Friday, February 26, 2016

Dear Facebook Friend Request From a Bike Person That Might Actually Be Just A Sunglasses Selling Robot...

Dear Facebook Friend Request From a Bike Person That Might Actually Be Just A Sunglasses Selling Robot,

The truth is that I don't know.  You might be a real person.  I don't think I know you, but that wouldn't be unusual.  I'm face-friends with lots of people that I don't actually know.  It's not the same as being actual friends, and if you're a real person, I assume you know that, so you've sent me this request to be face-friends despite the fact we have no actual relationship.  

Probably not though.  You are probably another fake sunglasses scam.  I've been seeing it a lot.  Here's how it works: You, a face-friend request that I don't think I know wants to be face-friends, and your profile picture shows you riding a bike, so I figure we've probably at least met, or been on a ride together, or ridden the same road, or something.  Anything.  Plus, other bike people that I'm 90% sure are actual people appear to be face-friends with you already, so how bad can you be?  Request accepted.  Nothing happens for a while, then I wake up on Tuesday and my face-wall has a bunch of spam advertising graffiti bullshit for a bogus sunglasses sale (ACT NOW) courtesy of you, my new face-friend, because it turns out you're not my face-friend at all, but instead you're some kind of Zombie Facebook Robot purpose-built to make friends and advertise.  I don't think this was a part of Mark Zuckerberg's vision for the product, but here we are.

This phenomenon says a lot about bike people.  We're a tribe of just the right size, passion, and commitment to social media that we're especially prone to this little gag, whatever it is.  It seems to be working.  I assume someone, somewhere, is making money doing this, and if we could follow the profits we would eventually find the source, but of course, we are far too lazy to actually do that.

It also says something about Facebook, and social media in general.  Because even if you are a Facebook Sunglasses Robot, you're not so different than some of the actual Facebook friends I have that are real people, but they mostly just act as robots for their sponsors that they presumably have a minimum Facebook quota to uphold.  Their spam is no more or less real than yours, and they're actual human beings.  So, maybe I shouldn't hold your spam against you.  In your photo, you look like you can shred.  Are you in Robot-Montana?  Maybe I should just risk it and be friends.  Maybe I should buy some shades.

There's no real-world equivalent for this phenomenon, I don't think.  It would be like if I was driving down the road, and I saw C-ham hitchhiking, and I stopped to pick him up only to realize it wasn't actually C-ham, but to downplay the weirdness of the situation I gave the person a lift anyway, and he turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness, or a Tupperware Salesman, or some other thing, and he started hawking his shit from my car window while I drove.  Like that, but in a virtual world, like The Matrix.

I have 468 Facebook friends.  But I have 5, maybe 10, actual friends - people I actually see and relate to on a regular basis.  There are other options of course...Twitter.  Instagram.  Strava.  And on and on and on.  The search for the appropriate online social network for bike people is beginning to spiral out of control.  There's a shitload of money at stake here, which is part of why this has been such a weird ride.

We thought these things were built to help bring us all together, but I think we see now that they are actually meant to drive us apart.  This is no longer social in any way, because a society requires reality to maintain for any kind of duration. No, indeed, what we have now are just conduits to bad news, misinformation about Zika, Facebots, and other things that don't make sense anymore, and maybe they never actually did.  In hindsight, the minute things like Farmville or Candy Crush were a fundamental and integrated part of the experience, it should have been clear that reality was not on the agenda.

And neither are you, Facebot bike person who wants to sell me sunglasses.  You're not a bug, or a glitch in some otherwise positive machine; you're the machine itself.  You're just another representation of the great flaw in the social media we've all created: That I don't know you, but I don't care.

Friend request accepted.

Up, up, up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pantani 11 in the books

And no one even died.

Given the conditions for the day, I'll call that a collective Win.  
Saul took this.  Amazing.  
At one point, I looked down at my Garmin while descending Wyatt Mtn, and I was going 36 miles/hour and it was only 18 degrees.  So that was something, especially when my outer jacket actually froze in place, and I couldn't really bend my arms to steer.    

A couple of things surprised me about the day:
1)  Just how many people actually were willing to do that to themselves.  Car after car kept rolling in at 10:30 AM, fully willing and moderately prepared to face whatever it was we were going to do.  You never think there are so many people out there like yourself until you meet them all face to face in a field where the windchill is 5 degrees and they're all wearing 15 layers like you.  
but his feet weren't cold.
2)  Everyone was so bundled up - hats, scarves, facemasks, ski goggles, etc - you really couldn't tell who anyone was.  At one point before the gun went off, someone walked up to me, handed me a stack of papers, and I thought, "Who the fuck is this guy?"  It was Shawn.  Or when you rode up to someone you knew out on the course, you'd have to announce yourself by name so they knew who you were.  That was bizarre.  

3)  Despite the prize being the coveted Maillot Pistachio to the winner of the ladies race, only one very hard woman embarked on the journey, and Susannah ended up not climbing brokenback due to the simple horror of the thing, which I get.  Still, she did all of that on a fatbike.  

Qwadsworth, you are desert-dwelling, shifter-using, part-timer,  and you smell like a foot.  The tifosi demand that you launder the Maillot and mail it to the location of Susannah's choosing.  Wear it with pride, lady.  

Now just to thaw the world out, let it all drain a bit, and get back to work before work gets back to you.

Up, up, up.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Frozen = Fast; The Last minute Pantani Ride FAQ for the self-loathing

Mostly unrelated, shameless plug here: BUY IT. 
But also, my real point is this: naked = dead.  So dress warm.  Let's just start there.

We're two days out from Il Pantani, and here at Pantani HQ, preparations are well underway.  Preparation H that is.  It's not like I'm actually out marking the route, or training, or making myself a pair of DIY electronic heated underoos, or doing anything that might actually be useful.

No, indeed, I'm committed full-stop to the very basics of peak endurance performance: carb loading, denying reality, and tying orange pieces of tape to the loose parts of my bike so if they happen to fall off they'll be easier to find.

And panicking.  Because it's never too late for that.  I should have just paid the big bucks and gotten a  hardass, insult-slinging coach.
And it would seem that I'm not the only one.  No, indeed, the seedy underworld of seedy underworld races (Facebook) is abuzz with questions that I have no answers for, which in turn get re-directed to my email where I have successfully continued to be unable to clear them up.  Fortunately, most of what you want to know has already been addressed in years past.  And I'll link you to that sort of thing here, here, here, and also over there once upon a time.

But for the sake of adding an additional layer of murkiness to what's already not been said, let's dig into the questions as I see them here at this moment, Feb 11th, in this icy cold year of our Lawd, 2016.

Is the event moving forward despite the chilly weather?  
To me, when I see the word "chilly" I think "light jacket."  I see what you've done there, and I applaud your obfuscation of the truth.  But let's be clear about this: the forecasted high on Saturday is 27 degrees here at the Rancho Relaxo, which is probably somewhere in the upper teens out there atop the pop.  And windy.  This is no-bullshit, leave your kids at home, divorce-making cold, and you should take the appropriate precautions if you choose to ride your bike in those temperatures.  If you don't know what those precautions actually are, then you probably shouldn't wing it.  Potentially helpful youtubage from yesteryear:

But also, yes, we're still rolling at 11.  Actually, the high of 27 happens right around that time, and then it'll just sort of crack a beer and hang out for the day.  I like that about this cold front.  A steady 27 degrees that you can sort of count on is way, way better than a starting temp of 27 that proceeds to abandon you when you step in the creek while trying to pee and you really need it.

Gravelocity was 27 and puking snow for the first hour.  Can you guys hang?
Oh hell no.  Gravelocity in its first year pulled like a gazillion people to push their bikes in the snow.  In the first year of Pantani we had exactly 2 attendees, and I didn't even bring a bike.  So no, Gravelocity is clearly off and running in a legit, event-like direction, while Il Pantani can hardly decide on a name for itself.  Perhaps we'll copy it, and name ourselves Gravelopolis or something like that, and just hope that people confuse us for them in the future and show up.

Is it better to burn out or to fade away?

What you're witnessing here, as I understand it, is a custom, DIY electronic heated insole handcrafted with rush-delivery Kazakh heater tape and some other mail order shit in his basement by Sam Lindblom, Human Fireball.  I love ingenuity.  The mark of a man is the ability to fend for himself, and really Sam, I dig that about you.  But I'll take "burn out" for $1000, Alex.

Hey, bro, I heard this ride has some steep climbs.  I'm thinking about swapping out my 9 speed 11-32 for a 10 speed 11-36 and just using a campy shifter and some rubber bands to get the spring tension right, and also dousing the whole thing with hot glue.  Will that work?  
Look, I'm no Leonard Zinn.  You can surf up a fair amount of cross-compatibility shit over there, if you're into that sort of thing.  My advice though is that now is not the time to get creative with your drivetrain.  You might need it once or twice for this ride.  No, indeed, wait until Saturday morning, show up at Shawn's house with your rush-delivery UPS package straight from, and see if he can put it together for you lickety-split.  Trust me here, he LOVES that.  And conveniently, you can take a dump in his sock drawer while he pulls the whole experience together for you.

Singlespeed gearing?  Talk to me.
I can't and I won't.  Typically, when confronted with this kind of question, I link people to Kev29ers much-heralded internet pillar of knowledge, The Gear Doc, and that confuses them long enough for me to escape before they realize I lack the math skills to be a legit singlespeeder.  But in this case, I'll come clean, admit that's not my bag baby, and hopefully Kev29er will chime in with a real, based-in-science recommendation about what single gear could possibly be rewarding enough to ride for 47 miles in a row.  Wilson too?  Others?  By all means, talk amongst yourselves, you simpletons.

Do I need shoe covers to ride in the cold?  
You see, this is what I'm talking about.  Seriously, be responsible people.  And do this.

Will there be reliable neutral support for nutrition on course?  
I'm actually having trouble responding to this one because, quite obviously, the world that you live in is so different than my own.  I can tell you this: we've got a van, and a half-way committed veteran of bonks of all shapes, sizes, colors, and smells that may or may not be cruising around out there with the sort of medicine to fix what ails you.  That's not to say that he will be in any way reliable.  Nor is he actually all that neutral - he's a foof local, after all.  So if you're up there behind someone wearing pink, you'll have to wait your turn.  I can't actually say he's necessarily all that supportive, and the food that he may or may not be providing isn't what the FDA considers nutritious or safe for consumption in any way.  And for that matter, there's not actually a course anyway- this is just a bike ride with recommended routes and a grossly overstated notion of glory.  So, the short answer is no, there will not be whatever it was you wondered about.  Just a guy in a van who might be able to help.  But maybe not.    

What's the start location?  Where should I poop?
Parking, pre-game shit talk, the start line, and all of the space you could possibly wish for to set up your trainer and your cooler of High Life will be right here:
5420 Markwood Rd, Earlysville, VA 22936
Where to poop though.  Where, indeed.  We're way, way below the applicable temperature to use a port-a-potty, and it's much too late to get one ordered anyway.  What I usually do is just pull up to Shawn's house, let myself right in, go upstairs, find his bedroom, open his sock drawer, and let 'er rip.  Then, I close it tightly, reverse course, and try to act normal.  That's not necessarily what you should do, of course, but you read it here so at least you can claim genuine confusion if you get busted.  Or just track me down at the start, explain your desperation in fragmented sentences and grunts, and I'll point you to the shovel or my house.
So Aero.
Will there be an option to just ride the Paranormal loop instead of the Pantani loop?
Yeah, we've gotten that question a lot.  It would seem that the cold has people in the mood for a ride where they might be able to simply jump back in their car and start it if the reality of riding sub-zero temps on Saturday turns out to be different than the very funny idea of doing so that you have on Friday afternoon on your couch.  So yes, you can do that.  It isn't marked, but it's pretty much dialed, and if you put in 9 laps or whatever like Petrylak did 4 months ago, you'll probably be able to follow it by memory.
Also worth noting, extra hard woman points if you can muster a Paranormal Loop PLUS a Pantani Loop.  I've done that only once, and I had to take a break at mile 50 or so to cook a steak.
It's a hard ride.  Not, like, a Mark Smith sort of "I rode here from Kentucky and did the Paranormal and then ate all the food in your house and rode home" kind of a hard ride, but hard nonetheless.

How will the course be marked?
Technically, there is no course.  That's because a course requires a race, which requires entrance fees, insurance, and a general sense of accountability, which quite obviously I don't have.  So there's no tape either.  What there is, though, is a route.
Not such a bad idea to print that, put it in a little plastic tupperware that your tears can't penetrate and ruin, and tuck it away in case things go awry.

What do I win when I win?
Since there's not actually a race happening, we ALL win.  Even me, and that's being very generous given my lack of fitness and 47% body fat.  However, there's an awful lot of shwag to be had.  Ellen's kick ass, form-fitting knitted Pantani breeches.  Metro usually brings some dad-booze to award the first finisher who has kids.  The SS winner gets to stick their mangled, blistered feet into some sweet, pink socks.  And in the spirit of equal pay out for mens and women's fields, the coveted Maillot Pistachio will this year be awarded to the first lady to cross the line.  Not that there's actually a line, but you know what I mean.  The downside of this is that you'll have to track down Qwadsworth to claim what is rightly yours - a task that even Chaz Michaels has yet to successfully complete.  But I promise you, it'll be worth it when you do.

If you had to guess where I'm going to get lost, where would that be, and what should I do about it?
There are two really common wrong turns, both coming late in the ride.  That would be #17 and #20 on this here queue sheet.  Go right on the first one and left at the second.  If you fail to do that, the first thing I recommend you do is fucking panic, drop everything you have, and get in the river.  But hopefully our reliable, neutral, supportive, nutrition-providing, bong hitting van of good will manages to roll by before you do that.  Otherwise, consult the map.

Can I cheat?
One word: Motors.  I'd be disappointed if you had one and didn't use it.  For $4,000, if I had one you better believe I'm cheating even if I'm just riding to the bar.  And if you lack the $4k to be truly loathsome, there's always the cheaper journeyman options for cheating, including but not limited to shortcutting the course, taking a tow from a team car, EPO, etc.  

Dude, don't you have syphilis?  How are you going to ride Pantani with syphilis?  
Shingles.  I came down with Shingles in late January.  Not quite as dirty as syphilis, but more painful.  There were a few days there when it was pretty much all-consuming.  My policy on the matter: stay up to date with all of your vaccinations, and try not to touch me with your genitals.  But that's my policy on everything, actually, so just stay the course.  As for me, I'm on the mend, and I actually have ridden every day this week, and I feel surprisingly OK.  I'm hoping for the best.

And I'm hoping for the best for you too, but really, that is quite enough of all of this.  Prepare yourself for greatness, and dress like you mean it.

Up, up, up.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pantani Prep

OH MY GOD.  That Pantani Ride is in 8 days, and I don't even have an excuse picked out yet.  This has really gotten away from me this year.  Even the most basic shit - road conditions, weather forecast, picking the winner's name out of a broken, sweaty helmet - I haven't done any of that.  I also haven't fully addressed even what the Pantani Ride actually is for those newcomers to the non-scene that is Il Pantani.  So snuggle up, buttercup, pour yourself a nice hot cup of HTFU, and read on if you need something to distract you from the truth, the awful truth, that you'll be climbing brokenback 8 days from approximately right now.

 What is the Pantani Ride?  What, indeed.  Wait, I've already done this.  Read all about it here:
Clear as mud, then.  Wait, except for the fact that the date is Saturday, Feb 13th, and we will go live as a hoofshot horse at 11 AM.  As your attorney, I advise you to arrive early, get on the trainer, and self-medicate on your own interval.  This thing goes out hot.

What bike should you ride?  What, indeed.  To answer this question - and I've answered it many a time mind you - I might quote a younger, stronger, wiser-assed Gordon Wadsworth back when he was on a peyote-induced vision quest for greatness:
We're in the spirit world, asshole, they can't see us.
"The Pantani course is a lot like this sex dream I keep having about Joan Rivers.  It starts off pretty hot, she's young, I'm into her, she's digging me.  But then I get her up to my room, and all of the sudden it's more like one of those naked at a public election dreams, but Joan is still there, and holy shit, she's way older than I thought, and then the whole dream goes Sci-Fi, and she's got this huge green lizard tail growing out of her tits.  And then it gets really violent, and I have to escape, and I won't go into details, but it's moments like that when you're glad you're not on a road bike.  That's how the Pantani ride is."

If Buschi has to walk this, I'm going to need a harness 
I could also just cut to the chase and tell you to ride your hardtail mountain bike, but that would be cheating you out of a potentially really terrible, life-altering, I-saw-bigfoot experience in the mountains, which is what makes a story, so I won't do that.

Road Conditions: So, as of today, it's buttery smooth and clear, top to bottom, front to back.  OK, well, the back might have a little crust on the fringes and what not, but who doesn't.  It's Wyatt Mountain after all, and anything better than post-holing through thigh deep snow back there counts as clean this time of year.  But, it bares repeating - that's TODAY.  It's a different world back there, and some rain in town could be a Donner party devouring blizzard in the wilds of Greene County.  So dress warm and watch the sky.

Weather Forecast provided by Jim Cantani

Forecast: Well, it's a long way from here to Pantani day, but The Weather Channel now offers a no-bullshit, 100% accurate 15 day forecast, and here's that for Greene County.
From where I sit, that says snow showers on Tuesday the 9th and then clear and sunny after that (but cold.)  I'd estimate that's about normal.  But again, you know that they don't actually know, and they know that, so they give you the lies 15 days in advance because screw you, you don't believe them anyway.  I'll prove it.  Watch the sky.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner: The talent that is joining us this year will likely outperform the combined level of talent we've had if you combined all of the past 10 years into one mashed up substance, put it in your pipe, and smoked it.  You'd get higher this year.  JB is coming, it's been whispered on the obscure edges of big blue.  Chaz Michaels, winner of yesteryear, is a maybe.  How 'bout Bryan Lewis, past KOM winner who was once outsprinted for the win in a devious move by Qwadsworth himself?  Or newly BRC-stickered pro, Keck Baker?  Ben King, according to Strava, has been riding the ever-loving shit out of his trainer indoors as his leg heals - so will he show up and hand out beers or show up and hand out beatings? Our own Will Leet?  And many others...If you put all of those guys into a cage match in their current forms, and spun the thing at 140 rpm, who would emerge victorious?  My pick: John Petrylak.  He's my guy, and he's Foof after all.  You just can't be 2nd as many times as he's been 2nd and not eventually come up aces.  Plenty of wrong turns, feral pets, and empty bottles out there to dismantle any of the arguably superior competition enough for Petrylak to get over the line first.

That's about all I have for you at this point.  Remember, that sense of panic you're feeling when you're considering that you haven't actually climbed anything more than 200 feet in the last 4 months is normal, useful, and a vital part of the survival instinct that is naturally supposed to kick in when you're faced with something terrible.

Ignore it.

Keep looking for that right hander onto brokenback mountain rd, and up, up, up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Motors 2

Soooo, check out my new cyclocross bike:

Just picked 'er up at the shop last week, eh.  It's a little loose in the back, but like, whatevs.  Who wants to race me so I can prove my superiority and further stoke my lifelong dependency on the opinions of others to overcome my own deep-rooted lack of self worth?

Because, fuck you guys, I'm Fast.

Motors, eh?  Fascinating shit.  I was actually a little surprised by how many people were surprised by this.  Industry insiders have been writing about this stuff in the quasi-mainstream internet news for a long time, thus informing industry sort-of-halfway-connected-but-not-really dudes who in turn wrote on their blogs, prompting those of us way out in the fringes of internet newsland to write as much on our own.  So I thought that pretty much everyone was ready for this.  But no, it's with utter shock and disappointment that we have faced up to the hard truth that some chick in Belgium and/or her entourage put a motor in her bike to try to help her win Worlds.

Thus proving once and for all that a good muddy 'cross race can and will fuck up anything on your bike, even your sneaky, well-hidden, $2,000 engine that you claim to know nothing about.

"It's my friend's bike," as an excuse, sounds an awful lot like what we meth-heads here in the south like to shout, "That shit ain't mine!" when the feds finally come pouring in the back door, and oh no, you're the last person we'd expect to be cooking up the nasty brew in the back of your white trash trailer park, you cheating, incorrigible fuck.

I have so many questions though.  One detail in these news stories, which of course are still evolving, is about Femke's "Entourage" having deceived the Belgian federation, and I think that's the one that I find most engaging.  I see the words "Cyclocross Entourage" and I just can't read enough.  How has this happened, that we have arrived at a point in the developed western world where an upper-midpack U-23 Cross racer has an entourage?  Presumably, an evolution has transpired that I was black-out drunk for and can't remember, but why?

Also, the fine ($200,000) is something that I can't mentally grasp yet.  Like, for example, how in the fuck is a U-23 upper-midpack cross racer ever going to pay that fine when she's got a whole entourage of hangers-on suckling at the superstar teat of fame and fortune to worry about paying for already?  They're bleeding her dry, I assume, so how the fuck is that fine ever going to work?  Will she have to do hard time if she can't pay it?

But look at the big picture: the entourage, all of this cheating, the epidemic levels of beer throwing and spitting on the sport's greatest stars and you know what I think we've finally arrived at?  A sport people actually give a shit about and want to win.  So congrats, 'cross.  You have officially arrived.  Good luck dealing with the ramifications of finally almost making it.

It happens to the best of us.
Keep your head on a swivel, and up, up, up.