Archive for the 'Cycling Culture' Category


Semi-endless Winter and 6 weeks of Pre-race Panic

In Minnesota, even in the southern-most tropical region of the state, the abundance of this winter’s snow harvest continues to pile up. The 3.5 feet sitting in my yard no longer represents a winter wonderland, but a multi-layered, crusted reminder of days, weeks and months of wind-whipped bitter cold.

However, in the winter of my discontent, I’ve found my cycling motivation for the upcoming year. I followed an actual training program, spending about 8-12 hours a week on the trainer, mixed in some strength training, ate smart and worked with a trainer partner that kept us both motivated. I managed to drop about 15 pounds so far, a couple more veins have chosen to make their appearance on my calves and I’m feeling a lot stronger. All in all, pretty damn happy with the way this winter has gone.

The rest of the winter’s program has me targeting building up more fitness and riding strength along with dropping another 10 before the pretty ambitious race schedule I set out for 2010 comes about this spring. No problem, let me see now…check the calendar…Holy S#@t, my first race is in 6 weeks.

All of a sudden I find myself less worried about whether or not the winter will end and if the snowmelt will leave us in a giant Great Plains-sized flooded mud pit until after the 4th of July and more worried the starting-line jitters building in my gut and how I’m going to attack the first climb. I know it’s a bit premature, but given my stellar effort at last year’s offseason training stupidity, early season incompetence and overall failure in my racing ‘program’ last year, I’m anxious for this year’s racing to start. I took the time to learn from my mistakes, train smart, make progress and set goals…you know, all that stuff they write about in magazines and people pay coaches to help them with.

The Glory I’m searching for is glory on a Very Small Scale. Cat 4 Masters Road and Citizen class MTB wins. Results that you have to scroll down 3 pages to find my age group and class to reach. The fun I’ll have pursuing this Small Scale Glory and the happiness I’ve had along the way will be far greater than any medal I might receive. The smile on my face that was missing through many years of workaholism is back, and I don’t want it to leave anytime soon.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to contain my starting line nerves until I actually reach the starting line. However, my outlook has changed a little – the winter can’t last forever, I can now envision myself out riding in the sunshine and my competitive side has started to stir. So, for those that will be at the opening Psychowpath race on April 3rd – just know I’ll be easy to spot. I’ll be the slightly catatonic, overly caffeinated guy with the big grin on his face.


Cycling Memories – Man v. Peaceful Creature Sprint, Enjoyment at Speed

As winter winds howl across the prairie again, creating a curtain of snow and a carpet of ice, I find myself thinking back to the sunny days of riding last summer.  While I repeatedly admit I’m not a big deal, where I differ from most of the cyclobloggers is my environment.  Where most have to curse their bike-hostile urban landscapes and occasionally get the opportunity to escape to a peaceful environment where the true enjoyment of riding can occur, my escape takes about 3 minutes riding to be in the countryside, with hundreds of miles of paved freedom at my disposal.

It’s when I’m riding that these simple pleasures of a simpler life come about.  Watching the sun set over the purple and red-hued pipestone ridge of the Blue Mounds; crossing the Rock River as it slowly winds through the fields, slews and bands of trees that pop up, always slightly out of place across the agrarian patchwork that dominates the landscape; looking to the side and watching the rows of corn fly by my field of vision – all these are simple things that just cannot be enjoyed in the same manner if you’re constantly worried about a taxi taking a hard right turn in front of you.

The one  riding memory I’ll carry away from last summer was on a late afternoon ride, about 30 minutes into my ride on a relatively flat patch of county highway.  I was pedaling along at easy cruising pace when my peripheral vision picks up a young whitetail deer leaping out of the cornfield and starts running and bounding alongside me in the ditch parallel to the highway.  I clicked down a couple gears and climbed out of the saddle, wondering whether or not I had it in me to take my first man-beast sprint.  For slightly longer than the next mile, I kept pace with the deer (or so it seemed) but found myself laughing out loud at the sheer wonder and enjoyment of this experience.  As I was about to approach the first of a few rolling hills, the deer apparently bored of my less-than-competitive speed.  With a few quick strides, a gap was immediately opened and the deer leapt out of the ditch and bounded across to the other side of the road and stopped to watch me continue on.  I thanked him for his time and enjoyed a sense of wonderment and my smile was a little wider the rest of the day.   A little more than two weeks later, while heading back toward town after a quick 25-mile ride, the same deer came out from a cornfield at the edge of the Blue Mounds and ran alongside again.  He must have sensed I was a little tired from attacking the rollers over the last few miles and entertained my slower pace, but bored quickly and leapt across the road again.

For those who chastise those of us who go out to ride faster, stating that we’re missing the point, my reply would be that I get the point and still get it, regardless of my speed.  Unfortunately, those who live in the bike war zones have to slow down for both safety and to see the myriad of things they’re passing by.  I hope that sometime, they can see it my way.


Germans love David Hasselhoff…and 26″ hardtails

While a lot of us come from European ancestry, we don’t always understand the culture of our ancestors’ current society.  Me, I’m fairly close to all German.  I understand there’s some Russian in there somewhere, but for the most part I’m kraut.

Fortunately, as a military child, I had the chance to live in Germany for a few years in my youth and after my college days worked for a German ski company that brought me over for work a few times a year, so I’ve experienced from where my ancestors set sail.  While the Germans do a lot of Really Good Things (Audi, BMW, Beer, Really Precise Stuff) there are a lot of things Germans like that leave us American’s scratching our head (David Hasselhoff, still smoke cigarettes).

It’s been well established that Germans love David Hasselhoff.  It’s also still true that Germans (and most Europeans) still love 26” hardtails.  While we in the US have, at least at the enthusiast level, cast aside the 26” hardtail and lust after all variations of 29’er or 26” full sussers, the Euros don’t adopt the technology curve nearly as quickly.  Last summer, Velonews even declared the death of the 26” hardtail, going so far as to quantitatively measure how much you were losing to either alternative platform option.  While riders like husband and wife national champs JHK and Heather Irmiger proved the competitive worth of the 29’er platform domestically, the Julien Absalons and Irina Kalentievas of the world keep winning World Cups and Championships on 26” hardtails.

How else could I know the European lust for apparently technically inferior machines?  eBay.  Last week, I placed a late 90’s Cannondale Killer V frameset that was in great condition on eBay.   The number of followers was surprisingly large, but then the questions came – would I (and how much would it cost to ship to) Germany, Italy or Spain.  In the end, the frameset went for about what was expected – around $300.  However, the winner was willing to spend 2x the value of the frame to ship it to, you guessed it, Germany.  What somebody in the US wouldn’t pay $300 for, somebody in Germany happily spent $900 for a MTB semi-icon.

The moral to the story – we still don’t know why Germans love David Hasselhoff.  But, if you’ve got a 26” hardtail taking up space in the garage that you wish you could sell to buy a sweet new 26” trailbike or 29” XC racer, eBay young grasshoppers.  For the record, the lack of a Hasselhoff photo for this post was deliberate.


Ciclirati Really Limited Edition T-Shirts and Monthly T-shirt design contest

In cycling, quality over quantity is a good general rule.  Actually, it’s a good rule in most of this crazy little thing called Life.  For the Ciclirati (that means you – those educated in the ways of cycling, if you’re reading this and not some web-bot scanning the page), you also know that cyclists are a fairly creative bunch.

Each month, Ciclirati will produce one new design of a Really Limited Edition t-shirt.  The first shirt is the one shown within this article.  There will only ever be 50 of each shirt printed EVER. When they’re gone, they’re gone.  Each shirt will include a hang tag that denotes the month and the x/50 number of your shirt.  Of course, if you’re doing a limited edition, you need to use some of the best shirts made to print on.  The shirts are made of a 5.0 oz preshrunk 100% Certified Organic Cotton for the best look, fit and feel.

Here is where your creativity comes in.  I want your designs, I know you’ve got them – if not on your computer, in your head.  The guidelines are pretty simple – it has to be original artwork, it has to be cycling sport related – and by cycling I mean road, cyclocross and mountain biking…and by mountain biking I mean not downhill or big air.  The design can, but does not require the Ciclirati logo to be used in it (any shirts not integrating the word or logo will have a small single color Ciclirati logo placed separately on a sleeve or lower seam.  Other than that and the limitations of what can be printed on a shirt, the world is your design oyster.  But, as I mentioned, we’re only doing one new design a month – so there is a contest to see what shirt gets made.

How you enter:

1)      Download the PSD template kit here.

2)      Design away.  Feel free to integrate the Ciclirati name in any shape or fashion within your design – but it isn’t required and doesn’t get you bonus points.  Limit to a 4 color print, please.  No gradients or transparencies.

3)      Activate/Make Visible/Utilize one of the color layers as the color for your shirt.

4)      Place your design in the group “Your Design” – use as many layers as you need to.

5)      Save as a GIF, JPEG or PNG and email to the address listed on the template sheet

6)      Save the PSD file.  If you’re a winner, I’ll need it.

Why you enter:

The monthly contest winner will receive $100 cash and 1 of the t-shirts.  That’s right, I didn’t say all 50 would go on sale…50 will be made – with one already gone before they’re up for sale.  If I come across a famous cyclist or otherworldly attractive person, the number could be even lower.

You are not limited by any number of entries.  You can enter with as many different designs as you wish.  Any entry that is not a winner will be emailed to request if you wish to enter the same design in the following month’s contest.

When you enter:

Entries for any given month will be accepted until the 24th of each month.  From the 25th of each month to the 4th of the following month, the Ciclirati (that means you, the cycling educated fans) will get to vote on a favorite design.  On the 5th, the winner will be announced and the shirts will go on sale.  Once the 49 (or less) shirts are sold, they’re gone.  Delivery of all orders will be approximately 2 weeks.

I’m not trying to create a t-shirt empire.  I want to create some of the best looking, best fitting, best quality cycling t-shirts ever designed.  I’m hoping they become highly sought treasured garments that you get really mad if your girlfriend steals them, because you can’t replace it.  I’m hoping people go “damn…this shirt is sweet.”


Justice served, but time for a change – Reaction to the LA Road Rage case

While I understand there are complexities and that cyclists are concerned that the LA Road Rage conviction will create a greater chasm between cyclists and motorists sharing the road amiably, I find this a fairly simple matter.  Honestly, I’ve been surprised that for all the “throw the book at him” rage that was expressed from day 1, now that the verdict has come down many cyclists and industry figures have backed down using a conciliatory tone.  As cyclists, all of us had bad dealings with motorists, some worse than others.  This case seemed to be one where motorists would realize what you can and cannot do to somebody at your mercy.  That’s right…as cyclists, we’re at the whim of those behind the wheel who don’t understand what it’s like to be sitting on that saddle, pedaling along hoping for a safe journey or good workout.  Just as Christopher Thompson did, if they want to use their vehicle as a weapon, they can.

My reaction to the verdict of the “LA Road Rage” case, which found  Christopher Thomas Thompson, guilty of six felonies and a misdemeanor and sentenced to 5 years in prison, is very simple.  Take the man out of the car.  Put him on the edge of the same street with an aluminum baseball bat in his hand.  Recognize that he has had past run-ins with cyclists and doesn’t care for them.  Instead of hitting the brakes, picture him swinging the bat with bad intentions at these cyclists as they came down the hill. In either case, he took a metal object and used it as a potentially deadly weapon.  He deserves his punishment.

I feel fortunate in my rural Minnesota setting.  I have literally hundreds of miles of quality pavement that on many rides, I typically see 5-10 cars per hour once I get past the edge of town.  Almost all the drivers get far into the left lane, slow down a little and give me plenty of room.  Those that are driving the opposite direction generally wave and smile.  Most days, I worry about farm dogs with bad intentions more than I do motorists.

But, I’ve spent my time in urban areas on the bike.  I know it’s dangerous and an adversarial relationship exists.  Realize these same motorists have issues with almost all the other motorists in addition to the cyclists.  They’re angry because they’re behind schedule, their significant other didn’t take out the trash, the dog peed on the carpet and their kid just told them they got their pot from raiding their parents’ stash.  Until city governments understand that bicycles need to be an integral part of their effective, long term transportation plan and create adequate, safe lanes and paths to accommodate the growing number of bicyclists in urban areas who are in tune with ecology, economy and personal well-being, the problem will continue.  Until driver’s education, driver’s testing and public information improves on educating motorists on the rights of cyclists, the mindset won’t change.

In the end, this an unfortunate incident. Justice was properly served.  It’s time to start thinking about how to change it.


Review:53×11 Coffee’s “The Chain Breaker”

I admit to being a snob in a few areas – I am a Mac snob, a wine snob and a coffee snob.  Despite those criteria and my unexplainable attraction to all things Rapha, I have no resemblance to a fashion, society or other type of snob.  The list of different beans that have found their way into my grinder is lengthy.  While some have been more memorable than others, I’ve never stopped my search for a better bean.

A couple weeks ago while ordering some other cycling items, I decided to randomly add 53×11 Coffee’s “The Chain Breaker” to my cart.  I thought if nothing else, the label was cool and the brand was cycle-centric.

Upon receiving my order and opening the bag, my first reaction was a head-snapping astonishment.  The aroma was strong and acidic.  Disappointing thoughts that I had found where Folgers came from before they added the enigmatic flavor crystals entered my head.  When I put them through the burr grinder, the people down the hall that usually comment on the pleasant aroma that wafts through the halls wondered if I had burned something.

I went through the ritual of scoop, tamp, clean the edges and twist the portafilter in place.  As the elixir slowly filled the cup, I noticed a new character emerging from the steam.  It was bold and pleasant.  As I finished the preparation, I began to wonder how the first taste would placate my palate.

Immediately, I was surprised.  It had a full body but very balanced flavor.  My fears of heavy acidity quickly dissipated.  It was wonderful.  About halfway through the cup, I proclaimed to nobody in particular “this is the best coffee I’ve ever had.”  Throughout the rest of the week, I introduced the coffee to those who stopped by my office coffee bar and the positive reaction had been unanimous.  The week was capped off when my cycling buddy and I met to compare off-season training progress and discuss 2010 plans, his unsolicited proclamation summarized the same thought – “this is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.”

My random purchase had provided an unexpected gift.  My mood-enhancing morning coffee ritual will be further enhanced.   Since my office has no windows, I can’t make any claims of rainbows appearing, birds chirping or other Disney happy scenery myths happening outside, but who knows.  The only recommendation I can give is for you to visit 53 x 11 online at, other online retailers or hopefully you can encourage your local LBS to make this a part of the coffee ride.


Shifting the Bike Industry Paradigm

Like many cyclists, I’ve got a good relationship with my LBS.  While I could save a buck or two or ten by scouring eBay and discount sites, I appreciate the value of having somebody there for me to throw my bike in disgust at after my drivetrain tried to morph into an automatic with a spastic clutch during last week’s race.  The caring bike shop owner takes time to look over the carnage of carbon, aluminum and steel while I rail on about how my mechanical issue dropped me from a surefire 9th place all the way back to 14th and theorizing on how to explain to the international cycling media the reason for my mechanical issue without upsetting my sponsors.  (For the record, my sponsors are there because I’m apparently semi-likeable and a good cycling advocate.  The only international cycling media I’ve ever addressed was getting my blurb in Road Bike Action’s “Why we Ride.”)

I have what many would call a cycling gear ‘addiction.’ Over the course of the year, I probably average spending $500/month at the shop.  But, I don’t envy the shopping torture that I put my LBS owner through to earn that money.  Back in the day (as the kids say) when I managed a big box bike shop, the company’s mantra was a religious large scale purchase of closeouts.  I became a swami of off-season sales.  However, this knowledge engrained itself into my buying habits and constantly has me waiting for the unfortunate cycle of late season shedding of existing inventory and closeouts available from the manufacturers.  The 2008 parts will be just fine, thanks.

Given our national/global economic downturn, everybody expected the bike business to blossom.  Thoughts of America actually accepting the bike culture entered cyclists’ collective consciousness, if for no other reason than one less horn-honking jerk to almost run you over on the morning commute.  Why then are bike inventories after the season 39% higher than a year ago with 97,000 road bikes (up 88% over last year) and 202,000 hybrids (up 214%) sitting in warehouses? Yes, people kept their wallets closed overall during this crisis.  However, I see it as an exacerbation of the perpetual cycle the industry drives.  What bikes people did buy were previous year’s closeouts…they wanted more for their recession dollar.  The industry is out of touch with actual buying trends – they don’t know what is selling or why.

The bike industry needs to look no further than the American auto manufacturers to realize they need to make a paradigm shift.  For decades, the American automakers had to each year come out with new models and new features to supposedly keep up with the competition.  Meanwhile, over in Germany, companies like BMW and Volkswagen operated on keeping the models the same with small improvements each year and only making significant changes every 5-10 years.

I just purchased a 2008 Trek Fuel EX 9.5 frame to build to my spec recently.  It cost 43% less than a new one.  My buyer’s remorse kicked in when looking at the 2010 version and questions of “how will I live without ABP RACE and DRCV?” arose.  After asking Trek, there’s no performance difference between the ‘08 ABP and ‘10 ABP.  The reviews of the RP23 shock on the ‘08 overall were glowing.  Apparently, if I launch myself off a cliff, the DRCV might be a good thing.  I’m 38, I race XC, I live in the Midwest and ride trail…isn’t happening anytime soon.  The moral of the story – despite the cavalcade of new acronyms, the performance difference is incrementally minimal in 99% of the cases year-after-year.

Given my rant, here are my three recommendations to help fix the bike industry.

1)      More model consistency year-after-year.  If a frame has no significant changes other than the color of paint and the components are 95% the same, don’t create 5 new marketing terms for how the new one is better.  Let your LBS be able to sit with a 2009 model next to the 2010 model and say “they’re both great bikes.  The 2009 is $150 less because it’s last year’s model, but they’re essential the same bike.”  The typical now statement is “the 2010 has the hypersonic formed chainstays for greater vertical compliance.  Riding the 2009 is like putting a jackhammer under your saddle, which is why we’re discounting it $2,000.”  Forcing your LBS into a market where they have to reduce to a 5-10% margin after August 1 is just brutal.  Doing this also provides more value to closeouts by retaining retail value and ideally, larger margins.

2)      New retail cooperation paradigm.  Many think the era of the LBS is over and manufacturers just need to go the direct-to-consumer model.  Nope.  Disagree.  Could list pages of reasons, starting with cyclists need the service/education/communal connection, but you already quit reading 200 words ago.  Certain manufacturers cut their own throats with a dealer network by allowing large volume discounters to snatch up remaining product and advertise a 25 – 70% discount.

Existing dealers are stuck with current inventory and really would like to find a way to ship it back, preferably with a bag of flaming poo inside.   Manufacturers, launch websites that sell bikes at retail price but direct the sale to their nearest LBS dealer.  Dealers can pull from existing inventory or get new product shipped in.  Instead of bailing out with deep discounts on late season inventory, list national sales prices that follow the same procedure.  Ideally, the manufacturer’s benefit by getting a more accurate and timely production model, both gain inventory turnover and higher annualized margin.  Yes, I can already hear the wailing of the Jensons, Chain Loves and CBOs of the world, but rather the industry be healthy then have fattened vultures.

3)       A gift bag containing DZ-Nuts, Hammer Gel, bike mini-tool, the Zen of Pedaling and a video on how to use the aforementioned products with every bike purchase.

Buy Ciclirati Really Ltd Edition T-Shirt

53 x 11 Coffee

Hammer Nutrition

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