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Daily Archives: January 7, 2015

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Cycling: The Definition of Cool

A lot can be made of “cool” in cycling. Truth be told, it’s one of my favorite “candy” topics to contemplate after the real work is done for the day and I want to let my mind roam.

Who is cooler, Wiggins, Valverde or Sagan?  Froome, Cancellara or Cav?

Personally, I’d go with Sagan, and for reasons I’ll cover later.

How about bikes? How about, for the ludicrously high-end bikes, the Colnago/Ferrari, the BMC/Lamborghini or the Specialized/McLaren Venge? For me it’s a toss-up… I’d prefer to keep it simple; come up with a spare $100,000 and buy all three (matching shoes and helmets too – it’s the accessories that kill ya, isn’t it?).

How about the top of the line steeds? Look, Willier, Trek, Specialized, Colnago, Cervelo, Giant or BMC? Or frame material; aluminum, carbon fiber, steel or titanium?

The jerseys, bibs or shorts, gloves, helmets, shoes, socks and shades? It’s enough to drive an avid enthusiast nuts!

I love to look back on my noob days as a cyclist – as large as my inferiority complex was in the past, it’s surprising I stuck with it. Had I been ten years younger when I started, I may not have. Fortunately, proper recovery from alcoholism fixes a lot of wrong in a person, including inferiority complexes.

So, what’s cool and what isn’t? It will vary depending on where you live and who you ride with, greatly.  If you’re a noob getting into the sport or abstaining because of the supposed “rules”, please give me a chance to set your mind at ease.  It’s not all that bad in most places until you get up into the racing ranks.

The first, most important thing to know about cool is, without exception, it’s all about cycling competently over any fashion rule.  It doesn’t matter if you’re on a 30 year-old steel 10-speed with down tube shifters, a saddle bag, wearing $30 spandex shorts and a jersey you picked up for $20 during Nashbar’s sale of the week – if you can dish out the hurt and ride well with others, you will earn their respect.

Next up is attitude…  Putting this in writing shouldn’t even be required but whining or being a jackass won’t win you any friends in the group.  Now, for noobs this is important (I made this very mistake in judgment):  If you’re new to a group (especially a faster one) and a few members seem a bit on the aloof side, don’t rush to judgment.  Some will want to see if you can hang before they welcome you fully to the group.  Wherever you end up falling on this, it’s pretty simple:  Having a bad attitude is not cool.

As far as the equipment goes, sure nice bikes are cool, that’s a no-brainer but riding what you can afford, well is just as cool.  Also, one’s bike should be well maintained – the chain shouldn’t skip, dirty cassettes or chain are not a great idea…  The easiest way to remember it is like this:  The bike says a lot about the cyclist.

Beyond that, most of the rules that apply to everything from the color of your shorts, saddle and bar tape to the length of your socks, go a long way to helping one look sharp and are there as a guide more than hard and fast rules that must be strictly adhered to.  For instance, if you took the rule that says “no saddlebags” under any circumstances…  I had a saddlebag for two years – in fact, there are only three guys out of 30 I ride with who don’t use a saddlebag!  Now, once I put that saddlebag on my Venge and discovered that it made the bike look like a Ballchinian, well it had to go and I had to figure out a better way to stow my spare tube, tire levers, CO2 and multi-tool but that was my choice.

So, going back to Sagan and why I think he’s one of the coolest guys in the pros…  For whatever reason, he just looks like one of those guys who has fun and doesn’t put a whole lot of stock into the “thou shalt wear socks that travel beyond the ankle bone 2-7/8”, a lot like Jens I suppose.  In other words, I suppose, there’s cool to look at and cool to ride with.  Due to the fact that I’m not a teenage girl, the latter is my kind of cool.

In the end, cool is always about who you are and how you work for the betterment of the group.  Of course, looking awesome in the process never hurts, but that’s another post.  If you’re looking only for what you’re going to get out of cycling, you may be happier sticking to the solo rides.

Happy cycling.

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Cycling and Training Through the Winter Months: Why Bother?

Why ride on the trainer in the winter?  Why bother?

Simple.

1.  Sedentary + Butt = Fat.  That little addition problem sucks but it’s simple as 1+1.

2.  It’s easier to keep the train rolling than it is to get it started.

That second little point is what’s most important.  See, if you have a tough time averaging more than 15 or 16 mph on a bike, you know how tough it is to sustain 20 for any length of time.  Well contrary to popular belief, it isn’t much easier once you can hold that 20 mph average to keep it there.  The tough part about riding fast is being willing enough to put yourself through the rigors of riding fast  (or running for that matter).  It hurts, no matter how good you are, no matter how much you train…  To get faster hurts – and to make it tough, it’s all about maintaining the willingness to go back to the well, over and over again.  So, if I can expect that we’re going to be averaging around 21-22 mph on our Tuesday night ride come April, if I choose to take the winter off, I can expect that I’ll only have four weeks (at most) to get back to where I can keep up.  That involves a whole lot of hurting, aching and puking from the effort jammed into four weeks.  On the other hand, if I do what I can to keep my fitness and speed through the winter, it doesn’t take as long to get the train rolling again come spring time – last year was about two weeks.  This is why I ride the trainer through the winter…  Sure it sucks, but not as much as getting my form back come springtime.

It’s easier to keep the train rolling than it is to get it started.

Now, there’s another aspect of the train metaphor that calls for a few words:  I’ve found it easier to keep going back to the mental well the more often I dip into it.  I have my limits of course, as everyone does, but speed is a mental game.  It’s shutting up the part of my brain that says, “just take it easy’.

If you get the idea that all of this kind of sucks, every once in a while you’d be right.  Sometimes it does suck.  There’s an added benefit though, one that I enjoy thoroughly on a daily basis.  Say you’ve just kicked out an ass buster of a workout, on the road or on a trainer, it doesn’t matter.  You dug down deep, even burped up a little puke once or twice…  Come 8 in the evening and the notion hits you to have some desert.  It’s that initial, fleeting thought.  After a series of hard workouts I won’t even entertain that thought.  I’ll throw it in the garbage heap where it belongs.  The workout changes the tape I play in my head.  I don’t even have to work at it!

The Melon Committee:
“Hey, a piece of cheesecake would be awesome right now”!

Me:
“The hell it would, I work too hard to waste it on a piece of cheesecake“.

The effort not only helps me to get fit and trim, it helps me stay that way.

As is usual, check with your doctor to make sure you’re capable of sexual… err, oops, that’s for ED meds…  Capable of exercising without blowing your ticker up.