Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Not to Bike

This is in response to Top Ten Reasons to Bike, the writing of which made me realise that to get more people riding we need to understand why people don't ride.  Talking up the advantages either falls on deaf ears or is simply preaching to the converted.

Just like with Ten Reasons to Bike, there aren't ten good reasons not to bike; there are three, but you need to write "top ten", don't you?  Otherwise people aren't interested.

As I mentioned in "Operation Wheel Harmony" part 4: Why condoms are different to bike lanes and a beat poem by a scared poet, there are, according to a certain expert, four types of cyclists; strong and fearless; enthused and confident; interested but concerned; and no way, no how.

The first two are locked-in and don't require any more prompting. They know riding is good and they have the skill, experience and confidence to enjoy it. The fourth group is bred wrong and beyond help. It's group three, interested but concerned, who fancy the idea of slinging their leg over a bicycle but for some reason don't, that need to be tapped. Remove the reasons that they don't ride and the number of people on bikes will explode.

After conducting rigorous surveys I have
distilled the reasons not to bike down to these three;

Monday, April 25, 2011


One of the good things about living in Australia is that European racing takes place during our evening. I can imagine that living in Europe would be very frustrating as work would get right in the way of races. In Australia, while you do have to put up with late nights, you can watch every race (as long as it's televised). The downside, of course, is that you are often tired at work. But this is clearly better than the alternative; fatigue is much less noticeable than complete absence.

Anyway, last night's race presented me with somewhat of a dilemma; I had tickets to see the reggae legends, Toots and the Maytals. I was hoping that they'd start on time, play a great, 2-hour gig and allow me home to watch the last hour of the race. This seemed like a fair compromise between my music-loving and bike-loving selves.

Like any good plan, though, it didn't work. Realising this, I had to quickly come up with plan B. With the help of my phone and the Cyclingnews live report, I followed the race and decided that I would leave at 30 kilometres to go, no matter what.

I couldn't quite hold it together though. While I was enjoying the gig, my bike-loving self was beginning to have a tantrum. So it was, when the live report reported this...
15:40 CEST 35km/222.5km
Gasparotto leads over the top of La Redoute. 47 seconds back to the bunch.
...that I just had to get out of there. It happened midway through the encore so I didn't miss too much. My music-loving self wasn't happy, but it didn't have a choice. I ran out of the venue, the three blocks to my bike and then raced home.

I landed on the couch with 18km to go, which was unfortunate as I'd just missed seeing the Schlecks and Gilbert get away from the peloton 2km earlier. Still, I was treated to seeing;
-them sweep up the escapees.
-Van Avermaet, who'd been out the front for 100km, go with them for a while, which was impressive to say the least.
-Gilbert attack on Saint-Nicholas and dislodging Andy for a bit.
-the Schlecks try several times to crack Gilbert.
-Gilbert doing his share of work with the brothers.
-Gilbert riding sandwiched between the brothers, as if in some sort of procession. For many, this seemed bizarre; why weren't the Schlecks attacking? Why were they leading him home? I think they gave their best and simply had nothing more to offer. They seem satisfied with their efforts which implies they played all their cards and left everything on the road. Gilbert was just too strong.

So, it's not since Davide Rebellin in 2004 that the Ardennes triple has been accomplished. As we've learnt, his feat was propped up with dope and now everyone is asking the same question regarding Gilbert. So, I'll ask the question; is Gilbert on dope?

My answer is "no". I don't know why, and maybe I'm naïve but my dope-detector says he's clean. And that's all I have to say about that.

It was a great race last night. L-B-L offered up an exciting and fair contest; the strongest guys were the only ones left at the end of the race to fight it out amongst themselves. And the strongest of them all was so very strong...

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Best Names in Cycling

Here is a list of some of my favourite cycling names. Some are apt, some are weird and some are worth a lot in Scrabble.

Eddy Merckx – Eddy’s surname is awesome. Out of its six letters it has five consonants (the Schlecks' name shares that characteristic too). If you could play it in Scrabble you’d be onto a good thing: 21 points right there!

Nice rack, Eddy

Lars Boom – Lars. And then Boom. How cool is that?
A Dutch friend tells me the surname is pronounced “bome” (as in “Rome” but with a B) and means “tree”. Personally, I prefer the erroneous English pronunciation. The fact that he’s a champion ‘crosser and time triallist seems fitting…BOOM!

Lars doing justice to his name

Dimitri Champion – This guy had a big name to live up to and live up to it he did; 2009 French road race champion. I don’t know how long ago people were able to choose their surnames but someone back in the Champion line had incredible foresight…or maybe they just figured the name would have to become apt eventually.
There’s also an Albert Champion who won Paris-Roubaix in 1899.

The French champion Champion

Joop Zoetemelk – The Dutch legend has a name I can’t pronounce but I like the look of it. I don’t know what it means either but it sounds dirty. What's more, not a bad earner in Scrabble either.

Joop 'stamped' his authority on some big races

Hippolyte Aucouturier – The two-time Paris-Roubaix winner has an incongruous-sounding first name; some sort of featherweight hippopotamus. He had a great mo’ too. And if my French doesn’t deceive me, his surname translates to ‘to the fashion designer’…I feel he doesn’t need any help with his style though.

Hippolyte on his way home from the fashion designer

Ryder Hesjedal - His name is Ryder and he's a...rider! Get it? That's all.

What is Ryder doing? Ryding!

Ronde van Vlaanderen – Not a racer but a race. I’d love to be able to speak Flemish. If any language oozes cycling it’s Flemish (I know, I know, it’s Belgian Dutch). Also known as the Tour of Flanders or simply the Ronde, it is one of the biggest races on the calender and a symbol of Northern Belgium.
I feel like van Vlaanderen should be a verb; to van Vlaanderen. Let's check out a few conjugations;

He van Vlaanderens (present simple third person singular)
We are van Vlaanderening (present continuous first person plural)
I van Vlaanderened (past simple first person singular)

I'm not sure what it might mean though...any thoughts?

The Koppenberg does its thing

Anyway, there are heaps of great names in cycling. Any you'd like to add?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Bike

OK, actually I’ve only got five reasons. Somehow though, “Top Five Reasons to Bike” doesn’t have the same ring to it. We are slaves to the base-ten number system. So, I admit, I just wrote “ten” to suck you in and it clearly worked.

Go by the paper, drink your coffee, it's all good...

If you want, I could easily pad it out to ten, or more; you can go as fast as you want, free parking, nice muscle tone, you will pick-up chicks/guys, you will look cool, you're more at one with the world around you, it gets cars off the road, you will meet people, etc. I even read this as a reason; 'Primary school students will think you are "cool" or "hip" or "neat" or "rad" or whatever the current term is.' Ignoring the fact that this is not true, I personally haven’t felt a need to be perceived as cool, hip, neat or rad by 12-year olds since I was…well, 12. But hey, if that’s your goal in life then there’s another reason for you (if you ignore the fact that it actually isn’t a reason since it’s not true. If you want to be perceived as cool by primary school students, listen to Justin Bieber, get down with ‘casual gaming’ on your iPhone and read books about vampires).

So, without further ado, here are my Top Ten Five Reasons to Bike;

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Operation Wheel Harmony" part 4: Why condoms are different to bikes lanes and a beat poem by a scared cyclist

This is part 4 of a something-part series.  You should read part 1: Diary of an angry driver, part 2: Diary of an angry and sanctimonious cyclist and part 3: Diary of a scared driver and a new name for the operation first.

Roger Geller is a man who works in Portland (that's in the U.S. of A).  He is responsible for increasing the popularity of cycling in said city.  His official title is Bicycle Coordinator.  He has done amazing things in in his city.

One of his mantras is "Build it and they will come".  In 1980, there were a total of 10 kilometres of bike lane in Portland.  Now, there are over 500 kilometres.  They built.  They came:

I think this photo might exaggerate the amount of bicycle traffic in Portland but you get the idea.  In the last twenty years, bicycle use has boomed in Portland.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Operation Love-In" part 3: Diary of a scared driver and a new name for the operation

This is part 3 of a something-part series.  You should read part 1: Diary of an angry driver and part 2: Diary of an angry and sanctimonious cyclist first.

From today, Operation Love-In will no longer be known as Operation Love-In. While I believe the name communicated the the spirit of the endeavour, I didn't want there to be any confusion about its purpose. As the term 'love-in' may engender false readings, it must be dumped.

So, from now on, Operation Love-In will be known as Wheel Harmony. Wheel Harmony is wheel, wheely. So, get wheel. Wheel work together to make Wheel Harmony wheel. I know what you're asking yourself; "Can this be wheel?" The answer is; "Yes, this is wheel...wheely."

Now that we've covered that, let's move on to our next diary entry; diary of a scared driver.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Operation Love-In" part 2: Diary of an angry and sanctimonious cyclist

This is part 2 of a something-part series. You should read part 1: Diary of an angry driver first.

14th April, 2011

Dear diary,

Today is a crap and day I am so angry. AARRRGGGHHH!!

I am angry because of drivers. I hate them. They are evil. Let me give you an example; today, I was doing my bit to to save the world by riding to work when a driver pulled out in front of me. I had to slam on my brakes. DRIVERS NEVER LOOK. THEY ARE ALL BLIND. We may as well be invisible to them. THEY THINK THEY OWN THE ROADS! AARRRGGGHHH!! I am so angry.

Drivers are evil. They drive petrol-guzzling tanks that pollute the world. They are killing us as I write. I am so angry.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Operation Love-In" part 1: Diary of an angry driver

Operation Love-In is something that came to me in my sleep on my ride yesterday.  It will be a something-part series.  By the end of it, the roads will be full of relaxed, happy and loving commuters who give way and are understanding.

So, I don't really know where all this will end but I do know where it begins; right here at part 1: Diary of an angry driver.

12th April, 2011

Dear diary,

Today, it is raining and cold and I am very angry.  RRAAAHHHHH!!!!!
I am angry because of cyclists.  I hate them.  They are ruining my life.  Let me give you an example;  today, I was driving to work, and there was a red light.  And do you know what happened, diary, do you?  I saw a cyclist ride THROUGH the red light.  Right through it, as if it were GREEN!  Why do ALL cyclists ride through red lights?  They think they own the roads.  RRAAAHHHHH!!!!!  I am so angry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paris-Roubaix Movies

With only a few hours to go till l'Enfer du Nord kicks off, I thought you might like to see some footage of the race from years gone by.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Bike Polo

I tried out bike polo for the first time the other day and I can safely say that I will be doing it again.  For those unfamiliar with the sport, and I assume that's most people, let me give you a little run through.

It all started in 1891 in Ireland.  Then they played on big grass fields.  Fast forward 130 years (because Ireland in 1891 was probably boring), and it's a bit different.  While there are variations, the style that has enjoyed a boom in popularity in the last few years is played on hardcourts, usually asphalt.  Games are played in a relaxed, DIY spirit (forgive me for coining the term "DIY spirit" but I'm sure you're following what I mean).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Superlatives are bandied around pretty loosely when the Hell of the North is discussed; the greatest, the toughest, the best, the most glorious to win, the most brutal, and so on. For me, it's all true. It's such a beautiful race. That said, I couldn't imagine riding it. For the uninitiated, what makes Paris-Roubaix all that it is is the cobblestones, or pavé. Sure, many other races, such as Flanders last weekend, have cobbles. But the cobbles at Paris-Roubaix are in a class of their own. Let me hand over to Chris Horner to explain;

"Let me tell you, though - there's a huge difference between Flanders and Paris–Roubaix. They're not even close to the same. In one, the cobbles are used every day by the cars, and kept up, and stuff like that. The other one - it's completely different ... The best I could do would be to describe it like this - they plowed a dirt road, flew over it with a helicopter, and then just dropped a bunch of rocks out of the helicopter! That's Paris–
Roubaix. It's that bad - it's ridiculous."

Another observation that sums up some of the sentiment of the race was made by the Dutchman, Theo de Rooij. In 1985 he was in the winning position until a crash put paid to that. After the race, he had this to say;

“It's a bollocks, this race! You're working like an animal, you don't have time to piss, you wet your pants. You're riding in mud like this, you're slipping ... it’s a pile of shit.”
When then asked if he would start the race again, he replied:
“Sure, it's the most beautiful race in the world!”

So, who will win this year? I don't know but hopefully not Cencellara. I say this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, last year, when he did win, was a bit boring near the end. He just rode off and that was that. It was very impressive but didn't make for entertaining racing. Give me a choice between that and last weekend, when the list of potential winners remained long until the very end, and I know which race I would rather watch.

The second reason is, he's getting a bit annoying. What ever happened to modesty?
"Everybody knows that if I’m at 100 percent they have to fasten their seatbelts, like on an aeroplane.”
And on his loss last weekend, he had this to say; "Even Superman can have a weak moment.”

And what about being gracious in defeat?
"I lost by trying to win, the others rode only to make me lose. And in the end the one who was always in the wheels won. Congratulations to Nuyens, but for me [winning] like that has no value.”

All I can say is I hope something has been lost in translation.

Finally, Paris-Roubaix is a great race to get the uninitiated into cycling (or at least into watching cycling). It's got thrills and spills and it doesn't go for three weeks. If, like me, you're working on getting people to see what's so great about the sport of cycling, there's no better place to start than Paris-Roubaix.

The video below is a trailer for the 2008 film "Road to Roubaix". This shit brings tears to my eyes (I have to use the word "shit" to counter the emasculation generated by crying). Why do I cry? I don't know...the music, the drama, the passion. I love events with gravitas and in many ways Paris-Roubaix has more of that than any other race. Sure, the Tour de France has got it too, but that's spread over three weeks. All the pain, crashes, glory and power are concentrated into one potent day.

So, if you're in Australia, sit yourself down at 10.20pm on Sunday, turn on SBS One and 'fasten your seatbelts'. If you're somewhere else, turn on whatever great channel broadcasts the cycling in your country and do the same.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Book Review - The Custom Road Bike

The Custom Road Bike is a very pretty book. It's by Guy Andrews who is the editor of Rouleur Magazine, so it's not surprising that it's very pretty because Rouleur Magazine is very pretty too.

As the title suggests, the book is pegged at those looking "to put together [their] dream road bike". While I think it is useful for that purpose, my feeling is that most people who buy this will already have a pretty good idea of what they consider ideal for them. If, like me, you're at that stage where you're willing to part with the best part of $100 to purchase a guide that discusses each aspect of a road bike in the finest detail, then you're probably pretty familiar with bikes and not in need of guidance.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tour of Flanders / Ronde van Vlaanderen

Yesterday's Ronde was absolutely awesome and one of the best races I've ever seen.  Rarely has there been a bigger favourite than Cancellara was and at around 30 kilometres to go everyone, and I mean everyone, had thought the race sealed and destined to end the way it had been tipped.  Boonen had just attacked, clearly thinking that he had to do something (though I'm not sure what Chavanel would have thought about that), Cancellara got on his wheel and then, like last week and last year, just rode away.  From then it was assumed Spartacus would simply pass the few leaders up the road and time trial to victory...again.

On the penultimate climb of the day, the infamous Kapelmuur, it was Chavanel and Spartacus.  It was here that the whole make-up of the race changed.  The gap back to the peloton started tumbling, very quickly.  In five minutes, the two leaders had gone from 47 seconds clear to being joined by Gilbert, Ballan and Leukemans.  Not far behind were others, such as Boonen and Flecha.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An open letter to "Michael from Sydney"

In "Nagging doubts raised over helmet safety" in today's The Age, there were some interesting comments from readers from all walks of life. Obviously, as this is a divisive issue, there were some very strong feelings regarding whether or not helmets should be mandatory.

Personally, I don't think helmets should be mandatory, but that's a story for another day. Today, I'd like to talk about "Michael from Sydney".

Michael from Sydney doesn't like cyclists. I can tell because I am very clever. I can "read between the lines". "What lines?", I hear you ask. These lines:

"Are you sure that a hemet would protect cyclists' brains? Most seem to have their brains in their posteriors not there heads."

Michael, Michael, Michael...this doesn't seem a very nice thing to say. That, however, is not the reason that I've decided to air this amongst the community. Can anyone guess the reason?

The reason is the grammar and the spelling. Yes, in accusing all cyclists of having their brains in their posteriors, Michael from Sydney has made a heinous grammatical faux pas coupled with a juvenile spelling mistake (Michael from Sydney, "faux pas" means no-no).

Instead of using the possessive pronoun "their", Michael from Sydney has used some form of "there" (I'm not sure which one; it could be an adjective, pronoun, adverb or a noun).

He's also managed to spell "helmet" incorrectly, which is impressive since it constitutes the very topic being discussed.

Now, if Michael from Sydney had said something nice, or at least constructive, I would have let this slide. He clearly knows how to use the word "their" as he's managed to do so correctly twice already in the sentence. I would also guess that he knows how to spell "helmet". Further, he knows how to use an apostrophe in the plural, which is very impressive.

I don't even know what "posterior" means but I'm guessing that Michael from Sydney is implying that cyclists, for some reason or other, do not have their brains located in the physiologically "standard" location and are therefore stupid.

So, Michael from Sydney, if I were to make one suggestion, it would be that if you are going to accuse an entire group of being stupid, perhaps you should do so in a way that doesn't make you seem stupid. That way, people may take you seriously. Although, I doubt that.

Yours sincerely,

The Weekly Cycle.

P.S. I doubt Michael from Sydney reads this blog so if you know him, please pass this on.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One fixed-gear rider who's going to love hell

The Fat Cyclist just wrapped-up a series of posts on his version of hell, aptly titled Fatty's Inferno. It's funny. You should read it.

In it, Fatty talks about various roads of this cyclists' hell, each one dedicated to a different type of heinous cyclist, such as whiners and eternal attackers. He also has a section just for fixed-gear riders. Here's an extract:
Before me lay a pristine valley. Clean air. Pines and aspen. Tall grass, waving gently in the light breeze. Not a single building in sight. A single road dropped sharply down into this valley, at which point — with no flat to speak of — it immediately climbed steeply back up. The only riding to be had here would be hard climbing and steep descending.
“This is a beautiful place,” I told The Cyclist. “And this is an incredible road. How can you call this a level of hell?”
“No kidding,” agreed The Cyclist. “Actually, I vacation here. It’s one of my favorite places.”
And then I saw something far down at the bottom of the valley that perplexed me, deeply. Thousands — perhaps millions — of bikes laying down (drivetrain side down, of course), littering the valley floor.
Meanwhile, not a single rider was in sight anywhere. “Where is everyone?” I asked. “Why is nobody riding?”
“Take a closer look at the bikes,” replied The Cyclist.And then I got it. Every single one of them was a fixed gear bike, built without brakes, for showing off and for urban riding — and entirely useless in a place like this.
“But where are the riders?” I wondered.
“Oh, they’re here all right,” smiled my guide. “It’s just that I have made them invisible. You see, fixie care much more about being seen than about the ride itself. In the absence of an audience — not to mention coffee shops and thousands of pedestrians and exhaust from a road choked with cars –they quickly lose interest in riding.
I read this and I chuckled. Then I thought to myself, "I know of one rider who is going to have a great time in hell. Patrick Seabase."

Check him out climbing and descending the Stelvio on his fixie (if you don't know of the Stelvio, just understand that it's big and steep).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lights: Three reasons why you must…

Reason 1 – The no-brainer one

While I preach that it’s best to assume you’re invisible to drivers, you’re sill better off, if possible, being seen.  Obviously, you are more likely to be seen at night if you’ve got lights attached fore and aft…good lights…with batteries that aren’t flat…or a dynamo.

People often just go with the rear light and don’t bother with the front.   Experience has told me that this isn’t a very good idea.  Sure, cars mostly pass you from behind but cars also come from side streets.  When they do they may well not see you.  This will lead to you T-boning them.  Granted, this is better than being T-boned but it’s still not great.