Friday, November 21, 2008

About what I said before...

I'm going to have to contradict myself today. I know this is setting a dangerous precedence, considering that I've only been writing this blog for about 2 1/2 month. It's a little early to be contradicting myself, but in this case, I think it's necessary. As a loyal reader of this blog, and how could you not be, you should recall that I have publicly stated that riding in cold weather is not something that I particularly enjoy. Not only have I stated that I don't enjoy it, I also have called into question the sanity of anyone who does. That statement not withstanding, I stand before you today to admit that one of my favorite bike rides of the year is coming up very shortly. I speak of the January 1st, Merry Fitness and A Happy New Rear Ride.

Each year, Bikin' Mike puts on this New Year's Day bike ride north of McKinney, TX. When you put on a ride on January 1st, you're pretty much asking for trouble with the weather. And we've had both the good, and the bad when it comes to the weather for this ride. We've ridden it on absolutely beautifully sunny days, with temperatures in the mid 70's, and we've ridden in cloudy, overcast, drizzly days, with bone chilling 30 degrees temperatures. Yes, in Texas, 30 degrees is considered "bone chilling".

Surprisingly, we usually get a good turnout for this ride. To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure why. I have theories, not the least of which is the snappy name of the ride. Even I, as jaded and cynical as I am, have to admit "The Merry Fitness and a Happy New Rear Ride" is a pretty snazzy name for a bike ride. The name, along with the long sleeve t-shirts that Mike gives the riders for this ride instead of the usual standard issue short sleeves T's, get a pretty good turnout.

In addition to the really cool t-shirt, there are a few additional reasons that I think we get a nice crowd. For some reason, the riders seem to be in a really good mood for this ride. I've noticed over the years that regardless of the weather, people seem to really enjoy themselves. I think it's just that after a couple of months of riding in spin classes, they're just really overjoyed to be riding outside again. And come hell or high water, they're not going to let the weather ruin their day outside. I've seen them come across the finish line, teeth chattering, nose running, lips blue, and just as happy as they can be. I personally thinks that its a hypothermia induced case of mass hysteria.

Along those same lines, I've also noticed that the drivers that we encounter on this ride, seem to be in a better mood than they are the rest of the year. I think this is due to their surprise at actually seeing a large group of riders out on Jan 1st. By the time they actually comprehend that there are cyclist out, they don't have time to work up the proper amount of rage to honk, or shout, or throw a beer bottle at my head. It's either that, or they just figure that we don't have enough sense to come in out of the cold, and they'd feel bad about picking on the slow witted.

All that aside, I believe the real reason that we get a such good turnout for this ride, is that Mike always makes it a point to have black eyed peas and cornbread for all of the riders at the finish line. If you've never experienced the pure rapture of finishing up a 40 mile bike ride, in 30 degree temperature on Jan 1st, and sitting down to a piping hot bowl of black eyed peas and cornbread, you've really missed out on one of the great pleasures that a cyclist can experience. For me, I try and savor the experience. While some of the less learned riders just dive right in and start eating the peas, I first just sit there and enjoy the warmth of the bowl as it heats up my hands. Next, I kind of let my face hang over the bowl, and let the steam just float up to my nose. After a couple of hypnotic minutes of that, then and only then, do I allow myself to eat. As you can tell, I REEEALLY enjoy my bowl of peas.

And the best part is, it doesn't even have to be a good bowl of peas. More importantly, it just has to be hot. But that's somewhat true of all finish line food. I recall a ride last year were they served hot dogs after the ride. My wife will be the first to tell you, that I have a special relationship with hotdogs. I absolutely love a good hotdog. To the point of it being an obsession. So I was really looking forward to the end of this ride. I finished my 100k, parked my bike, and made a beeline for the hotdogs. The hotdog was about luke cool. The bun was somewhat soggy. And the only mustard they had was the kind in the little packages, that has usually separated into the clear liquid part and the mustard yellow part. Even with all of that, that had to be one of the best hotdogs I've ever had. Coming from a hotdog snob like myself, that's saying something.

It's experiences like these that really make me wonder about those people I hear complaining about the food at the end of a ride. Generally, by the end of a ride I'm so hungry, that a shoe covered with the seperated clear mustard juice would taste pretty good. For those people who complain about bike ride food, if you just ride a little harder, the food probably taste a whole lot better.

Still yet another benefit to riding hard.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Experience plus math, equal the painful truth

I believe that I have mentioned in the past that when I'm not riding my bike in a bike rally, I'm helping Bikin' Mike Keel produce a bike rally. Each year, Mike produces four or five bike rides in the Dallas area. My job in putting on these rides is to supervise the course. My official title is Route Coordinator. I can tell you're very impressed.

The main responsibility of a Route Coordinator, (notice how I capitalize Route Coordinator to make it seem more impressive), is to prepare the course for the ride. That is, I'm the guy who paints the arrows on the pavement, and/or places the signs out on the course with the arrows to tell you which way to go. There's a little more to it than that, which we'll get into in a later post, but far and away, marking the course is my biggest responsibility.

In the world of Route Coordinators, there is one unforgiving reality, and two overriding guidelines that we live by.

The One Unforgiving Reality:
No matter how well you mark a route, if someone gets lost, it's your fault.

The Two Overriding Guidelines:
1. When marking a course, go in with the attitude that you've got to idiot-proof the course.
2. Just when you think you've idiot-proofed the course, they'll build a better idiot.

Please don't think that I am picking on cyclist, by pointing out that a certain percentage of them are idiots. It is my personal opinion, that 5% to 10% of the general population displays certain idiotic tendencies. Any group that you look at closely, will reflect that 5 to 10 percent Rate of Idiocy, or ROI as I like to call it. If you look at your local police department, you'll probably find a 5 to 10% ROI. If you sat down and talked to the faculty at your local high school, again, there would probably be a 5 to 10% ROI. A good example here in the Dallas area would be the Dallas ISD School Board. Actually, I'm guessing that they'd probably skew a little higher on their ROI, but you get the idea. There's idiots everywhere, and cyclist at a bike ride are no different.

So it is for this 5% to 10% that we, as Route Coordinators have to spend the majority of our time planning for.

We have to plan for the Collin Classic cyclist 3 years ago, who rode right past the right turn sign, that the other 2200 cyclist all saw, at the Northern most point of the course. That cyclist rode north for another hour and half, without seeing another cyclist, without seeing another route marker, and without seeing a break point, and still didn't know that she was lost. An hour and a half north of that turn, and your almost into Oklahoma. The only reason that she knew she was lost was when the Sheriff's Deputy stopped her and asked if she was part of the Collin Classic bike ride. The kicker of this was, that when our SAG driver went to pick her up, it was then that we discovered that she was a bandit. For those of you who don't know what a bandit is, a bandit is someone who rides in a ride, using the police support that the ride producer pays for, using the break points that the ride producer provided, but not bothering to pay the entry fee for the bike ride. She just showed up, started the ride, got lost, and figured she was entitled to use the SAG support that the ride producer had provided. Somehow, it was our responsibility to come and get her.

We have to plan for the Collin Classic rider two years ago, who decided that she needed to SAG in at the first break point of the 55 mile course. She climbed into the back of a SAG truck about 9:30am that morning, and proceeded to ride around in the back of that truck for the next 7 hours. Apparently, she didn't realize that when the truck got back to the start/finish area, she should get out. As she explained it to me later, quite loudly, we should have told her to get out of the truck.

We also have to plan for the Tour Dallas rider last year who finished the ride, laid his bike down next to his truck, and soon became distracted by a phone call. In fact, he got so distracted by that phone call, that he jumped in his truck and drove off, leaving his bike laying on the ground in the parking lot. By the time he realized that he had forgotten his bike and drove back to the parking lot, his bike was gone. He made his way down to the Communication Center, where we Route Coordinator's like to hang out, and explained what had happened exactly as I have explained it here to you. He wasn't even embarrassed. Like everybody just drives off and leaves their bike laying on the ground. He also seemed to think that it was our responsibility to locate his lost bike. Why he thought this, I don't know. I expressed the appropriate level of concern, all the while fighting like mad not to roll my eyes at him and pat him on the head like some poor idiotic dog. I started to take his personal information from him, so that if anyone turned in the bike, we could get in touch with him.

When I asked him for his rider number, he made the surprising confession that he too, was a bandit. Again, he said it without the slightest bit of embarrassment, like it's just crazy to actually pay to ride in one of these bike rides. I wanted to tell him that unless that bicycle fell from the sky and landed on my head, the odds of me finding it were pretty slim, because I wasn't going to invest whole lot of time in looking for a bandit's lost bike. I also wanted to tell him that he better find that bike before anyone associated with the ride did, because if we found it first, I was going to sell it to the first person who would give me $30 for it, to cover the cost of the registration that he didn't pay.

I wanted to tell him both of those things, but I didn't. I was polite and I pretended to be very sympathetic towards his plight. As a fellow cyclist, of course I feel sympathy for any cyclist who's lost his bike. Especially a card carrying member of the 5 to 10%.

And besides, I'm a Route Coordinator. I have to plan for these sort of things.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caveat emptor

Today, we wrap up our series on bike shop service. So far, we've discussed how much attention you can expect from a bike shop, and what kind of service you can expect. Now let's look at how well our bike shops cater to the needs of their customers. That is, what kind of job they do in providing you with what you want, and just as importantly, providing you with what you need.

(That last sentence actually sounded kind of erotic, didn't it. Let's all try and be adults here, shall we.)

First and foremost, I completely understand that bike shops are in the business to make money. Not only do I understand this, but I wholeheartedly
endorse this goal. Making money is actually one of my favorite things. I don't make the commute from McKinney to Dallas Love Field everyday because it is such a nice drive. I do it, because if I don't, Southwest Airlines won't pay me. They're funny that way. So I do not begrudge a business making money.

If you've been keeping up with the first two postings in this series, you might have noticed that so far, things haven't gone particularly well for RBM. Don't look for things to take an upturn today.

As usual, I have examples to make my points.

Regarding Plano Cycling and Fitness. I was in one of Bikin' Mike's spin classes, when my trainer suddenly died. I'd like to think that the pure power of my spin just overwhelmed it. Truth be told, it was an old trainer and it just finally gave up the ghost. So I walk across the parking lot to Plano Cycling, fully prepared to buy a new trainer. As I walk through the door, I'm immediately set upon by a sales clerk, asking if there's anything I need help with. After telling him that my trainer just kicked the bucket, I indicate that I need a new one.

Now here's where it gets a little weird. Instead of immediately taking me to the new trainers, he says that he might be able to get the old one fixed by the manufacturer. No really, I swear that's what he said. Instead of just selling me a new one like I was fully prepared to do, he volunteers to try and get the old one fixed for free. I eyeball him suspiciously for several seconds, trying to figure out how I'm going to get screwed on this deal, but being unable to figure out his angle, I tell him to go ahead and see what he could do. But I also tell him to not try anything funny, as I'll be watching his every move. Turns out that not only was he able to get the broken part replaced for free, but Plano Cycling also installed the new part, free of charge.

Did I mention that I didn't buy the trainer in question from Plano Cycling? I bought it used from a friend. How's that for catering to the customer's needs.

Now, lets turn our magnifying glass to RBM. I actually don't have any personal stories to tell about my experiences shopping at RBM, as I can't remember the last time I bought anything from them. But I do have a story to relate, from of all places, The Dallas Morning News.

A couple of years ago, The Dallas Morning News did a story on how to go about buying your first bicycle. They sent mystery shoppers into several bike shops, including RBM. The RBM mystery shopper stated that she went into RBM and amazingly found someone to help her. The first thing she told the clerk was that this was her first bike, and she had a $500.00 budget to spend. After hearing this, the sales clerk immediately took her over and showed her a $1,000.00 Trek. Right there should have been your first indication of whose needs to bike shop was trying to satisfy. it certainly wasn't the shoppers.

So the mystery shoppers takes a test ride on the Trek, and after some discussion, agrees to buy the $1,000.00 bicycle. As they start to head for the register, the clerk just happens to say, "there's another bike that I would like you to try. I just want to get your opinion of it." Because as we all know, the evaluation of a first time cyclist, is critical in getting a truly informed and knowledgeable opinion of a bicycle. The clerk goes in the back and rolls out with a $3,000.00 Bianchi. After insisting that the customer "just try it out", the customer takes it for a ride. Now you tell me, how are you going to feel about that $1,000.00 Trek, after trying the $3,000.00 Bianchi. The Trek would probably feel like the tires were square after riding the Bianchi. Not to anyone's surprise, the customer bought the Bianchi.

If you were teaching a class on how to "upsale" a customer, you couldn't come up with a better example if you tried. And I know what your thinking. All the customer had to do is say "No". That's not the point here. The point is that the customer specifically told the clerk that they wanted to spend $500.00, and they wind up leaving with a bike that cost 6x's that much. In my opinion, this is a classic example of a bike shop failing to provide a customer with what they need. Instead, the goal of the bike shop was to get that customer to spend as much money in the store as they possible could, regardless of what the customer actually needed. A first time cyclist, with 10 cent legs, does not need a $3,000.00 bicycle.

Truthfully, I'm all for someone making as much money as they possibly can. A bigger fan of money than me, you'll never find. But in my opinion, there is line that can be crossed, from making money, to taking advantage of a shopper that just doesn't know any better.

As for me, I like my chances at Plano Cycling.

Just in case you were wondering, "Caveat emptor" means "Let the buyer beware". I had to look it up too.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, November 10, 2008

I do not suffer fools gladly

Continuing our discussion of bicycle shop service, today we look at what kind of service you can expect from our two bike shops. By that I mean, how can you expect to be treated. Do they treat you with respect? Are they nice to you? That may seem like a silly question. Bike shops are in the business of selling bikes. Therefore, they want to be nice to their potential customers. You'd think that wouldn't you? I can't speak for everyone, but that's certainly what I would have assumed. I freely admit, that if I had to rely on my ability to sell something to earn a living, I'd soon starve to death. But even I know that a customer that I've somehow managed to p*ss off, is much less likely to buy something from me. (I say "somehow managed to", like I have a really hard time p*ssing people off.) But I have been in bike shops where the employees act like bicycle retail would be really great line of work, if it wasn't for the customers coming in all the time, interrupting their day. Again, I won't mention any names here, but if you're ever in the Snyder Plaza Shopping Center here in Dallas, and you're looking for a bike shop, my advise would be to keep on driving.

But getting back to our two bike shops, that being Plano Cycling and Fitness, and the mystery guest RBM (wink, wink). I can relate a couple of stories about these bike shops, that I think best exemplify their attitude towards the customer. Again, these stories represent my own person opinions. (I just can't emphasis it enough, how suing me would be a complete waste of time).

As far as Plano Cycling goes, all I can simply say is that I have never been treated with anything but respect and friendship. Period. That's it. I'd like to be able to relate some amazing story of great customer service from Plano Cycling, but when that's the only kind of customer service that you ever get, it makes it kind of hard for any specific instance to stand out in your mind.

Now RBM, that's a different story.

I have a friend who I cycle with all the time. (No, really, I really do have a friend.) This friend has a weight problem, that I am happy to say, she is very successfully dealing with through her cycling. She's not there yet, but she's well on her way. She related the following story to me. One day she went to RBM to buy a gift card for a friend. The reason she was getting the card at RBM was that the friend lived close by, and wouldn't listen to reason. As my friend walked up to the counter, the salesman turned to another salesman and said under his breath, "Bet she's here for a gift certificate". He took one look at my friend, saw that she had some weight to lose, and just immediately assumed that there was no way she could possible be there for herself. Even if he thought that, why would he even consider saying it where she could possibly hear it. My friend went ahead and bought the gift card, because that's what her friend needed, but not surprisingly, she hasn't been back either. As she turned to leave, the salesman turned to the other salesman again, and said "Told ya". Nice.

My second example is my favorite bike shop related story of all time. I wear glasses. So, a couple of years ago, I decide that I need to get prescription cycling glasses. I go to Plano Cycling and purchase a pair of Tifossi sunglasses. These are the type of glasses that have the clip-in inserts that actually have your prescription lenses in them. Well Plano Cycling didn't have the inserts. They said they would order me a pair, but if I found them somewhere else, I wouldn't be required to buy them. I went ahead and had them order me a pair. As my wife and I were walking to the car, I told her that maybe I'd been a little unfair to RBM. It had been several years since my previous bad experiences with them. Maybe I should give them another chance to make a brand new bad experience. So I called them and ask if they have the prescription insert for Tifossi glasses.

The guy I was talking to said "Yes."

I say "You're sure?".

He says "Yes. We've got them right here."

I say "You've got them in the store?"

He again says "Yes."

So I say "Your not going to sell them all before I get there, are you?"

To which he says, "No, we've got plenty of them."

I say "OK, I'll be there in 20 minutes."

It wasn't a terribly spellbinding conversation, but I think I successfully relayed my point to him that I was expecting them to have the insert in the store for sale when I got there.

As Trish and I pull into the parking lot at RBM, I just start laughing. Trish asked me what was so funny. I told her that I was just thinking about the wild-eyed fit that I was going to throw when we get into the store and they don't have the insert. She said, as she has so often been quoted saying to me, "You're just being stupid".

We walk in, go right up to the glasses counter and I inquire where the prescription inserts were for Tifossi cycling glasses. I'll give you three guesses what the salesman's response was.

"We don't keep those in stock in the store, but I can order you a pair."

It was just about at this point where I unleashed a stream of vulgarity and obscenity that would have caused most peoples ears to start bleeding. I actually kinda blacked out, but I do remember questioning the intelligence of almost everyone who worked there, and I believe that I actually inquired if the sales clerks parents weren't somehow close relatives.

What was most upsetting was the response of the sales clerk. Or rather, his lack of response. Now you tell me, if you had a customer who had obviously been misled about the availability of an item, what would have been one of the first things out of your mouth. Might you have considered offering up an "I'm sorry" at some point. That's what I would have said. But no, not at RBM. He just stood there looking at me, like this sort of thing happens every day.

The only good thing that came out of this whole episode was, that because of my reaction in the store, my wife now refuses to go shopping with me anymore. Nor does she request that I go shopping with her anymore either. Find those silver linings where ever you can.

Next time, we discuss how these bike shops cater to their customer's needs.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The first cut is the deepest

I think I have mentioned in the past that I work a "real" job for Southwest Airlines. Whatever your personal opinion might be of Southwest, I think I'm safe in saying that Southwest is pretty much known for offering great customer service. So, having worked there for almost 12 years now, I think I'm qualified to offer my opinions on what constitutes good customer service. Actually, qualified or not, I'm going to offer them anyway. But, for now, lets go ahead and pretend that I am qualified.

Before we go any further, I need to include some disclaimer type statements. The opinions expressed here are my own, based solely on my personal experiences. The experiences are factual. Not "based" on fact, but factual. (I'm desperately trying to avoid getting sued.)

Over the next few posts, I would like to compare and contrast the type of service I have experienced, and offer my opinions based on those experiences, of the two largest bike shops here in the Dallas/Plano/McKinney area. For those of you not familiar with the area, the first shop would be Plano Cycling & Fitness. I'm not going to mention the second bike shop by name, because my opinion of them is somewhat less than that of Plano Cycling. But for our purposes here, we'll refer to that bike shop as RBM, (wink, wink).

We'll talk about how much attention you can expect from each of these bike shops, the type of attention you will receive, and how well they cater to the needs of their customers. Today, we'll talk about how much attention you get from each of these bike shops. Remember, these are my own person opinions, based on my factual experiences. (PLEASE, don't anyone sue me.)

I defy you to walk into Plano Cycling and Fitness, spend any amount of time there at all, and not have someone ask you if you need any help. And if all you want to do is just look around, all you have to do is say so, and they'll leave you alone. One day I stopped by to pickup a copy of a cycling magazine. Already knowing where the magazine racks were, I walked in, went straight to the magazines, saw that they were sold out of the magazine that I was looking for, so I turned around and walked out. As I was getting into my car, one of the salesmen came running out of the store into the parking lot after me. Thinking that I was about to be arrested for shoplifting, I prepared to defend myself and assumed a classic karate stance. I have literally no karate training, but I am big, and sometimes being big is enough. In actuality, he only wanted to make sure that I had found what I was looking for, but I'm pretty sure that I scared the hell out of him.

Now contrast that with my first experience at RBM. Seven years ago I was looking to buy my first bike. Being inexperienced and not knowing any better, I went to RBM. I walked around for an hour, literally with my checkbook in my hand looking at bikes. No one said a word to me. Being understandably upset, I left. The next Saturday, I decided to give them another chance, so I went back. One lonely hour later, with no one to talk to, I once again stormed out, swearing to never darken their door again.

It took me a while, but I finally figured out why I couldn't get anyone to help me. As a new cyclist, I was looking at the relatively cheap bikes. In my opinion, no one was interested in selling me a $500.00 bicycle. On both days I was there, there were plenty of sales people around. I could see them all over by the $2,000.00+ bicycles.

You shouldn't have to spend $2,000.00, or $3,000.00, or more on a bike to get good customer service. Over the last seven years, I've probably spend $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 on bicycles and bicycling related stuff. If RBM had expressed any interest at all in selling me that first $500.00 bicycle, I probably would have spent a good portion of that money there. But they didn't, so I haven't.

Next time, we'll discuss the type of service you can expect from each of these shops. Until then, I'll be retaining legal council.

(I have nothing. You'd be wasting your time by suing me. Please leave me alone.)

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Is it cold, or is it just me

Now that we're into November, it's kind of a sad time for the enthusiastic road cyclist here in Texas. This is the sad time of the year when it starts getting too cold to ride outdoors. Once again, those readers who live in Colorado, or Utah, of Montana, probably consider we Texans to be the ultimate weather weenies. To those people I say, meet me in Wichita Falls, TX next August, when the temperature is 105 degrees, and ride 100 miles with me at the Hotter-n-Hell 100. Then you can call me a weather weenie. Everything is relative.

This is that frustrating time of the year when we still get those days from time to time where the weather is just perfect for a bike ride, but more and more, we get those days that it's either too cold, or too windy, or both. Oh sure, we all say to ourselves, "I can ride in this. This is why I bought all of that cold weather gear. So I can get out and ride in just this type of weather". For me, that devil-may-care attitude typically last about 3 or 4 really cold rides. There's just something especially miserable about your snot freezing to your upper lip, and the sharp stabbing pain that you get in your toes when they get really cold. After I endure those types of rides a few times, I'm generally ready to start exploring my other options as far as riding goes. At that point we're left with one of three choices; bundle up and ride outdoors anyway, head inside and spin, or not ride at all.

Not riding at all really isn't an option, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time discussing it. I think I've mentioned before that there was a time when I could have politely been described as "hefty". "Big Boned" is a phrase that had been used to describe me in the past as well. There was one year where I gained 25 pounds of bone. My problem was that I really enjoyed food. That's a problem that I haven't completely conquered yet. But since I ride my bike pretty much every day, then eating like it's the last day to eat for free really isn't a problem. I take the mantra of "ride to eat" very seriously. So not riding at all for 4 or 5 months just isn't doable.

Next option is too bundle up and ride outdoors anyway. This is an option that I do take from time to time. Usually, it's when a group of us from Team Bikin' get the itch to get back out on the open road again, and that's typically when it's been just long enough for us to forget just how miserable we were last time we road outside in the cold. I don't know about you, but if it's the slightest bit cold, my nose starts running like my brain is melting. This leads to all sorts of uncomfortable situations, especially when riding in a nice, tight pace line. Please see my posting on riding etiquette, Specifically, see Rule #5. Along with these mucus problems, I face another problem with riding on a particularly cold day. When riding on a really cold day, the only time I really feel warm is when I'm on the bike and pedaling. So stopping and resting, and allowing myself to get cold again is not something I look forward to. That puts me between a rock and hard place. Call me undedicated if you must, but I generally enjoy stopping from time to time and resting. Being caught between wanting to stop and rest, and not wanting to stop and get cold, complicates things for me. Most people who know me will tell you that I try and keep my life as simple as possible.

That leaves us with spinning indoors. For the past several years, that means riding in Bikin' Mike's spin classes from around the first of November, pretty much thru the end on March. I should say right now, that Mike does a great job leading his spin classes. He has a plan to keep everyone as fit as possible thru the winter, but more importantly, he makes the classes as fun and as entertaining as they can be. The important phrase in that last sentence is "as they can be". There's only so much that Mike can do. No matter how fun and entertaining he makes the classes, they're still not going to be as much fun as riding down a quite back road, on a beautiful spring day. After four months of staring at the same four walls and watching the puddle of sweat grow on the mat underneath the guy spinning next to you, it's easy to see how someone could forget just how miserable they were the last time they rode out in the cold.

A quick aside here. It never ceases to amaze me how the girls in the spin class don't seem to sweat. Me and most of the guys in the class are just sweating like we're spinning on the surface of the sun, and I look over at the girl on the bike next to me, and her makeup isn't even smudged.

These are the kind of things that I wonder about.

Anyway, how long is it until April?

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Technical details, or lack thereof

I have a confession to make. This is actually quite embarrassing. It's a shame that I've been living with for the better part of 7 years now. A burden that I've been carrying, and I figure that it's time I put it down. Here it goes.

I really don't know anything about bicycles.

All those times when the really cool bicyclist are standing around and talking about "crank lengths", and "ceramic ball bearings", and "top tube lengths", and I've been standing there nodding my head with a real serious look on my face. All that time, I've had literally no idea what your talking about.

I can change a flat. I can re-wrap my handle bars. I can.....let's see, I can....... Well, I guess that just about all I can do when it comes to maintaining a bike. Oh, I can also wash, degrease, and re-lube my bike. But other than that, I'm pretty much taking the bike to my local bike shop.

It's not that I don't want to learn. I would love to be able to stand around with the cool cyclist and talk about all of that cool stuff that I mentioned before. And it's not that I'm incapable of learning. There's probably some very serious doubt that I'll ever split the atom, but I would consider myself to be of above average intelligence. I guess if I really was a moron, I wouldn't be smart enough to know that I wasn't that smart. But trust me, I'm fairly intelligent.

So despite what my 9 year old son might tell you, I'm not stupid. No, my problem with learning even the most basic of bicycle care is two fold. The first thing holding me back from performing my own bicycle repairs is laziness. I believe that I have made it fairly clear in past postings, that I am a notoriously lazy person. While it might actually be really fun to go out and work on my bike, I would just assume to fork over the money and pay someone else to do it. The way I see it, I'm supporting the local economy. I'm helping to pay someones salary. If we all took it upon ourselves to do things that we could just as easily pay others to do, the whole economy could collapse. I'm not being lazy. By God, I'm being patriotic. No need to thank me. Just trying to do my part.

The second thing that keeps me from learning just some basic bicycle repair, would be fear. I am terrified that I will take something apart, and not be able to get it together again. I'm also afraid of the embarrassment of having to take the remains of my bicycle into my local bike shop, along with a box of parts, and sheepishly ask them to put it back together for me. If they're going to have to put it together for me anyway, let the lazy SOB's take it apart too. No sense in me doing half the work for them.

So you might be asking yourself, "if he doesn't know anything about bikes, what does he do when it comes time to go shopping for a bike"? I have developed a very simple philosophy for looking for a new bike. I shop for a pretty bike. I look for a bike that I think I would look really cool riding on. Black is my color of choice. I currently ride a black Trek 2300, with black & silver wheels, black and
silver tires, black handle bar tape, and a black and silver saddle. I even have black and silver carbon bottle holders. This bike is b*tch*n. I look like I'm going 60 mph on it.

I was recently flipping through a recent issue of "Road" magazine, when I instantly fell in love with an Issac bike. I have no idea about what it's made of, or the components on it, or the aerodynamics of it. I don't know what kind of reputation Issac has as far as making a good quality bike. I don't even know what one cost. All I know is that it looks really good. I can't even begin to image how good I would look riding it. A bike that pretty, just has to be a good bike.

So the next time all of you cool guys get together and talk about all that technical stuff on your bikes, I'll just stand there and pretend to be really interested in what your saying. Not only do I not have any idea what your talking about, I really don't care. The only thing I need to know is, does it come in black?

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, October 27, 2008

The sweet escape...a weekend in Paris

Once again, I'm very sorry my post have been a little far and few between over the last couple of weeks. Things have gotten a little crazy at my real job. Yes, I actually have a "real" job. Surprisingly, it's very hard to make ends meet by writing a free blog.

In addition to having to actually "work" for a living, this was the big weekend of our annual two day Pedal-2-Paris bike ride. That's right, I actually spent a romantic weekend in Paris. Now, I don't suppose it would take any of the luster off of it if I mentioned that it was Paris Texas, not Paris France. I suppose it would, but we had a good time anyway.

Once again, I know I'm opening myself up to ridicule from those readers who live in parts of the country were it really does get cold, but here in Texas, it was cold when we left for Paris Saturday morning. By cold, I mean it was 39 degrees at our 8:00am start. You know how at the start of long rides, or multi-day rides, everyone's excited, and talking, and laughing. Well, there wasn't a lot of that going on at the start of this ride. We were all too busy trying to keep our snot from freezing to our upper lips. As the day went on, it warmed right on up, and we were quickly shedding knee warmers, and jackets, and gloves. By noon, we were all generally in our usual shorts and jerseys.

The ride itself was very peaceful. We were mostly on those back country Texas roads, were you'll see about 1 car every fifteen minutes or so. We actually spent more time counting the wildlife we saw, than the cars we saw. And I'm using the term "wildlife" in it's broadest definition. For the purposes of this discussion, cows are wildlife. Horses are wildlife. In addition to the herds of the wild North Texas cows and horses, we also saw buffalo, and a coyote, several deer, and more buzzards than I really felt comfortable with. When you're 5 hours into a bike ride and you're just really tired, the last thing you want to see is some buzzard staring at you, with that "so how you feeling" look in his eyes.

Once we got to Paris, we loaded up the bikes in our support vans, and drove straight to downtown Paris, for the Pumpkin Festival, or as it's pronounced here in Texas, the Punkin Festival. Doesn't the phrase "downtown Paris" sound exotic and romantic? Well, when you actually get there, it's not quite as exotic as you imagine. Anyway, we figured it was better to go ahead and go to the festival before we checked into the hotel, because if we went to the hotel first, we probably wouldn't leave again until it was time to head back to McKinney on Sunday morning.

After a quick lap around the Paris town square, we went to the local Italian restaurant for dinner. The phrase "the local Italian restaurant" can probably be taken literally. After that, it was off to the hotel. After icing down everything that hurt, (it would probably be easier to list everything that didn't hurt, so I won't actually list the things that hurt), it was bed time.

The second day of the ride was a little more exciting than the first. I try not to complain about the weather, but I feel better when I do, so I complain quite often. I should probably feel guilty about complaining about the weather this past weekend, because on the whole, the weather was absolutely great. Both days started out cold, but warmed up to the mid 70's quickly. Blue skies were the order of both days. The winds on Saturday, were out of the Northeast, but only at 4 or 5 mph, so you hardly noticed it. However, unfortunately for us, on Sunday, the wind switched around to the South, which just happened to be the direction we were riding in.

Like I said, I try not to complain about the weather, but this is the second year in a row, were we've had a headwind both days. You'd think that, by shear luck, we'd have a tail wind just one day out of four. But no, the cycling gods didn't see fit to provide us with anything but a headwind. After about 50 miles on Sunday of riding directly into a 15 to 20 mph headwind, we had stopped for lunch and were just about ready to call it a day, when Bikin Mike Keel had an epiphany. As he stood looking at our two support vans that were going to drive us home, he had a stroke of genius. If we just wanted to get our miles in, what difference does it make what direction we're riding in. We all stood there looking at each other for a minute or two, and we suddenly realized what this meant. No more killing ourselves riding into the wind. We could just turn around, ride back towards Paris, with the wind, for the last 25 miles, finish up, and go home. This was brilliant. With the utterance of that one phrase, Mike had saved the day. That last 25 miles was like a dream, a 25 mile team time trial.

With the completion of the Pedal-2-Paris, our outdoor cycling season pretty much comes to an end. We'll get out for an occasional ride when the weather permits, but for the most part, we'll be in Bikin' Mike's spin studio four or five days a week. We'll talk about that a little more in the weeks to come.

On a completely different matter, this past week, the Nearly Famous Fred Cycling blog had a milestone event. We had our first confirmed reader from outside my immediate circle of friends. A very nice lady from Carlsbad CA left a very nice comment on my post about cyclist vs runners vs triathletes, confirming my suspicion that all triathletes were indeed crazy. That's one.

Peace out.....Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Lazy Man's Guide to Hill Climbing

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. Things have been a little busy around here.

Still trying to get ready for the upcoming Pedal-2-Paris bike ride, coming up this weekend. Towards that end, I made the drive over to Mineral Wells, TX this weekend for the Kiwanis Crazy Kicker Bike ride. This was a really good ride, with a lot of very scenic countryside to ride through. For those of you from Montana or Colorado, you probably wouldn't think that it was that scenic, but for these parts, it was very pretty. And also, very hilly. Again, for those from different areas of the country, you would probably laugh at what we Texans thought was hilly. Kind of the same way we laugh at you when we here you complaining about the heat, when it's 90 degrees outside. Come talk to us about the heat when you break triple digits. But, since everything is relative, this was a very "mountainous" bike ride.

I did the 100k ride, which by my computer, turned out to be 67 miles instead of 62 miles. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but when those extra 5 miles come at the end of the ride, after you've been climbing hills all day long, believe me when I say they matter. If they could somehow slip those extra five miles into the middle of the ride, they'd be a lot less bothersome. But it never fails, the extra 5 miles always come at the end of the ride.

Anyway, while climbing what had to the the 25th hill of the day, I made a surprising discover. That after you climb that many hills, there comes a point where you really don't seem to notice the hills anymore. During the first part of the ride, as you approach the hill, that sense of dread starts creeping in. As you start the actual climb, you begin to feel the burning in your legs, and the closer you get to the top, the more and more it burns. But after a couple of hours of this, a rather pleasant thing starts to happen. The sense of dread doesn't seem as strong anymore. The burning in your legs doesn't seem as intense anymore either. This is either due to hypoxia, (not enough oxygen getting to the brain), or something else.

I think it is due to something else, and not surprisingly, I have a theory as to what that something else might be. Actually, it probably is due, at least in part, to hypoxia. But also something else. It goes to what I have dubbed my "standing in the rain" theory. If you go outside and stand in a driving rain for 10 minutes, you might as well just stand out there for another hour. You're not going to get any wetter. After ten minutes, you're as wet as you're going to be after an hour. I think the same is true to cycling, and particularly, hill climbing. There comes a point of saturation, when you're as tired as you're going to get. From that point on, it's just a matter of replacing fuel and water. As long as you don't just run out of fuel and bonk, according to my theory, you should be able to just keep riding.

I've always enjoyed climbing hills. Maybe that's because I'm such a lousy sprinter. That's not to say that I'm a great hill climber. I just said I enjoy it, not that I'm good at it. Not to toot my own horn, (oh hell, I'll just toot away), I've only ever had to walk 1 hill in my life. And I've climbed hills in Northern California and Montana. Let me let you in on my 3 secrets to getting up a hill. Now notice that I didn't say get up a hill quickly. If you're looking to get up Alpe d'Huez in 37 minutes, you are REALLY talking to the wrong guy. But if you aren't late for anything, I can get you to the top.

First rule is to be careful where you look. Don't look at your cycle computer. It's only going to show you how slow you are going. Don't look at your heart rate monitor. It's only going to show you how tired you are. And whatever you do, for the love of God, don't look up the hill. That's only going to show you how far you still have to go, and how steep it is. You should look at the road, about 6 feet in front of your bike. From where you are to there, it really doesn't seem that steep. Just keep pedaling, and when it starts to get easier, you're getting close to the top.

Speaking of just keep pedaling, that's the second rule. No matter what happens, just keep pedaling. I know that sounds simple, but if you've spent any time at all reading this blog, you'll understand that "simple" is right in my wheelhouse. As simple as it may sound, "just keep pedaling" actually works. Left foot over the right, right foot over the left, repeat as necessary. As long as you don't stop pedaling, the laws of physics say that you will eventually reach the top of the hill.

The third and final secret is also quite simple. Climb every hill you can find. This summer I was out on a ride, and the group I was riding with came to a point in the ride where you could turn left, and ride the hilly part of the ride to the finish. Or you could go straight, and do the flatter part of the ride to the finish. One of the guys I was riding with said that he wasn't a very good hill climber, so he was going to take the flatter option. I thought to myself, "now that's an interesting training strategy". Get stronger at climbing hills, by avoiding climbing hills. If you want to become a better hill climber, there's only one way to do it. Climb more hills.

Now, on a more serious note. If any of you are readers of The Fat Cyclist blog, you are probably aware that his wife Susan, has been battling a recurrence of cancer. Well, according to Fatty's blog posting today, it seems that things took a turn for the worse over the weekend. Susan was having problems breathing Sunday night, and required an ambulance trip to the hospital. That's all we know for now, but Fatty said that he'd post more info as soon as it was available. I know from reading Fatty's blog that he always reads the comments left by his readers. I'm sure he'd appreciate it if you left a good word for him and Susan. You can click here to go to The Fat Cyclist. Please keep a good thought for Susan, Fatty, and their kids. Win Susan!

Peace out....Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Vive, le diff'erance! Except for those damn triathletes

When it comes to getting to know new people, I will be the first to admit that I tend to be a little standoffish. To really tell the truth, I generally avoid new people like the plague. I don't know if I'm just getting more and more cranky as I get older, or if I'm just lazy. I really don't want to put forth the effort it takes to get to know someone new. For those people that I've gotten to know in the recent few years, you should feel pretty good about yourself, in that you seemed interesting enough that I chose to put in the work. As I said, I'm raising laziness to never before seen heights.

I mention the above, because in today's post, I will attempt to compare and contrast the differences between cyclist, runners, and that most unusual of enthusiast, the triathlete. And since I don't meet a whole lot of new people, most of the opinions that I will express here today, are derived more from observation, than actual face-to-face interaction. Matter of fact, most of the runners and triathletes that I do know, are actual cyclist who also run and swim. So we're talking about a very shallow pool that these opinions have been developed from. I freely admit that the opinions expressed here might be completely unfair generalizations, quite possibly wrong, and even actually mean.
But that's all I have to go on, so get over it.

From what I can see, cyclist tend to be a very social group. At least the cyclist that I hang out with are. Actually, if we didn't "hang out" together, I probably wouldn't think they were very social. It's kind of a catch-22 thing. We're social because we hang out, and we hang out because we're social. But anyway, this seems to be true amongst a large percentage of the cyclist that I see. At local bike rallies, the after-ride activities are almost as important as the ride itself. If you read some of the bike rally reviews on, there seems to be as many comments about the food and festivities after the ride, as there are about the ride itself.

Bicyclist seem to be generally happier than their running counterparts. From time to time, I'll go out and ride around White Rock Lake here in Dallas. This is an area also frequented by a lot of runners. While the cyclist seemed to be really enjoying themselves, the runners typically look like someone just shot their dogs. I see them going by, their foreheads all furrowed, running like their late for a funeral. On the other hand, the cyclist are riding along, usually chatting with the other cyclist around them, without a care in the world, except for trying not to run into the runners who seem to be in the clutches of a oxygen debt induced fog.

Another difference that I've noticed, is that for the most part, runners seem to be a lot more intense about running, than cyclist are about cycling. You see runners out running in their little tank tops and running shorts, constantly checking their stop watch/wrist watches, to see if their pace has fallen off by a tenth of a mph. When I'm out on a bike ride, I usually don't check my average speed until after the ride is over. But like I said, laziness is an art form for me.

A perfect example of this intensity comes from the wife of a friend of mine. Due to knee problems, she switched from running to cycling. So she's at her first bike rally ever, and she arrives at the first break point. Now for those of us who have been cycling for a while, when we get to a rest stop, we coast in and come to a stop, gently lay our bikes down, and casually walk over to the food tables. We get something to eat and drink, and after 5 minutes or so of making small talk with the other cyclist, we'll casually walk back to our bikes, get back on, and ride off. But that's not how the converted runner does it. She flies into the break point, jumps off her still rolling bike, runs over to the food table, slams a couple of glasses of gator-aid, shoves a couple of cookies in her mouth, sprints back to her bike, the wheels still spinning as it lays on the ground, jumps back on and flies back onto the road, possibly running over cats and small children as she goes, but never slowing down. She said it took several bike rallies for her to realize that the person who finishes first, gets the same crap*y t-shirt as the person who finishes last.

I haven't talked about triathletes yet because, quite frankly, I really don't understand them. In a prior post, I mentioned that triathletes should hereto after be referred to as "crazy people". If you think I'm going to apologize for saying that, you've got another think coming. While I certainly admire the dedication that it takes to complete a full triathlon, actually doing so has to be one of the dumbest things that I've ever heard of. And I've heard all the arguments about pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do, and the joy of accomplishing something that seemed impossible, and blah blah blah. To quote the great Gene Wilder in the movie Young Frankenstein, (quite possibly the funniest movie ever made), "your listening to the nonsensical ravings of a lunatic mind". I personally think that breaking all of my knuckles with a hammer is something beyond what I thought I could ever due, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to start training myself to do it. Just because you can do something, doesn't necessarily mean that you should.

I'm hardly a unbiased judge on this, but it just seems to me that cyclist are the happier and more relaxed group of the three we've discussed here today. I'm sure that runners think their happy, but they sure don't look like it. And triathletes, who knows what the hell their thinking.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, October 13, 2008

Next year will be different, probably

As we get into mid-October now, the outdoor cycling season is starting to wind down. Generally, when the temperature dips below 60, we Texans will consider that too cold for cycling outdoors. At least on a regular basis. Really, I'm not kidding. Around the end of October, first of November, most of us head indoors and start riding spin classes for the next 5 months. We occasionally will venture back outside for a ride once in a while, but that only serves to remind us why we headed indoors to begin with. After a quickly shortened ride, we usually wind up at the nearest restaurant, and/or bar, eating and drinking something to warm us, swearing that we now realize just how bad an idea that was, and that we'll never do it again.

Those of you who live in areas were the temperature generally doesn't get above 50 degrees for those 5 months, probably find that very funny. For you people, you just bundle up and pedal through the ice, and the snow, and the frostbite, and the hypothermia. Now read that last sentence again.....when you say it out loud like that, it's sounds kind of crazy, doesn't it. So while your laughing at us for heading indoors, trust me when I say, we're laughing just as hard at you for staying outdoors.

For me, the ride that symbolizes the end of the outdoor season, is our annual Pedal-2-Paris bike ride. I say annual, as this is the second year in a row that we've done this ride. Like I said, annual. We start on a Saturday, in a small town just north of McKinney called Blue Ridge, TX, and we ride about 75 miles to Paris, TX. I was sure to add the "TX" to that, just to be sure that you didn't confuse it with the Paris in France. Because you know, people are always getting those two confused. Then on Sunday, we turn around and ride back.

It should be said that our Pedal-2-Paris ride, (or the P2P as we like to call it because we think it sounds cool and somehow chicks will dig us), does not hit the bright lights of the big cities. If the entire membership of Team Bikin' shows up in Blue Ridge for the start of the ride, we have just about increased the population by 25%. Once we leave Blue Ridge, we won't see a town that "large" until we get to Paris. Along the way, we'll hit the thriving metropolis' of Frognot, Celeste, Ladonia, and Pecan Gap, just to name a few. This year we're in for a special treat as when we get to Paris, we'll be arriving just in time for the annual Pumpkin Festival. After the debauchery of that, I don't know if we'll be in any sort of shape to ride back on Sunday.

As with the end of every cycling season, I'll make my usual promises to myself. Those would be that I'm going to ride more, ride harder, ride more consistently next year. That next year, I'm going to find a bike rally to ride every weekend from the first of April, thru the end of October, and I'm not going to let trivial things like work, family, health, or anything else keep me from riding.

Yea, right. I'll be sure to let you know how that works out.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, October 9, 2008

So how do you like me so far

Well, how do you think it's going? We're about 4 weeks into this blog now, and I've discovered a few thing about myself already. Some of these things, I'm really not surprised by, and some of them, I'm just shocked by.

The first surprising thing I've figured out; this isn't as easy as you might think it is. It only took me about a week to discover that sitting down in front of a keyboard and coming up with something to write about EVERY NIGHT can sometimes be a daunting task. If you're a regular reader of this blog, and how could you not be, then you probably noticed that the frequency of my postings has slowed down a little since that first week. For the first week, I think I posted just about every night. But after that, it started getting harder and harder to think of something to write about. Or to be more precise, something interesting to write about. So it was at that point that I figured that I might want to post every other night, (Mon, Wed, & Fri). Don't get me wrong, if I wanted to write every night, I could write something, but not anything that you would really want to read.

While it might be difficult to find something interesting to write about sometimes, the actual writing doesn't seem that hard. If I find something that I'm really interested in, it just seems to flow, and the next thing you know, it's done. I was reading some of The Fat Cyclist old blogs, and he said that when he writes, he writes like he's writing for his six best friends. I was actually insanely jealous when I read this, since I'm not sure I have six friends to write to. So more out of necessity than anything else, I take the opposite path. I write like I'm talking to a complete stranger, who's never met me, or anyone I ride with, and has never spent any significant time in the D/FW area. This actually helps me, as most of my friends have heard a lot of these thoughts and opinions already. By writing to strangers, I get to express my unsolicited opinions to a whole new crop of unsuspecting, innocent bystanders.

What hasn't come as a surprise to me, is that I don't seem to have any problem expressing myself. In reading over some of my old postings, I seem to "express" a lot. Feel free to substitute "complain" for "express" in that last sentence. That's something I'll try not to do too much of. By the way, for our purposes here, the term "old", when referring to my old postings, is actually about 21 days. Old is a relative term.

I'm a little disappointed that I haven't received any products to review yet. If you recall, in one of my first postings, I requested, if not begged for, any products that you would like reviewed. Well so far I haven't received anything. What's the point of doing something like this, if I don't receive any sort of free swag for my efforts. Oh sure, some will say that the joy of doing this should come from the pleasure I get in passing along any nuggets of wisdom that I might have to my readers. Well, that's a good idea, but there's more than just a few fundamental problems with that theory. The first, and most glaring problem, is that it assumes that I have any sort of "wisdom" to be passed along. My writings can be described in a lot of ways, but I don't think they've ever been described as just chocked full of wisdom. The second problem with that theory is that even if I did have any sort of wisdom, the desire to get some sort of freebie would supersede any desire to pass that wisdom along. I'm really just not that deep. But you probably already knew that.

So anyway, I think things are going just great. The blog seems to be growing a little bit of a following. I actually seem to enjoy writing it. I haven't gotten sued yet. And, quite surprisingly, I haven't seemed to have attracted any sort of "groupies", if you know what I mean. But there's always hope. Now if you people would just get with it and send me some free stuff, this would be perfect.

Peace out......Nearly Famous Fred

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dopers s*ck

It seems that every day, another story breaks about another pro cyclist who gets caught doping. In just the last week it has been announced that Stephan Schumacher and Leonardo Piepoli both tested positive at this years Tour de France. That's in addition to Ricardo Ricco, who was booted during the tour. Given all of the testing that goes on in cycling, in particular at the Tour de France, and the likelihood that they'll get caught, one has to wonder why they do it. I've developed a couple of theories.

Just so you are aware of what kind of testing goes on, a professional cyclist is subject to a random drug test, anytime and anywhere. I mean that literally. During competition or out of competition, they have to let the drug testing people know where they are going to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In his first book, Lance Armstrong tells how his wife was in labor, and as they were headed out the door for the hospital, who do they run into but the doping control people, wanting a urine sample. They didn't make Lance give a sample before they left, but they did follow them to the hospital and collected a sample once they got checked in.

So, given that kind of scrutiny, the first theory that I have developed seems somewhat obvious. Cyclist just can't be that smart. Now as a cyclist myself, this is somewhat troubling. While there's always been some doubt that I'd ever split the atom, I always considered myself to be a somewhat intelligent person. On the other hand, if I were a moron, I probably wouldn't be smart enough to know it.

Anyway, a significant lack of intelligence would certainly explain some of the behavior that we have seen in pro cycling the last few years. At this years Tour, before he tested positive and got kicked out, when Ricardo Ricco saw the drug control people waiting for him, he actually just ran away and hid. Yea, that ought to do it. I'm sure they just wouldn't come back later and test him then. Not surprisingly, they eventually found him, tested him, and kicked him out of the tour. Not the actions of a mental giant.

Frank Schleck is currently under investigation for sending $10,000.00 to the bank account of a doctor who has been barred from having any association with pro cyclist, because of his past history of providing them with performance enhancing drugs. Under questioning about this, Mr Schleck's well thought out and plausible explanation was that he didn't know who he was sending the money too. Now we've all done that haven't we? Just sent $10,000.00 to a bank account, without knowing who it was for. Again, doesn't sound like a smart man.

Since theory #1 is so depressing, I've come up with a second theory. Instead of being incredibly stupid, cyclist are actually incredibly sensitive to what other people think about them. They just want people to think that they're great cyclist. When Ricardo Ricco was winning those stages of the Tour de France last year, he knew he was a cheater, and that the performance enhancing drugs were the primary reason that he was able to ride like he did. He knew he wasn't as good a rider as he was riding. But it was important to him that everyone thought he was that good.

In a weird, twisted kind of way, that's actually kind of sweet. In a strange way, I'm actually kind of flattered that Ricardo was that concerned about what I thought about him. My opinion matter so much to him, that he was willing to risk his whole career, just so I would think that he was a great cyclist.

So, to the Ricardo's, and the Stephan's, and Frank's, and anyone else out there who's thinking of taking performance enhancing drugs just to impress me, let me state for the record that I won't think any less of you if you don't win. You're allowed to be human. It may come as a surprise to you, but most of my cycling friends couldn't climb Alpe d'Huez in 37 minutes either. But I like them anyway. Most of the cyclist I know, couldn't maintain a 33 mph average for a 45k time trial, but I still like to ride with them. If those big bad meanies in the pro peloton won't like you because you're not as fast as they are, you're welcome to ride with us. We'll love you anyway.

Here's a wild thought. If it's not stupidity or sensitivity to the opinions of others, then it's probably just the money.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Friday, October 3, 2008

Team Bikin': All dynasties have to begin somewhere

Since the beginning of time, man has searched out others of his kind. Those who share the same interest, and have a common bond. Some say this is because there is comfort in a large group of people similar to you. In other words, no matter how insane something is, you never feel quite as dumb if your surrounded by others doing the same insane thing.

This has never been more true than when it comes to a bicycling club or team. I mean think about it. Riding a bicycle on the same roads that are used by 2,000 lbs cars, is not what most people would describe as a terribly smart way to spend one's time. There is strength in numbers. Even though we're not really any safer, I know I always feel safer riding in a group than by myself. So, for the most part, we as cyclist generally search out a group or team to ride with.

In my case, that group would be Team Bikin'. Now right from the start, you need to understand that Team Bikin' isn't what most people think of when they think of a cycling team. First of all, the word "team" implies some sort of disposition to ride "fast' and "race". Neither of these terms could ever be truthfully applied to Team Bikin'. And guess what, we like it that way.

Below is a picture of a good percentage of the team, taken at a recent group ride:

Now, I know what your thinking, how could the Tour De France ignore us yet again this year? Well, I'll tell you why the Tour De France is ignoring us, they're afraid of us. That's the only explanation that makes any sense. They're afraid that our little cycling club will dominate their race around France the same way that the Germans dominated France in 1943. The same way that mustard dominates a hot dog. The same way that sauerkraut dominates a Reuben sandwich. But I digress.

To say that Team Bikin has a bit of a relaxed attitude towards cycling, would be a gross understatement. While most cycling teams are dealing with topics like how to increase their average speed by .5 mph, or how to properly setup a left echelon, Team Bikin' is typically more occupied with figuring out where to eat lunch after the ride. "Eat to ride, ride to eat". That's sage advise and words to live by.

This is not to say that we're not serious about our cycling. Actually, that's exactly what it's saying. No, I'm wrong again. We are serious about our cycling, but not in the same way that most cycling teams are. Where most teams are obsessed with riding faster, we're more concerned with how we ride. We're deadly serious about riding legally and safely. We actually stop at stop signs and red lights. Yes, this tends to slow us down, but so what. We'll eventually get where we're going. I know, weird, huh? We also have a standing rule that no one rides alone. No matter how slow someone is, they always have someone to ride in with. No one gets dropped. The slowest rider in a group sets the pace for that group. Now, if one rider is slowing the whole group down, then we'll find another group for him/her to ride with. But as long as they are with a group, they don't get dropped.

If our little version of Team CSC has a leader, it would be Mike Keel, or Bikin' Mike, as he is known in these parts. (For those of you not from Texas, "in these parts" roughly translates to "around here".) Mike has been a cycling coach in the Dallas/Ft Worth area for about 30 years now. He runs a spin studio, does personal coaching and training, and produces three or four bike rides a year in the area. He is the driving force behind Team Bikin's philosophy of riding legally and safely. If you won't ride legally and safely, then you won't be riding with us for long. You will politely be told by Mike, that your presence is no longer required at our group rides. Or not so politely told, as the situation may warrant. Mike's just painfully shy that way.

Now, I want to be sure that I say this correctly. I don't want to offend anyone, so I'm going to choose my words very carefully. As a writer, I have a keen sense of how to say something, and a gift for tact. I have a wordsmith's grasp of the English language. I talk very goodly. OK, so here I go.

Mike Keel is short.

There, I've said it. I don't think I'm letting any great secret out of the bag here. Anyone who has ever met Mike, is aware that he is not a tall man, and I'm pretty sure that Mike is aware that he is what can be referred to as "vertically challenged". He is not of great physical size. But what he lacks in physical size, he more than makes up for in presence, stature, and heart. He spends a great deal of his time volunteering with charitable groups in the area. Just about any bike ride that Mike produces, is going to have a charitable beneficiary. And once Mike considers you his friend, there's nothing that he won't do for you. Oh, by the way, he's one of the strongest cyclist that I've ever ridden with.

So, is there reason to believe that Team Bikin' will not receive a wild card invitation to next years Tour de France? Probably. And we'll probably never be confused with the Garmin/Chipotle Team out on the road. But that's OK with us. We'll continue to ride at our own pace, finishing closer to the end of the peloton than the beginning. Again, that's OK with us. But we will finish, safely and together.

Now, where's lunch?

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm just trying to understand

In the last couple of post, we have discussed the proper etiquette for bicyclist, in relation to other cyclist, and in relation to cars. It is with great trepidation that tonight, we attempt to discuss what we can and should expect in the way of manners from cars and their drivers, in relation to bicycles.

I should qualify the remarks that follow by saying that they are based solely on my own experiences out on the road. But statistically speaking, I believe that people who drive their cars around cyclist must have a better sense of humor than the average person driving down the road. I say this because they seem to always have some sort of prank or game that they just have to play on any cyclist they happen to encounter. My particular favorite is the "lets scream as loud as we can as we go by the cyclist" game. Another good one is the "even though we've got two other lanes to use, let's go by the cyclist just a little closer than we have to" game. I can't really explain what motivates otherwise normal, friendly, and law abiding people to act the way they do in their cars when they get near bicyclist. My best guess would be, unless they screw up and actually run over a cyclist, their really isn't any chance that they will suffer any sort of consequences for their actions. As cyclist, we all hope that by some miracle, we catch up with them at the next red light, but they always seem to disappear.

From a cyclist point of view, my wish, ney call it a dream if you will, is simply this; I wish car drivers would treat me and my bicycle like any other vehicle on the road. All be it, a somewhat slower vehicle, but just another vehicle. I have modest dreams, so that's really all I want. Give me the same room that you would give another car. If you're going to pass me, (and given that I'm usually going a quarter of the speed that you are, you probably will), then wait until the traffic has cleared before you try and pass me. Don't try and slide by in the same lane that I'm in. Wait until it clears and pull out into the next lane and pass. Just like you would pass any car on the road. You certainly wouldn't try to pass a car without using the the next lane. So why would you try and pass me like that.

There's something that I've been needing to say to automobile drivers out there. I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I sometimes hold you up out on the road. I know it doesn't look like it, but I actually am going as fast as I can. I'm sorry that you aren't able to get to where your going, as fast as you would have if me and my bicycle weren't out on the road. If I hadn't been out there, you probably would have gotten to your destination 20, maybe even 30 seconds quicker than if you hadn't been held up by me. Quite frankly, I don't think there's a jury in the world who would hold it against you for just running me over. At least not a jury in Dallas, TX. Shoot, I don't even think you can get a ticket for that any more in Dallas.

To you car drivers out there, the next time you get held up behind a bicyclist, really think about how long you are actually being delayed. If you really stop and notice, I bet it's not more than 30 seconds, max. Unless you're carrying an igloo cooler, and your late for a transplant operation, where could you possibly be going, that that 30 seconds is going to make any difference in your, or anyone else's life.

One day I was riding my bike on a two lane road, (two lanes in both directions). A car came by with a older gentleman, and I use the term "gentleman" liberally, and his wife. As he went by, a LOT closer than he needed to, he shouted out the window "Get out of the f**king road". As he went on by, I noticed that he had a bumper sticker on his car that said "My son proudly serves in Iraq". As I continued my ride, I wondered if he ever considered that I'm some one's son too. I wondered if he considered that I'm some one's husband. And most important of all, I wondered, as he was moving his car over so he could get as close to me as he possibly could, if he considered the fact that I might be some one's father. And while it would be a tragedy if something happened to his son in Iraq, it would be equally tragic if something happened to me, and my wife had to raise our son without me. It would be just as tragic if my son had to grow up without his father.

I think that's the real reason that some people in cars treat bicyclist the way they do. They don't think of the bicyclist as a person. They think of him as an object, an extension of the bicycle. They don't think about the fact that if they get too close to me and cause an accident, they aren't just effecting me. They're effecting my wife, and my son, and my parents, and my sisters.

So to all of you automobile drivers out there, who get such a laugh out of buzzing a bicyclist, or yelling something at a bicyclist, or even throwing something at the bicyclist, before you do it, stop for a second and try to imagine the person on that bicycle. Try and imagine the human turning those pedals. Better yet, try and imagine how you would feel if it was your father on that bike. Makes it a little harder to throw that coke bottle at him, doesn't it?

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why fight a fight that you know you are going to lose

Continuing our discussion of proper cycling etiquette, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in contact with an automobile.

Actually, that's a bit of a misstatement. If you're out riding your bike and you come in contact with a car, the proper course of action for you to take would be to fall off of your bike, lay on the ground, and bleed profusely. Feel free to sprinkle in as much cursing as you feel the situation calls for. What I should have said was, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in close contact to people driving cars.

There is one thing that we as cyclist need to realize and accept if we are ever going to truly "share the road" with automobiles. This is that this isn't a fair fight. There are a lot more of them than there is of us. In case you haven't noticed, a large portion of them don't want us out there. It also saddens me to report that this is one of those cases were "might makes right". In one corner, we have Fred the cyclist and his bicycle, weighing a combined total of about 230 lbs. It should be noted at this time that his bicycle offers Fred almost no protection at all. In the other corner, we have Joe car driver, with his 2,000 lbs car wrapped comfortably around him. Joe's car protects him from almost any obstacle that he might encounter out on the road, including Fred and his bicycle. Who do you think is going to win this fight? The smart money is on Joe and his big shiny car. In any confrontation out on the road, Joe and his car are going to kick Fred's skinny butt every time. The first rule of cyclist vs automobile etiquette is this: Avoid confrontation at any cost. There is almost nothing to be gained by confronting a car driver. You might encounter an idiot in a truck out on the road, but if you antagonize him, well now you've got a p*ssed off idiot in a truck to deal with. I know this doesn't sound terribly brave, but soooooo what. In this fight, believe it when I say that a large percentage of the car drivers out there are going to be rooting for the cowardly automobile driver, and rooting against the brave cyclist on his bike. And the argument that "I'm just standing up for my legal rights" doesn't hold a lot of water for me. When you have that 2,000 lbs car parked on your chest, if it makes you feel better that you were legally right, well I'm glad for you. To tell the truth, it wouldn't make me feel that much better. Right or wrong, dead is dead.

As far as the rules of the road in relating to car drivers, they all fall under our previously discussed "be nice" philosophy. You might not know it, but Texas law states that cyclist riding on a two lane road, meaning only one lane of traffic in each direction, are required to single up and move to the right to allow the automobile traffic to pass. I say you might not know it based on the number of you I see riding down the middle of the road with cars stacked up behind you. Notice the use of the word "required" in that law. And to state the obvious, cyclist are required to stop at all stop signs and stop lights. And to state the ridiculously obvious, cyclist are required to wait at the light until it turns green. I actually had a conversation, (ok, a screaming argument), with another cyclist who firmly believed that all he was legally required to do was to stop at the red light. His claim was that once he stopped, he could go ahead and go when he felt it was safe. For the record, no. You have to wait until the light turns green before you go.

When thinking about how I should ride out on the road, I try and let this phrase be my guide, "Legally, safely, and courteously". I know that sounds like the title of some sort of after school special promoting safe sex to teenagers, but that's how we should try and behave out there. Ride legally, ride safely, and ride courteously.

Next post, we tread into dangerous waters, and attempt to discuss how car drivers should act towards us out there. It's either going to be very insightful, or just pathetically naive. Stay tuned to see which.

Peace out........Nearly Famous Fred

Thursday, September 25, 2008

This hurts me more than it does you

My wife will be the first to tell you that I am not the strict disciplinarian of our household. In our little domestic scene that we have going on here in McKinney, I am definitely the "good cop". Trish is almost always the one metering out most of the punishment that Michael has undoubtedly earned. I'm typically the one defending the boy. I mean, what do they expect? If you don't want kids hitting each other with hockey sticks, then don't hand out hockey sticks to a gym full of thirty 3rd grade boys. That just seems like common sense to me. What did they think was going to happen? So, while this pains me, you have left me no choice.

Over this past year of cycling, it has become apparent that a significant portion of you out there, have either never been taught proper cycling etiquette, you were taught but have since forgotten, or have chosen to ignore your teachings. While I am certainly not without sin, I'm going to go ahead and throw that first stone.

In this posting, we are going to speak specifically about your cycling etiquette towards other cyclist. In later postings, we'll talk about cyclist etiquette towards automobiles, and in the interest of equal time, we'll then speak to automobile etiquette towards cyclist.

I have certain Buddhist beliefs that I try and adhere to. One of the things that I like about Buddhism, is it's simplicity. If you want to boil Buddhism down to a single, simple rule, it would be "be nice". That's it, just "be nice". The same can be said about how to behave towards other bicyclist when your out riding. Just "be nice". I am of the belief that most of the worlds problems can be solved if people would follow my incredibly simple edict to "be nice".

Now, for those of you who require a little more detail in your instructions than that, then allow me to expand on my "be nice' mantra.

Rule #1 - Communicate with the cyclist around you. If you've ever been out on a bike ride, and you've become confused when someone rides by and announces "On your left", let me explain what they're doing. And apparently, the vast majority of you out there are unfamiliar with this phrase, given the responses that I have witnessed on the road when I have made this announcement. Those responses range from shock, to bewilderment, to out an out anger. The purpose of this announcement is to simply let you know that "I am approaching on your left and will be passing you momentarily. Please try and avoid doing anything sudden or stupid for the next few minutes". If someone makes this announcement in your general area, no action is required on your part other than to not do anything sudden or stupid. Another thing, for all of you fake TdF racers that I see out there, making the "On your left" announcement, does not require the slower cyclist in front of you to ride into the ditch and abandon their bikes, thereby clearing the road for you. And you can just save the condescending shaking of your head as you ride by for someone who gives a rat's behind. That type of behavior doesn't fall under my "be nice" guidelines. Another thing in the "communication" vein, when riding in a pace line or group, please call out and/or point out the oncoming road hazards to the cyclist behind you. You see, since they are behind you, they cannot see the hazards until it is much too late to do anything about it. And while no one appreciates the humor in hearing the "UNGH" sound that the cyclist behind you makes when he squarely hits the pot hole that you failed to call out, it's really just not a nice thing to do. Funny, but not nice.

Rule #2, Don't pass on the right. I can't tell you how many times I've had the cr*p scared out of me out on the road by someone who passes me on the right. I'm minding my own business, riding along on what I think is the right hand side of the road, when someone comes flying by me on the right, on the 4 inches of the pavement between me and the ditch. And they always seem to be riding in stealth mode. They silently slip up beside you on the right, not saying a word, so close that you can smell the last energy bar he ate on his breath. If for no other reason than to preserve my shattered nerves, please pass on the left. If you just have to be one of those guys who has to pass on the right, at least wear a bell or something so we can hear you coming.

Rule #3, Move to the right. Whenever possible, please ride to the right hand side of the road. For some reason, some of you out there seem to take great pleasure in riding as close as you possibly can to the yellow stripe. Let me let you in on a little secret. That puts you as close as you can get to the very dangerous oncoming traffic. For me, I try and keep as far away from the dangerous oncoming traffic as I possibly can. That's just that pesky survival instinct of mine kicking in again. Riding to the right also allows the faster riders to pass on the left. (Please see rule #2 for a detailed explanation as to why this is so important).

Rule #4, When riding in a paceline, be sure and take your pulls. There is absolutely nothing as aggravating as someone enjoying the pull of the paceline, who never seems to work their way up to the front, and put in a little effort of their own. I am reminded of a group ride I was participating in one summer. I was riding with Bikin Mike Keel and a group of somewhat inexperienced cyclist he was training for their first Hotter-n-Hell. This particular day, I was riding with Mike and one of the new cyclist. We were cruising along through the country side, me up front, Mike behind me, and the new cyclist sitting in enjoying the pull. I guess she had decided that she had ridden with us long enough, because she jumped out of the line and rode off on her own. No goodbye, no thanks for the pull, no anything. A couple of miles down the road, Mike and I rode up to her as she's waiting on the side of the road. We thought she might have had some sort of mechanical problem. But no, she was just waiting for us to catch up with her so we could pull her in the rest of the ride. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say, we both explained to her in great detail what was wrong with what she had just done. The only time this rule can be violated, is when you are riding with a group of friends, and you have agreed ahead of time on how much work is expected of each of you. Even then, they're still going to resent you, and more than likely, talk about you behind your back.

For this last rule, I must caution those of you with an easily upset stomach, you might want to skip this one.

Rule #5, All snot rockets must be announced well in advance. For those of you not familiar with the term "snot rocket", allow me to explain. If you're like me, whenever you ride on a cold day, for some reason, your nose will start running. For me, the constant sniffing and sniffing, can become quite annoying. In order to clear your sinus's, without having to stop and blow you nose, you will need to master a maneuver referred to as launching a snot rocket. You should first turn your head to one side or the other. Then, taking you thumb, press one nostril closed. Finally, blow out through the other nostril as hard as you can, whereby you launch the "snot rocket". You then turn your head to the other side and repeat, thereby clearing the other nostril. The danger in this maneuver is to those who might be riding behind you. They are in the direct line of fire of the recently launched snot rocket. For the benefit of those riding behind you, you should announce the upcoming launch well in advance. This will give your fellow riders time to move themselves and their loved ones to higher ground. Anyone who has not been taking their pulls are fair game.

In the upcoming days, as promised, we'll discuss the proper way to behave towards the automobiles out on the road. And likewise, what kind of manners that automobile drivers should extend towards cyclist.

This was certainly a very high level overview of the proper etiquette that you should follow when out riding on the road. I hope it has been helpful. Now, don't make me do this again.

Peace out.......Nearly Famous Fred

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Motivation - an elusive quarry

I love riding my bike. No, I mean I really love riding my bike. I still don't think you understand. I really, really love riding my bike. Here's how much I love riding my bike. I think I have mentioned before that I have bad knees. One of the reason's I started riding a bike was because my knees were so bad. There was just no way that they would stand up to the pounding of running, or even walking. But, even as low impact on the knees as cycling is, I had to have two knee surgeries a couple of years ago. Before that, I rode for three years with knees that hurt so bad, after every ride I had to ice them and I was taking Advil by the handful. Just so you know, a "handful" is slightly higher than the recommended dosage. I eventually got a prescription from my doctor for some anti-inflammatories, which I still have to take to this day. For a while after the knee surgeries, my knees felt fine, but over the last year or so, they have started getting worse, and I can tell that I will eventually have to have them worked on again. Now a smart person might want to go ahead and give up the activity that was causing him so much pain. Having never been confused with a smart person, I can assure you that I will not be giving up cycling. In a crash a few years ago, I actually cracked my tail bone. For those of you who've ever had a broken tail bone, I don't have to tell you how much it hurts. For those of you who have missed out on that fun, you'd have to go through it to understand. Suffice to say, and for the record, it hurts. I missed a grand total on 1 spin class because of it. I had to sit on an inflatable donut at work for the next month, but I made five spin classes a week. That's how much I love riding my bike.

Which makes it so puzzling why it seems that lately, I've had a really hard time getting myself motivated to go out and ride. It's been everything I can do lately to make myself get dressed and go ride. Once I'm out there, I love it. Once I'm out there, I can't remember why I didn't want to go ride. But for the life of me, I have to force myself to go. The weather's been beautiful lately. Temperatures in the mid 80's. Light winds. This is the time of year that I should be just jumping on my bike every evening and hitting the road.

And not riding my bike, especially in the evening, is a real problem for me. For some reason, if I don't go out and ride when I get home, all I do is sit at home and eat. One minute I'll be watching TV, and the next thing I know, I'm in the pantry grazing for something to eat. We might have to move because apparently, this house makes me hungry.

So what's my problem. I actually think I know what's going on. It's my wife's fault. A few months ago, she decided that we needed to buy new living room furniture. I won't bore you with the details of the furniture shopping safaris that we went on, but just let it be known, there's some sort of magical force in a furniture store that literally sucks the will to live out of me. Ever wonder why a lot of furniture stores offer free coffee? It's so husbands don't drop dead all over the store.

In addition to the leather sofa and love seat that we bought, Trish thought it would be a good idea to buy a leather recliner. I know she thought she was being nice, and kind, and considerate, and thinking of me. Truth be told, this was the worst thing she could have done. That chair might just be the ruin of my cycling. Let me explain.

When I get home from work in the evening, I will typically go on a 20 mile bike ride. I try and do this just about every weekday. As much as I enjoy having beer bottles thrown at my head from passing cars, I'll usually wait until the afternoon traffic has cleared out a little before I head out on my ride. This means that I will often have an hour or so to kill before I leave. And what do I normally do with that hour. I sit in my big leather "man chair", as I have dubbed it, and relax. And when I say relax, I mean some serious, professional type relaxing. Not the rank amateur type of relaxing that you do. Oh no, no. I've raised relaxing to an art form. I take almost as much pride on my ability to relax, as I do as my skills in offering sarcasm. So once I get nestled down in that chair, nothing short of a fire is going to get me to abandon it without a fight. And frankly, it would probably have to be a pretty big fire.

So for you wives out there, while your hearts may be in the right place, don't think your doing your husbands any favors by buying them that recliner that they've always wanted. It's a trap. A devious, soothing, nap-inducing trap. You have been warned.

Peace out.........Nearly Famous Fred