Monday, April 30, 2012

Equipment - Wheel Inertia

I've always been a big believer in wheel inertia's effect on racing. I went against my thoughts and bought a heavier set of aero wheels (the HED Jets), thinking that if the pundits were right, they'd be better for me in the normal flat crits I do regularly. However I found that I had difficulties accelerating the heavier, more aero wheels. Eventually, against my "educated" thoughts, I used my non-aero clinchers. I immediately noticed a reduction in effort required to follow the group (a Tuesday night training series, normally driven by a few regular Cat 1s).

I proposed that weight does, in fact, have some significance in performance, but everyone (and I mean everyone) shot me down.

The problem is I can't prove it using any logic (math etc).

I think I found the answer.

Most aero pundits will point to the site, where they have a lot of interesting power/speed calculators. Using different wheels it's easy to see how their calculations show very little difference in distance covered given a certain power. Even using a pretty wide range of wheel weights (basically off their site), I couldn't come up with a significant difference between wheels in their calculators (like speed, given power, or power, given speed). I put in my own numbers for power, put in some wheel weights, and found that, wow, based on the math, I should race my TriSpokes all the time.

The reality is that "spin up", i.e. how fast a wheel spins up, makes a difference in acceleration. I find it exhilarating when I first ride the race wheels in March. My bike just leaps out from under me. I've measured pedal strokes required to get up to speed, sacrificing aero when dealing with multiple super hard accelerations. I'd be up to speed literally 2 or 3 pedal strokes before the others, soft pedaling while they finished ramping up to speed. I had some good results using the light wheels, and others using the aero ones.

(The races I have in mind were at the Tour of Michigan, where I could either run a TriSpoke or a 280g 28H box section wheel, the only two sets of race wheels I brought. Since the field was the same for each of the 8 races, the riders didn't vary much at all. Coincidentally my wheels were very similar to the wheels analyticcycling lists.)

Ultimately I raced most often with light, semi-aero wheels. My favorite wheels for many years were the Zipp 340s, as light as the Campy Record Crono 280g rims but a bit more aero. Later, after a few years of Spinergy Rev-X use (I wanted to support the company), and then some TriSpoke use (those early generation Zipps broke), I settled in on Reynolds DV46 tubulars. They happened to be very similar in profile to the Zipp 340s, were very light, and much more rigid than any other wheel I had in my quiver.

In 2010 I decided to try the wide aero wheels. The driving force was the Stinger 6 wheels. They were lighter than the DV46s and they were supposed to be significantly more aero. Light and aero, a win-win.

The wheels work great.

So I also got the HED Jet 6 front and Jet 9 rear, both aero wheels, both similar in profile to the Stingers. The Jet 6 front would be my training wheel so I would feel fluent on the Stinger 6s, and the Jet 9 I got because I figured aero trumps weight, and I wanted a really aero rear wheel.

(My wheel inventory philosophy is to get one very tall, very light rear wheel, and get two or three front wheels, one each of a shallow, kinda tall, and very tall. In the HED line up my ideal setup would be a Stinger 9 rear and the 4, 6, and 9 front. Now that they have a Stinger 7, I'd maybe go 7 rear, 4 and 7 front.)

When I got the Jets I was really psyched to use them in the Tuesday Night races. Slightly heavier, no dealing with wearing out tubulars, and more aero for the fast speeds I'd see in my only regular Cat 1-2-3 race (since the drivers at the races are basically Cat 1s).

To my dismay I found the Jets hard to accelerate. No matter what the math said on analyticcycling, I couldn't accelerate the wheels well, and I found myself getting tailed off quickly. When I used the lighter Stingers or, one night when I forgot the race wheels at home, the "non-aero" Bastognes (aka Ardennes), I found that I had a much easier time responding to the accelerations.

Something was wrong.

It wasn't me. I acknowledge that I explode regularly when I race, but I also know when it feels like something isn't right with my bike. The bike was fine but the Jet wheels were just a bit too heavy.

It had to be the math.

I examined the analyticcycling site a bit more in depth and I found something I think significant - the way they measure wheel inertia. They hang a wheel from a string (or similar non-stretch object) and measure the pendulum rate. The illustration shows the wheel being suspended from the tire area. This means the whole wheel acts as one unit. It does not allow differentiation between rim and hub. A 5 pound wheel with a 4 pound rim should swing in a similar fashion as a 5 pound wheel with a 1 pound rim. Hanging the wheel from the rim should (I think - remember, I failed physics, at least on paper) negate the weight distribution of the rim.

The wheel inertia table from that site ( Rotational Inertia) shows very little difference between wheel inertia measurements. This leads to the very close calculations of speed/power in the site's various calculators.

I found it hard to reconcile the site's calculators and my own experience.

I went as far as to contact the site but they politely brushed me off. Without any equations as suggestions I think I came off an an uneducated myth-chaser.

And I am, so I have no problem with that. I'm chasing the myth that, yes, weight does count. Aero is good but weight still matters.

Recently, when I clicked on an aero wheel ad (I find them absolutely irresistible), I found another site that had some interesting thoughts on the topic. 3T has some thoughts on aero and wheel weight. In it they calculate inertia a bit differently, by taking the mass and the radius.
(Page 4 of 5 has the inertia calculation)

3T's results show a dramatic difference in inertia just through a few spoke nipples (18 of them at 0.9g each, so 16.2g). Their numbers - if you move the spoke nipples from the rim to the hub, your inertia goes from 1.4 g m^2 to 0.008 g m^2.

That's huge.

If you used larger numbers, like a 100g difference in rim weight, the inertial differences would be even larger.

These numbers would reflect inertial differences between wheels more accurately. For example, if I used those 5 pound wheels as example, they'd come out like this:

5 pound wheel, 4 pound rim or hub, using 3T's dimensions for hub and rim radius (22mm and 294mm respectively).
Inertia = mass x radius^2

4 pound = 1816g
4 pound rim = 1816 x .294^2 = 156.97 g m^2
4 pound hub = 1816 x .022^2 = 0.87 g m^2

There is a tremendous difference in wheel inertia using this calculation. Using analyticcycling's methods I think there wouldn't be a lot of difference, if any. I have to admit that's speculation on my part because I haven't done the pendulum thing (or asked a physics person about results for my 5 pound wheel example), and the site doesn't detail the separate component weights of the wire wheel, i.e. the 32 spoke wheel.

I'll have to do some more research on this but this is the first time I made any kind of progress on this whole thing.

I knew there was a reason I was holding a sleeping Junior at 1 AM.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Promoting - 2012 Circuit Francis J Clarke

Ah yes. The Bethel Spring Series.

Each year I look forward to the end of the Series. It's bittersweet, the end. There's always a combination of good and bad. The Series is, to me, like a big stage race. Although the racers see only the Sundays, for me the Series consumes my life for its six or so weeks.

Virtually everything gets put on hold, and any critical events automatically gets the Series piggybacked on top. So, for example, when we went to the hospital for Junior, the Series laptops and notes came along with us.

The Series also consumes. Just like a stage race, life becomes rote, with all sorts of things happening automatically. Unpack the car. Check registration. Move riders around. Correct entries. Download data. Download the release forms and send them out for printing. Pack the car. Drive down. Check out the course. Etc etc. A lot of other things fall by the wayside, postponed until after it ends.

Life, in a sense, pauses for the Series.

Therefore the end of the Series heralds the return to normalcy, the return of time.

I look forward to reclaiming my time during the week. I'm sure my workplace also appreciates it too. I typically spend (I'm guessing) half a day on the race on every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If it was cold out at the prior week's race I spend most of Monday and Tuesday in an exhausted zombie-like state, operating at bare minimum capacity. I walk into things, forget everything, and find myself practically dozing at work. 

I look forward to reclaiming my Saturdays. During the Series I also take off Saturdays (without pay - six Saturdays is more than a week of "vacation" if they paid me) so that I can finish everything I couldn't get done earlier.

I relish the idea of being able to ride again. During the Series I usually get to ride on Wednesday, maybe for an hour, or just skip training for the week. One week I rode three times. One week I didn't ride at all. Most of the weeks I rode about an hour between races.

I also look forward to the reduction of emails into the inbox. For whatever reason I don't get many voicemails now (and I'm not a fan of voicemail at all), and I've gotten only a few texts. The emails though, they require a lot of time as I try and reply to each one completely and sincerely.

On the other hand, I'll miss a lot of things.

I really like the races at Bethel. I suppose that if I didn't like Bethel I wouldn't have made it through the terrible years promoting them (I can't put a finger on the exact years but somewhere in the vicinity of the late 1990s and early 2000s). In fact I really, really like the races at Bethel.

Bethel also gives me a good excuse to visit my family weekly. They live close to the course so I stay there overnight. This allows me to get up at 5:15 AM instead of 4:15 AM. I usually chat with my brother, usually bounce ideas off him, and catch up with the nephews and sis-in-law. This ends up putting me to bed a little later than planned, but the tradeoff is worth it. I've discovered a lot about me, about bike racing, and about Bethel during those late night chats.

Of course I'll miss the camaraderie at Bethel. The racers compete heartily on the course but are friends off the course. My biggest rival in 2010 was someone I really respected as a rider and person. We've been trying to ride on the same team for probably a decade, and this year we finally made it happen. Yet in 2010 you wouldn't have known - we were racing against each other as hard as honorably possible. In a previous year we weren't such rivals. In fact I screamed at him to let me win a particular sprint so I could win the Series. He didn't and I didn't, and in retrospect I'm glad he didn't and I didn't.

When I compete further away from home, and I have no teammates, I look for those that do Bethel because I consider them quasi-teammates. When away from the Series I find it difficult to chase after a racer that races Bethel regularly, almost like I'm betraying a teammate.

A friend of mine said something to that effect - when a racer pins on a number at Bethel, I consider them "one of mine". I feel a kind of responsibility/duty/loyalty to everyone that races at Bethel.

It ties me to them.

When the Series draws to a close for another year, I know that I'll miss some of this bonding, some of this camaraderie.

Then again, this was the 2012 Series, and it was, to say the least, a really tough one. I was watching one of the Lance Tour DVDs and they had the pre-race interview that they usually have with the contenders. Someone asked him about the Tour and he replied in some tangential way, saying that the Tour was about life and death and that he had experienced both.

Well, in 2012, I experienced both too. I got both joy and devastation in just eight days. The Missus and I started taking care of our little one. Just over a week later we lost Markus, a kind of Jens Voigt of the area.

The Tour is about life and death? Well, Bethel is about life and death too, at least this year.

The last week started with all the usual stuff, registration snafus, Cat 5s wanting in or wanting out (I point out the 5s because they were the only field to close out), stuff like that. Add to that some last week necessities - I needed to get the trophies, I wanted to patch some long cracks at the course, and I couldn't forget some of the final week prizes.

Saturday I knew I had to get the trophies by 1 PM. With the store situated a good 90 minute drive from the house, I barely managed to leave by 11:40 AM, almost forgetting the Sportiiiis prizes. I had to go to the bank to withdraw money - the GC prize money at least doubles the normal prize payout so I'd run out of cash if I didn't take extra money. As it was the last couple people to get paid got a stack of singles.

Anyway, after the bank I blasted off to the trophy place, Crown Trophy in Brookfield. After some driving that belonged in last lap crit stuff, I managed to make it to the trophy place with literally a couple minutes to spare. They'd once again put mountain bike tops on the trophies, and we went through the catalog to figure out what the road bike tops were called ("racing cyclist"). Then I explained bike racing a bit to the trophy guy, who understood and liked car racing, but never realized that the draft even existed in bike racing.

With a bit of time ahead of me, I went to the course to patch some long, parallel-to-the-course cracks, ones that even I tried to avoid during the race. I bought pavement patch (terrible stuff - the best is PermaPatch, but no one in the area sold it, and I forgot to get it before I came down), trowel patch, and went about patching the worst of the cracks.

Someone also wrecked a bit of pavement at the bottom of the hill so I worked on that as well.

After I was done with the patching I blew all the extra pebbles off the course. On one section on the backstretch, one of the tenants pulled out in his pickup truck and tooted his horn (politely, I should add).

"You're not blowing those into my driveway, are you?"

I thought about what I was doing at that moment, which was blowing little pebbles out of one driveway (so I wouldn't blow them into it) and blowing sand and stuff away from the curb (instead of towards the curb and therefore over and past it).

"Well, I better not see anything blown into my driveway, understand?"
"I'm not kidding, you better not blow a single rock into my driveway."
"I understand. You can check your driveway tomorrow. I'll be here all day tomorrow at the top of the hill."

The tenant drove way, still suspicious.

So I carefully blew all the pebbles into his... 

Okay, I didn't. I actually cleared the first couple feet of his driveway (there was sand and some pebbles there already) and then blew all the debris down the road, away from his driveway.

I didn't hear from him so I figure he checked it out and it was okay.

Five hours after I started, late for a family dinner, I left the course.

The Missus drove down with Junior so we got to hang out at the restaurant, then at my dad's house. I worked on the spreadsheet, overall stuff, and tried to get stuff ready for Sunday. Although I got to sleep kind of late, I still woke up at some point to take care of Junior (3 AM?).

I couldn't get up with the alarm and arrived at the race 40 minutes late, at 6:40 AM. From there the race just flew along. First the final clinic for the 5s, then a short break for the Cat 5 race. Once the 5s finished I had to do GC calculations after each race, podium pictures, and try and get prepared for the next race.

Scott of Outdoor Sports Center was there. He manned the tent, organized the trophies for me, and hung out to the very end of the day. When they decided to sponsor the race, they committed heart and soul. I was glad to see them there every day. He's realistic too - he knows that sponsoring a race doesn't automatically generate a lot of sales, and he actually joked about that. I still think that supporting those that support racing is good, so if you can get over to Outdoor Sports Center in Wilton, CT, do it.

If nothing else you should buy some of that awesome Serfas tape I picked up. I told the Cat 5 clinic racers that it's got to be worth 50 watts in a sprint - it's so grippy it's incredible, and in the damp or wet it doesn't slip at all.

We had our raffles, the Cannondale CAAD10 frame (it went to a Junior) and the signed 2010 Vuelta Leader's Jersey (it went to a barely-out-of-Junior-ranks racer). Appropriate, I think. New racers, new blood, and a great way to hook them into the racing culture.

A little final milling around, kind of like when the party ends, and we were all off.

I headed home, the car a bit more loaded than normal. I had a bunch of stuff that lived at the race for the prior 7 weeks with me, plus the regular stuff that fills the car. I was tired, I still had sand in my shoes from clearing the course the day before, and a couple cold Cokes from Panificio Navona only cleared the fog for a bit.

The weariness hit me.

It was okay. The Series, except for some paperwork, was done for 2012. Even as it wrapped up, I had more "to-do" things queued up. I'll have an eventful season I think, with some planned off-bike changes, some hopeful on-bike improvements, and Junior throwing a joker into the deck of cards.

And now that the Series has finished, I can hit the Play button of my life player.

Life continues. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life - Clunk

I dropped the kid.

Actually after he fell asleep he kind of slid off the Boppy (which sat my lap) onto the rug (good thing it wasn't tile). I was eating, clicking on the computer, he was in a slippery blanket, and I wasn't holding him with either hand.

Then I heard a clunk.

I looked down and the Boppy was empty.

Okay, not empty, since the kid doesn't sit in it, but there was no one on top of the Boppy.


Then I saw a lump on the floor at my feet, maybe the size of a Nerf football. I realized in a horrible, horrifying half second that it was my kid on the floor.

I picked him up, looking for blood or a dented head or something.

He looked at me, and after a second of "wtf???", he gathered his breath and let out a scream. He cried really loud for about 20-30 seconds. Then, almost just as quickly, he stopped.

He looked at me like "Holy eff man, you gotta watch my back!", and blinked, the eyes teary and accusing.

Then he did that whole "I'm the Terminator and I'm scanning your face with my invisible laser for identification purposes", i.e. stared at me without blinking for a long time.

He seemed fine. No weirdness, no unusual anything, just normal stuff that you get from a now over-protective dad (kisses on the cheek, forehead, top of the head, lots of cradling, an intent look into his eyes every now and then, and quick diaper changes).

I decided to hold him, no help, going forward, and always one arm around him (instead of just laying him down on the Boppy on my lap).

(Originally written April 12, 2012)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How To - Position Changes

I've posted about how your optimal position is fluid - it's not a static thing, it moves around a bit. I shuffle my saddle position around a bit, mainly trying to optimize for whatever batch of races is coming up. For my A races I have the saddle a bit higher, for ultimate speed, and for the others I'll sometimes go lower. In the off season I almost always lower my saddle, partially to allow for the extra thickness of tights, but also because my pedaling needs change from rapid changes of pace to a more steady drawn out kind of thing. Think doing a 7 corner crits in the summer versus a two hour climb in the off season.

So saddle position isn't always constant. This holds true even for experienced pros.

I suppose one could make the argument that the pros have different positions on their time trial bikes versus their regular ones. For example you never see a team mechanic sawing the nose off of a regular road bike, but there are a lot of "modified" saddles on time trial rigs. Time trials favor a more forward position for all sorts of reasons. It's the position I adapt for my road bike when I'm approaching an A race because I can't take advantage of the sustained power a lower saddle gives the rider.

Even if you ignore the time trial bikes, pros will still change their position.

Bernard Hinault, towards the end of his career (he announced he'd retire when he was 32 and he did), fitted a one cm longer stem (and I think he dropped it a centimeter too) and went out and soloed to victory shortly thereafter in that year's Tour of Lombardia.

I posted in a thread about pro race predictions and confidently stated that we wouldn't be seeing Boonen at the top of any results sheets this year. What I didn't know was that he was changing in his approach to the year.

Significantly, at least in my eyes, he made some relatively radical position changes.

In fact he made a number of changes to his set up going into 2012. His saddle position went up a centimeter, he went with two centimeter narrower bars, his brake levers appear noticeably lower than in prior seasons (not "jacked" like before), and he, well, he did well for himself.

In fact he won four major one day races, two in field sprints, one in a three up sprint, and one solo.

He's won in every scenario possible. Okay, except when there are longer climbs. The short, punchy climbs are fine, the longer ones, not so much.

As I read about Boonen's latest victory, over and over and over and over, I kept thinking that I need to bake a cake that says "My Words" on it and eat it, because of my failed prediction that we wouldn't see Boonen win anything. He's basically won everything so far, about the most opposite of my prediction.

(Someone suggested making cupcakes as I'll have to make so many of these cakes. Thanks for the help.)

I'd beg forgiveness in my wildly wrong predictions. Had I known he was tuning his position, I might have predicted differently.

Now the other prediction I had was that Levi would win the Tour.

We'll see how that goes. I just hope that he fiddled with his position for 2012 also.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Equipment - Garmin Pedal Power?

If what Look says is true, Garmin needs to redesign the pedal axle. Look had to do it too, but since they're using their own pedals, they could without rocking the boat too much. Just look at the pedals - they differ substantially from the outside (and the inside).

Note how thick the axle is towards the outside of the pedal
(Image from Look)

In comparison, the regular Keo Max's axle tapers and ends short of the outside of the pedal
(Image from Look)

Garmin is sourcing third party pedals so that makes the job of redesigning the pedal a bit more difficult.

Unfortunately for them it's not a simple thing. My understanding is that the pedal axle really can't be tapered because then it flexes too much, causing power readings all over the map. Either they need a much more rigid (or predictably flexible) material or they need to significantly beef up the axle.

It's one thing to ask a pedal manufacturer to print your name on the outside of the pedal, or use a different color plastic for the body. It's another to ask them to redesign their actual product so that it fits your needs.

If they want to stick with pedal based power (and the left/right measurements it offers), Garmin has a few choices that I see.

First, they can make their own pedal. This is pretty complex, with all the standards and cleats and all that. It also costs a lot, and, frankly, making pedals isn't Garmin's core business. Which, of course, is why the outsourced the pedal to begin with.

Second, they can partner up with a pedal manufacturer to create a new pedal specifically for the Garmin system. This obviously isn't working with the current pedal supplier. I imagine that it won't work with Speedplay, since they severed that relationship when they first bought the pedal power concept.

I do see the possibility of them teaming up with a different pedal vendor, maybe one that makes boutique type pedals, that is a direct competitor to Look/Polar, and is willing to work around Garmin's needs to market a version "1.1" of whatever pedal they currently sell.

As an industry outsider, Mavic pops to mind first. They just started making inroads into the pedal market, they are pushing hard on other gear, and they have a well established business that could support some of the R&D costs such a pedal would absorb.

Third, Garmin has literally hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, in revenue. I could see them simply buying someone who can make the pedals for them. They'd have whatever secondary business (think of someone that works with carbon, aluminum, and bearings, so maybe wheels or cranks or hubs or similar).

They'd have a built-in option to put the power elsewhere (like a better BB version or some other place no one's used yet), and they could have the company create a pedal specifically for the power system.

Again, as an industry outsider, I'm not sure who is on the market, who is willing to commit to pedal development. The company would be a smaller boutique type outfit, maybe a Chris King or an Enve.

One thing is for certain. If Garmin doesn't develop something, someone else will, perhaps someone from the list above.

Good for us riders. Bad for Garmin.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Life - Carpe Diem

(Originally started Monday March 19, 2012, at 2:30 AM)

I've had a hard time finding words after this weekend. I had all sorts of "to do" lists going into Sunday's race. I felt bad for not posting a race report from the Ris, nor any reports on what occupied me before the race. I felt I neglected things at home and I felt bad about that. I rode very little last week - one day for two hours, then another day when the Missus pushed me to get on the bike for a short bit (45 minutes) before I headed down to my dad's.

Of course I have this wonderful son, a tiny newborn, and I love him dearly. He lays, as I type (on March 19th, at 2:30 AM), on a Boppy pillow on my lap.

(A Boppy pillow is meant to help support a breast feeding baby, but I found it helps free up a second arm without breaking contact with the baby. This means I can type while he sleeps comfortably against me.)

All those "to dos" changed in the Cat 3-4 race on March 18th, 2012. Most of you, maybe all of you, know about the accident. For those of you that don't, a rider in the 3-4 race, Markus Bohler, fell, and, early the next morning, passed away.

I never wrote about it here but I put up a brief post on the Bethel Spring Series site.

Markus Bohler

My brother made it to the memorial, on March 25th. He knew that I'd want to have some memory of the day. I knew I wouldn't be able to do much, but he managed to document it.

I've only now, on Easter Saturday, been able to open the images and movies he captured that day, and even now I could only look at a part of that list of files.

One thing struck me though, and it's resonated strongly in the last few weeks. A friend wrote a fitting tribute to Markus. In it he talks about the idea of dying while doing something you love, and it being either the highest privilege or the cruellest irony.

I talked about this idea on the 25th, the idea of living life fully. When we selected the name of the team back in the day (I think it was late 1988, for 1989's season), we chose Carpe Diem Racing. "Carpe Diem" means "Seize the Day", or, in a sense, "seize the moment" or "seize the opportunity".

At the time, sitting in the family room at my dad's (there were four of us - Mike, Ty, John, and myself - talking about the name for team the next year), I thought it a very appropriate name for a cycling team. I always thought it meant more about doing well in a field sprint, to shoot through that gap, to attack when the thought occurred, nothing more than that.

I never realized those words could be so powerful.

They tell us we should live life to the fullest.

Markus's fall struck home because it was something that could happen to any of us. The crash happened here, not in some far off impersonal land. It happened amongst us. He was an experienced rider, competent. He wasn't a new rider that had no idea what was going on. It happened in a blink of an eye, on a straight, with no warning.

It could easily have been me. Or you. Any of us.

His death struck me hard. I, like many of you, have been thinking and rethinking my purpose here in life. I am married and have a child; many of you are one or the other too. I have my goals and aspirations, just like everyone out there.

I guess my simplest goal is that I want to have a stable family life and raise a good kid. That has all sorts of levels of meaning - we need some amount of income so we can pay for a place to live, food to eat, and other mundane, basic things.

After that?

Carpe Diem.

I want to live life to the fullest.

That doesn't mean I'm going to get drunk and go clubbing every night. I suppose that might have been a thought had I been 20 years old. I can see how some people just might do that regardless of their age, but for me living life to the fullest means something different. It means being able to accomplish the basic things that make me happy, that make me feel satisfied.

What are those things? I'll start with the mundane and work my way up.


I like a certain order in my life. I prefer stability to chaos. I guess I can handle chaos if I have to, but I'd much rather be prepared. For example, during the Halloween storm last fall, I felt fine once we had one of our generators online and a few lights on in the house. I was okay with the idea that we wouldn't have power for a while, and I knew that while in "survival mode" (that's what I call it), we'd do whatever it took to survive. I've had times like that before, like when I started out on a four week road trip around the country and my engine caught fire on Day One. Or when I got lost in Central Park at the height of the crack-fueled shooting era. Given a choice I prefer to need to get through those days, not live them.


I tend to be risk averse. I like backups of everything, two of each thing. I will take calculated risks, but I prefer security. It sounds crazy but I do criteriums because they seem less risky to me. I've watched some hellacious high speed crashes (at least one from a first person point of view), and there's nothing more helpless feeling than knowing you're about to hit the deck at 50 or 60 mph.

Unconventional Career

I don't mind trying out what others may deem unconventional career choices. For example I tried my hand at owning a bike shop before I ever got my first real job (and for the record, I'd recommend getting a real job first and then trying out any bike shop ideas you might have). I've had corporate jobs to, and I seemed to thrive in them. I don't feel limited either way, like I need to be in one or another. For me this is a huge advantage, since it means my ideal career could be virtually anything.

Know When to Say When

I know what I know, and I know what I don't know. I am not afraid to ask for help if I know I don't know something.

Help Others

There's a significant thing, one thing makes me feel like I can make a difference here in this world - I really, truly enjoy helping people. Today, April 7, a family rescued me from a horrible workday by asking me for help. A couple with two young children, they asked me various questions about all sorts of stuff and trusted me implicitly with my answers (including a couple "I don't know, let me ask"). They made a hard day seem pleasant. The help topic is less important; what's crucial is the whole "Someone trusts me to help them" bit, and feeling like my knowledge, my advice, can make a difference in someone else's life.

So where does that leave me?

Honestly, I really don't know.

A confidant virtually accused me of wasting my life, doing what I do now. I didn't take offense to that observation. In fact I expect said person to feel horrified when they read that prior line, and I want to assure them that they should in no way feel any horror at their acute and accurate observation.

I say that because when I think about it, yes, I've been coasting along. I've spent the last five years trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and I've gotten nowhere quickly.

I've been living the antithesis of Carpe Diem.

It's easy to do nothing so I fell into a groove. I did all my regular things. I raced bikes. Okay, fine, I made some refinements there, got my first custom frame, bought some new wheels, and joined a new team. I've been working. I started a job located three miles from the house, and, frankly, it's a job with pretty much no room for growth. I enjoy it because I can help people, it's low stress, but in a fiscal sense it won't go very far. I make about 3/8 what I used to, and although money isn't everything, it certainly helps lubricate life.

(I do enjoy helping people, and I get to do that a lot there, but that part doesn't help pay for day care or lessons or college tuition.)

After thinking about it, I recognized that at least recently my overall "life" picture hasn't changed much.

Then Markus fell.

And in the next day or two, after the horror had sunk in, I started thinking of what his death meant to me.

What came to mind was the idea of Carpe Diem, of seizing the moment. I wanted to live a bit more fully, accomplish more, move ahead. I wanted to stir the pot of soup, watch everything move around, make the soup more flavorful, more tasty.

What would I change to make my life more meaningful to me? What would I change so that I could make more of a difference, however small, in the world?

I realized that although I've made some strides in parts of my life in the last five year (for example, I'm married now, and we have a baby boy, two things I thought impossible for me as recently as ten years ago), I'd gotten virtually nothing significant done otherwise.

I realized that if I fell right now, I'd feel disappointment in myself before I hit the deck.

Therefore I've decided that I need to start making changes, start deciding on what I want to do. I have some long term goals, things I've kept offline, just like we kept Junior offline until he was born. One is a decade and a half long project, stalled numerous times. Some are a bit less specific, others are much more so.

I kind of know what I want to accomplish; now I need to figure out what I need to do so I can hit those accomplishment goals. I won't make rash decisions even though the decisions may seem extreme; the Missus and I have been talking about some relatively extreme lifestyle thoughts and directions.

There is some risk in some of our ideas. We have to weigh what's important to us and think about what we can sacrifice.

For me it all comes down to this.

Markus's death can either teach us a lesson, or it can be in vain.

I'm taking that lesson, and I'm trying to live up to its teachings.

Carpe Diem.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Life - Blogging

It's kind of weird, I haven't written a full post in so long that this post ended up more about blogging than anything else.

The past few weeks have been incredibly eventful, in so many ways. The Missus plucked three white hairs from my head recently. I thought to myself that three would be about right, one each for Life, Death, and Promoting.

Life because of our new SDC Junior. Death because of the accident that took Markus Bohler.

And Promoting, because although it may seem like Life and Death would be so significant, they both are inevitable. The issues I run into with promoting are those that I typically don't foresee and therefore don't expect.

I've started and left incomplete posts on all the above topics. Without time to think about them in any kind of focused manner, without time to complete even a single post, I haven't been productive in any kind of writing sense.

I usually want an hour or so to write a regular post, maybe two if it's lengthy or provocative. Then I let it simmer a bit, maybe a few hours, maybe half a day. When I revisit I inevitably find mistakes, both technical and structural. I move around sentences, paragraphs, and even split or combine posts for clarity. If I make any changes I need to let it simmer more, another few hours or half a day.

My posts still contain numerous errors, and, honestly, I'm not sure why. I think I catch them, I know what I meant to type, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.

I'm not saying that I haven't been writing or thinking about writing.

I have a lot that I want to write about, but it's been so busy that I just haven't been writing. In fact, it's been busy enough that I've forgotten things I wanted to write, many times over. Usually I have a couple themes I want to focus on for a particular post, but after almost a month of no posts, there are dozens of themes already lost.

I usually hold posts in reserve, jotting down notes on a topic that I'll publish at an appropriate time. They have to do with a number of topics, from equipment to tactics to racing to technique to doping.

I have, at present count, 168 drafts.

That's almost 6 months of posts, one every day.

I started only several of them in the last few weeks. It's been that crazy.

I haven't been very good at work either. I've spent an inordinate amount of time at work sitting at the computer, working on everything but work. Normally the Missus doesn't call me much at work, but with Junior around, we talk at least daily during working hours. I missed half a week of work due to Junior making a false start (I'll get into that later).

And even under normal circumstances I'll spend perhaps 2-4 hours a day responding to emails about the race, increasing a bit as the races get closer. By Saturday it may be six hours of email, give or take. This year has been especially bad.

I pointed out to one person that when I spend time writing them, I really, seriously cannot do anything else. I can't take care of Junior, I can't work, I can't even eat properly. It's 100% focus for me. And that particular email took me much of a work day plus a long evening to compose, simmer, edit, etc. For me it was a day and a half of blog or Bethel or whatever time, all gone. I even lost an evening with the Missus and Junior (other than feeding and changing Junior).

I know that it's bad when even the most understanding Missus starts getting a bit frustrated with the time Bethel absorbed (and that's in the first couple weeks of the race). I can't sneak in blogging time when Bethel, a more necessary thing, starts taking time from Junior, an even more serious thing.

After the first two Bethels things looked like they might calm down. The first Bethel had seen us in the hospital for two days while they tried to induce the Missus. I didn't necessarily publicize that, not here, and not on the phone. So when a Cat 5 started rattling off questions machine gun fashion on the phone, while I was driving to the hospital, I tried my best to answer them while driving in a state of controlled panic on the way to the hospital.

The second Bethel saw Junior arrive less than 23 hours before the start of the clinic. I was there at the race and things went reasonably well.

I thought things would calm down after that. I hoped that I could start backfilling some entries in the next week or two so that the archives, in a few months, would look semi-complete.

Then tragedy struck. We had the unimaginable happen with Markus Bohler's crash.

If I thought it was busy before, it got even busier after.

If work weren't so understanding, I probably would have had to quit or gotten fired. The week after the accident I spent virtually the whole workday on the computer or the phone, enough so that I argued with my boss that they really needed to dock me a week's pay.

They did.

Any chance I had of catching up on here went flying out the window.

Now, with no race coming up on Sunday, I've stolen a couple hours of time to try and gather my thoughts. I don't have a few hours of emails to answer right now, nor a few hours of Bethel work ahead of me for tomorrow. No hours of work on Saturday, and no 14 hour day on Sunday, at least not at the bike race.

I have thoughts and posts on all that stuff above, but I don't know when I'll have complete posts for public consumption.

For now, though, it's hard enough just keeping up with life.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Doping - Article From NYVelocity

I know I haven't written in a bit so this is kind of cheating. I found this article very informative and illuminating - a long interview with Michael Ashenden. It appeared in NYVelocity yesterday and it's long enough that I didn't even finish reading it yet.