Monday, August 25, 2008

Hot Shots: Part 1

I did it.
This past weekend I completed, albeit in my own special way, the randonée which I had been preparing for since the very beginning of the cruelest months of the year, summer. And if there is one lesson cycling continues to reinforce, it is to never underestimate my ability to greatly overestimate my abilities. And if this specific ride taught me anything, it's that I am incapable of reading maps while riding a bicycle, that "climbing hills" has variable meanings depending on your locale, but that I am capable of riding a bike while looking really, really good.

A week before the ride, I had a conversation with a fellow rider about the inherent vanity of cycling and indeed in all athletic endeavors. Like most conversations with living beings that aren't my dogs, I had no idea what exactly he meant, but I nodded on and even argued with conviction to reinforce my accordance. Later that night I decided that maybe it wasn't my equipment or lax training schedule slowing me down, but my lack of vanity. In order to better equip my exterior and assumably greatly enhance my performance, the very next morning I ventured out in search of the perfect kit. I trekked eight miles to the only cycling shop that would have anything worth purchasing apparel-wise: the little-known, homey hole-in-the-wall that is Cadence.

Why go such a distance for some flatlocked spandex? Well, athletic clothing manufacturers design women's gear with a quite narrow demographic in mind, and as far as I can tell that demographic happens to be 48-year-old kindergarten teachers. After being subjected to the masses of butterfly and/or flower-patterned pastel-pink or baby blue women's gear (typically complete with rampant overuse of italics), I simply cannot fathom anyone but a middle-aged schoolteacher with an entire room dedicated to her porcelain doll collection to be truly enticed.

So as to avoid dressing the way children's Tylenol is packaged, I opted to buy an entire cycling kit in the fastest-looking color ever: white. When I was the fat kid in gym class, I would walk briskly with my arms bent as they would be in a running position, sure that nobody would notice I wasn't actually running. While it may seem I have employed a similar strategy here in my pursuit of fast appearances, a critical difference is that this way I might still look good while going slow. And if there's another thing I learned about cycling, is that looking good while suffering is a success in itself.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I have approached this last week of training with solemn reverence and sacrifice. Along with grueling hours in the saddle, and to further prime my body for impending torture, I have eschewed caffeine, alcohol, MSG, and roller coasters for five consecutive days. I have endured multiple caffeine-withdrawl headaches and ensuing drops in midday patience. I still managed to trudge on through the week, undeterred by all of the customers who were discouraged by my lashings of indifference.

In an effort to maintain a strict nine hours per night sleep minimum, I've blown off all my friends' incessant requests for my presence at various social functions; or possibly I've only blown off the same friend twice, or maybe it was just once I ignored the dog barking and once I didn't answer a phone call from my brother. Anyhow, with burning determination I have rigorously eaten my vegetables, taken my vitamins, stayed out of the sun, and gotten plenty of sleep in lieu of likely raucous nineteen twenty-something style debauchery.

With a sound body, clear mind, and an admirable dedication to training,
I am finally ready to go on... a bike ride.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Build me up, buttercup

There comes a time in every cyclists life when the idea of purchasing a complete bicycle becomes a thoroughly repugnant option. Accepting the manufacturer's stock combination of geometry and componentry is an affront relegated to the credulous beginner. While athletes of any sort grow increasingly numb to physical pain, the seasoned, discerning cyclist becomes hypersensitive to mechanical equipment, geometric specifications, and manufacturer's logos.

While I remain serious and dedicated, I am still an amateur lacking any real athletic intrepidity; however this does not stop me from taking up arms in the unspoken component and brand wars with my cycling peers. While I could use equipment suitable to my needs and budget, every time I get thrown off the back during a ride, I would be left questioning whether my lack of athleticism is purely due to mechanical disadvantages. If there's one thing I hate more than physical exertion, it's thinking hard. So to alleviate these conundrums I have been amassing a collection of pieces that when bolted together properly will form the entirety of a bicycle. In the industry, this process is commonly known as "building up" a bike.

This will not be some plain ole "normal" bike, a "plain" bike, a "street" bike, or a "neighborhood" bike as the oblivious and often obnoxious customers in our shop searching for sub 200$ transportation tend to call them. It will in fact be a cross bike. Cross is short for cyclocross (CX), and while "cross" and "hybrid" are synonyms in botany, they are absolutely separate distinctions of bicycles. Hybrid is a type of bicycle named such as it contains aspects from road bikes and mountian bikes, which make it perfectly useless for both types of riding yet inexplicably desirable for indigent students, soccer moms, and baby-boomers. Cross bikes also contain aspects of road and mountain, yet in substantially different allocations. Cross bikes are kind of like when two average looking people mate and create an exceptionally good-looking offspring. They look like road bikes, but with nobby tires and cantilever brakes, suitable for riding fast over grassy and gravely terrain. They are often utilized as faster city commuter bikes, winter beater bikes, or even as mountain bikes for skilled riders. However they have drop bars and cost more than 500$, and this deems them terrifying to ride and a shocking extravagance to the layperson; so while logical and useful, the concept of the cross bike is lost on most people.

In my quest to build a respectable CX bike I have collected a series of higher and lower end components that when combined will offer the impression of serious industry knowledge, budget savvy, understated sophistication, and even modesty. I will also likely look really, really good on it. Secondarily, it will be a decent ride and hopefully I'll be able to go a little bit fast-ish and have the bike hold up and such. I'm presently breaking in my Brook's Swift (sophistication) titanium (extravagance), and I put my Chris King wheel set on my road bike (industry knowledge) while the rest of my group- Shimano Ultegra (budget savvy), along with Chris King headset and Thompson post and stem (industry knowledge), Ritchey handlebars (budget), etc. sits in a box in the basement, waiting for the frame I wish to purchase- the Surly crosscheck (modesty) to make themselves useful.

With this shining level of decent-ness, soon enough I'll only have myself to blame for my inexplicable dilatory performances- I can't wait!

Friday, August 1, 2008


With less than four weeks to go before the D2R2, it has come to my attention that perhaps a more regimented training schedule will assuage the impending misery I have carelessly agreed to: the 107 mile, 70% dirt road ride known as the D2R2. Equipped with the driving forces of terror and imminent suffering, I have decided to seriously amplify my training in anticipation. For the next four weeks camp cupboard will turn into a veritable cottage of wattage; with one rest day and twenty total hours of exertion a week.

What prompted this unparalleled jolt of heroic motivation was partly the obscene price tag of 60 red-blooded, green-backed U.S. dollars needed as the entry fee. And that price is without the t-shirt. While I thoroughly understand this is a fund-raiser for the Franklin Land trust, sixty dollars seems awful steep a price to pay somebody to inflict lots of pain upon myself; especially when over the years I've inflicted untold amounts of pain upon myself completely for free. When signing up, I had the option of opting for either of the two shorter rides, a 30 mile or 70 mile one, and my budget consciousness reared again compelling me to get the most ride for my money. Why buy 30 miles when I could get 107 for the same price?

Until post-August 24th, my life schedule will become even less conducive to social activities or personal well-being. My bedtime is reaching newer lower limits; whereas before I would wait until after sundown, lately I have found myself keeling over with the soothing sunbeams of diminishing dusk still perceptible through my eyelids. I've begun to wake before six AM without aid of an alarm, and I'm having trouble with showing up to grocery stores well before opening. My friends are distant memories, mere ghosts sending me messages in what seems like the middle of the night but may more likely be ten or eleven PM. The TV is never loud enough, it's always too hot or too cold out, and I can't remember when to take what pills when. It's like I'm living the life of an octogenarian but with chewing ability intact and fewer fiber supplements, so it ain't all bad.