Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

Tom Zirbel's thoughts about his exit from pro bike racing:

“(W)hat am I truly after in this life? Asking myself this question today the answer was “to be extraordinary.” I want nothing to do with mediocrity. But on top of that (and what I’ve lost sight of in the last few years), I want to improve the world. Yes, I am a na├»ve, 30-something dreamer, but I want to help save the world … (but) cycling and racing so consume me that I have little time or energy for anything beyond myself … I’m ready to turn the page and start living a better, more fulfilling life. Whether or not bicycle racing is in that future is too foggy to tell. I hope you all can understand why I’ve chosen this road. It feels so good to be out of the holding pattern.”

Love him, hate him, believe him, don't believe him. Either way, this quote hits home.

I'm not sure what's more amusing, how self indulgent bike racers and other endurance athletes are (both pro and amateur), or how the vast majority of us lack the self awareness to even be conscious about how self focused our respective sport truly is.

But then again, it sure beats spending countless hours sitting on the couch watching nonsense on television, which is what I think most people do in their free time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

White Friday observations

There seems to be an inverse relationship between the likelihood of someone obsessively manicuring their perfect green lawn in the summer and the likelihood of that same person clearing their sidewalk in the winter. Why is that?

I have also invented a new word: snowtalk - noun - The useless and inane conversation with your neighbor, about how much snow we have gotten this year, in which you feel compelled to participate despite your desire for peace and silence while shoveling.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

50 of your closest friends

A federal court in New York recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by cyclists who challenged a New York City law requiring groups of 50 or more cyclists to obtain a "parade" permit before legally taking to the roads. The city passed the law in response to critical mass rides, particularly the one that took place during the 2004 Republican National Convention. The law also presumably applies to any group ride that exceeds 50 riders, even if the riders are not on fixies and wearing skinny jeans.

The full opinion is here.

I'm not surprised that the judge found no reason to consider striking down the law under federal law. It's a pretty high standard.

What is ironic is the fact that the supposed apolitical nature of critical mass probably hurt the cyclists' case the most. Laws that interfere with protected speech under the First Amendment receive heightened judicial scrutiny. The judge in this case failed to really apply this scrutiny because the testimony did not support the fact that these rides are political.

But, for the most part, they are, and everyone knows it. But not for everyone who takes part. And those with a point to make often have different messages (right to the road, cycling safety, conservation, anti-car, etc.), even if these points are all variations of a common theme.

So, in an effort to welcome all by refusing to adopt some monolithic "message," critical mass has actually given itself less Constitutional protections than if it had classified itself as a weekly pro-bicycle political demonstration.

And now you also can't schedule a 50+ person group hammerfest starting at Times Square without a permit. If you do, don't bother arguing that the ride is a political statement. Unless you want to argue that you are celebrating your right to wear tacky lycra.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hours

Sometimes I think that I'm a pretty snazzy bike racer, and that I train "a lot." Then I read the training logs of people like Adam Myerson, and realize that most of us weekend warriors/amateurs are competing in a totally different sport than the pros.

Those people often downplay their dedication, saying that it's no bigger deal to ride 30-40 hours in a week than it is to work in front of a computer doing a "real" job for 40 hours a week.

I'm not so sure.

I love riding bikes. I like my job. Yet I'm not sure I'd want to swap gigs to become "pro."

I suspect I'm in the minority here, especially among those that read my blog.

Maybe I'm just a wimp.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Common courtesy

As I contemplate going to North Chagrin Reservation for a trail run this afternoon, I can't shake the fear of encountering those irresponsible people who walk their scary as hell German Shepherd off leash.

And that is bullshit.

I am a cyclist (both off and on road) and a wintertime trail runner. Katie and I own of several rescued dogs. I am a (non professional) dog trainer who competes in dog sports, regularly reads about dog training, and regularly travels to dog training seminars. In other words, I think I have a bit of insight when it comes to the rights and interests of those who use trails around here. I have thought about this issue a lot lately and have come to a number of conclusions:

  • Over 99% of people who walk their dogs off leash in public places have no business doing so for several reasons, most of which relate to the fact that they do not have a consistent recall with their dog(s). We never walk ours off leash.

  • Most people with aggressive dogs are totally misinformed about dog behavior and have no idea that their dog is aggressive. This explains why so many bites are "totally unexpected." See Steevo's story for a perfect example. A dog trainer I know characterizes this phenomenon as "near misses," which means that many dogs who have yet to bite are very close to biting very often. It's only a matter of time. If you are one of the millions of people with a dog who shows signs of unhappiness (or over eagerness) towards strangers, cyclists, other dogs, etc., it does not make your dog a "bad" dog or you a "bad" owner. It only makes you a bad owner if you fail to take the proper steps to prevent your dog from getting into a situation where it could possibly act out on these feelings.

  • Many people are afraid of dogs, whether they are friendly or unfriendly. That is a fact of life. When these people hike on a trail with mandatory leash laws, they should have the right to not be approached by off leash dogs, regardless of how friendly the dog is, and regardless of how rational or irrational that person's fear of dogs is.

  • Many dogs are not fans of strange dogs approaching them or getting into their space, regardless of how "friendly" the approaching dog is. People with these types of dogs, and their dogs, should have a right to enjoy trails without being accosted by a strange dog, friendly or not.

So now I will return to the trails, wondering whether I will have to face the icy stare of the German Shepherd whose clueless owners I'm sure think is harmless. You can be sure that I will be calling the park ranger next time I see these people with their dog off leash.

It's just not worth it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

First Race

Below are two photos from my first bicycle race ever. It was circa 1994. I was around 16 or 17. It was a mountain bike time trial in Lake County. There were a lot of guys in sweatpants at that race. Not that I had room to talk in my cut off shorts and tank top.


I remember going to Arby's immediately after the race with my sister and brother in law and wolfing down a bunch of roast beef sandwiches. I also remember getting some nasty poison ivy from the race.

I didn't really get "serious" about bike racing until around 2004, but I guess I dabbled in riding and racing for almost 10 years prior.