Archive for September, 2008
Shouts from the road
Who doesn’t like a good shout out? It’s a positive thing; “a shout out to my homeboy Lance Armstrong gonna do the Grand Boucle again!”. It’s a compliment, a way to express your good feeling toward a friend. I’m here to say that these vocal missives can fall into the wrong hands; they can emanate from douchebags. Specifically, those ridiculously clever individuals who shout stuff to me as they whiz by in their cars/trucks/SUVs.
A few things are obvious. One, they haven’t ridden a bike themselves since they got their license. Otherwise, they’d realize that there is no way I could ever understand what they say with the wind going past my ears. The wiser ones among them just scream or shriek.
Second, they shout whatever it is when they are passing me at speed, with no chance of me catching them. I’ve come close a few times at (somewhat) busy intersections, but never a catch. Often they’re going in the opposite direction. I don’t think I need to state the obvious cowardly nature here (but I just did). This is probably for the best because with the adrenaline rush caused by being startled in such a douchbaggy way would likely result in assault charges and a broken frame pump.
Also, it’s a crime of opportunity. I doubt they leave their trailer thinking, “I’m going to create a loud noise as I pass some random cyclist. I need to run out for some smokes and a quart bottle of Bud.” They see me and react instinctively. And yes, it is a crime. Details in “Expected Outcomes”.
Generally the manifestations of their behavior is often a shout (as mentioned above). Just as common is blowing the horn. Recently (last Tuesday I think) I heard a new one. This douchebag actually had an air horn at the ready. That’s the first possibly premeditated one I’ve experienced. They had to have the horn in their hand waiting for someone to enter their field of view.
One exception stands. About two or three years ago, I got cat called by some young ladies in a convertible. Whether they thought I was hot or were being sarcastic is not an issue. I choose to believe they thought I was hot because, like the ride itself, it made me feel good.
The result wanted by these horn-honking douchebags is a simple one. They want to startle me to a degree that I lose control of my bike and crash. Therein lies the crime; using a vehicle to cause injury to another person. A twisted schadenfreude to be sure. A mentally healty person only takes pleasure in the misfortunes of others when they are deserving of it – that person has caused them harm in some way. I am a benign presence in the places this happens. I avoid main roads whenever I can, and am keenly aware of the traffic situation around me; it becomes second nature when you ride long enough.
The only positive here is that it reinforces the importance of good bike handling skills. Lately, the noise will startle me, but I don’t jerk the bike off of it’s path. The focus on proper technique pays off. I never lock my elbows; the flex allows you to absorb the natural flinch before it translates to the handlebars.
It would be naive of me to expect this to ever go away. Just one of these times I’d love to catch up to one of them at an intersection and see how brave they are when they can’t just stomp on the gas to get away. Besides, frame pumps are cheap.
It’s great to talk about my rides, but can how well can it really translate to people who have never ridden there?
There are certain commonalities to many rides; the elevation profile, sketchy intersections, places prone to the dreaded right hook. Ride narratives can get generic this way, or perhaps better stated they adhere to a kind of ad-hoc standard of description.
After all, other bloggers I read (Bike Noob, Biking To Live, Fat Cyclist) refer to their local routes all the time and I have built a mental image of them. I guess it’s the specifics of a route that lend to it’s quality. I can get a general sense of an elevation profile (false flat, epic lung-burner, etc.) but it’s harder to convey something like the smells of people grilling dinner as I pass through certain neighborhoods, or how flags can be waving in opposite directions within 10 feet of each other on the same street.
Hopefully I can convey what it’s like to do my routes. I guess it’s not the route itself but it is the idiosyncrasies therein. Hope you enjoy the theater of the mind.
Last week I took the bike to the LBS for a mechanical tweak. Turns out it was a minor issue; the chainring derailleur and big ring weren’t a match made in heaven, so the wrench there made some small adjustments and the ticking from the chainring is now gone.
It got me thinking realistically again about getting a new bike for myself and the missus. Fundage doesn’t exist for it anytime soon, but if I get to saving now I think two years hence is doable. I’m going to want a combination of speed and comfort; mid-summer rides are rarely shorter than 2½ hours. I’m also consistently averaging between 18 and 18.4 mph on these rides; a far cry from when I was psyched to do 16 mph.
Ironically, I live about 12 miles from the Serotta factory. Man, I’d love to ride one of those, but unless I can cough up at least three thousand bucks, I think I’m SOL. I have to keep a rational head about this. I’ve been riding my trusty Schwinn Worldsport (1992, I think) for about 15 years now. I plan on riding the next bike for a long time as well.
I’m sure bike shops weren’t too fond of that remark, but it has to be true. My gut tells me to expect to put out around $2,000. I also figure a good comfort bike for Mrs. Stallion will be pushing 4 figures as well, but I don’t think an upright will get that pricey. She’ll probably get a better value than I will.
It’s that time of year again ’round these parts. Yes, it’s getting cooler out there. Today’s high temp is topping out at about 68 degrees (F). For me, that means breaking out the cool weather gear for the first time since early May. No full length gloves or shoe covers today, but no sunscreen needed. It’s a nice mix of clouds and sun and I will be resplendent in my long sleeve jersey and long shorts (can’t I just call those pants with a chamois?).
Even though pretty much all the leaves are still green, you can tell things are turning. The odd crunch of a leaf under my wheels, the lower sun and no sweat dripping off of my elbows. It’s also an interesting sensation when near the end of the ride, as I race against a setting sun, that I feel my breath steaming the stubble on my chin. Not the most evocative image of cycling, but it’s one of those things I only experience in cooler weather.
I suppose that part of the charm for me is that it is a short riding season. In the spring, I emerge from the tyranny of the trainer to ride in the ever-warming days of April and May. On this end of the calendar, the cool temp season usually goes from mid-September to into November. Last year I think I got an outdoor ride in on the 5th – coincidentally, Mrs. Stallion’s birthday.
All too soon it will be trainer time. I don’t dread it like I used to, but ain’t nothing like riding the road. Besides, I’m not “HTFU” enough to want to ride outside in the winter here. As a coworker of mine states, it gets “Butt-clenching cold” – something that gets exacerbated by successful cycling; I now have less natural insulation.
But I don’t want to cast my gaze that far yet. I’m really looking forward to riding past brightly colored foliage, smelling the wood burning from people’s fireplaces, getting a ride in before a Giants game, cruising past suckers working in their yards and feeling my breath on my chin. All Hail the Fall!
Well today was a momentous occasion for me. My goal for this season that I had planned on doing since the dreary winter months was assaulted today. That, of course, was the climb of Lake Desolation Road. It offers 1000 feet of climbing in the space of about 4.25 miles. If my suspect calculations are correct, that’s an average grade of about 4.5%. However, this road pitches inconsistently the whole way. I found it tough to settle into a rhythm on the way up.
I took it as steadily as I could in a 39 x 25 almost the whole time. The gearing was sufficient, I think for the steepest grades it put forth. I had scouted the road before in my car; while I thought it was diabolical, I also thought it was within my reach if I put my mind to it.
The last time I scouted the route was a few months ago at the beginning of the summer. I should have done it more recently. I was about a mile from the summit when I cracked. I clipped out, cursed the road and gave it the finger (hey, it was asking for it). Pissed off, I walked for about 3 or 4 minutes, downed a gel and clipped back in just to spite the road and see what I had left in the tank.
I was able to complete the road mainly due to the fact that the section I blew a gasket on was the last tough sub-climb on the road. That’s going to bug me over the winter. If I had known from good scouting how close I was to the end game, I might have been able to make it continuously. If nothing else, I got to experience the longest lung-burning climb of the season. The terrain on my normal routes is undulating. I’m in a region that isn’t too far from the Adirondack foothills – it’s rarely flat, with lots of rollers. None of them, however, are long steady climbs. That’s why I wanted to do Desolation so much.
There’s always next year I suppose, and it’s not like I gave up and turned around. In fact, I think I should take comfort in the fact that I probably will gain some added fitness from this and a burning desire to conquer this beast.
Ok, so I’m totally psyched that there is some decent racing on my TV these days. The Tour of Ireland was a very pretty race, if not a tad boring. The vistas were absolutely stunning; I didn’t know Ireland had those great mountain passes.
It was a little hard to get through when you know Cavendish is going to win three stages of a 5 stage tour. The competition wasn’t top notch for this event, but it was on and I watched it. I guess it’s like watching the Tour of Qatar.
Anyway, before that was even on it was time for the D-Tour! A nice ProTour event to cleanse the palate. The competition is top-notch, even if there is a dearth of Americans; I think Jason McCartney is the only one, and he’s been invisible so far. The Beijing Olympics really put the Germans over the barrel for scheduling. Normally this race would have been ridden a couple of weeks ago. Now it has to contend with the Vuelta and the US Pro championships.
Some observations: This race is being covered by WCSN-Universal Sports. They have Frankie Andreu as a color commentator, and he does his usual solid job. I’m still trying to figure out if I like Steve Schlanger or not. First impressions are ok, but he has kind of an over-polished weasel-y tone. Maybe I’ll warm up to it.
Am I the only one to think the Volksbank logo looks like they ripped it off from Van Halen?