Oh Honey, I Have Missed You

The page , the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time's scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of you gut; the page in the purity of possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life's strength: that the page will teach you to write.

There is another way of saying this. Aim for the chopping block. If you aim for the wood, you will have nothing. Aim past the wood, aim through the wood; aim for the chopping block.

- Annie Dillard

All of this is really just a cryptic way of saying that this blog will resume it's life in the coming months, so check back soon.

In the meantime, go ride your bike.


Cycling Books - "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe

On some days, even though it's absolutely gorgeous outside, a day off the bike is necessary. Blame it on the sore ass, the sore legs, the hands that hurt, or on the overwhelming desire to simply sit around on the aforementioned sore ass. Today is such a day for me.

If you're as bike-obsessed as I am (or just terribly one-dimensional, depending on how you look at it) you spend the time you're not riding reading about riding. Which is how I have come to spend some quality time with a little book called "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe.

It was written in 1978 and translated into English from Dutch. The ticklish use of language and addictive readability encourages procrastination faintly disguised as productive research. At least an hour went M.I.A this morning, gobbled up by this book. 

It has one of those "you had me at hello" first paragraphs:

"Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

That was enough. I had read all I needed to know the book would be leaving the store and coming home with me.

The story is an autobiographical account of a one-day amateur race in the '70's. Race food consists of figs stuffed into a jersey pockets ("I forgot my figs. Goddamn it, I forgot my figs."), riders wear suspenders ("Behind the car I put on my racing gear. Racing shorts, sweatshirt, suspenders, jersey."), and cogs are carefully selected after careful consideration - all six of them ("The rider from Cycles Goff picks out six cogs and fastens them to the hub. He nods to himself: the nod of someone closing his final book before an exam.").

Here are few more bits from the book that brought a smile to my face:  

"I stopped doing everything else, I trained harder and harder, my body began achieving things I'd no longer thought possible. I was touched by its loyalty. I had neglected it for so long , but there were no hard feelings, it seemed only pleased to have me call on it again."

"I'm up on the pedals, after five strokes I'm already at top speed, the oxygen shouts hurrah down to my finest blood vessels, there I go hammering past the pack, past the point rider, out into space."

"We are wet, cold, and dirty. Pick someone at random and put them on a bicycle here, front wheel pointing in the direction of Camprieu, and ten to one they'll dismount and go looking for shelter in the nearest farmhouse. Why are we riding on? If you ask an alpinist why he climbs a mountain he'll reply: 'Because it's there.'"

And the last line of the story:

"At the top of the Col de Perjuret I climb out to piss."


A Thought About Putting Words On Paper

I read this about writing style today and it struck a chord:

"Style is not something glib - oh, yeah, she has style. It means becoming more and more present, settling deeper and deeper into the layers of ourselves and then speaking, knowing what we write echoes all of us; all of who we are is backing our writing. That is very solid ground to stand on. Hemingway said if a writer knows something, even if he doesn't write it, it is present in his work."

-Natalie Golberg


Chasing Legends: New perspective of the Tour de France

The Tour de France is an event like no other, more akin to an epic saga than a mere bike race. As much as the televised coverage of the race has improved in the States over the past few years (remember the days before Versus when we’d be lucky to see a ten-minutes clip in ESPN2?) it’s still hard to get a feel for what it’s really like.

The new flick Chasing Legends by Gripped Films – the folks behind the Off Road To Athens movie – gives us a taste of what the Tour experience is like from an inside perspective. The sneak peak below will give you goosebumps; the movie itself will forever change the way you feel about the Tour. This is one that should be on every cyclist’s shelf.


An Interview With Laura Charameda

Laura Charameda is somewhat of a legend in her own time. With more than 250 wins in her career, she was one of the most successful American pros ever. Now she brings up the next generation of riders with Team Swift.

Below is an extended version of an interview I did with her that originally appeared in Bicycling magazine.

Why cycling?

I used a bicycle as transportation. Bicycles for children mean a lot of freedom. All of a sudden you can go wherever you want.
Then one day in my junior year of college I was riding to work and there all these bicycle people standing in the road. I stopped to ask, “What are you guys doing?” And they said, “We’re gonna race.” And I was like, “What’s the hurry?”
I didn’t even know it was a sport. And one of the guys said, “There’s another one in two weeks if you wanna check it out.” So I entered the race and it was the hardest thing I ever did and I loved it. I knew this was it. This was what I wanted to do. And of course there were also the cute guys…

With over 250 career victories, how did you get into coaching and how did you balance it with your racing?

I didn’t want to retire when I did. I had a team in America and a team in Italy and was racing for the United States at the World Championships and other major events. I was living a very unique experience for an American, let alone an American woman.

After the World’s in ’96 I went on vacation the off-season, picked up a grocery bag the wrong way and herniated a disc. Injury for an athlete is tough because they can train through pain, and you have to learn what’s good pain and what’s bad pain. Sometimes you have to learn that lesson the hard way. I ended up injuring something else by compensating and had two discectomies and a fusion to the area as well as a knee surgery all in one year. At the time of the fusion the doctor told me, “Laura if this doesn’t work then we have no more choices.”  You just have to step back at that point and say, “I’m going to let my body heal.” So I stopped racing. And it was a long haul. It took a long time and a lot of rehab. But I feel really lucky because now I can do everything I want. And I did come back again and was able to some racing. But I know at that high of a level what it takes, to train to compete at that level, and I wouldn’t ask that of my body again. I won’t take that chance.

Just before I was injured I had just moved up to Santa Rosa, CA because it was such a great bike riding place. I’d been there for a few races and thought it would be a great place to ride and train. So there I was, I was injured, I didn’t know anybody, and I met a group of people who were interested in helping the sport of cycling. They realized that grassroots cycling in America had just ground to a halt. Back when Greg Lemond was racing, you’d show up to a junior’s race and there’d be a hundred kids in it. And at that point in ’98 there would be like five kids in them. There was no infrastructure. And so they worked with a local bike shop and formed a junior’s team, and they asked me to be involved. And even though I was dealing with all my own stuff, the energy from these kids and the excitement they had about being on their bicycles brought me back to the races. And for the first time, it wasn’t about my performance. Those kids kind of brought me back to life. And it has made me want to keep working with development and with Team Swift. Their motivation motivates me. And I haven’t ever looked back.

So you’re grooming the next generation of pros.

One of the graduates of Team Swift, Steven Cozza, has joined Slipstream and got 10th in the prologue in the Tour of California against Levi and Cancellera. Another one of them is Nathan Miller, who is now on BMC. It’s amazing to turn on the TV and there they are! And we’re not just taking kids that already exist in the sport, we’re making them from scratch starting with their very first bicycle.

You said that you retired from racing in the late 90’s, but you did win your last National Championship title for your sprint in 2003.

I retired from professional racing, but I still like to get out there and play every once in a while. I just love riding my bicycle. To me it’s a way of life.

I got out there again and won the first NRC race in ’05. Then I promptly retired again. These days I only come out to race in the Merced Criterium. This year I got fourth. And then I retired again.

How many times have you actually retired? Do you keep a tally?

I just kind of get out there and once I’ve placed, then I’m like okay, now I can just relax and wait until next year.

What do you think is the most important thing that development programs like Team Swift contribute to the sport?

It’s not just about becoming a professional bike racer. It about learning how to ride a bicycle, bicycle safety, and what the sport is about so that they can enjoy watching it. It also gives people a better appreciation of our landscape and terrain and the outdoors. Ultimately it’s about creating more cyclists. These kids might grow up to be city planners that can make decisions to give us more bike lanes.

Small Talk

Last ride: I was at a regional race in California, the Madera Stage Race, and I volunteered to ride as a mentor in the Cat 4 women’s race. And it was great to be there because the women didn’t even have a lead car or a follow car so they didn’t even know where they were going.

Why: Women racers are so happy and grateful for the help that it makes me happy to help them and to see their excitement at that kind of event.

On staying young: I feel really fortunate to be doing something that I know a lot about and am also so passionate about. It feeds me, it keeps me young, keeps me reaching and setting goals.


Updates pending for Women's Cyclocross Racing - Thank you UCI!

It's about time...

"Several new initiatives to advance the status of women’s UCI racing are pending approval and are being strongly supported by Proctor. Along with the previously announced requirement that all C1 events include a women’s race, there is now a proposal pending to create a C2 category for women’s racing. Also on the table for the following season is a proposal to increase the women’s prize lists to reduce the disparity between the prizes for women and men’s races."

Read the full story at Cyclocross Magazine.


Riding Gear For The Winter, Part 3 – Freezing Fingers, Toes and Then Some

When out riding in cold temps, your hands, feet and head are the first parts of your body to get painfully cold. In fact, as much as 70% of body heat is escapes through your extremities. Investing in solid accessories to keep your digits and dome warm is something there’s just no way to get around. If you want to stay warm, that is.

Let’s start from the top…

About 40% of your body’s heat is lost through you head. An awesome way to keep your face, neck and head covered and warm is by wearing a balaclava, which is kind of like a high-tech ski mask.
A great one to check out is the Sonic Balaclava from a company called Outdoor Research. It’s windproof and breathable, and the mesh breathing port protects your nose and mouth. A lighter fabric covers the ears, so you can still hear what’s going on around you.

Gore Bike Wear makes some awesome stuff for winter riding. Their Radiator II gloves are some of the best out there. They combine windproof warmth with gel padding in the palms to protect against cold and road/trail vibration. The lobster cut my look a little funny, but once you’ve tried them you won’t want to go back to five-finger gloves when it’s bitterly cold.

Products that multi-task are always nice, and that’s definitely the case with the Shine Shoe Cover from Pearl Izumi. Constructed using 3mm Neoprene, a microfleece liner and a rubber outsole, they’ll keep your feet warm and last for several seasons. The removable LED lighting system that’s integrated  in to the back of the covers will make you more visible from behind, which is especially nice on winter days when the sun rises late and sets early.

And Then Some
If keeping the boys warm is ever a problem, try a pair of Craft Zerox Gunde Boxers. They have wind protection where it counts, and though I can’t speak from experience, I’ve heard that can often be a very good thing.


Riding Gear For The Winter, Part 2: The Get-up

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." 
- Sir Rannulph Fienne

Going out for a ride and coming home freezing and numb in unfortunate places is a very popular excuse not to ride outdoors during the winter. Thankfully, many apparel companies offer such fantastic solutions to keep you warm that that cop-out has become a moot point.

Here are some shining stars of cold weather cycling apparel.

These are available in a mean’s and a women’s version. They’re windproof and breathable, which is a key combination to look for.

If something is windproof without being breathable, it will feel like you’re wearing a garment made of plastic. Your perspiration will have no way of evaporating. As a result, you’ll get clammy and very cold.

These tights don’t have a chamois, so they can be used for other cold weather pursuits as well.

Motorcycle-inspired styling and well thought out details make this jacket a must-have. Windstopper X-fast fabric is windproof and stretchy, making the feel simply amazing. The fit is designed for a cycling position and keeps you well covered without riding up in the back.

Made of the same Windstopper X-Fast fabric as the Primavera Jacket, and is completely windproof and water-resistant. The zipper is stubble friendly, and the storm flap is extremely effective at blocking a common place that wind penetrates many garments.

Please do share: what is your favorite winter riding apparel item?


Riding Gear For The Winter, Part 1

In honor of the white stuff that has resumed falling out of the sky - yes, it's April and no, this is not a joke - I think  a review of some of our favorite reasons to be a pansy is in order. So without further ado, I present:

"The Reasons We Tell Ourselves It's Too Shitty To Ride Outside (And Some Stuff To Make It Suck Less) - A Post in Three Acts"

Act One

 “The roads are too slippery for me to ride during the snowy part of the year.”

A common excuse, er, reason some people don’t like riding in the winter is because tire traction on snowy and icy roads can be dicey at best. Just because there is snow and ice on the ground doesn’t mean you have to slip and slide along on your ride. What you need are some good snow tires for you bike (yes, they do actually exists).

The Nokian Gazza Extreme tire has long been the gold standard for studded tires. They keep you upright and will last for several seasons. 

On the other end of the spectrum is a down and dirty DIY option courtesy of that involves the often-underappreciated zip tie. If any of you try this, please let me know what you think!


Awesome Chamois Cream For Women

Using chamois cream can be a hurdle for new cyclists to get over – “You want to rub what wear??” However with very few exceptions chamois cream will make your chamois time much more comfortable. A good chamois cream will eliminate chafing and protect the skin from irritation that comes from friction between skin and saddle.

DZ Nuts High Viscosity Chamois Cream was developed for/by/with pro-cyclist David Zabriskie. Natural ingredients like Tea Tree Oil, Evodia, and Masterwort give it the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammetory and anti-chafing properties that you want.

The women’s formula, DZ Nuts Bliss, has all of the same benefits the men’s version offers but with less tingling. Can I just tell you how awesome this stuff is?? I don't just love it - I lurve it! The best chamois cream I have ever used, hands down. Pick up some of this stuff and eliminate "saddle sore" from your vocabulary.


What The Hell Should I Wear?

Dressing for cycling is a skill unto itself, and it’s one that is definitely worth mastering. Wearing the right clothing will make the difference between a ride that’s a comfortable, happy one, or a ride that can’t be over soon enough.

If you’re lucky, you have a more experienced cyclist in your riding life who will tell you things like, “Today I’d wear a short sleeved jersey and pack a vest and arm warmers just in case,” or “Instead of wearing knickers, wear shorts and knee warmers so you won’t get too hot in an hour.” Without such kind guidance, a lot of riders are left to figure it out on their own through the not always pleasant method of trail and error.

A little while ago, all of that changed. Now, that voice of experience telling us exactly what and how to layer which garments for our next ride is just a mouse click away. Bicycling Magazine recently launched the “What Should I Wear” feature of its website, and it’s absolutely brilliant. Not only can you enter the weather conditions you’ll be riding in, you can also select how warm – or not – you like to feel while you’re riding. Enter in your parameters and you’ll get a list of the complete ensemble recommended for your next ride. Getting dressed has never been so easy.

Check it out for yourself: What Should I Wear?


Where are we again?

Late January. Winter becomes torture now. The bleakness becomes overwhelming after too many days of subzero temperatures. Too much time spent being a captive of the cold. It’s during this portion of winter that it becomes nearly impossible to ignore the feeling that time is slipping away and life is passing by unclaimed while we collectively wait for the spring.

I’m told that “cabin fever” is the term used to describe this mixture of anxiety, impatience and desperation. It’s a term that doesn't do the condition justice, similar to the way “motion sickness” doesn’t seem to quite capture the sensation of your guts clawing their way up in an attempt to flee your body. “Winter blahs” doesn’t get across the powerfully seductive new appeal of kitchen knives and other sharp objects. A more truthful description of this season that swallows over a third of the calendar year would be this: winters in Wisconsin are like the third circle of hell.

Prison-cold temperatures and not riding a bike for long enough periods of time can do brutal things to a person’s psyche. It can make self doubts arise that have long been dormant, turn the body from a friend into something that, while not quite an enemy, is altogether foreign. Too much time off the bike makes the body unrecognizable and eats away at the spirit with subterranean terror.

As I said, it’s the third circle of hell. Just call me Little Miss Sunshine.


2011: Ready, Set, Go!

"Athletes shouldn't dream - they should set goals and fight for them."
- Fabian Cancellara

Happy New Year everyone. Go fucking kill it in 2011.


Underrated Gifts For Cyclists

Traditionally, gift guides for cyclists highlight all the latest and greatest snazzy gear that’s been introduced over the past season. This round-up of gift ideas is a bit different. It highlights the less glamorous, the underrated, and the overlooked.

While some of you may argue that giving a cyclist on your list one of these gifts would be the equivalent to presenting a woman with a vacuum cleaner on X-mas morning, I like to think of them more as proof positive that the giver really gets the whole bike obsession thing that so many of us suffer from – I mean, enjoy.

If the bike lover you’re buying for changes their own flats, they will think fondly of you every time they are stuck road or trailside with dead tube that needs changing.

A New Chain
One of the bike maintenance do-to’s that so often neglected is replacing the chain on a regular basis. Ask the friendly folks at your local bike shop what kind of chain you should get if you’re unsure (be sure to know the make and model of the giftees bike, and preferably how many gears it has).

Tune Up Gift Certificate
Winter is the time when a lot of bikes are relegated to the garage for a few months, so it’s the perfect time to get them tuned up. The gifted cyclist will be stoked when they pull their bike out in the spring and it’s all ready to go.

New Bar Tape
If the bar tape on the intended’s bike is looking a little ratty, spiriting it off to a bike shop to have the bars rewrapped will definitely bring a smile to their face for many miles to come.

Cycling Mag Subscription
Find out what their favorite cycling magazine is, and gift an annual subscription. Just about every cyclist loves drooling at beautiful pictures of great places to ride and new bike stuff. Plus, you’ll start getting hints for what to go shopping for next year.

P.S. What the best bike gift you’ve every received?