Sunday, December 19, 2010


It was nice having a bike that looked like this...

...but I have much more use for a bike that looks like this:

Booyah! I've been rocking either a 42x15 or a 42x16 depending on how I feel and where I'm riding. Burke-Gilman? 15. Mercer Island? 16. The short hills on MI are loads of fun. 50 RPM tempo uphill, 140 RPM downhill, repeat 20x.

I've also been working at Cycle U, just like Sam, Adrian, and Dan before me. It's a 6'4" legacy that I'm proud to continue. Also, given the historical record, I should have a pro contract within 2 years guaranteed. I've mostly been teaching Cycle U's flagship program, InCycle, but I've also been turning wrenches when they need turning, which for some customers is pretty frequently. Just look at this pulley I took off a customer's bike.

It's a little blurry, probably because my camera refused to focus on such a thing. You can only actually see about 10% of the surface. That's because by volume, there was literally more grease than pulley wheel. And it wasn't just the pulleys. The chain looked like it had been dipped in black tempura batter, the frame was smeared and caked with a patina of grease and road grime, and even the water bottle cages were covered in a mysterious greenish skin. The owner had complained of "bad shifting." No wonder--there was petrified grease in the chain's path.

And what bike did this come off of, you might ask. A derelict 1980s Huffy? A ramshackle 10-speed fished out of someone's shed? Well, an astute viewer might recognize the trademark brake hoods in the upper right of the corner, or the distinctive taper of a 3T fork, or the patented triple spoke build of the wheel in the lower right. This pulley wheel belonged to a 2010 Cervelo R3 with an 11-speed Campy Super Record groupset. The nerve! Now granted, the owner of the bike is probably a much greater value to society than I am, and thus spends much more time than I do on non-bike fawning activities, so I understand that I can't be too critical. But I couldn't help but feel a sense of injustice at what I saw. It was like watching someone clean a well-seasoned cast iron skillet with soap and a steel scrubber.

This made me think about how much enjoyment I get out of listening to a well-built and well-tuned racing bike purr. Extra enjoyable if the bike is curated.

Lang Reynolds' bike is curated. As a sport, cycling involves an interplay between man and machine. When it comes to training, there is no shortage of things to work on in the 'man' department, and a fast rider will always beat a weaker rider with a nicer whip. But for me, working on and taking pride in my bike has few rivals in terms of generating excitement about riding. This goes for both equipment selection and maintenance. As for selection, the process of choosing each component based on its engineering and aesthetics for its intended purpose instills an awareness of my machine that I carry with me when I ride. As for maintenance, spending time looking at, thinking about, and working on it is therapeutic, in addition to obvious practical benefits. The combination of the two means that when I chamois up, look at my bike, and ask, "do I wanna ride this thing," the answer (hell yeah!) is based on a complete familiarity with the machine, respect for its construction, and confidence in its functionality. Thus, rather than taking away time from training, it actually removes impediments to training, so that I can mount up and giver skidoo in the big ring with confidence.

Man I like bikes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


My favorite part of crashing on polished Siberian Cedar is that instead of the surface abrading your skin, you just slide until the friction begins to burn you.

Last you heard from me, I had almost crashed at the LA 'drome during warmup. Man, would THAT have been embarrassing. Especially the day before racing started. Well, luckily I saved up all my crashing until 30 minutes before the pursuit, when I crashed during warmup. My foot came out of the pedal while I was accelerating up from the apron and I landed with a mighty 'thud.' There was a short period of serenity immediately after landing as I silently glided past the upturned faces of the racers on the infield, wondering what had just happened. The heat shortly interrupted the serenity, and I began to roll just as I felt the skin on my shoulder and hip begin to burn.

After collecting myself, I stopped to daub myself with antiseptic and donned a new skinsuit with fewer holes in it. My high impact adventure had cost me about 20 minutes of premium warmup time, and I had the post-crash shakes something awful. I was in a bad place mentally. There had been some rescheduling issues, equipment issues, the crash, and I also felt strangely alienated at the track, despite being surrounded by people I knew. Track cycling seems like it can be pretty clique-ish, and despite having people like Tela and Jen Triplett there, I felt out of place, which was unnerving.

So after dusting my shoulders off, I got my bike ready and started listening to Calvin Harris.

I don't know how much there is to say about the race itself. It feels like the pursuit just washes over me, although this time it felt a little corrupted by the bad vibes and the blown legs from racing the scratch earlier in the day. All that crap was "cut losses," and my dad was at the race, so there was nothing to do but lace up and give 'er. I wound up posting a 4:58.5, well short of my goal.

Despite my disappointment, I set a personal best by about 5 seconds, and went under 5 minutes for the first time. Additionally, it was good to go and see that even the best guys in the country are human. They all put their shorts on one leg at a time, and they all make sputtering noises during the last 1k of the pursuit. Watching Dan Harm is always impressive, and it made me want to get a lot better at this event.

So after the pursuit was the points race. I didn't qualify in the morning heat, and that was it for 2010.

After the race, I was overcome by a powerful anger, which I released outside of the velodrome. As I stood outside, breathing heavily, I looked at myself. I was covered in spit and sweat. The veins on my legs and arms looked like braided cable. I had brought my form to a peak, which had given me enough strength to barely hang onto the race for 20 minutes. There hadn't been any triumphant effort on my part, no perfectly-timed move to snatch victory from my more experienced competitors, just a frantic clinging to wheels until the final sprint played out 100 meters in front of me. My work, the consistent focus on training that I had maintained each day for a full 12 months leading to that race, hadn't been enough. As my clenched fists grew tighter, I cursed the slow passage of time that, if filled with unwavering attention to detail and hard work, could bring to fruition the sort of performance that I wanted now. I reared back and roared at the sky, lamenting my helplessness.

Then I began to plot how best to channel that emotion.