Monday, December 31, 2012

Promoting - Velo Article of the Year 2012

James Jung and Velonews did a piece on Markus Bohler for the December 2012 Velo issue (the printed one). Today I saw that it was voted "Editor's Best" for 2012. Thanks to James and Velonews for putting in the work to create the piece. It does a great job of honoring Markus, showing how the community pulled together. It also illustrates very poignantly the transient nature of life.

It's a somber end to the season but I look forward to 2013 with optimism and hope.

Link to the article here.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review - Park CN-10 Cable Cutters

Cable cutters.

They're one of the least sexy necessary tools around. It's not like a torque wrench, or, better yet, an impact wrench. It resembles a common tool (wire cutters) and functionally seems to do exactly what a wire cutter does. It doesn't work on bike-only things like a bottom bracket tool or a cassette lockring tool. So what's the big deal with cable cutters?

Well, in the world of bike tools, cable cutters are like a super domestique.

You have "star" tools like the Campy tool kit (which would be like rolling up Eddy Merckx, Sir Chris Hoy, and Pete Penseyres into one rider).

Some of the other tools are one shot wonders, like a bottom bracket reaming tool. Super good at what it does but pricey (typically $100+ per cutting edge) and it can't do anything else. Headset presses fit in this category.

You also have some "low end" tools, like the common allen wrench.

At the end of any of my bike builds, after all the star tools have done their work, I still have one thing left - cut and cap the cables.

I read some poorly-researched article a long time ago that stated that one can cut bike cables with a file. You should have seen the cable after my attempt at following the directions in that article. Luckily I tried to "cut" the cable on a piece of scrap wood, else I'd have ruined some furniture too.

For a while I would bring my bike to the shop, usually by riding it, with the extra long cables all coiled up just past the anchor bolt. Then I'd ask one of the guys to cut the cables. I could barely afford $2.95 toe clips so a $12.95 cable cutter (for the "cheap" Suntour cutter) seemed extravagant.

Finally I bought my own set of cutters, a Shimano TL-CT10. It's a lifetime tool unless you cut spokes with it (inevitably we'd ruin cable cutters at the shop when a new guy took the "cut out the hub using cable cutters" shortcut). I've had mine since the early 90s, using it more once the shop closed in late 1997.

Because I remember riding my bike to the shop to get the cables trimmed I got into the bad habit of bringing the cable cutters to friends' houses or to races, to give them a hand cutting and capping their cables.

In the last few months I finally lost track of where I put my beloved cable cutters. After fruitlessly searching for them I caved and decided to order another set.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the Shimano cutters - I usually stick with what I know works, and I know the Shimano cutters work. I chose, purely on a whim, the Park tool - it just looked tough. I knew that if I ordered the tool I'd find the Shimano cutters, but that was fine - one would be the one in the gear bag, the other would stay on the workbench.

Well if a cable cutter is a domestique then the Park CN-10s are the Jens Voight of cable cutters. These things are beefy!

Out of the box - these cutters are big and heavy.

Park CN-10 tool. It says so right there.

Crimping bumps on the inside of the handle.

The business end of things. Cable cutters have very short jaws, for leverage.

So I waited for the cutters to arrive mainly because I figured that I'd find my Shimano cutters at some point of no return. I submitted the order. No Shimano cutters. I got ship notices. No Shimano cutters. The Park arrived. No Shimano cutters. I took pictures of the Park cutter. No Shimano cutters.

I gave up on the Shimano cutters.

I put the Park cutters at the top of the stairs to the basement, where my now-red Tsunami sits, surrounded by a build kit. Part of that build kit is still on the Giant TCR, including a pesky front derailleur cable that I need to pull out (I want the Nokon housing holding it). The problem is I need to cut off the well-crimped end of that cable so I can pull it out of the frame.

Right, you got it. This is why I needed the cutters.

In the meantime I got sick, like really sick. Junior got sick too, yakking regularly, liquid coming out the other end. Exhausted, hungry, he wasn't a happy camper, and his pops (me) had his hands full just taking care of him. We then did a family visit (7 nephews, 1 niece, 4 uncles, 4 aunts, one grandfather) while Junior was running a 102 degree fever (I wasn't too great either) so no bike stuff for a few days.

We got back in the middle of the first of two pretty good sized snow storms. The second one, going on as I type now, has put about a foot of snow on the ground. I went out to detail the driveway - the plow service (we live in a condo type area even though we have our own one-family house) does the major stuff but I like to "reclaim" the edges of the driveway. If I don't then the driveway shrinks by a few inches each storm and ends up a narrow path barely wide enough for the cars.

I finished detailing the driveway, as much as I could while it was still snowing, and headed back in. I stomped my boots to clear the snow, kicking the bottom step to knock snow off the soles of the boots.

On the steps sat the Shimano cutters.

Well now. I grabbed the cutters and brought them inside. Because of my initial take on the Parks (so beefy) I figured I should take the opportunity to take pictures of the cutters side by side.

Holy beefiness Batman!

Another shot to give some idea of the Park tool's heft.

Side by side shot too.

The important question: "Does it cut?" Yes, it cuts.

The Shimano tool feels noticeably lighter than the Park. I know it still works very well - it's set up a few bikes in the last few years. Due to the shorter handle length it's much easier to get the handle open far enough to get the jaws around a cable (and therefore a cable housing). To open the Park handle as far I had to really move my hand near the pivot. The Shimano cutters allow me to hold the cutters normally and still open the jaws wide enough to clear a thick mountain bike cable housing.

Is the Park beefiness necessary? No, it's not. Will it last longer? No, it won't last longer than a lifetime. I haven't cut hundreds or thousands of cables with it so I don't know how it'll go but I figure it should last a normal rider's lifetime. A bike shop? Maybe 5 or 10 years, until a new staff member cuts a spoke or two with it. I didn't track it precisely but it seems that a normally used cable cutter lasted the shop about 7 or 8 years, at least that's what I recall.

What I do know is that the Shimanos are much, much easier to carry. They'll go in my gear bag.

The Park tool seems more of a home workbench tool, and I hung mine on my workbench board.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Racing - The 12 Days of CRITmas

A gem from Kurt R Bickel, a national level cyclist who happens to have wicked poetic skills as well. Originally posted in BikeForums, reposted with permission. Sing to the popular song... well you'll figure it out.

A Holiday song for bike racers everywhere:

Merry CRITmas everyone!

On the first day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

A frame that was broken in half

On the second day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the third day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the forth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the fifth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Five stale drink mix primes 
Four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the sixth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes , four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the seventh day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys , three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the eighth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the ninth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half

On the tenth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

On the eleventh day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Eleven hundred in entries, ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

On the Twelfth day of Critmas my racing gave to me:

Twelve years of alimony, eleven hundred in entries, ten bucks in winnings, nine misplaced socks, eight worn out tires, seven blown out tubes, six declined upgrades, five stale drink mix primes, four torn up jerseys, , three bent wheels, two shattered forks and a frame that was broken in half.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Promoting - 2013 Bethel Spring Series Permits/Numbers

It's now getting to the nitty gritty for the 2013 Bethel Spring Series. When I think of the races I start thinking of all the deadlines, backwards. Meaning I think about by when I have to get things done.

The biggest things are race numbers and permits. Both require a minimum of 6 weeks lead time, with relatively heavy monetary penalties for violating them. I want to have the first race be on March 3 so that means mid January for permits and race numbers.

To get permits and race numbers I need more things. Permits (plural - one permit for each week of racing) implies permission from the town to hold the race. Due to some crossed communications, the town of Bethel won't be making a decision on their side until January 2, 2013. That puts me at only about two weeks before my 6 week deadline for permits.

Now, understand, I can start my permits with USAC without completing them, and I may do that shortly. By starting all the permits at the same time I can usually get consecutive permit numbers, like 2012-538 to 2012-543 for last year's Bethel Spring Series. If you look closely though I screwed up - I permitted the second week first, and ended up adding the first week last.

To start the permits (yes, still working backward) I have to renew the club's membership. Carpe Diem Racing is a club that promotes races. There are old members of CDR scattered around the country and I want them to be able to put down "Carpe Diem Racing" as a club if they want to. In fact, I don't mind if anyone that wants to lend moral support puts down Carpe Diem Racing as their club. Remember, though, if you put down Carpe Diem Racing you should either race in a non-kit or be a Cat 3-5. I think it's against the rules to race wearing one team's kit while writing down you race for another team, and I have no Carpe Diem Racing kits.

Or Sprinter Della Casa kits for that matter.

So, renew the club membership. In order to do that I have to be current with all paperwork and fees for 2012. If not then USAC will not allow a club to renew its membership. Believe it or not I have yet to submit the rider list from the Markus Bohler Memorial Ride. I'll be doing that shortly, then I can proceed with the various steps I laid out above.

That's the permit stuff.

Then there's the race numbers.

I use Rainbow Racing and buy the custom imprint cycling hip numbers. These are by far the best numbers I've ever used, and I've been ordering from them for maybe 15 years. The numbers are large, absolutely water- and smudge-proof, and they allow me to put words at the top and bottom of the number. My default line at the bottom is the year and Bethel Spring Series, so like "2013 Bethel Spring Series".

The top line is trickier. I usually put the sponsor up there or Carpe Diem. For many years it was not a heavy duty thing, meaning I didn't ask much for the top line. A couple years ago though, when the race was floundering fiscally, three potential sponsors popped up.

Now that top line is quite valuable. However this means renewing said sponsorship each year, and that is something I have yet to do.

Of course, if I don't have town permission yet, I can't get a permit, and if I don't have a permit, I don't have a race. This would make sponsor talks a bit premature, kind of like planning out in exquisite detail what you're going to do with lottery winnings before you ever win the lottery.

On the other hand I'm lucky in that we've had an enthusiastic supporter in the last couple years. I hope that they'll sign up for the 2013 Series.

Remember the 6 weeks though. I have to have everything squared away by mid January.

Once they get done then I can focus on other things like portapotties (from Chatfield Rental). We started using them a long time ago when one of the racers at the Series mentioned that he worked at a place that rented out portapotties. As he was (and is) a bike racer I decided to patronize their business. They've been excellent and we've used them for something like 10 or 15 years now.

But for now I have to focus on the two things preoccupying me - permits and numbers, and the things associated with them.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Racing - Boycott?

A few weeks ago I started thinking about permitting the Bethel Spring Series for 2013. This is later than normal - I've been a bit preoccupied with Junior and, honestly, I let time slide by before I put in my official request for permission to hold the race. At that point I'm waiting for the town to sign off on the races and then I'll start the rest of the process. I feel it's too presumptuous to go ahead and start working on stuff before hearing from the town.

Plus, in my eye, it's bad karma to start work on something before I know I'm allowed to do it.

All this stuff made me think of Greg Lemond's open letter to the UCI. He says many things but one thing in particular affects me - boycotting USA Cycling. He asks everyone to boycott USAC and not get a license for 2013.

This isn't like me skipping a year when licenses were good for 13 months, and where I could race for a year without actually paying for a license.

This is like not racing USAC for a year.

I've always believed in the system, forcing change through involvement rather than open rebellion. I don't know why but that's the way I am. I told other promoters that asked me about this that they should permit their races through USAC. If they really felt strongly about how USAC should be run they should run for the board of directors of NEBRA (or whatever local association serves their region) and, eventually, apply for a position in Colorado.

Other promoters have tried to hold races without USAC backing. Curiously enough they use USAC officials, USAC forms, and USAC rules. I attended one race that had always been USAC but, to my surprise, in 2012 the promoter went the non-USAC route.

It seemed a bit wrong - asking for my USAC license (why? what good is that in a non-USAC event?), using the same (USAC) officials as the other weeks, running by the same (USAC) rules...

For a moment I wanted to say that I wanted to do the Cat 3 race and I didn't have a USAC license with me. What would prevent me from racing without showing my license? What would prevent me from entering the Cat 4 race. Or a Pro/1 race for that matter?

I decided not to make waves and raced my race, somewhat unsuccessfully.

Apparently I wasn't as firmly entrenched in my support of USAC as I thought because I did that race. Generally speaking I wouldn't have attended an event that wasn't USAC permitted, but in that case I didn't realize they went non-USAC, it's a long time race (I think I did it in 1983 for the first time), and, although not necessarily the same one from '83, I wanted to support the promoter.

In fact I raced twice that day, paying the day-of fee for the first race. When someone at registration pointed out that I could have saved myself the day-of fee by registering online I pointed out in return that I would give more money to the promoter by registering on the day of the race.

Therefore that's what I generally do.

So anyway, that's sort of my thoughts on USAC vs non-USAC in a nutshell. I prefer USAC races, I generally don't do non-USAC ones, but I want to support the good people behind the races first and foremost.

This brings the topic back on track, to the Lemond's boycott letter. A while back I read the NYVelocity's posting of Lemond's letter, looking for other racers' and promoters' thoughts. Unfortunately I mainly found people sniping at each other. I didn't see many comments of substance.

In my family I was brought up to value the system more than the individual. I suppose it's my culture, infamous for cohesiveness and solidarity (the only looting that anyone could find after the tsunami in Japan was done by foreigners) but also known for its rigidity and inflexibility (failure means shame and shame means life is no longer worth living).

Although not as extreme as the second thought above, I still have this loyalty to USAC. To me USAC is not a faceless organization. It's not an evil board suffocating any hint of bad news. I don't know the board, I don't know what they do, I've never spoken with them.

However I do know some of the staff. I've spoken to at least three different people in Colorado, one regularly, and I speak with our more local Massachusetts-based NEBRA rep regularly but infrequently. In our conversations I've learned more about some of them than I know about some of my teammates.

There's also an infrastructure local here in Connecticut. There are officials that I work with regularly, folks I consider friends. They're about as anti-doping as anyone out there. Boycotting USAC would mean boycotting them.

I consider all those USAC staff and the local officials friends of mine. I don't want to do anything that would hurt them.

Mind you, I'm still trying to keep an eye on the prize here, the anti-doping efforts, the attempt to cleanse our sport. Unfortunately the staff members I know are sort of like the civilians in the doping war, innocent bystanders in the battle for clean sport. They're not in the news defending dopers or deflecting inquiries. They help promoters like me get their races to start on time, insured, with a reasonable infrastructure behind the promoter so that things work.

Casualties in the staffing folks would be, at best, difficult to justify.

Lemond's letter addresses racers, and I'm one of them. Unlike many racers I'm also involved in USAC as a promoter. If I stay with USAC and take out permits, and Lemond manages to convince 50k racers not to take out USAC licenses, I stand a big chance of having racers boycott my race simply because I took out USAC permits.

I, too, would become a "civilian" casualty, as would any promoter that looks to USAC for protection from litigation, for guidance on promoting a race, for a system that, at least for race promotion, seems to work well.

To me that doesn't seem fair.

On the other hand I'm a bit tired of the doping bombshells, the suspicious performances, the unfounded rumor talk.

I guess, in some way, I support USAC but I don't support the UCI. Is that possible? I believe in USADA absolutely (I was a chaperone a couple times) and that tempers any negative thoughts about USAC.

I have to admit that unlike other organizations USADA seems to do its antidoping work pretty well. We don't hear of positives before the rider learns about it. All the announcements have to do with races from months ago, not from two or three days ago.

If USADA keeps doing their thing then USAC will fall into their place. I don't see a problem there.

With that in mind I've decided to do is to go ahead with the USAC permitting, once I get word that the race is a go. I'll renew my USAC license.

In all fairness I'm going to post Lemond's full open letter. I've lifted it from NYVelocity, from here, in full.

Open Letter to Pat McQuaid from Greg LeMond

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 2:31am by Andy Shen
Greg LeMond posted this to his Facebook timeline this evening. Please pass it around. If you have a blog or a site take the copy and post it.
Can anyone help me out? I know this sounds kind of lame but I am not well versed in social marketing. I would like to send a message to everyone that really loves cycling. I do not use twitter and do not have an organized way of getting some of my own "rage" out. I want to tell the world of cycling to please join me in telling Pat McQuaid to f##k off and resign. I have never seen such an abuse of power in cycling's history- resign Pat if you love cycling. Resign even if you hate the sport.
Pat McQuaid, you know damn well what has been going on in cycling, and if you want to deny it, then even more reasons why those who love cycling need to demand that you resign.
I have a file with what I believe is well documented proof that will exonerate Paul.
Pat in my opinion you and Hein are the corrupt part of the sport. I do not want to include everyone at the UCI because I believe that there are many, maybe most that work at the UCI that are dedicated to cycling, they do it out of the love of the sport, but you and your buddy Hein have destroyed the sport.
Pat, I thought you loved cycling? At one time you did and if you did love cycling please dig deep inside and remember that part of your life- allow cycling to grow and flourish- please! It is time to walk away. Walk away if you love cycling.
As a reminder I just want to point out that recently you accused me of being the cause of USADA's investigation against Lance Armstrong. Why would you be inclined to go straight to me as the "cause"? Why shoot the messenger every time?
Every time you do this I get more and more entrenched. I was in your country over the last two weeks and I asked someone that knows you if you were someone that could be rehabilitated. His answer was very quick and it was not good for you. No was the answer, no, no , no!
The problem for sport is not drugs but corruption. You are the epitome of the word corruption.
You can read all about Webster's definition of corruption. If you want I can re-post my attorney's response to your letter where you threaten to sue me for calling the UCI corrupt. FYI I want to officially reiterate to you and Hein that in my opinion the two of your represent the essence of corruption.
I would encourage anyone that loves cycling to donate and support Paul in his fight against the Pat and Hein and the UCI. Skip lunch and donate the amount that you would have spent towards that Sunday buffet towards changing the sport of cycling.
I donated money for Paul's defense, and I am willing to donate a lot more, but I would like to use it to lobby for dramatic change in cycling. The sport does not need Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen- if this sport is going to change it is now. Not next year, not down the road, now! Now or never!
People that really care about cycling have the power to change cycling- change it now by voicing your thought and donating money towards Paul Kimmage's defense, (Paul, I want to encourage you to not spend the money that has been donated to your defense fund on defending yourself in Switzerland. In my case, a USA citizen, I could care less if I lost the UCI's bogus lawsuit. Use the money to lobby for real change).
If people really want to clean the sport of cycling up all you have to do is put your money where your mouth is.
Don't buy a USA Cycling license. Give up racing for a year, just long enough to put the UCI and USA cycling out of business. We can then start from scratch and let the real lovers in cycling direct where and how the sport of cycling will go.
Please make a difference.
Comments appreciated.