Take a moment to look at the object above. Really look at it. If you weren’t already a dedicated cyclist, what would you guess that was? I can say that I would guess that it was a souvenir replica of some sort of head gear from a first-person-shooter video game. It would be right at home on an alien in Halo. Falling back on my trained experience as a cyclist, I’d conclude from its sharp lines, balanced proportions and deliberate symmetry that it was an established helmet maker’s new top-of-the-line model.
Neither of those guesses would be right, of course.
It is neither from a manufacturer known for a history in helmets, nor is it their top model. Cannondale has a history in helmets like I’ve got a history in beer: I’ve consumed a lot of it, but no one is waiting for my opinion, or for me to make one. But make one—scratch that, six—they have.
Helmets have been a topic of discussion at every industry event I’ve been to recently, largely due to Giro’s new offering. People are struggling with it because the look is such a departure. Function aside, it looks like a skateboard helmet people say. It doesn’t look like a proper cycling helmet people say. There’s no denying that. But that’s because the average cycling helmet doesn’t look like anything else on earth.
The evolution of the bicycle helmet has been a long and surprising journey. The only time I wore my first helmet was when I entered a race. The first helmet I wore on regular training rides was my Giro LeMond Air Attack. That was the first helmet that had a look I was able to define as cool, rather than laughable. The evolution since then has been into progressively more vents and shapes that looked organic—ribs with connective tissue or framework with panels. The most successful design aesthetically don’t usually look like putty with holes poked in it. Consider the Catlike.
Significant in this is that most helmet manufacturer’s second- and third-tier designs seem like watered-down ideas, like all the truly rakish lines were softened, lest a less enthusiastic cyclist be frightened away. They usually smack of design by committee, which is about the lowest thing you can say about a piece of industrial design work. It’s like saying the Ferrari Daytona is a ripoff of a Datsun 240z. Oof.
If I hadn’t seen the Cannondale Cypher, the company’s $200 head protector, I’d have concluded that the Teramo was the primo model. Even though I knew it wasn’t the top model, my jaw dropped when I found out this baby retails for $119.99. Finally, a reasonably affordable helmet that doesn’t look like a design studio’s sloppy seconds.
Now, even if a helmet looks okay, the fit can still be a complete fail. I’ve tried helmets that fit like a five-gallon bucket, covering my eyes after every bump in the road, and others that were essentially styrofoam yarmulkes, devices that failed to shield my temples from all but top-side blows. I don’t know how else to put it: The Terramo fit like a bike helmet.
Feature-wise, this thing gives nothing up on the pricier Cypher. Most notable in my mind is that the Terramo uses dual-density EPS to better cushion your noggin in the event of an extreme deceleration event—you know, from 30 to zero in now. The softer density EPS takes that first portion of the hit, giving your head a softer start to the stop, while the denser EPS makes sure that your head gets stopped as well as possible under the circumstances. The thing about that softer density EPS is that it is by its very nature fragile and many companies have avoided it for durability reasons. Cannondale uses an internal framework (they call it a chassis) to provide improved structural integrity in the event of a crash. This is a technology that’s been around a while, but it is especially necessary in helmets that use two different foams so that the helmet doesn’t go watermelon-through-a-cooler if you fall.
Also helping to keep the helmet together is an alloy reinforced polycarbonate outer shell. Again, this is technology we’ve seen before, but Cannondale uses it effectively to create a durable helmet with big vents. I’ve not bothered to count the vents; there are plenty of them to do what you expect a bike helmet to do.
My one knock against this helmet is the Ergo-Fit occipital pad. While it’s plenty comfortable, the fact that it’s covered with rubber (okay, perforated rubber) means there’s a lot of surface contact at the back of your head. While I didn’t ever overheat while wearing the helmet, I noticed I was pretty sweaty back there when I took the helmet off, and the warmest ride I ever did with it didn’t reach 80 degrees. It’s a small issue in the grand scheme.
The Terramo comes in six color schemes, two of them sufficiently neutral to go with any cycling kit you might own, and all of them attractive enough to avoid geek-side embarrassment. The helmet also comes in two sizes. Regular readers of RKP will recall that Zippy (the pinhead) is my first cousin. I wore the small/medium. I bring up that point to establish the following: I was able to perch eyewear from SPY, Shimano, Smith, Oakley and Giro in the vents and not have them immediately drop out when I looked down. Pretty good record, though I will say getting the Radars in took a bit of flexing.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that I prefer this to the Giro Aeon or the Specialized Prevail. There’s no point. However, I can say that for friends of mine who think spending $200 on a helmet is out of their league, I’d wholeheartedly recommend the Terramo. It’s one of the best helmet values I’ve seen.
We’re into the final 24 hours of my Kickstarter campaign and I’m pleased to say it has gone very well. Pledges from good folks like you have helped me meet the pledge goal of $20k (and even surpass it). The book “Why We Ride” is now a reality. If you haven’t already joined the party, I hope you’ll stop by. We’ve got ribs on the barbecue and some great beer out back.
On behalf of my entire family, thank you.
Go directly to Kickstarter HERE.
Writing about cycling is a necessarily topical endeavor. From the latest gadget to the doping scandal du jour (année?), writing about cycling means keeping up with the times. I launched Red Kite Prayer with a mandate that centered less on the ‘who, what, when, where’ of traditional journalism than the ‘why’ of cycling itself. I’ve been more interested to publish good writing than to make sure we are the first to publish 300 words about the newest brake set out of China, but then that’s only because I believe that my job isn’t to provide data as much as it is motivation. You can find plenty information out there, but it’s harder to find work that helps remind you of why we stick with cycling even after Lance and the appearance of ghost bikes at an ever-increasing assortment of intersections.
We call those pieces that feed the jones and keep the off-the-bike demons at bay “evergreens.” For me, as a writer, they’re what I live for. They stand outside the typical focus of articles you’ll find on other sites during a given week. Evergreens matter because they find those opportunities to say something true about cycling, something that will be as true in five years as it is today. There’s a good chance it was true the year you found cycling as well. That chance to transcend time and get at experiences common to us all results in a far more satisfying experience for both writer and reader.
Such a book represents a pretty lofty goal. It’s not one I set out to swing at; it took a few years to realize I was circling this particular quarry.
I’ve wanted to pull together a number of my posts into a single volume for some time. While I talked to some publishers about releasing the volume with them, I realized that no one was going to be interested in offering a short run of hardcovers, an option I thought was important to present to my more dedicated readers. I’d been looking at ways to self-finance the printing of the book when I ran across Kickstarter. It seemed the perfect way to marry my desire to offer the collection to readers in both paperback and hardcover formats while hopefully realizing enough profit to serve my larger goal, which was to build a nest egg to move my family into a home in Santa Rosa.
Then the Deuce happened.
By “happened” I mean a couple of things. First, my wife’s search for a job in Sonoma County, which is essential to any move we wish to make, was put immediately on hold when we found out she was pregnant. You may wonder why we were even trying to get pregnant while she was in the middle of a job search. The easy answer is that because she was 41 and I was 48 at the time, we weren’t exactly sure how successful we would be. As it turns out, we’re crazy fertile, at least together.
By “happened” I also mean the Deuce’s NICU adventure. No one planned that, much less wanted it. My wife’s insurance coverage with Kaiser is pretty good, but in the inevitable calculus of health care, the interaction of deductible, co-pays, coverage limits and caps, the Deuce’s real-world value makes the sum the Beer Fund covered look like chump change.
Which brings me to the deeper why for the Kickstarter campaign.
The Beer Fund that my friends Robot and Eric put together following my crash last fall was a stunning outpouring of support. It re-ordered my world and taught me things about community I’d have learned no other way. Six months later and I need help, again.
But I can’t rely on charity. I can’t. That’s a well I drank from once, if reluctantly. I won’t permit myself to do it a second time, at least, not in the same year. But Kickstarter is different because it isn’t charity. The principle Kickstarter works on is patronage. It’s a way for a community of fans or followers to provide financial support that goes beyond simple commerce while still receiving something meaningful in return. It’s a way to further an artistic endeavor by a method that works for your wallet.
In what seems an unlikely event, should the Kickstarter campaign actually earn more than we need profit-wise, whatever is leftover will go toward that aforementioned dream of a nest-egg. One of the reasons we cut the Beer Fund off after only 24 hours is that we had earned enough to pay what turned out to be nearly all my emergency room bills. Ultimately, we were within a couple hundred bucks. Robot and I were of the same mind, that realizing a profit off of your kindness was untenable. Think Lance Armstrong flying on private planes at Livestrong expense distasteful. And that, dear reader, is why it’s so important for me to offer you something in return, something fun, something lasting, a concrete expression of both my gratitude and work.
I’ve come up with a number of different rewards so that there are options to fit anyone’s bank account.
Believe me, I’ve struggled with this. I’d hate for it to seem like I was profiting off my son’s personal calamity. What I’m attempting to do is profit from my work to pay for my son’s personal calamity; there’s quite a difference between the two. One I’m okay with; the other makes my skin crawl.
Check it out here.
Briefly, I will apologize for the FGR’s two-week hiatus. Technical difficulties kept us from sending our semi-fortnightly missive, and then a mad man on the loose on my home turf kept our minds otherwise occupied. But let’s leave behind weighty topics for a bit. All, now, seems back to normal, and so we push on with queries new and exciting.
While we were away, Classics season seems to have ended. Sadly. But as the Byrds (via Pete Seeger) sang, “…to everything, turn, turn, turn.” Grand Tour season is upon us. I call myself a Classics man, but Padraig prefers the Grand Tours. This we have hashed out in previous and ancient versions of the FGR.
And so the Giro, a race that has, arguably, been on the rise for the past decade. A confluence of great routes, closely-fought finishes and the dark star, self-destructive gravity of the Tour all coming together to the elevate the Italian affair.
As some indication of the Giro’s rise, last season’s Tour winner, Sir Bradley Wiggins, has opted to race for the Giro win rather than defend his yellow jersey. Team Sky will say that this Giro route suits Wiggins’ strengths better, while teammate Chris Froome will lead the squad in France, but it is hard not to understand the decision in the context of increased prestige for the Italian race.
Wiggins’ prime adversary is alleged to be Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, a Vuelta winner with a better burst of uphill pace and a demonic ability to descend. Ryder Hesjedal, last year’s maglia rosa, remains a dark horse, which seems a bit cruel given the talent, guile and heart he showed in winning the 2012 race.
This week’s Group Ride opens our 2013 Grand Tour discussion, which also includes our own Charles Pelkey (Live Update Guy) doing live text updates throughout the race. Be sure to check in with Charles, a far keener analyst than I can pretend to be. So…the big question this week is: Who will win and why? Is Sir Bradley the man to beat, or will Sky’s disappointing season continue to disappoint? Who have we missed? Who else can win?
Images: Fotoreporter Sirotti, RCS Sport
Now that RKP has settled (more or less) back in to its traditional editorial routines and I am doing what is more typically thought of as my job, and that I can also report with no small degree of pride and relief that the Deuce is healthy, seemingly happy and definitely growing, I’m willing to take a moment to respond to a few emails that I’ve received in the last week or so. Not all readers caught the series from the beginning, and as content would get bumped from the home page it wasn’t easy to find, at least, not without a bunch of scrolling.
Below is the full collection of posts that relate to the Deuce. I should note that when I wrote the first post (Part I) I thought that there would be a follow-up, but not more than that. I really hadn’t conceived of a whole series of posts—not that I couldn’t imagine such a thing, but I didn’t anticipate that it would either be necessary for me or anything I could justify as an acceptable devotion of editorial space. Lucky for us I didn’t get a choice.
So for those of you who missed the opening, or simply want to revisit the series, here it is. Thanks for reading.
I need to be honest. I haven’t worn the kit from a team I wasn’t a member of in probably 15 years. Before I moved to Southern California, I and all of my friends wore any jersey or kit we thought was cool. I had team jerseys from PDM, Z, Gatorade-Chateau d’Ax and even a replica Banania-sponsored maillot jaune like Greg LeMond wore in the ’86 Tour de France. My PDM jersey was arguably my favorite jersey until I got my first UMASS team jersey. I still think the jersey that wrapped the granite bodies of Steven Rooks, Sean Kelly and Gert Jan Theunisse was as gorgeous a design as was ever raced. So why shouldn’t I have worn one?
But then I moved to SoCal. The single most image-conscious place on the planet. A place where, unlike Milan, wherein the sure sign that one is aware of the presence struck is being dressed to the proverbial three cubed, in the land where all the best parts are aftermarket—both on cars and bodies—we go to great lengths to make a sculpted appearance look accidental. What that’s about has dysfunction written all over it. However, I quickly learned on the group rides here that you do not wear the jersey of a team for which you did not ride. A simple rule, I suppose. It might have been the first cycling faux pas I ever encountered, aside from the excommunicable offense of not holding your line.
All those cool jerseys went in a container in my garage. I think they’re still there. I think. Eventually, I learned that there were exceptions, such as if you were given the jersey by someone attached to the team, especially if that someone was a rider. Fundamentally, the rule was about not reaping the reward of something you hadn’t earned. So for years, I wore only those kits from the teams that sponsored me.
So when I heard that Rapha was going to sponsor Team Sky, I hazarded a few connect-the-dot thoughts. First, I wondered what had taken to long. In a world starved for heaven-made matches, Rapha and Sky are the peanut butter and jelly of the British Isles. I mean, dude. This is cycling’s Brangelina. Next, I admit I wondered what the jersey would be, as in would it be an embroidered no-silkscreen affair. Would Rapha impose its style on the pro peloton? Alas, that didn’t happen. The new Sky kit is rather in keeping with a current trend in kits of, Just how black can we make it? If there’s one thing that does, it make the sky blue pop like a child’s balloon in a palm jungle.
What I didn’t expect was to receive said kit for review. I’ll admit, when I saw the box, I was torn. I simply don’t wear pro kits anymore. How would I say something true without dissing the pro-kit blunder? I’m certain other places don’t suffer this stricture, but my departure from the realm of cool happened when I stopped being one of the fast guys and that’s been a good 10 years. Point being, I’d like to avoid becoming any less cool ’round these parts.
So I pulled the kit out early one morning and dressed in near dark. There was no denying the quality of the kit as I pulled it on. There’s a synergy of cut and materials that occurs in those best-of-class pieces. They lack that little tug here, stretch there, of lesser garments. The jersey length was just-so—long enough to get your hand in a pocket easily enough but only long enough to reach your waist—a proper pro cut.
I headed into the bathroom for a final pit stop before heading out for the ride when I noticed the side panel I’d missed as I dressed. My name. There it was, billboard bold; my name paired with Old Glory.
I geek out on clothing with the regularity of moon phases. Occasionally, my wife will spy something and comment on how nice it looks. If she doesn’t comment, I take note. I never, ever, go racing to her and say, “Babe, you gotta check this out.” But that’s what I did with this jersey. I waited for someone on the ride to give me some grief. It seemed as inevitable as a baby barfing, which I can say with considerable authority is definitely inevitable. When it came, I simply lifted my arm and twisted a bit.
“Okay, that’s kinda cool.” Game. Set. Match.
Think back on childhood and the first sports jersey or shirt you wore with your name on it. So long as we’re not talking the plastic name tag of fast-food careers, having your name on your clothing is still cool enough to elicit a smile. When I think about it, it seems like I ought, at this point in life, to be immune to such charms. I’m not. I got stickers with my name and the RKP logo made last year, little ones to stick on top tubes, seat stays or any other place I felt compelled. (I also had a bunch made for RKP’s regular contributors.)
Rapha is rumored to have spent crazy money, Michael Jackson money, on this sponsorship, so to make it work, they need to be able to make this kit connect with the masses, and really, the best way to do that isn’t with a five-sizes, pro-cut jersey and crappy bibs. For those of you who have spent any time around Beatles memorabilia, you know how each of the Fab Four were marketed within a nose hair of their lives. And no matter who you were, there was a Beatle for everyone. So what is Rapha doing?
Rapha is offering the chance for you to order a Sky jersey with your name and flag on it. Before you suck in a deep breath and hold it, I should mention that it’s only $150. And it comes in six sizes, from XS to XXL. How it is that the brand most often derided for being over-priced is offering a truly custom jersey for only $150, I don’t currently fathom. I don’t need to. What I know is that you can spend more on a jersey that’s no better and still not have your name on it. The replica team jersey goes for $115. Rapha is also offering the national champion jerseys for Great Britain and Norway, plus a Wiggins supporter jersey , both in pro-cut a relaxed-fit version of the Sky jersey with “Wiggo” on the sides (they even do kids’ versions in both cuts). The replica jersey (pro cut) is $120 while the supporter jersey (relaxed fit) is only $65. Has to be the least expensive jersey Rapha has ever offered (save the kids’ version which is only $55. So stop complaining about how pricey their stuff is. There are 13 jerseys, two base layers, five bib shorts, three jackets (oops, two—one is already sold out), jeans, nine shirts, a belt, gloves; heck, there’s even a scarf. A proper Sky fan could remake their entire wardrobe in this stuff.
The Sky bib shorts are very similar to the Pro Team bibs that I reviewed previously. You can read that review here. It’s the same pad, and while the Lycra of the shorts has the same weight and feel as the Pro Team bibs I have been wearing, the fabric in the Sky bibs has just a bit more stretch to it. And like the Pro Team bibs, they also go for $260.
Rapha is offering the custom jersey for a very limited time. From their release:
The order window opens on Friday 26th April 14.00 GMT and closes on Friday 10th May 15.00 GMT.
Orders should arrive in time for the Tour.
You’ll be able to order the custom jersey here. You can also see the full range of Sky offerings there as well.
I’ve got my name on a jersey. You can bet your ass I’m going to wear this. And Sky isn’t even my favorite team.
Very seldom am I anything other than middling. There are some cool summer nights that will see me pressing the strength of my usual riding companions, daring to dart off the front of our fast ride. And there are some dark winter nights when I can’t do any more than slog home, legs heavy as the night. The rest is just middling.
On a recent morning group ride, I spun along next to Mike while the guys on the front pulled (not so) slowly away from us. “Are we the laughing group now?” I asked. He laughed.
Sometimes, I imagine it would be nice to be that guy off the front, Hinault with his broad Breton brow and shitty scowl, putting the hurt on those behind. But I don’t have the forehead for it, nor the scowl. Neither do I have a great urge to leave behind my companions.
If we are the laughing group, the mini-bus, I am quite content as passenger, as fellow traveler. This is the general remit of the middling cyclist, to be among and between. Ours is the craic and the bottle passed. Ours is the steadying hand in the small of the back.
In the broad middle I can hang onto a faster wheel, but I can never be sure how long I can hold it. I can make big efforts early in a ride, in say the opening 30 miles, and then sometimes I am good all day, but other times not. The thing about the middle is that it is unreliable. Will it hold? This is our conflict and our denouement.
In high school I was a C student. This was mainly down to a disinterest in hard work and an abiding affinity for trouble. As a cyclist, I stay true to form. I’d rather be sharing a joke at the back than gritting my teeth on the front.
From this middle place, I can be inordinately grateful when I find the strength to ride hard past 60 miles, but also the grace to slink away humbly when I can’t.
For some reason, when I think of myself as a cyclist, I envisage wildebeests on the Serengetti, massive packs of anonymously identical animals churning across the plain in some ahistorical drive for water or food or relief from the summer heat, and there I am in the midst of the horde, sweating fervently, moving forward as I can, well insulated from the danger, predators of every stripe lurking at the edges.
For four years running now, the annual spring convocation of cycling, the Sea Otter Classic, has enjoyed stellar weather as it draws crowds to the Monterey Peninsula. I’ve visited the event most years since 1997, and I can’t recall such an ongoing stretch of great weather as these last few years. For each of the four days of the event temperatures reached the mid to upper 70s and the skies stretched cloudless, showing the blue of a booby’s feet.
For the first five years I went to the event, I was there strictly to race. Most years, though, I’d find a window in which to wander the expo area. Back then, my wandering would take 30 minutes. If I gave myself an hour, I could see everything—twice. By comparison, even without doing one of the gran fondos on Saturday, I still don’t feel like I saw everyone or everything I had hoped to.
This year, I decided that during those windows in which I didn’t have a dedicated mission, I’d try wander the expo with fresh eyes and see what caught my attention. I’ve been hearing about Scott Montgomery’s (yes he of Cannondale and Scott fame) latest endeavor, called Club Ride. I’ve been noticing an increasing number of riders on the road in what has traditionally been considered mountain bike apparel. My takeaway is that as many people enter cycling many of them struggle to accept the idea of wearing Lycra, but have in some cases at least come around to the idea of technical wear for increased comfort.
Giro’s “New Road” line and Club Ride’s assortment are fresh takes on what technical wear can be. I don’t see myself doing a group ride in this stuff, but I would happily wear it for running errands on my bike and when going for a ride to the park with my son. If the next CicLAvia doesn’t conflict with my schedule (Which genius thought it would be a good idea to plan it for during the LA Times Festival of Books? But I digress.) I’d wear this sort of stuff for the outing.
Challenge has long made great tires, often for other manufacturers. Recently, they began a more concerted push to market their products here in the U.S. With the burgeoning acceptance of riding dirt roads on road bikes, even when ‘cross isn’t in season (Or is ‘cross always in season now?), the 32mm-wide Grifo XS made me lust for roads unpaved. Its stablemate, the 27mm-wide Paris Roubaix, looked like it would be at home on hard pack or the local group ride.
So if you’ve ever wanted to drink beer, go for a ride, burn calories and NOT get pulled over for a DUI, the brain trust at Sierra Nevada has the perfect solution. You pedal and drink while someone else does the steering. Somehow I think you could drink beer faster than you could burn it off, even with the aid of this contraption, but being wrong has rarely been as likely to be as fun.
I’ve been following the work of the folks at Alchemy Bicycles since before I first met any of the guys at NAHBS. I’ve seen their work improve and evolve to the point that I think it’s fair to say they are doing something fresh and new in carbon fiber. The bikes I saw at Sea Otter featured unidirectional carbon fiber cut in artful shapes to give the bikes an unusually artful look. I can say I’ve never seen any work like this anywhere else.
Even when they paint the bikes the paint lines are crisp and reflect a honed aesthetic.
The work on the top tube on this bike deserves to be shot in a photo studio to capture all the beauty and detail, but even outside, I was blown away with what I saw. It’s a refreshing departure to spraying the bike one solid color or wrapping the whole thing in 3k or 12k weave. While I still need to learn a lot more about their current work, I’m coming to the conclusion that they are doing some of the most advanced work in carbon fiber, at least on the appearance side, but maybe on the construction side as well.
I’m not your typical guy in that I don’t spend Saturdays and Sundays each fall watching football while consuming 6000 calories as I sit on a couch. However, I am still some variety of guy and that means I do have a thing for tools and tool boxes. The Topeak Mobile PrepStation is a mobile work station. It includes 40 professional-grade tools that fit into water jet-cut foam forms in three trays. The bottom bucket is good for larger spare parts and any additional tools you might need, while the top tray is great for sorting any small parts you may need to keep on hand, such as quick release springs. And while this $895 rig is really meant for mechanics working event support, in it I see the genius of being able to put away all your tools and then have the whole shebang roll into a corner. I’ve witnessed many a household where the more the bike stuff got put away the happier the real head of the household was.
This Ag2r Team-Edition Focus Izalco comes in SL and Pro versions. The SL is equipped with Campy Record EPS, an FSA cockpit and Fulcrum Racing Speed 50 carbon tubulars; at $9800, it ain’t cheap, but that’s a lot of bike for the money. The Pro is equipped with Campy Chorus, an FSA/Concept cockpit and Fulcrum WH-CEX 6.5 wheels. It retails for only $3800. Honestly, there’s not another bike company that delivers as much bike for the price, though Felt comes close. I can’t figure out why I’m not seeing more of these on the road.
Cervelo has just introduced a new P3. While I haven’t seen wind tunnel specs or anything like that, I’m told this bike is both UCI-legal and faster. The UCI-bit I could give a moth’s wings about, but faster, well that always makes my mouth water. Apparently, some Cervelo purists complained about the new seat tube shape, but from an industrial design standpoint, I think this bike is really gorgeous. That said, I can observe that the hydraulic brakes spec’d on that bike aren’t easy to work on. The version shown here with Dura-Ace mechanical and Mavic Cosmic Elites goes for $5400 and is already shipping.
I have this belief that when I have to pay to do an event, that’s my time. And if I’m on my time, I’m not obligated to do anything other than ride. It has happened that on a few occasions I have chosen to write about the experience afterward, but because I paid to be there, I wasn’t obligated. It doesn’t change what I might write, but it does affect the urgency I feel about getting a piece up, post haste. This year, the Sea Otter organizers declined to grant me an entry for either gran fondo, so I took the opportunity to do a reconnaissance ride of the cross country course with Brian Vaughn and Yuri Hauswald of GU. We pulled over at a couple of points for them to give riders tips less on how often to fuel than where they could fuel, given the challenge of the course. I’ve heard a lot of bright people talk about how to fuel for races and hard rides and these two guys offered fantastic strategic thinking on how to stay on the gas even while staying fueled. Given the way I’ve been riding, this was a good deal more fun than trying to drill it for hours. And I definitely learned a trick or two.
Of course, strategic thinking about how to be a good athlete got short-circuited every time this thing came by in the expo. If there was more fun being had by adults than this, it Ninja’d by me in sunlight bright enough to burn my scalp through hair. I did encounter some great skin-care products, but I didn’t see a conditioner with an SPF factor. Someone needs to get on that before next year.
I am really lost in how to think about this thing, like an algebra problem with too many variables. I was scared, but only briefly, as you are when something unexpected and violent happens in your comfort zone. Bombs going off on Boylston Street. A firefight in Watertown. These are aberrant events in locations that are deeply familiar to me.
I thought to write last week, when bombs first exploded downtown, but couldn’t get my thoughts together well enough to attempt it. Even now, I feel confused, struggling to fit the thing into its correct context.
The brief fear that welled up in the heat of the moment was quickly supplanted by a deep sadness, certainly for the victims of the violence, also in a strange way for the perpetrators who must have been very frightened, angry people. And then also the sort of sadness you feel when a thing you thought was safe and fun turns out to be dangerous and scary, an accident on a summer roller coaster, a shark attack at a favorite beach.
One of the cool things about living in Boston is the sense of living in a space where history has been made, the knowledge that big ideas have sprung from this soil and the tides of change have surged from what is, today, only a badly organized city, perched on the edge of a cold, northern ocean.
I came here nearly twenty-five years ago, a college kid with no clue how Boston would lay claim to me. I spent a year trying to understand its haphazard geography by train and foot before a bicycle presented itself as clearly the best solution to a difficult problem. Subsequently, I have ridden nearly every inch of this place from Harbor to western suburb.
To cruise past the Common late on a summer night and think of the dramatic events that transpired there generations ago, town meetings and riots, the hanging of witches, the grazing of cattle, right there in the middle of everything. This is how you get to know Boston. The stray patches of cobblestone that dot downtown, they take you to the Boston Massacre and to the shifting of American sentiment that preceded the Revolution. You can’t ride the city without feeling that history.
For nearly a decade, before I switched jobs, I rode into town every day, my wheels spinning the path down the river into Back Bay. My commute took me across Clarendon Street, which runs behind the big, old Trinity Church. It’s a narrow artery through the heart of the city. The Marathon finishes a block west on Boylston Street, where the massive Boston Public Library sits at the other edge of the Square facing the church. That’s where the bombs went off last week, another mark on Boston’s timeline.
Days later, in a maniacal car chase/shootout, the young men who apparently planted the bombs met their end in Watertown where I work now, the second kid, the subject of a massive manhunt turning up, bloody and finished, under the tarp of a trailered boat right down the street from my office. That’s Franklin Street, our cut through to Watertown Square, where lunch comes from. A casual cruise around the neighborhood turns up cars and houses bearing the obvious scars of an intense gun battle. There is a blood stain in the street.
I had a text from work in the early morning on Friday saying, “Don’t come in. Check the news.” I went to the Guardian site and saw a picture of a SWAT team filling the main intersection around the corner. History seemed to be happening in the streets I live in.
And as I watched the news and worried about how it would all change the city, my city, I kept thinking, these are the streets I ride every day. How do I process this? How will I go on riding there?
The word aftermath refers to the consequences of a disaster, the period of time when we’re left to contemplate what’s different now. It might as well mean the math we have to do after the lesson, the part where we apply what we’ve learned. Having ridden the city up and down, studying its history, I’m left wondering just which lesson to apply.
Perhaps it will occur to me in time. Or maybe the lesson is the same as all the others,and the answer is just go on doing what you’ve always done, but try to do it better, more gently, more thoughtfully. To borrow a line, there has been chaos. Keep pedaling.
Last Monday, the day of the bombing, I rode home by a route that crosses a park that overlooks the city. The sun shone brightly in the soft-stirring air, and the skyline was unaltered, the Prudential building and Hancock Tower standing off to one side, the lump of downtown jutting grayly into the horizon. You would never have known what had happened down on Boylston Street.
This week I resolved to throw my leg over the top tube and go on about my business. I rode straight into Watertown, past the same houses and schools I pass everyday. The potholes, I noticed, are all still where they were before.
Image: Susan Margot Ecker
I took some time out from my visit to the Sea Otter Classic last week to speak with Diane Lees of The Outspoken Cyclist radio show. It was a chance to discuss the implications of the Boston Marathon bombing for cycling as well as (much more pleasant) spend a bit of time promoting the Kickstarter project for my book “Why We Ride.”
Most of the world’s cyclists don’t actually live within the broadcast range of Cleveland’s WJCU, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hear the show. Diane’s a delight to talk to and this particular episode serves up the Bike Snob as well, who was promoting his new book, “Bike Snob Abroad,” which I look forward to reading.
You can check out the podcast here.
BTW: The Kickstarter campaign is doing well and as of this writing has just passed the $17,000 mark with six days to go. I’ve put some great rewards together and if you haven’t checked the project out, I encourage you to drop by. I hope (and suspect) that you’ll find at least one of them appealing.
The Kickstarter is here. Drop by before time runs out!
Our friend and yours, Charles Pelkey, the Live Update Guy himself, will not be able to lend us his reportage or insight for this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege due to a health issue. Our very latest communication from him, by text, was “I am not dead yet,” which we take to mean both that he is not dead AND that his sense of humor remains largely intact.
We apologize to those of you who had planned their morning around Live Updates from the race.
Your Friends at RKP
Image: Pelkey Family archive