Thursday, June 27, 2013

Le Grande Boucle

So here we are.  In less than 24 hours, the most important race in cycling will roll from Porto Vecchio with eyes on Paris. Almost four hundred eyes will fix similarly, with flashes of yellow, green, polka dots, or solo flyers for epic stage wins filling their dreams tonight—that is, if they can find a way shut for some much needed sleep. This is the Tour de France.  No one rides the Tour de France for training.  Le Grande Boucle sits atop almost any aspiring cyclist’s wish list.  It is cycling. 

The gateway drug for any fan of bike racing, this race stops the world in its tracks and captures its attention.  Not just the pinnacle of cycling, the Tour de France sits upon a high pedestal for all sport.  This year is particularly important, being the 100th edition of the race.  But what makes le Tour so special? Why has it transcended cycling into the sports mainstream?  There are harder, longer, tougher races.  There are races that punish, humble, or even crush the strongest riders on earth more than the Tour. Why exactly is the Tour so special?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Community Breeds Culture

There is strength in numbers.  All over society you can see examples of it.  Come to think of it, society itself bears out a whole being greater than the sum of its parts.  In cycling, the peloton—or group ride—is the perfect metaphor for this phenomenon.  The group operates at a level that is unachievable through an individual effort. 

There is probably no better week to talk about cultivating cycling culture than the week of the Philadelphia Bike Race.  Over the years it has known many names, but this year it has started a new, with fresh race organization and sponsorship.  It is a true showcase for our city and its cycling community.  Cycling will be more visible to the “others” (aka non-cyclists) in Philadelphia this weekend more than any other weekend of the year.    

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Little Spring Cleaning: A Simple Guide a Spotless Bike

Spring sprang a couple weeks back. The occasional April shower is going about bringing the random May flower, and as such, the shop is brimming with bikes rescued from a winter of non-use. We’re busy and it feels good.  With all of this repair work though, I have become increasingly aware of an epidemic in cycling.  One that should be taken care of—nipped in the butt, as it were, before our city’s mechanics are sent to therapy, driven to the brink by the endless stream of sugar coated tri-spaceships, muck-covered MTBs, and road bikes covered in some kind of black road sludge I don’t even want to talk about.  Clean your bikes! There was a time when a clean, well-maintained bicycle wasn’t a rare bird, but a badge of honor that most would be embarrassed to be without. 

Maybe it’s our fault.  Maybe the bike mechanics of the world haven’t done a good job explaining it to people.  Well if that is the case let me be clear beyond any doubt: Keeping your bike clean is the single most important thing you can do in maintaining your ride.  So many issues—from slow shifting or bad bearings to creaks and rusted cables—can be wholly avoided by keeping your bike clean and dry.  It’s not hard.  It doesn’t take any special tools.  It doesn’t take any special skills—in fact, if you can operate a spray bottle and move your hands back and forth in a basic wiping motion, then I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you would probably make a good bike cleaner. 

So that’s our soup de jour: Dirt, mud, sports drink, and road grime and how to rid your ride of them. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Rite of Spring

Click…chunk. Click…chunk.  I grab two gears and stand on my pedals.  My bike lurches forward under me as I crawl up my favorite wooded climb.  Rose Glen road is in some other reality.  One where civilizations don’t exist—as if everyone lived in old field stone houses situated on wooded lots with clear cold creeks running through their yards.  Small stone walls border each driveway—built from the same stones that support the roof of the house that sits fifty yards from the freshly paved road under my tires.  It’s brisk.  The sun shows through the still bare trees and every couple pedal strokes it shines warm on my covered arms. 

Rose Glen is in another world, but it couldn't be more than two miles from the doors of our shop.   We all ride here on our too-short breaks from our too-busy lives for exactly one mile of another world.  It’s a nice effort, but not one you can’t slog up if your legs are feeling too heavy.  Mine don’t feel heavy today though.  I wind up along the wooded road just a mile, and then back down into the small valley that flanks the river on both sides, only to climb out again. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Real Sagan vs. Merckx Comparison

It has been an exciting spring.  The early classics have been marked by unpredictable weather and unpredictable racing.  The clear headline story, though, has been the ascension of Peter Sagan to the darling of the cycling media.  This is not without good cause, as his performances in huge races have been great.  I cannot help but be a little annoyed at just how quick we are to anoint Sagan as the greatest rider since sliced bread.  He is impressive, young, and full of potential that he is beginning to fulfill—but if we are being objective, he is not even the best classics rider currently in the peloton. 

This lack of perspective, has even led to what I would call ridiculous comparisons between Peter Sagan and Eddy Merckx.  Now I’m no stranger to sports media hyperbole, but I have a hard time even putting Sagan in the same sentence as Merckx.  This is no dig against Sagan.  I just think we have lost perspective on just how unmatched Merckx was, and probably ever will be, in his accomplishments.  So here is a healthy dose of perspective on the company in which you are putting Sagan, when you claim he is, “the next Merckx.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Short History of the Longest Day of the Year

Popular logic says that the longest day of the year falls on the summer solstice.  In 2013, that happens to fall in late June—the 21st, to be specific.  But the longest single day for a cyclist comes this weekend; the professional peloton will depart from Italy’s cultural center, Milan, heading south-west towards a city situated on the Mediterranean coast, just across the French border from Nice.  It doesn’t seem like an insane distance to travel in a day—especially by train or car.  This is no car race though.  The peloton will travel via bicycle—which should have been obvious to you—not as the crow flies, or even the most efficient paved route, but rather nearly 300kms at race pace to San Remo. 


Let me give you a second for that to sink in…