Tag Archive: bicycle


I accidentally entered a bike race

“Withnail & I.”  Classic film by any measure.  Yet almost entirely ignored Stateside.  Everybody’s loss, I suppose.  Because the “we’ve gone on holiday by mistake” line is only one of what seems like a billion killer lines from the movie.  Quotable films extend beyond Will Ferrell’s fare, you guys.

And that’s the scene that conjured up in my head this morning.  This morning that came far too quickly after a night celebrating a friend’s birthday the night before.  The night before wasn’t conducted with a great deal of consideration of what this Sunday morning was going to bring.  It was, after all, a friend’s milestone birthday and we were going to celebrate it properly.  A catered dinner, wine that gushed from many bottles, coolers filled to brim with PBR, and a firepit out back that welcomed everyone outside on a frosty late-summer night.  And of course, there were cigars.  Of course.

So I got to bed at around 1am only to have to wake up around 5:30am.  Why?  Because weeks earlier, I had signed up for the Tour de Greenwich 20-mile ride.  What the fuck.

So, groggy, tired, and carrying a mild hangover, I hitched a ride with some friends up to Greenwich for this ride.  I didn’t mind too much because it’s only a 20-mile ride, and it’ll be a casual morning ride.  I was forewarned of a “nasty climb” at one point of the ride, but I shrugged it off as no big deal.  I mean, it’s not Alpe d’Huez, it’s fucking Greenwich – what’s the big deal.

When we got to the event, I looked around and saw the obligatory collection of rabid cyclists.  You know the sort.  The sort who shave their legs, who wear fully synchronized bologna suits; they ride carbon bikes that cost more than my car, and they nerd over their wattage, VO2 max, and electrolyte intake.

If somebody needs to nerd over shit that like, better them than me.  ‘Cause I fail to follow any of those cycling rules that govern such discipline in the sport.  I ride on the road with baggy shorts, I use mountain bike shoes and pedals, I rarely shift gears, and my bike has a flask holder.

Ti gearie

So, when I rolled up to the registration table, I was given a number to pin on with the instruction, “You’re in the second heat.”

Wait, what?  What second heat?  What “heat”?!  Turns out, the Tour de Greenwich wasn’t a casual ride through Greenwich at all.  Not at all like the NYC 5 Boro ride, or any of the other individual borough tours.  This was a fucking race!

I had accidentally entered a bike race.

RollersI looked around and started to take stock of all the people around me.  Guys were on their bikes doing short sprints in the parking lot.  Other guys had shot off to do a recce of the start of the course.  Some guys had hauled out their rollers and trainers and were spinning in place next to their cars.  I was in a sea of spandex.

Holy shit.

Realizing there was little I could do about this, I decided to that I was going to ride this the way I had planned to ride it all along – cruising around the 20 miles or so around Greenwich to admire the mansions, the huge tracts of land, and take in the morning scenery.  Fuck the race, I wasn’t prepared for a race, I wasn’t going to even try to “race” this thing.  The last bike race I did, it was a mountain bike race, and I came in about 20 minutes after everyone else.  I’m not cut out for this racing bollocks.

Tour de Greenwich start

Around 7:45am, the second heat were called up to the start line. Thick silence all around me.  Everyone was taking this serious as shit.  I started to giggle at how out of place I was.  I took a swig of scotch from the flask on my bike.  After about 3 minutes, they sounded the start, and the rapid clack-clack-clack of everyone’s clipless pedals accompanied the forward motion.  The road went straight, then a 90-degree turn to the left, and it immediately started to climb uphill.  Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I would later learn that the entire course was effectively 10 miles uphill, then 10 miles downhill to the finish.  Since I wasn’t going to race, I slinked to the right and let everyone fly past me.  Then I cruised along the course around lovely Greenwich and took in the sights.  And worked off the hangover.  And it was magnificent.  These enormous mansions all around me.  Some mansions had adjacent cottages.  Some of those cottages had their own cottages.  There were horses, there were farms, there were houses that looked like Hogwarts.

And the whole time, I kept thinking, what’s the fucking rush, you guys?  If I had ridden faster (I couldn’t ‘cause I’m fat and slow, and was still coughing up my cigar from the night before), I’d have missed all these sights.

I took the time to slow down, wave, and say hi to all the course marshalls and cops.  No one appreciates the thankless job they do.  Instead of tucking in, I would use my brakes on the downhills because I wanted to check out the ‘hood.  The only time I put the hammer down was when I got to this so-called “nasty hill”.  And holy shit was it completely ridiculous.  I checked the map and it says that it’s a 10.6% gradient.  I don’t know what the fuck that means, but it was every bit like climbing a wall on your bike.  Straight up.  Thankfully it wasn’t a long climb, and I just pounded my legs to crank up that sumbitch.  When I got to the top, I felt like my heart and lungs were going to explode out of my chest while I simultaneously shit my pants (I didn’t).

After about an hour and quarter, I reached the finish line.  Naturally, my other friends had all finished much earlier and had posted massively respectable times.  They’d docked their bikes on top of the cars, and they were already breaking out the coffee, the donuts, and they had the music was cranking from their cars.  A genius amongst us had the foresight to bring beer.  Now, since this was 9am, the beer was flavored with maple bacon.  Breakfast beer, perfect!

Coffee, donuts, and beer

So, in the end, the ride finished exactly how I had treated the whole thing.  To earn an excuse to stuff my face with donuts, drink beer at sun-up, and treat the whole thing as a goof.  Because I fucking goofed up by not realizing that I’d signed up for a goddamn race.

The next time, I ought to do a better job reading the descriptions to these things.

 

 

 

Loud Noises

In Louis CK’s latest HBO special (I know that’s not Louis CK in the picture above, so calm down), he talked about saying unthinkable things – horrible, unimaginable curses – at others, all from the safe confines of his car.

Worthless piece of shit.

Hey, FUCK YOU!!!

I hope you die!

Hell, I’d done the exact same thing only a week before.  I was in a multi-level parking garage, trying to quickly find a parking spot so I could dash into a clothing store to pick up some stuff.  Naturally, given the common denominator of humanity, the parking garage was full of imbeciles who were indecisive, clueless, or clinically retarded.  The words that came hurtling out of my mouth at all the shitty drivers were startling even to me.  I literally said out loud, “Holy shit, what did I just say.”  All because these awful drivers dared to get between me and some shitty linen shirts and a couple of pairs of trousers by about 12 seconds.  I’m a terrible person.

When I watched that Louis CK bit, it was cold comfort that I wasn’t the only one who could get offended by myself.

Then a week goes by, and more different circumstances can offer you an entirely different perspective.  Let me explain.

This past weekend, I went on a 20-something mile bike ride with my friend.  He’s a long-time roadie, and I’m a road noob, so it was good to have some company on a road ride as the New York weather began loosening its icy grip.  In fact, the weather was fucking spectacular by anyone’s standards.  Just the best day to be out riding.

With about two miles to go from the end of the ride, we were riding single-file along a high street when, from behind, I heard a persistent series of beeps.

*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…* beep-beep*

As a rule, I fucking hate it when drivers blow their horn at me while I’m riding my bike.  More often than not, they’re being assholes.  But even those who think they’re being helpful by blowing their horn to let me know they’re there, it fucks me off to no end.  I’m attuned to my surroundings and I’m aware of cars in front of me and in the back of me – because I can hear the cars coming up behind me.  Blowing your horn to “alert” me does absolutely nothing but piss me off.

Anyway, back to this persistent horn.  I was already hugging the shoulder on the right, and who passed me but some crazy old fuck on a yellow three-wheeled Harley.  It wasn’t even a proper Harley.  It was a fucking tricycle.  And it was lemon yellow.  Motherfucker.  Naturally, I shot him my middle finger as he rode by.

Yellow Harley Trike

[Picture at left was plucked off Google images for illustration purposes only; not the actual asshole in question]

The Harley fuckhead then proceeded to tailgate my friend ahead of me, and harass him with the same series of beeps.  The old fuck zipped by him and I caught up to my friend.

“I’m gonna fuck this guy up, I swear” I said.  (I wasn’t really sure what I meant when I said that.)

“’The fuck was his problem?”

“He’s an asshole is what his problem is.”

We approached the traffic light at the intersection up ahead and old fuck Harley was stuck at the light, but inching forward.  I sprinted towards the light and hollered out, “Hey, asshole, don’t you fucking go anywhere!”

I caught up to him.  “What the fuck is your problem?!  Go fuck yourself, fuckface.  Fuck you, fuuuuuuck you!”  I’d never stringed that many fucks in a row before.

His response?

*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…*beep-beep*…* beep-beep*

I peeled off, turned right, and left him while the light was still red.

My buddy rolled in to help himself to a second dose of bollocking on this guy.  While I did a slow roll by and bitched out the Harley asshole, my friend was more patient.  And sadisitic, I think.  He rolled up next to the yellow Harley, stopped, and unloaded an ungodly serving of verbal beatdown for what felt like an eternity.

Every manner of profanity in the known universe was unleashed on this Harley asshole.  And I do mean every fucking word.  “Fucking” might’ve easily been the kindest word in that tirade.  That bollocking made Satan cup his ears, blush, and say, “Woah, dude, language.”  It was masterful.  It was fucking poetry is what it was.  I swear if he could’ve taken a shit on this guy, he would’ve.

Farther down the road, my friend and I collected ourselves to deliberate what had just happened.

“What the fuck was all that about?”

“I dunno, was he high or something?”

“Could be.  Ahh shit, part of me feels bad bitching out a crazy old man.”

“I gotta tell you, though… that felt good yelling at someone.”

“You’re right, it does feel fucking awesome bitching out someone when you’re totally in the right.”

And he was too fucking right.  It’s soooo exciting to bitch someone out when you’re totally in the right, and they’re totally in the wrong.  I mean, the ability to justifiably yell at another human being without restraint – and without repercussion – might be one of the last underappreciated experiences you might ever have.  God, it’s so hard to put into words just how satisfying it is.  Delicious is the only word I can conjure up.  It so is.  And when you’ve had a taste, you want it all the time.

So much so that instead of letting my phone go to voicemail, these days I pick up every time my caller ID shows that it’s a telemarketer.  God, I so look forward to those calls.  *Ring ring*… HOLY SHIT IT’S A TELEMARKETER, NO ONE PICK UP, I GOT THIS!!!

I usually let them introduce themselves and just inch their way into their spiel before I cut in with,

“Excuse me, WHO ARE YOU?  Where are you calling from?  Why are you calling me?  I’m on the no-call list.  You’re not supposed to be calling me.  What did you say your name was?  No, I want YOUR name, and I want your company’s name.  I’m reporting this bullshit.  I want your name, I want your supervisor’s name, the name of your company, all of it…”

I usually don’t even get through half that rant before they freak out and hang up.

Mmmmm… delicious.

 

 

Road Noob: Part 2

 

CONTINUED FROM Road Noob: Part 1

 

When I resolved to buy a road bike, you wanna talk about a smorgasbord of simultaneous emotions.  I was fucking bummed because I thought I was “resigning” or “downgrading” to a road bike (because, you know, mountain bikes are fuckin’ ‘ard).  I was thrilled because, holy shit, a shiny new bike!!  And I was dreading the inevitable “WTF, another bike?!” from the missus.  Ugh.

In the end, I bit the bullet and nailed a titanium road bike.  Oooh, titanium… so ‘90s.  Every fucker out there’s on a carbon fiber bike these days.  Titanium is so, so passé.  They’re the harem pants of road bikes.  But because I’d come from a mountain biking background, where everything is about durability – because let’s face it, you’re gonna fuck shit up when you’re trying to ride a bike across rocks and streams and logs and badgers – the idea that my fat and clumsy ass might inevitably shatter a carbon fiber frame scared the living shit out of me (reality check: carbon’ll hold up just fine).  Theory being that I can get titanium re-welded if I fuck it up.  If I fuck up a carbon fiber frame, all I’m getting an ass full of carbon fiber shrapnel.  Fuck that.

Nevermind that it’s impossible to choose from all the carbon fiber bikes out there.  There are thirty gajillion models to choose from, how the fuck do you make sense of it all.  Narrowing it down from only a handful of titanium options made the whole process more manageable.  [Let’s, for the time being, ignore the fact that there’s really nothing wrong with a carbon bike, I just wanted a titanium frame to be different.  OK?  OK.]

So I got the bike.  Off I go, right?  Fuck no.

There’s a lot of shit to work out when you make a wholesale change to what bike you’re riding.  Going from mountain bikes to road bikes is not like going from white toast to whole wheat.  It’s more like going from a rack of ribs to a salad.

As a result, I’ve had to relearn a shit ton of new things about cycling.  Things like:

HelmetHelmets.  Mountain bike helmets typically have a bill (visor).  I have no idea why but they do.  All the riding I’ve ever done has been under a canopy of woods, so I have no idea what that bill’s shielding me from.  And I’ve been using the same mountain bike helmet model for over a half-dozen years.  It’s the only helmet I use when riding my Frankenstein bike on the road.  Mainly because I’m already riding a completely unconventional fucked up monstrosity.  A mismatched mountain bike helmet? Perfect!  But roadies don’t wear billed helmets.  Oh no.  Roadie helmets have a billon vents and are made of carbon fiber (again!) and cost a trillion dollars.  Oh no, what to do!  Fuck it, I bought a road helmet.  I’m such a goddamn sucker.

On One MidgeHandlebars.  My Frankenstein bike has these cool flared dropbars (above).  They look a bit weird, but they’re massively comfortable.  This new road bike has conventional dropbars.  Ugh, another goddamn thing I’ve gotta (re)learn.

Saddle.  All my mountain bikes have exactly the same saddle.  That’s what my ass likes, so that’s what my ass gets.  All these road bikes seem to come with these thin wafer saddles.  Different saddles for different rides, I get it.  I guess they have little need for all that taint-saving structure on mountain bike saddles.  But which one to use?  This one’s thin, but is it thin enough?  That one’s narrow, but is it narrow enough?  WTF.

Road bike tiresTires.  So, so many tire choices.  With mountain bikes, I got quite good at understanding the tires.  There’s visual common sense that plays a big part.  Different tires have different tread patterns.  You can make a pretty well educated guess on how different tires will work on different terrains.  Makes tire selection not an entirely complicated affair.  Road bike tires?  There are four trillion models out there and they’re all slick.  How the fuck do you tell what’s a good tire and what’s a shit tire?  Getting up to speed on road tires has been a fucking tedious affair.  Also, I used to be able to score brilliant mountain bike tires for about $30 pop.  Why the fuck do road tires cost $80 a pop?  I blame the overall roadie populace for willingly overpaying for all sorts of shit.

Pedals.  Fuck road pedals.  Road pedals are big and clunky and they all use these massive cleats bolted to the sole of your cycling shoes.  And of course, these cleats aren’t compatible with mountain bike shoes.  Of course.

Shoes.  Fuck road shoes.  These things look like ass, with all the ratchets and straps.  And they all have these slick soles that’ll guarantee you’ll slip and bust your ass when you’re off the bike.  Speaking of off  the bike, those massive cleats on slick road shoes make you walk like a duck that’s just shit his pants.  I’m sticking with my mountain shoes and mountain pedals.

Shorts.  Roadies and their fucking bologna-skin outfits.  Mountain riders wear baggy shorts.  I’ve never worn anything but baggy shorts when I ride.  My ass is too fat to wear skintight lycra shorts without some modesty shorts to hide behind.  Fuck you, I’m riding with baggy shorts.

So much shit to think about.  So many rules…  Ahhh yes, “The Rules”

Velominati“The Rules” are a crowdsourced “sacred doctrine” devised by the brilliant cycling iconoclastic site, Velominati.  Velominati’s “The Rules” are fucking ace.  They’re hilarious.  But they’re also the quintessential road cycling commandments.  I love rules for things.  But while I love how fucking hardcore some of the rules are, there’s just no fucking way I’m adhering to all of them.

Because whether roadies want to admit or not, there’s a roadie mold, and it chaps my taint and I’m not doing it.  I’m not riding with a fucking heart rate monitor.  I’m not measuring my cadence.  I never want to know what a VO2 max reading means.  I sure as fuck am not shaving my legs.  I’m never wearing a bib.  I’m riding with sleeveless jerseys when it’s 100-degrees out.  I’m gonna keep wearing baggy shorts.  And I’ll keep riding with booze onboard.

I’m just gonna go out there and ride this stupid bike.

 

 

Road Noob: Part 1

Ti BikeJust over eight years ago, the missus and I were expecting our first kid.  And as fat and out-of-shape as I am now, I was even more grotesquely overweight then.  I was over my ideal weight by about 50lbs or so.  Absolutely no athletic ability to speak of, I got winded walking up the three steps to the front door of my house.  I was fat, repulsive, and I realized that this was no way to greet my firstborn.

So I bought a $300 entry-level mountain bike and started huffing it around town.  Then I took the bike the dirt and decided that a $300 bike wasn’t something I should use to bomb around these dirt trails.

As I have a slightly obsessive personality, one thing led to another, and eight years later, I ended up with eight bikes in my garage – each one quite different from the next.  Dual suspension, geared hardtail, singlespeed hardtail, geared 29er, singlespeed 29er, the list goes on.  But they were all mountain bikes.

I took pride in riding mountain bikes.  Because mountain bikes are fucking hard.  Mountain bikes are big and burly, not skinny and frail like road bikes.  Mountain bikes have big chunky tires that eat up the earth, not thin little pussy tires that glide on the road.

But I went further.  While everyone’s riding aluminum bikes, I only rode steel frames.  Heavy, tough steel rides.  And I assembled almost all of them myself.  I bought the frames, I bought the bike parts, I bought tools, and I gradually learned how to assemble bikes in my garage.  I was obsessed with building bikes.  If I’m honest, I probably enjoyed tinkering with bikes more than actually riding them.

In that time, I’ve had nothing but disdain and bucketsful of fuck you for road bikes and the sinewy, shaven fuckfaces who ride them.  Road bike riders are goddamn nerds.  And nerds ruin everything.  Road bike nerds are the fucking worst.  These shitheads with their immaculately specced carbon fiber bikes with carbon wheels and carbon parts and their shitty skin-tight bike clothes that are color coordinated with their Kenny Powers sunglasses and matching helmets, and their shaved legs and heart rate monitors, all nerding over their wattage and VO2 max and cadence and GGGAAAARRGGGGHHH, fuck you, fuck you to hell, roadies!

God, I hate roadies.

But the sad reality is that over the past two years or so, my time on dirt trails dwindled to almost nothing.  Trail riding takes time.  It takes time to get all your gear together, it takes time to actually get to the trail, and when you’re there, you wanna take your time to enjoy the trail.  Mountain rides go slow compared to road rides.

Having a couple of ingrate kids with increasing demands (soccer! baseball! camp!) meant time that would’ve been spent on the trails was now rapidly being sucked away.  A three-hour trail ride now turned into a mere hour-long sprint on the road.  To do this, I had to convert one of my mountain bikes for the road.

This bike was a proper Frankenstein’s monster.  I had bought the bike for $50 from my local bike shop and had immediate stripped it of all its shitty parts, then had the whole thing repainted.  Then through some manner of witchcraft and sheer luck, I was able to cram road wheels (which are larger than mountain bike wheels) into the frame, and cobble together something was somewhat roadworthy.  This beast would serve as my road ride for over two years.

But it was far from perfect.  The chain would fall off the bike frequently.  Using road bike parts on a mountain bike frame had its challenges.  Most of all, it was slow as fuck.  The combination of being an older heavy lugged steel frame with only 9 speeds meant that I wasn’t about to suffer windburn on my rides.

Denial: not just a river in Egypt, as they say.  I was in denial so long about needing a road bike, I can’t even pinpoint the moment when I finally did face up to the fact that my Frankenstein bike wasn’t cutting it anymore.  I mean, fuck road bikes, right?  I don’t ride road bikes.  Asshole nerds ride road bikes.  And you know who else ride road bikes?  Old people.  Old fucks whose bodies can’t hack it any longer on a mountain bike.  Because they’ve gone soft.  And old.  I’m not old, I’m still young!  That’s what I kept telling myself over and over again.  Somehow, in my head, I’d conjured up the perception that getting a road bike is a sign of giving up, growing old.  I wasn’t prepared to do that.

But then, I went and bought a fucking road bike anyway.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…