Farewell old friend

June 24, 2011

They say that breakin’ up is hard to do.
Now I know, I know that it’s true.
Don’t say that this is the end.
Instead of breakin’ up,
I wish that
we were makin’ up again – Neil Sedaka

On my ride Wednesday morning, I flatted.  Again.  Since I was not under any time pressure, I took my time fixing my flat.  I thoroughly inspected my tire and found several small cuts.  This is not the first time I experienced this with my tires.  Looking below the tire at the street, I saw the culprit.  There are thousands of tiny “chips” that adorn almost every inch of road here in New Jersey.

I love riding in New Jersey.  The terrain is both challenging and beautiful.  The shoulders are wide and safe.  Within a few miles, I am riding up long sweeping hills and descending by beautiful horse farms.  The problem is that I can no longer trust the road beneath my wheels.

New Jersey has been run so poorly over the last several decades that there is absolutely no money left.  No other place shows this more than the road system.  Roads sit in disrepair until as a last resort, the chip and seal truck drops a coating of gravel as a desperate attempt to avoid any type of paving.

Taking a corner becomes a religious experience.  I pray before every one.  Now, I have to give up one of my favorite things.  My Vittoria tires.

To me, there are two choices of equipment that are very personal.  These are saddles and tires.  No one works for everyone.  For me, having my Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX on my bike was like slipping on my favorite shoes.  They felt great.  Other tires felt like work boots but Vittoria’s felt like slippers.  Alas, with tires tickling the triple digit mark, I can’t afford this luxury any more.

I’m switching to another set of tires that I auditioned last season.  I tried a pair of Continental 4000 tires for a few months and they rode great.  They did not feel like they were custom-made just for me but they felt great.  More importantly, they survived the harsh roads here in NJ.

I almost bought the Vittoria Pave but just can’t take the chance right now.  I’d be interested in feedback from anyone who rides them.  So, until New Jersey paves some roads or until I move out of state, I’m a Continental man.  But I’ll never forget my first true love.


DVD Review

February 13, 2010

Like many of you, I hate the trainer. The worst day on the calendar is when I have to remove my skewer and screw on the trainer skewer. With each revolution, I feel my mood darkening. Then when I take the walk to the basement, I can hear the line from The Green Mile. “Walking the mile, walking the mile.”

I have gilded my cage with a TV and DVD player that are designed to keep me just this side of sanity line. Each season, I bring a fresh new stack of DVDs to the basement to set the right mood. The 2009 Tour and Giro join stalwarts like Breaking Away and the one day classics on the play list. They help pass the time but I still have many days where I stare at the cyclycomputer wondering why time passes sooo slowly. This year I added a new DVD to the list and I want to tell you about it. That movie is called Bicycle Dreams.

The film by Stephen Auerbach chronicles the 2005 Race Across America. As I mentioned above , I watch a lot of cycling videos I have seen many riders in their share of pain. This was different. Riders ride over 300 miles a day forgoing sleep for almost two weeks and their pain is mental. To watch a determined stare go vacant in the matter of a few days, touched me. The most compelling scene was when Jure Robic, who had all but won the race, wanted to quit because he could not call up an image of his wife and child.

Lance Armstrong is quoted in the movie saying extreme athletes are running away from something. I saw much of that. Others I saw running towards something. There are many stories in this race and not all of them have a happy ending. In any RAAM, approximately half do not finish. The most tragic is that of Dr. Bob Breedlove who thought each day was “another day in paradise.”

Mr. Auerbach’s movie has garnered multiple film awards and received rave reviews from national publications including USAToday. All I can add to this list of reviews is that I could not turn the movie off. I set out to ride an easy 45 minutes to an hour on the trainer. I ended up doing riding the full length, including the credits. I never even glanced at my computer for a time check.

This is a must have on your winter DVD list.


It’s time for the Cycling Channel

January 16, 2009

Over the past year, the desire to have a dedicated cycling channel kept gnawing at me. Cable and satellite have brought all kinds of programming into my home.  Niche networks have sprung up to serve very specific interests.  Why not cycling?

In the area of sports programming, I’ve seen the introduction of the Major League Baseball Channel (MLB), the NFL Network, the Golf Channel, and even the National Hockey League (NHL)  network.  All in High Definition, no less! OK, I know these sports are bigger than cycling when you measure viewership.  But the NFL Network carries only a couple of games a year.  The Golf Channel does not carry any big tournaments.  Surely a Cycling channel can compete with these?  OK, maybe not but it started the hamster on the wheel in my head.

Then came the Tennis Channel.  Now we have to be in the right ball park (sports pun intended). That’s when I began to start thinking that the time is coming where we cyclists can have our own place on the proverbial dial.  I knew the time was here when I saw the press release for the Ski Channel.

My problem is while I know Marketing, I know little about setting up a Television Network.  For those of you who do, listen to just a few facts I have been able to find.

Market.

I’ve been able to come up with a few statistics that tell me that I am directionally correct in thinking there is a potential market for a Cycling Channel.

  • 64.3 Million Recreational Cyclists
  • 48 Million Adults
  • Male/Female 45% – 50%
  • Median age 32
  • Median Household Income $70K
  • 70% College Graduates
  • Cycling is the #1 fitness activity among doctors and lawyers over 40

Now how about serious cyclists.

  • 12M cycling fans in US
  • 500,000 daily viewers of the Tour de France on Versus
  • 300,000 viewers of most cycling programs on Versus
  • $90,000 Average Annual Household Income for the 12M cycling fans

Remember that most cycling races are in Europe so these figures are not competing against prime time TV.  These are competing against reruns of Law and Order and Battlestar Galactica.  From my knowledge, TiVoed shows do not count in the ratings.

Content

Here is where I think we have it over the the above mentioned channels.  In 2008, there were 591 professional road races ranked 1 and higher.  In addition, there are fantastic regional races.  The season for the World’s top riders start this Sunday with the Tour Down Under and runs through October 17th with the Giro di Lombardia. You can’t find that season anywhere else.

News, interviews, training and racing tips are all possible programs on the Cycling Channel.  Add to that the deep library of classic races in the World Cycling Productions libraries and you have plenty of content to fill the airwaves.

Side Effects

Once we get our slice of the airwaves, I would expect to see an increase in coverage.  Just look at what John Eustace can pull off on a shoestring budget with no real outlet for his work.  Once sponsors have an avenue to realize an ROI for their spend, you will begin to see more sponsor dollars come to cycling.

Conclusion

The first stop has to be Comcast.  Not a bad first stop since they are the cable company in the US.  Comcast owns Versus. Versus has the rights to the three major tours as well as most of the classics.  While some of the channels I mentioned above have launched without the rights to their sports top events, this would be a non-starter.  We just need to lay out for Comcast that this can make money.

I know a Cycling Channel would need to reside on the top premium tier of any cable/satellite provider.  It may even reside in a Video on Demand/PPV slot.  That’s OK.  This is coming from a guy who asked for Rosetta Stone Italian for Christmas.  The sole purpose is to watch as much of the Giro d”Italia on RAI as possible.  I also have a subscription to Cycling.TV.

Let me know what your interest level is and would you part with a few dollars each month for the Cycling Channel.


I must admit, I like it

December 21, 2008

Schedenfreude [shahd-n-froi-duh] –noun satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune

This is the time when I get reacquainted with with cycling videos.  I switch between cycling.tv, old World Cycling videos, and even movies such as Breaking Away.  These are an attempt to both distract myself from the doldrums of the trainer and to motivate me while working out in my basement.

I have to admit I have been really enjoying Bob Roll’s video, Crash.  Watching famous mishaps in some of my famous races appeals to par tof me that I am reluctant to admit exists.  I mean, come on, who doesn’t remember Abdu hitting the barrier, the photographer stepping in front of Giuseppe Guerini, or the huge pileup on stage 1 of the 2003 Tour de France.

crash04

If you want to break up those old videos, this is a must add. Bobke, Thanks!


I hate this time of year

December 19, 2008

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all – Andy Williams

For many, this is the season of joy.  An internal glow begins around Thanksgiving and continues to grow until the New Year dawns.  For me, it signals doom.  Why?  I’ll give you the reason.

The Trainer

Sometime during late fall, daylight is too short to accommodate both work and cycling.  Then the weekends begin to get progressively cooler.  Then the realization hits.  I have not really ridden in a while.  That must mean (cue music) It is time for the trainer.  There are two seasons.  Cycling season and Trainer season.

trainer

Take the bike to the basement.  Remove the rear skewer and replace with the trainer skewer.  Playing over and over in my head is Doug Hutchinison’s character from The Green Mile saying. “Walking the mile, walking the mile.”

I’ve tried to decorate my cell with items that remind me about life on the outside.  I have videos to pass the time.  A bird in a guilded cage is still a captive  and he knows it.

Time to start counting the days until Cycling season starts again.


An Eskimo who is satisfied with his ice purchase

August 13, 2008

How many water bottles do you own?  How many of those did you pay for?  Is the percentage approaching zero?  The other day, I counted 21 water bottles.  None were paid for.  The last bottle I bought was on vacation at a local bike shop because I forgot to bring one.  That is long since gone.

I had bottles from as early as 2002.  I know that because it was a 2002 Ride for the Roses bottle.  The valve was all chewed up due to the multiple opening and closings using my teeth.  So with all this free stuff, who in their right mind would pay for a water bottle.

Me.

After getting showered with water when the top of one of my bottles gave up the ghost, I started to wonder, “Am I getting what I paid for?” If I spent some money, would I get a better product?

So, I made a deal with myself.  I would buy 2 new water bottles and throw away most of my current stock of water bottles which have survived more for sentimental reasons than utility.

I read a review in VeloNews on the CamelBack Podium.  A quick web search showed a few more satisfied customers.  So, I plunked down $18 for two and gave it a shot.

I have to say, there is a difference.  Gone is the bite valve and it is replaced by a pressure sensitive valve that opens and closes on its own.  This should make the bottle last longer since I will not be chewing off the valve.  In the hand, the bottle feels more substantive without being excessively heavy.   The sturdy screw on cap keeps the water on the inside where it belongs.

Another selling feature is you will not taste the bottle.  This has never bugged me too much since the bottles I routinely use to not create an after taste.  But, I do have to say that I payed attention to the taste and it was true.

All in all I definitely got my money’s worth.  For less than 20 bucks, I got a great product and some shelf space where 19 bottles once stood.


Summer Book Review

August 11, 2008

Summer is generally a time for escape. For confirmation, look at the typical line-up for movie goers. Action/Adventure films are generally released in the summer while serious Oscar contenders are released towards year-end. Barnes and Noble will greet you with shelves full of brain candy moving the more serious works of literature towards the back.

I can’t say I wasn’t a little concerned when my copy of Dope: A History of Performance Enhancement in Sports from the Nineteenth Century to Today arrived. I am a big fan of the author, Dan Rosen and his blog so I knew it would be well researched and well written. Would my brain be ready? Would it come off like a medical textbook?

I put the book aside until the Tour was over. Not for any of the above concerns but I was enjoying the Tour and did not want to be reminded of the darker side of the sport. So it waited until the Monday after Carlos Sastre crossed the line in Paris.

What I found was an engaging story that took me through the history of doping in sports. All sports, not just cycling. Some of the stories, I knew some I didn’t. Throughout, Dan told me enough science to allow me to understand the story. Never more.

Dan shows us how doping was originally encouraged by governments and governing bodies. Even as testing came into play, official counter measures were put into place to circumvent the tests. As the war raged on, governing entities turned a blind eye to any practices in the ultimate “Don’t ask Don’t Tell” policy. Finally, most organizations have taken up the fight. What is more astonishing is how recently we have come from empty platitudes against doping to where we sit today.

Dan tells us all this in a non-judgmental manner that allows us to form our own opinions. Heck, even Dick Pound has his good points. The story is well told and well documented.

Forgetting what I said at the beginning of this post, I actually feel the timing is great as the Summer Olympics are upon us and we are already seeing reports of altered passports of gymnasts and other formalized slights of hand that tells me we still have a long way to go.

This book is a must read for any sports fan, not just cyclists. If you enjoy professional sports, Olympic sports, or just fair play, you will not be disappointed in the time spent reading Dope. My only negative is Dan used a photo of my pecs for the cover of his book without my permission.


Leave the car, take the bike

July 13, 2008

I’m sure that you have made note of at least one instance of the Saab Fly to the Finish sweepstakes.  You may be playing.  First prize is a Brand new Saab 9.3 2.0T SporiCombi with a list price north of $30,000.  Second prize is the Cervelo SLC-SL bike which can list for between $7,000 and $8,500.  I plan on winning one of these.  Which one?  Well, my car has 78,000 miles and my bike is just a year old.  So the choice is clear.

I want the bike.

I knew you would understand.


Book Review

July 4, 2008

While waiting for my copy of Dope: A History of Performance Enhancement in Sports from the Nineteenth Century to Today written by Rant our Head Off  author, Daniel Rosen, I took the opportunity to engage in a little light reading with Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer.

Author Jamie Smith and illustrator Jeff Mallett have teamed up to take a look at all the quirks and ticks that make up a cycling fanatic.  While the title suggests a focus on bike racing, there is much to enjoy if you are a fanatical cyclist who may not race. 

To be honest, the book is actually written for your spouse/friend/family who love you even though they don’t quite get you and your passion.  I have to admit, while reading, I asked my wife a couple of times “Do I do that?” knowing full well that I do.  For example, your loved one will understand that we all have a emotional attachment to that water bottle we got on vacation in 1996 when we wandered into the bike shop while you were getting coffee. 

With the Tour de France upon us, I will be firmly ensconced on our couch yelling at the paltry coverage of Vs while my wife will be thinking the opposite.  Occasionally, she and the kids will join me but will not see the things that are so obvious to me.  This is a great companion book for those moments.  The humor keeps the reader/novice interested while educating on the tactics of racing. 

All in all, it is a very enjoyable read that will take your mind from the headlines and bring you back to the reasons you fell in love with the sport in the first place.


220, 221 whatever it takes.

April 22, 2008

 Jeff:  Guys don’t judge things other guys do. It’s separate from the friendship.  That’s the code that guys live by.  That’s Guy Code.

Audrey:  So with Guy Code you can excuse any bad behavior just to go to a sky box?

Jeff:  It was invented by guys.

Audrey:  You know if Katie were an old friend, I’d tell her. I just don’t know her that well.

Jeff:  Even if you did, you couldn’t.

Audrey:  Why not?

Jeff:  Because Ray told me and Guy Code demand that it go no further .

Audrey:  But you told me

Jeff:  I’m allowed to because of Marriage Code

Audrey:  That doesn’t make any sense

Jeff:  It makes perfect sense. Guy Code and Marriage Code can intersect. The information I gave you is covered primarily under Guy Code so again, you can’t tell Katie.

Audrey:  What about Woman Code.

Audrey:  Don’t make me laugh.

Rules of Engagement 2007

Ladies, if you read further, you may suffer feelings of confusion.  That’s because this post may not make sense or may remind you of behavior you recognized with the man in your life.  If you need interpretation, please ask your spouse, friend, or any man close by.  He will clearly understand this post but you will not understand his explanation anyway.

I have a good friend John who recently asked me of my thoughts on the Garmin Edge 305. Initially, I pointed him to a review over at the Suitcase of Courage blog.  The post was objective, well researched, and well written.  The exact answer to his question. Most conversations end there.  For me, that was the beginning.

I now knew John was in the market for a fairly high end cyclometer.  So I immediately started to talk him into the Garmin Edge 705.  The 705 runs about $200 – $250 more. What do you get for that money? Besides a color screen, not much.

You see, that is exactly the point.  Could I shame, him into buying the most expensive cycle computer on the market? Once you lay out the $350, there is no going back.  Do you really want to look at that monochrome screen and think.  “What if?” or “I should have.”

You see, my motives are simple.  They can be summed up in two simple objectives.

  1. Can I cause a conversation that begins with “Well it sounded like a good idea at the time.” or “But Jim said”
  2. Make myself look good by comparison. “Well, at least I didn’t go out and spend that kind of money like John.”

But you may wonder why I would want John to have a better toy than me? Isn’t the Boys with Toys thing a big deal? Exactly.  With his purchase, I can lay the foundation here at home.  I can remark at all the cool things the Garmin can do.  How cycling is my one real passion in life.  Then I’ll be prepared for the Garmin 706! No doghouse included!

Ha! Take that John. Mine can do everything yours can AND it can tell time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad.


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