Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Enhance My Performance, Please

Oh, Freds.

[SHAKES HEAD DERISIVELY WHILE CLUCKING TONGUE]

Yes, once again, the Gran Fondo New York has caught themselves a doper:


"Five positive tests in six years of testing may seem a lot for an event where the majority are amateurs," says GFNY CEO Uli Fluhme. "It's simple though: you can't catch cheaters if you don't perform doping controls. And unfortunately most races still don't test sufficiently or at all." 

"We don't allow course cutting at our races so why would we look the other way when it comes to doping? GFNY riders train hard for races. They deserve a fair competition. We owe them controls, even if the costs are well over $10,000 each year. Not testing the athletes is the worst decision that a race director can make because it forces everyone to take drugs to try to level the playing field."

I'm conflicted.  On one hand he's right, certainly everyone deserves a "level playing field."  On the other hand, this is basically a $200 ride to Bear Mountain:
And you're naive if you think that's not going to attract two types of people:

1) Dope-addled third-tier pros and ex-pros looking to beat a bunch of amateurs;
2) Dope-addled corporate Freds in search of glory:

And by "glory" I mean a triple-digit placing:


If you want fair you're not going to find it at any kind of road race or Fondo, and frankly I'm not even confident the Brompton World Championships were clean:



I mean if they were I'd have won, it seems fairly obvious.

Perhaps next year they should move to a Gran Fondo format.

Speaking of competitive cycling, did you know that Andrew Talansky is using brain-zapping technology to win the Tour de France?
Okay, two things:

Firstly, if brain stimulators really worked, the first thing he'd do would be to quit bike racing, obtain an advanced degree, and get a career with a future.  Because once again, it's important to remember that the most successful cyclists the United States has ever produced is now...a podcaster:


As far as digital media careers, that's almost as low as being a blogger.

Seems to me that's a cautionary tale, and Talansky should use that brain zapper to learn computer coding or prep for the LSAT.

Secondly, while I realize what the writer meant by saying "America's top cyclist" and am not trying to bust his chops, it's nonetheless important to note that America's top cyclist is not Andrew Talansky.  It is in fact Coryn Rivera:


Who is ranked 12th in the entire world:


Whereas Talansky is merely ranked 72nd:


Though that still makes him the highest-ranked American male cyclist, which is kinda sad.  Indeed, as far as national rankings go, American women are ranked 4th in the world, while American men are ranked 17th.

So what does all this mean?

Well, I'm tempted to say it means that Americans should pay more attention to women's cycling, but they don't even pay attention to men's cycling, so the only truly sensible conclusion to draw is that American men suck and should quit racing bikes.

But back to the brain-zapper:


There's no doubt in my mind that this thing has a big future in cycling, mostly because it's expensive so the Freds will want it to prep for the Fondo:

Players in the NFL and MLB, Olympians, and Navy SEALs are among those who have tried Halo, but Talansky is one of just two cyclists at the sport's highest level we know of using neuroscience technology. The Halo Sport headset retails for $750, and the app is free, though the company said it may eventually launch a premium version.

I'm assuming the premium version is advertisement-free, whereas if you use the regular version you will hear ads in your head every 20 minutes for the rest of your life.

So how does it work?

After you download the Halo Sport app, which controls the headset, you moisten the headset electrodes ("primers") and neuroprime for 20 minutes, during which time you feel a tingly sensation at the top of your head as the device stimulates your brain's motor cortex. All the while you can listen to music through the headphones using your phone or music player.

After neuropriming, you have an hour of "afterglow" wherein you perform your most focused workout and, according to Halo, reap the greatest benefit.

So basically it works exactly like Denorex:



Seems legit.

Anyway, for best results, make sure to use the brain-zapper in conjunction with a comprehensive poop doping program.

And if you're wondering whether this is the same brain-boosting technology that Betsy DeVos was flogging, well, does it really matter?


Neurocore offers two types of treatments in particular, each lasting 45 minutes: One is biofeedback training, which involves watching your heart rate and respiratory rate on a monitor and learning to breath to achieve consistency in these rates. The other is neurofeedback, and for Neurocore's version, this involves watching movies that pause when your brainwaves are not in your pre-determined "therapeutic range."

Today it's more charter schools, tomorrow it's putting on your government-issued headphones and zapping your brain into submission.

Lastly, I already mentioned this on the Bike Forecast this morning, but if you're a New York City bike commuter researchers want YOU to help them learn about the effects of pollution:



If you agree to participate in the study, we'll ask that you wear air pollution monitors, a special shirt that monitors your heart rate, and an automatic blood pressure cuff for six 24 hour periods centered around six morning bike commutes. This gear poses minimal risk, and should not inconvenience you or cause any discomfort. It all fits in an exercise vest, and it won't slow you down when you ride.

It's a good thing the vest won't slow me down because I can't allow anything to compromise my Cat 6-ing.

Look for me on the Manhattan Bridge in my exercise vest and a pair of brain-zapping headphones.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Whither Simplicity?

This past Friday I enjoyed a ride on a rugged all-terrain bicycle with fashionable "plus"-sized tires:




As I scampered and scurried about, it occurred to me that while it's all too easy to rail against the stratospheric cost of today's high-end bicycle-cycling machines, the truth is that from a gear perspective there's never been a better time to be a cyclist.  Sure, top-of-the-line plastic bikes easily cost $10,000 now, but a bike like the one above costs merely a tenth of that, will do anything you possibly need it to do, and requires very little in the way of maintenance.

Nevertheless, human nature being what it is, even as I was savoring my blissful cycling experience I caught myself thinking: "I could probably make this bike even better by lightening it up a bit."  That leads you to consider upgrading X, which in turn requires replacing Y, and before you know it you're saying "Fuck it" and shopping for a new bike:


I choose this bike as an example not because it's necessarily the natural progression from what I was riding that day, but because it happens to be the #1 mountain bike in the VeloNews Buyer's Guide.  And just check out these marks!
It doesn't just get a 14 out of 15 for ascending.  It gets a fourteen point one.

That's how you know they used science.

Anyway, here's what VeloNews has to say about the Yeti Whatever:

It all comes back to Yeti’s Switch Infinity, a suspension component that allows for greater tunability of the suspension kinematics. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s firm on the climbs and responsive on the descents, all the way through the suspension travel. The Switch Infinity lives just above the bottom bracket shell and works in conjunction with Fox’s Float Factory shock. Both are nearly infinitely tunable, but it was easy to find a sweet spot pretty quickly for the kind of riding I do.

Climbing is a remarkable experience: there’s nearly no noticeable bob, even when standing or pushing through a steep section. The mid-stroke feels supportive but smooth, and the bottom end feels endless, yet it doesn’t fall off into the abyss. Instead, it feels like you always have just a few more millimeters, so why not go a bit bigger? Absent too is that late-stroke buck. Whatever magic Yeti has done to make the end of the stroke sit in that sublime area between too soft and too harsh, they should keep doing it. A lot of trail bikes make claims about climbing like an XC race bike and descending like an enduro bike. The SB5c actually delivers.

Souts good, but let's look at some of the key words and phrases here:

--"tunability"
--"suspension kinematics"
--"firm" and "responsive"
--"infinitely tunable"
--"no noticeable bob"
--"why not go a bit bigger?"

Jesus.  Is this a bike or a Hyundai?  And I'm not even including "late-stroke buck," which sounds like the name of a porno actor:


(Noticeable Bob also makes a cameo.)

Granted, I doubt you could get two cyclists to agree what "mountain biking" is all about.  For some it's about being one with the outdoors, for others it's an excuse to use air compressors and shop for truck bed liners.  Still, it's remarkable the degree to which today's high-end mountain bikes are designed to provide a smooth, ultra-tuned riding experience that is essentially uncompromising in its compromise.  It's also noteworthy that whether it's a review of a road bike or a mountain bike the Princess and the Pea factor is virtually indistinguishable.  After all, should a bike meant to be ridden on a trail really be "infinitely tunable?"  Does everything need to be not only rideable, but comfortably rideable?  At a certain point should't we acknowledge the limitations of both rider and machine and surrender to the terrain, just as Late-Stroke Buck surrendered to Noticeable Bob in that steamy tire sealant scene?  And if you want smooth, shouldn't you just buy a recumbent?

Maybe yes and maybe no.  Hey, we all want something different out of riding a bike.  Some want simplicity, others are not happy unless they can tune every bump and twiddle dials and levers like an audiophile listening to Steely Dan on a tube amp.  Still, not to sound like one of those big government demmycrats, but we may have to start regulating this stuff or we could be in trouble.  Firstly, all of this has already opened the door to e-mountain bikes, because we've come too far with suspension not to add a motor, and what's one more lever, anyway?


And yes, it will take a kickstand:

The option to mount a kickstand might not win the most kudos amongst more ambitious riders, but it’s arguably an intelligent feature that many will rate.

Though I'd argue if you're shopping for an all-terrain bike that takes a kickstand what you're really looking for is a Rivendell.

Secondly, what's so wrong with e-mountain bikes?  I'll tell you what's wrong with them.  They lead to this:



You have been warned.

Friday, June 23, 2017

BSNYC Friday No Quiz!

This morning, your instructor had to attend to some urgent bicycle-related business:


Therefore, consider this a reprieve from the punishing weekly testing schedule to which you are ordinarily subjected.

However, there's always more me over at the Bike Forecast, and I would be remiss if I did not send you off into the weekend without homework, so here's some assigned reading in the form of my most recent essay for Reclaim:


Please prepare a 1,500 word critical response for Monday and submit it via my online portal here.

And finally, here are some Dutch people exuding a smug sense of superiority which is entirely warranted:


With that, class is hereby dismissed.

See you next week!

Ride safe,


--Wildcat Rock Machine


Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Mircobes You Running?

Before anything else, I've been meaning to mention this for the last few days:


Apologies for my tardiness.

However, the festival runs through the 25th, and you've still got time to get in on this tonight:


I would totally go see this tonight if I could:

A Sunday In Hell Trailer Amedeo and Simone Pace Score (Blonde Redhead) from Bicycle Film Festival on Vimeo.

But I can't, so I'm not.

Moving on, a number of people have forwarded me this, so now I'm subjecting you to it:

To be a professional cyclist, one must have guts, microbiologist Lauren Peterson says, and she doesn’t just mean that in the metaphorical sense. Peterson, herself a pro endurance mountain biker, has theorized that elite cyclists have a certain microbiome living in their intestines that may allow them to perform better, and if you don’t have it, well, there may soon be a way to get it. . . .

Oh yeah, this is going exactly where you hoped it wouldn't:

Peterson hosts Prevotella in her gut, thanks to a fecal transplant she administered herself three years ago. Her donor? Another elite athlete.

So how do you pull off an amateur fecal transplant with a fellow athlete?  I just assumed you'd go butt-to-butt, but in fact what you do is you perform a "reverse enema:"

But through chance, she came across a donor, an elite long-distance racer, who had his microbiome mapped and screened after a case of food poisoning, which showed he was otherwise healthy. So Peterson took antibiotics to wipe out her own gut bacteria and essentially performed a reverse enema.

“I just did it at home,” she said of the February 2014 procedure. “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.”

Incidentally, "Reverse Enema" is also the name of my pop punk band, and that's exactly how Brooklyn Vegan reviewed our first album:


Anyway, the story leaves certain questions unanswered (chief among them being #whatpressureyourunning on that reverse enema), but results are results:

Within a month, Peterson said, she began feeling better than she’d felt in years. She said before her transplant she was having trouble just training on her bike; just months later, she said she began winning pro races.

Of course, there is no way to prove the fecal transplant, opposed to other changes she may have made in her lifestyle or even the placebo effect, was the cause for her rebound.

And sure, it's all too easy to laugh at stuff like poop and enemas (in fact I'm laughing even as I type this), but keep in mind this is someone who's been suffering from the effects of Lyme disease, which can be debilitating, and if this relieved those symptoms then that's no joke.

Still, my concern is that fecal transplants and reverse enemas will fall into the wrong hands.  Yeah, you know which hands I'm talking about: Fred hands.  Freds are like North Korea in that if you allow them access to any sort of technology or information they'll turn around and use it against society.  (To wit: Strava, power meters, Zwift, the list goes on.)  Given this, all it takes is for one Fred to read that certain intestinal microbiomes are performance-enhancing and before you know it they're all sticking tubeless sealant injectors up their ass before races:


Which means doctors are going to be seeing a lot of this:


Don't think this is dangerous?  Well consider which publication broke the story in the first place:


Bicycling is the Fred bible, and not only do they name all the performance-enhancing microbes:

In addition to Prevotella, Petersen has identified an archeon named Methanobrevibacter smithii, or M. smithii, which she believes is also significant. Archeon are ancient microorganisms that have managed to survive for millions of years in hostile habitats like sulfur springs and deep in the ocean. They also live in the human digestive system, where they have specialized functions. Like Prevotella, Elite cyclists often have M. smithii, but it’s less common in amateur racers. That’s significant because M. smithii also appears to be a performance-enhancing microbe.

But they even mention carbon!

What does it do? In science terms, it thrives on hydrogen and carbon dioxide and other bacterial waste products in the gut. In 12-year old boy terms, M. smithii eats the poop of bacteria. Yes, everybody poops, even bacteria, and it can have detrimental effects on your health. Namely: buildups of hydrogen and carbon dioxide can prevent the other bacteria in your gut from properly breaking down your food for fuel, which is bad news if you need calories for that sprint.

Performance enhancing and carbon?  That squirting sound you hear is a thousand self-administered reverse enemas.

But of course like any other cutting-edge Fred tech you pay a high price for being an early adopter:

“What we’re learning is going to change a lot for cyclists as well as the rest of the population,” says Petersen. “If you get tested and you’re missing something, maybe in three years you’ll be able to get it through a pill instead of a fecal transplant. We’ve got data that no one has ever seen before, and we’re learning a lot. And I think I can say with confidence that bacterial doping— call it poop doping, if you must— is coming soon.”

Shoulda waited for the pill.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Rolling In With The Autobus

Just as water takes the shape of the vessel into which it is poured, so does cycling adapt to your current lifestyle.  For example, before my days were consumed by child-curation, I used to spend hours and hours swaddled in Lycra and racing about on bicycles of crabon.  Now, if I'm lucky, I can maybe squeeze in a half-hour of Category 6 Citi Biking to get my competitive cycling fix:


(One of my rivals doing intervals on the stationary trainer.)

While I may eschew Strava, wattage meters, and the like, I do check my Citi Bike times, for in the Cat 6 universe this the only metric that matters.  And while my quasi-career as a semi-professional bike blogger has taken me as far as Jersey City on those bikes of blue, my personal fitness testbed is the York and Jay to MacDougal and Prince segment.  So after last night's run I logged in and was pleasd to find that my form is coming along right on schedule:


(Other trips blurred because my whereabouts are a matter of national security.)

The most recent trip is on top, and you'll notice that with each ride I'm shaving at least a minute off my previous time.  Clearly I've got good legs after the Brompton World Championships, and I only wish there were some other goofy novelty race coming up because I'm clearly peaking.  Alas, in the absence of formalized competitionI may just have to ride back and forth over one of the East River bridges asking other riders, "Do you want any of this?," at least until such time as I'm arrested.

Of course, when you're talking about competitive cycling you can't ignore the importance of equipment, and it helps that last night I arrived at the station just as they were unloading some fresh bikes:


This meant that:

1) I had my pick of the litter;
2) The bikes had been freshly tuned;
3) Presumably they'd been disinfected as well, making it slightly less likely I'd contract some sort of illness or horrific Froome-like parasite that could put paid to my entire racing season.

Anyway, when you're out of the saddle on a Citi Bike and it isn't creaking like wet rattan or slipping out of gear then you know you've chosen well:


At this rate I expect sub-18 minute times by September.

In the meantime, by way of a recovery ride I pointed my bike towards some dirt this morning, only to be greeted by a brace of tick-ridden sentinels:


Both of whom regarded me with vacant, expressionless faces:


Which, it's worth noting, is pretty much the same look you get from a typical roadie:


When I first started riding up this way I found the deer sort of beguiling, but now I realize they're common as squirrels, and I guess they're so pervasive because they have no natural predators apart from people who drive pickup trucks with TRUMP stickers on them.

Anyway, even my recreational cycling is conforming to the somewhat confining vessel which is my life, because I'm currently doing what was once unthinkable, which is riding with flat pedals:


I put them on a few weeks back for a leisurely afternoon eating-and-drinking tour of Brooklyn my wife and I did a few weeks back, and since then I can't really think of a good reason to take them off again.  While I certainly don't intend to dispense with clicky shoes altogether, I've also come to realize that they're mostly pointless a fair amount of the time, and only now am I beginning to truly embrace the joy of cycling in "regular" clothes--though it goes without saying that I plan to upgrade to titanium pedals immediately:


Then I'll need a pair of those $995 sneakers, and of course a special gravel-specific frame protector:



Please.

Frame protection is for "woosies."

Speaking of Kickstarters, here's one for a tool kit that goes in your steer tube:


I'm partial to tool rolls these days myself, but if you don't want to spoil the clean lines of your ugly-ass mountain bike (yes, all mountain bikes are ugly) this might be for you.

And sorry, Freds, it doesn't work with crabon:

The Dialed Cap is compatible with any metal 1-1/8'' Steer tube. Currently NOT compatible with carbon steer tubes.

Lastly, as a parent of a balance-biking toddler, I was simultaneously amazed and horrified by this video which was forwarded by a reader:



It's like watching a bunch of zoo seals at feeding time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I may need to Kickstart myself some dignity.

Further to yesterday's post on the subject of the Brompton World Championships, if you're the one (1) person who wanted actual details about the actual race, I'm pleased to report that I've received a press release from Brompton which includes photos of the starting lineup:


The pointy end of the race, which I was nowhere near, hence my lack of a blow-by-blow account:


The finishing sprint:


The women's podium:



And the names of the victors in both the men's:

With a number of previous Brompton World Championship USA winners participating in the event, it was always going to be an exciting race. The battle for the finish line was intense, with 2015 USA Brompton Champion, Dave Mackay, and Victor Gras, a talented New York cyclist who placed second in the recent Grand Fondo New York, going head-to-head in a sprint finish. Dave took the win with a late surge of power, gaining just over a bike length by the line.

And women's categories:

New contender, Kristin Negele, took the women’s title and the 2011 USA women’s champion, Julie Secor, came third. The female and male champions both win flights to the UK and entry to participate in the Brompton World Championship final in London. The team event, sponsored by Brooks England, was convincingly won by the Prospect Park Pelicans, with the Philadelphia Fliers coming second and the Brompton NYC team coming in third.

So there you go.

I knew if I didn't do my job Brompton would eventually do it for me.

Oh, and one amateur photographer was kind enough to forward along some action shots of your's truley.  Notice my face is extremely flushed from the heat:


Fortunately when the man with the ices cart came by moments before the start I joined my kids in yelling "PLEEEASE!!!" until my wife finally bought us all some, and if it wasn't for that pre-race cup of frosty rainbow goodness I'd almost certainly have left in an ambulance.

Also, while on the surface the Brompton race would appear to be something of a novelty, it was in many ways like any of the more "serious" races in which I've participated over the years.  For example, like any Fred, after a race I'd always spend lots of time scouring the Internet for pictures of myself only to be deeply embarrassed by the results.  Sure, I may have felt cool at the time, but the photos invariably reveal that I was more schmo than pro.  Similarly, in this case, while everyone else looked dapper and composed:


I looked like a total schlub:


Not only am I about to lose my shorts:


But I'm also perspiring profusely in my tramp stamp area:


And speaking of tattoos, yes, I do realize I have one on my leg, and yes, I also realize it looks like one you'd find on the sorts of people who wear jorts to the water park.

It is what it is.

But don't feel bad for me, feel bad for Brompton, because that sound you hear is a bunch of people folding theirs up and consigning them to the closet forever after seeing those photos.

On the plus side, I may be able to get a lucrative automotive endorsement deal after all of this:


In other news, here's one of the most grandiose Kickstarter videos I've ever seen, and it's for...a helmet mirror:



Mind you, I have nothing against helmet mirrors.  In fact, given what's been going on here in New York recently I'd say they're probably a hell of a lot more important than helmets:


Though perhaps not quite as important as brakes:


But that's another discussion.

I do confess I've never actually used a helmet mirror while cycling, probably because I suffer from the distorted sense of aesthetics that caused me to get a leg tattoo all those years back, but a shatter- and vibration-proof rear-view mirror that clips to pretty much anything seems like a good idea to me.

However, I'll defer to people who actually use them as to whether or not this is the case.  (But please don't then go on about your damn recumbent--though feel free to weigh in on whether or not a recumbent-specific mirror that attaches to a beard is a good idea.)

And in other Kickstarting news, here's someone who thinks triathletes can Go Fit Themselves:



Here's his motivation:


"Every day I'm contacted by triathletes from around the world who simply want to get comfortable on their bike."

Silly triathletes.  How can you ever be truly comfortable on this?


That's like a folding bike rider consulting an expert on how to look dignified.

It just ain't gonna happen.

But this particular bike fitter is also a prop comic:


"...she'd been assured by somebody that these aerobars were going to meet her needs.  Quite frankly..."

[Pushes red button]

BZZZZZ: That was bullshit!

Wow.  He should totally Kickstart an aerobar attachment for that button.

Of course, triathlon equipment arguably lends itself just as well to prop comedy as a novelty buzzer:


And while I'm not particularly moved by this project I would totally fund a triathlete intervention video series that consisted entirely of scenes like this:



And yes, I realize full well the irony of my making fun of triathletes:



Hey, I shattered my glass house years ago.  At this point what do I have left to lose?