Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I'm on my way out to Japan for a couple of weeks. Kazumi and I are off to Kumamoto to see the family and enjoy some time off work, away from the bluster and cadence of Chicagoland. If I'm able and motivated to post something while there, I will. Regardless, new posts will most certainly commence around February 12 or so. Until then, keep the road.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

State of the Union

Good evening, Ladies and Gentleman.

On this eve, I will dispense with the traditional, feel-good hooha of the past and cut to the chase. The modern state of two wheeled locomotion is a shambles. Professional cycling is hanging itself with its own belt. The fixed gear fad has failed to elevate itself above the self absorbed materialism we've come to expect from road racers. Online retailers are strangling the viability of the local bike shop. "Comfort bike" has entered our vernacular. And, triathletes are still able to roam the streets in daylight without fear.

These are desperate times for those of us raised on the meat and potatoes of cycling such as Merckx, Coppi, Tomac, Van der Poel, and Danny Clark (I never thought I'd see them all in the same sentence, but there you go.) It seems the hard man ethic of Briek Schotte has been scuttled for the limp wristed wonts of fashionistas, pill poppers, and high-volume scalpers.

As good ol', blue blooded, defenders of cycling's integrity, we owe it to ourselves to eradicate the apathetic lethargy and materialism that we've allowed to become so pervasive within our sport. As many emailers and those "in-the-know" have pointed out, we are at a tipping point. Do we want to blindly meander over the precipice? Or, will we retain some of the individualism and profundity of our culture and survive the 21st century?

For those of you that refuse to give up our virtuous sport to the ignoble without a fight, I propose: COMA. Much like our middle school teachings of yesteryear, COMA is an acronym that holds significant meaning within its innocuous letters. COMA is our salvation.

Commute: Every rider that is worth his weight in Assos clothing is bound to the fact that commuting by bicycle is the single greatest contribution one can offer to mankind. In essence, Commuteliness is next to Godliness.

Obfuscate: Within every cyclist there is a renegade anarchist trying to get out. But, that doesn't mean that we have to always tell the world where to stick their car keys. Stand tall and say little. If our demise isn't the cel phone wielding Hummer driver, it is the petty chatter of gram counters, aero-fascists, fixed gear elitists, and banal roadies.

Mastery: As respectable representatives of our sport, we must perpetually strive to obtain knowledge of it's history, mechanics, disciplines, and heroes. We must also accept that we live in an imperfect world and cycling has its own crosses to bear. Thus, as much as it might pain us, we should also lend at least the slightest of nods to the abominations that our sport has wrought, such as recumbents, comfort bikes, and this. However, we still maintain that triathletes are a mongoloid species that long ago branched off from our sturdy trunk of evolution.

Autonomy: We must set a course and be the masters of our own universe. We shall not be conditioned by shallow promises, haughty fads, nor accept the flagrant disregard of our privileges and rights from motorists, pedestrians, equestrians, developers, and city planners. They cannot stop our steady march of progress.

It is with great hope that our dream of a utopian, two wheeled, self propelled society is realized.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008


When "wind chill" starts entering the shop parlance and the down tube on the commuter is encrusted with white stalactites courtesy of the salt flats of the suburban empire, we at the shop look to bizarre forms of entertainment disguised as work to enable our minds to cope with the firm grip of old man winter. Usually these are small, well calculated diversions that are designed to sound grand, but are in reality, quick and easy tasks set to a seasonably slow tempo. Usually to the steady crackle-thump of warm music and chips.

For instance, I might say "I will clean and organize my work bench today." It's wise to preface your statement with something like "I'm just gonna chill out and..." This is good old fashioned textbook bike shop survival guide stuff. It implies a sense of lethargic serenity, which is infectious.

However, such bluster is not without it's own minefield of caveats. Such as the unintended consequences when such action is taken. As any Tom Clancy reader would tell you, "blowback" can really stick in your ass sometimes. It is usually accompanied with a sinking feeling that you have bitten off more than you wanted to chew. The best thing to do in such cases is disappear to the hardware store for a few hours so as to put said project off indefinately. Or, if you're wisened to the ways of how things really work, suffer the sour fruits of your hubris like a delusional martyr and complain about it.

Long story short, we hooked Chief up with a "new" floor today.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Peloton Diaries Vol. 2

Well, I recently wrapped up another trip in the WayBack machine and come to you, dear reader, armed with some new and enlightening nuggets of autobiographical splendor. This time I set the date back to late 1992. Dimitry Konyshev, known among the peloton as a party animal and genuine Russian hard man, is gearing up for the World Championship Road Race in Benidorm, Spain. Let's listen in, shall we?


If I have to deal with another one of Cees' stupid bird call wake ups, I'm going to punch him in the nuts. We're not four years old for christ' sake. I'd really have told him off too, but my head was banging around like a lugnut in Sputnik.

Last night, Skibby and I got really shitty at the disco and danced all night with some American backpackers. The one I was with kept on saying something like "If my dad saw me now, he'd kill me!" and then guzzle another shot. That cracked me up. The bullshit that came out of that girls mouth...

But, I was feeling good and finally said "If I was you're dad, I'd make love to you!" and made the David Copperfield eyes. Skibby heard that and nearly pissed himself. Totally blew my cover. Anyway, that's about all I remember. I think I threw up on one of them. It's alright though, because they were getting really annoying.

The ride today wasn't much. Just a 180km jaunt with no real hills. Skibby wound it up pretty good and put the hurt to some of the young guys. He's one tough comrade.


No late nights for awhile. I guess Cees caught wind from one of the bellhops that "a couple team members" were out past curfew last night. Apparently, they didn't like all the black marks from the doughnuts we did in the mechanic's van. I'm sure Cees has a good idea who that "couple" is, but he isn't saying anything. When he brought it up at the team meeting, Skibby said "I think Hamburger was looking for some bun!" Everyone cracked up about that. Even Cees. Bo got so embarrassed and worked up about it that he almost looked guilty.

Cees made us do extra distance so nobody thought they were getting away with anything. It wasn't so bad though. The weather was nice and all the booze was out of my system. A good day to be on the bike.

Theunisse was kind of creeping me out though. He had that spooky look he gets when he's either pissed off or riding out of his mind. Seeing as how we weren't going balls out, I assumed he was pissed. I hope it wasn't about the extra distance we did. I don't want to get on the wrong side of that dude.


Good news today! I got signed by team Jolly for the next two years. It's nice to have some financial security and all that, but the best part is the kit. Not only are they my favorite color, neon green, but they have a joker face on them that looks like the Graffix bong company logo. Skibby is really jealous.


On Lenin's grave I swear I won't go out for what Theunisse calls "fun" again. Saturday started off great. We had a nice ride with some good efforts. All the guys were working well together. Pacelines, echelons, deep leg burning efforts. We were like a well oiled machine. It was truly one of those rides where you feel like you could take anybody.

After the soigneur and dinner, Skibby and I decided we were going to go out and celebrate my new contract with the usual: vodka, dancing, and beautiful company. Then Theunisse decided he wanted to come too. Gert's a fine guy, we thought, a bit eccentric, but fine none the less. So, why not?

I should have listened to the voice in my head saying "Noooooooo!" I never listen to that damn voice, but I should have this time. It tried to tell me something wasn't quite right. I didn't realize that meant that he's totally out of his fucking mind.

Things changed real quick when we got to the club and Gert started to down gin like it was Coca-Cola after a tour stage. Skibby and I were half expecting him to pass out or get sick or something. Not this guy! He wasn't sweating it. He kept telling people he was Michael Jordan and was trying to keep a low profile. Some poor asshole called him on it and said Jordan was black. Bad move. Gert threw his drink at him and called him a racist. Damn near everyone in place laughed at that. I bet even the real Michael Jordan would have laughed.

About an hour later we heard more commotion and see Gert leaning over the bar choking the bartender saying he's watering his drinks down too much. That was enough to get security over, so we grabbed Gert and left before things got out of hand.

At this point it was around 1:30AM and we figured we'd get back to the hotel since Cees had another lame-ass team unity thing the next morning. Why do coaches think we need that crap? This isn't the junior leagues. If they want unity they should go out with me and Jesper. Cees would be sick of unity by the time we're done with him. Hugging the toilet in a stupor wondering what the hell he was thinking. Anyway, when we got to the hotel Gert asked if we were up for a nightcap and invited us to his room. We were still kind of wired so we said "yes."

When we walked in Gert handed us some glasses with ice. Then he rummaged through his travel bag and pulled out a big black bottle and poured us some. He said he made it off season. It smelled terrible, burned going down, and hit like Stalin's gulag. I felt numb, but really peaceful. Gert saw that we were cooing like baby lambs, so he topped us off. He raised his glass, nodded toward Skibby and I and smiled . Then things went all Chernobyl on us.

It felt like the top of my head opened up and my mind was pouring out upside down. Like gravity had reversed itself. I looked around in wonder. Everything was moving and shifting and flipping and flopping. The carpet grew out of the floor into six inch, smiling, neon green worms. My feet were resting on an orange and yellow koala bear with magazine teeth and Jello claws. A 12 foot blueberry with Skibby's head was sitting next to me talking about how cool it was to be a melting lobster while he drank with Michael Jordan.

I don't remember so much after that. Just bits. Skibby swimming in purple cabbage. Glowing yellow shellfish doing the tango on the ceiling. And, Gert's voice coming out of a joker face saying "Are you guys having "bun" yet?"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Bastards Won't Give Us a Foot

There's a road that is popular with cyclists not too far from my home. It's one of the last, more or less, safe passages to the wild west of Illinois. Last year marked the beginnings of road work to widen and repave the road in an effort to make it more hospitable to the multitude of motorists idling their way about.

While the widening and resurfacing were an undeniable success, the result was a death blow to the wide cushion of safety provided by the shoulder of the road. As little as 9 months ago, you could roll along with a pocket of three or four feet between you and traffic. Today, that pocket has been whittled down to roughly six inches. And if that wasn't enough, the collective middle finger of the powers that be was soundly thrust up local cyclists' asses in the form of a concrete curb. So, now when we're buzzed by the egos and ignorance of motorists, we're going to eat concrete shit in the middle of a traffic lane instead of wobbling off into the ditch to eat dirt shit out of harm's way.

I was on this road the other day. It's still popular with cyclists. I hope that we aren't going to be fewer in number because of it. Though, I fear that will not be the case.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Riding With Intensity

Every group ride seems to have at least one true bastard of a human being. The kind where you mention the guilty party's name and a silent nod is given as if to acknowledge the shared experience of embarrassment and disbelief. Their exploits are often traded over coffee and biscuits on quiet Sunday mornings in smallish towns miles from home. They are stories that pique the interest of anyone with a heartbeat. More than the tired drivel of training ride slugfests (they're all the same) or how the latest masters race was won or lost (nobody cares). And while most of these miserable curs are vile and graceless, there is a soft spot in my heart for one of their kind. His name was Dave.

Like most of these types of riders, I had heard of Dave long before I met him. I had been fed a steady diet of Dave stories by the guys that rolled with him regularly. They had grown up with him. I heard how Dave was short tempered. How he once hurled his Gios Torino into a drainage ditch on it's maiden voyage because he had flatted his equally new Vittoria tubular. And, how he had thrown his water bottle at a guy as he was walking back to his Porsche after a heated exchange. I was still new to cycling, and young, so the thought of some older dude lobbing water bottles at cars and creating controversy intrigued me.

My first ride with Dave was memorable because it marked a number of firsts for me. It was the first time I had ever ridden with more than three people. It was the first time I had ridden over 60 miles. It was also the first time I witnessed a "Dave Explosion". True to the tales I had heard, Dave was short of temper and sharp of tongue. I admit that the sight of Dave spewing venom at the older couple in the Oldsmobile probably wasn't warranted, but it was a guilty pleasure.

I bore witness to many more blow ups by Dave in the ensuing years. Strangely, trouble seemed to find him much more often than other folks. Almost unfairly so. Throughout it all, he dealt with the vagaries of confrontation with consistent stubborn abandon.

Even in Dave's most innocent moments on the bike, he was not a rider. He was a fighter. He grasped his handlebars as if he were wrestling a steer to the ground. He never let an attack go without countering it. His sprint was a crazed image of furled brow, clenched teeth, and flared nostrils like a wild bull. He knew how to draft, echelon, and pull through. He was the consumate racer's riding buddy.

In moments of quiet, away from the hustle and bustle, Dave would morph into a personality that was reflective and almost poetic, in a gruff and peculiar sort of way. Profanities not withstanding, he was also very quotable.

Regardless of all the episodes of chaos, we continued to ride with Dave. Not because we couldn't escape him, but because he was actually a pretty damn good guy if you bothered to look beyond his acidic exterior. Dave had baggage and circumstances that most people have never had, and while it lead him to tear things down on occasion, he didn't let it destroy his bond with his fellow riders and friends.

Since those days, I've ridden with numerous other groups and suffered the low rent versions of asshole riders they cannot seem to rid themselves of. I've heard stories of many more and the idiocy they drag around like an anchor with them. It's not a common thing to tow the line and be a likable son of a bitch, but Dave was. He was the gold standard.