When I got my first staff gig with a magazine part of my mission was to write all manner of how-to stuff for newbies. It was a good fit for me; previously I’d taught everything from Nordic skiing to bicycle maintenance. I really relished the ability to help flatten the learning curve for new cyclists. In addition to giving a step-by-step approach to skills like how to start and clip-in on an uphill, I’d often try to give a little background on why things were the way they were, such as what might lead you to find yourself needing to start on said hill.
Fast forward nine months and I realized that the articles I was writing were vanishing after the issue went off the newsstand. There needed to be a book that collected all this stuff. Well, it took 10 years to get the opportunity, but I did and the book was released this year.
I’ve been getting some requests from folks to purchase a signed copy, enough that I decided to put a page up in the store. As we’re getting into the holiday and gift-giving season, this could be a great gift for another cyclist in your life. Or you can forward the link to the store page to your sweetie. Either way.
And if you tell me a little something about the recipient, I’ll personalize the inscription.
Check it out here.
October is turning out to be a busy month for me. The outdoor retailer REI has graciously offered to do a series of talks and signings centered around my new book “The No-Drop Zone.” For those of you in the greater LA area, I’ll be appearing at four REIs between this week and next.
Here’s the schedule:
- Wednesday, October 12, 7:00 pm: Tustin
- Tuesday, October 18, 7:00 pm: Santa Monica
- Wednesday, October 19, 7:00 pm: Rancho Cucamonga
- Thursday, October 20, 7:00 pm: Arcadia
It was a Thursday in April. The spring had been spectacular. I’d been piling on the miles and getting stronger by the week. I’d scheduled the day to work from home, which gave me the chance to take in a four-hour ride in the morning; a great loop in the mountains north of home was the recipe. I’d just finished a 2000-foot climb and rolled over some gentle terrain followed by a brief 45 mph descent. I thought I felt great.
The moment the road turned back up, and by up I mean an extended false flat, one that would last the next 10 miles, I found out that I was not okay. My legs felt as if they’d been hollowed out. It was an emptiness I’d never known.
Things didn’t really improve when I finished the false flat. I was still 25 miles from home and the steepest climb of the day lay ahead. Inside the convenience store I purchased a Mountain Dew and a Snickers bar. It was more a prayer than a calculated gambit to find energy. The word woozy doesn’t begin to illustrate the way my head reeled.
I sat on the sidewalk chewing and sipping my way through the refined-sugar equivalent of rocket fuel. I took no notice of the neon flavors.
The irony of crossing the top of Spunky Canyon in my condition escaped me. I descended for more than a half hour, pedaling only when mandatory.
In the shower, I slumped against the wall. I wondered if I was getting sick. I ate everything in the kitchen that didn’t require cooking. That afternoon I napped and managed only one email that could be construed as “work-related.”
I dashed off a note to a coach I frequently used as a pundit for all things cycling. By this time, my despair was Orwellian. My body had betrayed me, abandoned me. “What happened?” Honestly, I was less concerned with what went wrong than what was required to fix the situation. I needed a solution STAT because I couldn’t abide feeling like the flicker of a dead florescent tube.
You already know the answer: I was overtrained. So overtrained it took me three weeks to get back on track. This was my first season of consistent 15-18-hour weeks and my rest weeks had been, well, they hadn’t been rest weeks, had they?
And just like John Cleese’s character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who claims a witch turned him into a newt, I got better. We all do.
Friends, I’m overtrained. For the first time ever in my life as a writer, I’m tapped. In the last 12 weeks, between posts for RKP, features for peloton and Bike Monkey, reviews for Map My Ride and copy for several industry clients, I’ve written roughly 50,000 words—half a novel.
I’ve tried to limp along for the last two weeks, but I’ve done a lousy job and RKP has suffered for it. While the desire is there, the feeling is similar to how Beethoven described being deaf—it’s not a silence, but a roar. I sit down ready to write but all I hear is static.
I am going to put the keyboard away for the next week. Following a trip to Chicago to promote my book The No-Drop Zone at Velosmith Bicycle Studio, I’m heading up to the Sierra Nevada to take in as many hors categorie climbs as I can manage in a week. As I empty one battery, I plan to charge another. I’ll be back by Labor Day.
Thanks for reading.
There’s an arc to birthdays. When you’re young, they’re a sign of progress and increasing freedom. In your twenties and thirties they are a time of benchmarks, milestones reached. When your my age, they are a sign that the body is in retreat and that, provided you’re not an athlete—and I’m not—your professional fortunes may still be on the rise. When you reach my parents’ age, birthdays are a reminder of the fleeting nature of life.
It’s this last function of birthdays that’s on my mind. These days, commercial ventures wink in and out of existence with the speed of fruit flies. Commitment seems no more than a pledge to stick around for as long as the sticking’s good, so for a blog to reach the mark of two years of consistent publication, it’s practically like reaching old age.
In the two years that RKP has published my life has undergone a transformation. My son was born and celebrated his first birthday. My wife let me start sleeping in the bedroom again. Last year, as RKP celebrated its first anniversary I turned in the manuscript for my second book, the recently published The No-Drop Zone: Everything You Need to Know About the Peloton, Your Gear and Riding Strong.
Behind the scenes, I’ve gained not just a friend, but a virtual brother in Robot. He’s inspired me and my work and brought a fresh outlook and helped RKP to fulfill my pledge to give you something different, something worthwhile. Without him and his contributions, this would be a duller site.
The comments you write in response to our posts—both positive and negative—have been an important form of guidance. That interplay is a key part of what makes RKP a special site. You’re a bright, experienced and informed readership. It’s not something you can buy. That your numbers have grown to some 40,000 each month is the best confirmation that we must be doing something worthwhile.
The industry has taken note as well. From peloton magazine to the pages of the Giro catalog, our work has been in demand. Yes, the Giro catalog. You’ll find pieces by both yours truly and Robot in the upcoming Giro catalog. Robot also recently penned (keyboarded?) an item for Pavé. I’m sure you’ll be seeing his byline around more and more. It’s a crime to hide talent.
That cycling has changed each of our lives is beyond question. That we can find the opportunity to put into words those ineffable experiences and explore the reasons why the sport can inspire us in ways that aren’t just athletic but are often spiritual is perhaps more than we have a right to expect. On behalf of each of RKP‘s contributors, thanks for reading.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
When I first interviewed for a position at Bicycle Guide part of my screening hinged on my interest in writing how-to articles aimed at beginners. The powers-that-be had determined that the magazine needed to do more to embrace entry level riders, though there was no move afoot to turn the magazine entirely mainstream, a la Bicycling.
Some months later Joe Lindsey (these days of Bicycling and “The Boulder Report”) and I commented to each other that those article should be collected in a book. After all, once each issue went off the newsstand, there was no way for a new rider to find that material. It was gone. Imagine text books that self-destructed like those tapes on Mission Impossible.
It was then that I began concocting the idea of a reference text to roadies. It’s obvious purpose would be to educate new riders, but done right, I thought it could have the ability to offer rich background material that would interest even the dedicated roadie.
Creating an outline for a book isn’t that hard. Putting together a proposal that will interest a publisher is another matter entirely. Because my idea fell outside of the traditional how-to manuals that teach riders either how to be fast or how to fix a bike many people I talked to didn’t see the need for it. Of course, none of those people I talked to had ever joined in a group ride. Fortunately for me, the people at Menasha Ridge Press saw the value in taking a total newbie through what is essentially Road Cycling 101.
Between writing the proposal, then the text, and, later, the editing, I’ve devoted a fair chunk of the last five years of my life to this book. Greg Page, the photographer responsible for most of the photos illustrating the text is the only man I know with the knowledge of the sport, the skill as a shooter and the patience necessary to work with me to have made the book as visually instructive as it is. His contribution cannot be overstated. Greg and I spent the better part of a year just on the photo shoots the book required. Honestly, writing this book was tougher than finishing graduate school.
For dedicated readers of RKP, there is, admittedly, a fair amount of information that will be rudimentary to the point of obvious. It’s likely that in chapters like the ones on group riding, advanced skills, materials and construction and geometry (as well as others) that you’ll find information that will be novel to you. The chapter on professional racing can serve you as a handy cheat sheet—’Wait, did Merckx win 525 or 535 times?’ ‘Did Bernard Hinault win more Grand Tours than Lance?’
I’ve written The No-Drop Zone not as a reflection of my experiences and beliefs, but rather as a compendium of all those who taught me over the years. I am hopeful that even the most experienced would find it an enjoyable and even illuminating read.
The bike industry has been extremely supportive of this book. Andy Hampsten lent his insight to the foreword, and authorities no less auspicious than Mike Sinyard of Specialized, Fatty of Fat Cyclist, Brad Roe of peloton and Joe Parkin at Paved have lent their expertise and endorsements. Heck, recent silver medalist at the World Championships, Dotsie Bausch, gave me considerable assistance with the chapter devoted to women’s issues.
I’m hoping that each of you will pick up a copy of The No-Drop Zone for the simple reason that nothing will sell this book as well as a recommendation from an experienced cyclist, like you, the readers of RKP.
I’m learning that pre-orders for a book online can have a profound effect if bricks-and-mortar stores stock a given book. Naturally, having this book in every Barnes & Noble around the country would do me a world of good and provide more availability to cyclists who like to shop retail. If you’re interested in this book, I hope you’ll go to the bn.com site and place an order for it. We’re probably five or six weeks from shipping the books out, but your pre-orders could have a powerful role in that chain’s decision to stock it in all of their locations. You can find the book here.
Some of you may have been aware that I’ve been working on a book about cycling. It’s called “The No Drop Zone: Everything You Need to Know About the Peloton, Your Bike and Riding Strong.” It’s being published by Menasha Ridge Press (with whom I did “Bicycling Los Angeles County” in 2007). “The No Drop Zone” will be coming out in May.
“The No Drop Zone” is a book aimed squarely at beginners, but has been written to contain nuggets of fun as well as the collective wisdom of the peloton. Even the most experienced among you will find something useful within its pages, I hope.
To promote the book, peloton magazine will be excerpting bits of it in a new section on their web site called “Wisdom.” Stop by and have a look; it might be your cup of tea or glass of wine, er, beer. It’ll be updated twice a week.
Rest assured, once the book is out, I’ll let you know about it. I’ll also be getting around a bit for some group rides disguised as speaking engagements.
And because custom frame builders are close to my heart, I’m pleased to announce that peloton has indulged me with a new column on its web site called “Artisans.”
Those few among you who read Asphalt may remember the column “Torchbearers.” Readers of Bicycle Guide might recall the column “Hot Tubes.” “Artisans” picks up where those left off.
Each week peloton will post an interview (in two parts, as they are quite long) with a frame builder. Because the craft of frame building extends well beyond just those who build frames to painters, tool makers and more, I’m going to leave the definition a little loose. It won’t all be one-man shops, either.
Artisans will get some space in the print issues as well. Photos always look great on paper, so we’ll give these some space to breathe.
Sooner or later, I hope to turn “Artisans” into a gift book (i.e. coffee-table book). I’ll let you know how my progress goes on that front as well.
I hope you’ll drop by peloton.