Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New Year's Eve Miscellania

I stopped by the video store after spinning to pick up a movie, and noticed this in the Comedy aisle:

Also, as I was packing my board this evening, I noticed that the skiier hitman tore the beejeebus out of the tail. Ouch. That's going to cost me. DAMN YOU, SKIIERS!!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Man Down

I'm Hit! Today I was a casualty in the Great Skiier vs. Snowboarder Holy War. Last run of the day, and the guy plows into me from nowhere. Never saw him coming. Thank god for the helmet, because I went down hard. Whiplash is already creeping in. In retaliation, I plan on tripping a skiier as we get off the lift tomorrow.

Seriously, I'm done with snow and ready for road. With idle time on my hands, I've been spending way too much time trolling through the interwebs for all things bikely, and can't wait to get back in the saddle. Check this site out for really well produced mini-docs on the Cervelo Team over the 2009 season. Witness: scary driving/sandwich eating by their DS, the biggest watches you've ever seen, racy shots of Heinrich Hausler on the massage table, and the narrator's cute Canadian accent. I really liked the Flanders episode.

Tomorrow I can look foward to another extended spin session at the rec center. So sweaty.

Routine. When I snowboard alone I sometimes get in my own head. Today, I began to notice the little chair lift routine that I repeat on every run:
  1. Hockey stop.
  2. Unstrap back leg.
  3. Loosen front buckles.
  4. Get on lift.
  5. Pull down footrest/safety bar.
  6. Pull up gaiter to cover mouth and nose.
  7. Pull hood over helmet.
  8. Draw fingers out of mitts and clench thumbs for warmth.
  9. Sit and plan my next run.
  10. Re-insert fingers in mitt.
  11. Push off hood.
  12. Push up safety bar.
  13. Get off lift.
  14. Pull down gaiter.
  15. Strap in back foot
  16. Tighten front buckles.
  17. Rip shreds to the extreme!!!!
This pattern somehow made me feel all warm inside - literally and figuratively. I am a self-admitted creature of habit, and take odd satisfaction from learning and internalizing a system that works efficiently and consistently. I have routines for getting out the door to go snowboarding, taking a shower in the gym after spin class, and prepping for a bike ride. Oddly, the Rain Man routine of prepping the bottles and food, laying out the clothes, getting out the bag, and packing the gear is part of what I enjoy about riding bikes.

I'm not alone in this. See Joe Parkin's description of pre-race prep in Belgium. I love that post.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Since arriving in Whistler, I've been on the slopes three times, and done two indoor cycling sessions at the local rec center, which is more decked out than most high-end gyms. They even have legit spin bikes with SPD pedals. Given the mediocre snow conditions, I'll probably put in another 90 minute spin tomorrow.

I don't mind too much. I've got a ton of podcasts to keep me company, and started Born to Run by Christopher McDougall on audiobook. I'm only 20 minutes in, but give it a big thumbs up so far. For me, running was never more than an efficient workout, a means to an end, even before my foot problems started. But I can still appreciate the stories of athletic achievement, and sympathize with the author's struggle with injuries over the years.

Another book review: Ten Points, Bill Strickland. My sister sent it to me for Christmas. The book draws parallels between Strickland's relationship with his wife and daughter, his desperate bid to win points at the local crit, and the gut-wrenching abuse suffered at the hands of his father.

Strickland is the editor-at-large for Bicycling magazine, so it's no surprise that he successfully evokes the rush of the pack at 30 miles an hour - better than any other book I've read, actually. His feelings for his wife and daughter are also nicely drawn, if a bit mawkish.

I wonder, though, can a memoir be too personal? Strickland lays bare his soul in this book, and at times I felt like I had to turn away. Rape, physical abuse, animal cruelty, Russian Roulette (!) - it's all there. While writing about these events in unflinching detail requires real courage, at times the pieces seemed gratuitous (do we really need half a page on what it's like to literally eat shit?).

My biggest issue with the book, though, is that the links between Strickland's childhood, his family, and bike racing are often ham-fisted. The best writing appears seamless; in this book the nails and glue are just a bit too apparent. Strickland regularly uses images from his current life to trigger flashbacks to some terrible experience with his dad. This device begins to feel like a literary crutch after a few times.

So in the style of Bicyling's product reviews....
Buy it if: You crave the thrill of the pack - from the safety of your armchair.
Don't buy it if: Oversharing makes you squirm.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Day of Rest

Relaxing day with La Roleurette and my parents. We had brunch at the Westin (nice pancakes), walked around Whistler Village, checked out the Olympic merchandise, and watched Up in the Air (two thumbs up). Leftover turkey et al tonight...

Merry Christmas!

p.s. The 2010 Olympic merch is super cool. The Meomi stuff is almost unbearably cute.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

All I Want for Christmas is Snow

Sadly, despite the solid base, Whistler/Blackcomb is hurting for some fresh snow. Is it possible for 8,100 acres to be skied out? Apparently. It's ok, though - with the big board, I'm happy to just go fast on the groomers. All 172 cm are super stable at speed, and make for super fun carving.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


As seen from the plane and newly widened Sea to Sky Highway...

Monday, 21 December 2009

Ghost of Christmas Future

A chilling glimpse into the future this weekend. Dave and Liz, two friends with a 16-month old girl, stayed with us on Friday and Saturday nights. I was woken at 4:45am one morning (explosive baby diarrhea), 6:30am the other (just the regular early wake-up call).

I did no riding, but did win $10 from Dave in a ping pong match, cooked all the fresh food in the fridge, and installed a wireless audio system, which is super cool. Now I can move the half-busted iPod dock into the Mancave.

For his part, Dave was similarly productive, and spent 30 minutes assembling the paper elf cutout from the SF Chronicle Datebook section. His daughter crushed it in 3 seconds. RIP, little big head paper elf. We hardly knew you.

Also, we tried out one of the East Bay's schmancy new coffee spots. Local 123 in Berkeley. Nice, but I was a little too bleary at the time to appreciate it. I had a macchiato and a chocolate People's Donut. Thumbs up, coffee, thumbs down vegan donut.

Tomorrow I fly up to Whistler for a family holiday, trading one kind of riding for the other (I know, I know - life is tough). But I'll bring my shoes and shorts to spin in the gym on off days.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

And More Rain

Boo, rain. Boo, dark. Still, I sucked it up and took the Cross-Check up The Arlington and South Park before work. My wool cap was dripping right into my eyes on the descent.!!

Also, boo cats. One of the neighborhood cats has decided to make the doorway to the Mancave its very own litterbox. I didn't get around to picking it up, and now the poo is melting in the rain. A part of me dies every time I see it.

For the last couple of weeks, the rear brake on the CC has been making a terrible ruckus. I've been too lazy to deal with it, particularly since my commute is flat as a pancake. But the noise was just too unnerving this morning, coming down Grizzly Peak and Spruce. A quick check found that I had actually worn through most of the pads. I guess they went through many thousands of miles on the Atlantis. In fact, I don't remember ever replacing them.

Normally, I would have just spun this evening, but we're seeing the W's play the Spurs. I fear the holy hellfire Tim Duncan is going to unleash on the Warrior's front line. Good luck with that, Miki Moore.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How to Make Nice with the Other

On Sunday, we rode with Ken's friend, Brendan. He'd never been on a snowboard before, but is an expert kite surfer, so we expected him to manage all right. Still, Ken and I were blown away when, on the first run down, he started linking turns consistently. It never even occurred to him to just stay on his heel side and plow down the mountain, the standard newbie approach.

Making "boarderoy." Skiers love it when you do this.

Anyway, Ken and I would end up waiting a couple of minutes at the bottom of the run for him. He'd show up, and without fuss we'd just get in the line and ride up. No whining, apologies, or excuses. Even when he was getting his ass kicked on harder runs, he never once complained, and seemed willing to try out anything. At one point, he told us we should just do some runs without him, and so we did. No big deal. He was, in fact, the ideal newbie.

This made me think about how to ride bikes with people who are significantly slower or faster than you. Being the most mediocre cyclist I know, I can speak to both.

On Riding with Faster Riders

1. Don't make excuses or offer apologies. Nobody cares that you were sick all week or lost a leg in a bus accident. Really, it doesn't matter. Nothing worse than having to constantly affirm the slow rider. To this day, I am impressed by my friend Jasper, who, SEVERELY hungover, got up early the morning after my wedding to help set up the BBQ tent and play bride vs. groom ultimate with us. He just went to a corner of the field, threw up, and kept going. Not a peep out of the guy.

2. Offer the fast guys the option of taking off. Do this once, and only once. If they say "no," don't make them keep reassuring you it's ok if they wait.

3. Accept the pull. Let the strong guys do the work. No shame in this. Make a little effort here and there, and that will be appreciated.

4. Stay within your limits and take care of yourself. As the most crampy person around, I know that if I cramp up, it's all over. You thought I was slow before? Watch this, motherfucker. So I eat, drink, take my salt pills, and go at a brisk, but sustainable pace.

5. Have fun. In most cases, the fast guys are prepared to wait. What they're not prepared to do is play emotional babysitter. Waiting is fine if the waitee is having a good time.

On Riding with Slower Riders

1. Don't make a big deal of it. In fact, don't mention it even once. The slower rider doesn't want to feel like you're doing them a favor.

2. Wait for a second at the regroup. It's kind of demoralizing to stagger to the top of a climb, see everyone else happily hanging out, then scatter when you roll up. "That was the funniest story ever! Oh, look who's here! Wow, look at the time! I gotta go."

3. Pull more. Just take it easy, Hercules.

4. Avoid the urge to jump on faster groups when they go by. Your ego will heal. If you want, you can immediately start launching into a long involved story at the top of your lungs, so it's clear you're on a recovery ride with your newbie friend.

5. You are allowed to offer one brief piece of advice to a newbie, so choose wisely. However, if the slow rider is your spouse, don't even bother. You might as well be speaking Esperanto. Also, I know the pros do it, but NEVER push, unless asked, especially if the slow person is of the opposite sex. I was on the AIDS Ride in 2001, and someone told me that a total stranger just reached over and started pushing her up the hill. She was so pissed that she turned around and rode the hill again. If you're a woman and start pushing a guy up the hill, he will be either turned on or totally emasculated. Unless these are your goals, it's probably a bad move. Plus, men are sweaty. Yuck.

Monday, 14 December 2009

First Day of the Other Riding Season

A great first day on the slopes! There was plenty of powder to go around, though a bit on the heavy side. Plus, the drive was traffic and pain free - at least for me. Ken did the heavy lifting; I sat in the back eating pretzels, peeling oranges, and drinking tea.

First day of the season is always a struggle, and yesterday was no different. My legs never quite felt the rhythm, but I was happy to get the cobwebs off before heading up to Whistler next week. We rode from 9am to 2pm and were cooked. I'm sore today.

On the way home, we stopped at In 'N' Out in Auburn, and Ken had a 4x4. It's four patties with cheese, plus the usual trimmings, wedged uncomfortably in a little bun. Sadly, I forgot my camera in the car, because this thing looked like a medical journal photo. I mean, I like meat and cheese as much as the next guy, but good god.

I got home by 6pm, in time for second dinner. La Roleurette had cooked up a storm all weekend, and busted out containers of mac n cheese, pork and persimmon stew, chili, polenta, brussel sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately, EZ and the Ladies were spending the night, in town for work, so they assisted with the eating. There's still plenty leftovers for the week, though.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Yes, We are Big Babies

It's been cold here. And by "cold" I mean "cold for Northern California softies like me." Right around now, people in truly wintry parts of the country are burning their furniture for warmth, while we're whining about 40 degree days and making panicked purchases of space heaters.

I freely admit that we're intolerant of weather extremes here. Hell, I revel in it, and pity the fools who have to deal with hot, humid summers and icy winters. I will not apologize for living in the land of milk and honey.

In keeping with my general wussiness, I opted to cycle indoors exclusively this week, with the exception of two uncomfortably chilly rides to work. Looks like I'm in good company, since both classes were packed. On Wednesday, in fact, all the bikes had been spoken for, even though I arrived 10 minutes early. Wendy was kind enough to give up her bike for me (Lisa was teaching). She had apparently taught the morning spin class, so was ok with going home to watch TV and eat popcorn. I take back all the mean things I said about her. She can play her God rock all she wants.

Also due to weather, my ride with Jake and Ed was called off. Too bad! I think I'm actually in decent shape right now, having ridden 4x a week for the last couple of months, mixing it up between intervals, tempo rides, and easy cruises.

So, instead, La Roleurette and I were up at oh-dark thirty for the 7-9am spin class. Wendy likes to start the class with the lights off. I found it strangely relaxing. Like being in a warm, sweaty womb. Despite brunch, sushi, mac and cheese, and cookies, I found myself behind the calorie count all day, and constantly hungry. The pollo asado tostada at Picante set me up for a nice finish, though.

Tomorrow, up at the crack of darkness once more for a Tahoe day trip...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Soooooo cooold....

Seen on freezing ride home...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

The Cold and Wet...

I got up on Friday morning, wanting to get in a decent hour before work, but found it completely socked in. The thought of freezing my ass off on the ridge was unappealing, so instead I did hill intervals in the El Cerrito cemetery. I made the poor choice to wear my light gloves, my hands froze up on every descent. Arg, it burns when they warm up in the shower!

With a holiday party to cook and clean for last night, all I could manage was 35 miles with JK. Coldest day of the year - I wore a long-sleeved jersey and windbreaker even while climbing. We took it easy through Lamorinda, Happy Valley, Papa Bear, and Wildcat.

Today, I was literally at my doorstep, about to head out for an after lunch ride, when the heavens opened. I didn't want to subject the IF to the storm, so I bagged my plan to ride up El Toyonal for the first time, and took the Cross Check onto the Tilden trails. Super fun, very green, almost nobody up there. The incoming storm made for some great clouds, too. That's Mt. Diablo in the distance below. I stayed warm and cozy in a sleeveless baselayer, Ibex wool undershirt, and long sleeve jersey. I need to get me another long sleeve jersey, though. I wore it three times in a row this weekend without washing.

To cap the weekend off, La Roleurette and I went over to my boss' house for the company holiday party. It's a potluck, so I had cooked again. The grilled shirt steak went over well last night, so it made an encore appearance this evening.

I have mixed feelings about this company tradition. On one hand, it's very homey and nice to have everyone contribute to the party. We're a small shop, so it seems fitting. On the other hand, it's a pain in the ass to dedicate an afternoon to cooking and a Sunday evening to the event. I mean, it's mildly fun, but Sunday night! At least we live 2 minutes away, unlike the poor bastards who drive an hour down from Davis.

The forecast calls for major storms throughout the week, so it'll be spinning for me. All this rain is really whetting my appetite for the snowboard...
P.S. Two Johns - what the what? After their supposed last podcast, another one appeared last week. I was just getting used to the idea of a Two Johns-free world, and had finally hit the acceptance stage of grief. I can't keep up with this emotional rollercoaster!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


These guys were the best cycling podcasters out there. A nice good cop/bad cop duo that stuck to their roots. They will be sorely missed. *sigh*

Monday, 30 November 2009

Thanks for Old Friends

On Valentine's Day, 8th grade, I sent a girl roses with the lyrics to "I Got My Mind Set on You" by Ringo Starr on the card. Yes, I was a dork. No, I did not get the girl. Why do I bring this up? Wendy played the song at spin today. Sob!

Speaking of back in the day, for the last 15 years, three high school buddies and I - all with our families overseas - have gotten together every Thanksgiving. The early days were more hungover than holiday, and our dinners were, um, gross. "So that's where the giblets were!"

We've since slowed down, thank god. No more drunken 3am trips for Korean soup, no more passing out on the floor with a barbell plate as a pillow, and no more cross-state drives for Legs and Eggs.

Yeah, things change. This year, John had dinner at his sister's in Burlingame. K-Dawg is (justifiably) hassling Steve about abandoning her in Seattle on Thanksgiving, since she works on Friday. Eric has moved to Hong Kong. We're all married, and two of us have kids. I don't know how much longer we'll be able to keep the tradition alive. But for now I'm thankful for one more year with the guys.

La Roleurette and I hosted Thanksgiving at our place, and had some friends over. Steve had gotten some sort of stomach bug, so spent the night curled up in a ball upstairs. At the time, we thought he was still hungover from drinking the night before (we were home by the responsible hour of 1:30am), but he never improved over the weekend. Too bad! He missed a great dinner. We had the usual turkey, mashies, gravy, and stuffing. But it was the honey cornbread, homemade mac and cheese, corn-edamame salad, and cranberry-persimmon relish - all brought by our guests - that really took it over the top. I continue to plug away at the leftovers.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Thanks for Time to Ride

On Wednesday I snuck in a ride up Shasta before work. A nice pre-Thanksgiving treat. Then, despite the holiday festivities and having some friends staying with us over the weekend, I managed to squeeze in Friday and Saturday quickies.

Friday morning, I didn't have much time, so I packed in both Centennial and South Park, two more in the Berkeley Hills Death Ride series. Centennial starts in earnest at the Strawberry Canyon pool, then hits 11% at the Botanical Garden. Ouch. South Park isn't all that bad in comparison, but my lungs were still inside out by the time I reached the summit. No newts sighted.

On Saturday, my buddy's wife, K-Dawg, and I rode the Secret Ranches. K-Dawg lives in Seattle, so I wanted to show off the East Bay hills. The weather obliged with a clear and cold morning, with views out to the Farralones. As for the hills, Grizzly Peak, north of Claremont, forced her into the granny, apparently a rare event back home. In keeping with her triathlete rep, we gunned it up Tunnel, but she was skittish on the descents. I'll give her a break; La Roleurette's Jamis was a bit big for her.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

3 Spin Classes, 2 Weekend Rides, 2 Product Reviews

Last Monday, Mistress Wendy Rick Rolled us, then hit us with another round of God pop. The class appeared bemused; JK admitted to liking it. Then on Wednesday, Lisa led us through four 10-minute intervals at 80-85% of max HR. Twas fine.

No outside riding all week, and I was jonesing by Saturday. Redwood Pine Happy Bearcat made for 55 miles on another gorgeous fall day, cold enough for a long sleeve jersey and toe covers. My legs felt great! It apparently makes a big difference when I take Thursday and Friday off and don't eat a pound of oatmeal for breakfast.

At mile 45, I was feeling like a superhero (tailwind,woot!), when my rear tire went flat with an emphatic hiss. Not surprising considering the Friday rains had washed all kinds of crud into the gutter on San Pablo Dam Road. I failed to find the offending object, which always makes me nervous. But I put in the spare, inflated it with a CO2 cartridge, and was off.

At the base of Wildcat, I had warmed up again and was ready to make a good push back home. But just as I started up the climb, the front tire went all squishy. Balls. I spent a bunch of my second CO2 cartridge just trying to locate the hole to patch it, and by the time I got it all together, the tire was only 1/3 full.

Head low, I limped into Inspiration Point and borrowed a pump from another cyclist. This lack of self-sufficiency threatened to enact my shame spiral.

But look at this shiny little pump! Oooh - smooth action and the hose stows away in a neat package! Even with my vestigial arms I was able to pump 85 psi into the tube. I was impressed enough with the Lezyne Pressure Drive to order one that afternoon from REI. My old frame pump doesn't fit on the IF, so I've been in the market for a replacement. For most rides the CO2 setup works great, but I appreciate the extra insurance of a hand pump after a rain.

I was starving by the time I got home, so stopped by Cactus Taqueria for a chicken burrito, then went out with La Roleurette to Noodle Theory a couple of hours later. They make a really nice bowl of catfish katsu with curry noodles. I wish we had one of these on Solano. Great Asian comfort food at a good price.

Sunday, I met JK to do the Zoo Loop, a 55-miler around Lake Chabot. This isn't my favorite route, but the stretch on Skyline offers some great views of the East Bay hills, and as you descend towards the Oakland Zoo, you zip through a tight grove of eucalyptus trees, which make me feel like I'm on Endor. The fog never cleared, and I got back soaked. I gave the bike a long overdue wash, and hung it up to dry.

Speaking of which, bike washing is a "snap" with the Wipperman Connex link! Just unhook the link, take off the chain, and no more dragging grease all over the frame! Get at tight spots on the chainstays and bottom bracket! Unlike the SRAM Master Link, which is near impossible to undo, the Wipperman pops off effortlessly!

"I've put 500 miles on the Connex and a Shimano Ultegra chain and have had zero problems. In fact, it runs smoother than the regular Shimano pin!"

Seriously, though, the thing works perfectly. Online reviews suggest the Wipperman chains are prone to breakage, but the link mates well with my Ultegra chain, so no worries.

And, to bring this long rambling post full circle, tonight I had the usual Monday session with the Mistress. She opened with this song, which KICKS ASS!!! I would love to DJ a spin class composed entirely of 80's hair rock.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Gift List

The holiday season has officially begun! Today, I got the annual email from my dad with his Christmas wish list.

See, our family has long abandoned the romantic notion that Christmas gifts should be a surprise, because (a) we're picky, (b) we usually just buy stuff we want for ourselves, and (c) we're too lazy to come up with something awesome every year.

Still, we are materialistic bastards. The year my sister made charitable donations in our names, we were somewhat less than enthusiastic. So, now we just send each other wish lists.

Unfortunately, not every family is as practical and cold-hearted as mine. So, in the holiday spirit of helpfulness, I've put together a list of gifts the cyclist in your life might appreciate. Plus, I've included some items NOT to get him or her. If you stick to these suggestions, you can rest assured that the excitement your cyclist shows on Christmas morning will be sincere.

Now if someone I know were to see this list, and decide to get me a couple of these items, I wouldn't be opposed to it. But, again, this is about giving to others. Just want to make that clear.

Starting with the naughty, do NOT get your cyclist any of the following:

A jersey with a cartoon character. Now, your cyclist may actually want that Spongebob Squarepants jersey, having circled it in the Performance catalog left slyly on the kitchen table. But you are doing him a huge disservice by enabling this fashion disaster. Just don't.

A team jersey. Also a faux pas. Retro team jerseys are acceptable, but the team must be at least 15 years old, and the more obscure the better. Lance's Postie jersey does not qualify as retro. Speaking of which, yellow jerseys, especially replicas of THE Yellow Jersey, are best avoided, unless your cyclist actually happens to have been a GC leader in the Tour de France.

A squeaky toy for the handlebars. I have a bin of these things from my office Secret Santas. Your poor cyclist will feel compelled to install it, only to come back from a ride with some story about getting mugged and handing over the toy.

Any technical doohickey. Unless responding to a specific request, it's best to stay away from this stuff. And by "this stuff" I mean almost everything. You may think it's a non-technical piece of gear, but cyclists will spend hours querying online forums about what inner tubes they should buy.

With all these "don'ts" what CAN you actually give your beloved cyclist that he doesn't already have?

Road ID. This company dropped some serious coin on marketing this year, with ads all over the Tour coverage and Bicycling magazine. Levi shills for them, along with the Tour de France announcers on Versus. Just in case Phil Liggett is run over by a camera dolly, his emergency contact info will be right there on his wrist. Shell out for the Elite version, and go with basic black. Also, don't fool around with that online info service. Just get the emergency numbers on there. You don't want the EMTs to have any question about what to do.

Madonna del Ghisallo medallion. Nothing like having the patron saint of cyclists on a gold chain, nestled in your chest hair on a hot summer day. Actually, unless your cyclist is committed to the Eurotrash look, it's probably best to just sew this into his saddlebag or hang it from his keychain. Keep it small and light. Obviously, not the best choice for your Muslim or Jewish cyclists.

Socks. Cyclists love good socks, and the fashionistas have declared that white tall socks are in. Even more bold, you can go with argyle. It's a risky move, akin to getting someone a pair of giant aviator shades - not everyone can pull off this look. It's a bit much for me. I like these diamond ones, but probably wouldn't wear them on the bike. Also tough to go wrong with Smartwool.

Cycling cap. I like 'em. I do. Pace makes the best ones.

Loaded coffee card. Find out where he stops with the other roadies.

Cycling books.
  • Odysseus' Last Stand, Stamboulis (globe trekking hijinks)
  • Catfish and Mandala, Pham (Vietnamese American searching for his roots on a bike - love this book)
  • Miles from Nowhere, Savage (a classic in the bike touring genre)
  • The Rider, Krabbe (a classic in cycling literature)
  • A Dog in a Hat, Parkin (the gritty side)
  • Rough Ride, Kimmage (a polarizing figure in the doping wars; Armstrong hates him)
I haven't read the next two, but have heard good things (ahem):
  • Ten Points, Strickland
  • Off to the Races, Abt
Cycling magazines. There's the usual newstand fare, like Bicycling or Velonews. Cycle Sport is by far the best of the bunch, and only available online as a subscription or perhaps at your local bike shop. If he has all of the above, you can pick up an issue of Embrocation or Roleur. Whether you want to spend $20-$25 on a fancy-pants magazine is your call, but it's the kind of ridiculous purchase your cyclist might not make for himself.

Mad Alchemy Embrocation. Your cyclist will love a little pre-ride rubdown with this stuff. Smells real purty.

The Stick. Sure, it's overpriced and plastic, but if it even saves you one trip to the masseuse you'll come out ahead. I haven't had to see poor Doug all summer, thanks to some regular Stick love on my IT band.

A puppy. Cyclists LOVE puppies. God, who doesn't?

Journey Back to the Planet of the Apes

Friday night, we had dinner with some friends at Cafe Biere, a new spot in Emeryville with dozens of imported European ales and a nice lamb burger. Recommended.

The next morning, JK and I met up at the civilized hour of 9:30. It was a sunny, crisp fall day; hot going up Tunnel, freezing on Pinehurst. We parted ways somewhere in the suburban limbo of Lamorinda, and I headed north towards Martinez and the "Planet of the Apes" route. I'd only been there twice before, and never on my own, so I spent a lot of time by the side of the road, fiddling with the iPhone map.

Here's a shot of the entrance to the Planet of the Apes section of Carquinez Scenic Drive, closed to cars due to erosion. It's a popular walking spot, with sweeping views of the Carquinez Strait. Way back in the day I brought La Roleurette here to get her comfy with the drop bars, integrated shifters, and clipless pedals on her Jamis.

I climbed McEwen, Pig Farm, the Three Bears, and Wildcat on the way back, and got home tired and hungry. Despite a big bowl of spinach and cheese ravioli at 4pm and a 12-course Chinese banquet at dinner, my stomach was growling when I woke up this morning.

Fortunately, we had plans to meet up with Coach at the Pacific East Mall for dim sum. I highly recommend this place over any other dim sum joints in Oakland Chinatown. The dumplings are fresh from the steamer, and even the fried stuff isn't too greasy. But get there by 10:15 or you will suffer an epic wait on weekends.

After dropping La Roleurette off at her pickup ultimate game, I successfully battled the food coma, and headed out for a mid-day ride. Feeling frisky, I went hard up Tunnel and Grizzly Peak, then took Secret Ranches to Wildcat for another good effort.

On the way home, I swung by La Farine for a coffee and walnut scone, and hung out in the sun for a while, basking iguana-like in a caffeine/endorphin buzz. On crisp sunny days like this, I love the gentle burn of embrocation under my shorts and knee warmers. Try the Mad Alchemy mellow mix, which is plenty hot for Bay Area temps, and smells like victory.

Tonight, we had some friends over to christen the ping pong table. La Roleurette cooked up a pot of lentil soup, and I made a pasta with sausage, kale, pine nuts, and parmesan. Chocolate chip cookies and tea for dessert. An all around excellent eating/riding weekend.

To keep me company on the bike, I downloaded a couple of Escape the Peloton episodes from Bike Radio. A solid meh. If I'm desperate for yet another source of bike media, it'll do.

Friday At the Gym

The gym. So moody.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Style vs. Practicality

Last Saturday, as I watched the parade of cyclists going up and down Diablo, I started working on a theory.

Cyclists make dozens of decisions about their bike, components, set-up, accessories, and clothing that are represented by the dots on the graph above. And for any one item, there tends to be an inverse relationship between practicality and style. The more stylish an item (i.e., the more "PRO"), the less practical it is for the middling recreational rider (i.e., 99% of all cyclists).

Exhibit A - the Saddle Bag. The larger the bag, the less cool. In fact, the most styley thing is to roll with no bag at all, and carry the essentials in your jersey pockets. However, having ridden with a trunk rack - once I carried a thermos of tea - I can honestly say it's nice to have room for a layer, a multi-tool, a bag of energy drink powder, an extra Clif Bar, whatever.

Exhibit B - Gearing. Here in hill country, most of us would be better off with a triple, or at least a larger cogset. But chicks dig dudes with a racing double and corncob cogset.

Exhibit C - Handlebar Height. Long and low may be the business, but you will pay for this look with brutal neck and shoulder pain.

Exhibit D - Mirrors. The pinnacle of uncool. But, aside from style, why not?

Exhibit E - Road Cycling Shoes. Why should you have to walk like a cripple, just to have an official "road" shoe? I'm a sensible shoes girl myself.

There are a few items which break the trend. These are on the upper right and lower left corners of the graph.

Uncool AND Impractical - Recumbents. Like a guy lying on the ground and trying to fight off an attacking eagle with his feet.

Uncool AND Impractical - Shocks on Hybrids. Shocks make the bike heavier, require more maintenance, and are totally unnecessary on the road.

Cool AND Practical - Full-Size Frame Pumps. A relatively recent old school backlash to the ineffectual mini-pumps.

Cool AND Practical - Cycling Caps. Keep my head warm and my eyes shaded.

As for me, I find myself smack in the middle of the chart. I won't sacrifice form for function. I actually appreciate the odd little rules that govern the cycling aesthetic, and like knowing them. So, no mirror for me, my saddle bag is modest, and the IF sports a compact double, not a triple. Still, I love me my mountain bike shoes and 27-tooth cog.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Week in Review

Argh - too much work, another overdue post.

Saturday. JK was out for the weekend, so with nobody to meet, I lazed around all morning, eating a gigantic bowl of steel cut oats, toast, and a fried egg over easy for breakfast. I like my oats with a banana, peanut butter, toasted pecans, and jam. This billion calorie breakfast had me in a deep food coma by the time I headed out at 10:30 for a long spin out to Mt. Diablo.

For a change, I took North Gate up - much tougher than South Gate as it turns out. It had been years since I last took that route, and the steep pitches wore me out. By the time I got to Juniper, about 2/3 of the way up the mountain, I was cold and hungry, and I realized I'd be pushing darkness. So I rolled back down and booked it to the Walnut Creek Starbucks, where I had a snack while watching the luxury sport cars and overdressed shoppers cruise by. Ladies - a word to the wise - nothing says "Lady Douchebag" like Ugg boots.

And nothing says "Lord Douchebag" like going to this attorney for your divorce. I would love to see that waiting room, though. ESPN in HD, swimsuit magazines, beer on tap, and a bunch of bitter dudes. "Bitches, man. All bitches."

As a Bay Area food snob, I'm little ashamed to admit that I love Starbucks as a mid- or post-ride stop. Their turkey bacon and egg sandwich was just the right amount of hot salty goodness, and a mocha gave me the sugar and caffeine needed to make it through Lafayette and back to Berkeley via half-Happy and Wildcat Canyon. A gorgeous fall day on the bike. Here's the view from Juniper Campground.

Sunday. The usual loop up Tunnel and back. In the afternoon, La Roleurette and I set up our new ping pong table which we picked up off Craigslist for $40.

Monday. No spin. Work.

Wednesday. Pre-work Arlie Cat Golf ride. Check out my anti-gravity Specialized gloves. Told you they were cool.

Thursday. Up Shasta at a frantic pace before work.

I learned that Jake - friend of a friend - will be in town in early December, and wants to go on a ride. Ed, another buddy, will probably come along. These guys were collegiate rowers. They love Pain. Pain is like their BFF. If they were sorority girls, Pain would be holding their hair up while they puked in the toilet.

Sadly for me, neither has let themselves go. Jake is a hardcore Colorado cyclist (altitude advantage), and Ed finished an Ironman this summer. They will tear my legs off, grind them into mincemeat, bake them into a Shepherd's pie (Ed is British), then feed the pie to their dog. Then they will make the dog chase a ball for hours till it collapses in a puddle of its own vomit. And they will not hold its hair up. Jerks. So I'm a little motivated to get in better shape.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Warriors Game 1

Tonight was the first of four games we bought to see the Warriors this season. A crushing loss to the Clippers. When we left in the fourth quarter they were down by 30 points. Totally dominated by the Kaman-Camby Twin Towers. And our Great Rookie Hope Stephen Curry fouled out with 4 points.

But at least it was Filipino American Heritage Night, so there's that. Arnel Pineda was in attendance.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Scary Week

I've been getting hammered at work, so this post comes in late.

Saturday. JK and I headed out to the Junction Cafe, south of Livermore. This fell in line with the Halloween spirit, since the Junction Cafe is probably the scariest cycling destination around. Scary because of the rednecks with pickups, and, this time of year, giant tarantulas. Honestly, the spiders creep me out more than the rednecks, who are used to bike fags descending on them every weekend. A detente has been established wherein we don't block the road and they don't hit us. Seems fair to me. As for the spiders, they're supposed to be harmless, but those things will take you DOWN if you turn your back on them. They will swarm all over your struggling body, then eat you. I seen it on the YouTube, I swear.

I like the Junction because:
1. The roads are almost car free, and riding two abreast is seldom a problem.

2. It's a nice 50 miles with a good mix of small climbs, false flats, and a wide open descent to the finish.

3. Leather clad motorbikers and lycra wearing cyclists are two kinds of sexy. Truth be told, neither are that sexy at the Junction. The bikers are lawyers in disguise, and the cyclists are all soccer dads on high-end bikes.

4. It feels more remote than any other cycling spot in the Bay Area. The first time I went out there was a shit show where I forgot my cycling shoes, drove home to get them, rushed to try and catch up with the group, took a wrong turn and ended up lost far out in the middle of nowhere. I bumped into some off-roaders on quads; it was like Mad Max. But they were nice enough to give me a ride back into town.

5. The fries at the Junction. Ok, they're the frozen kind, but they hit the spot mid-ride. One order is enough for two people. Resist the urge to stuff your face. The road back starts with a pretty long, hot climb, and your body will reject that greasy burger like a bad kidney.

At the Junction, JK and I shared a bag of Corn Nuts with a grizzly old biker at our picnic table. We had the usual Lance Armstrong conversation with him, and learned that he'd actually driven out to watch the Tour of California one year, and was blown away by the sound of the peloton going by. Interesting to hear the regular man's view on bike racing. Made me wonder how Armstrong can be a top-10 athlete in terms of name recognition, despite cycling being a bottom-10 sport.

We continue to enjoy the Bay Area Summer (aka October); I was comfy in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey all day.

Sunday. Seen today while on my easy Sunday ride: a bloody operating table on the front lawn. Bleaugh. Were they re-enacting the birth scene from Rosemary's Baby while the kids came up?

The cyclists were out in force, and I hung around some high-end racers on a recovery ride up Tunnel. Sadly, I had to put in some work just to stay within spitting distance. Meanwhile, they could have been passing tea and crumpets back and forth.

Monday. Spinning with Mistress Wendy. Solid workout as usual, but.....Frampton Comes Alive? Seriously? Talking guitar does not fire me up.

Thursday. I finally threw in the towel and brought the IF in to Solano Cyclery. They sorted out the front end creak (loose headset - duh) and rebuilt the rear hub, which had been slipping consistently. I took it out for a pre-work spin this morning up Shasta. Super smooth. I love that buttery greasy rear hub feel. And no squeaking at all when I stood up. Ahhhh. Quiet.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Fall Back

Taking the weekend off the bike does amazing things for my legs. Monday spin class was brutal as usual, but I was able to hang on with a high heart rate throughout. The class was full, a sign of winter. The competitive racers are starting to show up again, too, including a huge guy with a full Clif Bar kit and calves like cantaloupes.

Today was the last after-work ride before the clocks fall back on Saturday night. Although I started off in full sunlight, I had to click on the lights before the top of Tunnel.

There's nothing like an after-work ride to blow the stress out of my brain. I left the office with deadlines dancing in my head, and by the time I was on the ridge, everything was better.

Another plug for Specialized stuff - I love the BG gel gloves. Just like the Specialized knee warmers, they're cut perfectly. I've tried a bunch of gloves over the years, but none of them fit as well as these. Also, there's just enough padding on the palms to dull the buzz, but not so much that it creates pressure points. And while they're not cheap, they're not over the top spendy, either.

It was cold out, and all through the ride I was looking forward to a hot shower and dinner. I fried up some chicken breasts with panko breadcrumbs, and tossed them into a salad with greens, figs, peppers, carrots, and red onion. They I stole some of La Roleurette's strawberry-banana smoothie while watching the Warriors lose to Houston in the season opener.

Golden State - why do you tease me with incredible plays, then torture me with the predictable flurry of missed three-pointers and poor decisions? I'm like a battered wife, I swear.

Got my first comment on the blog today. Alert the press!

Saturday, 24 October 2009


We made great time on Friday night, pulling into South Lake only 3 hours after we left Berkeley - a nice change from the usual 5-hour wintertime slog up I-80.

The Paradice Motel had been rated the #1 hotel in South Lake Tahoe by Trip Advisor, and it earned the rep with the most friendly staff ever. Jason and Perrine, a young couple, have decked out each room of an otherwise unimpressive motel with enough Ikea to merit the "boutique motel" status. They also plied us with piles of complementary crap, including bottled Perrier, fruit, candy, chocolates on the bed, and - this is the highlight - a Nature Valley Outdoor Adventure gift pack containing two granola bars, Advil, and....a package of tampons. Because nothing says "outdoor adventure" like being unprepared for your period.

We got back on Saturday evening to find an elephant on our bed, sculpted from hand towels. It's the little touches, really. In case you're wondering, "paradice" refers to the South Lake gambling theme. It took me a while to catch on, too.

On Saturday, we took JK's suggestion, and opted for a hike in the El Dorado Forest off Highway 88. TONS of flaming red and yellow aspen along the way. Leaf peepers, ourselves included, swerved wildly off the road with no warning to stop and take photos. I enjoyed the drive up Carson Pass, in particular, since it reminded me of the Death Ride a few years ago. What had seemed like an interminable climb was over in all of 10 minutes in the hermetic warmth of the Honda Avocado. I was surprised that it looked at all familiar, considering my hypoxic haze the last time I was up there.

The hike - a gradual climb to Round Top Lake - exceeded all expectations. It had stormed two weeks ago, and enough snow remained above 8,000 feet to make for spectacular views and a little route finding hijinks. We had lunch at the lake, then kicked steps up a drainage to summit Round Top itself. Well, not really summit, which would have required some death-defying scrambling, but we poked our heads above 10,000 feet. At the top, I was reminded how much I love the mountains. They make me feel peaceful and exhilarated all at once, in a way, admittedly, that cycling never does. Man, I need to get out there more. Backcountry snowboarding this winter?

In terms of food, South Lake isn't exactly a hotbed of good eats, but we managed to track down three nice spots, and one dud:

Freshies. I have no idea how this place survives, tucked deep in a dumpy strip mall on an anonymous stretch of Lake Tahoe Drive. Across the hall are a pirate-themed store and an insurance agent. I guess incredibly friendly service, a great selection of beer, fresh (but f-ing weird) food, and over-the-top Hawaiian kitsch goes a long way. The menu can only be described as Cali-fusion vegan stoner. Our dinner:
- Potato-quinoa cakes with maple-coconut dipping sauce
- BBQ tempeh taco
- Grilled chicken salad with Italian herb dressing
- Indian spinach salad with curried tofu cubes
- Basil tomato soup
Really, all those things on the same menu is an affront to God, but somehow it works. The place has over 100 reviewers on Yelp and and a 4-star average.

Sprouts. Take Coyote Ugly, turn it into a vegan-friendly sandwich and juice bar, and you have Sprouts. Great organic sandwiches, soups, and salads, served up by cute 20-something girls (and one guy). For lunch I had an excellent egg salad sandwich with yogurt, instead of mayo. Sounds gross, tastes good. Especially with the carrots and red cabbage in there. Also fresh-squeezed carrot and ginger juice. Delicious and virtuous.

Ernie's Coffee Shop. The local's spot. Solid brunch food, with pretty good coffee. My walnut waffle was super light and crisp.

Red Hut Soda Fountain. La Roleurette had a sundae craving, so we stopped here for dessert on Saturday night. We were disappointed to find cheap ice cream served in gut-busting quantities, with SYSCO-brand "chocolate" syrup pumped on top. Nasty stuff. But, hey, the waiters wear those 1950's -style paper hats, so there's that.

Anyway, I highly recommend Tahoe as a fall getaway spot. No crowds, nice weather, easy drive, and actual red and yellow leaves.

P.S. I owe a shout out to Beth over at beth bikes! for her feature of my saddle sore post. Also, she called me "polite" which I'm a sucker for. Beth is Bay Area track racer with a passion for cultivating her bazookas. By "bazookas" I mean enormous powerful thighs. More importantly, she's the first hit when you Google "Michael Ball stalker," a claim to fame we can all aspire to. Thanks, again, Beth!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Oh-dark-thirty. Up early this morning for a pre-work spin. Did the Arlington, Wildcat Canyon, Shasta, Golf Course, Grizzly Peak, Spruce Loop. The "Arlie-Cat Golf" Loop.

Although it was pitch black when I headed out at 6:30, the sun had risen when I got back an hour later. I dressed well, with arm and knee warmers, heavier base layer, and a vest in my pocket. I didn't overheat on the way up, and put on the vest for a nice and toasty descent.

Speaking of which, I heart my Specialized knee warmers. Unlike many knee warmers which are straight uninspired tubes, the panels on these are cut perfectly to contour to my calves, sag-free. The close fit, plus a band of silicone, means they grip really well under the shorts, with zero slippage. Like La Roleurette, the Therminal material is tough, but supple. If I had to draft bike gear, these may be my number one pick. Definitely in the lottery.

The Quest for Foliage. I'm headed up to South Lake Tahoe for the weekend with La Roleurette for some hiking and maybe a leaf peep or two. Really, we'll be lucky to catch even two leaves to be peeped, much to La Roleurette's frustration. I fear it's the lack of seasons in Northern CA that eventually drives her to move back to New England. Although we discovered two years ago that global warming has shortened the foliage season there as well.

So no weekend ride, unless we get back in time on Sunday for a little runaround. It's good. I'll be that much more energized to get on the bike next week.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

In the Soup

Pea soup fog on Grizzly Peak today. The kind where water collects on my eyelashes and my bike is sopping wet when I get back home. A number of cyclists, including myself, weren't prepared for the low visibility and had totally inadequate lights or no lights at all. I think the days of after-work rides with just a small blinkie are over. Time to charge the big gun. I'm still thinking of getting a new light for the winter, but good lord they are expensive.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Medical Advice

The warm nights have left me tossing and turning in bed all week. That, coupled with a bad habit of going to bed late, has left me totally knackered. I was so tired today that I actually slurred my words while on the phone with a client.

So I decided to listed to my body for a change and go home instead of spin class. I'll ride tomorrow.

It's probably for the best, since I developed a saddle sore over the weekend, and lanced it last night. If you're the squeamish type, you can stop reading now. If you like reading about lancing sores, then you can continue, after which you should seek professional help.

Perhaps due to an unfortunately hairy backside (Still here?) I seem to get saddle sores about two or three times a year. It used to be worse with the higher-bar Atlantis, since more of my weight rested on the saddle. I think this particular sore developed on Friday when I was doing errands on the Cross-Check after work. Cotton shorts and boxers + warm weather = rain forest in my pants.

I used to try and wait out the saddle sore, applying diaper rash ointment every evening to calm its hotheaded fury. "There there, little one," I cooed. That kind of diplomacy only proved slow and ineffective. Nowadays, I take the shock and awe approach. Steps below:

1. Clean your hands thoroughly with Purel or a similar antibiotic.

2. Apply isopropyl alcohol liberally to the "affected area." Fortunately, we now have 150 alcohol prep pads from our Go Bag shopping, so no shortage there. You can also use cotton balls or shop rags. Whatever you have lying around. Ok, not shop rags.

3. Take a clean needle and clean it again with more with alcohol. Last night I used a safety pin. I don't recommend this particular tool, but it's all I had handy.

4. Using a mirror to view the sore, gently lance the living hell out of it. It will hurt. Hurt so good.

5. If it starts to bleed or emit any sort of liquid, you've done well. Encourage the bloodletting with a little squeeze. The idea is to get the crap out of there, and get it to dry up and turn into pain free scar tissue.

6. Clean the area again with alcohol.

7. Give it another poke (clean needle!) to get even more liquid to release. The more the better. This is weakness leaving the body.

8. Give the area a final alcohol wipe down, then apply antibiotic cream liberally. Really, you can't get enough in there.

9. I like to leave the area uncovered to get it to dry out. The last thing I want is to cover it up with a bandage, only to create another moist environment for bacterial orges.

10. Go to bed. I like to do this all at night, so the cowering sore has time to retreat into submission.

I performed this little surgery yesterday, and I'm happy to report that things are much better this evening. I probably could have even gone to spin class without a problem.

Anyway, take this route at your own risk. Certainly, doing Civil War-style surgery that close to an open sewer pipe is risky at best. But it works for me every time. So until my ass cheek swells to Serena-like proportions due to an infection (and I now have a healthy respect for infections) I'm a gonna stick to this method.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Napa in the Fall

The Professor was up from LA this weekend, so he, JK, and I loaded up the Honda Avocado on Saturday morning and made our annual fall pilgrimage to Napa. Our route started on the Silverado Trail, headed up to Lake Berryesa, contoured the western shore, then took Pope Canyon Road towards the Ink Grade (shown on left).

Napa is actually not one of the most best areas to ride only because it inevitably involves a stretch on the Silverado Trail, a noisy and heavily trafficked road on the east side of the Valley. This particular route, though, limited our Silverado exposure to only two miles, leaving us 50 miles of back roads, which are particularly empty this time of year.

Soon after our 10am start, we took off our arm warmers and were sweating in the humidity. The leaves and gentle breeze made for a great fall day. Grapes hung low on the vines, and the air reeked of rotting fruit.

With a 4-month old and a terrible workload, the Prof doesn't get out on his bike much, and suffered mightily. Even midway through the ride, the rollers along Berryesa had turned his legs to pudding. Ink Grade pretty much did him in. Nonetheless, riding with the Prof is always a pleasure. He never makes excuses or talks about how slow he's going. Best of all, he doesn't apologize for making us wait. He knows we really don't care, and are happy just to spend some time on the bike with an old friend.

The Professor is also the most non-gear head cyclist I know. He rides a 9-year old KHS that cost $600 back then. I don't think he's changed anything besides the cables and chain on that thing, and the Shimano Sora 8-speed gruppo refuses to die. He doesn't put that many miles on it now, but when he lived up here he did a decent amount of riding every week. Whenever a new cyclist asks me for advice on how much to spend, I think of that bike and how it's stayed solid all these years.

This is Napa's peak season, and while our route saw little traffic, Highway 39 and the Silverado Trail were packed with tourists. We stopped at the Oakville Grocery for a post-ride snack, and watched the wine tasters spill out of limos in their $300 jeans, striped shirts, and high heels. We gaped in horror/fascination as one particular woman exposed the thong on her somewhat meaty backside as she ate her sandwich outside the store. Always a good time.

Today, I took it easy, spinning up Tunnel, along Skyline for a while, then back down Claremont. No big thing.

This afternoon, La Roleurette and I, inspired by all the Loma Prieta anniversary coverage, finally put together our earthquake Go Bags. I only hope that many years from now we will open that thing unused and celebrate with the petrified Clif Bars. She also convinced me to throw in a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Hey - if you're going to be fleeing your house as it collapses around you, you might as well have some nice snacks.

Cleaned, greased, and tightened stem face plate. Still creaking.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

My First Lunchtime Ride Ever

I set the alarm for 6:30 with the full intention of getting in a pre-work ride. At 6:15 I decided to head out at lunch, instead, and stay in bed for a little while longer. I'm a very good negotiator like that. And it's amazing how my enthusiasm can evaporate overnight.

So I worked from home in the morning, finished a project, and headed out at 11:30 for a one hour quickie. The air was still warm and heavy from Tuesday's storm, and I quickly shed the arm warmers. My route went up The Arlington, climbed sharply to the reservoir on top of Spruce, then followed Wildcat to the Brazil Building. A little huffing up Shasta and Golf Course, then coasting home. I don't know if it was the lack of food or what, but my legs felt dead and weak. I remedied that by lunching on some lentil soup and an open face pesto, mozzarella, and tomato sandwich on crusty walnut bread. Yum. Lunch at home on a workday feels incredibly indulgent and illicit.

Oh, after all that messing with the bike, the creak persists.