.

The Tour!

Imagine the confusion after a rest day spent absorbing who would race for who the next year.

"Should I chase? I mean, I should, but he'll be my team leader next year."

See, Roche signed for a new team for 1988, Fagor-MBK, one rising from the remnants of the current Fagor team. At that time he was racing for Carrera. He and a lot of the Carrera guys didn't like each other because he attacked their Italian leader in the earlier Giro d'Italia (and this on an Italian team). Although he villified his attack by eventually winning the overall, his Italian teammates didn't like this too much.

Carrera wasn't weak by any means, doing well in the TTT (I think they won) and getting one Erich Maechler into yellow. When Roche publicly declared he felt the team should let the jersey go, the team worked even harder to hold on to it. Eventually, at the first long time trial (87 kilometers!), Maechler had to step down.

By now the team was exhausted.

Roche had just one ally on the team, a faithful domestique who took the burden of doing most of the work for the rest of the race: Eddy Schepers.

Therefore, desperate to make some time up on a powerful Delgado, Roche plotted the most unlikely of attacks - one on a mountain stage, launched a feed zone, 100 km from the finish. When he needed some help in a long distance attack, he went to a somewhat unlikely source - potential teammates for 1988.

I can imagine the conversation now.

"Look, guys, I'll be heading up the team next year. I know you don't have contracts yet, so I'll tell you what. I'm going to attack at 100k to go. If you guys help me, I'll make sure I put in a good word for all of you for next year."

Four pretty decent pros look at each other. They contemplate trying to find replacement contracts, racing for whoever will pay them the pitiful wages pros commanded back then, $20 or $40k. Then they think about racing for a guy that got 3rd in last year's Tour, already won the Giro, and looked pretty good for the Tour, definitely a podium place.

(Forget about a guy that also goes on to win Worlds!)

"Okay, Stephen, we'll help you out."

And so was hatched one of the riskiest breaks ever by a modern day Tour hopeful. I'd say it was the second riskiest, after Fignon's solo stage victory in the Yellow in 1989. In 1987, though, there were some extremely strong teams still in contention, so Roche gets kudos for pulling a real knacker of a move.

Note all the Fagor racers in the break?
Video from socalrider909's YouTube account

Skipping the feed, the aggressors set out. For about 100 km the unlikely break rolled on, four Fagor racers pulling their hearts out.

Eventually, though, the break faltered, with one of the strongest ever PDM teams helping Delgado's powerful Reynolds team chase. Of course they caught the break at the base of the last climb, and Delgado almost immediately attacked.

Roche tried to recover, waiting until 5 k to go before he went all out. In the heroic finish above, Roche clawed his way back and stayed in contention.

Schepers was the ultimate domestique, literally in tears when he learned of Roche's difficulty at La Plagne. He swore he'd be at Roche's side the next day, and he was, watching Roche solo off the front of the group to take a valuable 18 seconds out of Delgado on a tricky descent into the finish.

Roche eventually won the Tour by a scant 40 seconds, went on to win Worlds while working for his friend Sean Kelly, but then faltered badly. He really never raced again, a fragile knee preventing his return to the top. He turned to driving VIP cars (and well, apparently, since he also raced rallies) and supporting his son, Nicolas, and perhaps his nephew Dan Martin.

What's all this mean?

Well, nothing really. It's just a cool video and an interesting story, the first year of "collusions" I knew about. The first collusion I knew about actually happened earlier in the Tour - Roche got the yellow when System U and him ganged up on Jean-Francois Bernard and attacked just after a long, thin stretch of road. Bernard happened to flat at the same time and found himself losing a few minutes on the stage.

Right. Funny season. My funny season.

This is the first time I've been off the bike for so long since 1983. I once took 3 weeks off, yes, but never four. Or five. This is definitely a funny season for me, for other reasons.

But team-wise...

Let it be known that for 2010 I'll be joining a new team, Exposition Wheelmen. It's not really a "new" new team, it's more like a resurrection of the old Expo Wheelmen, kind of like how Carpe Diem Racing returned after a short absence.

I can't divulge any contract details, but suffice it to say that I'm paying a lot of money to race for the team.

A lot.

Oh, wait. They're supposed to pay me money. How did I get roped into this. Hm. Well, I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Since I'm still incapable of riding a bike, or even driving a car, you won't find me "helping out" future teammates at the races this year. No odd efforts at the front, no puzzling bridges to a break. No huge break 100k to go.

Not that you'd see that anyway.

Next year, though, with everything in full swing, it should be a different story.

See you out there.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Promoting Races - Tour of Missouri Should Be For The Racers

Holy smokes.

The Tour of Missouri is an embarrassment to US racing.

To have a rider hit by a VIP vehicle in a time trial?

To block a potential stage winner twice in that same time trial? By the same people?


That's fine for a Cat 3 race where we don't race for anything. Or maybe if the racers got blocked by an ambulance, or something unusual was happening like a robbery or a hostage situation, something outside of the realm of bike racing. And, since I tend to give people chances, fine, if it was a first year effort, a ground-breaking race, I can understand some teething pains.

But not for the third year of one of five UCI 2.HC races in the US, one that attracts some of the best talent in the world.

I've helped in one stage race at that level, meaning at some level way above the Cat 3s. Fine, the race had some traffic problems in one particular stage. That was mainly due to a lack of coordination between different jurisdictions, in other words state and local. A bunch of vandals didn't help when they took down miles of directional arrows, but that's beside the point.

The main problem popped up due to an insistence by the state that the race be re-routed through some extremely busy roads because a new library was opening there. Against the strongest protests by the tech director the race went through those busy streets. And, in the caravan, I never saw the library, just the horrifying view of stacked up traffic trying to get off the course into side streets almost literally gridlocked.

There were some teething pains - in a first year event it's to be expected. The local police, inexperienced in running such events, came through most of the time. One town even roped in their public works department, stationing bulldozers, dumptrucks, and front loaders at various intersections. Another town shut down a huge potential nightmare of a problem, leaving the race a clear path down the big main street.

Sometimes the organization simply failed, and we found literally no local forces manning the turns in some of the smaller towns. In the one big city we hit, the police hadn't shut down the roads early enough. I know that before parades and such the streets in NYC can be closed for most of the day. In our case the police tried to shut down traffic just 10 or 15 minutes before the race came through.

The result was absolute chaos.

So, yeah, I've been in situations where the race hasn't been ideal.

However, the race personnel weren't causing the problems.

That stinks of incompetence and favoritism.

Incompetence because the drivers obviously aren't paying attention to the racers, and the organizers are letting the wrong people drive in the wrong places. Favoritism because it's painfully apparent that the drivers were not selected for their attentive driving habits.

In that same race above, I watched one particular guy work part of the race. He's a friend of the promoter and has his job simply because he's done it from day one. But 20 years down the road and he had other things he'd prefer to do. Unfortunately, in the prologue, he just disappeared from his post. If he was marshaling a turn, that'd be fine, we just need to get another marshal.

But he was lining up the team cars to follow their racers in the prologue.

I and another guy stepped in quickly, pretty much because we were the only two there that had an idea of how things should work. It worked out fine, but it illustrated vividly that personnel need to be selected on their ability to carry out a task, not because they're friends of someone.

There's a pretty simple solution to problems like the ones Tour of Missouri experienced.

First off, the other drivers need to understand the implications of, "Hey, whatever dude, just chill, it just kind of happened."

That's simply not acceptable.

One possible solution is to immediately and permanently ban the drivers in the two incidents. Like forever, not just in 2009, but for any future event that the promoters hold. Another is to fine the drivers some significant amount of money, and hand the money to the racers. When I say significant, I'm talking $5000 or so, something enough to help a top level pro racer and his team forget that the incident ever happened. Although it would help for a smaller team's budget, it would help assuage a larger ProTour team's sense of dignity.

Second, the race organizers should pay a tad less for the riders' start fees and pay some of the race personnel a bit more money. They should hire drivers blind, not because they're friends of the promoters or free volunteers. Then they can actually choose who works for them, get competent people, and hold them accountable for what they do.

Of course this may be a moot point, since the race may not happen next year.

It's too bad. With the potential of this race, and all the press it got (just search for Tour of Missouri - tons of articles on the race coming through town), it has to be a good thing for growing interest in the sport.

The problem is that it needs to be good for the riders already in the sport too.