Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Was the Table Topless?

If this dude had done this with a Pinarello Prince, I could almost understand it ...

BELLEVUE, OH -- A man in central Ohio is accused of having sex with his picnic table.
The investigation began when a tipster gave police three DVDs showing Arthur Price having sexual intercourse with a metal round table on his deck.
The incidents occurred between January and March 2008.
Police say the DVDs show Price involved in a sex act in his bedroom. He walks out to his deck, tilts the table on its side and has sex with it.
Police say Price lives near an elementary school.
Price admitted that he had sex with the picnic table when police questioned him.
He confirmed to police the incidents caught on the DVDs and said he had also had sex with the table inside the home.
Price faces four counts of public indecency. He is free on a $20,000 bond.

My guess is that he either lives with his parents, or he's been married awhile.

- JN

Saturday, April 26, 2008

RATL #2: Some Positives!

I believe in starting off with a cliche, so: What a difference a week makes.
We got our butts kicked in the first Races at the Lake as a team. Individually, I got annihilated -- dropped maybe four-five laps in. And we had three others dropped and one crashed. Two finished in the field.
Today's race was a huge improvementfor me, and arguably for SBR. It still wasn't a good race, which underscores how bad last week's was. And the bottom line was that we missed the break and didn't bring it back. So not only did we never put Pete in a position to win, but we wore him out by making him do way too much chasing.
But we raced much better. And I felt like a different guy: Hung in throughout.
We didn't control the race -- that wasn't our objective -- but we kept a handle on it. We won both primes, and Matt O. finished fourth, winning the field sprint. Some big-engine triathlete for Summit won by 75 yards, maybe, followed by a Spin rider and Russ Fogle from Summit. Matt was maybe 20 feet behind them.
I felt much, much better and was recovering well after the hills. Coulda been the longer warmup, coulda been some fitness gains after working hard this week.
But I still have only one move in me, tops. I used it on the 2nd-to-last lap. It was a mistake.
I sat in until then, waiting for the break up front to come back. It had a Stark, a Spin and a Summit in it, and I figured it would fall apart like all but one break did last week. Stayed away for a lap, then two. By the third lap away, there were only three to go, and I knew Pete was getting used up and had to be getting frustrated.
Obviously, what should've happened is that SBR pacelines up and chases it down. But we were all scattered. As we came up on the bridge, Matt and I got in contact and we drove hard up the hill to try to pull Pete up. But Pete didn't latch on, probably 'cause we didn't let him know we were coming. When we passed him and he didn't get my wheel, I slowed for Pete and Matt kept blasting away. I launched after him again, but within 100 more yards, I totally blew up along the left edge of the road and everyone passed me by the time we hit the parking lot. Then I looked back and saw Gary, also blown. I dropped back to try to give one last effort, to pull him up. That failed within about 10 turns of the cranks -- I waved him on.
I was 20 seconds down on the field as I pushed toward the S/F line, and it was the bell lap -- no prayer. So I pulled off to watch the finish.
Lots learned today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

That's Some Rollin'

I just caught up on a wee bit of coverage of the Tour de Georgia, which I keep forgetting about because it is kind of ... forgettable. (Sorry, JC!) I'm not even that big of a pro-racing fan -- just enough to know that the continental teams all sent their "B" or "C" squads to Georgia.

That's not to say, though, that the Georgia race hasn't had its surprises. Take Stage 1, for instance. Boring and very, very flat, the (many) critics have complained. Maybe so -- and maybe that doesn't make for the most dramatic racing. But it makes for a very fast stage -- and the need for speed is, after all, the reason we roadies quit sitting upright on fat-tire bikes.

And if you like speed, look at the average pace for that stage: 28.7 mph!

That, man, is a wicked-fast pace. The top local riders might (might!) sustain for a dozen or two miles at even-flatter Westlake, on a good day, and TdG's stage one was almost triple that length!

- JN

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mo Respek

Since today's earlier post: Trust But Verify has updated its website -- and mine.

Regarding the latter, TBV insists its dad can't beat up mine. I find that pretty hard to believe, because (a) my dad died in 1994 and hardly has any fight left in him; and (b) TBV's dad has allegedly done stints in prisons in California and Pennsylvania for a string of offenses that included pedagogy -- with young students!! (You think that's sick? He supposedly committed nepotism with his own relatives!)

Or so I'm told ...

Regarding the former: TBV alerted me and literally several other readers that full results for the Cohutta 100-mile MTB race are now available. Local boy Shawn Adams of Lake Effect did finish 8th at Cuhotta, but Ross Clark (Solon Cycles) slightly overestimated his place in the field. I trusted but did not verify his estimate on Solon Cycles' website that he finished in the Top 25. He actually finished 29th out of 130 -- 5 min., 9 sec. behind Floyd Landis. Pretty damn impressive by any standard. In between was local legend Ernie Marenchen at No. 11.

- JN
... You say Cohutta, I say Cuhotta. Let's call the whole thing off.


Eventually I'll post again. Right now I'm too busy, and everyone who reads this blog can see that it is obviously low on the priority list.
But Monday's roundup on the Trust But Verify blog (which can have one hand tied behind its back and still draw more readers than this one, and is probably written by guys whose dads could beat up my dad) called my attention to the fact that at least two local guys did pretty well in last weekend's Cohutta 100 race.
(Fellow roadies: That's a mountain-bike race in a place called Tennessee. And it's really hard, I guess. And no one but a small cadre of MTB riders gives a shit most of the time, except that this year, Floyd Landis entered. That apparently caused a shitstorm of controversy, which makes the race something like a ProTour race. But because Floyd was there, folks like me who have never heard of Cohutta or Tennessee now know that the race is 100 miles of serious ball-busting pain with -- supposedly -- a 2-mile climb near the end at 20%. That is so fucking epic that anyone who finishes is a badass worthy of serious respek.)
I haven't looked up official results, but I believe everything I read, and I read on TBV that Shawn Adams of Lake Effect took 8th. TBV didn't restecp the other local guy enough to name him. But it (grammar quickie: blog = singular = it, not "they") linked to the Solon Cycles blog, which implies the mystery man is named Ross Clark.

- JN

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Power to Win at Roubaix

You folks who have the money to train with power -- that is, y'all who don't have kids in or headed to parochial school -- will find this fascinating: Saris posted Martijn Maaskant's Paris-Roubaix power profile (or whatever the hell you technogeeks call it).

Lots of cool charts that look like an EEG from a pedophile at Chuck E. Cheese, in Technicolor. Wild swings that probably tell a deep and meaningful story to the fortunates who speak and read the language of Training Peaks.

Coincidentally, I stole an SRM and installed it on the very same day Maaskant won. By an even more remarkable coincidence, our output numbers were almost identical, except for one detail. You might notice it, but I'd argue it is largely insignificant to anyone but the most anal math major.

Max watts:
HIM: 1,292 ME: 129.2
Average Watts:
HIM: 272 ME: 27.2
Distance covered:
HIM: 256.4 km ME: 25.64 km

You find the coincidences striking? Well, check this one out: Time in saddle was exactly the same for both of us: 6:05:46! Freaks me OUT!

Finally, I'm posting my power chart here.

Well, after a few days of recovery, I might be good for another 15 miles. As long as it's downhill.

- JN

The Uber-Secret Race Strategy


Attn. Cat 4 teammates:

As you know, our racing season begins in earnest this weekend with the opening of the Races at the Lakes series. Many of us are relatively new to racing, and almost all of us are new to team strategy and tactics.

So the first thing we must emphasize is that this discussion of our SBR team tactics and strategy at RATL is top-secret. If our classified and proprietary plan for this race should fall into the hands of a rider from Spin, Stark Velo or Summit/Rainbow Inks, we might as well be riding beach cruisers in this race, because they will blow our plans to smithereens.

So remember the oath you swore at your secret initiation ceremony: If you are caught carrying a laptop computer -- or even a desktop -- that contains this communication, it is your duty as a teammate to eat it.

Having said that, here is the plan for Saturday's Cat 4 race:

where v = Vilevec and x = Burkholder.

As you can see, it is brilliant, if properly executed. Study it. Be prepared to practice it during warmups -- well out of sight of our rivals.

Any questions? Ask Rick. I was a communications major.

- JN

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Key to Better Riding

It might be an old, mysterious scent that sends you hurtling backward in time, or maybe an almost-forgotten song on the radio from some magical moment in life long ago -- a sensory cue that's ethereal, but profound. Comes in a flash and maybe disappears just as quickly, leaving behind only wisps of sentiment and memory.

I had one of those moments today, brought to me by the feeling of the wind through my hair on a sunny spring day. The sun and that whoosh sent me hurtling back ...

Of course, I'm talking about the hair on my legs -- I don't have much on my head. And I didn't travel very far back in time. Just a couple years back, when I first started shaving my legs for bike racing. And I didn't ponder with any profundity.

So if you thought this was going to be a thoughtful, heartfelt post,

  1. Welcome! you must be new here! and
  2. I'm sorry to disappoint you.
I'm just saying it's time to shave my legs again. No, I'm not going to post about the process either, or tell you about my new carbon-fiber razor with plenty of lateral stiffness but lots of vertical compliance. You don't really need to read about that, or the bloody nicks, do you?

If I will say, though, that it was mighty nice being out there in shorts, without even knee warmers, for only the third time this year. The warm weather almost made up for my retardedness. Or retardation.

I left the office after the lunch hour to make The Drop (covert delivery of performance-enhancing substance* to a teammate who I'll identify only by initials, which are Tim Fortner). Then I swung down to the Canal Corridor Reservation for some easy recovery spinning after some more moderate to hard and hilly miles the night before.

It was 64 degrees when I got to the lot, with a mild but fairly stiff southerly wind. I was glad to have a lightweight but long-sleeve jersey, but I didn't think I'd need the knee warmers. I stuck them in a back pocket and removed the toe warmers from my cycling shoes. Pretty darn comfy.

I stuck my tube/CO2 in one pocket. Then I stuffed a Ziploc with the other essentials: wallet, house key and cell phone, and put that in another pocket. Everything else I stuffed into my duffel bag; I locked up the car and put the bag in the trunk.

The headwind made for a little more effort than I was up for as I headed south on the paved towpath to Rockside, then on the crushed limestone into Valley View, where I then moved over onto Canal Rd. The plan was to ride 5-6 miles, then turn around and ride back.

But I got a little distracted by a Road Not Taken, there at the Valley View Safety Center. So I took it.

That's where the gentle recovery ride stopped being one. I found myself facing about a 10-12% wall -- not terribly long, it appeared, but plenty steep. A police cruiser crept up alongside me and the two cops smirked, like they were ready to bust out laughing, before they pulled away up the hill. So I cranked it up, of course. I'm not sure if they were impressed when I crested the hill behind them, or if they could even still see me. But I saw them again later and they weren't heckling.

Then I found a lovely little city park with the best softball diamonds and the stupidest-looking dogs on leashes that I've ever seen. Next thing I know, I was five miles past my 5-mile turnaround point. So I turned around and zoomed back down the hill (peaking at 46 mph) and turned north -- seemingly flying with that robust tailwind!

In no time I was back at the car. At this point, you are unwittingly taking my own Awareness Test. No, there's no one in a bear suit dancing in my post. But if you backtrack about five paragraphs, you should be able to figure out why I stood at the back of my car, looking as dumb as the dipshit in the bear suit, except that I was a lot more conspicuous. House keys don't open cars.

So I called my wife, who said she'd gladly bring my key to me at the office. More of an excuse to ride the tailwind. I jumped back on the bike and headed north. Even caught the draft of a truck all the way up E. 49th St. and along Broadway, cruising effortlessly at 30-35 mph. I covered the six miles in less than 15 minutes. And an hour later, Jen and the kids showed up to rescue me. She didn't even make me ride into the headwind -- gave me a ride all the way to the car!

My 10-mile recovery ride turned into 22 miles. But it cleared my mind and helped me blow through the rest of the day's project. When I finished it, I was most pleased: I stood there admiring my work product like Barry Bonds admires his homers.

And I still have enough energy to shave my legs.

- JN

* = SportLegs -- our sponsor!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Only Read Cycle Sport -- I Swear!

I have to admit to a guilty pleasure -- but please, don't leak it to the peloton:

I still look forward to getting Bicycling magazine each month.

I hate myself for this, but it's almost like I can't control myself.

The anticipation sort of builds slowly over a couple weeks. I'll know that it has been only two weeks, maybe, since I last spent a full 30 to 45 minutes reading everything readable in the previous edition. But I catch myself turning into the dining room where Jen leaves the mail that I'm supposed to see, to look for the next slim, sugar-coated and vacuous velo-volume from the consumer-oriented minds at Rodale. Each day, there's that little bit of disappointment, knowing that I'll have to take a bath without reading new climbing tips that are almost exactly the same as the climbing tips from a few issues back.

Subscribe today for only 17 frequent-flyer miles or 3 Gu proofs of purchase!

This disappointment is a bit more pronounced right now, because my subscription lapsed. Apparently, there wasn't enough change in the couch cushions when the seventh "This is your Final Edition!!!" bill arrived. If I'd been paying attention, I would've re-upped before it lapsed. It's not like that's hard: You can get a free one-year subscription for buying a bottle of Gatorade or something. At most, I could've raised the money by bringing a week's worth of aluminum cans in to a scrap-metal center to scrape together the $1.49, or whatever a year of Bicycling costs.

The magazine is on my mind because I dropped in on Bill Strickland's post on Bicycling mag's blog, Sitting In, today. Bill is executive editor at Bicycling, which is unfortunate for all of us. It's unfortunate because Bill is a very good writer and an exceptional -- almost unrivaled -- cycling writer. Blogging is to magazine writing what spray-painting the fence is to art. Yet even in his blog, Strickland turns great phrases. He writes like a great racer rides -- with a rare combination of grace, finesse and flat-out power. (One subtle example: The fourth paragraph from the bottom of his last post, which scrapes the illusions of glamor off the pro-racing life without being caustic and cynical.)

Unfortunately, Strickland's job isn't to write for Bicycling. His job, I'm sure, is to steer meetings involving beaten-down people who made the mistake of turning something they once loved into something they now have to squeeze for money. These are meetings at which people drum their fingers, look at each other blankly, and wince as they reluctantly throw out cover-story ideas such as "Get Faster -- NOW!"; "Rock-Hard Abs!" "The Best Bike You Could Never Buy," etc. Those are the ideas that emerge; can you imagine the ones that get shot down?

And Strickland, God bless him, probably also is tasked with flogging the unreadably self-congratulatory dead horse that is the "Bike Town" bullshit into something slightly readable. (What's next, by the way? Bike Town goes to the Moon?) And he has to make sure that every major advertiser has a positive review slotted at some point in the year, with the mandatory phrase "compliant enough for all-day comfort" in every bike writeup. And, during ad-revenue downturns, he probably gets stuck firing the intern and the $30,000-a-year junior staffer who writes the energy-gel reviews so that there's enough money in the budget for Steve Madden to waddle up Mount Ventoux and write about it in the ever-thinner Tour Preview edition, which Bicycling's weekend-riding demographic won't read now that Lance doesn't race anymore.

None of those responsibilities involves much writing. In fact, far too little in that magazine involves writing any more. It's a publication that seems designed to be readable during a single bath, or a few potty stops.

The old-timey Bicycling alums, like Fred Matheny and Ed Pavelka, have barely hidden their revulsion, and I used to think they were bitter over being cast aside. I didn't read the publication much back in the '80s or '90s or whenever its golden era supposedly was.

But I've seen it decline noticeably just in the few years I've been reading it: Same crap, different wrapping paper, every month -- the crap that focus groups and market research dictate.

It's not that I don't sympathize. I can't even come up with a single decent blog-post idea per week. Coming up with ideas for new and fresh cycling stories every month? That's like doing hill repeats up a sand dune.

The strain is really showing this year: For two straight editions, Bicycling (I repeat: BICYCLING) has focused on freaking triathlons! What's next? Cover stories on the best coffee hauses to ride cruisers to? I shudder to think of what those brainstorming meetings in Emmaus must be like.

Still, the mag is like monthly donut social after church: Halfway through mass, I'm starting to think about the little glazed demons. I'm berating the damn donuts at the same time my mouth is starting to water. Then I take my kids downstairs -- it is for the kids, right? -- to the little gathering and in little more time than it takes to read an issue of Bicycling cover to cover (except the stupid little bike-tour ads in the back), I've sucked down three donuts and added three pounds, most of it comprising hydrogenated oils.

Sure, I scold myself and feel a bit dirty. But secretly, I'm wishing for more.

In fact, I hope my renewal has been processed. I can't wait to feed my face with yet another installment of "10 Great Rides You MUST Do NOW!"

- JN

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recovery Writing

OK, I've fallen off the blogging pace. I'm accustomed to something similar, as I'll discuss shortly. It's been a grueling week and, as far as blogging goes, I've sort of been like I am on most group rides: way too focused on hanging on to be able to think of anything interesting to talk about, if I'm even capable of talking.

I've caught up with my workload. For the moment. But my brain now feels like my body does after a brutal race: sprawled out on the grass, staring at the sky, telling my heart rate to drop while the spittle dries on my cheeks.

So this is like a recovery ride -- a recovery write? Not much interesting or productive coming up here, so consider yourself warned. I'm just spinning out the waste in my head, recovering.

That's how I've spent a decent part of the week literally, as well. Tuesday at Westlake, and again on a 40-mile solo ride in the rain on Saturday, I got worked over pretty well.

It's hard to figure out right now where I am in comparison to last year, because I never kept a very accurate ride diary. And even if I did, there wouldn't be much in there that gives me a quantitative basis for comparison.

I do know two things:

1) With the cutdown in my bike commuting, I'm riding fewer miles, probably. But I think I'm riding a lot (or at least a little) harder than a year ago when I do ride.

2) I'm another year older, and long past the point where that's a good thing. In just about every sense.

With those as a backdrop, I'll be interested in seeing how I feel at RATL this weekend, assuming it doesn't get cancelled like everything else on the local race calendar.

Here's where I'm coming from:

On Tuesday, I got shelled off the back of the A's at Westlake inside the race's first five miles. Now, it was only my second go with the A's, and I wasn't exactly convinced I'd finish with them. But there were guys in the A group that I out-raced routinely when they rode with the B's, and even a couple whom I dropped -- on hills of all places! -- on group rides. So either they worked harder in the offseason (definitely true in the case of one young and ambitious kid), or I just have to sharpen some skills, position myself better in the peloton and learn to suffer a bit better.
On the plus side, I spent most of that race riding pretty hard alone until I slowed down to let the B's catch me. Hanging in with them was easy. So that's good.

There was also some encouragement Saturday. It was shitty outside, but I convinced myself to get on the bike and ride into the cold mist around 10:30 a.m. Then I convinced myself to climb my personal nemesis, Sherman Road, and keep going over its rollers out past Sperry Road to Heath. That's right about where the rain picked up, frigid and annoying. I was in Chesterland, and that southwesterly wind that was at my back was going to be a bitch of a headwind, icy and steady, for the 20-mile ride home.

I was cold. My toes were numb. I was wet from sweat and rain. It sucked. I wanted to call home for a rescue.

But I thought, man, you just climbed Sherman on your 21-lb. steel bike; you can't puss out now.

I kept challenging myself to ride for just one more mile before calling home, then one more and one more. I'd ridden in a lot worse, I reminded myself.

I drove it hard over the rollers on Cedar out past 306, just to stay warm. And by the time I passed that Metzenbaum park and reached County Line, I knew it had become just about pointless to call for a pickup: I'd have to keep riding while my wife got the kids in the car and drove far enough east to meet me, and I'd probably be at least at SOM by then. SOM is maybe eight miles from my house -- practically home.

Then, lo and behold, the rain let up. And so did the headwind. I was supposed to be riding into the teeth of it and instead, I noticed myself smiling as a herd of deer and I looked at each other.
For that moment, it was really damn good to be on the bike. I knew I had some hard work left to do, but I suddenly felt like I'd put the hardest behind me, when most of the local cycling world was on the couch.

From that moment on, the ride home -- even the climb out of the valley -- started feeling as though it were downhill. Maybe, just maybe, I'm not as big a slug as I sometimes think.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Somebody call 696-KIDS!

My wife and I evidently have scarred our older child for life. We refused to let her watch enough TV.

Here is the result:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Merry Freaking Christmas, Buttholes

The Easter stuff is all packed away, not to mention the St. Patrick's Day decorations my kids hung. Baseball is underway. Bike racing season hits full stride here in NEO this week, with the beginning of the Westlake and Covered Bridge series, and RATL is only a week and a half off. It's just about time to start shaving legs.

We just had our first day of temps in the 70s. Everyone was out working in their yards all weekend.

So why the fffk do several of my neighbors still have their Christmas lights out -- and on -- and still have wreaths hanging from their houses?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Four Secrets of Active Recovery!

I'm pretty sure this is not exactly how Chris Carmichael would prescribe active recovery on the day after a long, leg-burning ride, but it seemed to work for me:

1) Eat a disgusting number of melt-in-your-mouth Krispy Kreme donuts after Mass.

2) Spin for an hour in Zone 1-2, at a serene 15.5 mph-pace.

And here's the part you'll never read about in the Bicycling magazine fitness tips:

3) Spend the rest of the afternoon with a 5-year-old daughter on the cusp of turning 6, with 26 just around the corner. Ride bikes with her. Listen to her brag to her friend about her dad. Take her to Petland and watch the unbounded, fascinated elation as she cuddles a Guinea pig and snuggles with a tiny Siberian dwarf hamster, and wrestles gleefully and giddily with a way-too-feisty pug. Watch her giggle and laugh as some sort of cage bird flutters across the store to land on her shoulder, then climbs on her head and stays there until she coaxes it to perch on her finger. See her nose crinkle as she discovers it pooped on her hand.

Then (after she washes her hand!), have her jump into your arms and say, "I love you so much, Daddy! Thank you for taking me to Petland. That was the most fun!"

4) Finally, put her to bed, read her a couple books and give her butterfly kisses and eskimo kisses. Because you can. For now, anyway.

I couldn't imagine recovering much better.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

72 miles ... 73 aches

Tomorrow is the Tour of Flanders, about 160 miles of brutish racing featuring short, steep hills and long, pounding cobbled climbs combined with brutal crosswinds and epic length.

Today was the Tour of Ned Flanders. For me, anyway. I felt like Ned Flanders, that is, as I tried to hang with a bunch of overly fit Cat 2's and 3's for 72 miles of brutish riding.

Hi-diddly-doody, neighbor! You're drop-dilly-opped!

We rode to Solon and into Glenwillow, where we caught the Emerald Necklace for the trip across town -- through Bedford, Walton Hills and Valley View, followed by the leg-punishing climbs to and out of the Brecksville Reservation and along the parkway through Broadview and N. Royalton. Then we hit the parkway's flatlands -- Strongsville, Parma, Berea, Fairview and on into Lakewood.

I was out of my league, of course. Each time we'd hit a hill -- whether one of the short, steep variety or a long grind, or even a short, unsteep one -- I'd fall off the pace. (I'm grateful that my six riding companions had the patience to slow up and wait for me at the top of every hill they'd just hammered up, and even send a tow back for me from time to time.)

Then when we hit the flatlands, the frisky big engines kept pushing the pace up to 27-30 mph. I can hang with that OK for a normal flat ride -- but not when we're 45 miles in with 30 more to go. Even when I just wheelsucked as an erstwhile gatekeeper at the back of a rotating paceline, I still got shelled a couple times -- including what I thought had been a final break at mile 53.

I did't care at that point whether I'd catch back up -- the hammerfest (for me it was a hammerfest) was killing me. So I rolled solo at a crawl for the next few miles and watched my average speed drop, drop, drop - below 18.5, then to 18.4, 18.3 ... before I finally crept up the hill out of the park and into Lakewood.

I caught back up at the Nature's Bin on Sloane, where we refueled for the last 18 miles or so. There was a collective wuss-out (Hey, I'm not complaining!) when we hit downtown and decided to skip the chilly, potholed lakefront/MLK route and shave 4 miles or so by going straight up Prospect and Carnegie.

But when we hit E. 30th, the cramps attacked me -- charley horses flaring up in both legs. I cannot remember the last time that happened. But before my legs seized up, I shouted my goodbyes to the gang, jumped off, stretched out, popped another gel and climbed back on for a gentle 14- to 18-mph solo pace until I crawled up the Stokes Blvd. hill and North Park, unzipping my vest and peeling my arm warmers on the way up.

I was thrilled to have made it -- riding 72 miles is usually an August thing for me, not early April -- and grateful for the pack's patience.

But I was very ready to get off the bike. Rolling up the driveway, everything finally was okily-dokily.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Sacrifice, A Movement

Every time I hear of some component or frame failure that afflicts a fellow cyclist, I remind myself (with a snide snicker) how lucky I’ve been.
I’ve upgraded bits and pieces here and there. But I have a 7-year-old hybrid, a 5-year-old road bike and another road bike heading into year 2, and thus far here is the list of my equipment failures:
Three trashed rear wheels, only one of which really died prematurely.
Assorted broken spokes
Some flat tires
Not bad.
As for wrecks, I’ve lucked out, too. Like everyone else, I took a couple of Monty Python spills when I first started riding clipless. And I wiped out a couple times in races. But I’ve never broken anything, never needed any surgery and never had to do anything repair-wise beyond retaping the bars.
I count my blessings -- especially when I consider what has befallen my fellow cyclists.
This, for instance.

Talk about something that blackens your day. This, I solemnly realized when I came across it at lunch today, could only be a result of tragedy. I removed my helmet in a moment of silent respect.
I shuddered as I thought about what could have caused it.
A high-speed collision with a semitrailer, maybe?
A superheated burst from a space-age argon-gas laser fired from a satellite?
Some bad reaction with a Mexican Village dinner?
In any case, the rider had to have perished, and the funeral surely was closed-casket.
I resolved to find out who had become the cycling community's latest Christ figure, and to seize onto the tragedy as the foundation for a bikes-first campaign the likes of which Cleveland has never seen.
It all came to me in a flash. Within an instant, I’d resolved to form a nonprofit corporation called "Bikes First, You and Your Shitty Petro-ilk Last," and to pursue grants from the Gund and Cleveland Foundations for a multimedia/multiplatform campaign.
I wanted to make sure this tragedy would never be repeated.
The strategic elements hit me like Hincapie hits pave, like Floyd Landis hits testosterone (TBV alert!):
The centerpiece, the organizing principle – the hub, if you will -- would be a Ghostbike memorial featuring an artistic interpretation of the disfigured seat. That statement would be illuminated by a perpetual flame, which would be powered by a renewable organic energy source derived from recycled synthetic bike lube.
But this wouldn't just be a mute white-bike tribute.
The monument’s unveiling would be a major grassroots civic/artistic event.
It would commence with a gigantic Naked Critical Mass ride through Public Square, decrying our oil obsession and its war-machine spawn -- and, if grant dollars permit, denouncing homophobia-based short-shrifting of AIDS research.
This would be the near-violent, in-your-face kickoff that would demand the media pay attention and initiate a participatory Nude Journalism experiment by 19 Action News cultural-milieu reporter Sharon Reed.
After our procession spawns a traffic bottleneck that would inconvenience nearly dozens of people who still work downtown and haven’t been swallowed up by giant sinkholes, we then would head to Voinovich Park for a solemn festival of bike-related performance art at dusk.
Its highlights: graffiti artists tagging vehicles nearby on E. 9th St.; and a hipster mime, covered almost completely with pro-bike tattoos, screwing a gas cap into his rectum (lubed with renewable corn oil) in silent protest of our auto-centric culture.
Finally, we would use about $170,000 of our grant funding for a grassroots campaign aimed at shaming non-bike riders into leaving their Volvos in the garage and giving bike commuting a try.
About 97 of every 100 of those will freak out at the first horn honk or the first time a car passes within four feet. Most will then violently jerk their handlebars to the right and bounce off the curb.
The resultant slaughter of innocents along Chester and Detroit avenues would fuel an unprecedented infrastructure investment into 5-foot-wide bike lanes on every Cleveland traffic artery.
Whoever got annihilated on that twisted specter of a bike would not die in vain, I resolved.
The clarity, immediacy and poignancy of my vision left me so stunned that it took every bit of focus I could summon just to dial Thomas Mulready on my iPhone.
Then, suddenly, everything collapsed even as Mulready’s phone was ringing. This dude stepped out of the Phoenix coffee shop and bent over the combination lock attaching the Death Bike to a railing:

I knew immediately he was a kindred spirit by his rolled-up pants, his light-adorned helmet and the defiant manifesto emblazoned on his messenger bag: "Three Feet – It’s The Law."
Problem was, he was alive.
My vision, which materialized so vividly and immediately, evaporated just as instantly.
Then the rest of the divine revelation congealed in my head: He is alive for now. But it would be so selfish of him to let that little detail stand between the present and my vision.
I followed him home. I’ve rented the U-Haul truck. Tomorrow there just might be a little hit-and-run accident.
But his sacrifice will be a worthy one.