Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Group Rides: A Study In Human Psychology

"One person goes on a ride. Two or more people and it's a race."- Anonymous

Once I became comfortable riding within a group I began to discover not only different types of riders. Which there are so many.  But also different mindsets about other's behavior in a group.

The classic "half-wheel" is a great example. It's when you have two riders next to each other with one constantly keeping a wheel's length ahead of the other person. When the person that's lagging behind tries to speed up to come even with the other rider. The other rider simply speeds up again to stay at least a wheel's length in front. It's an age old announce that has gone on, and will continue to do so until bicycles no longer exist (A very scary and sad thought...)  I've always chalked it up to being competitive or showing dominance towards another rider (IE Dick measuring.). Even if it's only on a subconscious level.

But why does that even occur?

I'm sure a lot of it can be just put down as people having a competitive spirit. But does that really count if the people that you are riding with aren't even trying? I guess to me that's the difference between a ride and a race. In racing the end goal it's to beat as many people as you can. Weather that's just one or a hundred. In a group ride it strikes me as a point at which the social and physical fitness portions come more into play.

I was thinking about all this as I let my SSHW and I slip off the back of the Scott's group ride while we were riding our tandem.  The funny part is that we was taking part in the "competition" of this particular group ride up to that point. I was participating in the may lay partly for fun. But also in an attempt to keep the group in some kind of order.

There is a lot in keeping a group of any real size together. Sure you need to have regrouping points along the route. But there is more to it than that.

If you're in the lead of the group through a lot of corners once you're out the other side you can't maintain that speed or you will cause an accordion effect and blow people out the back. If there is a small group in front of you that your trying to bring the rest of the group back up to you have to ramp up the speed at a very smooth and slow pace or you're going to loose people that way too.

The solo break away is another interesting phenomena. A single rider fifty feet in front of the group going the same speed will be left alone. However, if that person goes past the 50' leash the group will pounce on them. In that same scenario, if a second person bridges up to the long rider the group will think the game is on and close the gap.

There are a lot of rules...

But the thing is that some people don't abide by those rules. Or even think about them. Maybe they don't even know what's going on at all and are just trying to hang on for dear life.

In this particular ride we had a little bit of all this happening all at once. And I guess, really, all group rides have this to a certain extent on every ride. It's just with nice weather comes a wider array of cyclists and abilities. It's just more apparent.

Here's the thing though. I really don't care if people go out on a group ride to rip each other's legs off. I really don't. I understand that people join in on a group ride for different reasons. Some do it for the express purpose to ripping head's off and shitting down necks. Other's are there to hone pack riding skills. Some are there just for exercise. Even more are out there for the social aspect of it. There have been time's when I have been there for every single one of these reasons.

I know that's all kind of rambling and I guess it is. I'm just fascinated by the dynamics that are involved when you bring together a large group of people all doing the same thing in a confined area.

Just thoughts....

Until next time.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Weather And Other Assorted Awesomeness

So today is Tuesday.

 I decided towards the end of last week that I was not going to ride the Eugene Roubaix.  For various reasons really.

First, I didn't want to go flog myself to death.

Second, I just felt like going out and riding my bike with friends and enjoying the weather. Which is exactly what I did.

The ferry ride over the Willamette. With Dick hanging on for dear life. (Photo:Johnny P)

Saturday morning a group of us extended the normal Scott's morning ride and headed over the ferry and through the hills to Amity for an awesome demitasse of espresso and for others in our group, baguettes bigger than them.

It's a bit blurry because Adam is shaking it to death like the wild beast that he is...(Photo:Johnny P)
It was a lovely ride. With a great group of people. The only thing that sucked was our apparent inability to keep track of everyone.

As we were riding the rolling hills back into West Salem I asked a couple times if everyone was there. And as per-usual the reply of, "All aboard!" came ringing back.  Which of course we weren't all aboard... In fact one of out group was off the back by a whopping 10 miles!!! I mean what the hell!? Luckily, other than some good natured ribbing, he was cool about it. But like my SSHW has said in the past, there have been times when I have (accidentally) dropped her and she didn't talk to me for a couple of days afterward.

I'm beginning to think we are going to need a moving buddy system or something...

 Anyway, despite that snafu it was a lovely ride...

Sunday I had been invited (Or more to the point. Invited myself.) to go ride mountain bikes with J, Adam and Adam's brother Luke.

We headed up to the Dallas (The Oregon town, not the Texas one...) area to go play. None of us had been in the area for a couple years and the trails were tough to find before. But now that some clear cutting has happened it was basically impossible.

We rode up the main gravel log road. Which is quite a bear of a climb.

Something like this kind of bear....

Not this kind of Bear (Calm down ladies.)...
Once we were near the top. We started to search around for the entrance of Mud Puddle.

Only we couldn't find it...

So we when down a log road that we thought would intersect the trail.

Only it didn't...

Then there were several other ill advised choices made as to where we thought we might find some semblance of single track.  Only none of them worked out either.

Eventually, dejected, we made our way back up to the road we came in on. Flew down at a high rate of speed. I think I pooed a little feeling my rear tire slide out going around a couple of those corners with loose gravel on them. I'd say the pucker factor was a solid 8.5 for me (I'm chicken shit on curvy gravel descents.).

Once the ride was done the amount of climbing we did really started to set into my legs. As a fat guy, I don't usually subject myself to that amount of climbing all in one day (Perhaps that's why I am a fat guy. Hmmm...). But even though no gnar was had it was still nice to be out in the sunshine on a bike.

Next time we will bring someone who has been around there lately.

And maybe a map...

Rubber side down,

Big E

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The First Rides On The Tandem

A quick note: A friend took a pretty terrible spill this last weekend. She broke several ribs, her collar bone, and a punctured lung. She spent a couple days in the hospital and is now at home.  I just wanted to wish her a quick recovery. So heal up soon Cynde! And damn it! Keep the rubber side down from now on.

On top of the Mt Angel Abbey.
Well this last weekend my Super Smokin' Hot Wife (SSHW) and I finally got a chance to take the tandem out on the inaugural ride(s)! After a long wait with wheels and parts coming and going, going and coming. It was great to get out there and ride it.

It did take us a little getting use to. We've ridden tandem before. But it's been a couple years and the timing of shifting and notification to the stoker of what's up the road is one of those things takes some time to develop (IE Figuring out each other's idiosyncrasies.).  When you're ridding down the road and you see a pot hole or an object that you would normally just ride over with no problem. The person in the stoker position (The one in the back.) can't see any of that. So when you hit that bump they get jolted pretty hard. Shifting is much the same. If they are putting pressure on the pedals when you shift gears it can really mess with them.

The juxtaposition of that is the stoker needs to be as still as possible. If they're back there wiggling around you immediately know it.

Like wise it's a serious fairytale that either captain or stoker can just let the other one do all the work. You can be gliding along pretty effortlessly on a flat road and all of a sudden feel like you're trying to climb Mt Vontoux in man gears. It's a very delicate balance that needs to be held.  I guess maybe that's why some people call them divorce bikes....

But I'm happy to report that both of us are still talking to one another. As well as being excited to take it out on more grand adventures together in the near future.

Saturday we took a lovely loop with a hand full of friends. We left Salem and headed to Mt Angel to take in the views on top of the Abbey (One of my favorite rides when I was a kid growing up in Silverton.). Then meandered to Silverton via the Gallon House covered bridge. Ate some sugary things at a quicky mart and then jig-jogged our way back into Salem. Lovely weather, great people and a thoroughly fun time.

Sunday my SSHW and I rode south down to Jefferson. Consumed some more sugary things and rode back home.

The only thing even remotely unpleasant about the second ride was that we were both sore from the previous ride. Our inner thighs and hamstrings we not happy with us at all. I think that it was a combo of a slightly different riding position, wider bottom brackets (Q-factor), and new (Same models) saddles.

Or we're both just out of shape. Which I guess is possible too.

But all in all I think the new tandem is a resounding success! I am looking forward to a bunch of rides with my love. As well as our boy's and friend's that have an interest in hopping on board.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Friday, April 13, 2012

Famous Friday

A little warning: Today's post has some racy pictures. The ladies are from the cyclopassions calendar and the guys (Well two of them.) are per my SSHW request. The other guy I think is purdy.

This is going to be a quick one. I am totally going to steal a sweet video that Brison made me aware of for your viewing enjoyment. This guy has serious phlo. There is a spot towards the end of the video where he is slaloming that is just awesome. Totally rad yo!

I am going to go a little hog wild with pictures today. Because they're all going to be pro cyclist's of one type or another.  Enjoy~

Mr. Armstrong....

Fabian Cancellara being a bad ass as usual.

Boonen's naked... No, really. I took this shot for a boudoir photo album.

Hubba, hubba.

Willow is always nice....

Ivan Basso. I'm a little gay on him...

I'd feel bad if I left out the Lion King...
So there it is! I'm sure I'm going to get a few remarks both positive an negative but sometimes you have to lay it all out there. Flop it on the table and see what happens..

I hope you all have a great weekend. It's suppose to be nice in our neck of the woods. So go out and enjoy it!

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tech Review From Piece Of Cake

So as I hinted at in the last post I wanted to talk about a couple things that I did to get myself and my bike ready for the Piece of Cake road race last week. Even though I had a terrible race. I think at least one or two of the modifications were totally worth the time.

The first was wheel and tire prep. I was originally thinking about larger volume tires on  a box style rim. But after having a conversation with Graham at the bike shop about it I decided against it. I guess I was in the mind set that higher volume would help me with flats. But in reality volume only helps with pinch flats. That's the type of flat that "pinches" the tube between the tire and the edge of the rim. Usually these happen with high impacts against hard edges. Think about the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix. That's a perfect place to use a high volume tire to soak up some of that impact.

Gavel on the other hand is a totally different critter. While it's certainly possible to get a pinch flat on gravel. But in my opinion it's a far more likely place to just get a straight up puncture. So I injected (With what looked like an enema kit. But Graham assured me it was a homemade invention.) the tubes with some Stan's Sealant.

Just take the guts out of the presta valve, squirt some in and replace the guts. Easy peasy Japanesey...

And I'm happy to report that I didn't have one issue the whole race. I raced my new (To me.) Easton carbon tubulars with the Vredestein Tri-Comp's that come on them. I hadn't had a ton of experience on the tubular version of those wheels before. But they were very grippy and seamed to spin up well.

Graham on the other hand was seduced by sexy borrowed carbon wheels and flimsy racing tires that double flatted with in about a mile of the first time through the gravel. He didn't inject the tubes with any sealant either. Which I'm sure didn't help.

Kenny had a similar fate as Graham. With the rear tire blowing out with in the first entry of the gravel and the front blowing out not to much later.

So I'm going to give the wheel setup a solid two thumbs up, an A+, and the much coveted Big E's "Super Swell" Award (A high honor indeed.).

The other adjustment to the bike I wanted to talk about was something I saw the shop doing to another racers bike. And when I asked them about it I thought it was such a good idea I went home and did the same thing to my bike.  It was such a simple thing. While I have often confessed to having a near OCD about keeping my bikes clean this little trick more than likely saved my frame from some ugly paint damage.

Packing tape on the underside of the down tube and on the back side of the seat tube.

Now before you go accusing me of going off the deep end of the anal-retentive pool hear me out. 

Have you ever been riding in a group and had a rock thrown up from someone else's tire and hit you in the shin? Hurts like a mother doesn't it. Well imagine what that would do to your paint job. If it was done over and over and over again. Add that to the fact that the paint on my Gary Fisher Cronus is tender at best. All of a sudden packing tape on the most exposed areas seems great to me.

I'm also happy to report the this also worked really well.

The only part that didn't work very well was trying to get the tape off after. It took a lot of picking. So sharpen your fingernails before you start... It might also be because I waited several days before I removed it. Giving the adhesive plenty of time to attach. Meh. Live and learn. I'll try taking it off right after and see if that makes any difference at all.

So those are my tips. Such as they are. I know they aren't earth shaking. But I would definitely do them again if I were going to go any kind of distance on gravel. In fact I may get another whack at it later in the month with the Eugene Roubaix.

Tomorrow is Famous Friday. And per special request from my Super Smokin' Hot Wife (SSHW) there will be a male pro cyclist section.

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Life Moves Pretty Fast...

Last week was a blur of work, family, and fun (Heavy on the work.).  With so much time having elapsed since my last post I feel like you guys all deserve an apology. So, I'm sorry...  Good. Let's move on.

This last Saturday was the Piece of Cake road race. Which truth be told, was a race that I really wanted to do well in. It's flat, windy and gravely too. All things that I am generally pretty good at and enjoy.

The course was a 17.5 mile loop which we would do twice with a 3.5 mile gravel section.

I'm not going to sugar coat it.

I was terrible.

I mean one of the most mentally difficult races I've done in a long time.

I had preregistered for the race a few days ahead. Which I'm really glad that I did. Because once Thomas and myself got to the venue we discovered that registration for the Cat. 4/5 race was full. Which made me feel lucky, while simultaneously making me feel shitty for poor Thomas who hadn't registered early. I had offered to take his stuff if he wanted to ride home. But he declined and promptly went and volunteered to be bottle bitch for some of our Cat. 1/2 teammates (Cuz Thomas rocks like that.) who were racing a gnarly 87 miles. No bueno...

Once the Cat. 4/5 race started I was one of the first guys into the gravel (Score 1 point.). I knew that the race would shatter like a teenage girls heart when she discovered that all Joey really wanted to do was to feel her up. So I did my best to be there when it happened and I saw the winning break start to form (Score another point.)  I even tried to bridge the gap. But I couldn't do it (Minus a point and a boo!.).

I stayed with the second group for a while trying to regain my composure. Although I wasn't doing the best job of that. The front of the group once again took off like a scorched cat when we reached the gravel for the second time. Bottom line was I got detached and couldn't get back on. (Minus another point.) Meh...

Couple that with a severely cramping left butt cheek and I was getting pretty grumpy about the whole thing. In fact, it's the first time in a long while that I truly considered quiting a race. I hurt enough and I imploded quickly enough that the seeds of doubt had firmly planted themselves in my mind. I kept thinking, "Screw this. I'll just ride in and call it good."

So I eased up on the pedals and watched the group fade away. Of course as soon as I did that I started to feel ashamed of myself. I'd payed my money. I didn't really want to pull the plug and let some other weekend hack claim my little piece of glory! So I decided I'd keep trying to ride within myself as best I could and recover.

After a few miles the cramp in my ass started to feel a little better. The beautiful day and scenery became a little more apparent to me. Instead of tunnel vision and little swirling black spots. I was generally feeling better about the whole debacle at that point. Unfortunately by then at least a dozen other racers had passed me. But I doubt my brain was in the correct place to hang with them anyway. I kept plugging away in my own little world when I noticed a noise coming from behind me. Somewhere in those last few miles I had developed a tail.

My tail's name was Dan.  After a little while he came around to take a pull. And we kept the rotation going pretty well for the remainder of the race.  He executed a half hearted sprint away from me at the finish line. Which bugged me a little. I mean, why is he sprinting for a solid bottom 25% finishing place!? But I guess there have been times when I did the same. Oh well.

So that's the un-inspired race report. But it did give me a few things to think about. And these aren't excuses... Really.

The first is that I still need to lose some weight. Not that that is any kind of big shocker. I think just about any cyclist when asked. Will say they need to drop a few pounds (Except maybe Mr. C.). But I'm still about 5 pounds behind where I should be for this time of year. It's really amazing what a difference 5 extra pounds makes. It's the difference in bridging the gap or not (Literally). Or hanging on to the back of the group for dear life or not (Also, literally.).

The second thing is that I had been sick for three weeks and really only had one week back on the bike before the race. So I guess I was hoping that my "well rested" legs would have enough poop in them to get the job done. Obviously not.  There really wasn't a whole lot I could have done to speed up the healing process (Other than not getting sick at all.). That cold really kicked my ass. I had just finished the antibiotics the Monday before the race.  So maybe that had a little something to do with it too. All I know is that after the race I hacked something up that could best be described as what your dog would puke up after eating grass (Minus the grass part.). Yum.

But all that aside. I feel like this was a good wake up call. I've got some work to do, and work I shall.

There has been a ton of stuff happening in the cycling world lately. Both locally and on the international scene that I would like to talk about. So hopefully I'll get my butt in gear and write about them.

Tomorrow I want to talk about a couple of things I did to get my machine prepared for the Piece of Cake.  Things that I think helped me not have a mechanical out there (And there were a lot of people that did.).

Thanks for reading.

Rubber side down,

Big E