Thursday, July 31, 2008

Red Hot Love

Mmmmmmmmm. Carbon.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant,
his BMC TT02 with the Zipp Speed Weaponry or his totally bitchin' carbon-framed road bike with the super smooth Campagnolo components and the ride like butter,
. . . . er . . . . or anything that belongs to thy neighbor."
Exodus 20:17 (Greyhound Standard Version)

They say he will come again--He Who Shall Not Be Named. This, I believe. And I believe the Word of He Who Shall Not Be Named and that of The Holy Prophet:

It is all about The Bike.

Amen. Let us meditate for a moment in silence, His Name be praised.

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I know I should be faithful and train harder on the bike, but I am not in love with my road bike and I have been coveting new bikes. I even surf bike porn late at night on ebay rather than love and maintain the bikes I already have.

I want a new road bike. BAD. Right now I have my first grownup bike, a Canondale R600 that rides like a Panzer Tank falling down stairs. You could chip your teeth riding over a gum wrapper on that one. I hate riding it for long periods of time, and it is slower than slow and heavy.

But beyond having something new and shiny and (presumably) faster, I also want to be less clueless about bikes and how they work. And I don't want to have a bike just like everyone else. And even though it is generally more expensive to build a bike than to buy one new, I don't want to spend an excessive amount of cash all at one time on a bike. You are, after all, reading the online rantings of a cheapskate lawyer who has never spent more than $20k on a car.



So, I've hatched this plan to feed my lust and my curiosity by building a bike from the ground up. A "Frankenbike" if you will. She will be just what I want and perfect in every way. She will be strong, und powerful, und schneller, und die schönste . . . . . .

* * * * *

Oh, I'm sorry. Forgot you were there for a minute. What were we talking about?

Oh, yeah.

I originally was going to start by buying a frame and then getting the necessary pieces one by one. But I'm having a hard time pulling the trigger and making a decision concerning the frame I want. Carbon? Steel? New school? Old School? Titanium? A mixture? New? Used?

Plus, I went here and saw this yesterday, which is essentially my bike frame that has been outfitted with the best components to make it lighter and (presumably) better.


So, I've modified my plan, and I've decided it would be fun to have the community participate--in part because I don't know what I'm doing and I need the input. I think I'm going to learn about bikes while working on my current road bike, trying to improve its ride and performance while lowering its weight. Then, when I've got it as good as it can get, I'll think about buying a super frame and transferring the good components to the new bike. At the end of the process, I will be Des Knaben Wunderrad.

But like I said, I need help and advice. This is the first in a series of posts in which I'll ask, "OK, what do I do now?" And I'm really hoping the bike savvy amongst you will chime in--especially (new picture link) He Who Shall Not Be Named or his One True Prophet.

What is the first thing I should change that will give me some bang for a moderate buck in terms of improving the ride and performance of the Panzer Tank? The current setup is an aluminum frame with a carbon fork but alloy steerer. Right now it has a triple front chain ring (which I intend to change eventually) and it rides like a tin lizzy tackling a rumble strip. I was thinking maybe:
  • A carbon seat post?
  • With a carbon seat?
  • A new fork and steerer?
  • Only a steerer?
  • Carbon handlebars?
  • Something else?
  • If one of these components, what type? What brand? Where's a good buy?
    Können Sie mir helfen? Bitte?
  • Sunday, July 27, 2008

    La Critique du Tour

    Tomorrow morning when I wake up, there will no longer be a bike race on television. Again this year, I was addicted to Le Tour de France. Every year, I'm drawn like a moth to flame. Many's the night I was watching the tour, alone, in the dark, eating a gallon of vanilla ice cream or drinking merlot and wearing my fat pants. Like any addiction, I had to have my hit, but it never fully satisfied. What follows, dear reader, is my wholly amateurish "Tour in Review." Because He Who Shall Not Be Named is no longer practicing his trademarked blog format, I will use it here--imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

    The Good: The Competition--Sort Of

    This year's tour was unpredictable and truly contested. Le Maillot Jaune was on the shoulders of 7 or 8 men--a tour record I believe, and the outcome was in doubt until the last rider of the last day of GC competition--the final time trial. Likewise, anyone who loves cycling has to be encouraged about the future of the sport when looking at young riders like Andy Schleck, white jersey winner who time trialed like a cheetah and soared in the mountains like a bird of prey.

    And what two, young American teams in the race for the first time ever: Team Columbia with FOUR stage wins for the human rocket, Mark Cavendish, and Garmin Chipotle with team leader and GC contender Christian Vendevelde, who was able to finish in the top five in the overall.

    And then there was last year's winner Alberto Contador.

    Oh, wait. Last year's winner wasn't in the race, not because it's been established that he's a doper, but because Les Francais don't like his team or his director and Lance Armstrong associate Johann Bruyneel. Any competition that does not allow the champion to defend when there is no basis within the rules to disqualify that champion is not a true competition. It is part bureaucratic exhibition--tres francais, n'est-ce pas?

    Perhaps because the competition was not head to head, perhaps because of the design of the course with downhill finishes, perhaps because Le Tour was cleaner than in years past, this year's edition of the race did not involve victory going to the "strongest man." Arguably, the strongest, all-around rider in terms of being able to climb and time trial well was Denis Menchov, but he lost too much time descending from a mountain pass to a finish.

    Cadel Evans is similarly strong, but (perhaps because of a wreck) he road (I think characteristically) not to lose rather than riding with the agression and hatred of his competition like Eddy Merckx or Bernhard Hinault or Lance Armstrong. As a result, he was never out on the attack in the mountains.

    The eventual winner, Carlos Sastre, did attack--but then only once and on the last mountain stage. He took enough time out of the defensive Evans that he was able to keep Le Maillot Jaune all the way to Paris simlply by sucking less than he usually does in the final time trial. Not as inspiring as a battle of titanic superstars who gap the field in all major disciplines, but perhaps this is what we have to look forward to in an age where cyclists are less able to rely upon their pharmacists to supplement their own genetics.

    The Bad: The Coverage--Sort Of

    Whoever invented the Digital Video Recorder or "DVR" should receive the Nobel Prize for Science. DVR allows for the automatic recording of all tour stages, and without it, the coverage on the Versus network would be UN-WATCH-A-BULL. The less active portions of the race are just commercials with a side of cycling. Moreover, because Versus is not a premium, cable channel, most of the early morning commercials are HORRIBLE local or low budget commercials for get rich quick schemes, infomercial gadgets, or tax penalty lawyers. Among the worst offenders was Versus itself. Versus was worse than the Disney Sports Network (ESPN) in trying to cross promote other shows on the network. Beyond the wall to wall commercial time being devoted to things like "Contender Muy Thai" or Bull Riding or Extreme Cage Fighting, there is something fundamentally wrong in having Phil Ligget tell one about such stuff in his posh, British accent.

    Being able to advance through the mind numbing commercials is indispensable. I suppose one watch the Tour without a DVR, but I'm not sure I want to try.

    And if it's not Versus, it's Les Francais butchering the coverage. Since there is only one television feed, viewers all over the world are treated to camera shots of the French champion of this or that, who are not in contention for any aspect of the Tour, sometimes in lieu of the real action. Everyone knew Christian Vandevelde had the skills to be on the leader board for the final time trial, and with some luck might have vaulted from sixth position to the podium. he was in the top 10 on GC and literally caught and passed a GC contender on his ride. But we didn't see it. I guess it was too much to ask to have one motorcycle camera devoted to each of the top 10 GC men during their time trial.

    That said, I do like the addition of Craig Hummer to the Versus anchor booth in lieu of Al Trautwig. Unlike some, I've no complaints with Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget, whose voices are part of the fabric of cycling for me. And I really enjoy the Bobke.

    The Ugly: The Drugs--Sort Of

    There were some dominating performances by riders who screamed up the climbs in the Pyranees. As it turns out, they seem to have been pharmaceutically induced. The good news is drugs appear to be detected at this point, and when they are, the sport and its sponsors, unlike the major sports like baseball and football, are no longer content to sweep it under the carpet. A whole team abandoned the tour, a sponsor dropped its cycling program entirely, and cyclists were taken away in handcuffs like common criminals. In comparison, Barry Bonds still walks free, and if he goes to jail it will be (like Marion Jones) for not telling the truth under oath rather than for doping.


    That said, the anti-doping process, especially in Europe, is McCarthyistic. Valid competitors have been barred from the tour based upon guilt-by-association and ennuendo that would never suffice under American notions of due process. Test sample controls and procedures are abominable by the standards of most American labs. This can occur because all doping cases as between the sport and the rider, are matters of contract, which are arbitrated and not tried in court.

    Sure, the riders agreed to that, but if you want to ride professionally, you've no real choice but to agree. Part of the reason Team Columbia and Garmin Chipotle have their own, independently contracted doping control programs is to protect themselves, their sponsors and their riders from a system that, in its vigor, threatens to sweep in the innocent along with the guilty.

    The Conclusion:

    The Tour will be back, and like a moth to flame, I will be drawn again to my addiction. Tomorrow, however, there's no bike race on. I guess I'll have to read a book.

    The Extra:

    The test of a good commercial is whether (1) it makes me forget to fast forward through it; and (2) makes me want to try the product. For my money, the only commercial that did both of those things during the whole three weeks were these. Enjoy.

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    I Even Overtrained My Dog

    This is Gumbo, the Wonder Dog. In the absence of a training schedule for me, I've been trying to teach Gumbo and her litter mate Cocoa how to walk with good doggy manners. Every night, when it gets cool enough to avoid CERTAIN DEATH, I put on my shoes, a visor, grab the leashes, and brave 15 minutes of absolutely spasmodic, brainless behavior as the dogs get hooked up and start the walk. The last 15 or so minutes of the walk, they're pretty good, and the initial "break in" period has been getting shorter and shorter. Good, right?

    Well, Monday, after the walk, the dogs and I did our customary "chill," reading and just laying around. (I read. They do not. Yet.) Then it was time for bed. But when Gumbo, the Wonder Dog, got up and walked to the kennel, she had a limp that had not been there during the walk. Tuesday and Wednesday it got worse, so I took her to the vet. She has an itty bitty fracture in one of the toes on her right paw.

    I know what Taconite Boy is thinking, so I'll just say it. I think I overtrained my dog.

    Either that, or I stepped on her paw and don't remember it or she just dinged herself running like a spaz all around the yard or up and down the stairs.

    Anyway, I found it kind of funny that Gumbo, who has no health insurance, got better treatment at her vet than Andra Su got from the ostensible "sports medicine" orthopedist who was seeing to the stress fracture in her foot. Gumbo's doctor took Gumbo in her lap, loved all over her, gave her a complete physical exam, checked her spine, looked carefully at her foot, performed two x-rays, prescribed some medicine, and gave her a doggy treat at the end.

    I don't know, Andra Su. Instead of shaking hands, maybe you should crawl into his lap next time, roll over on your back in a submissive position, and beg for a treat. It always works for Gumbo.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Officer McBreakfast Taco: Game On!

    Several of you have written me to the effect of "whatever happened with that constable who harassed you in Montgomery County?" Well, just about the time you conclude that you're getting the silent treatment in response to your latest letter, the other side makes a mistake.

    Yesterday, I received in the mail the citation that Officer McBreakfast Taco was too chicken to write at the time of the incident, backdated to April 19. As it turns out, Officer McBreakfast Taco is Deputy Constable M. Williams (full name to come when I know it), Badge Number 5440, with precinct number 5 of the Montgomery County Constable's office. So, Deputy M. Williams wants to drop gloves in a court room, does he?


    Now we get to play on my field.

    A letter to the good deputy and all his bosses went out this morning stating:

    Chief Deputy Wood:

    I was disappointed, although not surprised, when only yesterday I received your letter dated July 9, 2008. Given its contents, I can only conclude that your office is not prepared to take seriously my initial complaint about a deputy that (1) neither knew nor accurately enforced the Texas Transportation Code; and (2) physically endangered a cyclist through his abusive conduct. To wit:

    · Your choice to backdate a non-existent citation for a non-existent violation, the facts of which are not only demonstrably inaccurate, but also physically impossible; and

    · Your choice not to address Deputy Williams’ conduct, which was completely out of line, even if the violation had occurred.

    This is one instance in which your department cannot shield itself or its deputies from criticism by attempting to characterize this incident as a groundless complaint by someone in violation of the law. Not only was I within the law, my complaint against Deputy Williams is valid even if I was not. Indeed, a motorist in Los Angeles is facing felony charges for doing essentially what Deputy Williams did and injuring two cyclists. (See Enclosure).

    As a result, you can be assured that I will appear before Judge Masden, where Deputy Williams will have to justify his conduct. Likewise, since the department was unwilling to address the conduct of its deputies in a collaborative and informal fashion, I will file and pursue a formal, disciplinary complaint against Deputy Williams to the fullest extent possible. Having found the performance of this precinct’s constable unsatisfactory in its enforcement of the laws for the protection of cyclists, I will likewise be working along with the Texas Bicycle Coalition and local cycling groups for Constable Hill’s defeat at the ballot box.

    I remain open to addressing this situation in a more constructive fashion, but given your letter, I am not optimistic that the department will choose to do so.

    Very truly yours,

    Real Lawyer Name

    cc: (Deputy M. Williams and Constable Hill)

    As I referenced in my letter, the Precinct 5 Constable, an elected official, is named David Hill, and his Chief Deputy is David Wood. Their office addresses are:

    31350 Friendship Drive
    Magnolia, TX 77355


    31350 Industrial Lane
    Magnolia, Texas 77355

    Their office phone numbers are:


    So, uhm, yeah. If you're a cyclist that is just looking to exercise your rights under the First Amendment, you might drop this elected official and his underlings a little note about the manner in which law enforcement fails to protect cyclists, especially at the expense of protecting their own. Be polite, use your own words, but make it clear that:

    1. Cyclists are vehicles under the transportation code.
    2. Cyclists have the right to the road, and are not required under the Transportation Code to ride on a dangerous shoulder or near the edge when it is dangerous to do so.
    3. Cyclists have are entitled to expect law enforcement to protect their rights to the road.
    4. There is no place for an officer to endanger a cyclist, no matter how the officer believes that cyclist ought to be riding.

    The case is assigned to a JP judge, the court contact information of which I will post if and when I think it would be helpful. Although I am quite confident that neither the baby DA nor officer McBreakffff----, . .. er, Williams has ever seen cross examination in connection with a traffic ticket quite as thorough as I have planned, I have no expectation of actually winning the traffic case unless this JP Judge is very brave indeed. There is always a tendency of the courts to believe law enforcement. The court is in the same building as the Constable's office, for crying out loud. That said, win or lose, I will make my point, and I will make them regret their actions.

    Sunday, July 13, 2008


    I have been suffering from a psychological syndrome that I am sure many of you Ironmen will recognize: Post Ironman Finish Dementia or PIFD. After Ironman, it is healthy to take a break from structured training, to use your fitness for fun, and to properly recover. If you become truly infected with the Ironman virus, however, the lack of a training plan or an impending "A Race" looming over you in the next six months is very disorienting. Nothing in your life feels quite "right" or organized.

    Even though you're ordinarily content to be a slob, this lack of organization and "true north" orientation feels intolerable. You clean your garage, you clean your office, you do dishes, you buy new recycling bins, you develop a reading list, you plan menus, you write down errands on a Saturday and make grocery lists . . .

    OK, you actualy type grocery lists on the computer, paying special attention to the aesthetics of font useage, margins and size . . . . not that I would do such a thing. That was purely hypothetical.

    At any rate, you feel a bit lost without something written down to tell you what you're doing for the next six months and a physical goal to get you out of bed in the morning.

    I only recently started to improve my condition. My next Ironman effort probalby won't occur until November of '09. My last two Ironman races were only 9 months apart. I can't possibly survive the next 16 months without either some goals to challenge and orient me or else anti-psychotic drugs. But what to do? I think the next year looks something like this.

    This fall, I'll focus on run training with the goal of lowering my marathon PR in a winter race, potentially the Houston marathon in January. I want to see just how fast I can go, and marathon training is something I can do, even at a relatively high level without taking time away from the family. But if not Houston (where I hold a spot in the sold-out race), then what? What other races in the January-February time frame are cool, flat and fast? I need a reserve race, because I am NOT going to waste a PR effort on a day with bad weather.

    But what else? I'd like to work on my pathetic swimming with a coach and become more competent. Can I do that during the fall as well? If so, how? And what lead up races should I do to the marathon? What is everyone else running this fall? What to do, what to doooooo?

    Then after the marathon, in the February to mid-April time frame I'll probably do a bike block leading up to the MS150. Here too, I feel like my cycling would benefit from some coaching and having a good road bike. But where/how do I get some bike coaching? And are there other events that I could enter to get faster on the bike? Lord knows the big, organized training rides are not conducive to building power and speed.

    And I'd like to build a bike and learn the mechanical stuff, but where/how do I begin to to that? There's a great training course in Colorado Springs that I could take next summer, but that is after the MS150. Is there nowhere in Houston, the 4th or 5th largest metro area in the country, where I can learn how to be a passable bike mechanic?

    I could And I can and probasbly should continue to work on my swimming during this time, but how? What to do, what to dooooo?

    Then, after the bike block, around about April, it is time to start triathlon/Ironman training in earnest. Since both of the Ironman races I have targetd are flat this time, I'd like to try to really improve, and actually "race" (at least at my own level) rather than just participate. Do I need a coach? Online? In person? Who? How? And what races should I do? I want to race with friends, so where is the party next year? What to do, what to doooooo?

    All the non-OCD, non-Ironman folks out there are probably just shaking their heads and saying, "you know, it wouldn't kill you just to be a bit normal, sleep in, eat pizza, do your job, come home, watch TV."


    i'm sorry, i did not mean to shout. i can stop any time i want.

    I've begun a little bit of a cure. It's amazing how much better I felt when I e-mailed our tri-club running coach on Friday, and he worked out a written marathon training plan for me. Seeing something on paper had remarkable, restorative effects.

    And then there was the little, 63 mile, hilly, 90+ degree recovery ride I did with my homie who's training for Ironman Wisconsin.

    Uhm. Yeah. Just good clean fun, that.

    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Vacationing in Middle Earth

    In addition to my wee tribe, two additional tribes of triathletes traveled to the Pacific Northwest after Ironman CdA. It was like no land I have ever seen, except in fiction: Rocky crags, misty mountains, golden meadows, deer, and hobbit like kids hiking in the woods. Here are a very few images from the trip, and a profound thanks to some of the best friends I have ever known. Your example makes me a better me.

    Broken Wing

    Some of you know that we have been vacationing in the Pacific Northwest after Ironman CdA. We picked Orcas Island because it has one of the best skate parks in the region, but skateboarding, like much that is worth doing, has its risks. 'Pounce was dropping into the bowl, missed her balance, and bwoke her widdow arm right near the wrist.

    And the next day we went shopping to replace the helmet that had saved her from a head injury so that she'd be ready to go again when she healed. 'Cause that's how we roll.