Notes from Post-Apocalyptica: A Beer in the Bidon Field Test Update (from Phoenix)

I did not expect the test to go well.  To begin with, no beer holds up well at 96 degrees, and the Fahrenheit mercury outside of the light rail station at Arizona State University in Tempe read 96 degrees.  96 degrees stands far too close to 98.6 degrees, familiar to us all as body temperature, but also (and by association) the temperature of urine.  A bad omen for beer.  Worse still, a thousand miles south of the persistent snows of a long Montana winter that kept me mostly off the bike and on the trainer for the better part of five months””and fresh out of two days in the overly air-conditioned conference rooms of the Wyndham Hotel””I really only had one unfortunate choice of beverage for my impromptu spin through the post-apocalyptic suburban landscapes of metropolitan Phoenix.  Cheap, humorless, and sharp-tongued, red in can but dark black in its miserable, acrid soul. Tecate. El Diablo en el bidón.

It was with some mixture of amusement, awe, and incredulity that I watched Steampunk watch me discretely pour this suspicious golden liquid into my new two-dollar University Bikes water bottle on the hot, black asphalt of Arizona’s urban/suburban desert.  Not long ago, and for very good reasons, this quiet voice and persistent respectful critic of the Keepers’ collective conscious revealed his real life identity as Environmental Historian and Professor Michael Egan.  What he did not reveal is that in our professional field, Michael Egan is a big deal.  Prize-winning book on Barry Commoner.  Planning committee for big meetings.  Editor of an important upcoming book series.  Leather bound tomes.  Elbow patches.  Etcetera.  And here we were, rental bikes, running shoes (Birkenstocks, Egan?  Really?), Herbert helmets, and me in full V Kit, sneakily testing shitty beer on what was bound to be a shitty urban mess of a ride on a stinking hot day in greater Phoenix in April.

Phoenix proper may be the seventh circle of hell, right here in modern America. Full of conference centers and chain fast food restaurants, the roads are wide and straight but broken by endless stoplights, filled with SUVs with drivers who will yell at you to ride on the sidewalk, and littered with a show-stopping mélange of glass shards, nails, and tire staples that make their shoulders and few bike lanes a treacherous joke.  It is not a city for riding.

Outside of Phoenix””in Tempe, Scottsdale, and Glendale””the dust-swept concrete wastes of Phoenix’s seemingly abandoned post-modern urbania give way to neat rows of plastic suburbs, dotted by well-watered golf courses, fake lakes, and shopping centers stretching out as far as the eye can see.  It was through this modernity-scrubbed suburbia of post-apocalyptic Phoenix, over multi-use cement pathways through fenced-off parks and manicured links, that Steampunk and I set out to steal a mid-afternoon ride in the mid-afternoon sun, me with an ever-warming mid-afternoon cerveza.

And then it happened, like it always does.  Six or eight kilometers went by.  Traffic, smelly effluent flowing through the artificial river, frequent stops, bad drivers, frustration.  Then four or five more kilometers, and the slowly undulating bike path began to give into the rhythm of the stroke.  Steampunk settled in on my wheel and I began to lean into corners and smooth out the golf-course rollers with small bursts of V applied through dancing feet over an ever-softening saddle.  An impenetrable slalom course of strollers thinned out into a periodic series of predicable obstacles, and dogs on leashes seemed to begin pulling their owners off the path on our approach.  Then ten more kilometers, the pistons firing, full Belgian time trial position a la Faboo, and we were cruising.  At 40kph, we took the desert by surprise, exposing snakes and lizards and rabbits and rodents, all hiding in a second natural landscape within the white-washed modernity, but attuned to the speed of golf-carts, unprepared for the rolleurs of post-apocalyptica, sneaking up at the speed of awesome, powered by a mix of pure joy and warm salty sips of the newest addition to the Beer in the Bidon elixirs of choice.

There is a lesson for me in Phoenix. It is not that Phoenix is cool; it’s not. Sure, the hybrid landscapes of Tempe and Scottsdale may represent the ultimate in the kind of unexpected human/nature complexity that we environmental historians trade in, but am I going to trade it for Montana?  No fucking way.

Nor is it that I like Tecate: I don’t. I was actually quite impressed with its performance on the bike, and it may be a hot weather favorite (see below), but it’s still crappy beer that should never be passed as anything else.

But Phoenix provides an abject lesson in what makes the Rules, the Lexicon, the Keeping of the Cog, and even the V that holds it all together all worthwhile.  It’s not the first time I’ve learned the lesson, nor, I’m sure, will it be the last. But it is the most important lesson in all of cycling.

And that lesson is this: riding bikes is fun.  A lot of fun.  Just about anywhere.  Even in Phoenix.  Shitty bike?  Doesn’t matter.  Terrible beer?  Don’t care.  Lots of traffic, crappy weather, don’t have the right clothes, think you might be breaking a Rule?  Yeah, whatever.  Going for a ride is always a good choice.  Find a bike.  Find a road.  Get bike to road.  Go ride.

Beer in the Bidon Field Test Update, 4/15/11

Beer: Tecate (Calories [142 per 12oz]; ~4.5% ABV]; 12-13g Carbohydrates)

Ride: Post-Apocalyptic Suburban Phoenix (~30K, flat)

Weather: Sunny. Dry. 96º.

Pair Rating: 5

Pros: High sodium content is good for hot, dry, weather; it was the first Mexican beer to market itself as a beer to be served with salt and lime…so you can put a lime in it, you wienie.

Cons: It’s shitty beer.  Oh yeah, and it’s brewed by Heineken.

Comments: Tecate far surpassed my expectations as a beer for the bidon, and it now stands as a high temperature front-runner in dry conditions.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still shitty beer.  It has a couple of key redeeming qualities, however.  Cold, it provides the thirst-quenching refreshment of a light beer.  The big surprise was when it got warm.  I actually put two cold Tecates into a single bidon to help slow the warming process with the intention of only drinking half the beer, but as it warmed up, it was the beer’s saltiness rather than it’s piss-like flavor that really shined through, and at 96º and less than 10% humidity, saltiness is what I craved.  Granted, you pay a hydration price for the sodium and alcohol””it’s not a beer for long rides””and Tecate’s intimidation factor is extremely low.  But for the dry, hot, ridiculousness of the suburban desert Southwest, there really is no other choice.

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38 Replies to “Notes from Post-Apocalyptica: A Beer in the Bidon Field Test Update (from Phoenix)”

  1. Welcome to Arizona. It’s Rule #9 every day from June to October. And if you think 96 is bad you should come back now when its hitting 110 degrees.

  2. Welcome back Josh, it’s always a pleasure to keep up with your research.

    Tecate. El Diablo en el bidón.


  3. Excellent story Josh. It seems that I must have a German gene running around in me because I’m discovering that I usually like beers better as they warm up.

    Speaking of beer – I just stumbled upon Tilburg Dutch Brown Ale last weekend. It’s my new favorite beer for now (Hey Frank, I know you’re all into pussified IPA’s and the like but you got to give this Dutch ale a try – I mean being Dutch and all). The label is rather unique –

    It is a guy with a bird’s head eating a naked man with a little bird flying out of his butt. I was like “WTF?”

  4. @Cyclops
    Jesus WTF indeed – are they trying to put you off drinking the stuff with that label
    – looks more like fly with its wings draped neatly wearing a cauldron on it’s head – which is fair enough, but why the bird flying out of his ass – that is seriously wierd – must get some

    actually this article, by our learned Professor Bidonfiller, is quite bloody entertaining, and has inspired me to try some “beer in the bidon” testing myself – had previously thought of trying it after the previous educational article, starting with some Irish beers, but as it was Guinness, everytime I opened one, I just drank it and couldn’t get as far as the bidon filling bit – shameful lack of discipline, but it’s a genetic defect brought on by stress in the workplace

    Anyway – off to Portugal for a fortnight’s dossing on Saturday, fully with the intent to sneak off to the nearest pub showing Eurosport in its TV, (under the pretence of going to get some fresh fish for the children, from the local market 30 miles away) – thence I shall have the time to ponder and consider the various local cerveza, and drink one, pour one in the bidon, shake it, and ride home – should be hot and fucking windy, so will be able to comment not only on the sodium replacement benefits, but also how sticky they make my bike and bibs

    Will report back at the end of the Tour, not expecting much, and hopefully will refrain from testing the local Port in this experiment

    Thanks for your inspiration Joshua

  5. Propitious timing of the post, I feel. Did any else catch the discussion on Eurosport circa 36K to go in today’s stage? A brief bit of history regarding le bier en le bidon a le Grand Boucle. Domestiques with corkscrews in their jerseys? It warms my sudsy little heart.

    Fully appreciated. It is a lesser remarked upon application of Rule #9, for sure. You Arizonans are live soft with the air conditioning and the swimming pools and all that, but in the summertime on the bike, you are hot weather hardmen. And you’re right, 96 degrees ain’t that bad…unless you’ve been sub-freezing in Montana for six solid months beforehand..

  6. Ugh. I have been to Phoenix once, and I couldn’t imagine living or riding down there. Mad respect to those of you who tough it out.

    To bad you didn’t have this available:

    Tecate is a pretty decent shit beer. I won’t lie, there are many hot days where just such a beer seems like the only logical choice for a cooling beverage.

  7. Josh – a great read and you hit many nails on the head… or your brew’s head must have been impressive at the least!

    “riding bikes is fun. A lot of fun. Just about anywhere. Even in Phoenix. Shitty bike? Doesn’t matter. Terrible beer? Don’t care. Lots of traffic, crappy weather, don’t have the right clothes, think you might be breaking a Rule? Yeah, whatever. Going for a ride is always a good choice. Find a bike. Find a road. Get bike to road. Go ride.”

    This should be the V. Credo – as in the “Tecate El Diablo Credo” for short.

  8. Brilliant. I go to PHX quote a bit; in fact I’ll be there next week. I have a colleague who used to race mtb’s out there. South Mountain looks like it could be fun. Tempe, not so much. Great post.

  9. @Cyclops It’s from the right panel of Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ – the right panel being ‘Hell’. (if you think twisted art started with the Internet you’re at least 500 years out. Bosch was one seriously troubled man.) But an appropriate contribution to an article on El Diablo en el bid on.

    Great article, Josh. Still can’t bring myself to out beer in my bid on. But maybe this summer.

  10. The mere mention of Tecate takes me back to an ill-advised college trip to Albuquerque, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, and always brings to mind the classic Marty Robbins song. Courtesy of the Tecate, I don’t remember much about that night in Juarez, but I’ll always remember that song.

  11. I love the thought of travelling at the speed of awesome

    totally love it!

  12. The sandals were Merrells, not Birks. I dig my elbow patches, but not at 96 degrees. All’s I know is I’m never buying a Giant Defy””freakin’ bike was intent on digging a hole in the concrete rather than going forward. All’s I also know is I got to ride with the King of the Cognoscenti. As to the takeaway message here: Amen and A-Merckx.

    Next year, we’re in Madison, WI (end of March); looking forward to another ride then.

  13. Nice review Josh. Love the theory, practical & science behind it all. Someone should apply for a research grant

  14. Nice one, Josh!

    Has anyone found the perfect bidon for pivo? I use regular ones but as I ride it foams out of the nozzle. Someone suggested letting the beer go flat in the refrigerator overnight.

    Any other ideas? Hate getting sticky beer on my #1.

  15. @ Josh, nice review, always thought Tecate was crap, nice to know it’s not wasted space.

    When you and @Steampunk come to Wisco, I’d ride along. You should come to our East Coast and ride the shoreline of Lake Michigan with us. Like a freaking highway when the weather is right (that’s when it’s below freezing, see Rule #9)

  16. I like the continued use of Tempeh,the wonderful food, instead of Tempe, the horrid sub-urban blight.

  17. “unprepared for the rolleurs of post-apocalyptica, sneaking up at the speed of awesome, ”

    Jseess, my favorite part of this write-up! Awesomeness.

    Here in NC Tecate is actually expensive as fuck, for what it is. It’s like $0.50 more per tall boy than High Life, Pabst. A bit more than Bud.

    If I’m going cheap, keep it cheap.

    This makes me hate it more!

    And wow, I need to get some life-cyclo-history counseling from you lads. I’m still riding too much, drinking too much cheap beer, and not finishing the last steps of my degree. Gotta do it. Might need some words of wisdom from the senior Velominatistorians!

  18. So glad to see the continuation of this series. I haven’t done much “research” on this topic since “winter” ended here, but have been tempted lately to suss out some warm weather options.

    Allow the gas to escape by not shutting the bidon valve too tight. And don’t attempt if you are riding an alu jackhammer.

  19. “it was the beer’s saltiness rather than it’s piss-like flavor that really shined through”
    Literary gold! I remember a similar line in a sonnet by The Bard.

  20. Good read, this.

    My first time in Phoenix was a layover. My flight arrived at midnight, resulting in a missed connection and leading to an overnight stay. I collected my bag and hotel voucher and made my way to the curb to catch the hotel shuttle. Door opens, at 12:30 AM, and 100 degrees of hot ass air takes all the breath out of me.

    Welcome to Phoenix.

    I was on the first flight out in the morning.

  21. @Joshua
    Awesome piece of research, there may be a doctorate in the subject, Dr BiB! If you need any field testing of English Real Ales at a slightly lower temperature, let me know.

    If I swap isotonic out of my nutrition strategy for beer will I be able to ride at the Speed of Awesome? Or will I merely end up at home, not remembering how I got there with nothing but loose change in my pocket?

  22. Awesome article… Good of you to share the updated field research, although I think it still needs extensive peer review. As to the lesson: A-Merckx to that

  23. I’m in Silver Spring MD at the moment. Been here before, but it sure seems like the 7th ring of hell as well. Hot, crowed, an insane amount of cars, aggressive drivers, most folks drive everywhere, and all I can do is wonder how this many people can live in one place. It makes me yearn for the woods and some peace and quiet.

  24. How might the Clean Bottle, or whatever the double top thing they are advertising on Versus is called, work for the Beer in the Bidon service?

    I’ve dedicated one bottle to beer carrying, so that I only have one with that lingering taste.

  25. If you ever come back to Phoenix, post up and we’ll show you around. Beer included.

  26. @Steampunk
    Compared to Tucson phoenix is awesome. Tucson is only fun for really old people and he folks on meth. I am neither of those people. I go to PHX on the regular and always have a good time with my friends.

  27. Beer at body temperature is close to ideal for the post, post ride rehydration, morning after recovery, cranial ennui. I always liked Pacifico when closeted in the southwest, but tecate held a measure of value that was hard to beat too….excellent research!

  28. So I did some beer research in Portugal, and with some unexpected results

    There were essentially two beers

    – Super Bock, which has a few varieties from the palatable (if very cold) Classic (5.2% ABV): A strong lager beer – to proper piss flavoured Green (4% ABV)

    – Sagres (5,0% abv): definitely needed to be close to freezing, as after 20 mins riding in my bidon it defnitely had the nutty flavour of stale pee – unpalatable

    Good news was it only cost 40c a bottle, which is only 40c more than it would cost to get someone to micturate in your mouth

    I must say, despite the good value I was rather disappointed, until……

    Out for a meal one evening, I ordered a beer from the draft pump, with a strong ale looking tab on the pump, and I swear, I climbed like a demon the next day – misreading the label, I took it to be Grimpeurbergen, and drank lakes of the stuff – complete nectar – definitely made me climb better (and Portugal Silver Coast is far from flat), to the extent I couldn’t climb unless I’d been on it the night before

    Poorly prepped as always, I neglected to take my bidon to the restuarant each night I was there, so no formal testing occurred, but I quickly became hopelessly addicted, and had to find out more about it when I got home

    Turns out to be a Belgian Double!! not infact Grimpeurbergen afterall, but Grimpbergen – I’m in LOVE!

    Anyone else had this stuff – work of the Alegods

  29. You guys think Phoenix is bad? try coming down to Tucson. This is the crap I gotta deal with.

  30. Not sure if this was posted in one of the other threads, but check out the original Beer in the Bidon field test. It comes at about 5:30 into this video.

  31. Awesome birthday score! One Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, one Rogue Hazelnut Brown, and one Deschutes Black Butte Porter 23rd Birthday Reserve (that one got drunk already), a grilling basket, and thick sliced pepper bacon! I got awesome friends.

  32. Now that is what I call a happy hour (or nine!) Prices are Portuguese Euros, which are the same as Euros anywhere

    Can confirm however, that Super Bock is super crap

  33. 190km in 35 degrees C out of the Pyrenees and down to the sea – thought I was going to expire of the heat until a kind barman obliged my bidon!

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