31 December 2007

Headwinds and the FIFTH rider

There's a lot of things that I don't mind when riding a road bike: potholes, Providence potholes, sub-zero windchills, gravel, sand, snow, oil, ice, traffic, gridlock traffic, even irate drivers. And there are a few things that I actually enjoy: hills, mountains, Colorado mountains, Providence cobblestones, altitude, dirt trails (as long as it's on a road bike), fog, and the rain.

But I hate the wind. I simply cannot stand it.

Well, good old Colorado Front Range weather threw some nice 60mph headwinds at me today. They only kicked up, though, at the end of the ride so I had to go about 20 miles straight into the inferno. What was supposed to be a 3 hour base ride turned into a leg-tearing hammerfest because I have no discipline in the wind. Jeez, there's nothing like a headwind to suck every bit of pride out of me on a solo training ride. Going a solid 7mph in my 23 at 40rpm on a flat with Lexus SUVs whirring by at 60mph is not exactly what makes me feel like a badass. And then I got a flat tire.

Oh, but I did see the FIFTH rider today (before the winds kicked up). It was an elderly grey-haired man on a flat-barred hybrid taking up the entire lane on one of those ubiquitous high-speed 4-lane suburban expressways. I really wanted to give him a high-five and a cigar, except he was going the opposite way. Nice to know that there's somebody else here, though, joining in the fight to take back a lane for the cyclist on the horridly bicycle unfriendly (and bikelane-less) 4-lane suburban expressways that the developers/criminals champion as progressive and enlightened development (despite nearly fifty years worth of accumulated urban planning wisdom...that's the Brown history/urban studies student in me talking, though...and I guess I'm not the one with a 15,000 ft. house, 5 Mercedes/Lexuses, and a Pinarello with Zipps for the occasional charity ride (yes this is a real developer that I know of), all earned off of millions of dollars of 'enlightened' suburban development - so maybe I'm the stupid one in the end).

Finally, in honor of Brent's major project to quantitatively chronicle the hills of Providence, these are two of my favorite climbs in Colorado Springs. I can't really figure out how to make nice gradient maps right now (and am probably too lazy to ultimately figure it out), but here:

Gold Camp Road (paved portion)
This climb starts from Old Colorado City and ends when Gold Camp Road turns from pavement to dirt (one rider has tried to convince me that the dirt portion can also be done on a road bike, but there are some portions with pretty deep sand and a lot of big, loose gravel, and thus I've never done it...it probably is quite possible but also probably a bit dangerous and damaging to a road machine). This is the one I mentioned before that's great for repeats...hey five repeats equals more than 5,500 feet of climbing! Veloroutes said that the two biggest gradients were 26% and 15%...I think the 26% may have been an anamoly, and I'm pretty sure the 15% is on the switchback on 26th Street. It's quite a mentally challenging climb that requires good discipline because the first part on 26th Street is meatgrindingly but deceptively steep, and the rest is a steady (albeit not horribly steep) climb...there's not really any chance for any break except that slight dip for a few seconds near High Drive. The Gold Camp Rd. portion is also a great opportunity for big gear, low rpm hill repeats:

Cheyenne Canyon

This one is also quite a meatgrinder. I started from the beginning of Cheyenne Rd. just south of downtown because, well, that's where the constant climbing begins. I'm not really sure of all the gradients, but I do know once in the canyon some of the switchbacks are wicked steep (I saw one 26% and one 30% max gradient when plotting, and I really would believe that in the switchbacks). It's also a wicked descent that still scares me...going down the canyon there are some blind switchbacks with quite a drop to a rocky death in the creek if you don't take it quite right. Basically in the canyon I'm in my 39x25 the whole way and still absolutely dying, nearly at a standstill on the switchbacks. I can do it fine on a training ride once I start seeing dark spots, tasting copper, and hallucinating...but the Colorado College/Air Force Academy collegiate race weekend last spring was going to do an individual time-trial up the canyon!!! Luckily for humanitarian reasons, it was snowed out and cancelled. I suppose it's really not that horrible comparatively-speaking (to, uh, a mountain pass), but I would imagine that such a time-trial would've completely blown out many a rider, and potentially could've caused quite a few student-cyclists to permanently give up the sport.

30 December 2007

Where Have All the Bikes Gone?

I finally asked that today. I'm in Colorado Springs for the winter break, and have been so for the past ten days or so. And there are no bikes out!

It might have something to do with the fact that the temperature has been ranging from a solid 0 degrees F to a freaking balmy 32 degrees F, several high wind 'advisories,' several snowstorms during the high wind conditions, and a little thing called ice. But for some reason I've been out riding everyday. Maybe this is finally the evidence that I need to support my claim that I'm a 'committed' athlete.

Well I've been riding everyday, save for the day after arriving here when I was waiting for my bike to arrive. It was in the 50s that day. I was driving to a trailhead on a road that has a rather nice five-mile climb (perfect for repeats since it has no stops, a great view the whole way as it rises above the city, no traffic, varying grades, etc.) and I spotted one of the legitimate pros out riding (incidentally on a bike like mine...apparently what's a dream racer for me is a winter beater for a pro). I know that I shouldn't say this because he's, uh, a pro and, uh, thus pretty badass...but he was decked out like the freaking Michelin man on a sunny 55 degree December day in Colorado!!! Tights (the super heavy ones), long-fingered gloves, winter hat, thermal jacket upon enough layers to make him look like a linebacker, etc. I couldn't help but to wonder just how he was even able to wear that much while putting out the many hundreds of watts that he was producing at the time without starting some sort of fire in his pants.

Granted, I too have been imitating the Michelin man a little bit recently...namely three days ago when it was snowing and in the teens and I had a nice two hour cruise. Maybe I'm just an idiot youngster punk trying to pretend that I'm badass and I don't realize it, but still I've only encountered FOUR other cyclists out there riding in the past ten days. In C. Springs, normally I'll see easily a dozen cyclists at the very minimum on any spring/summer day.

I think this is just bugging me a bit because it seems such a waste to forego the training mecca of Colorado roads for a trainer in the basement just because it's below 60 degrees F outside.

I can understand if one would not want to spend fifteen minutes getting dressed, only to get your seat shoved up your butt fifty times because of Thayer Street potholes in the first minute of the ride, ten minutes later crash on black ice on the Henderson Bridge and get tetanus from making physical contact with whatever industrial waste has been rotting on its shoulder for the past thirty years, realize while heading past Seekonk High that you hate yourself and should've thrown yourself off the side of the Henderson when you had the chance, and then turn back when your waterbottles have frozen solid a half mile later, and top it off when somebody gives you the finger without provocation in Wayland Square. New England does suck in the winter. The entire state of Rhode Island just looks cold, if that makes sense. Providence doesn't look right when it's sunny and warm...it HAS to be freaking freezing cold for it to seem normal.

But Colorado. It looks warm. Even the white snowdrifts look warm. The colder it is, the warmer it looks. I know it's counterintuitive, so maybe this metaphor will help in a nonhelpful sort of way: it's like that inhumanely difficult class taught by the most amicable, enthusiastic, and friendly professor, thus ensuring that you never once realize how hard the class was. Only amicable, enthusiasic, and friendly doesn't describe Colorado; the proper three descriptors would be wicked hilly, wicked high-altitude, and wicked hilly.

If you don't mind the occasional frozen gears (you'd better find the best gear beforehand!), snow-clogged brakes (if you're riding on snow you'll be going slow enough that stopping can safely be achieved by unclipping and sliding for foot on the ground, or merely falling over), and sliding uncontrollably on the occasional patch of ice (again keeping a constantly controlled speed is a must, control can be regained by unclipping and sliding the foot, and keeping your hands completely off the brakes is the key) - then you don't ever need a trainer in Colorado.

I don't have one.

11 December 2007


No, this post isn't about asserting one's sexual freedom in a drunken manner in front of a Fox News camera. There's no star involved with this.

Sometimes I do suck at life...but at least I don't look like this:

I mean, seriously dude, you ride a Serotta and hang out with Lance Armstrong and have eight hundred billion dollars in ketchup funds. Get some spandex. They even have some technologically engineered spandex to make skinny middle-aged rich WASPs look sexy these days. At least he apparently stays pretty darn hydrated, though.

But, here, NO WAY. NO WAY. NO WAY. Come on, man, NO WAY. Toe straps and running shoes on a mountain bike...what is this, a cat. 4 cross race? And wheel reflectors?!? I highly doubt that the President has to worry much about getting hit by a car (not that wheel reflectors have ever played a role in preventing car-to-bike physical action in the history of mankind). Oh, and the saddle bag. What, is the Secret Service going to ditch the President in the middle of a ride if he gets a flat tire and cannot change it himself?

To be fair, though, our President does look pretty badass here. He looks like a big pedal masher, though, but I have a special affinity for pedal mashers:

Actually, it's pretty cool that such important people are (or at least fancy themselves to be) hardcore cyclists. It's one step ahead of me - I only fancy myself to be both important and hardcore.

So why do I suck at life? Well, sleeping through my alarm clock and missing half of a final exam this morning is probably good evidence supporting such an assertion. Sleeping approximately five hours this weekend may also count (or is it also evidence of hardcoreness - see, now I'm acting like the cynical history student who sees ambiguity in even the most obvious of things). I did that, though, so I could proceed in my effort to not fail out of school. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration...I like to get A's whenever possible at whatever physical cost.

At least this foray into scholarlyness has imposed rest time for me. I definitely have had some hardcore achilles tendonitis, as with two weeks of rest the tendon has that old familiar spongy/stringy feel indicative of the massively damaged/inflamed/pissed-off tissue repairing itself (I hope).

I still have a cold, and apparently some sort of ugly stomach ailment now, too. Ugh. Feels like runners' bowels.

Please allow me to now take out my frustration with myself on some sort of unsuspecting inanimate object...

02 December 2007

It's 3:33am

I have three research papers to write. For one of those papers ALL the research I have is in French and German, although the paper is to be written in English (and it's not like I speak any three of those languages very well). I have two final exams this week. Apparently it's 12 degrees outside (some of my more hardcore Brunonians did brave the weather for a Seekonk ride today though). I tried turning up the radiator in my dorm room, but that caused hot water to gush out of the valve. I don't think I have clean underwear for tomorrow (or is it today?)

Goodness, my two road bikes are sitting across from me right now just begging to be rode. Perhaps if I didn't care the least bit about school (or laundry or frostbite) I might just do it.

About a week ago I was on a ride alone on the East Bay path, heading back to Bristol RI (as it was the Thanksgiving Break), and the support rails under my seat snapped and the seat broke off the post. Hmmm. I've never had that happen before - not horribly fun riding five miles on pancake flat terrain entirely out of the saddle. I'm now still living in an unrealistic fear every time I jump on a bike that the seat's going to fall off again.

The Brown team has drafted a design for our new jerseys this year. We're gonna be decked out in full-out brown and red argyle. We're gonna stand out SO MUCH in the peloton that if we're not freaking all-out badassedly fast we'll be the laughing stocks of the ECCC. At least we'll have a pretty huge team this year to, uh, divide up the ridicule (or admiration) in smaller individual chunks. Better finish writing these papers so I can start training some more. Whether it be -12 or 12 degrees Fahrenheit, there's always my fellow teammates to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

17 November 2007

A Photo I Love

I love this photo of Westminster Street in Providence downcity (a street I often have to venture on to go ride west) for a few reasons:

-There's both a Dunkin Donuts and a CVS
-There's at least one car parked on the sidewalk
-There are potholes in the small strip of cobblestones found in the middle of the bricks
-The oldest 'shopping mall' in the U.S. is one the left
-There's both a RI-style metal grating and a RI-style manhole cover from hell

Please note, I've once seen a car try to turn this into a two-lane street before. Look closely - there's enough space.

Stupid Things That I've Done on the Bike - Part 1 of many

So I've been reminiscing today about some stupid things that I have done on the bike before. It all started because yesterday I literally blew up the tube on my bike wheel (and exploded the sidewall) while showing off some bunnyhops on the Brown main green - it sounded like a gunshot when it occured and definitely brought more attention to me than when I was just bunnyhopping around.

-My first major road bike crash ever was in Colorado Springs two summers ago. I was riding and singing Elton John songs at the top of my lungs (I get bored when riding alone which naturally entails singing), and went past a group of like ten rowdy teenagers. Mere feet past the group of rowdy punks I hit a patch of sand and totally wiped out right in front of them, smashing my derailleur into the curb and bloodying myself up pretty bad. They were all like "holy hell that was hardcore" and "holy hell that guy was singing Elton John and riding a bike and then just crashed."

-On my third ride ever on a road bike back when I was in high school in Colorado Springs I thought it would be cool to try doing a trackstand at an intersection because I had seen somebody do one earlier. The problem, though, was that I didn't know how to do a trackstand. I was wobbling out of it and was in a massive flurry to avoid drifting into traffic while not falling (plus I sucked at unclipping and didn't have that certain reflex built into me yet). Right then, two DISCOVERY CHANNEL TEAM guys turned the corner in the intersection to ride in the opposite direction on the road I was on (they were going fast...Chris Carmichael is headquartered in the Springs so that's why I assume the Discovery riders were there)!!!!! I came literally one inch away from completely wiping both of them out!! I felt so sheepish.

-Crashing while riding the trainer (i.e. didn't have the bike screwed in properly). I've done that multiple times.

-Crashing in the courtyard of Keeney (did it twice last year). Of course I've done much worse in Keeney before, though :)

-Breaking my arm in a mountain biking accident fall of my sophomore year of high school which meant that I had to do the rest of the cross-country season running with a big green cast on my arm.

-Trying a solo breakaway my first road race ever.

Just a taste of stupidity. My cross-country coach in high school once told me, "Graham, for being somebody so intelligent, sometimes you do really stupid things." Sometime I'll have to reminisce about stupid things I did back in the days of competitive running (i.e. flipping the bird while leading a race in track, trying to push someone off a bridge during a XC race, losing my shoe during Metro League XC race one year, etc.)

Wiser souls have been advising me to take good care of my achilles. My philosophy now is - if it hurts to walk, don't ride, but if it doesn't hurt to walk, then ride and reflect. It doesn't hurt to walk now, and it rarely hurts to ride now except when sprinting or hammering hard. I rode with Brent today for a nice long ride, except since he's not horribly afraid to apply his strength on the bike in a dynamic manner I felt a bit of a twinge in the achilles once in a while, but otherwise it was fine. I spent a good deal of today looking at a big music note, which you'll understand if you've seen his brand new bike.

11 November 2007

One Ridiculous Ride - Rhode Island at Night from the Bike

I got back on the bike for the first time Friday afternoon. At 4:15pm. For a nighttime ride. I had never (intentionally) done a nighttime ride before.

Long story short, I rode with a teammate who was dressed like the freaking iceman and had on a reflective construction vest, a huge blinker on the back, and headlights. I had a tiny reflector/blinker on the back that I borrowed from somebody, and I wasn't dressed like the iceman. I just showed up for kicks.

We went down the East Bay path, and while the reflection of city lights on the bay and the parts that pass through towncenters were quite visible, it felt like the majority of the ride was in the deep dark woods. Without headlights, I personally could not see the ground directly below me, which was probably bad because a lot of the path is covered in slippery leaves and a bit of gravel this time of year. Thank goodness for all those rides that I do with my road bike on mountain biking trails (there's no better confidence builder than riding clipped in on a road bike on a non-technical mountain bike trail). Coming back, the Providence skyline was beautiful above the water, but we didn't care because we were flipping freezing!

After I came an inch from getting T-boned by a car in East Providence, the two of us had a lengthy discussion about how to approach the Henderson Bridge. We decided that the sidewalk on the Angell Street side was probably best - although the sidewalk is horribly small and debris-covered and the railing separating us from a significant drop into the Seekonk River was a bit too short for comfort. Nothing like the old Washington Bridge crossing, though...but I guess I never did that at night either. We got over the Henderson, although my strategy was to do it as fast as possible and get it over with while my teammate took it slow and thus had time to reflect upon the danger of the situation.

The East Side was well lit. The off-ramp from the Henderson onto Angell Street was the most comforting site of the evening. That says a lot.

For the record my achilles tendon is still totally screwed up, so I don't know what I'm going to do with it. My two options are to continue to rest it (although rest seems to have little effect on its currently non-existent improvement), or just start riding on it again. Logic tells me to pursue the first option, but then again I don't like applying logic to riding.

30 October 2007


Here's the background: just over a month ago, I fell down the stairs in my dorm one evening. It looked as if I had broken my ankle, and I got to make a little excursion to the emergency room. Apparently, though, it was the worst degree sprain there is...with all sorts of nasty tissue damage and destruction. Being an intelligent Ivy Leaguer, I decided to race a criterium mere days after this, which gave me enough confidence to continue training on the ankle (albeit with significantly less volume than would be ideal/necessary).

Well, last week I decided that it was time to bump up the weekly volume to something a bit more respectable - in this case 15 hours of base/tempo (really not a lot, but still enough to induce a bit of general soreness and advance my fitness for once).

This was bad. A bad idea. Walking to class is painful now. It's not so much the ankle itself (although that's pretty swollen and bruised) that's hurting, but it's the achilles tendon which took a massive blow in the fall. Riding is out of the question for at least a few days. I'm GOING CRAZY! I feel so helpless. I don't know what to do with my free time now. And I can see the fitness steadily escaping from my body, although it's only been two days off the bike now. Damn.

It takes discipline to prevent myself from hurting myself, no matter how much I want to hurt myself, I suppose.

24 October 2007

Foxborough Ride

Ya, so instead of solely being a nuisance to society, I figured that I'd counteract my uselessness with a little usefulness by posting some of the cool rides that I pull out of thin air.

This ride goes through Foxborough towncenter (quite anticlimactic but nonetheless a bit exciting after braving some rt. 152 madness to get there) and to Gillette Stadium (where the Patriots play).


I actually had a pretty good time for the loop because I realized coming back that I was VERY pressed for time to get back in time for class, so I basically moved up the ranks from base pace to tempo pace to blasting through Pawtucket at 25mph+, swerving in and out of traffic and running every red light without hardly a touch of the brakes. Oh, it was dumping rain also and I was only in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. And I had embarked upon the ride at 6:45am, which in this weird geographic location of ours here meant that it was still dark. It was fun.

Nothing like Mass-a-freaking-chussetts early in the morning. The ones entering the Dunkin Donuts aren't yet caffeinated and thus pose a larger than normal hazard for a cyclist's well-being, while the ones leaving the Dunkin Donuts are, well, just plain normal Massholes.

22 October 2007

rant rant rant rant

Ya so I slept about four hours all weekend writing history papers and studying for some exams from hell, so I'm tired and quite angry. Time for a rant.

For some reason people have been running a lot more red lights in the East Side recently. Now, of course this isn't horribly uncommon in Rhode Island. And I'm used to people blowing through quite vital stopsigns all the time, mainly because apparently they're optional. But I cannot understand the recent red light running on the East Side, because I think that they put those photo-red-light things sometime last winter in some intersections (Wayland and Angell, etc.) Before that, it seems like people were running fewer red lights on the East Side. They were quite behaved. But now all hell has broken loose when the light turns yellow or red, at all times of day.

I guess there's some sort of inverted defiant logic here. Here's a solution - get rid of all stopsigns and stoplights in Rhode Island and then people will behave normally. But only here, because then there's no goddamned sign to tell people what to do and they'll get out of "screw authority" mode and get into "wow somebody actually trusts me to do the right thing" mode.

Mainly, though, I'm just pissed because some damn SUV hit one of the freshmen at Brown over the weekend, and then drove off with a nice friendly "ahh, you look okay." I hope that a semi-truck does the same to that SUV. And trust me, if (once?) a Rhode Island driver hits me when I'm on my bike, I'm gonna sue the living crap out of him/her until he's living in shame under the Henderson Bridge. Especially if it messes up the paint job on my beauty.

18 October 2007

Bittersweet Motivation

Today was strange in that it was the first uneventful ride in a while. Just a quick spin in the East Bay between classes.

Sunday, I crashed headfirst into a lightpole - the only major contact involved the front of my face and cold metal. On Monday, I was nearly killed by a wayward semi-truck on a small group ride in Norton MA. On Tuesday, a squirrel committed suicide under my back wheel on the Washington Secondary - sending me into a precarious spin. Yesterday, aside from the continuous insanity on Cranston Street and Downcity, a pigeon tried its damndest to make contact with my front wheel - bringing me nearly to a complete stop. I have witnesses regarding the fatass pigeon, semi, and lightpole. No witnesses survived from the squirrel incident.

I also feel strange. I cannot believe that the road racing season is over in New England. There was so much that I didn't achieve. I'm angry that I made so negligible progress in the past two months towards a cat. 3 upgrade, and I can't even really blame it on my inability to sprint nor on falling down the stairs in my dorm. I just made stupid tactical errors in all my past few races and was a wuss when it really mattered. Whatever. I've only been racing since March. Apparently it was good experience.

It's motivation, though, for me to keep training in earnest. I'm already transitioning into base training phase...and maybe one of these days I'll start dragging my ass out of bed early enough to spend some quality time with the chilly iron in the weight room. People say that I have talent on the bike...but maybe they're just saying that to make me feel good about my slow, scrawny self.

I've got my goals set out for myself, though:
-Move up to the A category in ECCC this season, and have respectable results there
-Help lead Brown to an Ivy League championship this season
-Achieve an upgrade to cat. 2 by the end of next year

Goddamn. I wish I'd started road racing when I was younger. I still feel like the rookie that I may or may not still be.

17 October 2007

Fear - The Henderson Bridge

Nobody ever truly gets used to riding on the Henderson Bridge. Ever. It's like merging onto the Interstate on your bicycle. It doesn't feel natural. And yet, somehow, Providence roadies act like it's natural. There are better alternatives to getting over the Seekonk River - but those are in Pawtucket. No East Sider would be caught dead there.
What an ugly behemoth. A failed dream to build a pointless controlled access spur from rt. 195 to rt. 44 through the a portion of East Side and East Providence, from which we have this ghost of insanity.

Riding it seems the equivalent of forcing your bike to have unprotected sex with a prostitute in the middle of a battlefield. Nonetheless, all morals go to hell on the bridge. I've driven it before. You merge on, speed up to 60 mph for an entirety of 10 seconds, and then slow back down to a snails speed on Angell Street. And remember, you'd better pick the correct lane at the end of the bridge - because only one goes somewhere:

I love it.

16 October 2007


Why would I waste my time doing this?

Well, I have an inferiority complex - more so than most Rhode Islanders, and most cyclists.

Indeed, I'm a recent transplant to the 'biggest small state' and thus will probably never be considered a true Rhode Islander. But, I want to be one. I love the fierce independence, irreverance for rules, unbridled machismo, and quirkiness that scare most non-Rhode Islanders.

I'm also a relative newcomer to competitive cycling, but fighting hard to fit in.

The competitive roadies in big Northeast cities are the true hardmen of the sport in the U.S. Handling potholes without hardly a swerve and avoiding taxis without hardly a blink, the roadies of Boston and NYC are flat out insane. But don't discount Providence roadies either. The city might be much smaller, but in many cases the roads are even worse and the drivers even more insane. The weather that New England (aka New Belgium) roadies deal with is also flat-out insane. Rhode Island wheelemen are no exception.