Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Filet Mignon

With a heavy heart I bid "Adieu" to one of the greats, Laurent "The Professor" Fignon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lance and Me

They say Lance is finished. Done. Kaput. Haters are writing snide diatribes on forums attacking with the best cuts their armchairs can muster while the defenders clinging to his scrotum hair are beating off the steady volley of barbs with ever shorter swords. I don't particularly identify with either side, though their online battles are sometimes mildly amusing and curiously unhinged.

I first heard of Lance as some upstart trigeek kid throwing his cards in with the big boys of the EuroPro scene back in 1992. He was flying the colors of Motorola then and all I thought of was Alexi Grewal and how he had his date with reality in a certain race called Paris Roubaix (the thumb pointing him to the back of the pack by an unknown hard man is still etched in memory). This Lawrence guy would surely suffer a similar fate.

I caught a glimpse of Big Tex at the '93 Tour DuPont while I was waiting for the hotshots to happen by so I could bother them for another fanboy photo-op. He was digging around the back of the team car looking for water bottles and food. He had an undeniable confidence about him bordering on arrogance. I remember staring for awhile and thinking "Goddamn...he's not even a year older than me..." Just then, Sean Yates and Steve Bauer rolled up and I forgot about Lance and ogled the dudes I saw on the World Cycling Productions videotapes.

Lance won the World Championships five months later (and my photo with Yates and Bauer with the "Stealth" bike disappeared with the BS photobook when the business was sold a few years after I left). The rest is history. Lance went on to win the Dauphine a few times, a couple Tours de Georgia, and a second in the Amstel Gold. If memory serves, I believe he won a few Tours de France as well...

Regardless, I can't find it in me to blindly defend nor gloat about his latest (lack of) exploits. I was never a big fan of the great Armstrong. Not a hater, but a doubter. I rooted for Ullrich and Basso and Beloki and Kloden, and of course Pantani, but he was never really a contender after "the bust". Time and again Lance proved stronger than I perceived and hoped. Certainly there are claims of him and the juice, but what those folks fail to mention is that, if true, he beat out the other 198 (give or take) juicers fair and square.

And now, after the now famous stage 8 collapse, I find myself with no other words to describe my reaction other than pity. Pity, because I empathize with the tired sack of bones and meat that limped over the finish line like an aging alpha lion with a bum leg and cataracts. Like LA, at 38, I'm keenly aware of where my body is every morning. The memories of what it used to do are still fresh in the ol' memory banks. I'm well aware that I can't quite do what I used to do just a few years ago. It takes longer to warm up. The top end isn't there. Neither is the snap and quickness. The recovery time needed between efforts has lengthened and I don't have the "second gear" anymore. Shit, I can barely suffer a few minutes without wanting to back off and piano the rest of the way.

I was warned about this a long time ago, and now offer the same sage proclamations to the young guns I might happen to roll with on occasion. They said "You're going to wake up one day and, all of a sudden, your body will betray you. It won't do what you tell it to." Well, that day has come and gone and I think Lance's has too. Though, even now, in his decrepit state, he could likely win a stage or finish in the top twenty-five in cycling's crown jewel. But, as far as the intricate tapestry of magic and punishment he dealt so masterfully for those seven years, it ain't gonna happen again. It's gone. The music has died. Maybe he shouldn't have stopped. I think he might have won 9. But, what do I know? My brain isn't what it used to be either.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Fool's Signal and Pedallers of Distraction

I've been listening to a lot of Slayer lately. Revisiting the older stuff like Show No Mercy and Reign in Blood. No real reason, my music preference goes in cycles. But, it does seem to fit well with the bulk of the urban guerilla commuting miles that have been stacking up. And you can't deny that when some jagbag buzzes a few inches from your handlebars, that Angel of Death lyrics don't satisfy just a little bit in some depraved way.

Mind you, it's only what I remember of the songs that run through my head, as I'm not one to tune out the world with earbuds and an IPutz while pedaling. Not even one ear like the halfsy folks that strain to hear the buzz of strings and beats over the traffic they think they're being attentive to.

Obviously, a fair amount of folks hold the opinion that music, riding, and traffic don't mix. And rightfully so. I'll go even further and say that even without the frenzy of urban traffic, it's a bad habit. An old pal once brought this up when I was a runner years ago and said "if you can't lose yourself in what you love doing, you're not doing it right." Or, at least something to that effect. Many won't agree, but to me, when you look beneath the veneer of exceptionalism, I think there is some truth to it.

I know a decent amount of riders, some really good friends, that roll with tunes in all manner. Some in a safer context than others. There are quite a few riders that I observe on the daily commute whom are clearly either vaguely aware of their own existence or, more ominously, have some kind of twisted fatalist streak.

I won't needle folks who think that wired riding is A-OK. Live and let live is my credo ("if you have to have a credo." as ol' Clark Griswold said). So, much like I never cared for the "Where's your helmet?" pretentiousness, I don't particularly feel the need to impose my personal beliefs on other folks. For me at least, I'm happy with my own thoughts, wind noise, and gears clicking away like that scene in Sunday in Hell.

One other thing I've noticed during the UGRCs (Urban Guerilla Recon Commute) is the curious decision by automobile manufacturers to, quite brazenly, discontinue the turn signal function on their new rides. And, near as I can tell, have co-opted the nerd community and developed a hack that electronically jams the formerly good signals on older models.

What was once a make-no-mistake-about-it flashing red beacon of intent is now reduced to a quick darting of the eyes to the rear view mirror or a clairvoyant merge/turn. Perhaps someone tired of the clueless blue hairs driving countless miles at five below the speed limit with the blinker incessantly signaling a lane change that never comes. Or maybe it's a corporate strategy (I haven't figured out how to blame BP or Obama for this yet, but obviously someone powerful is to blame) to squeeze every last bit of productivity out of the fine and upstanding motorized public.

Regardless, I'm calling bullshit on it. Like flicking cigarette butts out the window or using the bike lane as an exclusive, personal express lane, it's another all too common stupid de-evolution of mutual respect, personal responsibility, law enforcement, education, and public health. Alas, nobody cares until someone dies, and even then, they only care for a day or two.

Keep it safe two wheeled freaks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Old Timey Whips

Old steel...

Concorde Squadra TSX in PDM team colors. I lusted for one of these back in 1992 when Sean Kelly was king and money was an extravagance. Veltec-Boyer was out of the PDM model when I finally had the cash and prices were slashed, so I got the Collstrop team replica instead.

Few bikes are more iconic than the 7-11 Eddy Merckx Corsa Extra. Luscious.

This looks to be a newer version of the Legnano SLX that Pheeves has. The green/white/red scheme is as timeless as celeste...and probably equally loved/hated.

The masked chrome fork and stays paired with Bianchi's Nouvo Celeste (new for the time) paint made this bike a head turner. The "Ultralight" on the 1995 Bianchi Columbus TSX sticker was somewhat misleading, and rear wheel changes were a chore with the ridiculously short chainstays if you had any tire bigger than a Vittoria CX sewup. Trivialities aside, this bike didn't sing, it bellowed.

Ahhh, the 1991 Zullo team TVM bike. Doesn't Robert Millar look fabulous? It's not often you see a small maker appear beneath the legs of a big time professional squad, and these days, it's downright absurd. But Zullo hit on all cylinders with their SLX model done up in a mustard/yellow splash scheme. If only the Pariba tires kept them upright, perhaps a few of the originals would still be around. Regardless, Zullo is fabricating some really nice looking replicas for the tifosi. And I daresay they outshine the original in all aspects but originality...

When CP came in with his 1988 Rossin Ghibli in green/yellow/purple back in 1993 I knew this beast was one bike that I'd want for a long, long, time but never lay hands on. Alas, much time has passed and I'm no nearer to owning one than I was in '93.

The only thing I liked about the arrogant bastard that came in the bike shop with a few racing years under his belt and a law degree on his wall was his Tommasini Tecno. It sparkled more than any bike I had ever seen.

While I think Pinarello is in something of a state of confused de-evolution right now, they were riding high back in the early and mid 1990's. The Montello model was pure bodaciousness from its rich red paint to chromed stays and fork. Franco Chiocchioli won the 1991 Giro on one. 'Nuf said.

I had one of these (1988 Peugeot Chorus) passed down from the number one Charly Mottet fan in Chikagaland. By the time I threw a leg over it, it had already seen close to 50,000 miles. When I stomped on the pedals, I could make it shift; not something my 130lb frame was used to. Still, it was such a utilitarian piece of French couture, and my connection to all things eurotrashy, that I would by another one in an instant to relive the underwhelmingness of it all.

RG insisted on riding his Peugeot Super Competition even though he had nine other bikes that were more current and a bike shop with which to kit it out with newer Mavic 8spd with. It took awhile, but I understand where he was coming from now. You can't spoil a classic just because you can.

What's a list of great steel frames without the obligatory Colnago? That's right, a liar's screed. If this was the only bike you ever had, you'd be lucky.

Perhaps it's the fables I heard of Smitty throwing his virgin Gios Torino resplendent in C-Record into a ditch because of a flat on an equally new Vittoria CX tubie. Or, maybe it was the host of pantographed stems, cranks, seatposts, chainrings, and brake levers. Either way, I still want one. Also, what could possibly possess anyone to buy a Gios that wasn't China Blue?

My first love. The first "true" racing bike I ever owned: the 1987 Reynolds 531c tubed Gitane RS. It looked so rad with the Mavic 8spd group that I thought it was the coolest, sweetest, bike in the USofA. Some snickered at the pink (fuscia!) color, but what the hell did they know? They liked football, pop music, and cheerleaders. Definately not my bag. I honestly don't think there's another one of these out there. But if there is, I hope it's a 52cm.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Victory and Salutes

First, no weapons of mass destruction, and now this?

Why they bitin' my rhymes? At least Cozy Beehive gave a shoutout...

edit: And this guy. Sheesh.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dregs, Ghouls, and Little Doggy Deaths

I've been commuting again the past month and a half or so and settled into a new route suggested by Mr. T. It's fast, heavily trafficked, and devoid of the Dregs that throw shit like phone books, baseball bats, and flailing right hooks that never land. I'll roll through their quiet streets in the AM on occasion. While they sleep. Taking swigs from my H2O bottle. Not frontin'. Never have.

The new road to 9 hour days takes me through Brookfield, Riverside, Berwyn, Cicero, and North Lawndale to the Near West Side. I like the route. It's uncomplicated. I also get to go by places I never would see if I didn't ride a bike. Like the gateway to hell on Ogden Avenue (westbound). The potential of western Chicago gentrification. And the fact that Cicero has a town hall that is probably ten times bigger than necessary. Money well spent if you ask me. It'll make swell kindling when the zombie apocalypse hits in 2012.

Along this new route there is a park that hugs up to the boulevard where the early risers stretch, jawg, shadow box, and walk dogs. Mostly yappy dogs that bark at everything that moves. Some don't bother to leash them up and they get pretty close to the street as I go by. They're hard barkers. Brash and excitable. And they'll piddle all over the place if you're not careful. The outdoors is the best place for them. Preferably under a bus. Or the wheel of a bunny hopping 225 pound Greek/Argentinian (what an explosive combination!) on a Merckx Strada done up in Motorola hues.

Still, dogs are trifles compared to the Range Rover ghouls patrolling the Dunkin Donuts and Clark gas stations though. 32oz. coffees in one hand (they don't speak no Italian Venti shit, and the metric system is too complicated) and their finger close enough to diddle boogers as they text with the Isumthingtotallygay to their face (I can see the soft glow upon their glazed cheeks).

Rolling along alone with my thoughts and all of these peculiar observations makes for a longing to enjoy the moment with other like minded folks. I know Pheeves would eat it up. Old DOC too. Clean? Absolutely. Mel? For sure the parts his hair would look cool in. Mitch, Jeff, Bob, Marilyn, Dee, Snakeydoodle, BufNStuf, and Brad? High five and hell yeah. Trapper would go Curly through every intersection and Smithy would throw water bottles and maybe a Gios. And when things mellowed out, we'd laugh our faces off.

Such is the way of the urban commuter and dreamer in 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Fons

The original Fonsarelli.

Alfons De Wolf's career was coming to a close just as I started my courtship with the bicycle, so I never really got to enjoy his years as a PRO rider. The Fons was among the multitude of Belgian riders that endured life under the impossible shadow of a recently retired Eddy Merckx.

Now, I know Belgians are brimming with passion, knowledge, and talent in the world of cycling, but it's profoundly delusional to expect another Eddy. Thus, I have a soft spot in my heart for any Belgian rider, especially if it elicits images of a cheesehead in a black leather jacket whose schtick is being cool and giving the thumbs up all the time .

It says on Wikipedia that The Fons is now a funeral director in Antwerp. So it goes, as they say. Still, I'd like to give a shout out to ol' Alfons. He may not have been the next Eddy, but he was the original Fonsarelli.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Franco Ballerini

Picture courtesy of

R.I.P., Franco. You were one of the greats.

Not So Well Adapted

I'm resurrecting the old Colnago Master Olympic and figured I'd adapt the 1" headset to something new and fat. As in something that will take a 31.8 bar fat. I did some research and decided that the Nitto was too much for too little, Dimension was ugly and heavy, and Deda was just right. I put my order in and then patiently awaited my new bridge to tomorrow.

I installed the Deda adapter at the appropriate height and slapped a stem and bars on and had a look. Aaauuuuugghh!!!!! WTF? The elegant transition from the sparkling Record headset to that old 1" quill stem was replaced by some inbred, reject cousin with an adam's apple the size of a grapefruit. Repulsive.

I had some reservations about the quill adapters for quite some time but finally figured I was just being curmudgeony. Now, I know I wasn't being a curmudeon, I was enlightened. The only way these abominations look halfway respectable on a bike is to have your stem slammed, ala MM and his trusty rawhide mallet. And that usually says to me that your bike doesn't fit so well, or the rider concentrated too much on the stems surrounding him in the 4's race as opposed to the finish line.

As quickly as I had the adapter installed, it was pulled out and replaced with an old ITM 105mm 1" quill with that familiar 26.0mm hole for the bars. Now that's classy.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Peloton Diaries Vol. Hinault

It's a long time between posts. You'll be happy to know it was time well spent with my WayBack Machine.

As most of you know I'm of the opinion that Bernard Hinault is pretty much the greatest character in cycling of all time. I thought I might as well learn a little more about the man by going back to 1978, just as Le Blaireau was coming into his second year as a professional cyclist. He was hungry, ambitious, cerebral, and even a bit of a scoundrel in those early years. And apparently, had quite a thing for Van Halen.

16 February 1978

Today was no good. Bad legs, bad weather, bad breath. At least I had the opportunity to show the two fat bags on the Rue my arse. How many times do I have to deal with a dozen bastards challenging anyone that dare passes? Too many I say. Stop. Please.

At least Lucien is back tomorrow...

17 February 1978

Fantastic! It blows my mind! It makes me move! Lucien brought a music gift from USA called Van Halen. This music really drives me and I can feel the heavy guitar licks with passion. The second song "Eruption" is like anything I've ever heard. Like a freight train driving to heaven. And just when you think it's over it dives straight down to hell with an incredible thundrous take on "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks. This album will be in my head throughout the spring classics for sure. It inspires and soars. I am not afraid to say Le Tour is now mine.

19 February 1978

Ohhh. My head still hurts this very moment from Friday. After training for six hours with Cyrille on the motorbike and showering up, we went to Marcel's disco with Lucien and Marc. Old Cyrille was really going off. An incredible dancer for a guy that says he can't race anymore because of bad knees. I guess it was the Pernod moving him. He says he couldn't even get out of bed yesterday to take a shit.
While Marc was turning his charms to some beautiful women-they really seem unable to resist him. Lucien and I really got into it about French pop vs. American rock. He says that if you take away the loud guitars, all you have is a bunch of homos humping microphone stands in their mothers athletic clothes. I nearly punched his neck for that. He may be right about the fruitcakes in Foreigner, but David and Eddy are all testosterone. When I said Francois Valery was a talentless hack basterd with dirty knees, Lucien got the crazy eyes and tried to grab me, but all he did was fall off his chair and throw up. Game over. I win, Lucien. Get used to it!

20 February 1978

Rode with Marc, Lucien, some new kid named Cherry...Charry...Charly...Cha..something like that. Man, he was short. I couldn't understand a word he said through all those crooked teeth and Rhone accent.
Marc started to make fun of him during the ride by making mongoloid sounds and chewing on his tongue. DaDaaaDaaaDaaahhh. Lucien and I were hysterical and had to stop pedaling so we didn't pee ourselves. The kid was a good sport about it, though. He even bought us all espressos at Jacques' Cafe in Saint-Malo.
I was feeling feisty on the way home and attacked midway through the boring stretch on Croix au Merles. I poured all I had into breaking them. The kid was the first to pop. Now it was us just us three maneuvering for position. I glanced back and saw the poor kid, head down, falling behind meter by meter at every pedal stroke, his shoulders rocking.
I could tell we all had that taste in our mouth of adrenaline and sweat while still searching for the missing element, domination. All convinced we be the first and only to drink the sweet Victory Cocktail. The three of us kept on driving daggers into each others guts, click after click. Then, just as I turned a powerful gear to the front, I hear Marc doing the mongoloid thing again and lost it. Lucien and I seized up with laughter and short coughs from the effort while Marc scuttled by and disappeared around the bend. DaaDaaaaaDaaaDaa.... What a cheeky bastard move...

21 February 1978

I went out alone today for nearly eight hours. It was another gray one and I'm starting to forget what the sun feels like on my skin. I kept plugging away though. There was another group of cyclo-tourists that couldn't handle a passing. I drilled them good and close. Just barely brushing the hair on their elbows as I passed them again at twice their speed while drinking from my bidon. They were all red and swollen with effort in the face and searching for gears with feeble clicks and clacks coming from their broken machines. God, how I enjoy destroying people.

24 February 1978

I've been riding alone the past few days and am really loving the solitude and time to clear my head. I ride with that song "Ain't Talkin' bout Love" in my head these past few rides. When he says that he's been to the edge, I know exactly what he means. I've been there too. I look down and I see that past is prologue. I see that I am imperfect and rotten also. Though, I also understand that I must take what is before me. I must grab it before the next greedy hand comes along to claim it for themselves. I need more hours, more devotion, and more tenacity. As David says, "I've got to be, baby."