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.