A random collection of thoughts associated with the sport of cycling, as relayed by one hopelessly devoid of too many competing interests. It's a one track blog I'm afraid. But hey, if you like bikes you might enjoy it. So keep reading and the worst that'll happen is it might rot your brain..

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Code - a little rant

Maybe it's the slight head cold I'm dealing with today. Or maybe it was last night's graceful over the bars, rock garden break dance competition I took place in that's irking me.(Crossing a rock laden stream bed at night usually requires at least a little focus. Taking a moment in the middle of said crossing to peek skyward, at what I'm guessing was the planet Venus, doesn't really count as "focused"). Anyway, whatever, I'm in a crappy mood and I just finished perusing one of the best sites known to bike dweebs everywhere - http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/

For some reason it made me think of things I really dislike about cycling culture, go figure! What follows below is basically me just ranting about jackasses I share the road with here in my neck of the woods. Don't take this too personally, unless, of course I'm accurately describing you.

There's a code out there in bike land. You know it by now, even if you've only been riding for a short time. We all know it, even if some of us pretend to ignore it. It's ingrained in us all at some point. Usually we're awakened to it by the sharp end of a stick, or glass bottle, or square edged rock as it may be. Self sufficiency becomes paramount for most after that first long walk. In accordance with Murphy's Law (the adage, not the band) this usually occurs early on in one's pursuit of cycling. If you're lucky enough your ill prepared ass gets bailed out. This is only fair, as everyone should be allowed a mulligan once in a while. Which brings me to the point of this diatribe. It's reserved for those who've never bothered to lend a hand and/or never at least feigned interest in lending a hand.

If you make a habit of blithely breezing past forlorn looking souls on the side of the road, trail or bikepath may you some day be taken out Dave Stoller style. I sincerely hope some deuchebag Italian cyclist magically pops out of the ether to jam his pump in your spokes.

Against my better judgement I spent a lot more time on the road this past year. I witnessed so much self absorbed crap it blew my mind. Cyclists can be solitary in their pursuit of sport and all that, but still.. I can't figure out why some riders can't stop and offer their fellow cyclist some help. Is it the fear of a lowered heart rate? Maybe they don't want to be associated with someone who doesn't match their description of a "real" cyclist? I don't know, but the bottom line is unless you are racing away from an angry mob of doping control technicians you should stop and ask. Nine times out of ten the poor schlep's got it covered, or they lie and say they're all set because they're weirded out by the mooseknuckle in your weasel squeezers. Either way you win, and this will let you get back to "feeling the burn" guilt free.

Of all the times I've flatted on the road recently maybe one out fifteen passing cyclists have even looked my way, let alone asked if I needed help.I think this type of crap is actually grounds for an ass whooping in MTB culture. I'm not 100% on this, but I'm pretty sure it's in the "how not to be a dickhead" guide to mountain biking that arrives on your doorstep a week after purchasing a mountain bike. It's been a while since I read my copy, maybe the rules have changed.

This year the area where I witnessed this behavior most was oddly one of the local loops most frequented by cyclists - Blackstone Boulevard. For those who don't know the spot it's a 3.2 mile loop. Particularly bad flats allow for a second chance but most continued to ignore me as they circled by a second time. What kind of cyclists actually stopped to ask if I needed assistance, you ask? The ones without a pump, patch, tube or a "proper" road bike. The kind of folks that some leg shaving types tend to scoff at. They were just normal folks, out there cruising around and enjoying the weather. Blissfully astride their cobwebbed wall hangers, they were probably out for a semi-annual squeaky spin around the block. They might not have looked like what some consider cyclists, but they were nice folks all the same. And for that I thanked them profusely. I guess not taking yourself so seriously allows you to be a little more friendly. Even though I didn't need the help it sure felt nice to have someone stop and ask.

The moral of this story is simply this: Stop and ask when you see someone in trouble. I know everyone is all wrapped up in themselves but one of the nice things about riding a bike, or taking a walk, is that we're forced to deal with our surroundings a little more. Take advantage of the opportunity to actually interact with someone who might benefit from your expertise.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hurricane Remnants and Spooky Sightings

Watching the local weatherman practically cream his jeans last night one would've thought a category 12 hurricane was bearing down on this neck of the woods. The basic message was "don't go outside kids, it's gonna be crazy out there, you might get wet". Slow news day I guess. The local media had milked the recent fatality riddled car crash on 95 N to death (no pun intended), and I guess there's not much corruption going down that needs investigating. So anyways, back to the weather. It rained, and it was windy outside, and there was no one at the local pickle park known as Lincoln Woods. Just the way I like it. No scary encounters with middle aged men getting to know one another, no errant paintball shots to dodge and no angry dogs off leash. No weirdness at all really. Just the woods, the wind, and a persistent cold rain. The kind that should fall in November. The remnants of Hurricane Noel (now a tropical storm) turned out to be the perfect conditions in which to purge the accumulated detritous of a week spent in a box. It's during rides like today's that my mind really wanders, likely to ignore the physical conditions, but simultaneously stays focused on the task at hand. Whole sections of icy, slick, leaf and rock laden technical descents can slip by while I think about completely random subjects.

Not surprisingly some thoughts were bicycle related. JP Weigles frame saver came to mind as I fiddled with air pressure under the shelter afforded by Goat Rock. Today's conditions involved little in the way of mud, just lots of water, and I'm sure a few ounces snuck into every crevice of the Karate Monkey. Hooray for frame saver, right? I kept thinking about the rebirth of Spooky Cycles as well. Not sure why but I always really dug the company back when I was cutting my teeth wrenching on Schwinn Collegiates. Maybe I just liked their politics, their ideals and the music they listened to. Maybe it was how well they did while going against the grain of what was going on during the heyday MTB racing. Not that there's anything wrong with racing bikes. It certainly builds character, and it is generally a healthy endeavor. It's just that when MTB racing was at it's height the culture surrounding the sport seemed to reach it's low point, lots of folks became asshats. Everybody and their brother expected, no demanded, free stuff and a better "deal" because they raced on stuff you sold them. Back in my wrenching days I used to want to scream diatribes like the following at the countless knobs who would bring in their poor destroyed rigs: "Newsflash - no one gives a crap you came in 8th in your local Beginner/Sport/Expert race. No, you can't have a free Judy SL because you won the Podunk 400. Put down my effing tools and go away, please. We don't care if you wear our shop jersey, why can't you see you are a royal pain in the ass please go home now".

I was relatively new to the world of bike racing at 20 and did not, and still don't really, understand the mentality that some folks have when it comes to riding bikes. I was as much interested in going to shows and having fun as I was interested in racing my bike. Spooky came across as a company that made bikes for people with a love of riding, and competing, but without the seemingly required bullshit. Of course, it probably didn't hurt that everyone I ever met that rode one could ride circles around me and was really cool to boot. They were the anti - Specialized/Trek/GT and that made me really want one. Being broke and in school I never had the cash to pick up a Spooky and I ended up riding, and racing, on whatever I could EP at the shop. Thankfully Schwinn had Yeti building their Homegrown Factorys but that's a whole other post.

Where I'm going with all this is that Spooky is back in business with a great builder welding for them. If you want a nice custom steel bike that comes with more attitude than BA Baracus look them up. Dirtrag has a great interview with the man behind the new Spooky on their homepage. Check it out.