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.

Book Review

April 18, 2008

The conclusion of the Civil War marked the beginning of the cycling’s golden age.  Races and racers captivated the United States public.  Decades before Jackie Robinson broke Baseball’s color barrier there was Major Taylor.

About a year ago, during Black History month, my 10 year old son chose to write about a champion cyclist named Major Taylor. I was so moved by the essay that, with his permission, I posted it here. I had not heard of Major Taylor which saddened me to know that such a presence on the international sports scene had been forgotten.  Now comes a book that documents the life of this exceptional cyclist.

Todd Balf’s Major: A Black Athlete, A White Era, and the Fight to be the World’s Fastest Human Being documents that lost era of cycling and the heroes that were lost with it.  What makes this a fascinating book is that it is not about cycling, race, post civil war reconstruction.  And yet it is. 

Balf uses all of these lenses to tell us about an era of our Nation’s history which does not take up a lot of space in history books.  During this time, there was a perfect storm for cycling.  The advent of the pneumatic tube, lightweight bikes, bad roads, good lights, a public craving competition all led to the explosion of track racing. 

From the 1870’s to just after the turn of the century, the bicycle ruled the sporting world.  Balf captures this era with an easy style that follows Major Taylor’s life from his youth in Indianapolis to his ascendancy to the world stage. 

Every good story nees a villan which came from the Virginia-born Floyd McFarland. Each man pushed the other to new heights.  In the end, Major Taylor transcended sport to become a role model for generations to come.

I hope you read this fascinating book that revives a lost era and a lost hero.

I’m Back

April 16, 2008

I know I have taken a couple of sabbaticals in the last six months.  This one by far is the longest.  But I have an excuse, I promise.  Contributing to the delay has been some behind the scenes work that has allowed my to put my money where my mouth is. 

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am passionate about the sport of cycling.  It is the most beautiful sport on the planet and it has withstood several years of non stop assualt.  While I think we have turned a corner, the sport is at a severe low in public opinion.  Therefore, I needed to do my part to help rebuild this sport.

Please note, my contribution is minimal at best.  I can’t let that stop me from doing anything I can.  Since the beginning of the year, I have been giving whatever help I can to several good people.  From trying to find a sponsor for a major ProTour race in Europe, helping a ProTour team get in contact with US sponsors to helping a great race continue to grow.

That great race is the Great River Energy Bicycle Festival.  aka The Nature Valley Grand Prix.  This race showcases what is great in cycling.  The folks putting on this race have done a lot of innovative things to broaden the appeal of cycling.  Look at the race design.  It does not try to replicate a classic European stage race.  It also does not run away from the appeal of European racing.  They have blended the best of European cycling stage races with American cycling stalwarts like the criterium.  This has created a race that is challenging to the riders as well as friendly to fans of all knowledge levels.

To bring in fans even more, they have done things like have volunteerswalk around in brightly colored shirts saying “Ask Me About Cycling” How many times have you increased a friends enjoyment of the Tour de France by explaining a simple concept like drafting. 

This year, the race wanted to use more social networking tools such as blogging.  Here is where I hoped to add a very small amount of help. This year, the Nature Valley Grand Prix has instituted two blogs.  The first is the Your Cycling blog sponsored by TRIA Orthopaedic group. This is a great Cycling 101 blog.  The second is for us race junkies.  It is called Pro Cycling Minnesota and has contributor list that is the who’s who of US cycling both men and women.

The design and content are the work of smart and dedicated people. Check it out, comment, join the discussion by adding your insights.  Show our future fans what kind of a community we are.

Oh, and buy Nature Vallley granola bars.  Tell them cycling sent you.

Bringing down the curtain on 2007

October 12, 2007

So, if the 2007 cycling season was a play, how would you review it? Here is how I would begin to organize my thoughts.

The play started with some fine acting in the early acts . Hometown boy takes the Tour of California. With a performance like this so early in the play, I was wondering what the writers had in store for the rest of the evening.

We also see a new actor in Albertor Contador steal the scene titled “Paris-Nice.” With acting talent like this, I hope to see more of him.

After some promising numbers early on,the writers introduce very complex storylines. Villains start entering from every direction. ASO, UCI, WADA, USADA, RCS Sport, and Unipublic all vie for center stage and the competition for the spotlight detracts from the play.

Then, the writers start killing off the main characters. Basso and Vino go down in a bloody mess making me think I was in a bad remake of a Shakespearian play. The writers try to bring back early hero, Contador, to save the play but to no avail. There is too much confusion, too many storylines. Much of the audience did not come back after intermission.

Then as if the play was not complex enough, the writers bring the back story of a fallen hero, Floyd, who is attempting to combat injustice of some of our main villains.

The play runs for another week or so when it closes in Lombardy on the 20th.  If this play is to shine on Broadway in 2008, it needs some major attention.

Rest Day Book Review

July 24, 2007

I’ve been mulling over how to write this review since I finished Bill Strickland’s new book, Ten Points. I have been searching for that one word that I can use to describe it and have been at a loss. Interesting, engaging are all accurate but do not capture the essence I am trying to convey. For now, I’ll use memorable.

Before I start, I would like to thank Chloe and Christine at Hyperion for contacting me regarding this book. I’m sure I would have read it but I don’t know when I would have found it.

Do you know why Breaking Away was and is such a great movie? Well to paraphrase another book, it is because the story is not about the bike. The movie uses cycling as a medium for telling a much more universal story. That is the same here. Bill Strickland uses his quest for ten points during his club crit season as a medium to tell a much more compelling story.

At the end of a season where Bill Strickland cherishes first and only point he scored in a highly competitive Thursday night criteriums, he makes a fateful promise to his daughter. Next season, he’ll score ten.

The quest for ten points turns out to rank up with quests written by the likes of Homer. What if he fails? This forces Bill to do a significant amount of reflection and the story takes us through that reflection.

Whenever each of us is faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, it gives up the opportunity to look at ourselves and take stock in who we are. We can then stare into our personal abyss knowing if we can cross it, we can come out the other side better than we were before. Bill’s abyss is deeper and darker than most people on the planet.

Bill takes us with him as he faces his past and comes to grips with who he is. Since this is not Hollywood fiction, there is no Rocky type ending. Instead, he leaves us after coming a long way through his abyss but we know he will continue to move forward.

I don’t want to paint a grim picture. Bill’s style is engaging and the story, while uncomfortable at times, is tough to put down. Bill also paints a great portrait of life in the top tier of racers we watch at local races. As the author grows as a person, he grows as a racer which is enjoyable to read.

I would definitely put this as a must read on your list.