Velominati Keepers of the Cog Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:07:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rule #94 and The Evolution of the Pedal Wrench Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:07:43 +0000 The Best Tool for the Job The Best Tool for the Job

Given the fact that everyone over-tightens their pedals to the crank arms, one needs a long lever to get too much torque. Rule #94 decrees using the correct tool and using it correctly. While the proper tool has always been available, it is up to us to evolve, to understand the difference between right and wrong, between vice-grip and open-ended wrench. And to understand that there is a large gulf between the right tool for the job and the best tool for the job.

Early in the Velominatus life cycle, the bicycle and its pedals arrived as one, fully formed. We were not removing and rebuilding our tricycle pedals. Our first “starter bike” ten-speed also came with “starter” pedals but the pedal, as an obvious point of contact with the pavement, might have demanded replacement. Replacing a pedal would happen long before rebuilding one. Removing the ruined one would only require a wrench and assuming The V-father was not a mechanic, the  adjustable wrench was the only tool in the box. Here the Pedalwan uttered his or her first curse words. The jaws of the adjustable wrench may have been a bit too fat and a bit too loose to do the job. Turning the left pedal ever tighter (the wrong direction?), instead of looser, a wrench might slip, a pedal surface damaged and perhaps blood was spilled. What better reason to curse your god? What better reason to wonder about a better tool while holding your bloody hand under the faucet?

If you had a savvy father who owned a set of open-ended wrenches and entertained the possibility that a pedal could be reverse-threaded, you were of the chosen few.

The correctly sized open-ended wrench is the right tool for the job.

Campagnolo made a bottom bracket fixed cup/pedal tool. Though not their most beautiful one, it was the right tool. When over-torquing a pedal, one gripped the fixed cup end of the tool. Biomechanically, it was imperfect. Park Tool improved on it by including a comfortable and longer hand grip for efficient over-torquing. Not unlike General Motors, at some point Park Tool quietly modified their pedal wrench. I don’t think they came right out and said “For the unfortunate many who now have permanent scarring on their right hand from driving the big ring teeth deep into your flesh, we are sorry.” If the Velominati were still “saving themselves” from using the worst kind of anglo-saxon curses uttered in their lives, misusing the Park pedal wrench would guarantee a trip to Father Flavin’s Confessional Booth. “For fuck’s sake Father, pardon me Father, but I’ll have a greasy tattoo scar across my knuckles forever because of this shiet, pardon me Father, wrench”.

Incorporating a beer bottle opener into various tools did not occur to the engineers at Park Tool. And this is why we love Lezyne so much. Yes, it is more expensive and yes, it is a better pedal wrench and yes, they mill a beautiful bottle opener into it. To hold it is to love it. It is Rule #94. It is not just the right tool for the job, for there are many functional pedal wrenches available but it is the best one for the job. Even without the bottle opener it would still be the best pedal wrench. Its handle and heft make it an item one would happily wield to slaughter the advancing hoards of the undead. If, in the slaughtering, either the handle or the business end gets worn down, it comes apart and one end or the other could be replaced. When the slaughtering is done, at least for now, (because that job is seemingly never really done), one can open a fine cold beer with it and debate if this tool is the correct one for this job.

]]> 0
Book Release: Events and New Rules Mon, 21 Apr 2014 15:00:07 +0000 The Prophet hands down the New V-Estament The Prophet hands down the New V-Estament

The Rules lie at the beginning of The Path, not the end. In pursuit of La Vie Velominatus, we know of no end to the Path; each of us journey through an endless evolution of understanding and reverence. As such, The Word continues to be handed down from high upon Mount Velominis and The Rules continue to be expanded upon. Today we present you with two new Rules, in addition to the announcement of the first two Rules Book Signing Events.

The Rules will be released in the United States on May 5, known as Die Congnoscentus or V.V in old Velomiskrit. In support of its impending launch, we’re very excited to announce the first of our book signing events. The first will be in New York City’s flagship store on Saturday, May 3rd; the second will be held in Rapha’s store in San Francisco on Saturday, May 10. Both events will start with a ride leaving the Rapha store at 8:30am, returning around 2:30pm. The signing will take place in the respective Rapha store starting at 3:00pm. See the respective event pages for the NY Rapha Event and the SFO Rapha Event.

We took the opportunity to correct some issues and improve the quality of the photographs with respect to the UK version that came out last June. That’s not to say we fixed all the errors and didn’t introduce new ones; as long as I’m involved in any project you can be sure there will be problems. But in addition to being refreshed, we also gave the Prologue a facelift and Greg LeMond – the only American Tour de France winner – graciously wrote the Foreword. The US Release also contains four Rules which were not included in the UK release; two of them appeared on the site as they were divined, but the other two were reserved for the release of the book.

Rule #94 // Use the correct tool for the job, and use the tool correctly.
Bicycle maintenance is an art; tools are designed to serve specific purposes, and it is essential that the Velominatus learns to use each tool properly when working on their loyal machine.

For anyone who has ever tried to do something as simple as cut a brake cable or install a headset, this one doesn’t really need much explanation. Without the proper tools, you will certainly massacre the part and likely deface the bicycle itself. At worst, you will cause irreparable harm. The tools and learning to use them is as much a part of La Vie Velominatus as riding itself.

Rule #95 // Never lift your bike over your head.
Under no circumstances is it acceptable to raise one’s machine above your head. The only exception is when placing it onto a car’s roof-rack.

None of the Keepers understand why people are lifting their bikes over their heads. A road bicycle is meant to leave the ground as much as a Cyclist is meant to walk. It is an unholy thing and this behavior must come to a stop immediately.

For a full explanation on the origins and justification of these Rules, I suppose you will have to consult the latest release of the book or join us in New York or San Francisco.

]]> 72
VSP: La Fleche Wallone 2014 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 14:50:24 +0000 Photo: sjaradona via

Midweek in Belgium in Spring is a wonderful thing. Hordes of people come from seemingly nowhere to fill the bars and line the roadsides when presumably they’d usually be working, or at school, or some such. That the only ones who appear to be working are the bartenders and frites dispensers reinforces my belief that Belgium is the greatest country in the world.

You can bet your bottom dollar that the town of Huy will once again be heaving on Wednesday when the riders of La Fleche Wallone tackle the horrible, beautiful Mur de Huy three times in the afternoon (whether you regard the climb as horrible or beautiful largely depends if you’re on a bike or in the pub). While three times up the Mur is never going to be fun, the last ascent has to be one of the most brutal finishes to any race, on any climb, anywhere. It truly is horribly beautiful.

I guess the talk will now centre on Dr Phil and whether he can repeat, threepeat or maybe even Steve Peat his way into the history books after his wins in Brabantse Pilj and Amstel Gold in the last week.  The way he’s riding, the only surer bet you could make is that Abandy doesn’t show up. So with that thought, get thee to the start list, watch the timer (if we’ve managed to work it out) and get your picks in to stay in GC contention for the greatest prize pool in internet based cycling related tipping competitions.

First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron

Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)

Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

Good luck and bottoms up!

]]> 215
velominati super prestige: La Fleche Wallone Feminine 2014 Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:14:52 +0000 Mur-de-Huy-ProfileWednesday sees the return of the women to the VSP. More notably, we see the return of Marianne Vos to the road. She’s won this race five of the last seven years. It makes me wonder if the rest of the field have already resigned themselves to racing for second. On the other hand, Vos hasn’t been racing of late and may not be as sharp as her competitors. Nah, that’s crazy talk. She’s Vos.

It’s been a few weeks since the women’s Ronde when Ellen Van Dyk soloed to victory from 27 km’s out. It’s unlikely we will see similar antics stick in la Fleche but we can expect some action on the way up the Huy to the finish. Click on the start list and have a look. It seems like the strong women are all toeing up.

This week we learned that Emma Pooley will make less money in her entire career than Tom Boonen probably paid for a shitty paint job on a Ferrari he subsequently crashed. We’re not entirely sure what to do with that information other than to say Tommeke probably has too much of it and Pooley probably deserves more. Sure, first world problems. They both race $15,000.00 bikes for a living and get to travel the world. There are bigger fish to fry than gender pay-equity in pro cycling to make the world a better place. But we can at least give the ladies a fair shake. As a cyclist and the father of two daughters I’d like to see more women and more coverage of women’s cycling so my daughters have heroes who are women too. A good place to start is by paying them a living wage.

Pick wisely, roll the bones and best of luck. The standings are tightening up so whatever you do, don’t Delgado. Points are points whether they be gained from the men or the women and you’ll need all you can get. There’s a sweet Veloforma frame, some killer wheels, fantastic shoes, and some other shit on the line.


]]> 161
Guest Article: On Suffering Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:10:29 +0000 Sean Kelly in his home Tour Sean Kelly in the Tour of Ireland

What, another guest post? Seemingly yes, but in fact we are keeping to our every-other Friday guest post schedule. We must Keep The Schedule! @Harminator’s post about pigs was the little seen “pop-up” article; a confluence of Paris-Roubaix, Orchies pigs and Jupiler beer. These things go very bad, very fast if not served quickly.

@Ccos is serving up some thoughts on suffering; coming from Rhode Island, he knows something about it. Right now his roads have a winter’s worth of sand and salt still on them. Every corner is dangerous. Every ride means a gritty bike. Every driver is already fed up with cyclists.

VLVV, Gianni

We cyclists are a unique lot. There are myriad reasons why, but the most striking is our habit of seeking out something that most people in their day-to-day, and even sporting lives try very hard to avoid. We seek out suffering.

We seek out suffering like no one else, not every time we ride, but certainly when we are trying to become better. Pain and suffering are not unique to the sport of cycling by any stretch of the imagination, and occur with great regularity in any number of causal and professional sports. Elsewhere though, pain or suffering is usually brief, unexpected, unplanned and many times leads to a time out or other some such break. Suffering for the cyclist, however, is a very different animal.

As cyclists, it is our approach to, embracement of, and dependence upon, suffering which makes us unique. It is the only way to become faster, stronger, thinner. Without suffering, we cannot improve and of course, without it we cannot ever win.

Talk of suffering suffuses our vernacular. Read any article of an important race or listen to any television commentator and something will be said of the suffering of the riders, of their pain, of their agony. You probably use the same words when you describe your epic rides especially if climbing is involved. Suffering is our unit of measure, our currency, and yes, our virtue. It is also the single most difficult thing to explain to the non-cyclist.

Our greatest champions have mastered suffering and only by doing so can inflict it on others. It is not unusual too to learn of the struggles of these people outside of cycling which have allowed them to endure the necessary suffering to become champions. Many toiled as farmers, laborers or miners when younger and there learned the toughness from which to endure their self-inflicted suffering later on the bike.

Well brothers and sisters that road can be paved both ways, because sometimes life can be 200 kilometers of potholes, headwinds and angry rednecks. Spending time in the pain cave, if you pay attention, can teach you many things about yourself well beyond how many watts you can generate. Suffering makes us tough beyond words. Sometimes we have to rely on this toughness to get us through events in life, which would otherwise cripple us. Rule #5 has applications off the bike too.

Of course, suffering has many benefits; it is why we seek it out. It leads to greater joy on the bike. Joy, which can come from the increased speed to win, from the gained ability to drop some jackass on a group ride or from the sheer pleasure of that moment when the suffering stops.

We are cyclists. We find the good in suffering and we are much better for it. VLVV.


]]> 38
Velominati Super Prestige: Amstel Gold Race 2014 Thu, 17 Apr 2014 07:21:59 +0000 Jan Raas, 5 time winner, not drinking Amstel Gold. photo-Peters, Hans / Anefo Jan Raas, 5 time winner of Amstel, not drinking Amstel Gold. photo-Peters, Hans / Anefo

The Amstel Gold Race, 251 km from Maastricht to Valkenburg, the hard way. There appears to be no flat sections longer than ten meters. There are thirty-four mean little climbs to ruin the legs. We have moved on from the real Spring Classics. There is no rest in this VSP; The Ronde and Roubaix were amazing but we must continue. Legs that are smoked from those races are not lining up for Amstel. We are moving into Phil Gil territory. Regard the former winners from 2004 to 2008.

  • 2008 | CUNEGO Damiano
  • 2007 | SCHUMACHER Stefan
  • 2006 | SCHLECK Fränk
  • 2005 | DI LUCA Danilo
  • 2004 | REBELLIN Davide

Obviously, having the right pot belge mix working for these climbs paid off back then, especially for Schumacher, not a rider who would have been an obvious pick for any race. I’m not implying Phil Gil is on the juice but I am implying this is a race for the powerhouse speed climbers, like him or Valverde. Again, not implying, just saying.

For those who wished to squander a pick on Gesink (I’m looking at you Strack), you have been saved. He is out. Maybe Laurens ten Dam, Velominati Rules reader will represent the home country and win it all, or not. Here is the start list. Veel succes!

The points from the Amstel Gold VSP count towards the overall prizes. So check the start list, review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 20th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Don’t forget we’ve got three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron

Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)

Third place is you’re fired or overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

]]> 252
The Mirror Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:00:21 +0000 Winner on the road, loser in the mirror. Photo: Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Have you ever been told to take a good look at yourself? Usually it infers that you need to smarten up your ideas, get your shit together, shape up or ship out. If Viagra eyedrops had an advertising campaign, (or indeed existed), their tagline would be: “Take a long, hard look at yourself.”

Most Cyclists need to take a long hard look at themselves. Ourselves. We could do a lot better in the public relations sphere if we took more care to use our playgrounds, ie the roads, as road users rather than pseudo-racers. And we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves every time we kit up and head out the door for a ride. Because what you see in the mirror is what others see also, and we should present ourselves as smart, tidy and sensible, rather than walking fluoro billboards or wannabe Pros.

The mirror is one of the most overlooked pieces of a Cyclist’s kit, and one that needs to be looked into a whole lot more than I suspect it is, going by the rolling messes I see out on the roads on every ride. Of course I’m not endorsing a Rule #66 violation, no sir. Offensive attire isn’t exclusive to the slovenly who go shopping in their tracky pants and Crocs, or the mostly smartly-dressed professionals who top off their neat-pressed pants or skirts with a fucking sleeping bag. You’re not George Costanza, so don’t bother.

It shouldn’t be necessary to tell you how to dress for the ride; you should know that yourself. That’s why The Rules were forged; to educate, yet sometimes to berate is necessary. If you are too clueless to put a helmet on your head level, to wear clean and matching kit, or to buy a pair of socks that don’t expose your fucking ankles, you’re either a hopelessly sloppy individual or a completely lost cause. These are the type of people who go out to dinner with their partner or take long haul flights while wearing rolled-up denim shorts, boat shoes and a t-shirt. Even if you have such little respect for yourself, you, as a member of society, should at least show some for those who have to encounter you.

Let’s smarten things up people. I know for the main part I’m preaching to the converted here, but it’s our duty to spread the knowledge and help ourselves by helping others within our ranks. It’s easy. Pick and choose kit carefully, pre-plan well in advance so you don’t end up just throwing whatever isn’t dirty on, and make sure it’s all adjusted properly. And if you’re in with a show of winning a Monument, straighten up that goddamn helmet!


]]> 137
In Search of Power Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:35:05 +0000 Pantani finds his power in the drops. Photo: Tom Able-Green/ALLSPORT Pantani finds his power in the drops. Photo: Tom Able-Green/ALLSPORT

It’s no secret that I’m prone to riding in the big ring as much as possible, mostly on account of my not being a giant sissy. In accordance with the ISO Non-Sissy Standard, I also never read instruction manuals or ask for directions when lost. I make sure to only rarely ask my VMH to turn up the radio when Adele comes on, usually followed quickly by an ernest explanation of how I thought it was Metallica, and how Rolling in the Deep ripped off the opening to Enter Sandman. The record does show, however, that I occasionally fly into hysterics when surprised by an insect or amphibian – but that’s just good common sense.

Pantani’s in-the-drops climbing style has always impressed me, but he’s only one of the riders who won races going down in the drops looking for more power on the climbs; Jan Ullrich was often climbing in the drops as well as our mate Johan Museeuw – not to mention Richard Virenque and so did Frank Vandenbroucke. Looking at that list, I wonder if the UCI should explore adjusting the test for EPO to examine time spent climbing in the drops.

Riding the route of Liege-Bastogne-Liege with Johan last Keepers Tour, I noticed a pattern in his riding style. Whenever the gradient increased on a climb, instead of changing gear he just moved his hands to the drops and rose out of the saddle to casually push the same gear over the steep. It looked so easy, it was impossible to resist trying it myself. At first, there is a strange sort of sensation, like you’re dipping your nose into the tarmac. But then when you switch to the hoods, you notice an immediate loss of leverage. After practicing it, it becomes second nature.

Someone once told me that the key to going fast is to try to break your handlebars, and that’s just what I’ve been trying to do lately although I hope I’m ultimately unsuccessful. Since gleaning this trick from Johan’s riding style, I’ve been staying in the big ring longer and climbing  out of the saddle in the drops, pulling hard on bars and feeling them flex. Its not always faster than spinning a low gear but it has the benefit of taking the load off your cardiovascular system and putting it on your muscular system – a handy thing if your form is missing something or you’ve got massive guns (which I don’t).

This has brought another notion to light: the lower the hand position, the better able you are to find the leverage you need to turn the pedals. This is one of the principle issues with the Sit Up and Beg epidemic, apart from it looking crap and being less stable. But hand height seems to impact power; I’ve noticed that when I’m climbing on the tops, I can breath easily and I’m able to maintain a speed well, but acceleration is difficult. To accelerate or hold a pace up a steep gradient (which is almost the same as accelerating), I’m better served riding on the hoods where my position is a bit lower. But when I really need power, I go looking for it in the drops.

All this brings into question the current trend towards compact bars and flat hand positions between the tops and hoods, with the drops only a bit lower. Compare that to the deep drops ridden in the past, in the style of Eddy Merckx and Roger de Vlaeminck where the hoods were halfway between the tops and the drops. The modern bar shape and hood position seems to reduce the riding positions to as few as possible, while in the past, they were designed to provide as many as possible.

In any case, big sweeping drops look the business and I’m pretty sure they are in complete compliance with the ISO Non-Sissy Standard.

]]> 119
Guest Article: Follow the Pigs Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:58:32 +0000 All Hail The Pigs All Hail the Pigs

@Harminator just submitted this little gem of a tale. It is too timely not to share with Paris-Roubaix looming.

VLVV, Gianni

I imagine that some people who decide to fly 17000kms to watch a bike race might plan every little thing down to the finest detail. We didn’t. We believe in the maxim that the best adventures are planned on the back of an envelope. All we had was a vision of standing drunk beside an ancient cobbled farm track as the cream of cycling’s hardmen suffered past in clouds of dust and pulverized cow manure. How that might eventuate was clearly filed under “fuck knows”.

And on the Seventh Day our approach was vindicated. Despite several campervan near-misses, we made it to the austere town of Orchies. But finding the town does not equate to finding the obscure cobbled farm track and our pidgin French was only un petit-peu helpful. It was then that the powerful tradition of Paris-Roubaix came to our aid – in the form of the pig. Two pigs actually. About 5 meters tall, dressed like farm folk and being wheeled through the streets. For a moment we stood there perplexed until it dawned on me that on That Sunday, in that town there could be only one explanation.

“Follow the Pigs!” I half shouted. And we did. And yea! They did lead us to the cobbles of Orchies. And the beer tent. And the frites. All hail the pigs!

And a couple of hours later I was standing drunk beside an ancient cobbled farm track when Turgot and Tommeke and JVS powered past in a cloud of dust and pulverized cow manure: Past the giant pigs standing sentinel to the cobbles of Orchies: Past two heaving lines of temporary maniacs swept up in a bona fide celebration of cycling. In that moment I became a true follower.

]]> 21
Velominati Super Prestige: Paris-Roubaix 2014 Thu, 10 Apr 2014 23:14:29 +0000 Phinney takes flight in the Trouée d'Arenberg. Phinney takes flight in the Trouée d’Arenberg.

It has been a brutal week for us Keepers, having decided not to hold a Keepers Tour this year. Watching the action from half a world away has been almost too much for us to bear, and I know most of the participants from last year must be feeling similarly. On Sunday, we would be escorted by our friends and guides, William and Alex of Pavé Cycling Classics, shooting from one location to another to watch the race, eating Genevieve’s homemade sandwiches and pounding Malteni like its going out of style.

We may not be there this year, but that doesn’t change the question on everyone’s mind: can Fabian do the double a record three times? Personally, I hope not – I want the double to stay special. Until 2003, the previous winner of the double was de Vlaeminck who had managed it in 1977 at which point it had only been done six times previously. But since Van Petegem pulled it off in ’03, Boonen and Cancellara have done it twice each – that’s 4 doubles in the last 10 years.

Come Sunday morning, I’ll be gunning for Boonen. He’s been behind his form just a tad, but he forced the selection on the Koppenberg last Sunday, so he has the power. Maybe a day of killing it in de Ronde was last touch he needed and he’ll be peaking for Sunday. Fabian of course will be strong, but Sep and Greg had strong showings last week and Vanmarke is now proving to be Flecha’s replacement – hopefully he’ll have more luck taking a big win Sunday.

The points from the Paris-Roubaix VSP count towards the overall prizes plus the winner of this event also gets to post for the rest of the year in the cobblestone badge. So check the start list, review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 13th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Don’t forget we’ve got three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

  1. First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron
  2. Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)
  3. Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

Good luck, have fun with it, and don’t lose your Rule #43 spirit.

Final Race Results
5. STYBAR Zdenek
Final VSP Results
1. tony macaroni (11 points)
2. John (10 points)
3. Teocalli (9 points)
4. unversio (8 points)
5. Ron (8 points)
6. Mike_P (7 points)
7. scaler911 (7 points)
8. Cajun Pseudo-Belgian (6 points)
9. Wardy (6 points)
10. the-farmer (6 points)
11. Dr C (6 points)
12. RondeVan (6 points)
13. godsight (6 points)
14. chrismurphy92 (6 points)
15. brett (6 points)
16. stuart Witkowski (6 points)
17. foggypeake (6 points)
18. Geordi (6 points)
19. Gianni (6 points)
20. Beers (5 points)
21. boomboom-84 (5 points)
22. gaswepass (5 points)
23. aaus (5 points)
24. Chris (5 points)
25. Adrian (5 points)
26. Ccos (5 points)
27. wiscot (5 points)
28. Skip (5 points)
29. Simon (5 points)
30. JohnB (5 points)
31. Dan_R (5 points)
32. Facetious_Jesus (5 points)
33. spoderman (5 points)
34. ten B (5 points)
35. Giles (4 points)
36. Roobar (4 points)
37. DCR (4 points)
38. teleguy57 (4 points)
39. Steampunk (4 points)
40. DeKerr (4 points)
41. atomicmanatee (4 points)
42. oneninefiveninesix (4 points)
43. TheDon (4 points)
44. San Tonio (4 points)
45. simonsaunders (4 points)
46. slatanic (4 points)
47. Duende (4 points)
48. R00tdown (4 points)
49. Blah (4 points)
50. Brian McAndrews (4 points)
51. plynie (4 points)
52. Thomas van Maanen (4 points)
53. Kevin (4 points)
54. blue (4 points)
55. imakecircles (4 points)
56. Mirko (4 points)
57. @roadslave525 (4 points)
58. VeloVita (4 points)
59. torrefie (4 points)
60. MJ Moquin (4 points)
61. anthony (4 points)
62. ralexmiller (4 points)
63. Minnesota Expat (4 points)
64. pakrat (4 points)
65. RedRanger (3 points)
66. sthilzy (3 points)
67. JCM (3 points)
68. il muro di manayunk (3 points)
69. asyax (3 points)
70. Buck Rogers (3 points)
71. Bianchi Denti (3 points)
72. Tartan1749 (3 points)
73. piwakawaka (3 points)
74. Xponti (3 points)
75. Conrad (3 points)
76. Shlumpen (3 points)
77. andrew (3 points)
78. geoffrey (3 points)
79. V-inden (3 points)
80. Gino (3 points)
81. bunji (3 points)
82. seemunkee (3 points)
83. CanuckChuck (3 points)
84. razmaspaz (3 points)
85. moondance (3 points)
86. Floridian (3 points)
87. TheVid (3 points)
88. stickyjumper (3 points)
89. strathlubnaig (3 points)
90. dpalazzo (3 points)
91. el gato (3 points)
92. KW (3 points)
93. skagitteam (3 points)
94. Bill Chris (3 points)
95. HMBSteve (3 points)
96. Tom Mc (3 points)
97. ped (3 points)
98. boudewijn (3 points)
99. wkleik (3 points)
100. LeoTea (3 points)
101. Harminator (3 points)
102. fignons barber (3 points)
103. Island Bike (3 points)
104. Deakus (3 points)
105. taon24 (3 points)
106. ramenvelo (3 points)
107. zot (3 points)
108. kixsand (3 points)
109. Tobin (3 points)
110. m_demartino (3 points)
111. Geraint (3 points)
112. schall und rauch (3 points)
113. BatDan (3 points)
114. LIIIXI (3 points)
115. norm (3 points)
116. habswin1 (3 points)
117. revchuck (3 points)
118. xyxax (3 points)
119. Steve-o (3 points)
120. Nate (3 points)
121. Heusdens (3 points)
122. girl (3 points)
123. LA Dave (3 points)
124. ChrisO (3 points)
125. Captainsideburns (3 points)
126. Mikael Liddy (2 points)
127. Sauterelle (2 points)
128. Beers (2 points)
129. elmeltone (2 points)
130. The Grande Fondue (2 points)
131. freddy (2 points)
132. Rob (2 points)
133. Two Ball Billy (2 points)
134. tommy5tone (2 points)
135. Daccordi Rider (2 points)
136. Marko (2 points)
137. justinevan88 (2 points)
138. Mycle78 (2 points)
139. VirenqueForever (2 points)
140. Lukas (2 points)
141. zeitzmar (2 points)
142. Yagerbomb (2 points)
143. Al__S (2 points)
144. the Engine (2 points)
145. american psycho (2 points)
146. Spencer (2 points)
147. Badger (2 points)
148. Rom (2 points)
149. PT (2 points)
150. V-olcano (2 points)
151. Father of Four (2 points)
152. ErikdR (2 points)
153. Patrick (2 points)
154. Darren H (2 points)
155. Erik (2 points)
156. Chris S (2 points)
157. BoogieStudio22 (2 points)
158. Fausto (2 points)
159. napolinige (2 points)
160. LastBoyScout (2 points)
161. VeloJello (2 points)
162. roberto (2 points)
163. Gervais (2 points)
164. TOM.NELS2120 (2 points)
165. D. Stef (2 points)
166. Chris S (2 points)
167. Heihachi (2 points)
168. Brianold55 (2 points)
169. sgraha (2 points)
170. GiantBars (2 points)
171. Jeff Simmons (2 points)
172. meursault (2 points)
173. Dave R (2 points)
174. Rhodri (2 points)
175. Bat Chainpuller (2 points)
176. Donnie Bugno (2 points)
177. Haldy (2 points)
178. dancollins (2 points)
179. therealpeel (2 points)
180. BaltoSteve (2 points)
181. Jay (2 points)
182. Emsworth (2 points)
183. jeyrod (2 points)
184. starclimber (2 points)
185. Chica (2 points)
186. G'rilla (1 points)
187. cal (1 points)
188. Barracuda (1 points)
189. Stephen (1 points)
190. dyalander (1 points)
191. velobrowny (1 points)
192. gallilano (1 points)
193. Dave Lominati (1 points)
194. Alex (0 points)
195. eenies (0 points)
]]> 355
The Hail Mary Shift Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:55:08 +0000 Gino Bartali looking for a gear Gino Bartali looking for a gear

The grade is long and I am climbing away. I’m not going to Pantani this: I am not out of the saddle, not in the drops and not leaving everyone in my wake. The climbing gear was engaged a long time ago. There is progress, but I am not dancing up this climb. A little more cadence would really help here. If I could just get this mother-lover spinning just a bit, I could get somewhere. Maybe I’m not in the  granny gear, yeah, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I do have one more gear, the gear that will solve this whole thing.

The right middle finger drops to the shifter and pushes. No. Nothing, just the feel of the derailleur hitting the limiter screw. Idiot. You knew you didn’t have another gear didn’t you but you couldn’t resist, could you? Why do I even do it? I know the answer already but I still do it. Hope springs eternal when one is too big to climb. I did it with downtube shifters too; crank that shifter back hoping for a little more action.

I bet Gino did it when he only had three speeds and a hand lever running down the seat stay to manipulate. “Mamma Mia, sto fumando come moto di un Hippie. Ho solo bisogno di una marcia in più.” *

The only time I look down and am surprised at what gear I’m in is the rare occasion when I am in my climbing gear and crossed on the “big” chainring. And that would be the only justification for wondering what the hell is going on “down there”.

My mountain bike actually has gear indicators, which are embarrassing. What are we, three year olds? On that bike I just keep pushing levers until I can’t, or I just fall over. Maybe, in a few years, when we are all forced into electronic shifting, a soothing voice will emanate from the lever. “Really? You want an even easier gear? You don’t have one so get your fat ass off the saddle, get in the drops before I auto-shift you into the big chainring and leave you there. And you call yourself a Cyclist.” The possibilities are endless.


* Loosely translated- “FFS, I am smoking like a Hippie’s motorbike. I just need one more gear.”

]]> 92
Balance Mon, 07 Apr 2014 23:08:32 +0000 Fabs and Vanmarke make the split on the Kwaremont. Photo: Alexandre Voisine

I had always imagined that de Ronde van Vlaanderen must be hardest race in the world. The way I worked it out – having never ridden the course of either event at the time – was that de Ronde had the same cobbles as Roubaix, but with 20% grades thrown in. It makes enough sense so long as you don’t know what you’re talking about, but what you quickly discover once you have ridden them both is just how bad the cobbles of Roubaix are: the worst kasseien in Belgium are about as rough as the best pavé in France.

Both routes are so hard you need to experience them in order to appreciate their difficulty; words are hopelessly inadequate in describing the separation the rider feels from their bicycle while simultaneously feeling more connected to it than at any other time. It is through breaking down the illusion of control that the Cyclist is finally allowed to truly bond with their machine.

The element that makes Vlaanderen a slightly easier race is the most counter-intuitive: the bergs. On most routes, the hills are what separate the wheat from the chafe. Yet because of the brutality of the cobbles, they allow a rider to hide. The secret to riding cobblestones is speed; the faster you go, the better the bike is able to skim over the top with the effect of smoothing them out. This requires big, big power to sustain over the distance of a secteur of cobbles, let alone over the whole of a race. But the bergs neutralize the speed somewhat; how fast can anyone go up a 20% grade – on cobbles, no less? The answer is none fast, so the gaps between the strong and the weak are reduced somewhat until the final decisive moments when the pressure is so great that every chink in the rider’s armor is ruthlessly exposed.

To ride the cobbles is to dance with paradox: ride full gas while keeping something in reserve for the crucial moment  - not when the odds are stacked in your favor, but the you are at the smallest disadvantage. During Sunday’s Ronde, we saw a Cancellara who was not at his best; he won both his previous two Ronde by being so superior that he could drop his adversaries on the last of the steep grades. This year, he made his move on the one section of the finale where his power was a definite advantage, despite his relative weakness on the day; he attacked not on one of the two steepest parts of the Kwaremont, but on the cobbled false flat between the two where speed could make a real difference. He then hung onto Vanmarke over the steep Paterberg before being dragged patiently to the sprint finish to take his third Ronde. 

Cancellara is learning tactics as his strength steadily wanes; before last few year, there was no need for such subtlety. Now he is patient; he is calm. He knows both his strength and weakness, and doesn’t let the antics of the race affect his action. It reminds me of Neruda:

I like you calm, act as if you were absent, and you hear me far-off, and my voice does not touch you.

- Pablo Neruda

]]> 78
Guest Article: In V We Trust Fri, 04 Apr 2014 20:19:47 +0000 Bianchi Denti and Rigid on the Muur Bianchi Denti and Rigid on the Muur

One of greatest cycling pleasures is riding with a mate. Riding ten centimeters off each other’s rear wheel for hours; trust is a beautiful thing. You swing over, ease your effort slightly so your mate rides through, you then tuck behind, in the draft, close and fast. It is the best. @Kah touches on this and other transcendent benefits from a ride with a mate.

VLVV, Gianni 

I sometimes wonder if the Rules were meant to be followed backwards, from 93 to 1. For example, the Principle of Silence in Rule #65 decrees that the bicycle should be silent. The mechanical benefits of a well-maintained steed are clear: respect for the machine and in return, speed and efficiency. Now, a silent bicycle with a smooth rider on board is well on his or her way to achieving Rule #6: a free mind via fluidly harmonic articulations.

I went for a road ride with my friend Brett today. The weather forecast wasn’t great, but he had spotted a gap in the passing showers and we meant to make the most of it.

After the usual early gasbagging we navigated traffic through town and settled into single file, and I was led towards the highway. For the most part we’re close enough that he fills my immediate field of vision, and I’m afforded to admire the ocean at my periphery and trust him with the road ahead. As I follow, I don’t really have to think twice about what I’m doing, but rather just respond to body language interlaced with hand gestures. We didn’t speak for a while, both seemingly left with our own thoughts as we swapped turns seamlessly.

As my legs started to settle into their own rhythm I got a chance to watch him ride. The cliche joke is that cyclists spend a lot of time staring at each others’ arses while out on our bikes (a thought commonly shared by the most homophobic). There are so many better things to look for when following a fellow Cyclist who knows what he’s doing. Brett has still shoulders, a good position, and an elegant supplesse to his pedal stroke. Similarly, watching his hand gestures gives a glimpse into his mood for the day too.

When I take my turn on the front, I try to emulate this stillness while maintaining our silent communication of the road conditions ahead. When I’m looking ahead at him, I’m not staring at his arse, I get to see through him – his experience of cycling means I am never surprised by the road conditions and for the most part our speed ebbs and flows rather than jerks and surges. This trust means eventually, slowly, finally – my mind cleared itself from the chatter that the typical work week leaves me with and a stillness follows.

I guess the difference between the tacit knowledge embodied by my riding buddies and the explicit knowledge that the Rules are trying to impart is the same as my Gran being a phenomenal chef; instinctively knowing just when and how to do the right thing, and how I have to Google how to hard-boil an egg. Obviously the difference is in our relative amounts of experience preparing food, but also in our interest and care in cooking. At some point, we just have to head out and learn through doing, transforming the theory of the Rules into innate knowledge.

As we rolled back toward the city, my legs burning from our earlier effort, my mind maintains that same stillness. Except now I’m more aware, awake, alive. I’m looking closely at my ally and adversary knowing he’s going to jump at any moment. When he doesn’t go, I have a dig (only friends attack friends right?), and this time I know whether he’s following when I hear the click-thunk of the derailleur engaging the sprint cog as we headed for the town-line sprint.

My world shrunk to the immediate visceral sensations of hurtling towards the end of the ride, tucked into The V-locus with my legs burning as I desperately try to gasp in air, I didn’t even care who got to the line first. For a few glorious moments, my mind was free.



]]> 37
Velominati Super Prestige: Ronde van Vlaanderen 2014 Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:59:05 +0000 Eddie Boss Eddie Boss

This needs no introduction. The Spring Classics are truly upon us. The course has been modified yet again, it is tougher? The riders make the race and the 2014 Ronde van Vlaanderen is loaded with racers who could win or make the Velominati VSP placings. Just to pick the winner will not be nearly as easy as it has been recently. There are small clouds hanging over Boonen and Cancellara, neither have had a dominant run up to this race, nor has Sagan. Boonen’s team is extremely strong, other teams would kill to have Quick Step’s plan B and plan C.

As always, the Ronde and Roubaix sort out who is the strongest. The final burn up Oude Kwaremont and the Paterburg will hopefully kill any chance for a sprint finish, but if it comes down to a sprint, it shall be awesome. As always, we shall be praying for rain on the Koppenberg and maybe a quick view of a friend drinking a Malteni on the Kwaremont. Here is a provisional start list. So do your Belgian beer shopping, make sure your counter-top frite deep fryer won’t burn down your home and then and only then, contemplate your VSP picks. If you Delgado this you may be cut off for the rest of 2014, because you suck.

The points from the Men’s RVV count towards the overall prizes plus the winner of this event also gets to post for the rest of the year in the  Lion of Flanders badge. So review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 30th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Don’t forget we’ve got three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

  1. First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron
  2. Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)
  3. Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

Good luck, have fun with it, and don’t lose your Rule #43 spirit.

Final Race Results
5. KRISTOFF Alexander
Final VSP Results
1. VirenqueForever (14 points)
2. Skip (13 points)
3. JCM (12 points)
4. freddy (12 points)
5. Jay (12 points)
6. Harminator (11 points)
7. JohnB (11 points)
8. Sauterelle (11 points)
9. TOM.NELS2120 (11 points)
10. fignons barber (11 points)
11. scaler911 (11 points)
12. Heusdens (11 points)
13. Rob (11 points)
14. V-olcano (11 points)
15. LIIIXI (11 points)
16. Dave R (11 points)
17. Noel (11 points)
18. dancollins (11 points)
19. therealpeel (11 points)
20. Nate (11 points)
21. gallilano (11 points)
22. ChrisO (11 points)
23. piwakawaka (10 points)
24. Patrick (10 points)
25. DCR (9 points)
26. justinevan88 (9 points)
27. Mirko (9 points)
28. dpalazzo (9 points)
29. the Engine (9 points)
30. GiantBars (9 points)
31. spoderman (9 points)
32. american psycho (9 points)
33. strathlubnaig (9 points)
34. Buck Rogers (8 points)
35. Beers (8 points)
36. velobrowny (8 points)
37. stickyjumper (8 points)
38. Rom (8 points)
39. ralexmiller (8 points)
40. Duende (8 points)
41. Steampunk (8 points)
42. Kevin (8 points)
43. asyax (8 points)
44. ten B (8 points)
45. tony macaroni (8 points)
46. Darren H (8 points)
47. Floridian (8 points)
48. blue (8 points)
49. LeoTea (8 points)
50. weags (8 points)
51. Yagerbomb (8 points)
52. Endurimil (8 points)
53. Lukas (8 points)
54. Rigid (8 points)
55. Ron (8 points)
56. Barracuda (8 points)
57. Blah (8 points)
58. R00tdown (8 points)
59. xyxax (8 points)
60. el gato (8 points)
61. Heihachi (8 points)
62. roberto (8 points)
63. UptheTrossachs (8 points)
64. G'phant (8 points)
65. Two Ball Billy (8 points)
66. Emsworth (8 points)
67. simonsaunders (8 points)
68. Thomas van Maanen (8 points)
69. sgraha (8 points)
70. Fausto (8 points)
71. Bill Chris (8 points)
72. Fins (8 points)
73. imakecircles (8 points)
74. BaltoSteve (8 points)
75. kidpinarello (8 points)
76. bunji (8 points)
77. CanuckChuck (7 points)
78. RedRanger (7 points)
79. Badger (7 points)
80. elmeltone (7 points)
81. Minnesota Expat (7 points)
82. zeitzmar (7 points)
83. aaus (7 points)
84. Shlumpen (7 points)
85. Teocalli (7 points)
86. Wardy (7 points)
87. norm (7 points)
88. chrismurphy92 (7 points)
89. KW (7 points)
90. wkleik (7 points)
91. taon24 (7 points)
92. LastBoyScout (7 points)
93. skagitteam (7 points)
94. Giles (7 points)
95. gaswepass (7 points)
96. Roadslave525 (7 points)
97. napolinige (7 points)
98. Geraint (7 points)
99. Donnie Bugno (7 points)
100. Joe (7 points)
101. Island Bike (7 points)
102. Collin (7 points)
103. Gianni (7 points)
104. Chris S (6 points)
105. Tom Mc (6 points)
106. unversio (5 points)
107. il muro di manayunk (5 points)
108. Gervais (5 points)
109. zot (5 points)
110. boudewijn (5 points)
111. BoogieStudio22 (5 points)
112. moondance (5 points)
113. D. Stef (5 points)
114. Bianchi Denti (3 points)
115. sthilzy (3 points)
116. The Grande Fondue (3 points)
117. Daccordi Rider (3 points)
118. Adrian (3 points)
119. velocepedia (3 points)
120. V-inden (3 points)
121. Spencer (3 points)
122. Jeff simmons (2 points)
123. Brian McAndrews (2 points)
124. Rhodri (2 points)
125. VeloJello (2 points)
126. plynie (2 points)
127. Brianold55 (2 points)
128. San Tonio (2 points)
129. thatsplainsoppy (2 points)
130. Xponti (2 points)
131. dyalander (2 points)
132. PT (2 points)
133. the-farmer (2 points)
134. Mike_P (2 points)
135. wiscot (2 points)
136. HMBSteve (2 points)
137. ped (2 points)
138. ErikdR (2 points)
139. Marko (2 points)
140. andrew (2 points)
141. Haldy (2 points)
142. BatDan (2 points)
143. geoffrey (2 points)
144. El mateo (2 points)
145. seemunkee (2 points)
146. LA Dave (2 points)
147. Father of Four (2 points)
148. edster99 (2 points)
149. ramenvelo (2 points)
150. Deakus (2 points)
151. TheVid (2 points)
152. Chica (2 points)
153. foggypeake (2 points)
154. Alex (2 points)
155. Tobin (1 points)
156. Chris (1 points)
157. razmaspaz (1 points)
158. Ccos (1 points)
159. TheDon (1 points)
160. Mikael Liddy (1 points)
161. RondeVan (1 points)
162. Stephen (1 points)
163. atze (1 points)
164. Karsten Niemann (1 points)
165. schall und rauch (1 points)
166. Rork (1 points)
167. il ciclista medio (1 points)
168. tommy5tone (1 points)
169. Doctor Kono (1 points)
170. VeloVita (1 points)
171. David Barker (1 points)
172. atomicmanatee (1 points)
173. Andrew (1 points)
174. Steve-o (1 points)
175. Gino (1 points)
176. cal (1 points)
177. Owen (1 points)
178. eenies (1 points)
179. Dan_R (1 points)
180. Bat Chainpuller (1 points)
181. jeyrod (1 points)
182. Conner (1 points)
183. habswin1 (1 points)
184. kixsand (1 points)
185. DeKerr (1 points)
186. bugleboy21 (1 points)
187. starclimber (1 points)
188. oneninefiveninesix (1 points)
189. girl (1 points)
190. anthony (1 points)
191. Roobar (0 points)
192. Simon (0 points)
193. brett (0 points)
]]> 306
Velominati Super Prestige: VVomen’s Ronde van Vlaanderen 2014 Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:28:42 +0000 Ellen van Dijk scales the Oude Kwaremont Ellen van Dijk scales the Oude Kwaremont

Vlaanderen. Its no accident the Flemish word for Flanders starts with a V; there is nothing simple or easy about riding a bike here. If it isn’t wind, its steep bergs. If it isn’t tarmac, its cobbles. Most of the time, its all three. Oh, and the weather there sucks. In fact, Flanders doesn’t have weather – it has VVeather.

De Ronde and Roubaix are the hardest races of the year, and the natural inclination is to assume de Ronde might be the harder of the two due to the combination of cobbles and steep roads. But the cobbles in Belgium are flatter and better laid than those of Roubaix, and the climbs are short enough that you can hide on them. I say you can hide here, but there really isn’t any hiding on cobbles – what I mean is that you can drift through the groups and stay in contact even if you’re a little bit behind your form. I think that’s the secret to the men doing the double – hiding here while still looking for the last 1% of form – then then peaking for Roubaix.

But who gives a flying fuck about the Men? We’re here to talk about the women, who get to race this course a few hours earlier in the day. Elizabeth Armistead knows how to ride a bike, and she’s been winning or getting second places all season long. For her efforts, she’s racing in the World Cup leader’s jersey on Sunday. Lizzy is a waify little thing and I have my doubts she can put up the power you need on a course as demanding as this, but when you’ve got the form you can make anything happen. I’m also putting my money on a timely Evie Stevens performance. But no one can deny Vos will try to repeat after taking the win last year.

The points from the VVomen’s RVV count towards the overall prizes plus the winner of this event also gets to post for the rest of the year in the oh-so-sexy Lioness of Flanders badge. So check the start list, review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 30th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Don’t forget we’ve got three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

  1. First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron
  2. Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)
  3. Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

Good luck, have fun with it, and don’t lose your Rule #43 spirit.

Final Race Results
1. VAN DIJK Ellen
2. ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth
5. VAN VLEUTEN Annemiek
Final VSP Results
1. Tom Mc (19 points)
2. seemunkee (19 points)
3. Rom (17 points)
4. Mike_P (16 points)
5. cal (16 points)
6. moondance (14 points)
7. CanuckChuck (13 points)
8. roberto (13 points)
9. il muro di manayunk (12 points)
10. ralexmiller (12 points)
11. Minnesota Expat (12 points)
12. blue (12 points)
13. Island Bike (12 points)
14. foggypeake (12 points)
15. Nate (12 points)
16. piwakawaka (11 points)
17. Spencer (11 points)
18. skagitteam (11 points)
19. San Tonio (10 points)
20. TheDon (10 points)
21. ten B (10 points)
22. il ciclista medio (10 points)
23. Floridian (10 points)
24. VeloVita (10 points)
25. taon24 (10 points)
26. Blah (10 points)
27. Rob (10 points)
28. Haldy (10 points)
29. G'phamt (10 points)
30. jeyrod (10 points)
31. Tobin (9 points)
32. JCM (9 points)
33. Steampunk (9 points)
34. wiscot (9 points)
35. boudewijn (9 points)
36. BoogieStudio22 (9 points)
37. ErikdR (9 points)
38. Gino (9 points)
39. Owen (9 points)
40. Deakus (9 points)
41. Alex (9 points)
42. JohnB (8 points)
43. DCR (8 points)
44. Bat Chainpuller (8 points)
45. Roobar (8 points)
46. zot (8 points)
47. Chris (8 points)
48. Skip (8 points)
49. R00tdown (8 points)
50. ramenvelo (8 points)
51. Thomas van Maanen (8 points)
52. dancollins (8 points)
53. anthony (8 points)
54. Kevin (7 points)
55. dyalander (7 points)
56. Shlumpen (7 points)
57. the Engine (7 points)
58. UptheTrossachs (7 points)
59. Emsworth (7 points)
60. gallilano (7 points)
61. bunji (7 points)
62. Lukas (6 points)
63. sthilzy (6 points)
64. freddy (6 points)
65. zeitzmar (6 points)
66. Adrian (6 points)
67. velocepedia (6 points)
68. HMBSteve (6 points)
69. wkleik (6 points)
70. Yagerbomb (6 points)
71. geoffrey (6 points)
72. Heihachi (6 points)
73. eenies (6 points)
74. Two Ball Billy (6 points)
75. V-olcano (6 points)
76. LIIIXI (6 points)
77. habswin1 (6 points)
78. BaltoSteve (6 points)
79. ChrisO (6 points)
80. the-farmer (5 points)
81. razmaspaz (5 points)
82. RondeVan (5 points)
83. chrismurphy92 (5 points)
84. Endurimil (5 points)
85. andrew (5 points)
86. dpalazzo (5 points)
87. sgraha (5 points)
88. Ron (5 points)
89. DeKerr (5 points)
90. unversio (4 points)
91. Dan_R (4 points)
92. Beers (4 points)
93. The Grande Fondue (4 points)
94. TOM.NELS2120 (4 points)
95. asyax (4 points)
96. Stephen (4 points)
97. elmeltone (4 points)
98. aaus (4 points)
99. Chris S (4 points)
100. atze (4 points)
101. tony macaroni (4 points)
102. tommy5tone (4 points)
103. Steve-o (4 points)
104. xyxax (4 points)
105. Roadslave525 (4 points)
106. simonsaunders (4 points)
107. scaler911 (4 points)
108. LA Dave (4 points)
109. Father of Four (4 points)
110. TheVid (4 points)
111. imakecircles (4 points)
112. gaswepass (4 points)
113. Donnie Bugno (4 points)
114. Buck Rogers (3 points)
115. KW (3 points)
116. Harminator (3 points)
117. Brian McAndrews (3 points)
118. justinevan88 (3 points)
119. stickyjumper (3 points)
120. Ccos (3 points)
121. Mikael Liddy (3 points)
122. Patrick (3 points)
123. Duende (3 points)
124. Xponti (3 points)
125. VirenqueForever (3 points)
126. Wardy (3 points)
127. Darren H (3 points)
128. V-inden (3 points)
129. LeoTea (3 points)
130. GiantBars (3 points)
131. ped (3 points)
132. Barracuda (3 points)
133. el gato (3 points)
134. Rhodri (3 points)
135. napolinige (3 points)
136. Geraint (3 points)
137. Jay (3 points)
138. Fausto (3 points)
139. therealpeel (3 points)
140. Chica (3 points)
141. girl (3 points)
142. Gianni (3 points)
143. RedRanger (2 points)
144. Bianchi Denti (2 points)
145. Simon (2 points)
146. Rigid (2 points)
147. LastBoyScout (2 points)
148. norm (2 points)
149. Dave R (2 points)
150. plynie (2 points)
151. Fins (2 points)
152. kixsand (2 points)
153. strathlubnaig (2 points)
154. starclimber (2 points)
155. oneninefiveninesix (2 points)
156. Sauterelle (1 points)
157. brett (1 points)
158. bugleboy21 (1 points)
]]> 204
Gravity Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:49:49 +0000 In defiance of Gravity In defiance of Gravity, we touch the heavens

Gravity is the most unavoidable force on Earth, with the possible exception of Stupidity. And like with Stupidity, you can take measures to reduce its influence on you, but you won’t get rid of it completely, assuming you’re staying on this planet. From the very moment we’re born, Gravity takes its unrelenting hold on us – which isn’t altogether bad because I learned from watching Despicable Me that as soon as someone is smart enough to invent anti-gravity serum, someone will be stupid enough to leave a skylight open.

We Cyclists protect a secret from the rest of the world: we can defy gravity. Riding allows us to float a few meters above the ground, suspended in a cloak of V. Add a little speed to the mix and a maybe few sweeping switchbacks and we are as close to achieving human flight as we will ever get.

Once we trade flat roads for the hills, Gravity reveals its true secret to us: the mind can overcome physical limits when we form the cohesive unit of bicycle and rider. There is a symbiotic bond that forms; Gravity pulls us down toward the bottom of the hill, and we require our strength to counter its force and scale the heights. The strength required to achieve this takes a heavy toll on our body, and it is only through focus and determination that we keep the legs turning over smoothy. Riding back down the other side, we learn to fool Gravity and explore the intersection of centripetal force, friction, and our old friend Stupidity.

With practice, we learn that our mind can drive us to overcome the the physical limits of not just our bodies, but Gravity itself. Its hold on us remains, but the effects are greatly diminished. In defiance of Gravity, we rise to touch the heavens and ride where angels fly.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 68
The Reflective Bike of Authority Mon, 31 Mar 2014 19:17:53 +0000 Black reflective tape on the Rain Bike Black reflective tape on the Rain Bike

Everyone knows you need at least three road bikes – two if you’re absolutely determined to make a point about minimalism. Bike Number One is reserved for good weather and events, and the Rain Bike for inclement weather. Just like our guns need to be pampered and rubbed down whenever we’re off the bike, any time Bike Number One isn’t being used as a weapon of Mass V-struction, it should be pampered and polished lovingly. Best to leave the dirty work of training in Rule #9 conditions to a dedicated, loyal workhorse with less expensive componentry. It isn’t so much that a bike can’t handle getting wet – don’t be ridiculous – but rather that everything wears more quickly; road grit gets into the drivetrain, water seeps into bearings, and brake pads and rims wear like butter on a grindstone.

I find myself in the enviable position of having my repaired Cervélo R3 holding rank as my current Rain Bike. Having such a steed at hand any time the rain falls makes riding in bad weather all the more enjoyable. I did make some modifications to it, however. For starters, the cassette and chain are both Veloce instead of Record; not only are the less expensive, they appear to be more durable as well. As for hoops, a pair of Mavic Open Pros can’t be beat for durability and reliability.

But perhaps the most important modification centers around making the bike elegantly hi-vis. In addition to Lezyne flashers front and back for visibility, I have also applied strips of black 3M reflective tape to the chain stays, seat post, crank arms, down tube, and head tube. When a light isn’t shining on the tape, you can’t even see its there, but under the shine of a car’s headlights, the bike springs to life.

Riding in bad weather is all about durability and safety; the bike should be outfitted with reliable parts, and the rider should take care to be safe and visible. So whenver you’re riding in Rule #9 conditions, remember these safety tips:

  1. Assume the cars around you do not appreciate the dangers of being on a bicycle in the rain. If you find yourself being followed by a car at a point where it is unsafe for them to pass, either be assertive and take the lane to prevent them making a move that could put you at risk, or pull off the road completely to allow them to pass.
  2. Ride with confidence and make predictable movements. Always signal clearly when making turns. Make eye contact with drivers at intersections and clearly indicate your intended direction of travel.
  3. Always assume cars around you do not see you. Use flashers in any low light situations and give plenty of room to allow for increased stopping distance.
  4. When riding at night, the use of both a helmet mounted light and handlebar mounted light helps drivers realize you are a bicycle and not a motorcycle. I’m not sure why this is, but experience has proven this to be the case.
  5. Avoid riding through puddles, especially ones you can’t see the bottom of; potholes can be bigger than they appear or hidden completely by standing water.

Riding in bad weather means you’re a badass, but it also means cars are less likely to see you or expect to find you out on the road. In accordance with two of The V Tenets of the Velominati, we are to Look Fantastic at All Times, and Return Home Safely To Ride Again Tomorrow. My Reflective Bike of Authority plays nicely in both respects.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 112
Le Graveur: The Margins Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:34:07 +0000 1606807_10203488203186136_27587732_o

I just got turned back from a ride. 5k from the house I realized my bits were getting too cold not only for comfort (in which case, apply Rule #5 and move on) but safety (i’ll take my vasectomy in the hospital, thank you very much). It’s a lovely sunny day, the only problems being the minus 12C temp, biting headwind, and leg warmers that stop mid-thigh. Having to pull the plug on a ride is a bummer. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all too often and I’ve still got the rollers set up in the house. But the silver lining here is that it was only my 4th or 5th training ride of the year for the Heck of the North which is still 7 months away.

Some would say gravel riding is here to stay. Others would say gravel riding has always been a part of cycling and all we’re doing now is applying intention to it. It’s undeniable though that the gravel scene has taken on a prominent role in cycling of late. From open-registration races all over the world to the Strade Bianche, graveling has ignited a passion in many of us. Riding dirt roads has a certain unique aesthetic, an aesthetic that is best described as taking place on the margins.

The tarmac, as we move further from the center of town, gives way increasingly to gravel. As the rider begins to stitch together longer gravel stretches of road he needs to go further out on the margin of the city until finally, any reminders of the city are gone. This is where the margin is blurred between “civilization” and “wilderness”. The Graveur’s bike is marginally a road bike. Road bikes can be fitted with wider tires but are limited by frame and fork design as well as clearance at the caliper. Cyclocross bikes can run with skinny tires which is usually preferred and then we’re left often with a higher BB, heavier bike, and a position that’s closer to Sit Up and Beg. Only just recently have bicycle companies begun to manufacture equipment intended specifically for the booming gravel scene. But even still, the rider has to select a hodge-podge of gear from road, cross, and even MTB that will suit his needs and the particulars of the course.

This year, I’m experimenting with new bars. I’ve decided to give the Salsa Cowbell a spin. Maybe you’ve seen bars like this on Randoneur and drop-bar 29er’s common in the adventure bike and UltraCX scene. I’m trying to achieve a few things with these flared bars: flat hood-to-top area while maintaining horizontal drop, more upright position with a shallow drop, lot’s of drop for secure grip, and leverage provided by wider-than-Lampre-Man 46mm span. Gianni recently referred to the geographically curated bike as a “Terroir Bike”. I like this turn of phrase.

Toeing up to the start of a gravel race can result in sensory overload of Rule-breaking gauche.  Riders operating on the margins of The Rules show up with frame bags and EPMS’s, Camelbaks, zero saddle/stem drop, facial hair, MTB shoes, and even aero bars. The list goes on of Rule violations. Be mindful though that Rules are often bent consciously and  broken for geography, practicality and self-reliance. The most Rule compliant of Velominati on the road may seemingly be found out on the margins of decorum riding gravel. Don’t be too quick to judge.

It is the margins that attracted me to gravel riding and is partly what keeps me excited about it. For one, I have little choice in terms of the roads I have to ride. I live on a gravel road that mostly leads to other gravel roads. I’m closer to the margin of wilderness than civilization. Graveling is a necessity if I want more places to ride. Keeper status aside, I’ve always been one to eschew rules and authority and go against the grain. Gravel riding allows me a damn good reason to blur the Rules from time to time to see what works. Here are a few Rules worth breaking when it comes to gravel road riding:

  • Rule #29. If you’re way out on the margins you just may need the extra space for tools or food.
  • Rule #32. Two bidons won’t cut it often times. So unless you have the ability to filter or treat water, try a hydro pack or frame bag.
  • Rule #34. You will find yourself walking or running out there. Wear shoes that allow this.
  • Rule #44. I’ve found, especially on technical trails and ultraCX, that less drop reduces fatigue and improves visibility over a long ride.
  • Rule #50. I live in the woods, hipster. I’m growing a fucking beard and riding my bike if I damn well please.
  • Rule #52. Pfft.
  • Rule #54. I haven’t done this and won’t. But the guy that won the Heck in 2012 had aerobars and used them. Just sayin’.
  • Rule #61. I ride a fi'zi:k Antares VS on my gravel bike and appreciate the extra padding (although the saddle is compliant).
  • Rule #68. It’s been said riding gravel saps an additional 10% of energy and thus requires an additional 10% of V over a course of the same distance of tarmac. Therefore, the quality of your ride will be 11% more on gravel. That’s one higher.

Vie la vie Velominatus

]]> 94
The Roundness of Being Wed, 26 Mar 2014 18:43:06 +0000 To Q or not to Q that is the Q. To Q or not to Q that is the Q.

Evolution doesn’t really seem to be part of the picture anymore, at least not where humans and our direct reports are concerned. We control an astounding number of genetic defects in ourselves, our pets, and agriculture while Science and Technology give Natural Selection swirlies in the locker room.

Take exercise-induced asthma, which is a condition I suffer from. Evolution suggests that if running from a predator invokes a crippling airflow obstruction, you were meant to be eaten. And even if capture was avoided through some staggering failure of circumstance, the predator should locate you wheezing away somewhere under a nearby bush and make a leisurely meal of you.

In my early teens, I saved my money to buy my first real race bike, a black and hot pink Cannonwhale SR600 with Shimano 105 and BioPace chainrings. BioPace chainrings weren’t the original non-round rings – they have been around since the turn of the twentieth century, shortly after some bright spark stumbled upon the fact that we were evolved to walk, not ride a bike.

I’m not a scientist, but I am given to understand that based on our complimentary pairs of muscles, as Cyclists our legs are only really good at pushing and pulling. The more lateral the movement involved, the less efficient we are at applying the strength of our muscles into the movement. This fundamentally flawed architecture results in a powerful downstroke and a strong upstroke, but with “dead spots” near the bottom and top of the pedal stroke. In other words, our muscles are designed to walk rather than ride a bike. Whoever made that decision should get fired, but it seems I don’t have the authority to “fire” Evolution. I think the Church is also trying to get it fired, also with no luck. Apparently Evolution is tenured.

To solve the problem of the dead spot, non-round rings seek to change the diameter of the chainring by ovalizing it so the rider experiences an effectively bigger gear at some points of the stroke and an effectively smaller gear at others. The problem with BioPace was that the rings weren’t the right shape and were set up so the effective chainring size was biggest where the lateral movement of the leg was also greatest. In addition to being a mind trip, they gave a peculiar feeling to the rider, as though they were riding on a perpetually softening tire. The rings went the way of the Dodo.

In Science and Technology’s ongoing effort to show Evolution the door, component manufacturers continue to experiment with non-round rings. Enter the modern incarnations: Q-Rings and Osymetric Rings. Q-Rings use a similar (but not identical) shape to BioPace but allow for changing the position of the rings based on the rider’s individual pedaling style with the idea that the largest effective gear aligns with the rider’s power stroke and the smallest effective gear with the dead spot. Osymetric uses an insane-looking shape which they claim better matches the irregular application of power caused by the dynamics of our poorly evolved legs.

I’ve spent the last month or so riding Q-Rings, and I have to admit you don’t feel any of the dreaded “biopacing” hobble. But in the long term, they also didn’t seem to offer any tangible advantage; after adjusting them according to their instructions (which takes some time), I found that depending on the day and the terrain, they were good, but never great. On any given ride, I might power up a grade with V in reserve for a surge at the top, and then find myself slipping into the little ring on a climb I normally ride Sur La Plaque. On the next ride, the scenario would reverse and I’d motor up a climb in the big ring that normally requires the 39 and little ring some faux plat into the wind a little later on. On balance, I found myself struggling to find power. One point to consider is all this is based on feel and knowing the gear ratios I use on familiar terrain – my use of a V-Meter and my avoidance of power meters means there is no tangible data to support or counter my conclusions. In other words, I’m not distracted by the facts.

I noticed that of the riders whose use of Q-Rings inspired my own experimentation – Marianne Vos and Johan Vansummeren – both have a relatively forward position with respect to their bottom bracket while I sit quite far back; maybe the rings favor such a position over mine. In any case, switching back to round rings, I’m able to find power more easily as well as being better able to maintain a cadence and accelerate. In other words, I’m more comfortable more often on round rings.

Maybe my pedaling style uses too wide a power band not suited for the Q’s, or maybe I have trascended evolution to favor rotational locomotion over bipedal. That last notion is not outside the realm of possibility because I can confirm I am pretty terrible at walking. The idea behind non-round rings continues to makes sense, but for me Q-Rings don’t do the job. I’ll give Osymetric a go if I get the opportunity but until then, I’m glad to be back in the round.

]]> 148
Velominati Super Prestige: Gent Wevelgem 2014 Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:57:02 +0000 IMG_0415 2

The Kemmelberg is a brute. In my opinion, its the hardest of the cobbled climbs in the Spring Classics; it has a high speed tarmac approach that saps the guns of their snap. The transition from tarmac to cobbles is awful, the stones are very badly laid throughout and if you don’t hit it just right, you’ll come to a standstill. The cobbled part of the climb is long enough to make you consider a plea-bargain with any deity willing to listen before it ends with a brutal 23% ramp with good cobbles. The length, the camber, the gradient, and the way the stones are laid combine in a way that makes you feel every centimeter of the climb.

Gent Wevelgem is considered a sprinters classic, but it’s a shock considering how many climbs are along the route. I can’t imagine the Italian curses that must have escaped Cipollini’s mouth along his bumpy way to winning the race. No wonder he chucked the odd bidon at a motorbike.

I miss the old setup of the Cobbled Classics, with the Ronde on Sunday, Gent on Wednesday, and Roubaix on Sunday, but on the plus side, now we get to drool over the racing for three weeks instead of just one. So, check the start list, review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 30th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Don’t forget we’ve got three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

  1. First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron
  2. Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)
  3. Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

Good luck, and don’t lose your Rule #43 spirit.

Final Race Results
2. DEMARE Arnaud
3. SAGAN Peter
Final VSP Results
1. boomboom-84 (16 points)
2. xyxax (12 points)
3. LIIIXI (11 points)
4. Steampunk (11 points)
5. freddy (10 points)
6. dyalander (10 points)
7. Harminator (9 points)
8. the Engine (9 points)
9. seemunkee (8 points)
10. il ciclista medio (8 points)
11. Nate (8 points)
12. Lukas (8 points)
13. Fausto (8 points)
14. Island Bike (8 points)
15. Marko (7 points)
16. ralexmiller (7 points)
17. colluphid (7 points)
18. Owen (7 points)
19. weags (6 points)
20. Chris S (6 points)
21. Conrad (6 points)
22. ChrisO (6 points)
23. piwakawaka (5 points)
24. Xponti (5 points)
25. atomicmanatee (5 points)
26. slatanic (5 points)
27. the-farmer (5 points)
28. Jeff simmons (5 points)
29. Brian McAndrews (5 points)
30. Bianchi Denti (5 points)
31. roberto (5 points)
32. Skip (5 points)
33. taon24 (5 points)
34. GiantBars (5 points)
35. Andrew (5 points)
36. atze (5 points)
37. il muro di manayunk (5 points)
38. Emsworth (5 points)
39. simonsaunders (5 points)
40. tony macaroni (5 points)
41. Darren H (4 points)
42. Barracuda (4 points)
43. unversio (4 points)
44. Two Ball Billy (4 points)
45. San Tonio (4 points)
46. D. Stef (4 points)
47. Rob (4 points)
48. Tartan1749 (4 points)
49. zot (4 points)
50. V-inden (4 points)
51. scaler911 (4 points)
52. Facetious_Jesus (4 points)
53. ramenvelo (4 points)
54. Mikael Liddy (3 points)
55. sthilzy (3 points)
56. The Grande Fondue (3 points)
57. Simon (3 points)
58. nesimunko (3 points)
59. Spencer (3 points)
60. KW (3 points)
61. justinevan88 (3 points)
62. Gaelic Laird (3 points)
63. The Oracle (3 points)
64. DCR (3 points)
65. Thomas van Maanen (3 points)
66. Tom Mc (3 points)
67. Andrew Brown (3 points)
68. Smithers (3 points)
69. chrismurphy92 (3 points)
70. Adrian (3 points)
71. eenies (3 points)
72. afroturk (3 points)
73. bunji (3 points)
74. Yagerbomb (3 points)
75. Chris (3 points)
76. blue (3 points)
77. aaus (3 points)
78. TOM.NELS2120 (3 points)
79. Gervais (3 points)
80. Kevin (3 points)
81. sgraha (3 points)
82. Blah (3 points)
83. skagitteam (3 points)
84. Joe (3 points)
85. Dave R (3 points)
86. Bat Chainpuller (3 points)
87. stickyjumprt (3 points)
88. velocepedia (3 points)
89. imakecircles (3 points)
90. Minnesota Expat (3 points)
91. Stuart witkowski (3 points)
92. Heihachi (3 points)
93. TheVid (3 points)
94. moondance (3 points)
95. LA Dave (3 points)
96. tommy5tone (2 points)
97. Sauterelle (2 points)
98. Chris S (2 points)
99. Geraint (2 points)
100. Father of Four (2 points)
101. Beers (2 points)
102. RManneck (2 points)
103. JCM (2 points)
104. Bill Chris (2 points)
105. Brianold55 (2 points)
106. RedRanger (2 points)
107. razmaspaz (2 points)
108. swillgil (2 points)
109. zeitzmar (2 points)
110. Shlumpen (2 points)
111. tessar (2 points)
112. Mirko (2 points)
113. Alex M (2 points)
114. VeloJello (2 points)
115. brasco1033 (2 points)
116. wiscot (2 points)
117. plynie (2 points)
118. UptheTrossachs (2 points)
119. velobrowny (2 points)
120. fignons barber (2 points)
121. SimonH (2 points)
122. Russ (2 points)
123. asyax (2 points)
124. TheDon (2 points)
125. gallilano (2 points)
126. Wardy (2 points)
127. Rom (2 points)
128. therealpeel (2 points)
129. Dan_R (2 points)
130. lindrop (2 points)
131. BoogieStudio22 (2 points)
132. Badger (2 points)
133. VeloVita (2 points)
134. Si Birch (2 points)
135. CanuckChuck (2 points)
136. napolinige (2 points)
137. foggypeake (2 points)
138. Steve-o (2 points)
139. boudewijn (2 points)
140. Haldy (2 points)
141. Chica (2 points)
142. R00tdown (2 points)
143. Dave P (2 points)
144. Roadslave525 (2 points)
145. Rhodri (2 points)
146. habswin1 (2 points)
147. dmpalazzo (2 points)
148. Collin (2 points)
149. MJ Moquin (2 points)
150. Fins (2 points)
151. jeyrod (2 points)
152. dancollins (2 points)
153. Jay (2 points)
154. Dave Lominati (2 points)
155. Ron (2 points)
156. Gianni (2 points)
157. Endurimil (2 points)
158. gaswepass (2 points)
159. Rigid (2 points)
160. strathlubnaig (1 points)
161. JohnB (1 points)
162. Ccos (1 points)
163. Duende (1 points)
164. Teocalli (1 points)
165. PT (1 points)
166. LeoTea (1 points)
167. Buck Rogers (1 points)
168. Al__S (1 points)
169. anthony (1 points)
170. Dr C (1 points)
171. andrew (1 points)
172. VirenqueForever (1 points)
173. Tobin (1 points)
174. V-olcano (1 points)
175. geoffrey (1 points)
176. schall und rauch (1 points)
177. el gato (1 points)
178. Roobar (1 points)
179. RondeVan (1 points)
180. Geordi (1 points)
181. wkleik (1 points)
182. kixsand (1 points)
183. norm (1 points)
184. G'phant (1 points)
185. Donnie Bugno (1 points)
186. oneninefiveninesix (1 points)
187. starclimber (1 points)
188. Benny (0 points)
189. Deakus (0 points)
190. Stephen (0 points)
]]> 323
Velominati Super Prestige: Trofeo Alfredo Binda 2014 Wed, 26 Mar 2014 07:32:42 +0000 Race of the Leather Toe Straps. Race of the Leather Toe Straps.

This is the kick off of the VSP for women’s racing, though the women have already kicked it off with the Ronde van Drenthe in the Netherlands. Now it’s down to Northern Italy, Varese, by Lago Maggiore, but this is a climbers course, more in the mountains than by the lake. And yes, Sunday is also Gent-Wevelgem for women but Trofeo is part of the women’s World Cup so it is the race of choice (unless you are a sprinter who likes cobbles and wet Belgian weather).

If you fancy doing well in this year’s VSP then you had better be studying up on the women’s racing. Podiumcafé always has some well informed articles on women’s racing, in addition, velofocus is worth a visit. Last year’s winner was Elisa Longo Borghini. This year’s winner will have to be a strong climber, descender and if last week’s Milan-Sanremo’s weather was any indicator of anything, tough as nails.

If any well informed individual would like to submit a guest article on women’s professional racing in 2014, we, in the Velominati Super Bunker would be open to that. Lastly, we hate whiners, so if you get confused about your time zones and nap schedule, and miss placing your picks, Rule #5. Start list is here.

Final Race Results
2. ARMITSTEAD Elizabeth
Final VSP Results
1. Yagerbomb (13 points)
2. dyalander (12 points)
3. Rob (12 points)
4. Duende (12 points)
5. MJ Moquin (12 points)
6. boomboom-84 (12 points)
7. Beers (11 points)
8. velocepedia (10 points)
9. JCM (9 points)
10. Father of Four (9 points)
11. scaler911 (9 points)
12. dancollins (9 points)
13. LeoTea (8 points)
14. JohnB (8 points)
15. VeloVita (8 points)
16. the-farmer (8 points)
17. Bat Chainpuller (8 points)
18. Tom Mc (8 points)
19. Steve-o (8 points)
20. Rhodri (8 points)
21. Blah (8 points)
22. skagitteam (8 points)
23. starclimber (8 points)
24. freddy (7 points)
25. sthilzy (7 points)
26. Dan_R (7 points)
27. Tobin (7 points)
28. foggypeake (7 points)
29. il muro di manayunk (7 points)
30. ten B (7 points)
31. therealpeel (7 points)
32. strathlubnaig (7 points)
33. Dave R (7 points)
34. unversio (6 points)
35. Thomas van Maanen (6 points)
36. zot (6 points)
37. seemunkee (6 points)
38. Chris S (6 points)
39. Ccos (6 points)
40. blue (6 points)
41. plynie (6 points)
42. taon24 (6 points)
43. DCR (6 points)
44. Ron (6 points)
45. habswin1 (6 points)
46. R00tdown (6 points)
47. TheVid (6 points)
48. Roobar (5 points)
49. Haldy (5 points)
50. Chris (5 points)
51. justinevan88 (5 points)
52. Facetious_Jesus (5 points)
53. Bill Chris (4 points)
54. Heihachi (4 points)
55. Bianchi Denti (3 points)
56. Deakus (3 points)
57. Wardy (3 points)
58. CanuckChuck (3 points)
59. Darren H (3 points)
60. xyxax (3 points)
61. chrismurphy92 (2 points)
62. Mikael Liddy (2 points)
63. The Grande Fondue (2 points)
64. Adrian (2 points)
65. eenies (2 points)
66. Xponti (2 points)
67. the Engine (2 points)
68. bunji (2 points)
69. Sauterelle (2 points)
70. andrew (2 points)
71. KW (2 points)
72. Brian McAndrews (2 points)
73. GiantBars (2 points)
74. VirenqueForever (2 points)
75. BoogieStudio22 (2 points)
76. razmaspaz (2 points)
77. Geraint (2 points)
78. roberto (2 points)
79. Skip (2 points)
80. aaus (2 points)
81. boudewijn (2 points)
82. piwakawaka (2 points)
83. TOM.NELS2120 (2 points)
84. RedRanger (2 points)
85. el gato (2 points)
86. zeitzmar (2 points)
87. dpalazzo (2 points)
88. RondeVan (2 points)
89. Geordi (2 points)
90. sgraha (2 points)
91. kixsand (2 points)
92. simonsaunders (2 points)
93. tony macaroni (2 points)
94. Fins (2 points)
95. Gianni (2 points)
96. Jay (2 points)
97. Island Bike (2 points)
98. Minnesota Expat (2 points)
99. Owen (2 points)
100. Emsworth (2 points)
101. Endurimil (2 points)
102. Rigid (2 points)
103. UptheTrossachs (2 points)
104. Two Ball Billy (1 points)
105. San Tonio (1 points)
106. il ciclista medio (1 points)
107. Rom (1 points)
108. Buck Rogers (1 points)
109. moondance (1 points)
110. Andrew (1 points)
111. Lukas (1 points)
112. V-olcano (1 points)
113. Nate (1 points)
114. Stephen (1 points)
115. napolinige (1 points)
116. geoffrey (1 points)
117. Chica (1 points)
118. Barracuda (1 points)
119. Fausto (1 points)
120. Kevin (1 points)
121. wkleik (1 points)
122. Harminator (1 points)
123. Steampunk (1 points)
124. stickyjumper (1 points)
125. jeyrod (1 points)
126. imakecircles (1 points)
127. Dave Lominati (1 points)
128. D. Stef (1 points)
129. Stuart witkowski (1 points)
130. ramenvelo (1 points)
131. gaswepass (1 points)
132. ChrisO (1 points)
133. LA Dave (1 points)
134. TheDon (0 points)
135. tommy5tone (0 points)
136. oneninefiveninesix (0 points)
]]> 205
Terroir of the Bike Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:53:05 +0000 Honomanu photo:Blue Hawaii Helicopters Honomanu photo:Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

This winter Shimano showed up on Maui with a flotilla of Colnago C-59s set up with disc brakes. The lucky Shimano people tested the bikes on some of the nicest routes on the island, including some descending down the Haleakala volcano. Unbelievably they didn’t invite me along (!?). If they had I would have suggested a different place to ride, one that is usually wet and full of descending corners. Any brake system and any tire works well on dry roads, maybe Shimano was here for the riding, not the testing.

Haleakala’s windward coast road is a sinuous mostly two lane magic carpet ride through rainforest. The road gains and looses elevation as it dives in to cross a river then climbs up out around the next headland, again and again. And it is often wet. If you want to find out if you trust your tires, this is the place.

I already know caliper brakes on machined aluminum rims are nearly worthless when it’s raining on this route. I have a theory that brake pads here get hardened by heat on steep dry descents and then they become hard grit holders, not good for braking when wet. Shimano should have done this ride in the rain.

There is a 10km section of this route that is mostly all down, 3-4% grade and there are many corners, a few a little off-camber. Two of us have lost it in different corners here. Both were the result of wet brakes, too much speed and a little inattention. The point is, caliper brakes suck in wet twisting descents.

To remedy this, the grand master of this ride, @mauibike, put on an ENVE road disc front fork on his Madone. His bike deserves its own article but suffice it to say his bike has some north shore Maui terroir. He is the only old school racer I know who never switched to clincher tires after his racing license expired. He is also now all Carbone wheels, all the time. He has a bike that has been adapted to the terrain and it’s very cool.

I’m thinking about this because I would like to go all Carbone wheel, all the time too. If Cancellara can race Milan-Sanremo, the Ronde and Paris-Roubaix all on the same carbon wheelset, I’m already persuaded. But carbon clinchers on Maui seem like a bad idea. There are a few steep descents with ninety-degree corners where one can’t help but get on the brakes long and hard. I foresee bad things happening to my front wheel and my beautiful face. I’ve used sew-up tires for years so I don’t fear them but I do like the simplicity of tire patching not involving sutures and a field operating theater. I think carbon tubulars are better for Maui but road disc seem much smarter. Why involve the carbon fiber rim in the braking at all? Steel seems like the material we want, it won’t wear and it conducts heat beautifully. Rain would only cool it down and improve its braking.

As a rider of SMP saddles and now Bont shoes, I’m clearly going for function over form and I don’t think I have large aesthetic issues with disc brakes. I do have a problem if they violate any principles of silence. No one needs to hear that screech on a road ride.

In my continuing series of “endorsing things I’ve haven’t used yet” (see tubeless tires). I’m liking the idea of a terroir bike, a bike that speaks to the roads it rolls on, and for Maui, that could include a front disc brake.

]]> 63
Guest Article: The Butler Fri, 21 Mar 2014 18:19:09 +0000 The Claud Butler The Claud Butler

For many Americans, their first ten speed bike was a Schwinn. It was heavy. Everything about it was heavy. It was the bike that was going to survive outside the bomb shelter. No one put a better crankset on a Schwinn. When we moved on that old bike languished in the garage and it was not coming back out. Not so for @Teocalli, for starters he didn’t start off with a Schwinn.  

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

As the younger brother many of my early possessions were hand-me-downs. The first bike I recollect was red with stabilisers. I was a lazy starter and would just ride on the stabilisers till they bent. Eventually my Dad simply removed them out of frustration. The next was a trike, green with a boot (trunk) between the rear wheels and rod brakes. Quite how we ended up with a trike I can’t remember – but I do remember it was lethal and turning the thing over quite a few times. Then there was the blue Sit Up and Beg, again with rod brakes. I had a major crash on that one chasing my brother down a hill on his first racing bike. Much Red Sauce involved and I still have the scar on my head.

Finally came the day, the first major item that was to be all mine from new, my first Racing Bike. I still remember coming home from school in the summer of 1967 “There’s something for you in your bedroom”. Rushing upstairs there it was, a gleaming Moss Green, 5 Gear, Claud Butler. From that day bicycles had a name, identity and purpose – to look great and to go fast.

After the obligatory period sitting on my bed staring at it, I simply had to take it out for a ride. It was mine so I couldn’t ask for help and that was nearly my (first) undoing. I was struggling halfway down the stairs and on the verge of loosing it and falling in a tumbling mess, which would have had pretty disastrous results for the bike, the staircase, the door at the bottom and me (in that order in my thoughts), when my Dad appeared through the door in the nick of time and saved the day, just as Dads are meant to do.

I’m not exactly tall now and I was even smaller for my age in those days, so the setup must have been “dual slammed”, both stem and seat post slammed. Looking at the bike now I’m surprised I could reach the pedals and/or the bars at that age. I must have had a horizontal back just to reach the hoods. It was definitely a bike to grow into.

My next recollection regarding the bike was over the subject of mudguards. It came with full mudguards and according to Dad all bikes must have mudguards, “but Dad, Racing Bikes don’t have mudguards, I’ll be laughed at”. Compromises have to be made and that is why the bike still has the stubbies that were agreed upon. Do not quote any Rules at me over those mudguards, they stay in memory of my Dad and that compromise.

Anyway, from that point I was independent and I could get out and see my friends without needing a lift – and I could also get into trouble in a whole new way by being late home for meals. It’s only years later that you realise those silent glares and the blunt “Where do you think you have you been?” are a mix of anger and relief when “I’m just going out for a ride” leads to you being gone all day with no food till you come home late for dinner with blissful lack of comprehension as to how worried your parents have been.

The first rite of passage for a cyclist is starting to clean and service your own machine. I remember one day not long after getting the bike and not really knowing what I was doing, using my dog bone spanner I had taken apart all the bits that were easy to remove and clean, including removing the brake blocks and sliding the brake blocks out of the carriers to clean them. On the following ride I applied the brakes, something hit me on the calf and suddenly – no brakes. I’d put the blocks back the wrong way round and they all came out. Forty odd years later I can still picture in fine detail the back end of the low loader (flatbed) lorry I narrowly missed at the road junction.

At school we had a small cycling club and became proficient in servicing our bikes and every second weekend or so we’d strip them down completely. Dismantle the hubs etc, clean all the bearings and get them “just so” so that the weight of the valve would turn the wheel to settle at the bottom of it’s own accord.

After leaving school the bike sat in the garage for some years while I went through the rites of riding motorbikes and my first old banger car and the home servicing that came with motorbikes and old cars in those days. Cycling was then chiefly for maintaining summer fitness for playing Rugby in the winter  - a game incidentally that also involved the study of copious quantities and types of Fine Malted Recovery Beverage.  The Claud Bulter received an upgrade to 10 Gears with a Huret front mech and Suntour Crankset and rear mech in place of the Campag Gran Sport 5 Gear mech that it came with. After the early 80s the bike was essentially unused. There are many times I could so easily have got rid of it but somehow I never did. It became one of those Old Friends that, while you don’t use them, neither can you part with them.

My return to cycling in the early 90s was via Mountain Biking with a string of bikes from Big S, complemented by a couple of Bianchi Alu Road Bikes (the first was totalled by a car). I was mainly a mountain biker wandering in the undergrowth of darkness until I upgraded the Bianchi for a Pinarello last spring, came out of the darkness of the undergrowth and saw the light and the path (well the road actually) and discovered the Velominati.

Throughout all this time the Claud Butler was stuffed in a corner of our garage – or more latterly in my brother’s garden shed when he had an unfulfilled intention to take some exercise and get fit.

It was on a ride one beautiful evening last summer on the Pinarello that I was doing a typical Rule V evening ride and I was thinking that it would be nice sometime to take it easy and cruise the lanes in a different style. Somehow a Carbon Pinarello demands to be gunned at warp speed at all times. Around that time I was rooting around my office looking for something when I came across the original sales brochure for 1967 Claud Butler, I didn’t even know I had it. At that point the plan to renovate it was born. Thinking back to the school-day cycling club and all those magazine ads we used to browse and plan for upgrades we could not possibly afford, I decided to go for a period Gruppo upgrade that would have been the stuff of dreams for me as a schoolboy.

Recovering the bike from my brother some of it was in a bit of a sorry state but it was basically solid and, most surprisingly, the wheels would still turn of their own accord to settle the valve at the bottom.

After many hours mainly searching and biding on eBay and also via a couple of specialist period bicycle outfits, finding a few bargains and probably paying way too much for other items, I collected a box of Nuovo Record and other period components and the frame went off to Mercian cycles for re-spray and re-decal as near per original as possible. It has been something quite special to have had the bike for so long and to be able to put it back to what would have been the bike of my dreams way back as a schoolboy in that cycling club in the early 70s. I hope you like the result. I’m very much looking forward to riding in some vintage events next summer. It can’t be often one gets a chance to put a boyhood dream into reality in this manner. It has been a special experience for me.

]]> 56
The Dig Wed, 19 Mar 2014 14:00:34 +0000 “I’m not really feeling it today, guys…”

“Are you havin’ a dig at me?” It’s a good old phrase that one. I hear it occasionally, usually in response to some jest, part of the banter that me and my friends enjoy on a regular basis. It can be used as an off-the-cuff remark, clearly meant in a jocular way, or can carry with it a more sinister edge, a way to make a point that just needs to be made, but wrapped in enough humour to soften that edge but still prick the skin ever-so-slightly and deliver the message. “You sure you’re not havin’ a dig at me?”

The Dig is a beautiful thing when it’s employed in Cycling. Every ride will contain a dig. No matter if you’re out on a supposed cruisy lap, or a long and hard slog, there will always be a dig waiting to be unleashed, or perhaps unfurled. The way it is delivered can be predetermined, even conspired with another, or it can be completely desultory and spontaneous, taking everyone by surprise, even the schlepper making the despatch. It can be timid, or tumultuous. It can be the most subtle of moves, gracefully administered from the saddle with nary a hint of movement or sound to indicate that it is even happening, or it can be more apparent, yet never a violent, aggressive action; that would be an attack.

The Dig is meant to test rather than defeat. It’s a way of saying “there’s more to come, suckers” or to find out what others may have in reserve. Or it’s just a way to niggle, to tease and tempt, to draw a comparison between you and your comrades, who could at any time transform into adversaries, either by your or their doing. It can be one of your most valuable weapons when deployed correctly, or, like holding the grenade and throwing away the pin, a dangerously inept move should you not treat it with care and respect.

All you need to do is pick the right time. Tactics, a trump card for the smartest if not strongest rider, come into their own here; looking for the right opportunity to throw in a Dig is as important a skill as the Dig itself. Most will expect that if the gradient goes up even a small amount, that someone will be willing to Dig. Most though will, all too predictably, want to attack. You can nullify the attack through vocalisation, using the mouth rather than the legs. “We should just take it easy today” is an age-old and proven nullifier. “I’m not getting involved in that” as the first accelerations come. When you’re sure that your comrades have taken the bait, don’t make it blindingly obvious that you are going to up the pace… just a slight increase in tempo will do the trick, and even if only one or two are sent scrabbling for the last wheel, then the Dig has been successful. That small amount of energy used to get back on is a withdrawl from The V-bank, yet leaving just enough to instill a belief that there’s sufficient to cover any more bills that may need to be paid later. It’s a false sense of security that will be the downfall of the economy when further Digs are deployed. And like shareholders in Lehmann Brothers, they won’t see it coming until it’s too late and the coffers are empty.

After a rolling series of Digs, then it’s allowable, and advisable, to pick the last bits of rotting flesh from the carcasses, and hammer the final nail into the collective coffin. If you’ve dug properly, you will have much more Essence of V left than your now tiring and mentally confused adversaries. You can attack. But if you’ve not been absolutely discerning with your digging, then all you will appear to be is an asshole who couldn’t cash the cheques you were so willing to write at will earlier, and you’ll be left desperately scrabbling on the ground for the fives and dimes scattered at your feet.

*One of the best examples of The Dig employed by Bjarne Riis at Hautacam in Le Tour 1996. The way he torments his rivals, goes back to check them out three or four times, then delivers the killer blow is classic Digging.

]]> 77
Velominati Super Prestige: Milano Sanremo 2014 Tue, 18 Mar 2014 20:37:58 +0000 Merckx takes his first of seven MSRs. Merckx takes his first of seven MSRs.

Het Volk (it will always be Het Volk to me) and now the Strade Bianche may well mark the sentimental beginning to the season, but those are specialized, pre-season races that appeal mostly to riders who are preparing for bigger objectives later in the year, such as the Cobbled or Ardennes Classics. Same goes for Tirreno Adriatico and Paris-Nice; there are preparatory events – none of the marquee names have these events in their programme as primary objectives.

The season doesn’t really start until Milano Sanremo, the first Monument and the first race of the year that any Pro would proudly define their career by winning, and so that’s where we start the fifth installment of the Velominati Super Prestige. Last year saw our biggest turnout yet, with sponsors kicking in some serious prizes for the Tour de France VSP. This year we’ve built on that momentum to offer three major prizes for the season-long VSP:

  1. First place overall wins a Veloforma Strada iR Velominati Edition frame in addition to the customary VSP winner’s VVorkshop Apron
  2. Second place overall wins a set of hand built CR Wheelworks Arenberg wheelset in a custom Velominati paint scheme laced to orange Chris King hubs. (CR Wheelworks is Café Roubaix’s new wheel goods brand.)
  3. Third place overall wins a full Velominati V-Kit with accompanying custom orange Bont Vaypor+ road shoes.

So, without further ado, check the start list, review the VSP Scoring Guidelines and get your picks in by the time the countdown clock goes to zero at midnight PDT on Sunday the 24th. If you think we mapped one of your picks wrong, use the dispute system and we’ll review it. Also remember to be precise enough in your description so we know which rider you mean; in other words, if you enter “Martin”, we will use our discretion (read: wild guess) to decide if you mean Tony or Dan – and that choice will not be negotiable once the the countdown clock goes to zero, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Good luck, and don’t let these awesome prizes ruin your Rule #43 spirit.

Final Race Results
1. KRISTOFF Alexander
3. SWIFT Ben
Final VSP Results
1. Island Bike (8 points)
2. The Grande Fondue (7 points)
3. Haldy (7 points)
4. Duende (7 points)
5. bugleboy21 (7 points)
6. ScottyCycles62 (6 points)
7. Sauterelle (6 points)
8. Brianold55 (6 points)
9. atomicmanatee (6 points)
10. Barracuda (6 points)
11. zeitzmar (6 points)
12. Velodeluded (6 points)
13. Owen (6 points)
14. Mohamed (6 points)
15. Frank Cundiff (6 points)
16. Steve-o (6 points)
17. Vanir (6 points)
18. Yagerbomb (6 points)
19. Father of Four (6 points)
20. SimonH (6 points)
21. tommy5tone (6 points)
22. Minnesota Expat (6 points)
23. Emsworth (6 points)
24. Wardy (6 points)
25. howell.evans (6 points)
26. Dave R (6 points)
27. Adie (6 points)
28. el gato (6 points)
29. MJ Moquin (6 points)
30. T Garvey (6 points)
31. Weldertron (6 points)
32. ramenvelo (6 points)
33. JCM (5 points)
34. boudewijn (5 points)
35. Keith Rousseau (5 points)
36. lokerola (5 points)
37. seemunkee (5 points)
38. jpneely94 (5 points)
39. md3000 (5 points)
40. R00tdown (5 points)
41. billybones (5 points)
42. schall und rauch (5 points)
43. clivity (5 points)
44. the-farmer (5 points)
45. Jeff Simmons (5 points)
46. Luis G (5 points)
47. James Turner (5 points)
48. sluggo (5 points)
49. Endurimil (4 points)
50. taon24 (3 points)
51. kixsand (3 points)
52. Jaia (3 points)
53. Alex M (3 points)
54. gaswepass (3 points)
55. strathlubnaig (3 points)
56. Erik (3 points)
57. BoogieStudio22 (3 points)
58. Gino (3 points)
59. skagitteam (3 points)
60. frank (3 points)
61. Adrian (3 points)
62. August (3 points)
63. Heihachi (3 points)
64. Chris (2 points)
65. piwakawaka (2 points)
66. Ccos (2 points)
67. Ccos (2 points)
68. brianmcg321 (2 points)
69. sthilzy (2 points)
70. Mike_P (2 points)
71. justinevan88 (2 points)
72. wiscot (2 points)
73. jesse coyle (2 points)
74. jarbite (2 points)
75. Beers (2 points)
76. freddy (2 points)
77. nezonic (2 points)
78. Blah (2 points)
79. Shlumpen (2 points)
80. aaus (2 points)
81. chrismurphy92 (2 points)
82. CanuckChuck (2 points)
83. KW (2 points)
84. Darren H (2 points)
85. Andrew Brown (2 points)
86. Floridian (2 points)
87. Chris S (2 points)
88. TheVid (2 points)
89. VirenqueForever (2 points)
90. meursault (2 points)
91. razmaspaz (2 points)
92. Andrew (2 points)
93. Bat Chainpuller (2 points)
94. velobrowny (2 points)
95. plynie (2 points)
96. Two Ball Billy (2 points)
97. Uri (2 points)
98. Ray Wright (2 points)
99. leadout (2 points)
100. the Engine (2 points)
101. nickinco (2 points)
102. ralexmiller (2 points)
103. drcraig (2 points)
104. Skip (2 points)
105. torrefie (2 points)
106. RondeVan (2 points)
107. sgraha (2 points)
108. il ciclista medio (2 points)
109. lindrop (2 points)
110. Deakus (2 points)
111. Fausto (2 points)
112. imakecircles (2 points)
113. Smith (2 points)
114. pakrat (2 points)
115. foggypeake (2 points)
116. Jhortua (2 points)
117. 936adl (2 points)
118. Rigid (2 points)
119. UptheTrossachs (2 points)
120. Geordi (2 points)
121. habswin1 (2 points)
122. Buck Rogers (2 points)
123. il muro di manayunk (2 points)
124. LeoTea (2 points)
125. jeyrod (2 points)
126. Jay (2 points)
127. Rob (2 points)
128. Dave Lominati (2 points)
129. mcsqueak (2 points)
130. Marius Marchis (1 points)
131. Mikael Liddy (1 points)
132. unversio (1 points)
133. pink (1 points)
134. Roadslave525 (1 points)
135. JohnB (1 points)
136. max columbus (1 points)
137. xponti (1 points)
138. jeff (1 points)
139. boomboom-84 (1 points)
140. Bianchi Denti (1 points)
141. James Sullivan (1 points)
142. asyax (1 points)
143. Daccordi Rider (1 points)
144. oneninefiveninesix (1 points)
145. colluphid (1 points)
146. Teocalli (1 points)
147. Thomas (1 points)
148. Timojhen (1 points)
149. chui (1 points)
150. PT (1 points)
151. LastBoyScout (1 points)
152. rosiusyves (1 points)
153. johnthughes (1 points)
154. Tom Mc (1 points)
155. tessar (1 points)
156. redleader215 (1 points)
157. The Oracle (1 points)
158. DeKerr (1 points)
159. GiantBars (1 points)
160. HMBSteve (1 points)
161. Steampunk (1 points)
162. Iain Wilson (1 points)
163. weags (1 points)
164. Brian McAndrews (1 points)
165. Andrew Friend (1 points)
166. Chris Salsman (1 points)
167. GSoroos (1 points)
168. Al__S (1 points)
169. zettjh (1 points)
170. godsight (1 points)
171. James (1 points)
172. V-olcano (1 points)
173. Xponti (1 points)
174. Kevin (1 points)
175. Simon (1 points)
176. G'phant (1 points)
177. velocepedia (1 points)
178. Badger (1 points)
179. Rhodri (1 points)
180. dyalander (1 points)
181. nathan_woodstock (1 points)
182. bunji (1 points)
183. roberto (1 points)
184. Fins (1 points)
185. blue (1 points)
186. Tobin (1 points)
187. Nate (1 points)
188. Stuart Witkowski (1 points)
189. moondance (1 points)
190. Stephen (1 points)
191. Dan Sink (1 points)
192. TheDon (1 points)
193. TOM.NELS2120 (1 points)
194. Smithers (1 points)
195. napolinige (1 points)
196. Gianni (1 points)
197. VeloJello (1 points)
198. gallilano (1 points)
199. eenies (1 points)
200. Phil C (1 points)
201. stickyjumper (1 points)
202. V-inden (1 points)
203. tony macaroni (1 points)
204. D.Stef (1 points)
205. Ron (1 points)
206. soxfan04 (1 points)
207. m_demartino (1 points)
208. El Mateo (1 points)
209. scaler911 (1 points)
210. Patrick (1 points)
211. zot (1 points)
212. Harminator (1 points)
213. Bossanove (1 points)
214. Thomas (1 points)
215. ten B (1 points)
216. LIIIXI (1 points)
217. DCR (1 points)
218. brett (1 points)
219. ped (1 points)
220. titirangisi (1 points)
221. Chica (1 points)
222. swillgil (1 points)
223. Arjen (1 points)
224. Captainsideburns (1 points)
225. simonsaunders (1 points)
226. Thomas van Maanen (1 points)
227. Jarvis (1 points)
228. ChrisO (1 points)
229. hamboneIV (1 points)
230. Tartan1749 (1 points)
231. Nanar (1 points)
232. xyxax (1 points)
233. Geraint (1 points)
234. Conrad (1 points)
235. Bill Chris (1 points)
236. Rex (1 points)
237. spoderman (1 points)
238. BaltoSteve (1 points)
239. therealpeel (1 points)
240. Sugnabott (1 points)
241. Alex H (1 points)
242. StuartWitkowski (1 points)
243. dancollins (1 points)
244. brad_the_dean (1 points)
245. Poppyseed (1 points)
246. LA Dave (1 points)
247. PBatch (1 points)
248. Giles (1 points)
249. conner99 (1 points)
250. Optimiste (1 points)
251. Donnie Bugno (1 points)
252. RedRanger (0 points)
253. Kyle V. (0 points)
254. Dan_R (0 points)
255. Mirko (0 points)
256. Dirty Harry (0 points)
257. geoffrey (0 points)
258. Viejo (0 points)
259. Roobar (0 points)
260. Rom (0 points)
261. norm (0 points)
262. fenlander (0 points)
263. Benny (0 points)
264. RorkSteijn (0 points)
265. anthony (0 points)
266. Gervais (0 points)
267. ErikdR (0 points)
268. atzeatzeton (0 points)
269. Kyle (0 points)
270. San Tonio (0 points)
271. BatDan (0 points)
272. Marko (0 points)
273. afroturk (0 points)
274. Dennis (0 points)
275. Facetious_Jesus (0 points)
276. starclimber (0 points)
277. Roobar (0 points)
]]> 528
The Janus of Suffering Mon, 17 Mar 2014 19:32:52 +0000 Time for a different kind of suffering. Time for a different kind of suffering.

I came strongly into the Fall, stronger than in other years thanks to a late-season objective to do well at my first Heck of the North gravel classic in Minnesota. I was light and I had built good power and endurance by riding the steep gravel roads that pepper the North Cascades and suffering through brutal interval sessions on the windswept stretch of road along Shilshole Bay. I was good at hurting myself.

With the race behind me and the first of the next season’s objectives many months away, I entered into what in many ways is my favorite time of year to ride: Winter. The months between objectives at that time of year provides a kind of serenity on the bike that is hard to find when goals are looming. Focus shifts away from building a sharpness in the muscles and towards putting in long base kilometers at steady speeds. There is no need to push hard on the climbs, just slip into a nice tempo and explore the beautiful quiet of a steady rhythm.

With that serenity comes a different kind of suffering; not so acute but where the cold winds and rains harden the mind against the long hours of discomfort and somatic pain. Simply staying on the bike all day, riding from sun up to sun down, is suffering in itself. The willpower and discipline needed to hold the course and do the Work is itself an entirely different but very real kind of suffering – even if the suffering is not intense at any given moment.

But as Winter slowly loosens it grip and the days grow longer, so too do the objectives for the coming season loom nearer. It is time to pull myself out of steady rhythms and once again build towards the sharp sensations of a hard effort. I find I’ve nearly forgotten how to do it; my body resists the signals coming from the mind; its first impulse is to employ the Scotty Principle, I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got captain! It seems my mind has forgotten that whenever it gets that message, there is always another 10 or 20 percent left to to be taken from the body.

Janus is the Roman god of beginnings and transitions; he has two faces – one looking to the past and one to the future. I’m transitioning from one kind of suffering into another; the work I did yesterday will make tomorrow’s ride a little bit better. My mind navigates through the mixed signals it receives, and the body responds and adapts. To transition is to explore the boundary between two seemingly separate entities. Science explores the boundary between ignorance and knowledge; art explores the boundary between reality and imagination; Cycling explores the boundary between the mind and body.

We are Cyclists. The rest of the world merely rides a bike.

]]> 67
The Rules: Coming to the US May 5 Fri, 14 Mar 2014 17:47:04 +0000 The Rules endpapers The Rules endpapers

We recently lost our beloved Great Dane, Kirki, who we nicknamed Beene for reasons that elude logic. She was a good dog, more sweet than clever. A sad side effect of big dog breeds and their short lives is that it wasn’t until nearly the end of her life that she made certain key discoveries about the world. Such as that weighing nearly 65 kilos meant she didn’t necessarily need to be terrified of things like shadows and doorways. Nevertheless, throughout her life she somehow managed to skirt through challenges completely unscathed, utterly oblivious to her shortcomings. In an effort to immortalize her spirit, the VMH and I have taken to referring to situations where we succeed despite our breathtaking incompetence as being “All Beene”. For example, on the occasion that I skied over a cliff I had failed to notice, subsequently rode my tails through a stand of pine trees at unprecedented speed, and emerged the other end without so much as a hair out of place – that was All Beene.

You might say that Velominati itself is All Beene. We Keepers didn’t intend to become the stewards of class, style, and etiquette on the bike; we just mainlined the Word of The Prophet and the Apostles and jotted it all down. The rest just happened because of the Community who caught on to the fun we were having and joined in. Same goes for our writing; we’re just passionate about this stuff; we obsess about it all the time and want to share our love for the sport with others in the hopes they might identify or – better yet – catch the bug themselves. All the while, the truth is that we have no idea what we’re doing. English isn’t even my first language, for Merckx’s sake.

But the journey continues. The Rules: The Way of the Cycling Disciple was originally released in the Commonwealth on June 20, and surprised us with how well it was received despite various mistakes and errors throughout. In fact, it did well enough that some bright spark got the idea to release the book in our home US market as well, and we subsequently duped WW Norton into bearing that cross.

The Rules will be officially released in the United States on May 5th, 2014. We’ve put quite a lot of work into the US Edition with the following results:

  1. Greg LeMond, the only American Tour de France winner, graciously wrote the Foreword.
  2. We added four new Rules and supporting content, bringing the tally to 95.
  3. We revised some sections like the Prologue because we do what we want.
  4. We stayed sober during the editing process.
  5. We actually proofread it this time (also sober), so we are reasonably sure we got the mistakes out. (Many thanks to the scathing review on Amazon and its comprehensive listing of the errors in the book, it was a great convenience having all that work done for us and neatly catalogued in one place.)

There will also be several book events across the country which is part of the reason we are not doing a Keepers Tour this year due to the time constraints the book tour imposes. Each event will start with a group ride and conclude with a signing at a local bike shop. Events are planned for the Rapha stores in New York City and San Francisco, as well as one in Minneapolis, Boulder, Seattle, and Portland. Details forthcoming as the event schedules are confirmed.

From the bottom of our hearts, we’d like to thank everyone in our Community, those who bought (and didn’t burn) the book in the UK and Commonwealth, and everyone who comes by here every day to read our musings. This is all a lot of work, but it is work we gladly do because of each and every one of you and the fun you bring to what is Velominati.

Tune in during April as we’ll be publishing one new Rule per week in the lead-up to the book’s release. We have also added a landing page for both the US and UK editions of the book including information on where to buy; post insults and corrections on there.

All Beene.

]]> 97
Speed Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:20:46 +0000 Pozzovivo goes more faster at the 2013 Giro d'Emilia. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta Pierre-Roger Latour goes more faster at the 2013 Giro d’Emilia. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta

I wasn’t anywhere near old enough to hold a driver’s license but my dad had already bought me a motorcycle. It was a late seventies BMW R100 RS, dark blue. I loved that bike; I polished it fortnightly even though it never left the garage. I spent hours sitting on it, twisting the throttle and squeezing the clutch, diving in and out of turns on a twisty road somewhere in my imagination. My dad sold the bike not long after I got serious about Cycling, making the shrewd observation that if I was able to land myself in the emergency room as often as I did under my own power, then from a Darwinian standpoint my chances of survival would be dramatically decreased by the introduction of a 1000cc engine.

To this day, I love speed. I feel it in that layer between skin and muscle that science will tell you doesn’t exist but that anyone who has ever taken a risk will tell you does. On a bicycle, it doesn’t even have to be high speed; descending, cruising along a valley road, or climbing – any speed that comes as a result of that familiar pressure in my legs and lungs is a thrill.

Cornering at speed will amplify the feeling of speed as your muscles press against the change in tangental velocity. But even the slower speeds of climbing can produce the exciting effects of speed; diving into a tight switchback on a fast climb can provide the distinctive exhilaration that comes with needing to brake and lean while climbing. There is no sensation in Cycling that will make one feel more Pro than needing to control your speed while going uphill.

Cobblestones and gravel also provide their unique doorway into the feeling of speed. The bouncing of the machine under you as you push a big gear along the road will amplify the sensation of going fast with the transitions from tarmac to rough roads and back again playing their own part to demonstrate speed through the power of contrast.

Riding along a road that has a lot of shrubbery or tall grass that hugs the roadside, my peripheral vision will quietly inform me that the blurred motion at my side is the direct result of my own burning engine and the effort I’m putting into the pedals. To experience under our own strength that which others require a motor to accomplish is what makes us stand apart. We are active participants in speed. We are Cyclists.

]]> 77
La Vie Velominatus: Rebirth Mon, 10 Mar 2014 17:00:37 +0000 Spring blossoms in Seattle

Wind is an asshole. I have no patience left for it. It has all of it been used up, gone, finished. It is the only force that I’m aware of (with the possible exception of gravity) that is more stubborn and less willing to listen to reason than I myself am. It blows me around on my bike, it embezzles speed from my Magnificent Stroke. No matter how emphatically I lose my temper with it, no matter the unprintable curses and insults I hurl in its direction, it just keeps on blowing like a big stupid blowing thing.

The weather systems that move in and out of the Puget Sound Convergence Zone are accompanied by a gale and, and as every Cyclist knows, gales blow exclusively against the direction of travel. With the changing seasons come the frequent storm systems and the unreliability of the meteorologists is amplified by the complexity of the weather patterns. Taking Bike Number One is a gamble during any of these times, but sometimes living dangerously feels better than it is sensible. Every now and then, taking #1 when you really shouldn’t can offer a bit of much-needed redemption.

Fall winds steel us for the arrival of colder, darker days. Winter around here comes with less wind, but with annoyances of its own. Our friends in more harsh climates than mine will agree: we have had a dark Winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. Seattle is a mild place to live, but even here the damp, cold, short days have taken their toll. The sun is down when I arrive at work, and it is down when I leave for home. With vitamin D in short supply, our moods sour, the chickens stop laying their eggs (there is no creature more entitled than a clucking chicken who refuses to lay an egg), and alcohol, food, and sloth start looking like viable plans of remediation.

But as Winter makes its slow exit, the winds begin to blow once again and Spring starts to dot hints that she is about to make her entrance. The redbud trees are in blossom, and the Earth is letting loose the green stalks of tulips and crocuses. The work we did over the winter was supposed to make us feel strong and fast; instead, trees bow to our arrival as the wind pushes against our face and robs us of the free flight that a Cyclist in form works so hard to achieve.

Nevertheless, this weekend I rode with bare legs, the strong headwind filling my senses with the fresh smell of damp, life-giving earth and budding blossoms. Rebirth is infectious and like the trees and plants around me, so too have I been reborn. 

Wind might well be an asshole, but when it signals warmer, brighter days it somehow seems more tolerable. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 166
Guest Article: BC – Before Cancellara Fri, 07 Mar 2014 17:53:39 +0000 Grand Prix des Nations 1983 courtesy of Miroir du Cyclisme Grand Prix des Nations 1983 courtesy of Miroir du Cyclisme

@wiscot is at it again. He is the Velominati historian and I’m always pleased when more of his writing arrives at the bunker. Luckily for all of us, cycling has a long history, most of which we are unaware of. This was not taught at school. Any article that includes the words Spartacus and Hour Record in the first paragraph already has my attention. Read on.

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

When Fabian Cancellara inevitably retires, his palmares will be astounding: the grand tour stage wins, the leader’s jerseys, the multiple wins in the monuments, but above all, he will be remembered and revered for his powerful time trialing abilities. On his day, the big Swiss turbo could fly over a course faster than anyone with ample style and class to spare. Indeed, when it comes to panache and power, few equal Spartacus. If rumor is to be believed, he is going to attempt the Hour Record before he retires and only a fool would bet against him.

However, as in all things cycling, there are precedents and precursors. For Fabian, I’d like to put up one Daniel Gisiger as Exhibit A. Born in Baccarat in 1954, this Swiss rider had a highly respectable career with 44 listed wins. If it comes to pass that Cancellara begins the last few years of his career with an hour record attempt, Gisiger began his in June 1977 when he set a new amateur record of 46kms 745m. Bear in mind that this was only 1686 meters less than Merckx’s 1972 record that was done at the height of his career and at altitude. Gisiger did his at the Hallenstadion in Switzerland – high, but not as high as Mexico. And, as we know, Cancellara will have to use a bike very similar to that used by Merckx and Gisiger and will likely go to altitude.

Over his career Gisiger excelled at the race of truth just as the art of competing against the clock was becoming a highly specialized aspect of the sport. No more the jersey tucked into the shorts and a pair of light wheels on the regular road bike for the TT. By the early 1980s skinsuits were becoming de rigeur and manufacturers were coming out with more and more special aero gear to cater to the TT boys. (By the mid-to-late 1980s the “funny bike” craze was red hot but the UCI finally ensured that that kind of out-of-the-box thinking and development had its lid firmly shut).

In the early 1980s pedigreed time trials such as the Grand Prix des Nations and Baracchi Trophy were still mainstays of the calendar and the big names took them seriously. A quick review of the past winners of both reads like a “who’s who” of the sport. These races were not some Tour of Beijing/Japan Cup-type end-of-season filler for those looking for an autumnal jaunt to save a season or a contract, but hard fought races that carried huge prestige.

Indeed, before there was an official World Time Trial Championship race the Nations was the de facto world TT championship. When Gisiger rode it it was held over two laps of a brutal circuit in Cannes. How tough? In 1988 I watched the race from the roadside and to be fair, it should have been classified a hilly TT. This was no settle-into-your-rhythm race, it required massive concentration, quick reflexes and great bike handling skills as it snaked and twisted around the city. Gisiger excelled in both races winning the Nations in 1981 and 1983. In 1982 he was second to Bernard Hinault by a scant 2 seconds; third place finisher was Bert Oosterbosch at a whopping 2:29 back. And when he won in 1983 he beat Lemond by 1:47 and Oosterbosch (again) by 2:53. The Swiss tester also won the Baracchi in 1981 (with Serge Demierre), 1982 (with Italian ace Roberto Visentini) and 1983 (with Silvano Contini).

So, let’s look closer at the evidence that Gisiger was a top tester. His wins are written in the record books, but the images complete the story. The physique: muscular, lean and powerful; the position: sweet flat back; the bike stripped to the bare minimum with half-taped handlebars which are drilled to allow the brake cables to be hidden and keep the cockpit clean. The early aero brakes. No helmet, no shoe covers, no disc wheels. There’s something beautifully elegant and minimalist about this which is marvelously appropriate: it is purely man against course and clock. The helmets, sunglasses and aero bikes of today give the riders a somewhat otherworldly appearance that I feel engenders a disconnect between spectator and rider. It’s like watching Formula One: you see the car and driver but not the full human effort required.

If his TT abilities weren’t enough, Gisiger rode—and won—in all other aspects of the sport. In addition to the TT wins cited above there were 4 Swiss National track championships, 6 Six Day races (including the Zurich six day race with fellow Swiss powerhouse Urs Freuler when both rode for Atala), 11 criteriums, 5 road races and 5 road stages. And, to top it all, that 1977 Amateur World Hour Record. As if this was not enough, Gisiger rode his prime years in the Malvor-Bottechia, Cilo-Aufina and Atala team colors making him one of the lucky riders who spent most of his career in classic team kit.

Daniel Gisiger’s career will never match that of Cancellara. There are no monument trophies or yellow jerseys in his closet. What we do have is a rider who was a versatile champion of the sport. He rode in an age of transition, between the tried and true ways of cycling that had changed little from the 50s and 60s, into an age of great technological development and a more scientific approach to performance. To wit: his trainer was Paul Kochli, the Swiss guru who would go on to work with the likes of Bernard Hinault, Steve Bauer, Andy Hampsten and Greg Lemond at La Vie Claire, honing the physical potential of his charges with a more scientific approach to diet and training. Known to be a staunch anti-doping advocate, Kochli left the sport in the early 1990s as the drug scene became too rampant to ignore. Gisiger was an early beneficiary of his tutelage and made a bold mark upon the sport. His name is rarely head these days but should be remembered more fondly: all sports have their eras and associated champions, but there are always transitional figures who get swept aside by the narrative of history. Daniel Gisiger was one such rider: a fearsome competitor against the clock be it on the boards or the road. If and when Cancellara goes for the hour, I hope Gisiger is watching his countryman with the satisfaction of knowing that he helped pave the way.

]]> 17
Every Day is Leg Day Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:34:56 +0000 At work or at rest, it's leg day At work or at rest, it’s leg day. Photo: Tom Boonen

The proclamation is heard in the office, on social media, at the bar with friends; “It’s leg day.” When someone utters “it’s leg day” the accompanying tone of resentment and even dread is usually followed by an audible “ugh”. This exasperation belies one fact, the person making the utterance is not a cyclist. It’s likely they are a part of the Crossfit cult or on a fitness regimen to tone up and look good in a swimsuit. My immediate thought is, no shit it’s leg day, isn’t every day leg day?

As Cyclists, we cultivate our legs ritualistically. They provide the power that propels us deep into the pain cave, to freedom and to exaltation. Sure, we can talk about building the engine that is our heart and lungs. We do intervals, hill repeats, and sprints to increase aerobic capacity but the act of pushing on our pedals is what makes us move. It is our guns and our guns only that provide the visual evidence of our deposits into The V-Bank. The following is a simple list of acts the Velominati partake in that demonstrate that Every Day is Leg Day:

  • Shaving ( Rule #33 )
  • Crisp and clean tan line cultivation ( Rule #7 )
  • Not taking the stairs when the elevator goes to the 2nd floor
  • Recovery Days
  • Getting a Happy DeVlaeminck
  • Not lifting weights, grocery bags, or small children if it can be avoided
  • Gun-oriented narcissism
  • Riding bikes at the exclusion of any other form of exercise except sex (in which case you’ve gone Post-race Kelly and it’s a recovery day and therefore, Leg Day)

The Pros go to great lengths in not using their legs to power anything but their bicycles. Coppi used to have his soigneur carry him up flights of stairs to the hotel room. Hincapie would make sure his phone, remote, and other personal needs were at arms’ length on Recovery Days so he wouldn’t have to get off the couch. I wonder if he looked for apartments in Gerona with the toilet in the living room.

Of course most of us are endomorphs who look to be prepubescent boys with bald legs, baby smooth faces, and farmer’s tans. But our legs, our legs are bronzed and chiseled works of effort that would inspire Michelangelo and be worthy of any swimsuit edition (as long as it focuses on the waist down). So regardless of our buggy-whip arms and pencil-necks, let’s celebrate. The next time you hear someone bemoan their own personal leg day hell, remember that for you as well it is leg day. Take pride in the fact that you are a Velominatus and that for you, Every Day is Leg Day. Because on that day, regardless of the day of the week or where on your training calendar it lands, you have done something to honor your pins.

]]> 164
Hunger Mon, 03 Mar 2014 22:28:58 +0000 This Hunger is insatiable

My favorite feeling is perhaps the empty hollowness of hunger. That statement, in itself, is a declaration of the privileged life I’ve led; it is borderline obscene to boast of such a thing in a world where 842 million people don’t have enough to eat. Nevertheless, being lucky enough to have been raised in America and just competent enough to hold down a job, I find myself in the enviable position of needing to invoke “discipline” in order to experience this sensation.

All that aside, I love feeling hungry, both physically and metaphorically. Physically, being hungry brings something primal out in me; there is an edge that awakens which feels dormant when I’ve eaten. I’m sharper, more alive somehow.

When I eat or drink too much, I feel it in my flesh; I feel the lethargy that comes with food everywhere. I feel it on my back, I feel it in my limbs, I feel it in my eyes – everything is weighed down and blurred. When I am overweight, I find I can go all day without eating and hardly give it a thought. When I’m training and riding well and my weight is down, I can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never feel sated. That is the feeling of hunger to which I refer; not a desire to starve, but a physical condition where sustenance feels impossible to achieve. This is a beautiful state where everything feels alive and there is a sharpness and precision in every motion.

There is also a metaphorical hunger, which I don’t think we can achieve without the physical sort. The metaphorical sort is borne of desire and need. This is what drives us to achieve more than we normally would. Sean Kelly talks of this hunger in his book by the same name; in his opening chapter, he says he would rather fall into the any of the greenhouses below the sweeping hairpins along the descent from the Poggio into Sanremo than face defeat by Moreno Argentin. That is hunger in the metaphorical sense.

I am a better person when I feel hunger; I have drive, I have humility, I have courage. When hunger stirs, we come alive with an urgency we don’t otherwise find. Without it, there is no compulsion to act, to fight, or to endure.

]]> 75
Cogal Report: Fleurieu Peninsula Sun, 02 Mar 2014 16:11:03 +0000 The V flag in OZ. The V flag in OZ.

Fleurieu Peninsula – Velominati Cogal 8th Feb 2014.

Notable quotes to sum up the ride that nearly wasn’t.

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

Dr. Seuss -“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

Albert Einstein -“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.”

Albert Einstein -“I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. “

Vince Lombardi -“ Fuck it’s hot ! “


Dwayne “@Barracuda” Cox

The above quotes pretty much sum up some of the feelings of the recently run and won Fleurieu Peninsula Cogal.

My own personal timeline goes something like this

  • Email to Gianni in September 2013 to float the idea of the cogal, next thing I know it’s on the website, things get real, really quickly.
  • Now that its in print I’ve actually to step up and organize this thing
  • Email back to Gianni to see if the flag pictured over the cobbles of Roubaix is real and if it’s real can I get a hold of it to fly proudly at the Tour Down Under, then on our Cogal.
  • Flag arrives from Haiku on the island of Maui.  The thing smells of France and Belgium and cobbles, it’s real alright. (actually, smells more like Gianni’s closet-ed.)
  • Following months of excitement and worrying ensue.
  • Day gets closer and I finalise pre-ride espresso venue with the generous Simon of Nino’s of Victor Harbor.
  • Route is all set and all appears to be well planned, then ……
  • The day of – weather forecast to be in the mid to high 40 degree Celsius range, of which I say to myself that the forecasters never get south coast weather right and all will be good.
  • Well, to shit me to tears, they got it right, and right from the gun the 20 starters  pushed into the heat, which as others have said, claimed its first victim.
  • Poor old Dan from Willunga coughed up a lung and half of the previous nights tea on a sharp little prick of a climb we call Nettle Hill.
  • We pushed on as a group with a couple of flats and a blown tyre through to a water refill point at Myponga.
  • At this stage with temps already soaring in the 40’s we decided on the mercy clause and cut 25kms off the ride which would of seen us go down and then back up Willunga Hill ( TDU fame ).
  • It was the right call but still disappointed me as I wanted all to have such a great day and this climb formed part of my planning from the beginning.
  • It was at about this time, some 50kms deep and some 45 degree Celsius that my personal battles of brain versus body started.
  • Massive cramp in left leg had taken hold, I’m assuming due to the previous nights lack of prep and the ensuing panic that I wanted all to have a good time. Could also be due to the fucking heat.
  • We all got to Mount Compass unscathed, some faster than others and refuelled. To my amazement – we are 60kms deep at this stage and the heat was stifling – Justin decides it’s a good idea to drop back a hot meat pie.  Now that’s dedication to the cause.
  • I was cooked and mentally the leg had beaten me, others had pulled the pin long before but I was determined not to let my fellow riders down.
  • A plan was hatched whereby I would skip 20 kms and go straight to Goolwa via team car and rejoin for the final 20km push back to Victor.
  • Unbeknownst to me, that 20kms that I missed was the easiest of the day.
  • We all regrouped (10 of us by this stage) in Goolwa near the mouth of the mighty Murray River and made the turn towards Victor Harbor.
  • That last 20kms is the hardest conditions Ive ever ridden in. Heat and howling northerly wind had us crawling back to base.
  • Needless to say the Coronas and Stellas tasted superb and the pizza’s didn’t even touch the sides.

Points to note regarding the Rules :-

  1. everyone of the 20 starters could be forgiven for the rule infractions sighted given extreme conditions.
  2. Rule #5 was well and truly displayed by all.
  3. Rule #9 was well and truly displayed by all.

Special mentions

@Mikael Liddy – being dedicated to the cause enough to ride the 100kms+ the night before in the dark to front up on the Saturday morning – Chapeau

Hugh Moore – taking some great photos along the way – refer his Flikr  link


Justin (pie man) V

Thanks to Mikael who invited members of Adelaide Cyclists to join in on a cogal put on by Dwayne and Velominati. I had a most enjoyable day, as I was met by cooler conditions when I arrived at Victor. Whilst waiting prior to the ride it was great to see a fellow Lynskey rider as we both told our tales of love for the bike.

I hadn’t ridden much of the route prior, so just played follow the leader for the entire route as the temperature soon soared as we headed inland to our only real hill for the day, which took its first casualty. After a pucture and a blowout the group settled into a nice rhythm, and we ended up for what I thought was lunch at Mt Compass. It was there that I enjoyed my pie with sauce, which was to power me to the end of the ride.

Although we had stopped a couple times on route and filled our water bottles, the heat had really kicked in by the time we road along the coast from Goolwa to Victor in a very angry cross wind which had the temperature rising well into the 40′s. The water in the bottles was almost boiling, but I figured I still had to drink it to keep some fluid running through my body.

I bid thank you to Mikael for the invitation and to Dwayne for organising the ride (and post ride pizza slices). Hope to ride with you guys again soon.


@Mikael Liddy

“Be prepared” say the scouts, well I can only assume that the scouts know fuck all about getting ready for a cogal, for all the good my preparations served. Here’s a quick timeline of the ups & downs of trying to arrange my attendance on Feb 8th.

Sept 2013 – Article posted, VMH approval for a weekend away with the cycling crew & partners granted, and family friend approached about borrowing their holiday house for accommodations. All is good.

Oct 2013 – Family friends fall through as apparently their son & his 30th birthday trump our needs for the house…no biggie, we’ll share the costs of hiring a place between everyone.

Dec 2013 – Body attempts to put all weight on left foot getting out of bed after a severe bout of charismatic poisoning before left foot has actually found the ground, hit the deck quicker than Sir Twiggo on a wet Italian descent & tweak left knee quite significantly. Pre TDU & cogal riding is reduced dramatically, but hopes are still high.

Jan 2014 – Knee is behaving(ish), finally riding again & suffering god awful Rule #65 infringement from seat post/saddle area. Bike goes in for service & source of the rule breach is identified as the carbon layup delaminating at the seat post insertion…bike is fucked 2 days before biggest week of riding of the year & unlikely to be repaired/replaced by the cogal (yes I know this is why the minimum value for N should be 3). Attendance looking shaky at best.

Jan/Feb 2014 – Based on the assumption I wouldn’t have a bike, the VMH accepts tickets to a music festival the day before the cogal (the day that would have been spent driving down, wine tasting, etc.). I’m now on parenting duties until a babysitter can relieve me (6.30pm), and as such the last 2 from our initial group of 10 bail on the weekend. This will require some creativity to work out well.

Feb 5th – Demo bike sourced from Giant store (hello TCR Avanced 0 with 11 speed Ultegra Di2), babysitter & additional lights secured for a Friday night ride, cabin booked in the local tourist park and VMH convinced to drive down Saturday afternoon basically for the purpose of driving home on the Sunday. It’s on like Donkey Kong!!!

Feb 7th – It’s going to be how hot? 45 degrees with a stinking hot northerly gale blowing all day? Fuck it, I’ve come this far, I’m riding the bloody thing!

After the trials & tribulations involved in actually getting to the cogal, the day itself (despite the conditions) was reasonably uneventful. We started with a solid group of 20 made up of a few locals, some guys from a bike shop about half way back to Adelaide & a couple of other city boys I’d convinced to ignore the forecast cos “it’s always cooler down at Victor.” That statement rang true for the first 20 minutes until we turned inland & decided to ride in a furnace for the next 4 hours.

High Points

- The ride down the on perfectly still mid 20’s evening through the SA countryside & watching night fall with only the thoughts running through my head for company. Was just blissful.

- Finally meeting @Barracuda in the flesh after many a month of online commentary

- The V-Flag in all its glory flying proudly at the start & finish of the ride (it really does smell of Flanders)

- @Fiasco Steve and his seemingly endless reserve of energy…maybe those vegans are on to something?

- Riding completely new roads with all but a few complete strangers & feeling at home immediately, somehow Cogals just work.

- Pizza & beer after 100kms in stupid hot conditions, I’m convinced I will never taste a better beer in my life.

Low Points

- The weather. In all honesty we were fucking stupid for doing what we did, I was still feeling dehydrated 4 days later.

- Related to low point 1, seeing @Barracuda get destroyed by the conditions & have to skip a portion of the route sucked given the effort he’d put in & how pumped he’d been in the lead up. The fact that he got back on the bike for the hardest part of the ride (50 degree temps & a brutal cross/headwind) was a testament to Rule #5 and we waited til after the ride to tell him that the part he missed was the only tailwind all day!

All in all it was a great event with good riding, great people and awesome food & drink put on before and after by the crew at Nino’s.

p.s. We discovered later that night that baby Panadol is like EPO for babies, one minute you’ve got a vomiting, feverish baby and then the next he’s ready to take on the world(that’s a story for a whole other time)!


@fiasco steve

Ah, the Cogal through the tranquil Fleurieu.

This was my first experience with all things Velominati, the anxiety that this presented was apparent. What shall I wear? Does my kit match? Are my biddons of correct volume?

All these were of no concern as we embarked on a ride into 30km head winds with the air temp at 40 degrees at 8.30am. It was a war of attrition as slowly the gallant troops pushed through to keep the wheels turning. The route was excellent, perhaps the highlight very early into the ride was Nettle Hill, this cheeky little lump with was enough to see one rider decide that leaning his breakfast on the hill was a good idea. We are still unsure if this was a mark of respect for the hill by leaving some DNA behind, or he felt that this would lighten his load for the rest of the battle.

A great day, it was hot, but this was just part of the fun. The watermelon in Goolwa was excellent.

Highlight was Morgan and his Dad from Murray Bridge doing the ride together.




]]> 22
The Illusion of Transparency Fri, 28 Feb 2014 17:43:32 +0000 pokerface Mah-mah-mah-mah-mah poker face – mah poker face.

The illusion of transparency is perhaps the most important tool the Velominatus has in their toolbox, apart from having some measure of competence, being Casually Deliberate at all times, Looking Fantastic, and being able to dish out and endure heaping helpings of The V.

Cycling is suffering, and one of the most crucial lessons we have to learn is that we are rarely the only one who hurts. When the pressure is on or the group is heading uphill, every rider in the bunch is dying a thousand silent deaths. The rider on the front, while doing the most work, does enjoy a slight psychological advantage of being responsible for the pain disbursements, but they are suffering perhaps more than anyone else. Because everyone is momentarily cohabiting in the hurt locker, those riders who are best able to give the impression that they are in fact at ease maintain a distinct advantage over the others; there is nothing more demoralizing than feeling like a pig on a spit while the rider next to you is smiling and talking about the amazing view.

It turns out that as a species, we are really bad at judging other people’s emotions by their facial expressions, and generally over-estimate how good we are at it. In other words, everyone has a poker face and everyone sucks at reading them them. This plays into our advantage as Cyclists because it means it’s not all that hard to hide your suffering from other riders or, in fact, make them believe you’re suffering even when you’re not.

The most common tactic in this area is to keep your facial expression neutral and your pedaling smooth and relaxed despite how hard you’re pushing yourself. This takes lots of practice, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. Another tactic is to look about the bunch casually, take in the scenery, or futz about with your kit; this builds the impression that you are so completely at ease that you are distracted from the heavy work at hand.

My favorite approach is to engage in casual conversation during the hardest parts of a climb. There is a real art to this, because all that talking will get in the way of the most important element of climbing: your breathing. But you can work around that problem by being the one driving the conversation; you can choose your words to make sure they are short so you can continue to breath even as you’re speaking. The best thing to do is to fake an interest in the rider personally and ask them loads of questions. Seduced by the opportunity to talk about themselves, their ego will step in and force them to answer your questions at length, sending them into a spiral of accelerated hypoxic fatigue. It’s all bollocks, of course – you could give two shits about where they went to school or what their view is on the protests in Kiev – but they won’t catch on because they suck at reading your facial expressions while you carefully regulate your breathing and prepare to drop them. At which point you feign surprise that the pace was high enough to cause any damage.

Its gotten to the point where I don’t even realize I’m doing it. The more I’m suffering, the more likely I’ll be to strike up a conversation. And, should my Too Fat To Climb ass be successful in somehow dropping my companions, I’ll gulp in air like a rabid monkey at the top to make sure I’ve fully caught my breath by the time they catch back up so I can make idle conversation about how nice that climb is and how much I love that road and its so amazing that when I moved here I thought that was a tough climb but now I hardly even notice it and I’ll probably install a 42T because the 39T just feels so small.

]]> 69
Raining in My Heart Wed, 26 Feb 2014 17:29:07 +0000 Heaven in Hell

Not one to subscribe to the slew of text speak or acronyms that permeate the modern vernacular (well, not too much, I guess YJA is one used fairly regularly), I am harbouring a severe case of FOMO right now. And the catalyst for this? The lack of a KT14. Shit, I did it again. WTF?

As Gianni wound up the excitement and anticipation for the real start of the real races, ie those on the cobbles and bergs of Belgium, my heart is heavy with emotions and my head is filled with bittersweet thoughts about the imminence of the Spring season, and the Classics in particular. This is my absolute favourite time of the racing year, and this one promises to be one of the best of recent times. Just like the past two seasons, the anticipation of a Tommeke/Faboo showdown is present, but maybe this time both will stay wreck-free and we will witness the winners of the past two Flanders/Roubaix doubles going at it at their peaks. And surely it will rain this year. It has to rain this year…

While standing around in the cold rain at the side of a shitty farm track isn’t the epitome of a good time for the general population, I place it at the top of my yearly holiday wishlist. The past two Aprils have been nirvana for me, and not being there this year leaves me with a feeling of having a part of my very being ripped out. Like my soul has been stolen away, an appendage removed, a limb hacked off. The complete experience of being there in those weeks when the whole of the cycling world is centred around Flanders and northern France, when there’s a race never more than an hour’s ride or drive from you, it’s something that embeds itself deep inside, and damned if it wants to ever leave.

This is what makes these races special, the anticipation, the unknown quantities of weather, form and luck, all factors which add up to the most unpredictable racing; anything can happen on the day, the riders know it, as do the fans. Rather than packing the wet weather gear, warm jacket and wooly hat and drinking copious amounts of Malteni at the side of the Kwaremont or Carrefour, I’ll be sitting in the dark in the middle of the night, watching online, yet still imbued with the same raw enthusiasm for these monuments among Monuments. The fact that I’ll be half a world away will no doubt sting a little still, but if it does rain, then at least I’ll get half of my yearly wish. And that is something to look forward to for sure.


]]> 35
Let the Season Begin Mon, 24 Feb 2014 21:11:38 +0000 OmLoop Omloop Finish

Omloop het Nieuwsblad is fast approaching on March 1st, Strade Bianche goes off the next weekend; finally, ladies and gentlemen, we have a season. For me the racing season really has to start in cold, wet Europe. I like the Tour Down Under just fine, I watch it, but it’s too early, too sunny and too hot to signify the start of the racing season. The races in the desert, though I’m sure they are windy and tough, hold no interest for me. Camels and embrocation do not compute. The endless speculation about Faboo’s lack of perfect February form only means every reporter is bored and has no real stories to write.

The most interesting thing about the racing in the Middle East was seeing that Tom Boonen is whippet thin and ready to bring the pain in 2014. Knowing that Boonen is back lets me sleep better at night. He is lining up for Omloop, his team is ready to rumble on the Taaienberg, all is right with the cycling world. Please let it rain, but don’t let Tommeke get hurt.

I need to see some racers with every bit of wet weather gear on, riding into a hell storm off the North Sea. Cold and wet and in Belgium; that is the way we start the season.

The other thing that is great with the cycling world is the Strade Bianche the following week. A gravel race for the professionals? The race is new, not even ten editions have been raced, but it seems so right. San Gimignano to Siena, rolling up and down across the Tuscan countryside, many secteurs of white gravel, this is a stroke of Italian genius.

Another reason to be excited is Peter Sagan. The wheelie poppin’ curb jumpin’ bad boy comes into this season a year wiser. He has watched both Fabs and Tommeke ride away from him in different editions of the Ronde but they aren’t getting any younger and Sagan is only getting better. The younger generation of riders would like to topple the reigning twin kings of the Spring Classics but Boonen and Cancellara are still there because they are the two best Spring Classic riders of their generation. They aren’t going to go without a battle.

If no one breaks bones in the feed zones or gets infected elbows, this all portends a beautiful spring.

]]> 117
Guest Article: All the Bikes in my Life Have Come from my Father Fri, 21 Feb 2014 18:16:36 +0000 Colnago anyone? Colnago anyone?

Lucky is the cyclist who has a parent cyclist. Early mentoring about the pain cave, guidance gluing on tires, these are worthwhile lessons a parent could lecture a child on. If one has to listen to a parental lecture, better it be about Eddy Merckx and how you are no Eddy Merckx than balancing your checking account. For the rest of us, our parents maybe helped in the purchase of our first bike to get us out of the house, then we were on our own N+1 quest, making our mistakes as we went along. @davidbeers is lucky, his father is a cyclist. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

The first one was on Christmas Day, 1960. I got on the bike in the driveway and he gave me a push, no training wheels. I just rode down the street, until it was time to turn around. Since I couldn’t turn, I fell off. After that I never fell off until I was 13.

My Dad had a really cool racing bike called a Lentin Clubman. It had dropped bars with no bar tape, and he rode it with the leather saddle perched way up, on account of his long legs. One day I tried to ride it, without asking. I was flying down Old Chester Road before I realized that my hands were too small to reach the brake levers. My Dad appeared out of nowhere to stop me at the crest of the big hill. Smashed right into his chest; It must have hurt but he didn’t let on.

I had a 3-speed English bike called a Dunelt. It was a Raleigh knock-off with upright bars. I wanted a racing bike, a 10-speed. My Dad helped me get a real compromise: dropped bars and a derailleur kit to make it into a 9-speed. I put a lot of miles on that bike. The second time I fell off a bike was on the Dunelt, when I ran into a parked car. My thighs smacked the trunk so hard I couldn’t walk for a week.

My Dad taught me to tie a bow tie without a mirror. He used to ride his Clubman to work in downtown Washington; he had a rack on the back and he would lash his briefcase to it. On our way to the bus stop, we would see him cruise by, bow tie undone and flapping. I asked him once, if he tied it at the office. No, he explained with great amusement, the goal is this: First, to ride into the tunnel under Scott Circle, no hands, with the tie flapping, and then to emerge from the tunnel into the sunshine of K Street, no hands, straightening it.

Like all boys we wanted new, cool bikes, but we never got the one in the shop window. My Dad was always finding another route. For him the cleverness of the find was as important as the components were to me. It’s the same with furniture, and sportcoats, and houses. He sought out the advice of a dope dealer who also was my first riding mentor. That led to the first great bike I rode. The Mercian: Columbus tubing, Cinelli bars, Shimano drivetrain because Campy was out of the question.

I won some races on the Mercian, and placed well enough in some others to be named “Best New Member” of the National Capital Velo Club, sponsored by Georgetown Cycle Sport. They spelled my name wrong on the award I got. My Dad framed it, and “Dave Banks” has a place on the basement wall, next to my brother’s Ambassador’s Cup running trophy.

One thing we had in common was our understanding of the pain of losing bikes to thieves. The Mercian, The Clubman, The Legnano, a pair of  Supercourses, all disappeared and the sorrow was joined by bitterness. At least with the Mercian I had put enough into it by then, a lot of Campy, that an insurance claim was worthwhile. It paid thirty cents on the dollar, so I bought a Bianchi with much lesser parts and started over.

For my thirtieth birthday my Dad got his dealer to find me a used Colnago frame. A work of art by itself, I hung it on the wall for two years and just looked at it. Then I got a big bonus from a house I built, and I blew it all on a Campy Record Grouppo. I was going to keep the Bianchi for riding in the rain, but then I had a better idea. I gave it to my Dad; fanciest bike he ever rode.

For my fiftieth birthday my Dad got my long-time riding partner Clemson and my wife to get me another used Colnago, all dressed up with Campy Record. Now I have two, kind of like Ferraris: a very fast new one, and a sweet vintage one, both turn heads.


]]> 49
The Thin Black Line Wed, 19 Feb 2014 17:50:18 +0000 RIP Kristof Goddaert 1986-2014

Every time we get on our bikes, we are playing a game of Russian Roulette. We take care to maintain our machines, to make sure they are in perfect running order, we look after our bodies to maximise our performance, and we, hopefully, abide by the rules of the road to keep ourselves safe from the dangers of other road users. But ultimately, our lives are in the hands of fate, destiny, or even other people. Ours is a sport fraught with danger, and every now and then, and increasingly all too often, we are reminded of the thin black line between life and death.

Such a reminder came today with the news that yet another Pro Cyclist, Kristof Goddaert, lost their life when going about their everyday job. Maybe we are less at risk in our own day-to-day lives than these athletes, but we shouldn’t take with a grain of salt the dangers that are inherent any and every time we cover ourselves with a thin shield of lycra, mount an 8kg piece of plastic, alloy and rubber, then surround ourselves with tonnes of fast-moving metal often operated by less-than-accommodating drivers. We should regard every motorist with caution, never knowing if they themselves are a cycle-aware operator or one of the increasingly common outspoken anti-cyclists that seem to crawl out of the woodwork to vent their disdain for us every time an online article regarding any aspect of sharing the road appears. Make no bones about it, there is a lot of contempt and anger towards cyclists from many drivers.

There’s only so much we can do to minimise our risk of not returning from a ride. Wearing a YJA is not going to help. Having a foam lid half-encasing our craniums will only do so much (let’s not get into a helmet debate here though). Not putting ourselves into a dangerous situation by flouting road rules, running red lights or riding erratically in traffic should be a no-brainer. Yet just by joining the arterial flow of cars, buses and trucks we put ourselves at the bottom of the transport food chain, and like a hyena in a lion-filled savannah, we need to be alert and aware of our surroundings and regard everyone around us a potential predator.

We’ve lost many of our own, and it’s often I think about our community friend @itburns when I kit up. Every time I read about another cyclist tragically killed, the reality of the dangers of our passion hits home, again, hard. Having met Kristof on KT12, when he gave up his time to talk to us before Paris-Roubaix, answering our questions, humouring us as he prepared for one of his most important days at work of the year, it feels that little bit more personal, even though our worlds were so far removed from each other. And now, he is removed from our world completely, a victim of bad luck, a tragic accident of circumstances that we might never consider could happen to us. Which only serves to remind us that it can.

Be careful out there, friends.


]]> 105
Post-Ride Recovery Ales Mon, 17 Feb 2014 20:41:41 +0000 Recovery Ale Recepticle The cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems.

The most important moment in a man’s life is the first time they have a beer. I place it on the list above sex and having a child because sex usually only happens as a direct result of drinking beer. As for having children, I’m given to understand they are poop factories at first, then promptly become loud, and then obnoxious before they resent you for the next fifteen years. If my math is right, it isn’t until after about twenty-five years that you can stand them and the investment starts paying off. Given the instant gratification of beer verses the ROI on child rearing, its not even a close. But the real clincher is that men love solving problems and there is no chance of solving problems if you don’t create them first.

As Cyclists, beer also forms an important part of our training regimen; after a day of crushing our opponents and laying down enormous helpings of The V, it is critical that we give our muscles the rest and nutrients they require in order to rebuild and become ever stronger. Required nutrients include things like carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins. As it happens, beer is made of things like – wait for it – carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins. According to alcoholic nutritionists I’ve spoken to as well as some recent studies, beer taken in moderation is the ideal recovery beverage after a hard workout.

But there’s that annoying word again, “moderation” – always with the moderation, these scientists. Apparently, you can’t go and get hammered every time you ride a bike or the alcohol will have other effects like making you fat, stupid, and bloated. Alcohol slows your metabolism and lowers your impulse control, which forms a double-whammy as after you get drunk and stuff your face, your body will have a harder time burning those extra calories.

When I started getting serious about losing weight and improving my climbing (this was immediately after my first ride up Haleakala), I completely ignored the possibility of giving up on booze as I’d much rather starve myself than stop drinking. But the fact is that dieting and training only yielded limited results. When I finally accepted the notion of reducing my alcohol intake, my weight started to drop and my riding immediately improved. The most surprising side effect was how much better my sleeping patterns became which also feeds into post-ride recovery.

I’ll never give up beer completely because I’d hate to be without problems to solve, but for anyone who is struggling to lose weight, take note: diet and exercise are key elements, but you won’t get there without taking a hard look at your alcohol consumption. I’m not suggesting you stop drinking altogether; drink a beer or two after riding to help your recovery, but beyond that alcohol will get in the way of reaching your goals. Unless your goal is to drink more, in which case I remind you that your liver is the only organ that can regenerate itself.

]]> 145
In Memoriam: Il Pirata, Ten Years Gone Fri, 14 Feb 2014 16:58:02 +0000 I don’t know if its because I see something of myself in them or if it awakens some kind of nurturing instinct, but I always seem to find myself drawn to tragically flawed figures.

Layne Staley and Marco Pantani strike me as two halves of the same whole; incredibly talented yet tortured with mortally addictive personalities, both set loose into a world of over-indulgence. Everyone – including themselves – saw the writing on the wall in the months or even years leading up to their deaths, but everyone seemed helpless to stop the inevitable: a lonely death. To hear Staley sing is to watch Pantani climb; beauty is to witness an artist pouring their anguish into their trade.

I’ve been watching the 1998 Tour and Giro during my morning turbo sessions, and even with the lens through which we now view those rides, his talent was undeniable, but so was his fragile psyche. You can almost taste his self-doubt even as he flies up the mountains like a soaring eagle.

Today, St. Valentines Day, marks the tenth anniversary of Marco’s death, and with that we dive into the archives for a Kermis on Brett’s look at our fallen hero. See also a previous year’s Valentines Day Memorial.

May you go with Merckx, Marco.

It’s always a let down for a fan to realise his or her idol is not all that they were held up to be. And while I was somewhat a fan of Marco Pantani, it was neither a surprise nor a let-down to read about his troubled life, and his subsequent sad, lonely death.

It wasn’t a surprise, or a let-down, to read that possibly his whole career was fueled by a dependence on recombinant EPO, among other performance enhancers. I knew it while watching him win the Tour in 98, I knew it when I watched him vainly struggle to hold the wheel of a super-charged Armstrong in the 2000 Tour, and I knew it when I saw him valiantly try to re-capture his former climbing prowess against the lesser gifted, yet somehow superior Simoni and Garzelli et al in the 2003 Giro, his ultimate swansong as it would eventually transpire.

Did I care that he was loaded? No. All his contemporaries were, it was no secret. Did I get an invigorating thrill from watching him fly up iconic mountain passes while holding the bars in the drops, sitting, standing, always accelerating, striving to get to the summit as quickly as possible, to shorten the suffering as he often stated? Hell yes. He was an entertainer. He was a craftsman. An aesthete. And he was a loner, foregoing any real support from a team that lacked talent and panache, something that probably pleased him as he loved to be the centre of attention.

And just as he rode alone, he lived alone. Although he was surrounded by an entourage who all claimed to be doing their best for him, ultimately he was neglected by them, and left to die a lonely, depressed, paranoid and disturbed man.

The Death of Marco Pantani doesn’t try to dispel the notion that his career was based on deception, nor does it try to glorify it. It is a stark assessment of the facts, and only the staunchest of tifosi could argue against those facts. But it still hits hard to read of such a spectacular fall from grace, the downward spiral from the pinnacle of the sport, and indeed from the pinnacle of celebrity, to a demise that one would normally associate with that of a rock star or actor. Maybe that’s how he saw himself, and how he thought it would be befitting for him to be remembered, like an Elvis, a Jim Morrison or even a James Dean.

Just as we still listen to The Doors, and watch Viva Las Vegas or Rebel Without a Cause and take pleasure from the experience, so too will we remember Les Duex Alpes in 98, or l’Alpe d’Huez in 95 and 97, not because we were watching a flawed individual, but because we were being entertained by a consumate showman, a master of his craft at the height of his profession.

And for that I can only be appreciative. RIP Marco.

]]> 68
Climbing Tips for the Non-Climber Wed, 12 Feb 2014 20:43:44 +0000 Magnus Bäckstedt, 195cm, 90kg Non-Climber Magnus Bäckstedt, 195cm, 90kg

I’m a non-climber who enjoys climbing. I’d enjoy it more if I was good at it. And “enjoy” might be too strong a word, “tolerate” might be better. But dragging 89 kilos up a volcano gives one time to contemplate the cycling life .

Let us define non-climber. It’s someone either too fat, too big (gravitationally challenged) or a fast- twitching sprinter. Not liking to suffer does not make you a non-climber. As the moto camera drifts down the peloton on the Ventoux, it’s still the guys at the back who are dying the worst. Finishing within the time limit for the non-climber requires a trip deep into the cave-o-pain.

For the cyclist, the power-to-weight ratio (watts generated/body weight in kg) is king, especially when the road goes up. A large improvement in the power side of the formula is tough, we have already chosen our damn parents and cursed inheriting their vestigial hearts and lungs. Yes, this number should be honed to its finest edge, it can be nudged up but not a lot.

The weight side of the equation is completely changeable and under our control.

Lose some weight, you fat bastards. Yes, I’m talking to you. The most important thing to improve climbing, by far, is to lose some weight. Do you need dramatic proof? Put a known weight (2 liter bottles of water) into a knapsack and do a regular route. The hills will be bad, very bad. Now imagine losing that same two or four kilos. The difference can be just as impressive. When I’m at a decent riding weight, climbing out of the saddle for extended periods is not a problem. I’m still slow but gravity is not demanding I put my ass on the saddle. Losing body weight is free; one looks better on and off the bike. Your friends will hate you. What is the down side? Oh right, it takes self-control and not drinking as much alcohol as life requires.

Don’t carry extra weight on the bike. If you really don’t need a second large bidon, don’t carry that 0.8kg. That’s more than the difference between super-light climbing wheels and regular road wheels. For reasons I’ll never understand, a bike that is one kilo lighter seems noticeably faster than the one kilo saved from a bidon. So yes, N+1 can be invoked but it’s much cheaper to just leave that second bottle at home.

LeMan said the key to climbing was to relax…easy for him to say when he had the heart and lungs of three Velominati. But Rule #10 is Rule #10 so meditate on relaxing while dancing uphill. Find a little rhythm. Click up into a longer gear, pop out of the saddle, shift back down, park it back in the saddle.

Find a gear you can turn over comfortably. As we all know, Dr Ferrari was the one to get Lance to spin up climbs. It’s tough to know where the EPO stopped and the spinning started but it did seem to work for him. While some may argue for climbing in the big chainring, for us non-climbers, climbing in the saddle and spinning a gear will get us up faster and with less collateral damage.

The best part of climbing as a non-climber is that we are out there, doing it. The Stelvio, hell yeah, it’s going to take a little longer to get up there but we will do it. We don’t stop, we don’t put a foot down. We suffer like you-know-who on you-know-what but we still do it with a stupid smiles on our faces.


]]> 189
To Look Good is Already to Go Fast Mon, 10 Feb 2014 22:17:48 +0000 Looking fast. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta Its no coincidence he looks as fast as he is. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta

To look good is already to go fast.
-Paul Fournel, Vélo

My approach to research is pretty straight forward. First, I develop an opinion – usually in a cognitively compromised state. This is the first step in the process for the simple reason that it avoids the bulk of the hard work involving things like reading and thinking. Next, I cherry-pick evidence from my experience and what few materials I have read on the subject in order to support my opinion. Finally, I defend myself with whatever dirty tricks or facts I need to invent in order to maintain my position.

It is only on rare occasions that I will be unable to guess at the evidence I need to support my claim, but in those cases I already know I’m right, so not finding evidence that contradicts my position is almost the same as finding some that supports it. I consider those circumstances validation of my opinion and thus fortify the resolve that I’m right.

Over the lifetime of The Rules, numerous bright sparks have popped up out of the ether like some sort of internet Whack-A-Mole to point out that many of them are all about aesthetics. The point is true enough, but the Velominati have always understoodd that Looking Fantastic is the fundamental building block to finding the motivation to get out on the bike day in, day out – Rule #9 or shine. The fact that the hard work of training is what actually makes you faster is glossed over when you get excited about kitting up in your Flandrian Best, echoing the summoning of Flemish hardmen who have come before you, and using their image to inspire you to get out and lay down The V. Its basic, really.

Despite how certain I’ve always been that this is Truth and that The Rules have been handed down by Merckx from high on Mount Velomis to inspire the masses, an Austrian professor, Dr. Erik Postma of the University of Zurich, recently conducted a study to see whether Looking Fantastic really does indicate athletic prowess.

The results confirmed that Science is unnecessary when you’ve already guessed the truth, but nevertheless it is handy to have a scientific study support my assumptions in case I can’t make up facts as quickly as I need to during an argument. It also strikes me as interesting that the study found that women on the pill are about as good at identifying attractive males as men are.

Thanks to Shaka Mitchell for sending this validating study along to us.

]]> 128
The Perfect Amount of Dumb Fri, 07 Feb 2014 17:44:56 +0000 Welcome to the Kermis. It’s not a recycling, it’s a reintroduction. The idea is to repost an old article that still resonates today and see where it goes. We will endeavor not to abuse this feature.

I’ve referred to Frank’s fantastic Perfect Amount of Dumb article at least five times in my own posts. My reference is usually that I’m dumb but it’s cycling related dumb. I’ve got the dumb part covered, not the Motorcus part. I so love his unexpected title and the post, it needs to do another lap.

I was just watching Tyler Mini Phinney’s post Dubai TT interview thinking, this kid has the perfect amount of dumb to be great. He shops at the Big and Tall shop, so I like him already. And his brain is way up there, in the thin air, so he choses his words carefully, like climbers at 8,000 meters. He’s got It.

No American Cyclist has won a Monument. Abandy has won more Monuments than LeMan? Merckx forgive me for uttering that last sentence. Greg was our last best chance but this new Phinney-Carpenter hybrid might somehow, someday get on the stones, get really incensed, and prove he has the perfect amount of dumb.

I find professional athletes – cyclists in particular – an impressive bunch.  They are hard, disciplined people who ply their trade in some of the most atrocious conditions imaginable.  To become professionals, they have to be good at what they do, and smart enough to learn how to continue succeeding despite the gaps between the top of the sport continually narrowing.    They have to learn to live right and train right.  They have to listen to their coaches.   They have to learn to control their mind and to override the signals their bodies are sending.  They need to be smart enough to read an ever-changing race and smell the right moment to make their move; disaster and glory can be separated only by a split-second reaction born out of intuition mixed with experience and intelligence.

But the best athletes are also a little bit dumb.  Men like Fabian Cancellara, Jens Voigt, or Tom Boonen; these are the men who flog themselves for hours on end and, when their bodies are about to break, dial it up a notch and lay it all out on the road.  A smarter man would, under those circumstances, say, “You know what?  This is nice, but I can also go less hard.”

Not asking that sort of question after dropping the flashlight deep in the pain cave is the perfect amount of dumb.

]]> 57
Look Pro: Dress for Success Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:47:50 +0000 A cold morning ride on <a href=Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy" src="" width="620" height="413" /> A cold morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy

I recently overheard someone say that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. This is the kind of statement that makes me want to hate people as a species a little bit. Of course there such a thing as bad weather. There are also bad people (loads of them), bad ideas (even bigger loads of them), bad advice (especially on the internet) and, despite what your mother told you, there certainly are stupid questions.

Despite being so clever as to render itself useless, there is a sentiment behind the claim that should be taken seriously, and that is the notion that if one is to venture out in bad weather, one should give some consideration to dressing appropriately for it. For example, I routinely see photos of Spanish Pros riding the trainer indoors in wooly hats and leggings. I would never ride indoors with leggings because the most redeeming quality of riding indoors is that you get to stare at your guns shamelessly without worry of being spotted doing so.

A Velominatus should take care to ensure they have a complete wardrobe of kit for different kinds of weather; bibs and jerseys, of course, but also arm and knee warmers, gilets, long sleeve jerseys, overshoes, gloves, caps, winter caps, knee warmers and leggings, and even jackets or rain coats depending on where you live and what kind of weather you encounter.

Always remember that the more you’re wearing, the worse you look. That’s not an opinion – that’s science. Perfection starts with bibs and a jersey, tanned guns, and a sweet set of shades. Next in line is the Flandrian Best, but after that, it’s all downhill, ending with the unfortunate invention of thermal bibs. They may be a necessity under some circumstances, just know they look complete crap, so you will too.

Still, its better than not riding, so as you’re getting ready to kit up for the day, I advise you take into account the following considerations.

  • Overdressing is as bad as under dressing. Getting too hot is just as miserable as being too cold, so unless you’re deliberately overdressing in order to lose weight, dress like Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold.
  • Start out cold. Dress for how hard you’ll be riding that day; I like to dress such that I am chilly for the first 15 minutes of the ride because after the blood starts pumping or you hit the first hill, your core temp will rise and you’ll be perfectly dressed.
  • Choose layers over bulk. Layers have the advantage that they can be combined in different ways to tune their effect. For example, a jersey with arm warmers and a gilet can be as warm as a long sleeve jersey, but allow you to shed the gilet and arm warmers if you get too warm.
  • Windproof is more important than waterproof. If it keeps the water out, it will keep your sweat in as well, no matter what the label says about breathability. Which means you’re getting wet anyway. Windproof layers, on the other hand, will keep the wind from getting through to those wet fabrics so you can stay warm, and breathe much better than do waterproof materials. Unless its the kind of downpour that starts the animals lining up in twos, you won’t find me in a rain jacket.
  • No ear muffs. If your ears get cold, get a proper winter cycling cap. We’re not savages after all.
]]> 215
On Rule #6: Resistance Mon, 03 Feb 2014 22:37:23 +0000 This man isn't about to quit; that's V Face right there. This man isn’t about to quit; that’s V Face right there.

Strength can be a fickle thing this time of year, when the training isn’t as consistent as it should be; it comes and goes, sometimes several times in the span of a single ride or even a climb. Like a rosy-eyed dreamer I keep awakening as I train, thrown like a rag doll between a state nearing euphoria and one resembling purgatory.

My mind is what drives me as a Cyclist, it is what allows my to keep going despite the burning in my legs and lungs. It is what pushes me to leave the comfort of my home to climb aboard my bike when it is dark, cold, and rainy. But there are times when the legs won’t go or the body fails in some anomalous way when we are struck by the reality that we are but puppets, pushed and pulled by forces that exist outside outside the jurisdiction of our will.

Whether or not the body fails, the mind can still resist. It can resist easing back. It can resist turning around. It can resist turning the bars to steer away from the extra climbing loop. Giving in is the worst kind of weakness we have in Cycling. With time all the acute reasons why we want to quit will pass; the acid will flush from our muscles, the gasps for air will give way to steady breathing, the cold will leave our bodies. But quitting, and the doubt it cultivates can last much, much longer.

Quitting begets quitting. It wears down your confidence and makes you question yourself. It asks questions of you that you will struggle to answer when the 2am Ghosts of Lost Opportunities come calling. Worst of all, quitting gets easier the more you do it.

Before my rides, I will decide if it is to be a hard day or an easy day; whether I will do the extra loop with the big climbs or look for the flatter roads. Once on the ride, I will shut off the part of my mind that asks those questions and simply shut off the part of my mind that processes those considerations. I will not stop until I am done.

Our strength may be fickle, but our minds are steady.

]]> 111
Guest Article: Along for the Ride Fri, 31 Jan 2014 20:37:47 +0000 The yellow jersey The yellow jersey, overall winner, Kiwi pro Roman van Uden

ChrisO is back with another installment of Suffering in the Desert. Enjoy. 

VLVV, Gianni

A year after my first stage race I’m doing it again. I just have to remember who had permission to shoot me if I did…

The Tour of Sharjah has become the Sharjah International Cycling Tour. It’s now a UCI Asia Tour 2.2 event, in other words a Professional race with UCI ranking points, and a 20,000 Euro prize pool.

I’m a bit more Pro too, though we’re talking about a sliding scale here OK. Last time I was 87kg having never done a multi-day race. Now I’ve lost 9-10 kilos, done stage events and races, even won some. I’m riding better and faster than ever. I have a power meter and a new team with a sponsor. Ride my own bike ? Alors, I have a team bike. I even have a coach, who tells me how wonderful my numbers are.

I’ve trained hard to be selected. Before the race I have dream-like moments where I imagine sneaking into a breakaway, the classic ‘no threat’ rider, and finding myself somehow featuring in the day’s reports. Sigh…

Day 1 – Sharjah Corniche Circuit 70km

Desert, what desert ? The previous day every school in the country shut to avoid a massive storm and today is no better. It’s a 2pm start and I need my 4WD to get through great pools of water and stranded vehicles. When it only rains once or twice a year drainage isn’t a priority. Months of dirt and diesel on the roads, and we’re supposed to be doing a crit.

We gather at the race hotel for an early lunch. There are grim looks all round. Ryan, over from Doha, says the Qatari team think it’s dangerous and don’t want to ride. Some of our Brit riders think the bad weather is to our advantage. Maybe they’re right but I’m with the Qataris.

The start is near the hotel. The rain stops briefly and we roll out but quickly find our way blocked by flooded streets. Eventually we pick our way across pavements and carparks only to be told it’s been put off for an hour and shortened to let the roads dry a little more.

Annoyed, we roll back again, chill out and return for the official start. Mario Cipollini is here courtesy of our team sponsor who is selling his bikes, so we have a photo with the great man. Touched by Cipo before a race – surely a good omen.

The teams are much the same as last year. Strong national squads – professionals and full-time athletes – from the UAE, Algeria, Iraq, Egypt plus new arrivals like India and Pakistan, and of course our local clubs both the Emirati and the expat versions. The Afghan squad is really Iranian (tip to undercover cyclists, don’t wear ‘Iran’ shoe covers). My former team has brought in a ringer, Roman van Uden, a Kiwi pro rider with a top level British Continental outfir Node 4 Giordana, and clear favourite to win.

The start is neutralised until we get onto the proper circuit. We get a taste of things to come. Water is up over the rims and the bunch tries to squeeze through the dry bits, with spray flying even at a modest pace. As the flag goes the pace quickens and we’re in it for real. This is hairy stuff. The first day is always nervous and the combination of twitchy riders with sketchy surfaces and dangerous obstacles is on everyone’s mind.

But I’m hanging in there OK. I even find I’m in better positions, making my way from one side of the bunch to the other as we change direction and the wind shifts, using the water to gain better positions. There are lots of “whoaaa” moments as riders ahead apply brakes or shift position to avoid the flooding.

No surprise then when the inevitable happens and there’s a massive pile up about halfway down. I’m not in it but I am behind it. Right behind it, no getting around. As I pick my way through bodies and bikes I quickly scan for the red and black of our Ride-GMS jerseys. I don’t notice anyone but it later turns out we’ve lost Josh to some busted ribs.

By the time I’m through the bunch has disappeared. I catch a few ahead and a few others catch us to make a sizeable pack as we try to reel them in. After a few kilometres however it’s clear we aren’t going to rejoin. Most accept the inevitable but a few seem determined to throw away their energy, making sudden efforts and forming small breakaways which last no more than a few hundred metres. It’s a long circuit rather than a crit but we pass the lead group in the other direction often enough to see we’re losing time. Sit in, save the strength.

We make it home, but only after being misdirected three times around a roundabout under a foot of water. We look like we’ve done a cross race on a muddy day in Belgium. Our bikes are covered in crap and lord knows what we’ve swallowed. It’s at this point the thing that makes me feel most Pro happens – my bike is taken, in a good way.

Our sponsors are an offshore services company, GMS (ever need your oil rig looked after just let me know, mate’s rates) and Ride, a Dubai bike shop. With mechanics. Smiley, happy, can’t-do-enough Sherman and Juhn (who also drives the support car) whisk our bikes away to be cleaned and oiled and prepared for the next day. This happens every day. Cross the line and I don’t even have to find somewhere to lean my bike. I get off and I see it the next morning. Tyres cut to shreds by road debris? Two new tyres. Brakes rubbing? Let them out. I could get used to this.

Day 2 : Batayeh to Khor Fakkan 97km / 500m

They’ve swapped the long climbing stage scheduled today with tomorrow’s shorter rolling stage. The forecast is more of the same so maybe it’s to avoid a tricky descent.

The start is out in the desert. The roads are straight but lumpy and roll over big dunes. The wind is the bastard – strong and at our right-hand side. There’s no neutral start and the pace goes crazy from the beginning.

Where last year I was being spat from front to back in 30 seconds I’ve now got pack sense. It’s not just about looking at your space. It’s about the space in front of the space in front, and the spaces and riders around you. Every gap is my gap. Unless it’s going to cause a crash, move into it. Get your bars in front of the next guy’s and let him be the one to drift back.

We’re riding at 40 something km/h in the gutter, full of road debris and with a concrete wall inches to my left. As we go over the rollers there’s a classic echelon at the front with a long tail strung behind. There are cracks ahead and it takes several big efforts to get around the gapped riders and latch on again. One time I lose the contact but a group comes from behind and we chase on again, although it takes about 10km to get back.

Today is very fast. We do nearly half the stage at an average of 51km/h – the average for the day, with 600m climbing, is over 45km/h. To make matters worse the rain starts again and the roads are slippery and wet but fortunately this bunch is only about half the field so it’s relatively sane and safe. At one point my former teammate Youcef is next to me and says hello but we’re doing 65km/h on a fast descent in the wet in a bunch of 50 riders and I think it best to chat another time.

After a while our team leader Jamie drifts back and calls me up. I’ve been sitting mid-pack but there’s a dangerous break and he wants us to help set the pace. There are only four of us left here. As the bunch moves around and it gives me a chance to come up on the sheltered side and get on the front.

Another thing I’ve learned – gatekeeping. To work the front you need your riders to come off but not go all the way back, and you don’t want intruders breaking it up. So someone is the gatekeeper – anyone they let through has to work, anyone not working is shut out. You just have to spot the keeper.

So I do some decent turns, I get in, I get around and I’m doing OK. I’m thinking I’ll finish easily with the bunch but as we get near the end, while I’m on the very front I go over a speedbump and can’t see the pothole on the other side. Pssss… pinch flat and that’s me done, just as it will start to wind up for the finish.

With our team car following I get to do the pro thing. Hand up, pull to the side, car comes screeching up, change wheel, off I go again. I don’t get back but I follow the cars and more importantly the breakaway is caught right on the line so no time is lost. Job done.

It’s a 90 minute drive back to the hotel. I know from experience that not eating causes me all sorts of problems so I am determined to cram it in. We spot a Subway on the way back – I’ve never had a Footlong Sub before and maybe never will again but I start from there and in 8 hours I eat:

Oreos x 2
Electrolyte recovery drink
Subway Footlong – tuna, cheese and salad
Orange juice
Banana cake
Nuts and dried fruit
Malted soy milk
Digestive biscuits
Tea with sugar
Chocolate soy milk
Chicken parmigiana sandwich
More orange juice
Salad plate and bread
Main plate – rice with chicken and vegetables, stuffed pasta, moussakeh, grilled lamb and chicken
Chocolate cake, chocolate trifle, apple pie
Protein recovery drink

I can’t believe I’ve eaten this much. I have to write it down.

Day 3 – Sharjah American University to Al Daid 161km / 1400m

I’m tired now. Even my attempts at food-based recovery have not given me much energy as we start what promises to be a long and tough stage. Originally 174km it’s been shortened to 161km. We don’t know exactly where it turns but it’s somewhere in the hills.

Despite that the day again starts fast and furious along similar rolling terrain and the same side winds. Always those bloody winds.

It’s harder today to stay where I should be. Harder to make the efforts to get far enough up the bunch and not be cut off. Harder to get around the people in front who drop back on the inclines.

Soon, too soon, comes the dreaded break. The cracks in the pack ice. There may only be a few metres between each slab but it’s a hard swim from one to the other, and I’m feeling more panda than polar this morning.

I’m now in the third group. We can see the groups ahead, echeloned across the road, but there are only seven or eight in our group of 20-30 who are working at the front. Every time we get near to the group ahead some fools try to break away and bridge the gap. Time and again they sink in the icy waters. If everyone paddled together we’d catch them. People at the back yell to ‘Stay right’ but then don’t come through to work. There’s much yelling and cajoling but after a while it’s clear this group isn’t going to happen.

Number 31, from the Afghan-Iran team comes past doing 60km/h uphill holding on to his team car. This is no sticky spanner, just blatant cheating, and our suffering grupetto howls its disapproval.

My teammate and roommate Paul comes up. He had a good second day, and was up there in the sprint and overall, at 8th. He was. I didn’t know it but a crash has wrecked a wheel and he’s chasing back. It’s bad timing, just as I was needing to save some energy for the hills. and he goes cruising past. I try to come up and help but I can’t. I feel bad about it but a few others go with him and they gradually edge away up the first climb leaving me with an even more hopeless task.

Soon after comes an uplifting sight. I hear cries of Allahu akbar from the front and Arabic chatter. Then I see the cause. Number 31 has come a cropper, presumably with one hand for the car and only one on the bike he lost control. Nasty. They say Allahu akbar, I say schadenfreude. We don’t wait.

In the support van now I see Tim and Rob. Tim is my training partner and a strong rider, as is Rob. I see why riders go in the broom wagon now. Seeing teammates in the car is a mixed emotion. On the one hand there’s pride that they’ve quit and you haven’t… on the other hand the fuckers are sitting in a car with food and drink – it’s becomes a real option for you as well. They do a great job of supporting us though, handing out drinks and gels and food as we struggle to the end.

I’m so tired that afternoon I sleep for a few hours. I know I have to eat but I struggle to force it all down. I’m sick of eating now. Sick of plates with pasta, rice AND potatoes. I want a salad and some soup and fruit. Amazingly when I weigh myself the day after the race I will find I’ve lost another kilo.

Day 4 – Sharjah Velodrome to Sharjah Airport 133km / 660m

The final day and it’s a flat(ish) and windy stage. The only stage that follows the race guide.

We’re at the start nice and early so I can have a good warmup. That’s been part of my problem with these fast starts. Us old guys take a bit longer to get going. In fact we have a really good warmup because it’s delayed again.

I’m not feeling great. My stomach is churning from all the food but once I’m on the bike I feel OK. Funny that. My legs are sore but it could be worse. I’ve managed not to have any bad cramps or rub anything raw so that’s a positive. It starts fast again and the echelons form but I’m in a reasonable position. My jour sans over I reckon I can hang on with the pack today. I’ve not got much left in the tank though, no heroics.

After about 20 minutes back comes Jamie and asks me to go to the front. I can’t say no, and I really try to get forward but the bunch is packed together in the gutter. The only way up is the windy side. I have to make 500 watt efforts just to pick up 20 places and then elbow in before having another go. By the time I get to the front I’ll be exhausted and no use.

I’m wrestling with this when I see Jamie to the side, hand up. I pull towards him expecting to have to help him rejoin. That’ll be my contribution today then – it’s actually a relief to know what you have to do. But our car is nowhere to be seen. Paul has punctured, again, and they’re out of position.

“Front wheel, front wheel,” Jamie yells. I stop and dismount, undoing my skewer as Jamie does his. Quick swap and he takes my wheel – I don’t even think twice about handing over my finest Enve carbon – and then he’s off before the cars have even passed so I’m reasonably certain he’ll get back. I, on the other hand, am left flailing a flaccid wheel until the car reaches me. Too late, I’ll not be getting back today.

It’s 16km into a 133km stage. I could quit and nobody would think worse of me. Some friendly managers give me a little draft. Paul comes past behind our car – he’s got better legs than me today and I don’t even try to keep up. A couple of our remaining guys, Bruce and Julien, are also back but lack the energy to get in the car drafts. At one point I’m nearly back up to Paul and our car, just as he gets a very sticky spanner and zooms off.

A little later the car comes back to use the same spanner on me. It gets me up to a little group of two Lebanese riders and two Pakistanis. The Lebanese are friendly – Saleh and Hassan. We rode together in the suffering group yesterday and I know Hassan from Cyprus. Habibi ! We will suffer together for 100km.

Our team cars share drinks and food among the group and Bruce and Julien are now in our van, having dropped out. At one point a Pakistani loses a spoke and we wait while it’s changed. No longer a race. We’re just cyclists, stragglers trying to get home now.

In the end Jamie got back and Paul rejoined the group, and even better our other top rider Ryan nearly broke away but still took fifth on the stage. Their results make us the best-placed UAE club team. Roman gets a run for his money from UAE champion Yousef Mirza but keeps yellow throughout. Of our 12 who started (in two teams) only four finish. In total more than 120 started and just 78 finish, with me in 72nd. Far below what I hoped for and probably about the same as last year, but  this was definitely a level above. At least I stayed upright this time.

I said after last time I could have pro equipment and pro legs but never have a pro-head. Maybe now I can compete in that too, and if nothing else I can now say I finished a pro race. Look up ProCyclingStats and I’m in there.

It’s the pro will I still don’t have. That ability to shut out pain and say Shut Up Legs. At least I know what I have to work on.

Last time I had Five Things I Learned, so how would I change that now.

  1. Riding is still not the same as Racing.
  2. Other people climbing off is demoralising and motivating at the same time.
  3. The three most important positions are the ones around you.
  4. The gap is yours. Take it before someone else does.
  5. The things you do can make you a better rider and racer. New wheels are your reward.


]]> 35
La Vie Velominatus: Ugly Ducklings Wed, 29 Jan 2014 21:49:34 +0000 1984Kelly_Liege Kelly waddles on the podium at the ’84 Luik-Bastenaken-Luik.

We’re an odd bunch, us Cyclists. Shaved legs, scars, tan lines, muscular legs paired to scrawny upper bodies. These things that make us stand out are some of the things I take great pride in. I marvel at my freshly shaved guns and how smooth they feel under my dress clothes when I’m stuck at the office. I’ll stand in front of the mirror each morning and gauge whether I’m getting fatter or skinnier. I’ll constantly feel my legs to check that they haven’t started to get soft since the morning’s ride. Being a Cyclist, it seems, is a full-time occupation.

Everything in our lives is biased towards riding. On the bike, we are a picture of elegance: perfect kit, tanned guns, Magnificent Stroke fluidly propelling us along the avenue. Remove us from the bicycle, however, and the graceful Cyclist is transformed instantly into an awkward creature; our legs suddenly look too big, our bodies too small, and we waddle about hopelessly on cleated shoes.

One of the most satisfying experiences of Cycling is to walk in my road shoes. Not only is it a thrill to avoid wiping out down a flight of stairs or in a café, but it marks the start and end of my ride. Kitting up before leaving, I’ll wander to the living room with my shoes in hand. Standing up after strapping them on, I’ll clomp out to the bike, my awkward gait signaling the sweet anticipation of the ride that awaits. Similarly, I cherish clomping back into the house afterwards, the clip-clop of my shoes echoing through the living room and signaling to anyone who is home that I’ve returned from my mission.

I embrace those things that make me strange to the rest of society; we are Cyclists and the rest aren’t meant to understand our ways. But a time will come when we ugly ducklings will blossom into skinny swans.

]]> 67
Anatomy Of A Photo: Screen-grab From A Golden Age Mon, 27 Jan 2014 19:17:48 +0000 tomes tinker

Even though in today’s mountain bike world the bikes are better, the clothing more appropriate, and there are more trails to ride, there’s no denying the early 90s were the Golden Age of Mountain Biking. Just look at these fellas, and tell me I’m wrong.

Tomac knew what was up. You don’t get such a badass Rainbow Jersey by accident, and his year in the bands (’92) was probably the last time the jersey looked that good. Plain black shorts, white socks, back flat as a pancake. And who else would you expect to be the first to rock a Troy Lee paint job on their helmet?

Tinker, well he’s a man unto himself. Probably the crowd favourite on the strength of recognition, being the only dreadlocked Hispanic riding a fluoro green or purple bike at the time making him easy to spot. That and his cadence, crunching the big ring where others, even Tomac and Ned, feared to tread. Legend has it that Tinker would fill a backpack with the biggest rocks he could find then set off into the mountains for a six hour training ride. Even if it’s an urban myth, the fact that it’s an urban myth about Tinker makes it more than a bit plausible.

Gumwall tyres, polished silver rims, colour matched forks, Campa… Campa? Multicoloured Sidis, Tinker made it all work. Even the Etto helmet looked good on him. Tomac was arguably the most Rule Compliant mountain biker ever. Even with limited resources to work with, these guys set the bar. Not many have reached it since.

]]> 123
Frame Job Fri, 24 Jan 2014 19:17:30 +0000 This looks OK This fit looks OK

Last year we read that Philippe Gilbert is riding a 50cm (top tube of 535mm) BMC frame and he is 1.79m (5’10”) tall. Now it’s reported in Cyclingnews that Ritchie Porte’s Pinarello is a 46.5cm frame (top tube of 515mm) and Porte is 1.72m (5’8”) tall. He is no Nairo Quintana but somehow he is on Quintana’s old bike. Porte is just one inch shorter than the average Australian male, he is not short. And I used to think Sean Kelly’s bike was a tiny bit small for him.

Taylor Phinney was moved down from a 60cm to a 58cm frame when he joined BMC. He is 1.96m (6’5″) so it’s not a radical move, I can understand a very tall person wanting a less whippy frame, not that a BMC 60cm carbon frame is in any way loose. And they are getting the advice of people who know what they are doing, so there are some solid ideas here just ones I haven’t thought of.

What are the advantages of riding such small frames? Really, I don’t know and would like to understand. Ritchie Porte is 1.72m, rides a kid’s bike and has a 120mm stem on it, how is that a good bike fit? Has everything we learned about bike fitting been with a huge caveat: after many measurements and calculations, here is what frame you should ride but if you want to throw all that out the window and go down six centimeters, that works too. And yet, Mr Porte looks pretty good on it so tell me, oh wise ones, what am I missing?



]]> 183
Les Choix Wed, 22 Jan 2014 22:56:24 +0000 A 10 speed cluster; too many choices or not enough? A 10 speed cluster; too many choices or not enough?

I’ve never been able to decide if choices are a gift or a curse; a lack of choices introduces simplicity but also with it the risk that the simple choices do not meet the demands of a complex world. An abundance of similar choices, on the other hand, often reduces the impact of getting things a little bit wrong, but also decreases the thoughtfulness in decision making. Finally, having many divergent choices mostly just leads to a lot of planning and ultimately indecision, assuming my experience in Corporate America is anything to go by.

These days, we tend to ride bicycles with 10 or 11 speed clusters made up of sprockets that are closely matched to their neighbors. This development removes the rider somewhat from the art of gear selection, a fact carried further by bar-mounted shifters; as  gradients increase and decrease, we glide from gear to gear maintaining our cadence with hardly any consideration given to the ratios hard at work for us. It is a beautiful freedom to ride like this, but it is also another degree of separation between rider and machine.

I recently read an interview with Sean Kelly, who was discussing his defeat at the hands of Greg Lemond during the 1989 World Championship Road Race. With only seven sprockets at his disposal over a route slightly too hilly for a rider of his ilk, he was faced with a difficult choice: spare the legs on the climb with a 25T at the bottom end, or hamper his sprint with a 13T at the top end.

Kelly faced a tough decision: mount a gear that would carry him over the climb to contend the finale with the handicap of a 13T, or overload the cannons on too big a gear for the climb and never have the chance to go for the win in the first place. He deliberated over the decision while training on the course and finally decided for the low gear. Kelly made it over the climbs to contest the sprint, but his 53×13 was hopelessly outmatched by LeMan’s monster 54×12.

More recently, the Cycling world was aflutter about Tony Martin’s choice to ride a 58T front chain ring during a time trail. This wasn’t a display of bravado but rather a highly refined choice of chain line: knowing the speeds he wanted to ride, he chose his big ring in such a size that would provide the straightest chain line in the gear he’d be riding in during the majority of the race. The result was less friction, and a Tour de France stage win under his belt.

There is an art to gear and cluster choice that is nearly lost with today’s expanding sprocket ranges, but it remains within our grasp if only we are willing to seek it out. Don’t settle for knowing the maximum and minimum size gears in your block; know exactly which gears you have across the board, and understand what sizes you’ll be missing and gaining when switching between 11-23, 12-25 and 13-26 – there is more to it than just taking one off one end and slapping it on the other.

It might not make any material difference to your Cycling, but it will show the quality of your character.

]]> 155
Reverence: LeMond Revolution Mon, 20 Jan 2014 22:34:41 +0000 The LeMond Revolution The LeMond Revolution

I read recently that a number of Pros like to ride the turbo for an hour or so before having breakfast in the morning to jump start the old metabolic system. Which means that now I ride the trainer for an hour in the morning before breakfast. I think the Pros probably do it to lose weight, and I do it partly for that reason but also to burn off the hangover which comes as a result of my status as a semi-professional drinker.

I used to ride an old Tacx trainer, but I found riding the device only slightly preferable to shoving bamboo shoots under my fingernails. Then I got a LeMond Revolution and now I actually look forward to my morning sessions. I’d been interested in the LeMond Revolution trainers for some time, but it wasn’t until I discovered that the device is based on a direct-drive trainer that Greg’s coach built for him in the 80′s that I decided to embark on my new morning ritual at the mercy of one. After all, if it was good enough to help LeMan become a Tour de France winner, then surly it was good enough to help me get less fat and become less of a weakling.

The first thing you notice about these little numbers that you remove the rear wheel from your bike and mount the Revolution in its place. This means no wheel slippage on the mag and what amounts to a remarkably pleasant ride feel. The second thing you notice about the trainer is that its bloody hard to spin up; I start crossed in a 53×26 and can hardly turn the pedals at first, but there is no way I’m shifting into my little ring on a trainer on account of my not being a giant sissy. The third thing you notice is that it’s actually fun to ride; I turn on some old Cycling movies and before I know it, I find my buzzer going off indicating the hour has already passed. I had no idea riding a trainer didn’t have to suck.

But lets be clear: we are road cyclists, and we ride on the road. A long ride in the cold wind and rain is preferable to even an hour on an indoor trainer. But trainers do represent an important training tool and as such should be a part of every Cyclist’s arsenal. I’m on it every morning, and as the season looms I’m looking to it more and more for intervals and power work. Not to mention that as I prepare for my Hour ride on Festum Prophetae, I’m training Obree Style on my Revolution.

Before we get too carried away with this indoor riding business, let’s review some examples of acceptable reasons to ride a trainer:

  1. Strength and/or interval training.
  2. Pedaling technique work.
  3. Hour Record simulation training.
  4. Pre-breakfast rides to help lose weight, assuming you still hit the road after breakfast.
  5. Recovery from injury.

Examples of unacceptable reasons to ride a trainer:

  1. Its raining outside and you don’t want to get wet.
  2. Its cold outside and you don’t want to get cold.
  3. Its windy outside and you don’t want to get blown around.
  4. Its cold and wet outside and you don’t want to get cold and wet.
  5. Its cold and wet and windy out and you don’t want to get blown around while getting cold and wet.
]]> 137
Guest Article: Rule #9 Festivus Fri, 17 Jan 2014 18:50:53 +0000 Antwerp at night  photo: S.N. Severinghaus Antwerp at night photo: S.N. Severinghaus

One of the finest things about Velominati is it attracts the crazy bastards. Cyclists are slightly unhinged anyway but there are more than a few out there who have no fear. Crazy is not constrained by nationality. Crazy knows no borders. Sure the Randonneurs would do this just to make sure they were happy with their choice of headlamp strap but @bas is not one of those. 

Rapha and Strava sponsor something called the Festive 500. Ride your 500 km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve for bragging rights and a stinkin’ badge. If you live up North, this is a noteworthy thing to do. Most don’t try to do it all at once, that would be crazy.

VLVV, Gianni

On December 24th, me and three riding friends embarked on a trip from Paris to our hometown of Haarlem in the Netherlands. The idea was to see if we could ride all of the Festive 500 in one ride and ‘get it over with’. We picked a starting location that was approximately 500 kilometers from home and pretty much rode with it from there.

A friend and documentary maker decided that he wanted to see if he could capture us killing ourselves in front of his camera and shot the whole thing.

Click here to view the embedded video.



]]> 74
The First Ride Back Wed, 15 Jan 2014 14:36:53 +0000 Cookie, crumbled. Photo: Sirotti/Cycling Fans

It’s the ride you’ll do the most. The hardest ride you’ll ever do, too. You’ll do it so often that it should be easy, but it never is. Its frequency is such that it really should morph into all the other rides of its ilk, therefore negating the actual nexus of this necessary, evil ride. But it never does, it’s always stuck out there on its own, no matter what the duration between it and the next one is, could be months, could be only a week, but it’ll never leave, like that mate who stays for a couple of nights yet really should be paying rent after the first month, or at least offering a 20 for some food. This is the modus operandi of the First Ride Back.

As you get older, the FRB becomes more regular, unlike yourself. Jesus, my latest FRB really shouldn’t have qualified for its status at all, but such is the fickle nature of fitness at an ‘advanced’ age that just six days off the bike is enough to send one into panic, that the hard earned fitness is somehow leaving the body at a rate many times faster than it was acquired. Even with a pretty solid few months of riding under the belt, the effects of six days off, caused by an errant finger meeting a spinning disc rotor, sounded a death knell to me. A couple of opportunities came and went, adding to the mental mire as well as the (mainly perceived) physical one. Jumping back into the Tuesday night jaunt brought the daunt. Begging for hostilities to secede always falls on deaf ears, and plea bargaining for no hills is as well received as a stripper at Sunday school.

I recall reading an article by recently retired Baden Cooke some years ago where he spoke of his own FRB, an annual rather than weekly or monthly occurrence for him. Unlike mere mortals, he would no doubt have a pretty good base to draw upon, and even after a month or two off the bike (and probably partying hard as Cookie was known to do), he would still have the kind of condition most of us could only dream of. Yet he suffered the same mental and physical barriers as a normal rider does, but with a distinctly different approach, namely a 300km ‘hell ride’ from which he’d return some seven hours later with a sense that his season was now ready to start. A 50km jaunt with a couple of efforts thrown in seems almost laughable by comparison, but mirth never seems to enter the equation until the bike is racked and the celebratory beer is poured.

By the conclusion of the FRB, everything always seems much better, no matter how badly you’ve suffered, how far out the ass you were, what portion of your lungs you’ve coughed up. Just when you think you could take no more, the surVival instincts kick in and wring one, two, three last droplets of the Essence of V from within, and gives pride a swift kick up the ass for good measure. The next day you are renewed, and can’t wait to do it again.

Just not any longer than a week away, ok?

]]> 79
The Goldilocks Principle: Valve Stem Length Mon, 13 Jan 2014 20:37:35 +0000 Just Right... Keep it short and clean…

The Goldilocks Principle is under assault, balance is lost. Without balance, we are reduced to savages. Steerectile Dysfunction is spreading like wildfire; socks are quickly becoming knee-highs and the line between shorts and knickers continues to blur.

We spend considerable time making everything on our loyal steed fit and look perfect. Bar tape and tire color are carefully coordinated to frame and decals; the tape is wrapped and finished expertly. Saddles are positioned with a spirit level. Cables are cut to the shortest length possible to allow for smooth and friction-free braking and shifting. Cable ends are trimmed to the shortest sensible length. Tires are mounted with labels mounted directly above the valve. And yet the valve stems themselves have recklessly been allowed to grow ever longer.

The Prophet and De Vlaeminck didn’t ride around with 5cm of valve stem sticking out of their rims. Granted, they only had one length to choose from, but that one length stems were made in was obvious: as short as possible. Valve stems need to be managed just like everything else on our bikes. They need to protrude from the rim enough to allow for a pump head to be securely attached to it; anything more is ugly and dead weight. (Incidentally, if you are using a pump with a screw-on head like a Lezyne or Silca, then this means all you need is the threads of the valve core plus a few millimeters to allow for the head to securely thread on.)

For those among us riding deep section rims, forget the long-stem inner tubes. Buy tubes with 32mm stems with removable cores and use the shortest valve extender possible. Under no circumstances should one use an inner tube without removable cores. It is important, however, that upon removing the tube from its package and before installing it or placing it in your kit, that the core be removed and reinstalled using a small wrap of plumber’s tape; this will ensure that the core does not unthread with your pump head, causing a disappointing deflation of both spirit and tire.

Bring back the balance. Stop this long valve madness and get thee to your local bike shop for some fresh, short-stemmed tubes.

We are not savages, my children. We are the Velominati. Vive la Vie Velominatus.



]]> 100
Midwinter Metric Meiklour Cogal Report 2013 Sun, 12 Jan 2014 17:03:38 +0000 Home Sweet Home Home Sweet Home

The view from Strahlubnaig.

December 21st, 2013, at latitude 56 ½ degrees North, a little before 9am, and of course not fully light yet in this small corner of north west Europe, where the shortest day grudgingly gives us 6h 50m of what can be loosely described as ‘daylight’.

Of course, the Great Cloud Belt which seems to perpetually loom over Caledonia in winter gives a dull and watery light, even in the middle of the day, no wonder there are so many SAD bastards in this country.

So the scene is set, complete with a persistent rain which varies from icy cold to plain wet snow and sleet. And did I mention the wind ? Aye, we had wind and quite enough of it, thanks for asking.

I initially missed the meeting point, having failed to read the latest update from The-Farmer, but luckily spotted the other three brave and hardy souls as they were gearing up. It was great to meet the instigator of this merry midwinter jaunt, and of course there was the ever present Velomiscottie McCogal attendee, JohnB, who has failed to miss a single one (i.e. all four so far) and also present was all 6 foot five of CambellRae1.

Slightly disappointed at the turnout personally, but the last shopping Saturday before Xmas obviously had its attractions for some, or the VMHs had perhaps put their foot down, who knows, hopefully it was not the Neufesque weather conditions which was to blame ? A hardier bunch surely ?

So, promptly at V after 9 we rolled out, red lights blinking away as we left a wake in the sodden roads behind us. A fairly sedate pace to begin with, we ambled along for a bit letting the legs warm up and riding in two pairs, even the (shock – horror) fenders on the bikes could not fully limit the icy rooster tails behind, so we kept a decent gap.

It was pleasant to swap out paired riders as we went, getting to know The Farmer and catching up with the other lads. The route rolled up and down, traffic was fairly light, and the weather continued to keep us entertained. I stopped now and then to try and snap a photo, which was a challenge in the poor light and constant downpours. The odd comfort break was announced, the pace quickened and slackened, lights went on, lights went off. The kilometres clicked past, though for myself I was riding purely on V meter, and I always feel distance goes by a lot quicker when in a group.

Presently we approached the one main climb of the day up Glen Cochil, from the South, which tops out at around 405m, and is a pleasant 5km long, roughly. What had been a monsoon at the junction quickly became wet snow near the summit, adding to the enjoyment. The run down to Aberfeldy on the other side was a balance between speed and avoiding hypothermia, none of us having a dry copy of L’Équipe to stick down our fronts.

Reaching town a wee bit ahead of the chasing pack I went for some cash and then found a café, leaning my Focus on the front window, where the troops would see it, I thought. I ordered up some java and waited…..Seems they piled into a different café about 50m away, more fool me, they had found one with a log burning stove and better looking staff. Bugger. I eventually made contact (cell coverage was poor) and joined them for a hug round the stove, then we hit the road again for Part Deux.

As is normal after a decent stop like that, welcome as it was given the chill we all felt, it took a few km to warm up again, but the sky also brightened quite a bit, and what could be described as sunshine made an appearance ! This was a real psychological boost, along with us now following the mighty River Tay (the longest river in the British Isles) DOWN stream.

To avoid the busy A9 highway we used a combination of back roads, cycle paths and the odd CX inspired section, even coming across a closed gate. I was surprised JohnB didn’t vault it in proper style with his cyclocross rig on his shoulder.

Soon we passed through Dunkeld and could almost smell the mince pehs in The Farmers house. By this time were we ready for a wee seat and a seasonal snack, and upon approaching Meiklour I enquired about the distance covered, and was informed we would be shy of the 100 by about 2 or 3km. As a unit we all managed to find a bit of extra road, by turning around for a bit and also scooting past the finish point to circle back eventually, having surpassed the metric century mark. It would have been a shame not to.

A change of shoes, a dry fleece and a warm tuque on, we headed to The Farmers ranch, negotiating a few potholes on the track across his back forty, we were greeted by his best hunting hounds and a few chickens. Unfortunately we were all driving soon after, so no Belgian brews, but good coffee and festive munchies, we dissected the ride, congratulated one another on our Rule #9 efforts,and soon bid farewell and merry xmas. Cheers lads.



]]> 28
Beyond The Rules Fri, 10 Jan 2014 19:40:18 +0000 East Maui Pavé East Maui Pavé

Rules! Hear me fools: The Rules mark the beginning of the path to enlightenment, not the end. There are higher planes, expanding dimensions. Beyond the color of your bar tape exists a man, a mountain, and a bike. This is where the world begins.

Keeper Jim wrote this, reporting on his utilitarian climb of Mount Ventoux. He posts less than the rest of us, so he has less chances to sound foolish, so we consider him the wise one. He is. And he probably took a semester of philosophy as an undergraduate and reads real non-cycling books.

Jim’s words have been ringing in my ears. For better or for worse, Velominati is known for The Rules. A book publisher didn’t offer us a book contract on the collective wit of our far ranging, foul mouthed, unmoderated discussions of posts, no, it was The Rules, thanks. What started as an effort to whip a bit of discipline into the unruly hoards, is now heading toward 100 Rules. That’s a lot of Rules.

Thankfully, to alleviate some of the pressure for full compliance, some genius introduced the Masturbation Principle: if you are going to do it (breaking a Rule) no need to go online with the information and really, don’t send a selfie to your riding buddies either. These photos certainly don’t need to end up in your parents AOL account.

My late night stoned philosophical discussions earned me zero college credits. I know nothing about philosophy but in the great Velominati tradition, that shall not deter me from lecturing others about it.

Enlightenment, if you are open to it, can be found on the bike. It’s not found online, not even on Velominati. The word enlightenment has 1001 personal definitions. I believe if you can put your enlightenment into words, you are not enlightened. A word is a clumsy cudgel for such things. It is like real music, it’s power is so abstract, so deeply visceral, attempts to describe music in words only detract.

Get on a bike and ride, without ear-buds, without worry. Immerse in the physical work of climbing, descending, cornering, rolling across the landscape. Somehow, as Jim says, there can enlightenment there. Free your mind. One’s eyes can take in the beauty on this earth, breathe the air, smell it, hear it. Feel the sun, hear the insects, already, too many words. Climb Ventoux or ride your usual loop. For me, if that does not put me on the path to enlightenment, I don’t want it. Rebirth, heaven, hell, I can’t use them; they do not exist for me. A bike ride that gets me out of my skin, where my oxygenated brain takes in the world unfiltered, and leaves me changed, if only for a few moments, that I can use.

If The Rules get you on a bike more, then The Rules are useful. It’s all about the Ride, not The Rules.


]]> 80
Dirty Innovators Wed, 08 Jan 2014 18:00:58 +0000 Ahead of his time: Stephen Hodge shows off some new/old tech, Roubaix 95. Photo: Sirotti

Ok all you roadies, listen up. You’re not gonna like what I’m about to tell you, but it’s the truth. And sometimes, the truth hurts. You ready?

Road cycling owes a lot to mountain biking.

“You what?!” I hear you screaming at the monitor in disgust. “Road cycling has been around for more than a hundred years, and the mountain bike for about thirty!” Well, nice theory, but bikes were ridden on dirt long before their tyres ever saw a sealed surface. But this isn’t about the chicken or the egg, it’s about the way technology crosses over from one discipline to another, and how similar, yet different aspects of the same sport inter-breed, cross pollinate and spawn innovations that better the machines we ride and the kit we wear. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that sleek road machine you’re riding now probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our dirtbag cousins.

It all took off in the early 90s; the mountain bike was undergoing its own metamorphosis, rapidly dropping the ‘klunker’ heritage and becoming lighter, stiffer and racier. The geometry was changing from slack and raked-out head angles to more sharply handling, longer and lower front ends. A little like road bikes, granted. The first big change up front though was the oversized headset and steerer tube combo, dubbed the Avenger by Tioga, the first company to bring it to market. The steerer increased from 1 inch diameter to 1 1/8″, giving the front of the bike more precise steering and a more solid feel over rough terrain. Soon, Dia Compe came up with the AHeadset, doing away with the threaded steerer and headset in favour of a threadless system held together by a stem clamped over the smooth steerer tube. There’s not a road (or mountain) bike to be seen with a threaded front end these days.

Having a bigger steerer attached to rigid fork blades made some difference to the mountain bike, but even more was needed up front to tame the terrain and reduce the pounding that riders’ arms would take on proper off-road trails. While some weird and wonderful contraptions briefly held court (like the Girvin Flexstem, as terrifying as it was), the obvious solution was to borrow technology from the motocross crowd, and the first suspension fork for bicycles was born. The Rock Shox RS1 was as rare as hen’s teeth, but when one was spotted in the wild the geek-out factor went through the roof, and any rider lucky enough to have one bolted to the front of their bike would be accosted for twenty minutes and bombarded with questions about “how it works”. In the space of a year, there were three or four different iterations of suspension forks on the market, most of them completely unaffordable to the Regular Joes that rode in the dirt.

Looking back at the suspension tech of those days now, the word ‘archaic’ springs (pardon the pun) to mind. The modern mountain bike is an engineering marvel, and I’m as amped on new technology now as I was in the early 90s. The sport has continued to push the boundaries and is constantly evolving. And road cycling has benefitted greatly. We’ve all seen the Rock Shox Ruby forks that appeared on the bikes of Paris-Roubaix for a few glorious years, even taking a couple of wins in the Queen of The Classics. The MTB forks of the day were mostly heavy, elastomer sprung and undamped, giving the effect of a pogo stick on the front of the bike. To try and put one on the front of a road bike was preposterous at best, a blasphemous disaster at worst. Then there were the failed attempts at rear suspension which disappeared as quickly as they came. But riders and teams were willing to try anything to tame the brutal cobbles of the Hell of the North, and if you didn’t have a Ruby fork then you were behind the 8-ball straight away. The fact that the bike would bounce around under pedalling load on the smooth roads was outweighed by the comfort and control on the cobbles.

But roadies being roadies, the extra weight and inefficiency soon rendered the Ruby detrimental to the performance of the bikes… but that comfort was welcome. How to get some shock absorption and keep the weight low? Carbon fibre forks were conceived, giving a smooth ride up front on the stiff yet light aluminium frames that were taking over the peloton at the time (another innovation gleaned from the mountain bike). If it worked up front, then why not at the rear too? Carbon seatstays were bonded onto the back ends of just about every bike that came out in the mid 90s. If it worked for the fork and stays, then why not the whole frame? The carbon bikes so ubiquitous today were spawned from the need for a smoother ride, without the weight and complexity of suspension. Thanks, mountain biking.

Now, check out Hodgey’s helmet in the lead photo. Look kinda familiar? Well, helmets pretty much came from mountain biking, and the early examples looked just like that; round, few vents, not pointy at the back. And what do we have now? Round, sparsely vented, not-too-pointy ‘aero’ road helmets, that we are all crying about being ugly and unnecessary. But how cool does Hodgey look? Badass! It’s only a matter of time before we’re all wearing them, and possibly with visors. (In the 1999 P-R, several riders wore helmets with visors, including 3rd placegetter Tom Steels and Frank Vandenbroucke.) Okay, maybe I’ve gone too far there, but I saw a guy riding in an Air Attack the other day, and by Merckx did I think he Looked Pro! These helmets will be the norm sooner rather than later; after all, don’t we take our cues from the Pros?

There have been numerous advances that have come from mountain biking and are now seen as standard on road bikes; removable face plates on stems, wider profile rims, lightweight saddles, tapered head tubes, integrated headsets, external cup/press-fit bottom brackets, oversize bar diameters (and let’s not forget road disc brakes. You can’t fight it!). Black socks. Tall socks. If it wasn’t for the mountain bike and the innovators working in that industry, we might still be riding lugged steel frames with downtube shifters. Which would be ok with me, as long as I can still have my off-road wonderbike.

]]> 137
La Vie Velominatus: The Gifts of Rule #9 Mon, 06 Jan 2014 17:50:11 +0000 An early morning ride on <a href=Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy" src="" width="620" height="412" /> An early morning ride on Keepers Tour 2013. Photo: Brett Kennedy

We’re not really supposed to have favorites, but everyone does. Just ask your parents. So while I’m not supposed to have a favorite, I do, and its Rule #9.

Bad weather immediately separates the wheat from the chaff, and so the weekend warriors stay indoors and leave the roads to the devout. I talk most often about riding in the rain, with the drops of water dripping from my cap acting as my personal metronome as I carve a path through the chaos towards a happier self. But sunny days in the cold can provide their own glorious solitude.

On Keepers Tour 2013, we had unseasonably cold weather, and some of the best rides we had were early morning spins before heading off to the races. With the sun hanging low over the horizon, we rode through our frozen breath, together in close formation yet each of us retreating inward as we steeled ourselves against the cold. These were beautiful, peaceful rides.

This winter in Seattle has been relatively dry, but also cold. On the weekends, the country roads are nearly deserted and all that is left is the silent, still air and the burning of cold air as it enters my lungs. On a recent solo ride on Whidbey Island, I spun down the same roads which only a few months earlier I had ridden with friends on the annual Whidbey Island Cogal. The island seems a full place then, now it looked like an entirely different place – empty and beautiful.

There is something about the way the bike handles in the cold. The tires are firmer, the rubber less supple. The connection between bicycle and road seems simultaneously harsher and more fragile than in the warm. The muscles in my arms and hands are also more twitchy in the cold. Not twitchy like I can suddenly sprint; twitchy like I have difficulty controlling what they are doing – where normally I pride myself on holding a clean line, in the cold a small bump in the road might trigger a spasm that sends the bike into a wobble. Its an exciting way to ride.

Quiet roads, a still harbor, an early morning sunrise; these are the gifts reserved for those who ventured out when others stay in. These are the gifts of Rule #9.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 148
Guest Article: Breaking the Rules- A Note on Rule #50 Fri, 03 Jan 2014 19:33:42 +0000 Urs Freuler Urs Freuler

I have no dog in this fight but @Henrik does. I can’t swim in the serious ‘stache growing gene pool. And yes, it’s already Vajanuary, we left Mo’vember with nary a nod, why, because it’s stupid. Rule #50 could have included having the last name Freuler and wearing the prison stripped Atala kit as the second exception for facial hair, for he was a stud. I could be accused of putting too many photos of him on this site already and to that, I would plead happily guilty.

VLVV, Gianni

Personally I consider myself an enforcer of The Rules constantly (though admittedly with at least an effort of subtlety) correcting friends and family over issues such as how to wear their shades, sock length, or the the dreaded long-tights-short-sleeves-combination. However, complete compliance with The Rules is hard. I have on several occasions been caught with a premature aero tuck (I defend myself with the need to practice) and back in the day I have also been seen rolling around in unforgivably hi-viz jackets and jerseys.

More recently there is only one Rule that I regularly and willingly break: Rule #50. The no facial hair rule. This Rule states that the only facial hair allowed is a goatee and then only if your name starts with Marco and ends with Pantani. I have neither goatee nor the appropriate name and thus my moustachoid appearance is in clear violation.

But this transgression is not just mindless ignorance, I do have feelings about this Rule. Currently—and admittedly for quite some time—facial hair is a rarity in the pro peloton. There are of course the comedy moustache of Dave Zabriskie (which wasn’t particularly nice looking), Wiggo’s now-shaven sideburns, and the slight and youthful pencil-moustache of Lochlan Morton. Otherwise, it is a rarity (though out of competition ‘staches can be spotted regularly, see the “Movember” article on Cycling Tips). In the history of cycling, and especially in the early days, things were quite different. Maurice Garin had moustache of course, and so did many of his contemporaries. As was pointed out on Velominati, Urs Freuler wore a cyclo-stash proper thoughout his career. One could go on here but I choose not to and instead refer the reader to said article. Although there is a plentitude of historical prejudication to draw from that might instill lenience on the application of this Rule, that is not my point.

I do my best to ride all year around, in direct conflict with the place which I call home. I am a Swede currently living on the windy, and fertile plains of the south. It doesn’t get quite as cold down here as further north, but the weather is hell by any measure you choose. Every winter has snow, albeit to varying degree. Sometimes it lays around for months on end, other winters it will quickly rain away. However, since the temperature often hovers around freezing one usually will often go on rides where part of the route is snowy, part is slushy, and part is just plain wet. The relative lack of forests and flat landscape also does little to stop the winds. The summers are plenty windy but fall and winter is much worse, especially with the frequent storms. The intermediate position of southern Sweden also promises much darkness, there will hardly never be the kind of snow cover that provide some reflective light, but the days are still short, which means a lot of riding in the dark. In the last couple of weeks I have ridden in complete darkness (this is a component in almost every ride), 15 cm of snow, 25m/s winds, 1°C temperatures and relentless rain, and so on. It is impossible to stay warm and dry and one will often come home after a few hours with no sensation in hands and feet. In other words: Rules #5 and #9 comes to mind.

So the point is, one should consider The Rules not as completely set in stone, the different principles can influence one another, and compliance with some Rules can earn you the right to break others. The many hours spent freezing my nuts off, sliding across ice and slush, on dark and windy afternoons have earned me the right to sport a moustache.

]]> 77
The 2013 V-Moment of the Year Wed, 01 Jan 2014 20:18:34 +0000 Fabs over-drafts the V-Bank account. Fabs over-drafts his V-Bank account. Photo: @The Engine

2013 was The Year of The Anti-V. In every other year, the Velominati Cogclave to decide The V and The Anit-V awards is full of curses and thrown pint glasses, usually in defense of each of our chosen V-Moments. 2013 saw the same scene, except this time it was for us having too many competing Anti-V Moments and when it came time to discuss the V-Moment, we sat around, staring at our cogs like we were first learning to shift gear.

Was there actually a V-Moment of the Year this time around?

It was a year that started strongly with The V. It flowed through the early season races, and as we made our way to the first Monument of Milan Sanremo, it unleashed its fury upon all those who dared start the race. The V can be an intangible thing, manifesting itself in other Rules as it did that day in the form of Rule #9.

As The V is wont to do on some occasions, however, its ferociousness drove back the intensity of the racing and the finale was almost anti-climactic to the scenes witnessed during the race. Then we were into the cobbled classics and again we were witness to the iron fist of The Nine, though this time in the form of cold but dry weather. Brett and Frank were there along with Pavé Cycling Classics and the Keeper’s Tour 2013 attendees to feel its awesome might first-hand. Cold cobblestones are less forgiving than warm ones, in the sense that the Emperor is less forgiving than Darth Vader.

The classics closed with excellent but forgettable racing in the Ardennes Classics, even if Dan Martin won a magnificent Liege. But then the season faltered; first with the Giro which was a complete snooze-fest, starting with Brad Wiggins guzzling a bottle of expired Anti-V before riding a slip-n-slide down a mountainside, then with Nibali riding so well we had not choice but to resent his dominance.

Then the Tour warm-up races passed under the radar as they normally do before Froome put us all to sleep at the Tour in the same manner Nibali did at the Giro. Both Nibali and Froome’s wins came at no fault of their own, but let me momentarily show some dirty Schlecky Love and state that both those brother better meditate extensively on The V and Nibali better show up fit at the Tour because the lap around France really needs some competition for the top step – I’m tired of resorting to watching the fight for second and third to try to find anything interesting.

A few mid-season races followed before what would have been an absolutely gripping Vuelta were it not for the fact that it was the Vuelta and only a handful of us even noticed that a 41-year-old American wound up winning. A Pacific-Northwestener, no less. That gives the good ol’ You Ess of Aye a win in every Grand Tour. But because of its unfortunate nature, no one gives two shits about the Vuelta – not even enough enough shits to garner the victor a contract for 2014.

Then the Worlds rolled around and The Anti-V was once again in full bloom. The Brits, whom you would think could ride in the rain, all fell off and called their mothers to bid them a good day before retiring to the team car. Then the Spanish had things dialed in before they all dropped the soap and let a Portuguese rider become the least-deserving World Champion since Ale Ballan.

I don’t want to sound too negative, but that’s a lot of Anti-V, right there. Loads of it.

In the final analysis, it comes down as usual to the Cobbled Classics. I was buying frites in the field by the Oude Kwaremont when I looked up and saw Boonen riding a wheelchair out of a hospital. Bugger that, I thought. Probably some sappy retrospective. Nope, Tom boned a fucking signpost and ruined his season. But then Fabs and Sags went shoulder to shoulder on the Paterberg, which was a pure, unadulterated showing of The V. Two men well versed in suffering and pain, drag-racing up a near-vertical cobbled lane. After the race, Fabian stated that he didn’t really attack Sagan; they had both gone full gas up the hill – he had just gone full gas for longer. That’s an “Instant Classic Hardman Quote” if I’ve ever heard one.

Then it was on to Roubaix the next week. Fabian crashed a few times in training, which is really embarrassing, especially if you’re Swiss and you know chicks are looking at you. The race itself saw an awesome fight, with Faboo off his best and the field knowing it. They took the fight to him, and he was outnumbered all the way. Omega-Pharma Quickstep entered the critical Carrefour de l’Arbre with two riders – Vandenbergh and Stybar – in the four-man group with Fabs and Sep Vanmarcke each to fend for themselves. Sadly, the drunken crowd accidentally intervened and knocked both OPQS riders out of contention.

From the Carrefour emerged two riders, and they fought it out in the famous Roubaix velodrome.

We are often witness to Cancellara laying down The V, but we are rarely witness to him laying on the ground after an effort. He was Off Form but On V that day; he raced with his mind and used it to get what he needed from his body. Into the Velodrome, he didn’t lead as is customary for him. He played cat-and-mouse like every other intelligent rider might. He waited. He even used the banking of the velodrome to his advantage.

He had an imperfect body that day, but he was more determined than any other rider to win. And, through a near-crippling application of The V, he prevailed against stronger riders who had the courage to take the fight directly to him. That, my fellow Velominati, was the V-Moment of the Year.

And, Coppi New Year to everyone.

The Tour of Flanders 2013

The Runner-Up Moment: Fabs drops Sagan in a drag race up the Paterberg.

]]> 87
The 2013 Anti-V Award Mon, 30 Dec 2013 21:21:14 +0000 Roubaix photo-Jakob Kristian Sørensen Roubaix photo-Jakob Kristian Sørensen

We reflect on another year of cycling; who has been naughty and who has been nice. The rusty chain award used to go to the biggest tool of the year but that has been folded into The Anti-V award. In years past the rusty chain award usually went to the present day dopers. Multi-year winners like Danilo “triple threat” Di Luca would now be eligible for The Anti-V award. To finally earn a lifetime suspension which should have been issued after his last infraction, that is something. To bring down a whole team because of his cretino behavior, that’s impressive. How many riders, coaches and support staff on Vini-Fantini Selle Italia lose a living because of his bad brain? But really, enough of him and his 2013 doping colleagues, let us leave them behind.

For those who did not read the Freddy Maertens recent interview, please do so before 2013 expires. It’s important to be reminded how tough he and his competitors were. They were racing more and being paid much much less. We have to admire how much Rule #5 was fueled on passion alone. This brings us to another personality in the running this year, Abandy Schleck.

We cannot criticize an injured rider. One can only compete at the professional level with mind and body working in harmony. Abandy seems to be suffering on both sides of the equation. We can criticize him for his lack of professionalism before he was injured. If you are a terrible time trialist and you want to win a stage race that might include time trials, you really should be working at that, even if it slows your awesome climbing talent. Contador was an impressive stage racer when he beat Cancellara in a TdF TT. Ha! When Freddy says today’s pros are paid too much and are too soft, he was winking at the interviewer and using international sign language to spell out “Abandy”.

Specialized threw itself in the running with it’s abysmal treatment of Dan Richter and Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio. CEO Mike Sinyard pulled Specialized out of the top spot for The Anti-V award with a personal apology to Dan and a promise to do business differently in the future. We take people at their word, let’s move on.

What really made us crazy was the notion that corporations have some legal rights to stop anyone to using the word Roubaix. Roubaix is a town in which the world’s most awesome velodrome decides the world’s most awesome bike race. Trek has a trademark on Alpe d’Huez and Specialized (and Fuji) have one for Roubaix? How clever of you. Well, keep it to yourself, leave the cycling community out of it. Cyclists made these places iconic, not lawyers so if want to have a slap fight over trademarks, do it in the privacy of your law offices. If you would like to do this in public, please make your argument in a bar in Northern France, in early April. You are not welcome to ride the secteurs of Roubaix on two wheels. Piss off. And yes, trademark lawyers, We are looking at you, you have earned both our incredulity and the 2013 Anti-V award.

]]> 75
Midwinter Cogal Report: Amsterdam-Utrecht 2013 Sun, 29 Dec 2013 15:27:18 +0000 Dutch Cogal Dutch Cogal

@Marco’s take

Somewhere midway, I realized: looking fantastic while riding batshit fast through unknown territory in Rule #9 conditions in mid-December is hard.

The shortest day seemed appropriate for a winter Cogal. It is what one does that day. With abundant Rule #9 conditions, one wouldn’t want to dwell too long upon it.

Only strong riders showed up around 08:45 in the am. We had our pre-ride espresso and duly left the fortified town of Muiden at exactly 09:0V. We headed South-east, riding two abreast, slightly hindered by the wind blowing with gusts of up to 70 km/h. It didn’t really rain yet. It was more of a refreshing drizzle. On our minds, among many things, were the fellow Velominati riding at that very same moment in Scotland. We were ready. Nothing was going to stop us.

After two hours we stopped for a coffee (and apple pie with whipped cream, as is customary in our peculiar, swampy country by the sea). Reinforcements were inbound. Two more strong riders showed up. Although they were not in for the full Cogal, their arrival was appreciated. Little did I know that these hard men would take my companion Velominatus and I on a rollercoaster ride through a breathtakingly beautiful piece of the Netherlands called the “Utrechtse Heuvelrug”. The climbs are not really steep, but they are long, plentiful and unrelenting. The pace was high, the turns at the front were full of intent and the weather seemed to worsen by the minute.

I punctured twice. Many comments were made, but both times I managed to slide in the new tube within five minutes. You don’t want to keep anyone waiting, right? The last hour and a half @Ruud and I rode back, helped by some tail-wind and cooled down by more serious rain.

After exactly 131 kilometers we arrived back in Muiden. With our Recovery Ale (Leffe tripel, what else?) we ate some ‘bitterballen’ (highly recommended to any and all visitors to the Netherlands) to replenish our protein levels. I had a fantastic ride with excellent company. I was proud to be part of what possibly was the first Cogal on the Old Continent.


Convener’s take

I needed my lights, as I set out for the meeting point a little after eight, and wondered who, if anyone, would show. The announcement on the site had brought no responses, and after a couple of dry days, the weather had turned wet and windy, though it was still fairly mild. So my high point of the day was seeing the-rider-currently-known-as-@Marco lift his bike from his car down the street from Café Ome Ko in Muiden. Of course there are Velominati on the old continent, you just need to make proper use of the site to bring them together. In Lage Vuursche (at the Vuursche Boer pancake restaurant once owned by team TI-Raleigh legend Gerrie Knetemann) Luuc “iron skull” Kooijmans and Wim “King of the Dolomites” van Heumen joined up. We wondered if the clip-on fender attached to the convener’s bike was actually permissible, but no one could remember a Rule explicitly banning these. On a wet outing in late December lasting a total of eight hours, the convener in any case was glad to have it. The same went for his waterproof socks. @Marco certainly agreed there, because he too was wearing a pair. Even though at times we got a nice, four-man rotation going, it soon became evident that in the circumstances, going all the way to the Amerongse Berg would be one or two hills too far. However, with brisk ascents of the Doornse berg (twice), the Ruiterberg, the Hoogstraat, and finally the riser toward Austerlitz to top it all off, we had nothing to be ashamed of. The Utrecht guys had it easy, because that middle part it hardly rained at all. The same cannot be said for the last 40k. Not that we complained. It was December 21; this was the first ever Cogal in Holland and possibly the entire continent of Europe; we were on it, embodying Rule #9; and with more than 100K under our wheels, we still felt pretty good. Only pretty good, however. Back in Muiden, while my companion put his bike in the car, I quickly went ahead to Cafe Ome Ko for a hot chocolate. I had to get back out there again, after all–ten more kilometers into the damp and rapidly moving air to get home–and it seemed like a good idea to ingest something warm ahead of the required malted recovery beverage. For me, the latter functioned more like Jan Raas’s famous “champagne bidon,” reportedly handed to him from the team car to boost his courage at the end of a race. I would not have felt the pedals those final kilometers anyway. An uncertain proposition only a few hours earlier, this Cogal had actually taken place, the weather had been most appropriate, and the company even better. Watch for us around June 21. Join us, if you’re actually serious about being a Cyclist.



]]> 19
On Rule #36: Cool Shades Fri, 27 Dec 2013 21:13:29 +0000 CharlyMottet

Forget quick-release skewer, the mechanical derailleur, carbon frames, or disc wheels. Never mind clipless pedals or brake-mounted shifters. Scratch those deep-section road wheels, lightweight helmets, or miracle fabrics.

The most important innovation in Cycling had nothing to do with those incremental advances, but rather with the invention of Cycling-Specific eyewear. To begin with, they allowed the Cyclist the privilege of being able to see where they were going, and avoided the indignity of having the eyes tear up on a descent. After all, no one needs to look like they’re crying because the speeds are too high. They also protect the eyes, saving them for important things like the admiration of the opposite sex.

Most importantly, however, they look cool as hell. And, as Paul Fournel rightly pointed out in Need for the Bike, to look good is already to go fast. To go fast, you need to look fast.

Oakley is widely considered to be the pioneer of cycling-specific eyewear, but others were doing Merckx’s work in that avenue at about the same time. While Greg LeMond and Phil Anderson were leading the arms race for the American eyewear specialist, another of my childhood favorites, Charly Mottet, was also busy sporting some prototype Rudy Projects and setting an early high water mark in the art of Looking Fantastic.

Once Cyclists sorted out that shades make you cool (we’re not as clever as rock stars), the late Eighties and early Nineties saw an explosion of rad eyewear in the peloton. Here are some standouts from the period.

]]> 56
Merckxy Christmas and Coppi New Year! Wed, 25 Dec 2013 23:25:23 +0000 Merckxy Christmas and a Coppi New Year!

To each of you in our Community, we’d like to thank you for making Velominati a worthwhile place to visit and be a part of. Velominati, as most of you know, is a passion project that is borne of our nights and weekends, to be juggled between full time jobs, family, friends, and our first love – riding our bikes. And it is only because of the Community’s great participation and injection of the spirit that embodies La Vie Velominatus that it continues to be a huge source of enjoyment and fun for each of the Keepers to maintain.

On behalf of the Keepers, we wish you all a very, very Merckxy Christmas and a Coppi New Year. Merxk bless you all; here’s to an even greater 2014.


]]> 34
Out of Darkness Tue, 24 Dec 2013 00:53:01 +0000 Original photograph by Latryx Original photograph by Latryx

The dark makes everything worse; something primal awakens in us when the sun has gone and we are wrapped in the black cloak of night. Laying in bed, my worst thoughts and fears come knocking like some used-car salesperson who won’t leave me alone. There is no shutting down of this process, our imaginations are given free reign to do their worst.

Darkness makes the cold feel colder, and the rain more wet; it wraps us and removes all the visual cues that might otherwise distract us from their lightless work. This is a difficult time of year, when the days are at their shortest; we leave for work in the dark and return home in it too. It never leaves us.

Leaving for a ride at night takes the same sort of resolve that riding in bad weather does; you need not think about whether you want to do it; you simply set about kitting up, and then placing one foot before the other until you’re standing outside with your bicycle at your side. Then you pedal.

Riding at night puts me in an cocoon of isolation, there is life inside the cone that spills from my headlight; beyond its borders I do not know what creatures and thoughts dwell – I don’t need to know. There is only the small triangular section of road within the cone. Like a carrot spurring on a donkey, perhaps if I push a little harder on the pedals, I can overtake the far edge of the light and explore what lies beyond.

Winter Solstice is behind us now, and for the next half year, our days will get longer. Though the days will remain dark for some time yet; each coming day will be a little bit longer until finally, the headlights will be put away. Until then, I will ride inside my cone when I need to, and cherish daylight rides when I can.

]]> 34
Rolling with Rule #80 Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:50:57 +0000 Fake Cigarette optional photo: E. Keller photo: E. Keller

Always be Casually Deliberate, even when riding.

You have just attacked off the front to take a town line sprint. It was a just-the-perfect-amount-of-dumb yet successful move. You went deeply anaerobic for a sprint no one else was even mildly interested in, but you did crush them unrestrainedly.

Now, to hide your effort, you deploy the Rule #80 Casual Coast. Left hand on the bars, right hand resting on the thigh, right pedal up to raise the right thigh to armchair height. You coast along as your awesome sprinting momentum eases and the group rolls up. You are a picture of relaxation and confidence. You drift left and regard them as they ride up on your right. Your body language says one thing.

Let that be a lesson, jongens.

My old friend and LBS owner, George “Lefty” Sykes has taught me many cycling things over the years. He invested too much time, swearing and frustration drilling us in the perfect double pace line. The Casual Coast was never mentioned but George was a master of this move. I discerned this posture was as important as riding a double pace line though no one was going to pull me off the road and lecture me about it. This was not a skill, this was just cool. We cyclists don’t do much coasting but this an awesome way to recover and survey your fellow riders from a position of power and relaxed confidence.

]]> 80
Of Course, But Maybe Wed, 18 Dec 2013 17:55:56 +0000 You don't Look this Fantastic by being sensible all the time. You don’t Look this Fantastic by being sensible all the time.

I’m a naturally loud and weird person who expresses excitement through volume. Also, alcohol is supposed to be a depressant, but it doesn’t appear to work for me; all it does is make me happier (and louder) – until I have a little too much at which point I get weirder (a too-happy, too-loud kind of weird). But being happy person also means you must be a little bit stupid; if you’re smart and paying attention you should be a bit pissed off at something.

Happiness is easier to find if you don’t sweat the nuances of your convictions, something most religious people have already discovered. As soon as you start peeling back the onion on your principles, you’re just going to find things that don’t line up; things that don’t line up invariably lead to questions, questions lead to thinking and suddenly what started off as a simple belief is starting to look an awful lot like work. From this perspective, atheists have it easy; there are no layers when the answer to every question is, “Life’s not fair, deal with it.”

On the other hand, its a lot of fun trying to find balance within contradictions, which is true for my chosen religion, Rule Holism. Some of The Rules build on each other, while others appear to be in conflict. But The Rules lie at the beginning of The Path to La Vie Velominatus, not at the end; learning to balance them against one another and to welcome them all into your life as a Velominatus is a never-ending struggle waged between form and function as we continue along The Path towards transcension.

These struggles are characterized by those things we know are right and those things we want to be true, something dubbed Of Course, but Maybe by Louis C.K. Here are a handful of examples that I regularly flirt with.

  1. It is very important to watch our diet over the holiday season. Of course. Weight is much easier gained than lost, an effect amplified with age. Of course, we should use restraint and not eat and drink too much over Christmas, especially as we enter the winter months and our inclination is to put on weight like a hibernating bear. Of course. But maybe gaining weight just before we start preparing in earnest for next year is a great way to gain fitness, using Gravity Assisted Resistance Training to build strength. Of course, putting enough weight on in December to cause adult-onset diabetes is a stupidly dangerous idea. Of course. But maybe its the only way to really get strong for next year.
  2. Whenever we go out riding, we should bring plenty of food and water to make sure we don’t get dehydrated or suffer la fringale. Of course. But maybe, becoming severely dehydrated effectively raises your hematocrit and being malnourished is a great way to lose weight – both of which would make us better climbers. Of course its dangerous and counter-productive to lose weight this way and we should really improve our climbing by training and dieting properly. But maybe not eating or drinking on one ride is easier than changing dietary habits and eating sensibly.
  3. Cycling is a lifelong undertaking, the practice of which is extended immeasurably by retaining the function of your knees. It therefore follows that to ride a compact is to spare your knees and will extend your ability to ride into old age. Of course – of course; it is reasonable to try and save the knees. But maybe boasting about scaling the neighborhood leg breaker in the 53×17 will intimidate your foes into submission and forever cast you into local legend as The Big Ring Badass. Risking your knees for bragging rights would be foolhardy. But maybe entering the local folklore is worth it.
  4. Whenever we are riding in dark or otherwise dangerous conditions, we should wear high-visibility clothing and employ the use of flashers and lights to make us stand out more to surrounding traffic. Of course; it would be foolish to risk our lives for the sake of fashion. But maybe all that hi-vis clothing just makes you more of a target. Maybe wearing something yellow awakens an ancient impulse in drivers to crowd anything offensively ugly. Of course, we should make ourselves as visible as possible, but maybe getting hit wearing a YJA is just a Traffic Fashion Nudge.
  5. We should always ride wearing a helmet. Of course. Riding without a helmet is foolish and flies in the face of reason. But maybe riding without a helmet, with the wind in your hair (assuming you have hair) or a cycling cap rakishly perched atop your head as you power up a brutal climb is worth the risk of a brain injury. Of course that would be reckless, but maybe we’re not really using our brains anyway.

It goes without saying that with the exception of the Helmet bullet, the Maybe invariably wins out.

]]> 86
Anatomy Of A Photo: Life Is Beautiful Mon, 16 Dec 2013 18:00:38 +0000 Life is beautiful.

Guido went to extraordinary lengths to shield young Joshua from the horrors of the war. On the way to the camp, a bicycle race passed their truck. As the riders, themselves escaping a life of grim toil, dirty and sweaty from the effort of heaving their heavy steel bikes up the col, rode by, Guido lifted his son from the truck and placed him onto the road.

The crowd clapped and yelled encouragement to their heroes, and the riders responded by rising from the saddle, straining to turn their big gears over as the slope steepened. Strange men ran alongside the riders, and the cars honked at them to get out of the way. A broad smile lit up Joshua’s face, and it was at that moment he knew that he too wanted to race a bicycle. Suddenly, as quickly as they appeared, they were gone. The crowd dispersed, silence returned, the truck continued on.

But for those few minutes, life was indeed beautiful.

]]> 49
Guest Article: Coming Back Fri, 13 Dec 2013 18:56:40 +0000 photo-SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL photo-SAUL YOUNG/NEWS SENTINEL

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, this off-season is the time for rest and repair. The body and bikes need some extra refurbishment. It’s fun fixing up the bike; buying new bits in the bike shop is easy. It’s not as much fun fixing up the body.

VLVV, Gianni

I’d been putting it off for months; the minor surgery that I knew would force me off the bike for two weeks. First it was put back due to me preparing for the season, then of course, it was put off by the season itself. I don’t race, but there were numerous big days planned and a weeklong pilgrimage to the Dolomites that wasn’t about to be scuppered. I determined that the best place to afford two weeks downtime was at the very start of November, ahead of my launching in to serious preparation for 2014.

And so it was that on November 1st I found myself under the knife. I’m not going to go in to details of the procedure, but suffice to say that Tom Boonen would empathise and I’m not talking about my elbow. I knew full well that riding was not going to be possible for those two weeks. Well, sods law often comes in to play when you least need it to and so it was with me. Two weeks after surgery and healing wasn’t happening. Infection had set in and the medical folks were prescribing antibiotics and telling me that “in these circumstances we recommend that there is no exercise contemplated for another month.” What?  That would take me to mid-December at the earliest and they weren’t guaranteeing anything. At this point, I needed large applications of mental Rule #5 and regular talkings to by my coach as I was already having very bleak thoughts about a season being lost, which at forty-seven years of age, is not a good thing. There are far more seasons to look forward to at twenty-seven than at forty-seven!

Then came the hallelujah moment. The medication quickly started to kick-in and I started to see light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The day after I’d been incredibly fortunate enough to meet Sean Kelly, I determined to get on my turbo for the first time and spend no more than thirty minutes spinning at the lowest resistance that bastard machine could manage. The weirdest thing was, as I was dressing for the session, slipping in to bibshorts and jersey for the first time in a month, I felt as nervous as a kid on their first day at a new school. Maybe it was the weight of expectation I’d built up – this was either a restart or dead stop situation in my mind.

The session went well.  Really well. Painful at times but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Over the next week I spent time on the turbo each day; pain subsiding, time gradually increasing. I started my core routine again; one set rather than three to take it easy.

Then the big day came, 6th December, five weeks since the procedure. I was going to get out on the road for the first time. The previous day we’d had serious storms in the UK but I awoke to calm weather, cold with clear blue skies in south east England. Regardless of it being winter I shaved my legs and donned my Flandrian Best of V Kit, gilet, cap under my helmet, arm and knee warmers and headed to the garage. I may have been about to do myself no good at all, but I was going to be sure to look good doing it. Again, that nervous feeling that is stupid after only five weeks kicked in.

I set off on a local loop, and suddenly found myself immersed in sensations that I can easily forget when I’m riding as normal. The sound of birds and the breeze, the smell of early winter; damp leaves at the side of the road, dewy verges, car fumes lingering on the air, the sound of my tires on tarmac, the sound of my breathing. They were all an affirmation of what was happening. I was on my bike, on the road, not in bad pain, turning the pedals very gently, training properly and smiling my face off! I only rode for an hour. I admit I was tired at the end of that. It’s very true about how quickly you can lose condition but equally true about building up gradually.

I haven’t written this as some kind of self-congratulatory text but as a nod to the wonderful process of coming back; of returning to cycling, to this that we love, of flushing away the dark demons that so easily creep in to our minds. I’ve made a start, nothing more than that. But I’ve made that start and there are endless roads and mountains to look forward to. For any of you either off the bike or knowing that you will be at some point in the future, try to think positive and look forward.  It’s damn well worth it. Thank you cycling.

]]> 54
The Legend of @Dan_R and Café Roubaix Wed, 11 Dec 2013 19:30:49 +0000 A pair of Café Roubaix Arenbergs, with the original “Richter” branding.

Although he was already an active community member, I began my friendship with Dan Richter in early 2012 after he reached out to me regarding some wheels he wanted us to take along on Keepers Tour: Cobbled Classics 2012. At the time, he was an amateur wheel builder making some money on the side selling his wheels on eBay. Like many of us in this community, his heart tends toward the classics and the roughest roads around, and the wheels he was focussed on were largely classic wheels designed for rough riding.

Having read that I had built myself some wheels (three times, before I got it right) for the trip, and he wanted to see if his wheels would be able to withstand the torture of the cobbles of Northern Europe. We chatted about it, but the project never came to life as the wheels were damaged in an accident just before he was due to ship them off to me; with no time left to rebuild them, I left for France without a set of his wheels in my luggage.

But we kept up our communication and by the time I got back from the trip, he’s made up his mind to open a bicycle studio in Cochrane, Alberta, named Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio in homage to the greatest and toughest race in the world, Paris-Roubaix. I love seeing friends take a chance on starting a business, not to mention one built around Cycling; I was overjoyed at hearing the news and immediately offered any assistance we might be able to provide via our humble little community.

Fast forward a few months to November 2012 and delivery to my house of a set of Richter-branded carbon tubular wheels laced in a 3x pattern with bladed spokes; quite simply the most stunning wheels I’d ever laid eyes on, and shockingly light. With their lacing pattern, they were designed for Cyclocross but had an obvious use as wheels for the cobbles as well. I raced them the rest of the season before having an issue with one of the hubs. Dan quickly crossed that supplier of his list and sent me a replacement pair of wheels, this time co-branded with Velominati. These wheels were bullet-proof and carried me down the trench of Arenberg and every other cobbled road we hit during our 9-day trip.

In the meantime, I’d also commissioned a prototype climbing wheelset from him for my third attempt at not sucking on Haleakala. I still sucked, but I sucked a little less because the wheels were so insanely light and stiff; Dan immediately dubbed them the Haleakalas and offered them for sale as a standard wheelset through his studio.

But there was a nagging bit of feedback I kept getting from people who saw me out on the wheels, “Hey, how do you like those Ritchey wheels?” They’re not Ritcheys, they are Ricthers; read, you dumbass. (As I’ve said before, my natural charm has made me a good sprinter.) I brought the feedback that there might be some brand confusion to Dan over coffee one afternoon when he happened to pass through Seattle; after some brainstorming he decided to brand them after his shop’s fantastic name.

Every man needs a partner, a tailor, a wheelbuider and I’m proud Dan has been my official wheelbuilder for a few years now; his wheels are the best I’ve ever ridden and I’m grumpy any time I have to ride other wheels. It was only natural, then, that this past summer, we started working on an exciting project to co-brand a premium bespoke wheelset which would be available for sale to the public. KRX-10, Velominati’s trusty Graphic Designer, produced the most stunning design imaginable, before all our plans evaporated when Specialized sent the cease and desist letter. Velominati offered to publicize the matter, but Dan – the good guy that he is – decided to keep quiet and work it out between his lawyer and Specialized while laying plans to rebuild his brand from the ground up. It broke my heart to see his dream fall in shambles around him, but he always seemed to keep a good attitude and had confidence he would get back on his feet. He set about enlisting friends to brainstorm new names, and before long he was on his way to a fresh start.

Dan never asked for the outpouring from the Cycling community; he just gave an interview to a reporter who stopped by his shop and figured that was that. But within hours of its publication, the Cycling world went mad, launching into the biggest social media campaign I’ve ever seen around Cycling and one which Velominati were very proud to play some small part in. With the outpouring came the dropping of the lawsuit and, thanks to all of you in the community – not just here but in the Cycling world at large – Dan now has permission to continue using “Roubaix” in his shop name (although I’m not sure he can still use it on the wheels, we’ll have to ask him now how that works out legally.)

These past days, I have been more proud than ever to call myself a Cyclist, and I was just a bystander on the periphery of this amazing event – I can’t imagine how Dan feels. On behalf of all of us, we can not express our happiness and relief that this has worked out for a fellow Velominatus.

Vive La Vie Velominatus was ever thus.

]]> 88
From Café To Roubaix Mon, 09 Dec 2013 19:11:15 +0000 Frank’s favorite-ever wheels, the Café Roubaix Arenbergs.

Assuming you ride somewhere outside the borders of Antarctica, you have likely already heard about the injustice being imposed on our friend and fellow Velominatus, Dan Richter who goes around these parts as @Dan_R.

I’ve been riding Dan’s wheels for a bit over a year, and they are the best I’ve ever had. After hearing about the suit a few months back, I was proud to help him brainstorm some ways he might be able to salvage his brand or come up with a new one while admitting the court battle was out of reach.

But when the article broke in the Calgary Herald this weekend, all hell broke loose. It goes without saying the pride I feel whenever our community here at Velominati comes together for a good cause, but what went on over the last 48 hours was an unbelievable coming-together of not just us, but the Cycling community as a whole. Regardless of the final result, this past weekend made me proud to call myself a Cyclist more than ever, for we proved we not only love riding our bikes, but that we as a worldwide community have each other’s collective backs.

I had an article planned for today, one taking the piss out of ourselves and everyone else as we usually do. But it just didn’t feel right. Instead, I thought we’d post the Packfiller podcast from Bulger Media. This is my fourth time on the show, but this time Patrick (@packfiller) was able to get Dan on the call with us. It was fantastic to hear Dan still has his sense of humor and it was a pleasure share a good laugh with him.

Here’s hoping Specialized comes to their senses, observes Rule #43, and drops the suit. If not, we’ll stand in solidarity, never buying another Specialized product again. The good news is that either way, Dan will rebuild his brand and his shop will live on, stronger than ever. (Insert Shakespeare quote about names here.)

Its a long listen, but we cover the important Café Roubaix stuff early on. Enjoy. And Vive La Vie Velominatus.

]]> 152
A More Perfect Union-Phase One Fri, 06 Dec 2013 19:54:23 +0000 If only we would fit on an alignment table. photo-Seven Cycles

Hear ye, hear ye, get thee, and a mirror, to your indoor trainer. This is going to be a multi-part series on getting the rider and the ride to a more perfect union. Most of us have never been professionally fit for our bikes. An inseam measured, a glance at a reflection when riding by a store window is our bike fit. I’m not advocating  that, but it’s true for me.

My friend Dave and I have been both suffering with ride -preventing knee injuries. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, besides being lucky, you have been spared a trip into a deep and dark cave. This is the depressing cave that makes you ask a question you don’t have an answer for. If you can’t ride anymore, you are no longer a cyclist. If you are no longer a cyclist, who are you? That, fellow riders, is a serious question, and not one I want to address right here and now.

In the USA you go to your general practitioner doctor, who eventually hands you off to a slightly more qualified doctor. You moan enough to get x-rays and and MRI at 0.45 CWUs (carbon wheel units*) cost and an eventual appointment with most-busy orthopedic specialist. He, of course, tells you there is nothing he can see but he can send you to the physical therapist. Why did you know this was the answer already, four months earlier?

The  hospital’s physical therapist is not a cyclist and looks very skeptical when you inform him the “knee over pedal axle” axiom is rubbish. You go home with a page of exercises that address no obvious problem.  At this point the road diverges. You keep pestering doctors, you start listening to anecdotal, crap advice, or you try to fix it yourself.

Dave has done his version of this also. Dave is not as lazy as I and he spends untold hours with his rollers, kinetic trainer, weight bench, watt meter and a mirror trying to figure out what he can modify to fix his knee.

We spent a long session filming each other shirtless, in bibs, while riding our bikes on his trainer. This all felt slightly illegal and unseemly. I’m relieved that neither his girlfriend or the UPS guy came in during this.

The initial video shot from behind was a revelation. If Chris Froome looks like a spider humping a lightbulb, I look like Quasimodo hunching a washing machine. Are you kidding me? Damien Gaudin looks better on a bike than I do. Was I hit by a car and don’t remember it? Has no one bothered to tell me what this view from behind looks like? Dave admitted he wanted to but didn’t dare. Actually, it may be that out here in Hawaii, no one is spending that much time in my awesome draft, going uphill at 10 kph, or I ignore these remarks all together.

We video as we try shims under cleats, raising saddles, lowering saddles. All this seems like too much guess work, or we are working with just enough information to do further damage? There are a lot of tweaks that skate around problems we don’t understand.

As it turns out Dave is possibly harder to live with than I am while playing the role of injured athlete. His girlfriend explained this to the woman seated next to her at a dinner party; this person happens to be a sports physical therapist with the dual virtues of a lot of formal medical education and decades of experience fixing people. Phase two of this story will delve into what a Pro knows and how she works.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor. Get your bike on a stationary trainer or rollers and have someone video from behind as you ride with moderate resistance. The Pro put reflective stickers dots  and lines all over my legs but even a sharpie dot on the center of the knee cap and the center behind the knee will be useful. An iPhone and iMovie works just fine for some slow motion analysis. Alternatively, put a mirror in front of the bike so you can see your legs pedaling. One’s hips, knees and feet are working in a chain. The knee joint is a simple hinge that functions optimally when not going in four directions with each revolution, like mine.

Do your knees track directly over your feet, everything directly up and down, like dueling Swiss Bernina sewing machines? If yes, no worries, if no and you are not too old, it’s something to think about. The math is amazing; revolutions per kilometer times kilometers per year. Knees can absorb some misalignment, mine have for 36 years, but why wait until you are injured to seek the more perfect union?

*my CWU are based on ENVE 3.4 tubular rims and Chris King hubs, orange.



]]> 60
Gelukkig Sinterklaasavond Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:03:45 +0000 Today is a special day for two reasons. First, it is Sinterklaas Avond, an important holiday in the Netherlands and Belgium. Second, it marks the launching of a new feature for Velominati which we are calling the Kermis. 

A Kermis is a carnival usually marked by a criterium bicycle race held around the perimeter of the festival grounds. Because of its repetitive nature, we are applying this name to a new feature allowing us to post articles from our archives which we feel are worth revisiting, either to examine how our viewpoints may (or may not) have evolved since the article’s original posting or, as is the case today, there is simply a fun reason to repost a past work. You can access the original article and discussion via the links in the footer of the Kermis.

We hope you enjoy the feature, and we kick it off with this little view into one of the Dutch traditions I grew up with and cherish to this day. On behalf of the Keepers, I wish you a Gelukkig Sinterklaas.

Yours in Cycling,


Today is a pretty important day in the Netherlands (and Belgium). It’s the day we pull rank on those who only celebrate Christmas. While the rest of the world awaits December 25th for Santa to deliver a new bike, for the Dutch December 5th is the eve of Sinterklaas, or “Loot Day”, as I like to call it. Settle in for an uncharacteristic Velominati Cultural Lesson.

December 6th is Saint Nicolas’ birthday, and every 5th of December he and his “helpers” travel through the Netherlands to deliver gifts to all the boys and girls. In yet another example of the many ways the Dutch have shaped global culture, Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch name for Saint Nicolas, Sinterklaas.

Although the tradition of a Saint delivering gifts to children across the land is shared by both the American Christmas and the Dutch Sinterklaas, the style of the gift-giving is very different. My family being anything but “typical”, I can’t speak first-hand about how a typical Dutch family celebrates, but I am to understand it’s fairly similar to what my family did.

The evening starts off with singing various songs, among them “Zie Ginds Komt de Stoomboot” (“Here Comes the Steam Boat”), “Zie de Maan Schijnt Door de Bomen” (“The Moon Shines Through the Trees”), and the all-time classic, “Sinterklaas, Kapoentje” (I actually don’t understand this one; a ‘Kapeon’ is a castrated hen).

When we were children, my dad would leave the room after we sang to go “work on the car”, which conveniently always had engine trouble on Sinterklaas. Shortly thereafter, Zwarte Piet would throw pepernoten into the living room through open doors and windows. Flying Pepernoten had the effect of sending me into terrified hysterics. Most of my memories of this activity involve me hiding behind the couch, crying. This would also be a great time to remind Young Frank of Rule #5. (Little known fact: Zwarte Piet happens to be exactly my dad’s size and wears the same overalls as my dad uses for car work.)

After the pepernoten, we would sit down to fresh-baked rolls for dinner. To our perennial surprise, we would each discover a small, rolled-up note inside our roll. Upon the note was found a riddle, the answer to which revealed the location of the evening’s first gift. We would all scurry off around the house to retrieve our gifts and return to the table to open them. The meal was hastily finished before festivities could continue.

Traditionally, the Dutch also make what are called “Surprises” (pronounced “sur-pre-sus”) which consist of a gag gift and one or more clues which lead to the real gift, or a poem. A Surprise with a “gedicht” (poem) makes as much fun of the recipient as possible; no holds barred. Let me put it this way: sarcasm is not lost on the Dutch. We may have invented it.

In addition to a gedicht, a Surprise may also involve a gag-gift which needs to be disassembled in order to find the riddle that instructs the receiver of where to find their real gift. A classic example was my VMH’s first Sinterklaas with my family. At the time, she was working in a medical research lab as a lab scientist. She received her Surprise from my mother: a small, low dish filled with a green slime with a slip of paper at the bottom. Accompanying it was a note that read, “There’s something fishy in this here petri dishy.” She had to dig through the slime (we were told it was Jell-O) to get the note out and retrieve her gift.

What is particularly nice about this style of gift-giving is that it encourages the giving of thoughtful gifts. There is usually less gift-giving (the Dutch also invented stinginess), but everyone waits their turn and pays attention to the others while they open their gifts; gift giving becomes something everyone joins in to together.

So, as the rest of the world sits around waiting for Santa and his sleigh to deliver your loot; I’ll be spending my day trying to figure out how Sinkerklaas plans to disguise the Shimano Di2 ‘Cross bike I asked him for. And I hope his horse doesn’t crap on it.

To each of you, we wish you a Gelukkig Sinterklaas.

]]> 27
Evanescent Riders of the 90s: Laurent Dufaux Wed, 04 Dec 2013 14:30:55 +0000 Classic Larry.

The Skype conversation went like this:

Brett: “Remember Laurent Dufaux?”

Frank: “How can I forget? Twat.”

Brett: “What was that fucker on?  Always hanging on in the Alps, suffering like a dog but never once did he attack. Ever. Just always hanging on.”

And that was all that was said on the matter.

Our little Swiss friend seemed to be around in the peloton forever; he was there in the days of Indurain and Pantani. He was there when Ullrich and Riis ruled the roost. And he was still there when Gunderson was lording it over everyone. He hung out in teams such as ONCE, Festina, Saeco and QuickStep with the likes of Richárd, Aldag, Jalabert, Bruyneel, Virenque, Stephens, Zulle, Frigo, Mazzoleni, Pellizotti, Rogers and Museeuw, a fine collective of shadiness indeed. Yet he always flew just that little bit under the radar, perennially lurking at the back, in the shadows. At least that’s how I remember him racing his bike.

Little Laurie could easily qualify for a Riding Ugly post, with his  lurching, out of the saddle style, mouth agape, cheeks of a blowfish, face contorted like a twisted sandshoe as he grovelled up the big mountain passes just behind the main protagonists, shortly before popping out the back and losing just enough time to put him ever so slightly out of contention for a podium spot. Sometimes, he’d manage to stay hidden in the group and spring out at the last minute and take everyone by surprise to nab a stage win.

Larry led his life by the smallest of margins, a ‘so near yet so far’ kind of guy if ever there was one. He was generally Rule Compliant (except for the rampant doping, obviously), Survived on V for the duration of his career, and came out the other side with his reputation relatively intact. And for that, we salute him.

If only we could find him.


Larry’s palmares here…

]]> 34
The Elements Mon, 02 Dec 2013 19:56:11 +0000 T-Bone Farrar and Johan "Big Ring" Vansummeren ride in the elements. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta Farrar and Vansummeren study the effects of cold and reduced friction. Photo: Pedale.Forchetta

Water is an asshole, at least when it comes to bicycles. So is wind, now that I think of it; I don’t love it, unless its at my back, but that rarely seems to happen even on out-and-back routes. Fire’s not winning any prizes either, unless you’re talking about the hunk-a-hunka burnin’ V. Even le soleil isn’t scoring points for either the bike or the rider, unless given in carefully-controlled amounts, a fact which has large portions of the Pacific Northwest – perhaps the gloomiest place on Earth – buying up more high-SPF sunscreen and sunglasses per capita than any other place in the civilized world.

In other words, Nature’s a bit of a beyotch.

As far as our bikes go, water seems to be the biggest of these opponents. When I rode the 7-hour Heck of the North over clay-gravel roads in wind and rain; the wind was unpleasant but it left no indelible mark on me, apart from some sore muscles. The rain, on the other hand, combined with the clay from the roads to form a slurry that destroyed every bearing in my bike save one – not to mention the quarter cup of slurry that found its way into my chamois. The replacement bearings took a few weeks to source and install; the damage from the sandy chammy took over a month to heal. Water – and the additional wear it imposes on the machine (and sometimes our bodies), is not to be under estimated.

Water also introduces direct challenges while riding, the nuances of which can be explored while climbing or cornering by means of spinning out and crashing, respectively. Things get particularly interesting right around the freezing point, where the laws of physics governing cornering take on The Price is Right rules.

I have long espoused the merits of riding in bad weather; it removes the seductive qualities of riding a bike that see the weekend warriors flocking to the sport in droves during the summer months. In bad weather, the simple act of going out is already enough to make you feel the strength of your resolve as a Cyclist. But the fundamental pleasure of riding remains the same, with the added bonus of the clothing we wear making us look like the hardmen from Belgium and the dripping of water from our cycling caps serving as a metronome as we tap out our lonely path towards Mount Velomis.

We don’t ride because we love tree-lined boulevards and sunny afternoons; we ride because we love testing ourselves against our minds and the elements. There is a simple pleasure to be found in enduring a challenge; to learn to face hardship with a welcoming smile is a gift that riding a bicycle uniquely helps us discover.

]]> 136
2013 London Cogal Report or the Shipping Forecast Sun, 01 Dec 2013 19:23:23 +0000 Fully fledged Neo Pro @ChrisO attacks Box Hill Our resident Pro Tour Rider and Neo Pro @ChrisO attacks on Box Hill

I realise that I may never live this down, and that my reputation within the Velominati community will be damaged irreparably, but I’m out. – Anonymous AKA @936ADL

Despite the endless talk of tea and cakes, the inaugral London Cogal will be remembered for that other quintessentially English conversation point, the weather. Everything was looking fine with a week to go; my Sunday ride was a lazy afternoon roll out in summer kit without thought of woollen base layers or waterproofs.

A lot can change in a week and by the Saturday, I was beginning to wonder if I would be the only one at Admiralty Arch but I came close to a DNS myself when I managed to leave my front wheel at home. Fortunately, I left it in the garage rather than running it over and was able to make the start at 9.0V by driving into London rather than getting the train.

There may not have been as many people as originally planned waiting under for me under the arch but it was great see the familiar faces of @roadslave525 and @ChrisO as well as meet @Norm, @Teocalli and @Meursault.

@ChrisO’s take

“Yes but, was it fun ?” my wife asked, the day after the Cogal. That being the main thing in her eyes.

I had to say No, it wasn’t Fun. It was lots of things, but if that was fun then the definition needs updating.

That’s no reflection on the company, the route or really anything other than The Weather. It was utterly, horribly and unremittingly wet and cold for the entire day.

It turned the social and Casually Deliberate ride I imagined into the grim and relentless effort we endured, focused on the end not the journey. With my teeth in permanent lockjaw to stop shivering  conversation became difficult.

It would have been a glorious ride in even moderately nice conditions. Lush green fields at the end of summer, the view of the Downs from Box Hill, chatting sociably down country lanes flanked by overhanging forests to towns like Lurgashall, Gospel Green and of course our favourites Cocking and Lickfold.

There were things about the ride which were enjoyable of course. It was good to see Chris and Roadslave525 again after KT12, and to meet Teocalli, Norm and Meursault. Personally I was pleased to do my best time up Box Hill and I felt OK in terms of riding. And I have never been so happy to see a pub in my life as a I was when we got to our destination in Havant. Beer, food and warm dry clothes were a blessed combination.

In many ways it was a Very English Cogal, after all the weather is the prime topic of conversation for all good English men and women. I would gladly do the same route again with the same group, but just on a nice day next time please.

@Meursault’s take

I drew back the curtains pre dawn, and smiled at the rain. I got myself prepared with two new items of clothing, cap and half overshoes to add to my regular stuff. My ride to the station is only fifteen minutes, but I wondered how wet I would get, as I would have to take the thirty minute journey into London in those wet clothes. It wasn’t that bad, I even began to dry out. Leaving the station at Kings Cross, I turned left towards Euston, then South at Euston Square towards Charing cross. On this road a lost ambulance turned it’s sirens on about a metre away from me, waking me up a bit. I shouted some obscenities through is window. Even though he was responding to an emergency call, I didn’t see the point of adding casualties along the way. As I grabbed a coffee at Admiralty Arch, I saw the ambulance again still lost.

Five other brave souls joined me under the arch, and it was time for me to drool over some pretty cool bikes. It says a lot about the riders, that their responses were very understated to my gushing, just polite acknowledgement. We allowed some V+ time due to the poor weather, but there were no latecomers. Also no South London attendees at Tooting, I think the rain must have washed them out.

At about 25k out, and the first small hill, it became obvious to me, I was going to struggle for pace. The other guys hit the hill and didn’t change pace, I immediately fell out the back. During the lead up to the cogal there was some talk of two groups, of which, I was hoping to bring up the rear of the slower one! I average about 22 kph, so anything above that would take it’s toll on me. At the cafe up Box hill, I said to the guys, I would be happy for them to go on ahead, I had gps so it would be fine. I was becoming a bit self conscious as the guy at the back, and did not want to ruin anybody else’s ride. The guys wouldn’t hear of it, and dutifully waited for me on the hills and ChrisO rode most of them twice coming back to ‘Porte’ me back on.

It was while on a climb through Winterfold forest, that I lost the group, and my gps reported off course. I doubled back and took a right. I expected that the group would either be up ahead, or if they had gone off course, they would re-route back on course and come by me. After about another 20k or so, it became obvious we were separated. I was OK with this, as it meant I could continue at my snail pace.

On a fine day, this route through countryside and woods would have been extremely beautiful, but the relentless rain painted everything grey. Passing through very small villages, there was a distinct lack of coffee shops, so was glad to see a small post office/general store at the village of Cocking. While shivering eating a pastie, I didn’t feel the situation was amicable to embark in schoolboy humour regarding village names. I am ashamed to say, I also got off to walk on two steep climbs. On both I was unable to see the summit, and this took the fight out of me, as I was now caught in a low place, trying to generate heat but running low on energy. At a T-junction out of the woods, I saw a sign saying Havant 3 miles. My heart lifted a few beats.

It didn’t take long to negotiate Havant town to the waterfront, then The Royal Oak pub. The staff gave me a very warm welcome, but I was surprised to have arrived first. About twenty minutes later, everybody else arrived, and we settled into some warm food and Recovery Ales.

It was ride I won’t forget, meeting some great guys, chapeau to you!

PS Did I mention it was raining?

@Norms take

As my rain lashed train pulled into London it was clear that it was going to be a long tough day in the saddle. A quick ride on deserted city streets got me to Admiralty Arch and after brief introductions the six of us pointed our bikes in the direction of the coast and headed off.

We made slow wet progress out of London and I struggled to find any sort of rhythm. We’d only covered around 20km in well over an hour when doubts started to fill my mind. I thought that due to the weather we would never make it to Havant before dark and we’d be forced to abandon the ride somewhere along the way. For a good 10 minutes I considered how to ditch out and which train stations on the route would get me home. Luckily, these thoughts passed and my legs decided to show up as we crossed the M25 into the Surrey hills, from that point on I felt good all day.

I’d not ridden Boxhill before and it lived up the hype it receives, it’s a great climb, not too difficult but still really rewarding. After quick refreshments (but no cake) at the National Trust Cafe we were off again into the unrelenting rain. The road up to Ranmore Common was like riding through a ford, a stream of water deeper than my tyre and rim covered the road. Annoyingly, I flatted on the climb from a shard of flint washed out of the woods and it took me ages to fumble on a new tube with cold wet hands.

We pushed on to the amazing long draggy climb through Hurt Wood but here we managed to lose @mersalut completely and @teocali’s Garmin also disappeared. This meant we had no firm idea of the route for the remaining 75km. Looking back, it’s a it’s a miracle that we managed to ride in generally the right direction on some great mystery back roads. The last hour of the ride is a bit of a blur for me, we were way off track and the light was fading fast but we put our heads down and finally managed to make it to Havant.

We arrived at the pub 2 hours later than expected and I was empty, frozen, totally soaked but really happy to have completed the ride. It was a fitting way to celebrate being a Velominatus and I look forward to riding another Cogal in 2014.

@Tocalli’s take

Well, we joke about things and each other on the web site but the thing about the British weather is that if you tempt fate it will bite you back.  I posted the entry below a little under a month before the event and yes it did turn out that the weather was too good back then (for the UK) and yes @itburns did line up a special V and 9 for us. Thank you @itburns but once is enough thanks and you don’t have to repeat it next time. I trust we put in a decent V and 9 for you.

Velominati › The Rides - Google Chrome 15102013 202517.bmp

I first realised we were going to get truly wet when, even with my winter overshoes on, my shoes were full of water before we had even got out of London.  I’d previously sworn by those overshoes to keep my feet dry.  Knowing it was going to be wet I’d also bought a new pair of “waterproof” gloves.  They too gave up before we left London.  I’m sure we will all say it was wet but I can’t think of any other time I’ve been out on a bike and seen rivers of water flowing down the roads on the hills to that extent – though the one that smelled of raw sewage was not the most welcome one to discover.  Mouth firmly shut up that climb.

Despite the weather or maybe because of the weather it was a great ride nonetheless and made better by great company.  One thing that stands out for me from the ride, apart from the weather, is something that is probably inherent in members of our community vs groups I have ridden with this year and that is that the whole ethos of Velominati is reflected in attention to basic skills in group riding and road use.  On reflection after the ride, it seemed that as a group there was some form of innate understanding of the mechanics of riding safely as a group particularly in very testing conditions.  When conditions dictated the group naturally spread giving spacing for safety and then came back together for group efficiency as conditions merited.  Chapeau to all.

For the rest, I think we put up a good show up Box Hill passing streams of Sportive Riders and I loved @Norm’s comments about being blinded by all the day-glow.  However, it was something of a bummer to lose my GPS a little later and despite going back up the road where it came off I could not find it.  The sting behind this is that we were just heading into a region none of us knew and were relying on my GPS and the little knowledge I had of that area to get us south of the Downs. Well…we got there….eventually.  Sorry guys for the extra miles but some of those roads are well worth revisiting if I ever work out where we went.

@roadslave525′s take

I have to admit, I was initially a little nervous: the parcours looked long and lumpy with a leg-softening loop of Box Hill; the weather forecast was apocalyptic (October in UK, duh!); and there were over 300 posts on the site organising the bloody thing, FFS – it looked like @Chris was trying to (re)stage the Florence World’s in London, and we all know how well the Brits didn’t do on that…

But then I woke up on the day, and I found myself quite excited:  the parcours was long and lumpy with a leg-softening loop of Box Hill; the weather was actually, as forecast, apocalyptic; and I was looking forward to seeing @ChrisO and @Chris again, the last time being at KT12 (they have their souvenir V-Pints, I don’t… grump).

As I went through ‘pre-flight’, listening to the rain hammer down on the concrete outside, I could feel something visceral and primeval slither and awaken deep inside me and I knew it was going to be a great day…

After getting over my initial shock that only five others had turned up on The Mall (how could so few generate so many organisational posts?  How to respond to such a widespread outbreak of flagrant Rule #9 violation?) I quickly realised what a high-quality gathering it was:  not an EPMS in sight, all bikes meticulously maintained, prepared and well fitting (except for @Norm, who has almost as ridiculous seatpost-to-stem drop as Frank, but boy, does he make it work for him), and everyone kitted out appropriately in their Flemish best.  Although @Norm’s white knee-warmers, white DeFeet overshoes and white DeFeet gloves were a brave call and he took some ribbing as they were indeed all grey after 5km, he made up for it when he came alive at 120km gone and started getting feisty as the rest of us were fading.

What to say about the ride?  Everyone took their turns in the wind, despite @ChrisO stubbornly sitting up front for most of it, loving it like a dog with its head out a car window – albeit wearing his grandmothers’ tights, as they kept falling down into wrinkly creases around his knees; the riding was tight and disciplined; the talk was all bikes’n'gear’n'rides with no edge and no boasting; and a perverse part of me got real, deep satisfaction from the effort…

This day will only get bigger and more epic with the passing of time and retelling.  With three punctures (one tubular, one clincher, one tubeless) we also got to road-test which is quickest to repair under comparable conditions – the conclusion:  not much of a muchness between them, and everyone was totally self-sufficient as you’d usually take for granted, but are often disappointed.  @Teocalli’s missus saved us with dry clothes for the train ride back to London, for which I’m almost embarrassingly grateful.

Yes, our navigation could have been better – when we lost @meursault, it was pointed out that, given he was the only one with a Garmin and a route, we were in fact the ones that were lost, not he, but the mantra of ‘Head South and/or West until you hit the water’ seemed to work just fine, which also meant we got to ride through Cocking and Lickfold (snigger) – and his heroic efforts to get to the finish by himself was the stuff of legend.  We could have been faster – it seemed to take an age to clear London and the Surrey Hills, and the sun was setting by the time we reached the pub – on a another day, it would have been glorious to sit outside watching the sun set over the water, hands wrapped contemplatively around a restorative post-ride pint of bitter, laughing over recollections from the ride, but this was not to be that day.

But we could also have stayed home, and it reminded me why my favourite rule is Rule #9.  It is easy to come up with many reasons not to ride, but yet, when we do choose to actually get out there, we get to experience a day like this and share it with a group of people like this.  To all y’all who organised, who came, who rode, who shared this day, thank you.

@Chris’ take

We may not have ridden as far as we’d planned or gone up Box Hill twice. There may have been fewer people than expected and we may have lost one of our number along the way. We may have lost the only remaining Garmin with the route and got mildly lost. We may even have met Noah looking for a hill on which to build his new ark. We may even have gone a bit slower than planned but fuck it, much more than that a bunch of relative strangers came together to share a love of cycling, had a blast and ticked the Rule #9 box.

Much to my chagrin I forgot to raise a glass and propose a toast in @itburns’ memory as we sat down to eat but I thought of him as I had a warming single malt when I got home that night.

There’s not much else to say that hasn’t been said by the others but I’d like to thank @ChrisO and @Teocalli for finenessing my broad idea of a route into a stunning ride that got us out of the city without any real bother, avoided major roads (or would have if we’d stuck to it) and took us through. Oh yes, thanks to everyone for the tow on those last few miles into Havant. I was done.


]]> 46
Guest Article: Reverence- The Lunch Break Fri, 29 Nov 2013 19:28:27 +0000 1904 Northern Bali 1904 Northern Bali

My words will only get in the way of what @le chuck is after here so I’ll stand aside.

VLVV, Gianni

Three aluminum drums, three inches in diameter, twelve inches in width. Smooth and glossy on the ends, black track marks down the centerline. They are bolted to a steel frame upon which my bicycle rests – for now. This apparatus is my lunch. When I ride on it, I suffer by my own choice. I suffer because I want to. I have to. I have to suffer right here at 1100hrs, here in the hallway. (Seriously, I can’t leave the clinic until the nurses say I can).

These days I don’t feel hungry around 11:00 (as I did as a medical student). Instead I feel gently excited. I’m fed by something much different than food. At eleven o’clock, I fuel my body with something that arises out of conscious suffering. The ebb and flow of the bike, how it moves and sways with the shifting of body-weight. The present moment, a beautiful moment, because it’s a moment that I create out of my own will.

The Hindu scriptures describe Moksha as a kind of liberation of the mind that characterizes the ultimate goal of achieving Nirvana, or, a state of bliss accompanied by un-mediated knowledge and understanding. Medical knowledge is mediated knowledge, in that it comes with conscious effort. What if you could put in some effort to not put in any effort?

I stopped having goals after medical school. Goals happen as a result of your Karma (see also, hard-work, persistence, not being lazy) – and if you’ve already found your Duty (see also, Dharma) – Goals will be achieved incidentally. We need not be distracted by Goals, they are attachments, or, Sankara’s which are little defilements of the mind.

If there is a God, he or she rewards only those who DO, not just those who think about DOING. There’s an adage in the cycling community, “Do all of your thinking before you get on the bike. Free your mind and your legs will follow.” (Strack, et al 2012). Surrender yourself to the bike, the road and your environment. Surrendering will make you You again. Your true self.

Every day at 11’o’clock, I finish my morning clinic and go to the hallway to ride my bicycle on steel cylinders, or “Rollers”. For 25-minutes, my mind is free of troubles and anxieties about the past or future. The anticipation of lactic acid accumulation and resultant pain becomes an item of the preceding moment. When the pedals start to turn, I am living my Karma. My Karma is to suffer and suffer discretely, with dignity.

Some days I suffer a lot, some days I suffer a little. I suffer often and I’m a better man for it. I’m a better doctor for it. I’m a better Naval Officer for it. I am more compassionate, after suffering, towards those who suffer. It is this universal suffering that makes us human – on and off the bike**.


** Note that in compliance with Rule #4, It’s (still, without question, unequivocally) all about the bike.

]]> 65
Look Pro: Get Your Gear Off Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:05:08 +0000 Eddie gets his gear off. Eddy gets his gear off.

When you’re a kid, riding with your hands off the bars is something done for thrills, for style, and to impress chicks. As an older, wiser Velominatus, it can be a handy maneuvre to aid removing or donning extra clothing, taking a feed from your pockets, and to impress women (because that’s how adults refer to chicks). Get it right and it’s the most Pro of moves; get it wrong, and there’s little chance the nurse picking the gravel from your face will be impressed.

Surprisingly, many Cyclists are inadequately equipped in this fine, yet fairly basic and useful art. If memory serves correctly, it was one of the first things I learned to do on a bike, right after balancing and pedalling, and just before wobbling and face-planting. Anyone could ride along with one hand on the bars, waving at the girls or flipping the bird at the guys, but if you could sit bolt upright and give the ‘up yours’ sign then you were a true badass. Making sure you could haul your bad ass out of there before being dragged off the bike and beaten to a pulp helped develop sprinting skills which would come in handy later in your cycling odyssey.

Another, more practical use of riding no hands was to remove the long sleeved flannelette shirt (aka the ‘flanno‘) so fashionable in the day and deftly tie it around one’s waist, hopefully without getting it caught in the rear wheel and necessitating another trip to the casualty ward to be embarrassed in front of that same nurse yet again. Getting the six buttons undone and the sleeves tied together in a double knot in under ten seconds was the stuff of legend, and only Mick Johnson could do it that quickly, surprisingly so as his IQ was roughly the same number as the time it took him to complete the task (or write his name). How he never went on to bag a Pro contract still baffles me.


While we can see clearly from the photos that the modern Pro is just that, professional, and would never use their arms or hands for anything but the cultivation of a clean image for the sport, riding no hands can still be a useful skill for the rest of us. Having to stop the whole bunch so you can peel off your arm warmers, hat or vest is not only inconvenient, it’s asking for a mini-pump beating. To avoid such ignominy, here are a few basic tips to help with getting your gear off (or on).

  • Make sure you can actually ride no hands. Seems obvious, but you need to practice away from the dangers of cars, pedestrians and other riders to hone your no-handed balance first, before moving on to clothing removal/addition.
  • Preparation, anticipation. Pick the time and place where you will perform the procedure. Descents aren’t good. Ditto in the middle of the bunch, when a paceline is forming, or when doing a turn on the front at 45kmh. On a wide, flat piece of road, with the speed comfortable and good forward vision, drift to the back of the group and leave a safe gap of a bike length or two. Stay away from the gutter and traffic, watching for road obstacles or debris.
  • Get the job done in a flash. Now you’re sure everything’s clear, whip those arm warmers off quickly; grab the top of the right (or left if you prefer) warmer and roll it down the arm and over your hand. Keep hold of it and grab the top of the other warmer and repeat. This should result in one warmer perfectly inside the other; now fold them twice, flat, and stuff in a jersey pocket (which you would have made clear to accommodate them).
  • Don’t attempt too many items at once. Unless you’re totally badass and skilled, of course. Removing a cap from under the helmet can be a more difficult, and dangerous task. You want to get this one done real quick, but stuff it up and you may leave yourself without the most important piece of protection for the resulting crash; your helmet. First, unclip the buckle and remove your eyewear, with one hand still on the bars. Place eywear either in your helmet vents (Pro) or in your mouth (not so much, but easier). Now take the other hand off the bars, sit upright, lift the helmet off your head with one hand while whipping the cap off with the other. Replace the helmet immediately and stuff the cap in jersey pocket. Buckle helmet chin strap and replace eyewear in accordance with Rule #37.
  • Vested interests. Like Johnno and his flanno, this can be a triumph or total disaster. You need to be aware of the vest or jacket at all times throughout the procedure. Again, sit upright, hold the bottom of the zipper with one hand and quickly unzip with the other. Now use both hands to peel the vest apart and around to the back of your hips. Gather both pieces into one hand, bring to the front of the body and fold three or four times until you have a fairly neat square to stuff into the jersey pocket. Count your teeth. All there? Still riding? You got it.


]]> 95
La Vie Velominatus: One Piece at a Time Mon, 25 Nov 2013 21:22:29 +0000 Its a 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 bicycle. Its a 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 bicycle.

Patience has never come naturally to me – I’m more Calvin than I am Hobbes in that regard. Yet I am meticulous and demanding of myself and those with whom I journey through life. It is a conflict that has caused its fair share of grief; my childhood is piled high with memories of incidents where I made choices and mistakes that robbed me of the satisfaction of a job well done.

One such episode involved my eagerness to have bar-mounted shifters in the early nineties. STI had just come on the market, and they were priced so high it would require disciplined saving in order for me to afford them. Rather than patiently saving, I spent my money on lower-cost options which differed in their implementation but shared in their failure to quench my thirst for STI. At one point, my father pointed out that with what I’d spent on cheaper compromises, I could have already bought what I really wanted.

Some lessons in life are easily learned, but to practice them is another thing altogether. While I have learned patience, it is often stretched to its limit as I have also become more exacting in my expectations. What The Prophet giveth, he taketh away.

I have finally reached the point in my life where I enjoy the journey as much as I do the destination. I can’t imagine buying a complete bicycle and forgoing the process of hand-picking the kit to dress it up in and embarking on the quest to source it. For me, a bicycle begins as an idea which slowly materializes through the curation of its frame and components. The process of assembling it is a ritualistic undertaking, a kind of spiritual offering to the Elders on Mount Velomis. The assembled bicycle marks the end of a journey during which we’ve already bonded.

Only as this journey comes to a close are we ready to begin a new one, one where we evolve through prolonged exposure to The V. The path to becoming a Velominatus is built on taking the time to do things correctly, and building our machines is no exception.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 93
Can’t Do That Fri, 22 Nov 2013 18:06:44 +0000 Walter Godefroot. photo from

Pity our cyclist, it’s Saturday and he won’t shave his face, it might sap his strength but he has to shave his legs or he won’t look serious. He certainly can’t have sex, more strength stealing there, and kissing his wife, whoa, slow down, that could spread some germs. He doesn’t want to get sick so going to that birthday party tonight, that could be dangerous, crap fattening food on platters, touched by possibly sick people, and standing around, no way, think of the guns. Who can drink alcohol before racing anyway? I need some steak and pasta. Darling, I’ll go to your office Christmas party, I promise, if I can sit with my legs up a bit, and take the elevator up to the office on the second floor.

A little browse around the town center Saturday evening instead, can’t do that. That would require walking and standing. I’m an athlete, damn it. And this talk of going to the pool, basta! Every cyclist knows swimming is bad for the legs.

Pre-race Sunday morning breakfast- this oatmeal could stand some butter and maple syrup. In the name of Merckx, non-fat milk please and what part of high glycemic index don’t you understand? Oatmeal, does that contain gluten?

Our cyclist rolls with two teammates to the race. In the car all the talk is pre-race excuses: I’m too heavy, I might be getting sick, my legs are unbalanced (?!), I drank too much coffee, I stopped drinking coffee, I have too much inflammation in my body.

Cycling mythology never dies. In a world were we still can’t predict the day when we will have great legs, there are still a thousand things out there that will give us not-great legs, and I’m pretty sure it’s all crap. Having just read this amazing interview with Freddy Maertens (thanks @pistard), it’s plain what gives you great legs, train like a bastard. And by bastard I mean back to back to back to back 300 km training days. Only professionals need do this, or can do this (who has the time or will?). That, get a lot of sleep and eat well, that is what a professional from Freddy’s day might tell you. No one was losing sleep over their power to weight ratio, no Pros then looked like Chris Froome now. These passistas looked like guys you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Now cyclists train smarter, watt meters and training coaches, weight rooms and soy milk, skinnier and colder. Is there a professional now who just scoffs at such data and just trains long and hard? Look at the legs of riders in the 1970s, almost no one looks like that now and it’s not drugs that did that. It’s unholy training in big gears, some V in the bidon, repeat tomorrow.

]]> 99
Solo Artist Wed, 20 Nov 2013 20:10:37 +0000 Solo on Haleakala. Photo: Elizabeth Keller

I walk away from social gatherings with an acute sense of accomplishment whenever I haven’t offended anyone and when my friends all stayed awake. I view myself as a bottle of wine that keeps getting better with age, but I’m slowly coming to grips with the notion that I am actually a bottle that may be corked. The great irony of life is that as we become more comfortable with who we are, we become more annoying to be around.

Fortunately, I enjoy being alone. I haven’t always felt that way, but my natural charm means I have had to cultivate a taste for it. That isn’t to say I don’t like being around others – quite the opposite – but being alone allows me the opportunity to reconnect with who I am. This is especially true when riding my bicycle. Riding alone, there is nothing to do but focus on the sensations of the ride: the wind in my face, the smells in the air, the sound of my tires as we hum along together, rider and bicycle.

Doing a long ride alone is an exercise of discipline. The little voices in your head may start quietly, but they build to crescendo inside your skull after a few hours of solitary suffering. The doors and patios on the cafés at the roadside start looking larger and more welcoming with every kilometer that passes under your tires. A point comes, on these long rides, at which Rule #5 becomes a matter of continuing on with the task; a determination to finish what you have begun.

We learn fundamental things about ourselves when we are alone in the Pain Cave, after we’ve dropped the flashlight and watched helplessly as it rolled off the shelf and into the void. Questions come knocking, and they won’t go away until you’ve dealt with them. This is when we grow, when we build confidence in the face of doubt.

We are lucky to find ourselves at crossroads where every direction leads to more suffering, where the direction we choose is irrelevant. The choice is simply to suffer or to go home. In a world where we have made a science of luxury, we Cyclists choose to suffer.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 136
Anatomy of a Photo: Maximum Awesome Mon, 18 Nov 2013 22:08:31 +0000 Baller. Baller.

Freddy effortlessly demonstrates Rules #80 and #82, the Three-Point System, and the Goldilocks Principle while his mechanic calmly swaps a mortal’s wheel for one that can withstand his ferocious sprint. All the while, a young Colonel Sanders looks on with bemused disapproval.

For anyone still wondering whether the 70′s was the coolest decade ever, it was.

]]> 78
LeMaster of the V-Locus Fri, 15 Nov 2013 21:17:15 +0000 The Apostle LeMond: Patron Saint of the V-Locus The Apostle LeMond: Patron Saint of The V-Locus

Finding The V-Locus is something of an extension of the Goldilocks Principle; bars set somewhere between Sit Up and Beg and a face-plant, saddle height somewhere between speed skater and Baryshnikov, and reach somewhere between a unicycle and the Batpod. This is art more than it is science, a process of iteration and refinement. And everyone knows “iteration and refinement” is the formal way of saying “we’re making this up as we go along.”

We are in the midst of a Sit Up and Beg Epidemic, and with that comes an emphasis on the rare rider who looks completely natural on their machine. There is a sense of ease that belies the power the rider generates; the position must allow for balance between opposing forces experienced while riding on two wheels, not to mention the sophisticated coordination required to coax a system of muscles that can only push or pull into generating power through a perfectly circular pedal stroke.

Cyrille Guimard is known to be a kind of grand master of il posizione, having been responsible for developing all three of the dominant Grand Tour riders of the late seventies and eighties. These three riders – Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, and Greg LeMond – shared a common theme: their positions on the bike was so beautiful it has been scientifically proven to have cured infertility in women who watched them race, indirectly accounting for the baby boom in the 70′s and 80′s.

Of the three, LeMond stood out as being the most perfect, pioneering the use of the wind tunnel to refine his position to maximize the balance between physiology and aerodynamics in order to wring the most V from himself and his machine. He had the advantage of living in an era when frames were tailor-made like a suit on Savile Row but he used it to great effect, tweaking seat tube angles to maximize use of his long thighs and stretching his top tube to account for his long reach reach. In America at least, it’s easy to pick out riders who took a page out of his book on positioning, riding long and stretched out positions and mashing gears heels-down at 60rpm while gently rocking their shoulders. It brings a tear of joy to my eyes whenever I see it.

In our day of cookie-cutter carbon frames, we’re often left to refine our position through stem length and seatpost setback, but that’s no excuse for allowing us not to Look Fantastic and natural on the bike. Take heed of the Apostle LeMond and don’t stop tweaking until you have found your V-Locus.

]]> 123
Asthmatics Wed, 13 Nov 2013 15:17:59 +0000 A fellow asthmatic, Ullrich, climbs l'Alpe d'Huez A fellow asthmatic, Ullrich, climbs l’Alpe d’Huez

Having asthma is kind of like winning the lottery, except it happens to more people and instead of money you win a chronic difficulty in breathing. I wouldn’t say I’m proud to be an asthmatic, but it’s not information I’m ashamed to share. In doing so, I often discover others who are similarly afflicted, and upon doing so we instantly go from being perfect strangers to perfect strangers who know something insignificant about each other.

My asthma attacks are experienced in a variety of forms, ranging in severity from a shortness of breath to “holy shit, I’m dying”. You can liken an attack to breathing through a straw with your nose plugged; depending on how bad the attack is, the straw keeps getting smaller, going from the wide one you get with a Big Gulp all the way down to those little ones you get with a coffee at a crappy diner. Cycling with asthma is like breathing through those straws while doing wind-sprints up a flight of stairs.

This straw-breathing effect is caused by the contraction of the airways leading to the lungs. The traditional treatment is to use an inhaler to suck in medication which dilates the passages and restores them to a size that allows for comfortable – if still sub-normal – breathing. There are newer, more effective treatments but many of them scare me because they cite side-effects like spontaneous death.

After 38 years, I’ve come to understand a bit about what causes my attacks. There is the cold-induced sort – which can be quite severe – but in my case will usually resolve itself throughout the first hour of riding to where it becomes a nuisance rather than an impediment. I also have acute attacks, which for about 32 years I believed were caused by an allergy to sawdust. These don’t resolve themselves and the condition gets worse until I intervene with an inhaler or a visit to the Emergency Room.

It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle and started having more frequent severe attacks that my doctor here pointed out that it was “crazy” to suggest I’m allergic to sawdust and inquired as to what kind of quack I had been visiting in Minneapolis who would tell me such a thing. He pointed out, quite logically, that I was simply allergic to something that was aerosolized in sawdust. As it turns out, this same element is present in whatever pine trees give off from October to May. Thanks to the Pacific-Northwest’s monopoly on pine trees, I now carry a rescue inhaler with me whenever I go training during these months.

The thing about being a Cyclist with asthma is that Cycling, as an endurance sport, is quite dependent on the rider’s ability to breathe well. In fact, I’ve found that the single most important factor to how well I’m riding on any particular day, regardless of how fat or out of shape I am, is how well I’m able to manage my breathing. The exciting bit is that training with asthma is a lot like resistance training; you get used to a reduced ability to draw oxygen into your lungs, thereby restricting the supply that gets to your muscles. Its like reverse blood-doping. You get used to it and your body adjusts to the reduced supply of gun fuel. Then, on days when the air is clear and warm, you ride like you’re on EPO. I call this the “EPO-Effect”.

I read some time ago that 80% of Pro Cyclists are diagnosed asthmatics who hold a prescription for an inhaler. This makes for a remarkable attraction of gifted endurance athletes to the most breathing-dependent sport on the planet. Surely this is because the EPO-Effect makes asthmatics strong like bull, not for the dilating effect the medication has on the air passageways.

]]> 96
Beppe Saronni: Patron Saint of Rule #22 Mon, 11 Nov 2013 19:04:42 +0000 Ernesto and Beppe credit:Colnago Ernesto and Beppe credit:Colnago

The cycling cap was part of any kit: nearly black shorts, team jersey and cap. It would be matching, it would be cotton. In the day before the required helmet, the cycling cap was it. Unrestrained by helmet or hairnet, the cap was the crown upon the head. It would sit high on the head, not pulled down like a baseball cap. It sat no higher upon the head than upon Giuseppi Beppe Saronni’s fine Italian head.

Beppe wore the cap with an unrivaled sense of italian style. The cap perched up there, as if it just landed, light as a feather. How it stayed there in the breeze, we don’t know. Perhaps the Saronni skull had just the perfect shape to hold a cap. We will leave that for the Phrenological scientists and the pathologist.

Rule #22 states the wearing of a cap may be for a brief interval before and after a ride, otherwise it has to be hidden under your helmet. That is a sad state of affairs. Maybe we need a national day of helmet-free cap riding. What is the worst that could happen? Do we have to ride the old timey Strade Bianche if we long to spend a long time in the saddle wearing a  V-cap? If we can only wear it for a brief time or while using toe clips, is it an anachronism? Is it time to take it back: wear it in the bathtub, in the car, gasp, while walking in public? This idea has been discussed before here; the cap is ours, we should own it. When and where would Eddy wear it?

Behold the Beppe.


This video has been posted on the site before too but it deserves a wider audience.

Click here to view the embedded video.

]]> 128
Guest Article: The Line Fri, 08 Nov 2013 20:00:21 +0000 East Fork of San Gabriel Canyon East Fork of San Gabriel Canyon

While the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,  for us road cyclists it is usually not the fastest. @RobsMuir ponders this while riding and retains such complex thinking when done with his ride. That is an enviable skill in itself. 

VLVV, Gianni   

The Line. The right track. To the sprinter it hardly matters, a few technical turns during a maniacal kilometer or two through the centre-ville. The track specialist knows the Line, yet it never varies; it remains fixed on the planks, lap after lap. For the rouleur crossing the Loire Valley, or the of the peleton kicking through the wine grapes in Northern California, or the randonneur facing long rollers across scores of miles, these riders seldom see the Line.

The grimpeur–the escalade spécialiste–studies the Line. So too does the descendeur–the plunging décroissant spécialiste, the madman who plays the piste all the way to the base. It is said few can combine these two specialities successfully. Yet for the true Keeper of the Line, these two skills are but different sides of the same black-gloved fist thrust defiantly high above a reverently-bowed head.

It’s easy to see the sweeping Line in the descent. Here, the Velominatus generally lets G work its impressive magic. The hands gently ride on the drops, the index and middle fingers calmly touch the hair triggers while all around is noise and fury. Precise attention to the Line brings maximum velocities and the reptilian brain slingshots the organism out of each compressible switchback. ‘The Falcon’ knew the Line; admire Paolo Savoldelli as a blur.

For the grimpeur, life is harder. The ascent brings a slow and relentless suffering, and the frontal cortex is free to ponder the moment. Rule #6 to the contrary, the climber is left with but two stark choices; either dwell on the pain, or observe the Line. The former is self-defeating, the latter binds the observer with the unspeaking brain stem. Therein lies strategy.

How best to thread the Line from bottom to top? As with descents, moving to the inside of each turn shortens the distance–a worthwhile endeavor. Those steepest hairpins, though, can kill the cadence when the tarmac climbs above twenty percent. Do you head toward the top of each tight turn, knowing that you’ll need to climb that much anyway? Or should the Pedalwan observe the unwritten Rule known by some as the Center Line Rule (CLR)? When the road’s your own, following the Middle Way might lead to enlightenment…

And here’s where a contemplative climber can discern the Line threading somewhere in between. Anticipating the next turn, the grimpeur can see the subtle Line that sweeps first from the bottom, then gradually to the CL, pushing upwards to the top of the curve, and completing each turn near the mid-point again. Imagined targets in the road–a pebble there, a divot farther along, that tar snake up ahead–can bend the Line ever so slightly and bring it more solidly to mind.  Each turn brings a slight variation of the superior Line, and–like a mirage–it seems to drift as one approaches.  Yet, in the process, this precise observation distracts the conscious mind from the pain that lies too, too near the surface.

The Line becomes the locus of control and the focus of attention. The kilometers melt and the summit nears.

]]> 48
Plight of the VMW Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:33:00 +0000 “I now pronounce you Prophet and VMW. You may go for a ride.”

He didn’t really want to be awake at this hour, but it was the only way. Or one of them, at least. Because he wanted to spend more time with her, he would rise before the sun, making use of the small window between their entwined slumber and the dirge of another day at the office. But still she saw those stolen hours as time he could be spending in her company. She never said it, but he knew…

He didn’t want to give her up, nor the bike. Why should he have to choose? He loved them both, of course, in different ways. She never asked him to make a choice, she knew how much it meant to him, and she knew how much he meant to her, and her to him. There would never be one or the other. There never could. He would always be shared between her and the bike, though in the literal sense, he truly only loved her. In some strange way, she felt lucky for this.

He had made concessions, a ride conveniently forgotten, waylaid, postponed. Still, it seemed to her that he was always flitting off to the trails, always managing to squeeze in another loop. There was never enough time in the day, he would lament. Always tired, both of them. His energy used for the ride, legs and back dully aching, mentally drained, too fatigued to do anything but sleep.

They were not interested in fighting. I don’t want to fight, she said. He didn’t want to either. Rather than fight, they simply wouldn’t talk. When he told her that he could never give up his bicycle to another man, her reaction was one of bemusement. It’s just a bike, she said. His contemptuous retort indicated otherwise; he would never give her up to another man, it’s just not done. Same with the bicycle.

She accepted, if not understood. How could he compare her to a bicycle? He couldn’t, she was the most important part of his puzzle, one that had taken an age to find all the right pieces and fit them together. Some pieces could be interchanged, but not that one. She never wanted to be a Velomiwidow. He would see to it that she wasn’t.

Flesh and blood, steel and rubber, heart and soul.

]]> 82
Look Pro: The V Tenets of the Casually Deliberate Mon, 04 Nov 2013 23:39:24 +0000 tumblr_lzst6a3Or91qbxnpgo1_1280 Chiapucci, Big Mig, some dude, Riis, and Bugno: class is in session.

A Velominatus gives the impression of having been born on the bike; the connection between rider and machine is so deeply entrenched that one can hardly draw the line where one ends and the other begins. There is an air of relaxed precision that is part innate and part learned through countless hours devoted to the craft of riding a bicycle batshit fast.

A Pedalwan will be quick to seek emulation of this characteristic, and in the spirit of Rule #3, it is our duty to impart upon you the five tenets of the Casually Deliberate.

  1. First, it is crucial that under no circumstances do you permit yourself to smile. If you are about to win the Tour de France for the first time, it is acceptable to momentarily smirk but expect to be met with raised eyebrows by your peers should you allow this to occur. Also don’t scowl because no one likes a crabby pants.
  2. Casual people are cool people, and cool people wear shades. If it worked for Axl Rose, it can work for you. Also, sunglasses are handy for covering up any redness in your eyes that you got from crying through the end of Playing for Keeps.
  3. Leaning on extended limbs is a guaranteed way to impart an air of relaxation, a crucial element to being Casually Deliberate. This effect is heightened the faster you are going. When passing a slower rider, ensure you accelerate to a speed at least 10% faster and pass them while riding on the tops or hoods with elbows locked. They will have no choice but to be super impressed by the sound of your Awesome.
  4. Being Casually Deliberate means this isn’t your first rodeo. Whether laying it down in a corner, flatting out of the lead group, or crossing the line with no one else in the photo, act like you’ve been there before.
  5. If you have crashed and are bleeding, this is the perfect time to pretend like you hardly noticed. Especially if there are cute members of the opposite sex around. Save poking at your wound and whimpering for the privacy of a remote bathroom devoid of any surveillance equipment.
]]> 104
Reverence: Park Tool Super Patch Fri, 01 Nov 2013 23:45:05 +0000 Tire patches? Try frame protectors. Tire patches? Try frame protectors.

The first tire patch kit I ever owned came in a big green box, had several patches of various sizes which were possibly made of old truck tires. It also came with a sheet of 60 grit sandpaper. The mild high offered from sniffing the glue while applying the patch almost made you stop caring you’d gotten a flat in the first place. Stoned on glue and hypoxic from The V is no way to mend a tire, and most times the patch would start to come off even before I pumped it up and I’d have to start over. Don’t even start me on peeling the clear cellophane off the patch.

The telephone capability of my iPhone is the least-used feature on the device; I email, schedule, text, voxer, browse, twitface, photograph, drop, forget, lose, and find my phone much more than I ever use it to place a call. It has replaced my wristwatch, alarm clock, and flashlight. For some of you, it has even replaced the cyclometer. All this is to say that in today’s view of the world, the value of a product is directly proportional to how useless its original function is.

By that measure, the Park Super Patch kit earns its place in the pantheon of the Reverence series by being more useful as a frame protector than it is as a inner tube patch. They are phenomenal tire patches – much better than the old orange-trimmed slabs of tire I used growing up, but who wants to use a tire patch, much less love one? Therein lies the answer; even as the world of Cycling irrevocably makes its departure from the tire and tube with one faction moving back to the tubular tire and another to the tubeless tire, these patches will continue to feature on frames around the world, dutifully keeping cables from scuffing paint.

]]> 88
Riding Without Data Wed, 30 Oct 2013 19:34:44 +0000 No Cyclometers Needed.

I’m compliant with Rule #74: no Garmin, no cyclometer, just an uncluttered cockpit. I’m not anti-data, if I could generate some awesome data I’d like to know about it. If I was racing I would train with data. I just got bored with looking at the numbers and not doing anything about them. When my Cateye cyclometer/heart rate monitor demanded yet another bi-monthly battery change, I took the whole thing off and never looked back. Total milage, elevation gained, I no longer care about these numbers.

Can you ride without data? Does a ride even happen if it doesn’t show up on Strava? Bretto brilliantly introduced the V-meter three years ago. It was an idea that flew in the face of all the new technology we needed on the bike. Push on the pedals and if in doubt, push on them harder.

I did buy into a heart rate monitor or two in my time. Early on we used them like kids used the early alcohol breathalyzers installed in bars. That was an ill conceived notion if there ever was one; it’s a damn bar, only young drunk males are going to use breathalyzers and it won’t be to see if they are too high to drive. Rather, they are going to use it as a drunkometer, to see who can get drunker. For us it was young males on bikes, I’m gonna peg this HRM, see, see, I can get a higher number than you because you suck.

Without data I know when I’m going faster than 65 kph, things do change at those speeds. And I know when I’ve done a 160 km ride only because it’s a route I know from past centuries. I do live on an island. But I still make deposits at the pain bank at regular times. Being too big to climb and living on the side of a volcanic island has made every ride something. When I was younger I couldn’t enjoy a forty-five minute ride, I actually wouldn’t go on one. What was the point of such a short ride? Now forty-five minutes can mean forty minutes of steady climbing and five minutes of descending. That’s a ride.

Getting shelled by your friends tells you something, something you already knew, they are faster. Riding with friends who are faster is the best training aid. I figure it’s a quality training ride if I barely make it home. Do more of those, keep doing them a little harder.

Keepers Tour 2012 was doubly fun for the training required before the trip even started. We all need incentive to crank up that kind of fitness. I’m sure the 200 on 100 Cogal riders felt the same way; this ride is going to hurt but it will hurt less if I murder myself in the months before. The Spring Campaign is looming and I’m already devising  training rides that will either make me fit or ruin me, or both at the same time, which is what usually happens.


]]> 115
Winter Training Mon, 28 Oct 2013 16:06:31 +0000 There is drafting, and then there's this. There is drafting, and then there’s this.

Merckx famously professed that after a night of sinning, the body must be cleansed. He obviously meant this figuratively, not literally, because those mud guards on his bike aren’t going to take a big bite out of whatever that lorry has to offer him by way of a Flandrian Facial.

Winter is a tough time for those of use pawing about in search of our climbing weight. With the shortening of days, the nesting instinct awakens. Darkness falls in late afternoon and when we wake, we are greeted by the same darkness that wrapped us all through the evening. Nature urges us to combat the darkness with food and drink; summer’s dinner salads are replaced by slow-cooked meat and potatoes served with a side of pasta and bacon and washed down with a few bottles of red.

Weight defies the conservation of mass; it is more easily gained than lost. Fitness occupies the opposite realm; it is more easily lost than gained. Riders like Kelly, Merckx, and De Vlaeminck were famous for their discipline throughout winter; training long and hard to lay the groundwork for their Spring and summer campaigns. With a sea of months between us and next season’s goals, there is little urgency to Train Properly. But keeping our weight down and putting in the long base kilometers will reward us throughout the season. Besides, it hardens the character to train in the cold, wet winds that characterize the winter months. The training we do in summer feels a luxury by comparison.

I cherish the winter months when my training is peaceful and free of pressure. I look forward to the sun warming my muscles, but for now I am content to stock up on fresh Flandrian Best, prepare the bike for the winter roads, and submit to the solitude of the cold training hours that lie before me.

]]> 147
Guest Article: “The Journey Is The Thing”- Homer Fri, 25 Oct 2013 18:59:50 +0000 Let's get ready to Rumble! Let’s get ready to Rumble!

Yvon Chounard may not be Homer but he is a worthy modern day wise man, he admonished, don’t be a sports nazi. His meaning was, don’t do one sport to the exclusion of all others. It’s tempting not to pursue other sports when cycling demands so much time and leaves one with a body that is barely useful for anything else, but that would be too easy.

VLVV, Gianni

Admittedly, the concept of worshipping multiple deities has lost its popular following in the last few millennia. But we must reconcile theological doctrine with reality and bury the schisms that have caused sectarian strife for so long. The month of October is the perfect time to revisit the sacred teachings.

At first glance, you might call me an infidel upon learning that today, instead of devoting my whole day to worshipping The Bike, I plan to make equally sacred offerings to The Mountain. Indeed, the pile of bespoke cycling gear designated for today’s ride now has to share the same trunk space with ropes, cams, carabiners, and other studly accoutrements of the climbing craft. Upon learning this, many of you likely will condemn me a Rule #4 violator and ban me from La Vie Velominatus for life. But I beg you to hear my case before casting judgment.

In ancient Athens, for example, the good citizens understood that it was prudent to worship many gods; though the gods were fickle and jealous, they could bestow upon you great benefits. What really mattered was religious experience, spirituality, and sacrifice.

I assure you – all of these elements will be present in today’s outing and, as such, I am not heretic, but a true believer. Take for example, sacrifice. What greater sacrifice can there be than braving the desolate country roads of rural Virginia, with nary an espresso in sight, facing a near-rabid canine darting at me as I exhaustedly summit a roller?  In the same vein, the path to our climbing routes planned for the afternoon takes us between Scylla and Charybdis – the dreaded “Poison Ivy Gully” descent or a rappel off manky tree anchors that could, at any moment, be messed with by meth tweakers frequenting the trail. I shall not even speak of the fact that we have to arrive at our destinations in a minivan, for no other mode of transport can accommodate the Hydra masking as our multi-sport gear collection.

The religious experience will be all worth it. There is little that compares to the hum of my overpriced drivetrain on a crisp October day or the cloud of climbing chalk following me like a halo as I flail like a stuck pig on a sandbag Great Falls eliminate. I thusly urge you to consider the wisdom of the ancients and erase differences between the gods. As far back as Homer, great thinkers recognized a unity in the multiplicity of the divine. Skiing season, here I come!

]]> 75
Mustache Monster Mash Thu, 24 Oct 2013 00:01:58 +0000 Pineapple Bob does the hybrid right. Pineapple Bob does the hybrid right.

My first bicycle opened a new world to me, one where range was measured by will and pedal revolutions, not steps; the only objective was seeing how far out I could push my range. First, to the border of our community, then to the nearest gas station, and on it went. It was a big yellow contraption with 10 speeds – twelve if you count “crashed” and “out of control”, which were the two most commonly used of the lot.

I didn’t know I could customize it. I assumed all saddles were steel with a foam and plastic coating, just as I assumed all brakes were ornamental beyond producing a screech that served to deter dog attacks. When the seat became too low, I declared that the bike no longer fit; I had no idea I could raise the saddle.

That bike was a Sears Moonlight Special, and I am quite sure it was made of solid lead pipes and had steel wheels. The bars were possibly wrapped in asbestos. I don’t wish I still had it, but I wish I still had my second bike. She was a beauty; a Raleigh with a gorgeous Weinmann group and a stunning metallic paint of brown and black, a color combination that every tailor on Savile Row will tell you is the most beautiful. Fitting, then, that it was an English bike.

At first, all I wanted was to rid the bike of her unsightly brake cables that jutted from the brake levers in the traditional way. This was the late eighties, and all brake levers on modern bikes were “aero” (under the tape). So I bought some DiaCompe levers and set about changing them out. A friend at County Cycles in Saint Paul, Minnesota (famous for being the place where Johnny Cash met “Her“) convinced me to buy some Benotto bar tape, and I spent the next few days basking in the amazement of my ability to single-handedly alter the look of my machine so dramatically. (Indirectly, my test rides also taught me about tightening cable bolts enough.)

This experience opened me up to the notion that every bike can be adapted to serve our needs. Every bike has a soul, and every soul has a bike. It could be our #1, or it might just carry us to work, or down to the farmers market. But like a dog with it’s pack, it’s happy so long as it knows its purpose, its reason for being – and has the opportunity to fulfill that purpose. And whenever we help a bike find its purpose, it bonds to our soul and never leaves us.

You need vision to see a bike’s purpose, and Grant Peterson might be the greatest bicycle visionary; he lived La Vie Velominatus long before we put that term to paper. He sees opportunities in bicycles without judgement; it doesn’t have to be a racer, or a tourer, or a trail bike – it just has to ride well and be fun. He’s been an inspiration since I learned about Bridgestone bikes, and his vision continues with Rivendale Bicycle Works. When time came for him to design a hybrid bike, he chose mustache bars with race-inspired geometry in the belief that just because it’s hybrid doesn’t mean it shouldn’t ride well. I’m proud to walk in his footsteps.

The Nederaap CX-V may have served her run as my main CX/Graveur, but she lives on as the loyal steed carrying me to and from the grocery store, the markets, post office, pub, and any manner of fun and casual expeditions around town. I don’t kit up, I don’t pump up the tires (although I do thumb-check the pressure, I’m not a savage), I don’t plan the route. I just get on, and I ride. And she rides great, is fun, and gobbles up single track just the same as she does tarmac. It makes no difference to her, I just jump on and start pedaling like I did when I was a kid. That’s good old-fashioned fun.

Plus, now I can enter the Commuter Grand Prix.

]]> 98
La Vie Velominatus: Saleté Sacrée Mon, 21 Oct 2013 18:24:17 +0000 Sacred Flemish grime covered our bikes. Sacred Flemish grime covered our bikes on Keepers Tour.

A Velominatus maintains their machine with meticulous care, doting over it daily. A bicycle is a tool, but it is also a work of art, and serves us loyally in pursuit of our craft. We love them as though they were alive; as we grow together, the cracks and lines formed upon both our skins signifies the journey that has passed beneath our wheels.

A clean bicycle with a boastful luster inspires pride; I find myself constantly fighting the urge to carry mine upstairs to sit by the dinner table each time it has been cleaned, the bar tape freshly wrapped, or any old component swapped for a new one. I’m sure a psychiatrist would have a thing or two to say about it; I know the VMH does.

And yet, there are times when it pains me to clean my machine. After our first day on the Cobbles of Roubaix on Keepers Tour 2012, I left my bike dirty for two days because I couldn’t bring myself to rid her frame of the sacred dust that had accumulated after a day’s hard riding over some of the most hallowed roads in the world. A week later, I suffered the same condition the day after riding the route of De Ronde through hail, rain, and wind which left our machines covered in mud, manure, and Merckx knows what else. I think some part of me hoped the Flemish spirit held within all that grit would somehow be absorbed by my bike, that it would somehow help complete her soul.

But this kind of sacred dirt, the kind we don’t want to wash from our steeds, isn’t found only on the holy roads of Northern Europe. I found myself with the same reluctance to clean my Graveur after riding Heck of the North this year; a race held outside a small Northern Minnesota town nearly half a world from Flanders. I also serendipitously found photos Pavé William took of his Rosin after riding the Strade Bianche, documenting the covering of white dust upon its tubes. This condition afflicts us all, it would seem.

Any dirt becomes holy when we’ve suffered through it, when it took something from us in order to find its way onto our bikes and clothing. Sacred Dirt it is created spontaneously after prolonged exposure to The V.

Vive la Vie Velominatus.

]]> 168
V-Announcements: New Photo Upload Tool Sun, 20 Oct 2013 19:48:13 +0000 WE’VE BEEN BUYSSE

We interrupt our usual programming to announce that we have quietly been building and testing an upgraded photo upload tool, which now supports mobile devices and tablets, as well as adding captions to album photos.

There is also beta support for pasting photos into the post editor, although in our testing this has been a bit hit or miss; I’ll be continuing to work on this feature and hopefully it will work properly before Velominati becomes obsolete. (We aren’t obsolete yet, right?)

Cheers, please don’t gratuitously upload photos just to test this out, but when you do upload something, please let me know whether it works for you or not. Remember you must be logged in before uploading photos.


]]> 41
Velominati Super Prestige: VVomen’s Chrono des Nations 2013 Sat, 19 Oct 2013 17:37:39 +0000 Neben kills it in the 2012 edition.

In the days of Anquetil, this was considered the most prestigious individual time trial on the calendar, and he made his name early by winning the event as an amateur at 19. It was also 100km in length, which brings up the point that maybe everyone in our generation should be banned from ever breathing the phrase, “Rule #5″.

These days, there is an actual Worlds ITT, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love this race. The women also get to play in deep end of the pool and although the route is a lot shorter, its still a time trail and time trails mean pain; there’s something to love about that.

Hurry and get your picks in; not a lot of time as we almost Delgado’d the last VSP of the year after having our brains melted by Greg LeMond referring to himself casually as a Velominatus.

Final Race Results
1. SOLOVEY Hanna
2. TETRICK Alison
5. PITEL Edwige
Final VSP Results
1. dancollins (8 points)
2. Nate (6 points)
3. Heihachi (6 points)
4. VeloVita (6 points)
5. girl (6 points)
6. JohnB (5 points)
7. sthilzy (5 points)
8. strathlubnaig (5 points)
9. zeitzmar (5 points)
10. Buck Rogers (4 points)
11. starclimber (4 points)
12. CanuckChuck (4 points)
13. Skip (3 points)
14. xyxax (3 points)
15. freddy (3 points)
16. anotherdownunder (3 points)
17. plynie (2 points)
18. Bianchi Denti (2 points)
19. DCR (2 points)
20. meursault (2 points)
21. TOM.NELS2120 (2 points)
22. Ron (2 points)
23. Mikael Liddy (2 points)
24. Lukas (2 points)
25. harminator (2 points)
26. ramenvelo (2 points)
27. Chica (2 points)
28. eightzero (1 points)
29. Steampunk (1 points)
30. mouse (1 points)
31. eenies (1 points)
32. Adrian (1 points)
33. moondance (1 points)
34. Sauterelle (0 points)
35. Rigid (0 points)
]]> 72
Le Mont Ventoux: The Windy Mountain Fri, 18 Oct 2013 22:26:51 +0000 Summit of Mont Ventoux in October 2013.  Note rime ice on rocks.  Summit of Mont Ventoux in October 2013. Note rime ice on rocks.

Legends are central to any culture, ours perhaps more than most. The Ventoux is a French legend, rising 1912m above the rolling hills of Provence. The road is thick with the paint of Tours past and the names of giants. The grade is 7%, on average, though 10, 11, and 12% are routine throughout the middle section. The classical route begins in a small town, winds through the forest, and ends amidst the moon-like rocks of the summit.

My ride up the Ventoux was not pre-mediated, unless you count my wife’s comment as we boarded the plane “You know, we’ll be pretty close to the Ventoux,” she mused. The only cycling-specific thing I brought with me was my trusty Castelli wool cap. But once we arrived in Provence, the mountain stared at me. Riding it was the obvious choice.

It could have been a Mastercard advertisement. Bike shorts: 22 Euro. Bike rental: 25 Euro. Impromptu ride up the Ventoux in October: Priceless. Except the local bike shop only took cash. The LBS did have Hervé, who was more than happy to set me up and point me in the right direction. As I left the shop, he asked if I had everything I needed. “Vous avez d’EPO?” he asked. Before I could formulate a response, he explained that he always rides with EPO: Energie (energy), Pastis (French liquor), and Ouefs (French for eggs, which is slang for balls). “Oui, j’ai d’EPO”.

Many rRules were broken, perhaps more than the number of kilometers ridden. I did not look pro; I looked like the tourist that I am. I had a screw-top water bottle from the gas station and street shoes in toe clips with the straps cinched down hard enough to leave a mark on each foot that is still there 24 hours later. I did manage to pass a few guys in full kits and carbon frames. And then, I got passed in the last km by a 22-year-old kid in a local team kit, with no helmet and a fanny pack. The French, apparently, have their own rules.

Rules! Hear me fools: The Rules mark the beginning of the path to enlightenment, not the end. There are higher planes, expanding dimensions. Beyond the color of your bar tape exists a man, a mountain, and a bike. This is where the world begins.

Legends are things that lodge in memory, things that are unique enough to pause space and time. The best legends are those that transcend.

To ride a legend is to find that place, to connect the mystic with the real. Le Mont Ventoux, c’est une légende superieure.

]]> 42
Made By Hand Wed, 16 Oct 2013 18:19:53 +0000 From Belgium, with love

It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of bicycles were made by hand, from raw materials, in places that aren’t China or Taiwan. While some of these artisans are still around, their wares are increasingly harder to come by, and to procure an example of their work means an outlay of time and money which is more than most are willing to commit. This is a problem with not just bikes; mass consumption is big business, not only in everyday necessities but for ‘luxury’ items as well. A bicycle can be considered a luxury item for some, so to bring them to the masses, they must be produced in ways that lower the cost of materials and labour to a point where the average consumer can feel like they are getting a quality product at a reasonable price. And they usually are.

They just aren’t getting anything unique.

Now that three of the four bikes in my possession are made by hand, I have made a commitment to only own machines produced not by robots, not from composites and not from ‘factory farming’ methods. While there are many excellent bicycles produced en masse, the little bit of personality that is instilled in each of my rides sets them apart and I know I’ll see not many, if any, similar steeds on my roads or trails. How many dudes you know roll like this?

Riding the cobbles of KT12 on my Merckx Team SC and KT13 on the Pavé steel Cyfacs re-opened my eyes to the subtleties of a well-made frame and the characteristics which can be incorporated into the bike by the maker; each one can be tweaked to offer a ride quality specific to each frame, each rider, even the environment in which they are created and which they are intended to be ridden. The Merckx was fairly hard to come by, and I stumbled upon it by chance rather than through any concerted effort to find it. I sometimes think it found me. It’s a bike I love to ride, but also to just appreciate its lines, its pedigree, its Made In Belgium heritage, no doubt welded by a grizzled Flandrian who cut his teeth in the very factory he still works at 40 years later. I’d like to think so, and there’s some small likelihood of it, at least. Maybe I will return it to Belgium once more, in Spring, from where its journey started and where it made its mark in history more than a decade ago.


]]> 170
Through the Eyes of a Canine Mon, 14 Oct 2013 16:17:06 +0000 The Directeur takes his dog for a walk. The Directeur takes his dog for a walk.

I envy my dog. There is nothing in her life that can not be immediately obtained that she bothers herself with; she is a perfect example of the happiness to be found through living in the moment, unclouded by dreams or goals. This is the embodiment of one aspect of what I seek from Cycling: freedom from external pressures via total inward focus on the now.

While I envy her, I pity her for this same reason; she will never know the beauty of cultivating a dream, nor the satisfaction to be found in achieving a goal, which is something else I seek from Cycling.

Her combination of focus and absent-mindedness inspires me. She has no limit to her desire to show me her favorite orange ball, or her insistence on helping me notice that she’s laid it in my lap. I can get up and move to another chair, and she will helpfully carry the ball over for me, noting that I neglected to bring it myself. Should something more important demand on her attention – say, the mailman arriving at the door (who requires a session of being barked at), or the appearance of food in her dish – the ball will be forgotten in totality. Later in the day, she will serendipitously reencounter the ball and delight afresh in its limitless bounties.

The changing of the seasons gives me this same gift; with each season I rediscover the beauty of our sport in new ways; riding through a fiery tunnel of changing leaves, the damp earthy smell of a winter’s training ride, the freedom of riding without arm, knee, and shoe covers on a warm spring day, or the glory of riding in the baking summer sun. Each arrives with the welcome of a long-lost friend.

I imagine that everything I need to know in order to become a Directeur Sportif, should the need arise, I have learned from raising dogs. For instance, loyalty is earned, not deserved. Further, loyalty and intelligence are more important than size, strength or talent. Managing a rider in a breakaway, assuming it is a US or Aussie team, the same principles apply as walking a dog on a lead; you prevent them pulling by any means necessary.

As for tolerating doping or other shenanigans within the team, even a dog instinctively knows never to shit where it sleeps.

]]> 59
Blueprint for The Rules Fri, 11 Oct 2013 19:27:14 +0000 _RP_4233

Every other Tuesday night, I put on my tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, fill a Thermos with Earl Grey and drive the Rover 3500 to the designated home of one of my fellow members of our esteemed Book Group.

As a big fan of the brilliant British television show of the same name, I was hoping that the participants and scenarios would be of the same ilk (i.e Dutch and Swedish footballer’s girlfriends, transplanted Americans and frustrated housewives) but sadly instead it’s more the domain of 70 year old widows, accountants, drama students and science teachers (who also choose the Rover as their preferred mode of transport).

And much to my chagrin, most of them are there to actually read books and then discuss them. We each get to pick a book, so I was somewhat shocked yet pleasantly surprised when Doris (God bless her hand-darned socks) picked the ‘Whizzkids [guide to] Bikes’. As we each need to have a copy of the designated tome to peruse at our leisure over the impending fortnight, and suspecting that Doris had dug up her copy from beneath dozens of Dominion Posts and English Womens Weeklys circa 1956, I knew I (and the rest of the group) would have a difficult task to procure our very own ‘bibles of bike advice’.

Luckily for me, I happen to be befriended by tight-fisted, unimaginative and lazy friends, and it was to this end that Josh came up with a completely serendipitous Festivus gift for me. Yes, he had managed to find the Whizzkids manual! Actually, he didn’t so much as find it, but had it thrust upon him by a flatmate, who in turn had stumbled upon it in one of Wellington’s many second-hand thrift stores, no doubt buried beneath a pile of New Ideas of much the same era as Doris’.

Displaying a similar gift-giving torpor as I myself am wont to employ (I’d given him the copy of ‘Death Cults’ that K-Man had left behind back in 07, and which had been buried not under old newspapers, but old free Real Estate guides from the previous two years) he had simply passed it on to me while passing it off as something he had actively sought-out and put a lot of thought into. Ok, he did tell me the true circumstances of its acquisition and admitted to it being a “shit gift”.

But I saw it differently. In fact, I thought it was one of the best gifts I’d received in recent Festivus memory; much better than the tighty-whitey underwear from Mike, or the wind-up kangaroo that Josh had bestowed upon me last Festivus, which promptly broke after only one trip off the edge of the table. Plus I’d probably be the only member of my Book Group (besides Doris, of course) who would actually have had the good fortune to read it and would be able to critique its many helpful tips. After all, the WhizzKids professed that after reading their book, that I’d be able to “beat the experts at their own game”. And as I am supposed to be one of these so-called ‘experts’, I look forward to beating myself at my own game, something I’ve miserably failed to achieve despite decades of trying.

I can’t wait to peruse some of the other titles in the series too, as I’ve always harboured a burning desire to be a detective or a magician. Maybe Doris has them buried somewhere….

]]> 38