Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Caveat emptor

After my post last week about the ratty-ass bike from Sports Authority, another blogger accused me of being a bike snob. It seems that every time I write something about crappy bikes, someone calls me an elitist and points out that such bikes might teach their owners learn to love riding. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

Coors Light teaches a lot of people to love drinking beer, and I don't know a single beer-loving bicyclist who wouldn't make fun of somebody for drinking that piss in a can.

I'm not really that much of a snob. I'm more of a critic of shitty consumer products. I don't expect everyone to ride $2,000 bicycles, but I think it's pretty stupid for consumers to be unaware that they'll get much more for their money by spending $400 in a bike shop instead of $125 at Wal-Mart.

Most people wouldn't buy a $10 clock radio from a no-name brand when they could get a Sony or Sanyo for $20, because they know they'll probably end up being late for work when the crappy product breaks. Why should a bicycle purchase get less thought or attention?

I'm glad there are cheap bikes available for people who can't afford anything better. And I admire people who pull bikes out of Dumpsters or buy them at yard sales for a few bucks and then fix them up enough to make them functional and use them every day to get to work or to run errands. Whether they do it out of passion or necessity doesn't matter—it's a cool and noble thing to do.

But to go out and buy a piece of junk because you don't know any better, or because you think a modern bicycle shouldn't cost more than what your parents paid for a bike 25 years ago? That's just dumb.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


This was the quintessential summer weekend.
It lasted three days, and the weather was spectacular.I rode a beautiful trail on Saturday, then
washed off the mud and sweat, and drank
a couple of cold beers by a campfire
before enjoying a cool, breezy night of sleep.Then I left the bike behind when my daughter
persuaded me to spend a few hours
doing that thing that's so popular
with people who don't have bikes. Let's see,
what do they call it again? Oh, yeah, hiking.

By the time we got home and unpacked our stuff,
and I mowed the neglected lawn, a friend
was sitting on our front porch telling me
to get in the shower and wash off the stink,
because we were taking the girls
to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.

I'll raise a margarita glass to that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gettin' what ya pay for

For the past few weeks, a new bike has been showing up at the rack in the building where I work. I'm glad to know there's another bike commuter in the place, but I feel a little bad for whoever owns this cheap thing, partially because of the stickers I noticed on it:There's this one just forward
of the bottom bracket shell,
and it's alarming enough.

Then there's this one affixed to the crank
on the, uh, left side of the bike.

Is it just me, or does this clearly translate to,
"This bike assembled by a minimum-wage
monkey we just hired away from McDonald's?"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sack 'em all

I’m boycotting pro cycling. Haven’t watched a single minute of this year’s Tour de France coverage, and haven’t missed it.

Unfortunately, I check the New York Times and other news sites several times a day, so I can’t avoid the endless scandals associated with all the whores who ride bikes for a living.

Astana packed up and left the Tour yesterday. Today it was Cofidis, which didn’t even bother to request a second doping test for Cristian Moreni. Fans are now booing the yellow jersey because Rasmussen has a developed a shady drug-testing record recently.

Here’s my solution for fixing the problems in pro cycling: Shut down the sport for a year. No races at all. Send everybody home. Then plug all the alleged holes in the doping controls so that the system’s integrity can’t be questioned every time some cheater gets caught. When the sport resumes, ban for life any racer who dopes. No suspensions, no breaks, no second chances. Just let ’em go back to laying bricks, welding pipes or working the farm.

Yeah, everyone would lose a shitload of money. Sponsors and TV contracts will evaporate. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s greed that’s screwing up every major professional sport in the world, so let’s just eliminate the motive.

Of course, none of this will ever happen, so I’ll just stick with the one solution that’s guaranteed to work, at least for me: I’m turning my back on the whole damned mess.

All the news reports say the future of cycling is threatened. Screw that. I don’t care if no one ever makes another dime racing a bicycle. In fact, I’d sort of prefer that they didn’t.

The future of cycling isn’t skinny, logo-covered assholes with needles in their arms. It’s people like you and me, pedaling through life beside friends with big, shit-eatin’ grins on their faces.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Podium girls

A Podium Girl was driving in Le Caravane when her cell phone rang. It was her boss, urgently warning her, "I just heard on Race Radio that there's a car going the wrong way in the Caravane. Be careful!"

"It's not just one car!" said zee Podium Girl. "There's fucking hundreds of them, and bicycles, too!"

I was going to title this post “In honor of the Tour de France,” but then the news broke about Alexander Vinokourov and I was reminded that words like “honor” and “pro cycling” have little to do with one another.

That’s why I’m not even bothering to follow this year’s Tour. The Landis debacle was the last straw for me. I had already given up watching all other pro sports, and now I’ve given up watching cycling.

Maybe the only good thing left in pro bike racing is the Podium Girls, those lithe young things in modest skirts who hand successful racers their flowers and stuffed animals, then plant a few kisses on their cheeks.

Sure, the sport is in a Dumpster in the back lot of a Belgian hotel, lying atop a pile of discarded EPO vials, but hey, we’ll always have Paris. And the Podium Girls.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Trail freebie

One of the cool things about cycling is that you never know what you might find on the trail or in the bike lane at the side of the road. I love scavenging useful stuff that others have lost.

Over the years, I've picked up tires levers, wrenches, bungee cords and cash. My all-time greatest find was a Leatherman tool that was perfectly functional after a quick cleaning in my kitchen sink. I still keep it in my 4Runner for emergencies.

This has been a slow summer for trail scavenging, but I finally scored last week while riding home from work. I was only a couple of miles from the house when I rolled past a DVD box that was laying in an otherwise clean bike lane, so I decided to turn around and check it out.

Cha-ching! A virtually new copy of Basic Instinct 2. Not a single scratch on the disc.

So it didn't get great reviews. So maybe a few people actually made fun of it. So maybe it wasn't lost so much as it was intentionally tossed out the window of a moving car.

It was free, dammit. And it's the uncut, unrated version, so how bad could it be?

Don't answer that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A first

I'm no mechanical genius, but I'm pretty sure the chainrings are on the right side of a bike.

So how did I manage to tattoo my left calf?

I don't want to talk about it.

The anonymous witnesses in their cars can have their laughs and take the details to their graves.

A bike and a dumbass. It's a painful combination.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Light up the night

On a four-day field mission, a U.S. soldier will often carry 20 to 40 pounds of batteries to power gear light night-vision goggles and GPS units.

So the Department of Defense is offering a $1 million prize to the company that can come up with a prototype battery that weighs less than nine pounds and can produce 20 watts of power for 96 hours.

According to CNN, "the military hopes these power packs may also have commercial use in camping, hiking and other outdoor activities."


I don't know about you, but I want to buy a new bike light in about six years.

Beat that, sucka!

I whacked Dangerous Dan
1,159.6 meters.
(And was excited
to an unhealthy degree.)

That's the most fun I've had
since I played the game
that let me whack
the falling penguin.

Thanks to Queen Bee
for sending the link.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Back on the bike

Last week was bad for biking. Between sketchy weather, recovering from the Fireweed 100, spending two nights at The Beartooth theater sipping beer and watching flicks (including The Flying Scotsman — great movie) and spending a very long day flying to a remote spot to shoot photos for a magazine story, I barely put in any miles.

That finally changed Sunday. Once the rainy weather moved through, we headed up high to ride the Powerline Pass trail, with a fun, muddy descent down Llama.

Damn, it was good stuff.
John climbs Powerline (just before
flipping me off for shooting his pic).

Maura rides above the upper lake.

The lower lake. This is the kind
of view that reminds me why
I live here.

That lake is so pretty,
it might look even better
than my sweet bike.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The little giant

A few days ago I was flattered to see a comment on this blog from framebuilder Dave Moulton. Since then I've exchanged e-mails with him, started reading his blog, and added it to my links list. His latest post on Jean Robic is a good example of why Dave's blog is worth visiting.

I'm headed out to the middle of nowhere for a day or two, so I'll leave you with Dave's post about a true hard guy of the old-school variety.

At a time when scandals have left me with no desire to watch this year's Tour de France, I found it refreshing to read about a little man with a big heart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You know a trail is great
when it gives you a ...
(The owner of this little gem
has requested anonymity.
But I'll give you a hint: She's
a woman who rides a blue Trance.)

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The Fireweed 100 is still a blur of memories passing through my mind.

The pain of riding alone most of the race after fooling myself into believing I could catch that small group ahead of me.

The pleasure of the brief spells when I found other back-of-the-pack riders to work with for a few miles, and the mixed feelings when I left them behind.

The cold rain, and hands numb from rough roads and wind chill. The words "chamber of Hell" repeatedly going through my mind during the climb to Eureka Summit in the fog of road spray from RVs and pickups passing 5 feet from my shoulder at 55 mph.

The guy who stood in the rain by a highway in the middle of nowhere playing bagpipes for every rider, no matter how isolated and alone they were as they suffered in No Man's Land.

The woman who stood in the rain at Mile 76 just to hold my bike while I gulped food and Cytomax, and dashed into the Rent-A-Can. All the real racers were already back at their cars changing into dry clothes, but she held that bike ready for me as if it was the most important thing she had to do all day.

Racers earn free water bottles and T-shirts.

Volunteers deserve medals.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Ride dawg, ride!

I was riding home from work the other day when I caught up with one of those macho young thugs who feel that their manhood is threatened if someone passes them while they’re riding a bicycle.

This guy was a textbook case: Dressed like an Eminem wannabe; no helmet; cheap, squeaky, ill-fitting bike with a rear wheel that wobbled like an epileptic trout; and horrified by the thought of looking gay if he allowed someone to pass him—especially some pansy-ass old man with a nerdy commuter bike and too much gray in his beard.

I didn’t mean to bother him. Seriously. I just couldn’t help catching up to him, because I don’t smoke three packs a day and I don’t ride a piece of shit that’s way past its Costco prime.

So he glanced over his shoulder and saw me gaining on him. His jeans-covered legs and oversized sneakers starting spinning like a cartoon character who has just run off a cliff and is trying to run back to it before gravity kicks in.

I couldn’t help myself. I held the gap steady for a few hundred yards before letting him get away a little bit. Then I closed it until he resumed acting like a meth-crazed ferret.

Then I did it all over again.

Four times.

Maybe I need professional help or something. It was too freakin’ fun to describe.

It was like teasing a really stupid cat with a piece of yarn.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Gentlemen, start your ... tire pumps

We’re down to four days before this year’s Fireweed. My friend Maura and I are signed up for the 100-mile race, and I’ve done all of two rides this year in the 60- to 65-mile range.

The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and an 85% chance of pain.

Maura asked me during Sunday night’s ride if I had a plan for the race. I said yeah, I’ve got a plan: a big breakfast, a fistful of ibuprofen, and a steady pace. The people who own heart monitors can have a race. I’ll be doing the Fireweed 100 tour.

So I guess I’m “tapering,” as the serious trainers call it. Taking it easy. Thinking about cleaning my bike, or at least the drive train. Trying to figure out if it’s best to go up to the start at Sheep Mountain Lodge and camp out Friday night, or haul my ass out of bed to drive up at 6 a.m. with friends.

Right now, a tent and a couple of Friday-night beers sound pretty good. Maybe I should find that four-person team I’ve been hearing about.

I have it on good authority that the 50-mile event will be run by a team on a four-wheeled quad bike—two riders in front, two in the back. And from what I hear, they’re trying to figure out how to mount a keg on that sucker.

If those dudes need any zip ties or duct tape, I’m willing to share if they are.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dirt Girl

My 13-year-old daughter decided last week that she was ready to try some trail rides. I planned the first one carefully to avoid a bad experience: short, not too technical, relatively flat.

Every time we arrived at an intersection and I'd point to the trail that led back to the car, she'd point in another direction and say, "Where does that go? Can we try it?"

She rode over rocks and roots, cleaned a bunch of singletrack, chuckled about her mistake when she overcooked a turn, and laughed out loud as she juked around trees on tight corners. As we climbed a hill on Viewpoint Trail, I asked over my shoulder if she wanted to go out front.

"Yeah," she said with a little laugh. "I'm right on your wheel."

Funny. Getting dropped on a hill never made me happy before.