Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Daddy, What Do You Do?

My children don't really have any idea what I do for a living. Sure, they see me leave the house in a uniform every day, but I doubt they could tell you what branch of the service I'm in, much less what my role in that service is. I like it this way. I like to keep my worlds separated. Compartmentalized. Once in a while they bleed over, but for the most part I try not to let one affect the other.
If they ever asked, I'd probably say my job is to make sure that people act like adults. I have a long list of regulations and instructions that define what an adult is supposed to do and not do in my world, some of which I had a hand in writing. My job is to make sure that everybody colors within the lines so we can accomplish whatever it is the organization is supposed to do, and then advise the boss about the most effective way to stomp on the ones that feel that rules are for everyone else. There's a lot of paperwork involved.
My predecessor told me that it would be two years before I stopped being scared of going to jail for something someone else did or I neglected to do. Twenty months later, I'm still terrified. Every day I learn of some new requirement I'm failing to meet from yet another agency I've never heard of. Ahhh, the joys of bureaucracy.
Apparently I was chosen for this position because I fit the profile. They needed a new giant douchebag, and immediately thought of me. I can live with that. It's stressful and tedious more often than it isn't, but it pays the bills and pays for new carbon. When I step back and take a look at the big picture, I can't complain.
Daddy is a giant douchebag at work and at play.
Probably better that they don't ask.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Making Time for the Little Things.

It's been hard lately to find time to work on my bikes. I always seem to have something else to do. That something else usually involves me napping or frittering away my time on the internet, buying bikes parts I don't have the time to install.
I need to re-assess my priorities and start finding the time, because the parts pile is starting to overflow and before I know it the season will be upon me. I don't want to roll into it with a bunch of bikes in various states of assembly. I don't want to wait until the night before a race to get a bike in working order. Better for it to be all bright, shiny, and in some semblance of working order well in advance.
It just starts the season off on the right foot. The early season is all about possibilities. You haven't been ground down by a long string of failures yet. You can still scheme and dream.
Plus, working on the bikes during the off-season is relaxing most of the time. If something goes wrong, you have time to correct it. You can dial things in. Make minor adjustments. Experiment. Install that bottom bracket motor that Femke Van den Driessche isn't using anymore. Find a trick way to mount the insulated panniers for your EPO. You know, marginal gains 'n' stuff.
I'd love to tear down the Storck, replacing the nicer parts with components more suited for trainer duty. I need to install all of those carbon cockpit bits and pieces, which will require the replacement of cables and bar tape that hasn't seen a significant amount of use but will probably be destroyed in the swapping process. I'd love to clean all of the bikes with these trick bike wipes I got down in Mississippi, scrubbing them to the point they no longer resemble a World War II submarine left sitting on the ocean floor for the last 75 years. I'd love to mount up some tubulars. For that matter, I'd love to hang some more hooks from the garage ceiling so I'm not tripping over expensive wheelsets all of the time. More lighting so I don't ruin what little eyesight I have left. The list is endless.
I just need to make it a priority.
After my nap.

Friday, January 13, 2017


On Russian Christmas, at the very end of our annual exercise in greed, I had my three-year-old son open his drop-bar kick bike. There was a moment of dread just before he opened it. I was afraid he might grunt, then turn his back on it to play with the cheap plastic dinosaurs that were the remainder of his haul. That boy loves him some cheap plastic dinosaurs. I had built this moment up in my mind, and anything less than Pentacostal-levels of bike-joy would have been a crushing disappointment.
He grinned, pointed at the shiny gateway to lifetime freedom and financial ruin, and said, "that's my bike."
I couldn't have been more proud.
His feet still barely touch the ground when he straddles the saddle, but he pushes himself around the house. By spring, when the snow and ice leaves the road, he'll be tall enough to propel himself into all sorts of mischief on neighborhood streets. He'll race his brothers and sister. He'll probably fall down and hurt himself a lot, because he's my son.
I couldn't be more proud. 
"That's my bike." I can't think of any collection of words that could have been more perfect.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Just Because.

I don't need a reason to buy bike parts. I don't need a project or place to hang them. Judging by the parts pile in my garage, I don't even require the physical space to store them.
All I need is a vague idea that I might someday possibly want to build something in the distant future. That's all that's required to make the magic happen. From there, I'm off to craigslist or eBay or some random MyFace for-sale page, and my children's higher-educational future becomes even dimmer.
Sometimes I open a box and marvel at the contents, because I don't quite remember buying them. It's always "good stuff", so it's always a pleasant discovery. That's how I keep my relationship with myself fresh- spontaneity.
The last box was a prime example of no real need but a whole lot of want.
When it came in the mail, I got all giggly. I carefully slit the tape to avoid damaging the contents, then peeled back the lid with anticipation. The first thing that caught my eye was a set of 3T carbon handlebars. This was a bit of a surprise. I knew they were coming, but I didn't realize they were from the same seller as the rest of the contents. I had won two separate auctions on eBay, then paid for them- to include shipping. The seller double-dipped shipping on me, and I never realized it. Attention to details has never been a strong suit for me.
The bars have an intended purpose. They're going on the backup road race bike, because you wouldn't want your backup road racing bike to have aluminum bars when your actual road race bike has carbon bars. Don't get me started on the crit bike or the...
The rest of the box was full of individually Styrofoam-wrapped pieces which added up to a SRAM S700 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset. I don't currently have a frame that I can bolt a SRAM S700 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset onto, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that I have a SRAM S700 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset.
Boom. I win.
I have this ill-formed concept kicking around in my head that I'm going to build a gravel bike. Not a 'cross bike, because that would almost certainly lead me to run into trees, break ribs, and bulge discs in my back. Nope, this is gonna be a gravel grinder bike. Big tires. Thru axles. Threaded bottom brackets. SRAM S700 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset.
My first thought is to get another ti frame, because my current one has been a pleasant surprise. Then again, Speedway makes a nice carbon gravel bike that checks most, if not all of my boxes. There's a really nice Niner steel frame that looks interesting.... To be honest, I have no idea what I want or what I'm going to get (those two things rarely align).
...but I have a SRAM S700 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset.
Chances are I'm going to build this monstrousity up, ride it a few times, decide it isn't really my thing, and then sell it for a huge loss. I'll use the proceeds to partially fund another disaster.
Just because.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Another Dome Fail.

Another week, another missed opportunity to ride around in circles under a big inflatable tent.
Last week I showed up on New Year's Day with the expectation that they would not be open. However, since my coaching day with Mighty Mites was pushed back a couple hours, this was my only potential chance to ride the full cycling session this year. I was right, they were closed, and I spent a glorious 90 minutes on the trainer when I got home.
This week I showed up and saw a whole lot of bikes leaned up against the entrance, which I took as a good sign. It was a few minutes after 7:00 AM, but the guys on Sunday mornings have a casual regard for punctuality. I sat in my car and waited. Nobody showed to unlock the building. I checked the website for notices, but the schedule posted rarely reflects anything more than a conflicting jumble of start times for various activities. Joey walked over, looking well-insulated, and we chatted while we waited. I sat in my car with the window cracked, because I'm a wimp and I was already looking at a full day of standing out in the cold. No need to rush things.
Eventually my window of availability closed to the point that if I was going to do anything before skiing, I had to head home and get on the trainer. I grabbed my bike, racked it up, and played on Zwift for an hour. From what I understand, they showed up a few minutes later to open up.
No big deal. Demand for the time slot is there, as evidenced by all of the bikes leaning up against the entrance. As much as I enjoy the break in monotony once a week, the big thing is that enough people are using the opportunity to ensure it continues. Sooner or later the stars will align well enough for me to do a few laps before the snow melts and we return to pavement.
As long as somebody's using it. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Buckling Down.

I have a specific brand and model of shoe that fits me really well. Certain variants of this particular model within a certain range of model years fit me best. I periodically scan eBay and the interwebs for this shoe, and buy any new old stock or lightly used that I can find. When something works, I generally stick with it.
Eventually shoes wear out. Too many rides in the rain. Too many crashes. Too much walking across parking lots or down roads when mechanical issues leave it as the only viable option. Repeated stresses to all of the bits and parts that make them shoes in the first place.
I have a few grades of shoes. The really shiny ones are designated as my race-day shoes. Their cleats are new and they're stored in luxurious bags until I need them to ride in circles really slowly until the randomly-selected finish line, at which point I stand around in them and make excuses for not riding around in circles faster. 

After a few scuffs, a few too many rainy races, or the taint of too many shattered dreams lingering about their buckles, they are downgraded to training shoes. Since failure is my middle name, most of my shoes fit in this category. To fail at my high level of competence, you have to train, and you need designated shoes to fail in. They're still probably newer and shinier than most people's cycling shoes, probably because most people don't have multiple grades of road cycling shoes. 
The bottom rung, right before they are turned over to the local Hazardous Waste Department for incineration, is the lowly trainer shoe. Most of the shoes in this category are not the prettiest things. The carbon fiber (because, performance) soles are delaminating. The Velcro is starting to fray. The stitching is slowly rotting. Each and every component is a hair's-breadth away from a spectacular failure, but it's going to happen in my garage so the collateral damage will be mitigated somewhat.
My current pair of trainer shoes have a lot of miles on them. Recently the springs on the buckles finally rusted away, leaving the ratchet (and I do mean ratchet) levers to flop up and down with every pedal stroke. Flap-click flap-click flap-click... It got old really quickly, so I procured a replacement set from a local bike store. Felt kinda weird to put shiny new buckles on such a grotesque pile of synthetic garbage, but I guess I can swap them onto the next set of trainer shoes when these finally evaporate off of my feet.
After all, I have training to do.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Creepy Crawlies.

After my last bout with intestinal unpleasantness, my guts never quite returned to normal. They'd seem to swing widely from "well, that's unpleasant" to "that's unpleasant as well, just in a completely different way" and made all sorts of interesting noises that serenaded my wife to sleep every night.
My wife may have appreciated it, but it was getting a little old for me.
I'd never tried them before, but as I am a snake oil connoisseur if there is a remote chance that a given substance will make me pedal more betterer, I figured I would give probiotics a shot. They're in fancy bottles on the vitamin aisle, so they have to be good for you, right?
I did my customary dietary research on the subject, which is to say I glanced over a fluff piece Rodale rag reprint on the Bicycling site (probably titled "Flush Your Guts Like the Pros Do!") and then picked the bottle with the flashiest label with the biggest bug number on the shelf. From what I can tell, "pro" is short for "professional" and "biotics" means "bugs". If I'm going to have bugs crawling around in my guts, I want to make sure they're professionals. I want to have the best bugs. Spectacular bugs. Super-classy bugs. Trust me, you're going to love them, so much that you'll forget that Trump-speak references are starting to get a bit tired and will overlook my obvious use of them to fill blog space.

A day or so in, the endless "Thong Song" serenade from my intestines quieted. Things seemed to return to normal, which is to say they reverted to my usual state of "that doesn't sound all that healthy, but I guess if it works for you..." We'll see how I feel in 30 days, because that's how many pills I bought.
Professional bugs. I bet they're made of carbon.