My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Will Bike for Food

In honor of Cesar Chavez day today, I did not have to go to work. I think my employer just might be the only one to recognize the 29th of March as an actual holiday, but really you will get no argument from me. As I traveled the winding roads north of Golden to meet some friends for a ride, I succumbed to the allure of carless streets, the quiet of the morning, and the signs of spring all around me. How could I miss the serenity of such a ride? What could possibly keep me from enjoying such a tour day after day?—oh yeah, work!

So consider this post my official “Will Bike for Food” sign. I will ride my bike in exchange for food so I don’t have to work for it. Any takers? Here are some of the jobs I’d be willing to do in the service of riding my bike:
  • Pro Tour Racer: While I lost the dream of being a pro cyclist years ago, if any pro team would like a 30 something amateur grunt to add to their arsenal consider me your man. I’m undertrained, in my 30’s, a CAT3…did I mention undertrained? I would consider it an honor to be off the back of any pro tour team; salary and benefits negotiable.
  • Bike Messenger: I would consider being a bike messenger. I will however insist on riding a bike with gears as I believe in Darwin and the theory of evolution…the derailleur is good. It would be a great excuse for getting a Chrome bag though, not too shabby.
  • Velo-Cab Driver: I would gladly drive one of those pedicabs around, however I’m not good at chit-chat so fares should have no expectation of pleasant banter or idle rambling.
  • Bike cop: ride around on a bike, with a weapon and exact justice on the unsuspecting, lawless scum of Denver. SIGN ME UP! I’d like a red bike though, and a siren and maybe a cape.
  • Shoot videos for Training Peaks: Now this has to be the sweetest gig in all of cycling. You ride around with a dork camera on your head and take rider-perspective video of roads. The Training Peaks folks then take your video and add it to a computer simulation for training. I could easily do this. I know lots of great routes…and would travel to Europe to ride if you really insist on it.
  • Gear tester: I’d ride around all day to log countless miles on some company’s tires just so they could stick a “Tested by #17” sticker on the inside…oh they do that testing in a lab…bummer. Well if there’s a job for riding around and giving my opinion on gear I’d consider that as well.
  • Bike tour guide: I think this would be a pretty sweet gig too. It would be like being on a group ride—all the time. The hard part would be indulging the touristy and out of shape set with their incessant demands for breaks and photo opportunities. And to think they’re paying to ride bikes…why would they want to stop so much?
  • Charity bike rider: If some group, I don’t care which one, wants to sponsor me to ride around and take pictures of my travels for their ‘cause’ I’d sign on with their agenda without a second thought. (Now I suppose this isn’t entirely true. I’m an opinionated SOB so I couldn’t stomach some of the crap churned out by the ‘free thought’ mass of bigoted, crackpot, nut jobs out there. But if there’s a group of tree huggin’, dirt worshippin’, bike lovers out there looking for a rolling billboard give me a shout!)
  • Gypsy: Do they still have gypsies? Are there bike gypsies? Maybe I could be the first.
  • Corporate whore: That’s right: slap a logo on my back and I'm yours. The price is cheap: food for me...and my wife too I suppose…and maybe some help with the mortgage…and gear money. But hey that's a bargain in exchange for freely pimping myself out for your product, no matter how crappy. You make ugly jerseys with rock band art and fake tattoos and junk on the sleeves…I’ll rock out that Pink Floyd swag and make it look good. You have a new bottle design…I’ll drink from it. You hand stitch panniers out of yak skin…I’ll pack up my junk and show everyone how yak is the new cordura nylon. Want to make an organic, compostable shammy...I'll put my ass on the line for it.  Have a new phone app or other tech gizmo that measures power, heart rate, blood pressure, sweat loss, carb consumption, and pee acidity…just call me the pee acid king.
  • Self absorbed bike blogger: This would be the greatest gig ever. You get to be all high, mighty and arrogant about how superior your mode of transportation is compared to all the others. You can gripe about the weather, traffic and people who ride aero bars on the bike path. You get to look down on all the ‘unworthy’ masses and dispense your wit and wisdom from high atop your shiny new Brooks saddle. People love you and hate you all at the same time, and you could care less because you’re out riding your bike and cleansing your conscience all at the same time. What a sweet gig…one can only hope!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Of Wolves and Buffalos

Last weekend as part of the failed Primal/First Bank training camp we rode north west out of Denver up to Boulder for “Super Flag.” I didn’t get an exact count but I think at our peak the ride easily included 20+ riders from our team and a handful of riders from other teams. With such a presence on the roadways we attracted the attention and ire of many of the motorists we passed. At times I must admit I even felt uncomfortable traveling in the group, the presence of erratically passing cars and speeding motorists (not to mention the flurry of bicyclists) transformed the roadway into uncomfortably close quarters. This weekend I opted to ride alone, and found myself traveling many of the same roadways covered last weekend. Not an incident to speak of or report. No senior citizens to yell at, no truck exhaust filling the lungs. No fly by’s or shouts from teenage dumbasses in their Too Fast Too Furious mobiles…or mommy’s SUV. Was there simply less traffic?--perhaps. I left my home earlier than last week which might have had something to do with it, though the weather today was nicer and I think more folks were out and about. So what changed?

The only difference I could think of was that I was alone; one cyclist on the road as opposed to 25. Could this really be the distinguishing factor: numbers? The more I pedaled and contemplated this phenomenon the more it made sense to me on some levels. Pleasantly left to my own devices my thoughts drifted to the Buffalo. The buffalo is a large, strong beast but one inclined to idle the day in a field, consuming resources and producing methane. These lumbering giants congregate in huge herds and move about all day long prowling the landscape eating, pooping, mating and butting heads with each other. From the openness of the prairie they can easily spot predators from afar and stampede the life out of them if needed. Its kind of a brute, monotonous existence but one that works for the buffalo (until we showed up on the continent and blasted them all…but that’s not my point.) My point is: motorists are much like buffalos.

Since cyclists appear to cause buffalos so much consternation and angst, cyclists must then be more akin to wolves. A lone wolf, as I was today, roaming the wide open prairie in isolation is hardly a threat to the lumbering, buffalo, motorist herd. Even when on more remote, wooded lanes or curvy mountain routes one wolf is still not a significant threat to a herd of buffalos. But generally it is in the cyclist’s nature to not travel in solitude but rather to seek the power and strength of the pack. The buffalo knows this and deep down fears it. With one cyclist the herd remains calm, perhaps a watchful eye fixed in the direction of the wolf but they feel more comfortable giving wide berth when passing and thus move on with their big, stupid existences with ease and less stress. With a pack of wolves however it is a different story. Haven’t you ever noticed that pel-e-ton sounds eerily familiar to bring-it-on.  Because peleton secretly means: buffalo I’ve come to hunt you and take you home as a trophy to my family….its French though so the translation isn’t quite literal. This is no surprise to the buffalo, they expect as much, and thus from the congregation of cunning and strength found in the cyclist pack arises an implicit danger to the buffalo. Although larger and stronger pound for pound, buffalo know to be afraid of a pack of wolves (or consider elephants and tigers or rhinos and lions, there are plenty of other examples). The heightened tensions arise from the knowledge that a pack of wolves can easily cut through a herd of buffalos, separate out the weak, frail or stupid and devour them whole. I’ve seen a pack of cyclists eat an entire F-350...its both grotesque and beautiful at the same time like something out of National Geographic. Sensing this fate the motorist, upon seeing a pack of cyclists roving the hills, reacts with a preservationist instinct exemplified by behavior such as: yelling, incorrectly citing traffic law, hoof stomping and drive-by buzzing. These displays are intended to prevent the inevitability of attack.

Does this posturing work?--not really. It makes the buffalo motorist look like an ass. I’ve often wondered what type of thoughts were rolling through the empty skulls of driver’s who deem it necessary and prudent to closely buzz a group of cyclists: now I’ve found my answer. It is pretty much, "" In any case, these are the types of thoughts one can have when left to calmly ride around the countryside enjoying the road and serenity of one’s head. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen too often with such lack of disturbances from the herd. It is a shame that the level of ease and comfort I enjoyed today is not often experienced when riding with my friends. As a wolf, I’m a pack animal by nature, and while it is sometimes nice to go off by oneself, it is more fun riding in a group. If only we could just get the buffalos to chill the hell out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"How you like me now Denver?"--Mother Nature

Mother Nature spited the Primal 1st Bank Training camp on Friday and Saturday last weekend, but in an apparent extension of good will gave us a great Sunday for riding. Well not wanting to lull us into a false sense of self confidence she’s back and kicking us in the balls again. Denver’s getting nailed by the biggest snow storm to strike Denver in the local media’s recent (short attention span) memory. And while I generally disregard all the talk of blizzards and such nonsense, this one might live up to the hype.

Thanks to the crap weather which struck landfall here in Denver around earnest at least…the ride home SUCKED. The cold, driving, north wind; the stinging sleet and damp snow; the frosty, opaque glasses; wet socks; slush and splash back from cars; you name it this ride had it. Its almost April, what have we done to deserve this? I want to ride my bike on dry, sandless streets. I want to wear shorts, without knee warmers. I want a warm breeze and sunshine. Well I could carry on like this for a while, but at this point I’m home safe and so is my wife so I’m hoping for the best: Blizzard 2010, sock it in baby…I want pancakes for breakfast.
I can tell by the tracks...bikes were here.
Blizzard can't stop bikes!
All smiles:  snow won't stop this intrepid rider.
Blowing snow.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Your 'Local' Pro Tour Event Needs You!

With heavy, wet, spring-snow flakes falling outside, we’ll not be having our first day of Primal/First Bank Training Camp today. Instead we’ll be sitting inside on Computrainers wishing it were spring or at least dry and remotely hospitable. The weather forecast calls for 3-7” in the metro area with the heaviest accumulations falling in the foothills: the National Weather Service is actually calling for heavier amounts than the local news, but who really knows. At the bottom of the weather story the comment trolls are feverishly fighting about who loves snow and who doesn’t, who is a real Coloradan and who is not. The weather sure brings out jingoistic sentiment like nothing else.

Well I’ve been here about 10 years, which means I’ve been here longer than many currently residing in Colorado, but I’m not a “Native” and never claimed to be. I’m from Missouri, a good sized state smack dab in the heartland of America. Missouri is book ended on its east and west sides by really large cities (St. Louis and Kansas City) with the rest of the state consisting of largely rural, agricultural or forest land. Like Colorado and many other states, Missouri currently finds itself in a tough financial position; specifically with $500M to trim from its budget. Unfortunately, one of the line items in the cross hairs for trimming happens to be the Tour of Missouri, which gets much of its funding from the State of Missouri Board of Tourism.
Stars and Stripes
Last year my wife and I piled into our Vanagon and puttered our way east from Colorado to Missouri to follow the tour. I’ve seen US ‘professional’ bike races in person (small circuit races or criterium events) but I’ve never followed an actual pro tour stage race. And while Missouri is not the south of France and the Ozarks are not the Alps (or even the Rockies for that matter) the event was awesome to watch and the scenery and geography of rolling hills and small rural towns made for great racing. Many of the small US pro teams (Jelly Belly, Bissell, Team Type 1, Kelly, Colavita) fought hard against the continental teams which made the trip to race in my home state: Cervelo, Liquigas, Quick Step, Saxo Bank and Astana. The big American teams, Garmin and Columbia High Road were also on hand to throw down and they brought big names to help them do it: George Hincapie, Christian Vandevelde, David Zabriskie, Mark Cavendish and others. I saw a handful of Mark Cavendish sprint wins: we saw a Thor sprint win as well which was pretty awesome. We watched break away’s form and get chased down by the pack. We saw riders wear the suffering of incessant climbing on their faces as they incessantly climbed Missouri‘s hills and ‘mountains‘. The race had it all and it was only 800 some odd slow Vanagon miles from our home here in Denver.
Levi Gets in the Zone for His TT Effort in Sedalia
From what I’ve read in the tour’s impact study, the 2009 Tour of Missouri brought in about $38M in tax and sales revenue to Missouri; that sounds like a pretty big chunk of change compared to the state’s $5M investment in the event. The study noted that approximately 500,000 spectators watched the event over the course of the race and potentially hundreds of thousands, if not a million more, watched the coverage on TV or followed the tour online. While critics of the race would suggest this is not a sizeable enough return on investment, and poor, rural, Missouri cities pony up a fair amount of unaccounted for fees to play host to the race, it certainly wouldn‘t seem to me that these critiques justify calling off the event altogether. While far from perfect, I’d argue the event has merit and puts Missouri into the global spotlight in a way that other events could scarcely conceive of doing (there won’t be a Rams Super Bowl appearance anytime in the near future so what else is there that’s comparable?) Additionally, the race did seem to energize some of these local communities who served as key watch points along the route, not to mention the start and finish towns. The impact to these communities, which otherwise would scarcely see outside visitors or tourists, must certainly have been significant even if brief.
Great Night of Camping in St. Johns State Park
For our part, while on the course of our trip we stayed in State Parks or small town camp facilities using the Vanagon as our base of operations. We bought food in local stores, bought wine from local wineries (very tasty I might add), fed my coffee addiction from local coffee shops (no Starbucks in middle America praise the lord!) and tried to walk around these small towns and visit with local shop owners to let them know what brought us to their towns. We talked to about as many local cycling fans (and curious residents) as we talked to racers; and yes you can talk to and meet just about all of the racers…and for the record Jens Voigt is twice as personable and clever in person as he is on TV. And while it was hot and humid at times (so is France) there really were no complaints.
The moral of this story is less about how great 2009 was, but more a plea for people to support the effort for 2010. While the rest of the world seems to properly recognize the sport of professional cycling for the quality spectator event that it is, the US is struggling to get there. We’ve got a strong local and national race scene and are gaining in notoriety for the quality of pro level competition at our grand tours: Tour of California, Tour of Missouri and the former Tour of Georgia. But with the Tour of Georgia the funds dried up and so too did the race, the Tour of Missouri could very well be next. If you think there should be a 2010 Tour, as either an in person spectator or general fan of quality pro tour bike racing, then the good people of Missouri need your help. Here’s what you can do:
  • Visit the Tour of Missouri website ( and just poke around: hits mean interest.
  • Sign up for their email list or register as a fan if you feel so inclined.
  • Send some emails: emails to your friends telling them about the tour, emails to fellow race fans telling them the tour is in jeopardy and most importantly emails to key folks in Missouri State Government to tell them you want their support for this event. As a starting point, here’s some contact info for Governor Jay Nixon’s office and the Missouri Director of Tourism:
  • Governor Jay Nixon: 573-751-3222,
  • Tourism Director Katie Danner Steele: 573-751-3051,
  • You could also email Lt. Governor Kinder, local representatives etc. I actually emailed the Lt. Governor after last year’s tour and got an actual email back from a real human being (not the Lt. Governor, but I’ll take it.) This leads me to believe that there are folks out there in MO-GOV land who really want this event to continue, they just need your voice to help add some momentum to it.
  • Continue to support local racing and interest in competitive cycling. More interest will mean more races which will eventually make it harder to say no to events like these in the future.
Garmin in the Break
Here in Colorado the buzz is about whether the Governor and Lance can work out a deal to bring a pro tour race to Colorado in the near future. We had the Coors Classic back in the 80’s but since then haven’t hosted an elite level bike race, while other states have seemingly been working to promote the sport in our absence. Colorado could very well host some of the most challenging riding pro riders could ever expect to encounter: you want to climb high?--then climb Mt. Evans. You want days of endless climbing…how about days of climbing at 6,000+ feet…all day long. Flats…yes we got them too. But one race cannot stand on its own and expect to continue on the support of state and local governments alone, it needs to draw from a growing support for the sport across the country; it needs help from other state Tours to keep the energy and interest growing. Colorado needs the Tour of Missouri just as the Tour of MO needs Colorado (and others) right now. Take a moment and send an email, support your local pro tour event: have a bake sale or something, every little bit helps.
KOM Sprint Starts to Form

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sianara Path, Its Been Real

Today afforded me the opportunity to play young urban professional one more time, this time with a full commute eastward into the belly of the beast: Cherry Creek. So after two days of high profile urban riding and path trolling, I now feel myself a learned expert on the subject. Before my ride tomorrow, which will once again push me head long into the world of industrial parks and tenement housing, I figured I’d dispense my wisdom and be shed of it.
  • The small dog trend really needs to stop. These pocket puppies are the canine equivalent of a bag of Skittles to larger predators (like squirrels and such) and thus really serve no role in nature. Take your teensy-weensy poopsie and get it off the bike bath before an errant valve cap flies off and crushes its skull.
  • There are a lot of people out there who enjoy the comfortable ride of a full suspension mountain bike. There are those who enjoy the effortless glide of road bike tires. And there's the third group who has no qualms about enjoying them both simultaneously.
  • Aero bars…*&@#$%! aero bars. The market for aero bars is apparently very good despite our slumping economy and near 10% unemployment rate. Here’s a stock tip, buy shares of Performance because they must be making a killing selling tri bars to hybrid owners for their daily Tour de Pathlete.
  • Old men on old road bikes are a trip to watch; overly loaded for their 20 mile constitutional, inappropriately dressed for any weather, they always seem to be suffering…even when waiting for the light to change.
  • If you have no agenda, no job, no initiative to do anything or get anywhere then head out to the bike path around 2:00 in the afternoon and weave amongst the old men, path racers, hipsters and poopsie pocket pups. In fact bring your significant other or 12 and just make a parade of it while you’re at it. The more slowly pedaling weavers the merrier.
  • The slowly pedaling, agendaless weavers always end up laying on the grass in the sun at the park, that one you pass as you make that last turn and head towards your schmuck job...who's laughing now office boy?
  • A kitted up female cyclist will never wave or nod at you…ever.
  • A kitted up male cyclist will only wave or nod if they think they’re faster than you, otherwise they’ll just pedal harder and over compensate.
  • Most kitted up male cyclists cruising the path at 8:00am think they are faster than everyone.
  • The IQ of driver’s in Cherry Creek goes down 10 points for every 10 grand of pre-tax income.
  • There are a lot of people running at 2:00 in the afternoon; most of them are in really good shape and are apparently unemployed or nocturnal…so that’s how they do it.
  • “I can ride my bike with no handlebars, no handlebars” While that might be true for the Flobots, its not true for most of the people who attempt it on the bike path. Just hang on tight for Pete’s sake. Pete is a nice guy and you’re complete lack of control or sense of balance is going to f* his shit up.
  • The hardest part about riding a bike is selecting a helmet that fits properly on one’s cranium. Apparently few have mastered this skill, and many fail at it publicly every time they go out for a ride.
  • Any guy riding in non-existent drops on his mountain bike, chain a-grindin' and a-squeakin', with a sweatshirt with “Ted” on the back will most assuredly be a douche bag. He’ll pass and then slow down right in front of you. He’ll cut people off at random. He’ll be wearing those radio headphone combo things. He’ll attempt riding with no hands--poorly and he will do it all just to spite you…and he will enjoy every minute of it.
  • You can say “on your left” as loudly as you want, but if a runner is in their Ipod zone they will never hear. And as you go by right in the midst of their 'bringing sexy back' they will always give you that, “scary, fast passing, asshole cyclist” look as you pass.
  • If you try not to pay attention to the fact that they are homeless people cheering for you, it almost feels like you are in turn 1 entering onto the Champs Elysees for the Tour and it might smell like it too.
  • Any attempts by the city to “fix” cracks in a bike path only ends up making it worse. Say yes to crack, it is less annoying than rehab.
  • Painting yellow lines on the bike path to help designate opposing lanes heading into tight turns or corners is a big mistake, as the amateurs look down at the lines to make sure they’re in the right place and inevitably end up veering into the other lane anyway.
  • They could plaster the roadway with airport runway lights, neon signs and dancing purple monkeys in share the road shirts and drivers would still think that the marked bike lanes on city streets are their turf to be contested with a level of aggression and hostility one typically only associates with the West Bank or when the people in your office fight over the last Krispy Kreme in the break room.
  • There is a moment in every cruiser bike rider’s ride when they realize that despite the cool appearance of their vintage ride, the posture, fit, weight and gearing of their heft machine is entirely inappropriate for their chosen route and distance. If you’re lucky enough you just might be around to witness this realization when it happens. Its like shooting stars and magic and nirvana and stuff.
And really if anything is about shooting stars and magic and nirvana its riding the bike path. I only mock out of jealousy…honest.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Home Sweet Suburban Hole

I’ll preface this by saying first and foremost that I’m not really much of a city person. I’m not inclined towards the crowded living arrangements, noise and general din of urban living. I didn’t move to Colorado for its urban offerings; if I wanted urban culture and amenities I would have stayed in St. Louis or Indianapolis or better yet would have moved to Chicago as many of my collegiate friends did. Chicago is a big city. But city life was never my bag, which is why Denver held such an allure: it is urban but not really a ‘big’ city. So I’m somewhat conflicted. After our move down from the foothills we acted decisively on our anti-city inclinations and settled somewhere in the funky black hole that is the burbs: it was like committing but not really committing, one foot in one foot out as it were. Now I’m not talking about tract home burbs…but in truth our current neighborhood is not far off though. The net result of our move here, while positive on many levels, ultimately is clearly less than ideal. With my disclaimer aside, I go about my business on days such as today and feel myself tugged in a host of different directions leaving me questioning my sense of place.

Every time I travel into the heart of Denver for work purposes it impresses the hell out of me how easy navigating the city by bike truly is; there are many aspects of this city which I feel work really well in terms of car free accessibility and layout. People can get to the heart of the city via light rail or bus, or they can make their way by bike as many choose to do. I can approach Denver via one of three easily accessible east-west bike routes which span the distance between Lakewood/Golden here on the west all the way into downtown. Today I opted for the route down 26th past Sloan’s lake jogging south to the 23rd ave bike route. I easily could have taken 32nd through ’the Highlands’ or 20th more or less to 23rd again at Sloan’s Lake. These on street routes offer wide lanes for bike travel, are clearly marked and generally boast a number of riders heading in either direction. My route ultimately connected me with the Platte and Cherry Creek trails, what I would characterize as Denver‘s main bike and pedestrian super highways. In typical fashion I was not the only bicyclist out during the morning rush hour not by a long shot, and it was 28 degrees when I left my house (on its way to 60--only in Denver). The span of humanity coursing along the bike paths downtown today included young professionals on commuter style rigs, women and men kitted out for early morning training rides, hipsters heading to class at UCD, people cruising on their cruisers to wherever; it ran the whole gambit, each one representing a car not on Speer or some other major metro arterial. For a bike commuter the sight is about the most refreshing thing one can find save a trip to Holland or something like that. I got off the path near the convention center and headed up to catch the bike lane along 14th towards the Webb Building. Here I parked my bike in a secure location and after a short walk I hopped the 16th street mall ride between my meeting locations.

In route I passed all of the retail and dining offerings of the downtown area. I’m not much for nightlife, clubs, bars etc., they have their place and all, but I can fully appreciate the spectrum of coffee shops and breakfast sites open early in the morning. I love breakfast and good coffee and it is easy, if not obligatory, to find a local shop for your cup of jo versus the multitude of Starbucks coffee burners strewn about the place like dandelions in a well manicured lawn. Everything is easily within an easy walk or ride: banks, food, retail etc. While not on the scale of a New York City, one can easily find an outlet for whatever their needs may be all within a comfortable, car-free distance. For those who choose to (or can afford to) living and working downtown makes the option of a car free existence very attractive. In my opinion this should be the goal for any densely packed urban area with both commercial, entertainment and residential options. Yet, as highly as I regard the ease of navigation and travel within the Denver area, I still find myself conflicted in terms of my desire to live close to town versus out in the woods somewhere.

As I said earlier, I’m not a fan of urban living. I prefer to live out in the country or back up in the hills where I used to live. Yet it is hard to weigh my desire for a more rugged or rural lifestyle with the environmental costs of residing on the periphery of town and commuting in for work, shopping or recreational purposes. I don’t look back on my days of car commuting fondly with the added stress, time wasted, traffic, and long hours idling on the interstate. Unfortunately the burb-hole we now call home lies almost too far outside the periphery of the city to regularly take advantage of its conveniences more readily. I consider our neighborhood somewhat of a purgatory of sorts, sandwiched between the true subdivision burbs (hell in short) and the inner city (not really heaven in my mind, but better than the alternative). Our void is sorely lacking in accessible entertainment and dining options; days like today only reinforce how inconvenient and car dependent our neighborhood truly is. We have easy access to a grocery store and other such box retailers, yet prefer not to patron such establishments…unfortunately all of the friendly, local big-box competition is closer to town and not exactly in our hood. Similarly the streets lack the bike routes, bike parking, easy connection points and types of regular public transportation that make true urban living so convenient. Plus, we don’t work here. So while our commutes are now bikeable its still a commute and another door to door form of travel, more or less bypassing anything of value in the process. With Denver trying to market itself as a greener, alternative travel friendly, active place to live, I suppose we’re the target demographic for many of its in-fill efforts. At this point I suppose I am still resistant to its charms, yet after a day like today I have to admit my defenses are weakening, if even just the slightest, tiny bit

Friday, March 12, 2010

Important Message from Our Sponsors

Denverites, Boulderers and Aurorans, Lakewooders and Littleton people lend me your ears!  Have you been outside yet?  If not drop everything you are doing immediately and go outside.
Ride your bikes
Do hill repeats
Work on intervals
Do one leg drills
Hit your LT
Get down in your TT
Get in some LSD
Head down to the park
Dust off that cruiser and cruise
Pannier up and haul some junk around
Bundle those babies and Burley
Nod to a roadie
Track stand with a hipster
Wave to that chick on the flowered Electra
Give the "wha's-up" to that dude on the flamming balloon tire ride
Tandem up with your buddy
Take your dog and MTB and get muddy
Just do something!

This has been a public service announcement from your local, neighborhood bike blogger. Its sunny and really warm you know where your bicycle is?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bike Whine

My fellow bike blog compatriot at Rules of the Amateur UnPro Cyclist posted a lament this afternoon prompted apparently by the nagging whine of some other rider’s gritty, grimy chain. This too is a peeve of mine hearkening back to my anal retentive nature and mindfulness of the need to care for one’s gear. As one who for several years was a pretty serious (read fanatical…to the point of sickness) rock climber, care of one’s gear can mean the difference between safety and a busted skull. You respect the rope and in turn it tries to keep you from returning to earth in Icarus like fashion. Similarly, you respect your bike and it will in turn provide you with a nearly free, simple, enjoyable means of transportation and recreation for years.

Yesterday on one of my lunch runs I ran past a bike in dire straits. Even with my ears crammed with buds and music coursing through my head I could hear the discernable squeal of a bike crying out for help even before I could see it. The clueless rider, out for some “serious miles” on the bike path carelessly wobbled his way past, squeaking the entire way down the trail. I should have said something. I should have intervened. Its like watching someone beat a child…you should do something shouldn’t you?

First and foremost, isn’t the sound annoying!?! It annoys me, why wouldn’t it annoy you? Now I suppose I might be a bit of an extremist in this regard; perhaps a bit uptight. If my bike so much as creaks under duress I’m annoyed, let alone riding for miles with incessant creaking and grinding. But do these chain grinders not know there’s this magic thing called an old t-shirt and its best friend Mr. Lube…not that kind of lube, though the result is quite similar. Just wipe the chain and pulleys…make sure to wipe the grime forming on the pulley wheels…and a touch of lube. Not ‘its time to get busy’ lube, just a thin coating will do; then wipe off any excess. Voila, or as they say in the movies: silence is golden.

While I’m whining about the whine, can I tell you that another one of my annoyances is people who ride in TT (aero) bars when:

A. not on a TT bike
B. not in an aero position
C. on the bike path

To these specimens I must ask:  what do you think you are gaining from leaning out on your TT bars when you’ve got a 12 degree rise on that stem? And your seat is lower than your handlebars? And you look like a tool? And you can’t steer that bike no matter how comfortable you may feel…so grip the damn handlebars before you kill all of us! I suppose that’s all I have to say about that topic. So in conclusion, remember these formulas for aero bar success:

TT bars + TT bike = Good
TT bars + Aero = Good
TT bars + Aero + An Actual TT = Ideal

TT bars + Hybrid = Disaster for humanity you tripathalete wannabe
TT bars + TT bike + Bike path = Your 15mph bike path TT effort won’t get you anywhere. You’re not impressing anyone, least of all me, nor that hot chick out for a run, nor the old people walking their dog. We all voted and think you need a new hobby. Get off our island, the tribe has spoken.  Go ride on the street or around a reservoir somewhere.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fisherman's Chronicles Part 1: Me and the Dick

Call me Ahab...Ishmael was a douchebag.
I drove my Surly westward this evening in the hunt of the great whale, Moby Dick. I steered a course along the 14th parallel to Colfax towards Wadsworth. I then headed north on Carr across Colfax and into uncharted waters, but where I now believe the great Dick to live. My harpoon was ready. I remained attentive, vigilant. With a squall on the northern horizon I knew my window would be small, but I remained fixed on my task at hand. Life or limb be damned, I would find him.


I spotted the leviathan a week ago on 20th just past Wadsworth. I rolled along the westward lane of traffic where he turned off of Allison…or was it Zephyr? My sextant in my pannier and my Garmin at home I wasn’t sure of my exact longitude, but I assure you this:  it was the Dick I saw. They may call me a liar, and laugh behind my back at my tale but I know it was him. I could feel his presence even before I caught site of the tell tale beater car, the missing front license plate, ratty grill and faded paint job. And then as if to clear his blow hole before descending back safely to the depths of the sea, the driver’s window cracked just enough, “Get off the street stupid!” and then he was gone.

My first sighting of the great white whale of a Dick came back in aught 9. I was 31. The world was my oyster and I regarded myself an able seaman, even if yet untested in the great waters of the west. Rumors of the great beast which trolled these waters almost seemed too extraordinary to believe. I was young, strong, confident and skeptical of the yarns of these old seamen, the same sailors who wet themselves at the sight of a Dodge Ram 1500 bearing down upon them; how could these fainthearted souls have seen the Dick firsthand and lived to tell the tale. They had to be pulling my peg leg, so to speak. Yet to see the old timers tell their survivor’s stories, the collective wisdom of those who’ve long sailed these seas, their eyes alone reveal the learned truth behind these whopping fish stories, which despite my initial inclination towards incredulity, are tales which clearly beg heed and earnest mindfulness. Yet in all my time coursing over the great expanse of ocean between Federal and Wadsworth I never once saw the Dick. That is until he caught me quite unawares, exhaust smoke billowing in his wake, the faint shape of some mid 70’s crap American gas hog all but discernable, yet the trade winds carried a faint tone of gruffness to my ears, “…stupid!” Could it really be true? I spun and looked, yet the seas were again calm, the event passed. I retold my stories over many an ale at the local tavern, I’m sure I heard correctly. “Now you see., Now you believe,“ the old timers replied and mocked my newfound religion. I swore it was HIM! I began to obsess, to conceive of the glory of catching the large, white, slovenly, ‘classic plated’ Dick.

Since this first meeting there have been others, always catching me somewhat by surprise, always with my Sanyo Harpoon effectively out of reach. After last week’s encounter I resolved myself to seek him out; rather than waiting for fate to deliver the beast to me I would go out and create my own destiny. I would seek out the Dick. I’d find him and I’d Lampoon his ass on my blog and pic his plates for the Lakewood PD. Today’s excursion proved unsuccessful. Promising leads revealed themselves at every cove and inlet as I slowly trolled the environs south of 20th. I baited the beast with shouts of “Share the Road” and “Cadel Rules Always” but to no avail. He stirred not from his watery slumber. Yet I’ve not given up hope. This is my quest and I accept that I shall carry out my days in the hunt for the great white, fat, beater driving Dick…or I will die or go mad trying.

These are the voyages of the Blue Surly Pequod.
“Cadel Rules Always”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Slow News Day, Bikes Make 'News' Twice

Must have been a slow day at 9News today as there were 2 bike related stories on the site today. The first one talked about Denver's efforts to promote safe cycling routes by spray painting arrows on the street (see Sharrows story here.)  The second story talked about Denver's new bike sharing program called Bcycle. The city received a grant to promote this program as a pilot with city employees. Now they're rolling out the kiosk style rental units city wide (see Bcycle story here.) The quality of journalism or level of importance of these pieces notwithstanding, the point is that Denver is again trying to promote bicycling as a healthy, sustainable alternative to automobile travel around town. And with all of the environmental, health, fitness and practical justifications for these efforts the anti-bike group of trolls was nonetheless out in force on the comment boards spewing their litany of bike riders are a nuisance bile. There are a couple doozer comments out there in these forums, which I can easily sum up here for you to save you the reduction in IQ from reading them yourself.
  • Cyclists never stop at lights or stop signs.
  • Cyclists don't abide by any of the rules of the road.
  • Cyclists should ride on the sidewalks.
  • Cyclists don't pay taxes.
  • Obama wants everyone to ride a bike.
  • The socialist Dems want us to look like Amsterdam with its bikes, whores, drugs and health care (that one is practically a quote.)
  • Cycling is stupid.
  • Not everyone can ride a bike so cycling is stupid (see point above).
  • I live 45 miles away from work so cycling is stupid (see points above).
  • When the end of the world comes the riders of the apocalypse won't be on horseback...guess what they'll be riding...?
  • Bike programs are stupid because the "environment is a hoax"...the environment itself that is...another gem of a quote.
  • blah, blah I'll just run those cyclists over...teach them a lesson
Its usually at the point where some degenerate threatens, anonymously grant you, to just run them cyclists over that I stop reading the comments. I understand that we Americans have a dark, cynical sense of humor where making fun and ridiculing stuff we either don't understand or don't agree with is funny. But when it comes to threatening violence against someone for a mode of transportation I almost give up...and start looking at homes in Amsterdam...bikes, whores and health care...bring on that apocalypse!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bike Commuting Can Suck When...

  • You need to leave at 3:30pm at the latest to meet a contractor at home at 4:00.
  • You get a call at 3:20 which eats up your time for changing and getting out the door.
  • You get stuck behind a DB in the narrow parking lot at work who can’t get his Expedition unstuck and pulled around the Explorer coming the other way vying for the spot.
  • You run smack into a monster headwind.
  • You’ve now got 20 min to travel a distance you’d be pushing it to make in 25.
  • You’re riding a 25+ lbs behemoth bike with all your crap in a stuffed pannier.
  • You ran 5.5 hard miles at lunch (but in your fastest time yet!) and are subsequently spent.
  • You hit every freaking light, even the one at Wadsworth and 26th which you busted your ass uphill to try and catch.
  • A German Shepherd, although ‘restrained’ by its owner, lunges out at you and almost pushes you into oncoming traffic.
  • Every pedal stroke on your monster truck bike, translated to your road bike (comfortably sitting in the dining room at home) would easily net you 5+ more mph for the effort…and you make this calculation with every pedal stroke.
  • The damned wind just won’t stop.
  • You kill yourself to get home and make it by 4:02 and hope that like all contractors, delivery persons, and repair men these guys are late…but nope, they’re standing in your driveway and they give your sweaty, exasperated ass the, “hey get a load of this guy” look.
All this ranting aside, I really wouldn’t trade it for a second. A bad day of bike commuting means you still got to ride your bike. And with that: it is weekend time, adios!

"It really shifts it, your fog."

Thank you Eddie Izzard for running through my head all morning on my foggy, foggy commute. Actually out in Lakewood it was gorgeous for early March and really only gooped up towards Denver...typical.

Here's a shot from across Sloans Lake (still a sheet of ice) towards the skyline of Denver.
Sprint PictureMail

This pic of Mile High, Denver and some misc. industrial junk turned out better than I thought for a 2 mpix, crap, camera phone.
Sprint PictureMail

Happy Friday riding!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our Great Injustice System

So I’ve been thinking a lot about justice and our justice system lately. What initially got me started was the very recent shooting at a local middle school here in Lakewood, CO. A guy walks up to kids leaving school. He asks them if they go to the school, and after they reply he starts shooting at kids with a high powered rifle. Shockingly, this individual has been previously arrested or called on for a host of other issues including domestic violence and other misc. firearms charges. While I’m all about the powers of redemption and the belief that people can change…justice implies a set of consequences for actions deemed outside the law. As tragic as this scenario is, fortunately no one was killed. The same can’t be said in the case of Kevin Flock.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of Kevin Flock then please read this article on VeloNews, you’ll get to know the man behind the statistic; a senseless victim of neglectful, and irresponsible driving. In short, Kevin was struck from behind while out enjoying a ride alongside a rural roadway in Virginia one morning. A Virginia National Guard recruiter, Aaron Trey Stapleton, out on a long drive from someplace ran Kevin down at speeds in excess of 65 miles an hour. The jury fined Stapleton $500 for improper driving. He killed a man and it cost him $500. As tragic as this scenario is on its own, the sickening aspect of it remained to be told until a week after the trial. A week later Stapleton again found himself back in police custody for guess what: careless driving. This time he drove through a fence and then took off; he also refused a breathalyzer test. So we have a man with apparent issues controlling himself on the road and on top of this, even prior to killing Kevin, Stapleton had a history of reckless driving charges and citations. Brilliantly however, in order to protect the rights of the defendant Virginia law prohibits the admittance of prior ‘improper acts’ as evidence in current criminal trials. The jury let this guy loose after killing a man. Prior authorities before that let him off, despite repeated infractions. No one thought…hey maybe there’s a dangerous pattern here? Well of course not, its just driving. We’ve all driven a little fast, taken some extra chances etc. We can relate to a motorist prostrate before the blind scales of justice. We can’t relate to gun toting kid shooters these people are just wackos and nut jobs. Criminals shoot children…anyone can have an ‘accident.’

After the Deer Creek shooter was arrested people again began clamoring for more stringent gun control rules: if we could keep the guns out of the hands of criminals maybe we’d be safer. Well in the case of Kevin Flock he wasn’t shot. The doctor in California who purposefully stopped his car in front of two cyclists descending a steep canyon road never intended to shoot anyone. He chose to use his car as a weapon. While we seem to be a society with no shortage of laws on the books, seemingly for the protection of you and I, we also put into place an elaborate legal apparatus for the plea bargaining, negotiation, and settling of criminal charges. Hey great, so and so plead guilty for a reduced sentence; he cooperated and we reached a deal. Well Kevin Flock won’t be reaching for anything ever again. So for all our great legal protections, freedoms and liberties, in this case I think justice it swerved.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh, you horny baby?

Picture this:

Cyclist heads down residential street towards a three way stop; the road he’s on either turns right or left at the stop sign. He sits about 100ft from the sign moving at a relatively respectable pace for a guy on a commuter toting dress slacks and shirt, a lunch and running shoes. A car poised at the stop in front of him delays a bit before making its turn; now about 75ft out from the stop. From behind him the cyclist hears the hum of a motor and the distinct sound of acceleration. To hold his rightful spot in traffic, and signal his intent to turn left at the stop, the cyclist gives a glance back to see how much room there is, sticks out his left hand indicating he’s coming over and at this point coasts to the stop. Track stand, glance right, then left, and onward: no harm no foul right? Once the Toyota RAV 4, or some such equivalent, makes its turn the driver proceeds up behind the cyclist and hits the horn before driving past. WTF!?!

I can appreciate that the horn was designed for a distinct purpose, to allow motorists to communicate to other motorists that they may be in danger of collision. It apparently also works well to tell people in houses that you’re impatiently sitting out front idling and racking up greenhouse gases, but I digress. But with our over personification of vehicles as extensions of our very being, the horn has become a stand in for our loud mouths or lewd gestures (sometimes you still get the gestures.) Yet, I’ve rarely been honked at while driving. It has happened of course, but few and far between and usually I did deserve it. On the other hand I get honked at while cycling all the time. What is it about a guy on a bike that instigates some type of ‘vocal’ response from a driver via their horn?

I SELDOM ride in the middle of traffic, the exceptions being there’s something in the shoulder or I’m keeping pace with the cars in front or behind me. When its crappy and icy you bet your beeping horn I’m going to enter traffic (safely) to avoid ice on the side of the road. Similarly, because I’m generally faster than rush hour traffic downtown, if I’m riding around 15th, Larimer, Wazee etc in Denver, then I’m in the lane. I can hold 25-30mph long enough to hit the next light just like any car. I’m no Lance Armstrong but I can move a bike with authority when needs be. So there should be no reason to honk. People don’t honk at school buses slowing to pick up kids (no one did this morning), yet these large yellow vessels are clearly impeding their flow of motion. They likely wouldn’t honk at a geriatric barely hitting the speed limit; I suppose some might. A driver wouldn’t be apt to honk at farm or construction equipment driving on the shoulder, half in the lane, half out of it. So why honk at a bicyclist? Cars don’t honk at kids playing, people walking, joggers, ice cream trucks, police cars or UPS guys….all of which could be impeding their beloved right of way more than any cyclist…it just doesn’t make any sense!

Sometimes the honk is clearly a message that the driver is excited to see people on bikes. I’ve been honked at by people I know and I’ve been honked and waved at by total strangers who just think someone on a bike is a cool thing. I suppose I can accept this, however not expecting the blare (or gentle toot) of a horn from behind, you never know if you’re getting honked at out of love or out of a warning that you should consider your last rites: “How fast can YOU say the Lord’s Prayer before my bumper knocks the shit out of you.” And then there are clearly the jerk honkers…they honk cause they’re intimidated and angry at people on bikes and obviously lack the self control to just shut the hell up and get on with their lives. They perceive some sort of infraction against their beloved rolling steel cage on the part of the bicyclist, so they feel obligated to speak in its defense. “MY RAV 4 is precious and you made me stop at a stop sign…rot in hell @$%#%^$!#!” I can’t get my head around it, but it perturbs me greatly. When honked at I used to respond in turn with the bicyclist horn; usually some obscene gesture and ignorant comment. Now I just ignore it: what’s the point? Maybe eventually I will just be able to shrug it off…then again, maybe not.

On an unrelated note, I want to doff my hat to the mid 40’s, male pattern baldness driver of the Khaki (that’s Jeep’s official color) colored Jeep Wrangler Sport with black soft top at 26th and Kipling last night. We sat at the light, me behind you and waited for the drag race to begin. I totally thought I had the edge with my incredible capacity to overtake speeding cars... from behind…being a super-human bicyclist and rocking a 48X11 on my Surly and all. When you had to stop for that car turning left across from Gold’s Grocery I thought it was over and in the bag. Yet you put me in my place with your crunchy, hasty shifting, bat out of hell acceleration around the turning car from behind me in the bike lane. I thought I had your 6 cylinder 200+ horse engine beat over that mile before my turn but clearly should have thought again. You destroyed me and my manhood. I’ll never be able to look at my wife again and feel comfortable in my sexuality knowing that you and your large gas pedal are out there waiting to embarrass me again. This will inevitably ruin my marriage and my life...I'm looking at Enzyte ads now just to compensate, but it will never be enough. How foolish I was. It will never, ever, ever happen again. If I see you I will just pull over and vomit on my shoes in terror and deference…like a scared dog that wets itself upon first meeting strangers. Thanks for teaching me such a valuable lesson. (PS… I gladly would have testified in court on behalf of that Mazda who didn’t signal to turn left at Miller had your weak willed, small packaged, dumb-out-of-control-speeding-in-a-residential-area ass rear ended them…it looked close from where I stood, way too close for a freaking drive home. Hope your race home was worth it to get indoors so you could spank it alone to soft core porn on Skin-emax and visions of how you "beat that bicyclist"you loser. You’re a douche bag; likely always have been and likely always will be. And now everyone reading this will know it too.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rookie Move Ritter

Colorado’s Governor, Bill Ritter, crashed his bike this morning while riding with a group he frequently rides with. The story made it on 9 News (click 9 News for link), in which they report the Governor overlapped wheels with a rider in front of him and went down. Net loss of his crash?…a couple ribs and typical road rash…maybe some dignity.

The Governor was out riding his bike. He was enjoying the Colorado air and mixing it up with traffic on the road, at 6:00am no less. He wore a helmet…all great, admirable things. Overlapping wheels however, that’s a no-no. Every junior racer and group rider hears the speech at some point in their biking career. If you overlap wheels with the rider in front of you and you hit them: they won’t go down, you will. They make this announcement at every training crit I’ve ever been too. It doesn’t stop some moron from eventually doing it, usually when trying to move up in a sprint or when navigating a tight pack, but the warning goes out nonetheless. So I think that when he’s all healed up from his broken ribs, our Governor should spend some time with the CAT4’s at the weekly NREL crits on Thursday nights at the highway patrol test track in Golden. There he can learn:

• The importance of sprinting in the drops
• Not to talk smack to other riders about how fast you were at the MS150 last year
• Which riders to ignore (like anyone in a junior or college team jersey)
• Which riders will crush you in the sprint (usually the hairy legged guy on the steel frame)
• How to hold your line
• When to yell at riders for not holding their line
• Why you should not try and hang with anyone named Pavel
• When not to brake in a turn
• What a goat’s head looks like
• Why we don't really like Australia (damn Australian kids)
• The value of making sure you have your helmet with you when you leave your house
• And most importantly, not to overlap wheels.

Then at least he’ll know as much as the 14 year old juniors and other CAT4’s know, and like them, he can then choose to do with that information as he pleases.