Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What women want

As I steered my bike off the road and onto the MKT trail this morning, on my daily commute to work, I was struck with a fairly depressing thought that this would be the best part of my day.  It was all going to be downhill from the moment I arrived at my job and had to climb out of the saddle and park her for the day.  It's unfair really - to compare my day job to the actual process of riding to it.  Whereas one is permeated with the feelings of freedom and speed, the other is mired in minutiae and tedium.

As I pass and ride alongside other commuters each morning, I can't help but wonder how many of them are sharing my pain.  According to one 2008 study, 8.7% of people in Columbia report to at least occasionally ride to work or school in Columbia by bicycle. (Incidentally, this figure was up from the 2007 figure of 3.4%).   In 2008, the estimated population of Columbia was roughly 100,000.  Thus 8,700 individuals are estimated to get where they're going (at least part of the time) on a bike in COMO.  Now, in a recent survey, 4 out of 5 individuals (80%) in today's society do not have their dream job.  By my estimation, that means that just shy of 7,000 cycling commuters may be disgruntled just like me on their morning commute to work.  For whatever sick and twisted reason, I take pleasure in this fact.  I like knowing I'm not grumpy and alone on my morning commute.  It is perplexing to me, therefore, that so many people I pass in the morning look so damned happy and want to say 'hi'.  Yes - I love my morning ride as well, as I have indicated above.  But people, the research shows that 80% of you feel just like me: we are lemmings, only able to revel in the feeling of the wind in our fur for mere fleeting moments as we haul ass to the edge of the cliff where we inevitably and blindly fling ourselves into the gaping maw of our soul-crushing jobs every single morning.  Why, then, are you smiling at me?  Maybe I'm just not a morning lemming...

The North American disgruntled Brown Lemming (aka PooBah)

I'm also perplexed by why there aren't more cycling commuters in Missouri.  Some evidence suggests that as a state, Missouri is 7th from the bottom of the list of all states with respect to percentage of individuals commuting to work by bicycle.  Perhaps it's due to the average bike commuter's concern for the environment.  What I'm referring to is an op-ed piece appearing in the Toronto National Post yesterday penned by Mr. Terence Corcoran which describes how biking commuters are polluting the  environment and should therefore be taxed.

States Mr, Corcoran, "...drivers'...metabolisms are more or less flat-line.  They just sit there, burning up little energy personally but paying for the cost of their automobile's carbon footprint via taxes and fees.  Bike riders grinding up the same route burn up a lot more carbohydrates, which their bodies convert into carbon dioxide and exhale, adding to their carbon footprint.  The volumes are small, but it all adds up, and bicyclists don't pay."  Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a bona fide genius.

For the average cyclist to be able to exhale a comparable amount of carbon to what exits the exhaust system of a car in the form of carbon monoxide (not to mention the particulate matter, the sulfur dioxide and formaldehyde) would require that individual to have a lung capacity equal in volume to that of the Hindenburg.

Terence Corcoran

douche (can you see the resemblance?)

No, to answer the question of why there are not more bike commuters, we need not look any further than trying to understand what the average woman wants.  So says an article released in the October Scientific American, in which author Linda Baker contends that to get more bicyclists on the road, we must learn what women want.

"If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the deailed 'bikeability indexes' - just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female."

Ms. Baker makes the argument that women have a natural aversion to risk paired with perpetuating gender roles in child care and homemaking.

 Thus, female cyclists that commute, typically do so for more reasons than just getting to work.  They are taking children to school and making trips to the store more so than men.  These tasks, paired with their disenchantment with dangerous riding situations means that they don't want to ride their bikes on errands in or around traffic.  This article attempts to prove this fact by quoting the results of a study which tracked cyclists in Portland to compare the routes woman take to get to their points of destination versus men.  Here's what they found:

"The project, which used GPS positioning to record individual cycling trips in Portland, compared the shortest route with the path cyclists actually took to their destination....Women diverted from the shortest routes more often."

In addition to risk aversion, the other explanation of why women cyclists divert from the shortest possible routes to their destinations when compared to male cyclists is because they don't have penises and thus have no sense of direction.  At least that is what my father would say.  But I disagree.  I have a penis and yet I have absolutely no sense of direction.  I've been known to get lost in parking lots before.  So clearly this article is on to something.

The paper continues, "Women are considered an "indicator species" for bike friendly routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference."  In other words, bike paths along rivers, and lakes and converted railway lines (like our beloved MKT and KT trails) are beautiful and fine - but to truly enhance bike commuting, safe routes must have destinations of real utility and practicality like schools and stores - not just be aesthetically pleasing.

I will try to suppress the faint aroma of irony tomorrow morning when I ride my metaphorical trail to nowhere as I bike to work.  If you should see a lemming pedaling frantically down the MKT, do me a favor and look disgruntled.

Pedal on!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reader mail

I've been receiving quite a bit of mail lately.  For some inexplicable reason, several viewers have asked my opinion on cycling-related issues.  Initially, I shied away from responding to these questions as I hardly feel qualified.  But after much prodding, I have decided to do my best to offer some advice that I hope will be of some help.

Dear PooBah,
I am shopping for my first bicycle as an adult and stumbled upon the following posting on Craigslist for a bike that I really want. I would like to start bike commuting to work to help lose some serious weight.  Do you think this bike would work for me?

Pedal Pounder

Dear  Pounder,
Sweet ride.  Quick question - have you ever tried on a pair of old jeans that are a little too small for you and asked your significant other if they make your ass look fat?  This bike is that pair of jeans.  By riding this - you are juxtaposing your girth with the ultimate definition of 'skinny'.  In addition, I'm concerned that in riding this to work, essentially straddling a skeleton, you will have the appearance of having sex with pro racer Michael Rasmussen (aka The Chicken) doggy-style.  Keep looking.

Michael "the Chicken" Rasmussen formerly of Team Rabobank.

Dear PooBah,
My boyfriend and I are having some problems.  First - he refuses to help me around the house and seems incapable of doing any chores correctly.  For example - the other evening, I asked him to simply empty the dishwasher, and although he put the dishes away, he forgot to empty the silverware basket.  He also seems to purposely want to embarrass me.  When we go riding on the trail, he insists on riding this bike which always gets snide remarks from passers-by.  What is going on with him?
At Wits End

Dear Wits End,
I hate to have to break the news to you, but your boyfriend suffers from a rare disease known as forkophobia; a fear of all things having to do with forks.  Individuals suffering from this condition have been caught trying to eat spaghetti with spoons and have sadly been known to succumb to anxiety attacks upon coming to forks in the road.  The most famous individual who had this condition was the inventor of this:

There's only one thing you can do: baptism by fire.  My father once told me that his father had taught him how to swim when he was a small boy by throwing him straight into a deep, deep lake.  So tonight, after your boyfriend falls asleep, try duct taping a fork to his forehead.  Make sure to point the tines away from the eyes.  Good luck!

Dear PooBah
I love riding my bike to class every day, and am a staunch believer in bike safety, so just bought a brand new helmet.  But when I passed by some windows of a large building this morning and saw my reflection, I was horror-stricken by how hideous my new helmet looks on my head!  I cannot return it and spent so much on it, that I have to make it work.  I've been considering ways to dress it up somehow and was thinking of purchasing one of these:  What do you think?
Thank you!
Helmut Lang-uish

Dear Helmut,
My mother used to macrame cozies for every single appliance in the kitchen...the toaster, the blender, even the butter dish.  The shit really drove me crazy and seeing this video is bringing up some very bad memories as all I can think of when I see it are the words 'helmet cozy'.  That said, one of the problems with the purchase of a brand new helmet is the concern that if you wipe out and bounce your head off the pavement, you will scratch up the shiny finish on your melon-lid. This little head Snuggy should ensure that your helmet stays nice and protected from any such dings or scrapes. You seem like the kind of person to worry about such things.  So I say go for it.

Dear PooBah,
Our son is an exchange student in Helsinki.  Last week he hailed a bike taxi which resembled a giant disembodied vagina.  He actually rode inside of it to the store!  We're afraid of what the psychological ramifications of this might be.  Advice?

Bob and Judy Mulva

Dear Mulvas,
Wow...this gives new meaning to the term "studying abroad."  Bob, Judy...I hate to break this to you, but your son is in college in a European city where bikes fashioned like gigantic genitalia are standard fare. My guess is that this is not his first close encounter of the vaginal kind.  Just be glad that the worst thing that can come from this one is a little motion sickness.  I advise you to do the same thing your son did while riding on this VAG-tastic voyage - and follow the immortal words of one Steve Winwood: roll with it, baby.

Dear PooBah
Just wanted to let you know that I've not driven my car once in the past month!  I even moved a couch over to my kid's sorority room for her with my bike.  Hope my dedication inspires your gas-guzzling readers!

Zero Emissions 

Dear Zero-
Well done.  However, I'm a little concerned that the global-warming carbon you have avoided spilling into the environment has been offset by the cloud of smug that appears to be exiting from under your recumbent.  Further, when your daughter gets kicked out of the Tri Delts house next year for allowing the freshman 15 to turn into the sophmore 60, you should consider kicking her Cleopatra-ass off the cushions and have her run alongside instead....

Pedal on!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Floyd Landis Comes to Columbia, Lance Armstong calls Governor Nixon

Floyd Landis to speak at an Arthritis Benefit in Columbia on Nov. 14th.

Missouri is receiving a lot of attention from the pro peloton.  First is this recent announcement from the University of Missouri that Floyd Landis will be presenting a keynote address as part of an Arthritis Benefit hosted by the University's Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory.

Here are the details:  The Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory's 2009 Arthritis Benefit will be held at 6PM on Saturday, November 14th at the Orr Street Gallery.  This benefit is a fundraiser to support the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis in people and animals.  The event will feature a silent auction, dinner and keynote address by professional cyclist Floyd Landis.  Guests pay a donation of $250 per person to attend.  Proceeds go directly to support arthritis research at MU's Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory.  To attend, please contact Gina at

Landis, who races for UCI Continental team OUCH Pro Cycling Team, suffered a fractured hip in January 2003.  It was repaired successfully, but over time, his femoral head became necrotic, resulting in collapse of the bone that makes up the ball of the ball and socket hip joint.  With the loss of underlying bone came the eventual diagnosis of severe advanced osteoarthritis.  After riding through the pain and winning the Tour of California and Tour de France in 2006, he underwent a hip resurfacing procedure.  Having served a two year ban from the sport for allegedly testing positive for synthetic testosterone during the Tour de France, Landis is now back in the saddle again to see if he can overcome the ghosts of the past and become the first major professional cyclist to race successfully on an artifical hip.

I contacted the folks at the University's Ortho Lab and they confirmed all the details above and provided me with the X-rays that Landis' people sent them:

Maybe like all fans of professional cycling, I was devastated when the news was released that Floyd's testosterone levels were abnormally elevated during Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France.  That stage was the single-most amazing day of professional cycling that I had ever witnessed, with him breaking free on an all-day solo ride to set himself up to recapture the yellow jersey which he had previously conceded while suffering a bonk of epic proportions the day prior.  After he was stripped of the maillot jaune and suspended from cycling, his court case went public.  I poured over the court proceedings, voraciously read the counter-arguments and passed along the emailed powerpoint presentation put together in his defense that had been sent to me by other fans, which included all the lab errors made while assessing his samples.  Despite his arguments, he lost the Tour de France title and lost his job for two years.  Did he do it?  Did he put a testosterone patch on after Stage 16 when he bonked so terribly that he barely limped up the final climb?  In the end, it didn't matter.  He served his time and I found that I still liked the guy. 

Last year while in Italy for work, I was speaking with some Italian friends and asked them how the Italian public regards Marco Pantani (Il Pirata), famed cyclist who was suspected and convicted of doping repeatedly late in his career. 

"We love him!" my friend Carlo told me.  He continued, "If Lance Armstrong were found to be guilty of  doping, the Americans would never forgive him.  But we are a Catholic country.  Our very nation thrives on the belief of forgiveness and the chance for redemption."  Unfortunately, Pantani died on Valentines day, 2004, from a suspected overdose of cocaine and a pre-existing diagnosis of clinical depression.  Even after repeated and multiple drug allegations, Pantani was so beloved in his country, that La Gazzetta dello Sport simply wrote "He's gone" to communicate that one of Italy's true legends had died.

I, for one, am looking forward to hearing Mr. Landis speak and think the guy has probably got a lot to say. 

Lance Armstrong calls Governor Nixon about the Tour of Missouri 2010.

Looks like our state is attracting a lot of attention lately.  LA himself announced this on Twitter at 3:27 PM on Sept. 25th. 

Other sources have confirmed that the conversation centered on the Tour of Missouri and its uncertain future.  LA expressed hope that the race would continue with the financial help from more corporate sponsors.

Big props for LA in sticking up for Missouri on this one.  On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan and several other key Democrats sent a letter to Governor Nixon to urge him to continue to fund the Tour of Missouri stating that the "$1.5 million annual subsidy of the race is a wise tourism investment."  Governor Nixon is as of yet, still undecided on whether he will approve funding for the Tour in 2010.

So let's do some math.  In 2008, the State of Missouri spent $1.5 million on the Tour of Missouri.  What was the return?

As detailed in the official 2008 event recap document, the state made $29.8 million dollars, nearly a 30-to-1 return.  Not a bad investment, eh Governor Nixon?

Pedal on!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Autumn cycling in COMO, Part I

Fall has finally arrived and brought with it a flurry of activity around COMO. The undergrads are back in full force, hording the sidewalks with their cheap Huffys, pissing people off and prompting comments in the Tribune.

This rant was published in the September 2nd edition of the Trib.  In it, Mary and Bill are concerned that while walking on the sidewalk, they cannot "be certain not to unexpectedly swerve sideways and collide with [a cyclist] to [their] certain injury, whether the bicyclist is injured or not."  Yes of course, cyclists should not be on the sidewalk in the first place. However this editorial begs the larger question of why poor Mary and Bill are sidewinding so much?  I wonder if they are having these recurrent sidewalk run-ins outside Booches?

I'm sure many of you have noticed that no article or editorial in the Tribune or Missourian can elicit responses and comments like a cycling-related article.  Take this recent posting directed toward "new cyclists" and how they should safely turn at an intersection.

In this short piece, the author, Robert "Spokes Man" Johnson describes the confusion that is apparently paralyzing the new cyclist as they approach an intersection with the intention of turning right.  He mentions that "what irritates most drivers is the erratic behavior by bicyclists who reach a busy intersection and have no idea how to handle it."  While I agree that this is a source of irritation for motorists, I tend to think that what irritates drivers most regarding cyclists is the general concept of spandex.  A private theory of mine, I refer to this as Spandex Rage.

Motorists are not the only ones incensed by the sight of spandex.  Akin to cannibalism common to many species, spandex rage seems to have similarly invaded the inner sanctum of cycling culture as documented by this recent post on the Portland Bike Forum - the newsletter of the American cycling Mecca.

".....spandex looks like shit no matter how your [sic] built. I dont really feel like having my package on display if i want to stop for a beer along my ride. I like to use my bike to go places, places where maybe there are single women, and i like to look presentable when i get there (being a single guy). Unlike you, I think that showing off the package upon first meeting a woman is tacky. If I am up by myself in the hills i dont care what I look like, but wearing spandex in public is uncivilized." 

I'm not sure showing your package back up in the hills is a good idea either.

Back to the Trib article though.  Not only does this informative piece  expound on how to handle turning right in a tricky intersection, "Spokes Man" also provides a handy diagram:

Please note that in Option 2 (the incorrect option)  the cyclist has subjected himself to the dreaded "right hook".  This right hook is NOT to be confused with the other cycling right hook which was probably best demonstrated during the 1995 Vuelta:

True to form, this Right Hook article elicited a wide variety of responses including this one:

In this revealing response we can learn quite a bit about Ms. Damolo.  Not only did she "almost hook a guy last year on 6th street" but also is quite smitten with Mr. Freak of Nature Guy.  Apparently she was impressed by how he was "riding his bicycle - fast with no hands (pant pant), obviously showing off for this middle aged woman!  Ha Ha, I wanted to stop and tell him how sweet he looked."  A couple words of caution: first for Ms. Damolo - be careful of hooking guys around 6th street.  I have seen the fuzz lurking around this corner of town and think they might be cracking down on this kind of unsavory behavior.  And to Mr. Freak of Nature Guy:  let's get those paws on the flop and chops - OK?  I know you like making middle aged women pant - but safety first.

Not only has fall brought out some controversial sidewalk riding and hooking, but also a cornucopia of fashion mags displaying the season's latest trends.  Within many a glossy-paged PDF, one can find how the bicycle has recently become a fashion accessory.  Take this layout in Dutch magazine JFK.

I'm quite concerned that no amount of sweet fixie inclusion in these photos is going to rescue this Dutch-boy from Tool-town.

From New York based shop Dave's Quality Meats, comes a whole new fall clothing line with this image headlining the novel digs.

I'm certainly no ad-man, but contrary to the last example, I think more fixies might enhance and salvage DQM's fall fashion mag, as the majority of the remaining photos look like this:

The message here is clear, however.  More important than your fixed gear bike, or your skateboard, the true key to being a hipster is to appear vacant and confused.

Different from the aforementioned pseudo-cycling-centric installments, is the addition of a new line from a true cyclist clothing line: Hincapie.  As part of the men's Hincapie Commute Collection comes the G-coat wool jacket, tagged as "casual wool style for the street."

Certain to keep you warm on that chilly autumn morning commute, it is also available in red and would come in handy should you be planning a coup d'etat of France.

Aside from the warmth and sheer dapperness of this coat, I think it possesses other advantages which have been overlooked.   Wearing this should make the rider tremendously more visible while either speeding down the sidewalk or blowing through that right turn!  And think of the hooking potential. With the short waist, you are guaranteed maximum package exposure in your spandex, whether you are out to impress the ladies, or riding back up in them thar hills!

Pedal on!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cycling Ink

In August, I read an article by Bike Snob NYC in Outside Magazine titled The Wildest Mountain-Bike Race on Earth which possessed the tag line, "Don't win if you don't want the tattoo."  Of course he was describing the Single Speed World Championships (SSWC).  Part masquerade, part drunk-fest, part serious mountain bike race, every year the winner of the event is awarded with not a jersey or trophy, but a mandatory tattoo.  While perusing, I was reminded of BSNYC's article when I saw a photo of this year's women's winner, Heather Irmiger, receiving her award last weekend in Durango.

There's something about injecting ink under the skin that raises, if not one's cycling prowess, certainly one's dedication, to a higher level.  Or at least it demonstrates that along with quad cramps, razor burn and searing taint pain, the average cyclist has a strange relationship with pain.  Obviously, some choose to take this to an intense level, like profession cyclist David Clinger.

In his defense, Clinger admits to being pretty high on cocaine when he stepped into the parlor and attempted to channel a Maori chief through his tattoos.  He's subsequently undergoing removal procedures.

In 2006, racer Josh Horowitz chronicled his own inking by fellow racer and 2006 Elite National Crit Champion, Kayle LeoGrande.  Josh had a hebrew passage scrawled around his right arm which reads "This too shall pass."  Does anyone else smell the faint aroma of irony?

Following this lead, one Portland native has decided to turn his body into a travelogue of chainring tattoos, acquiring a unique addition to mark each new place he visits.  Remarkable by midwestern standards, I'm guessing inked chainrings all over your body is standard fare for Portland?

I'm not sure, but I think this guy might also have a coincidental case of ringworm causing an usual non-toothed red chainring close to his armpit.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Missouri Cycling blog if I didn't post at least one Missouri cycling tattoo.  This beauty is owned by one Paul Denney of Queen City Cycles in Springfield, MO.

This is definitely my favorite, though.  Nothing says "I'm hardcore" like having multiple inked cyclists lifting their carbon steeds to the gods while emerging from your ass crack.

At least Clinger can blame his masterpiece on drugs.

Pedal on.


As I sat through some lectures at a conference I had to attend last week, I caught myself glancing around the room, mired in boredom.  I was struck by the number of attendees who were looking down into their hands, where the mobile devices of their choice lay, rapidly dragging or drumming their fingers on their respective screens.  Mostly, this constituted iPhones.  A plethora of shiny, black-screened, app-laden, Apple turds.

With this in mind, I thought I would look to see if any cycling-specific apps were available for the iPhone.  Thus, I submit for your review the results of my research.  We'll start with this little gem.

This is a helmet mounted iPhone running a GPS app connected to an eyepiece which goes in front of the right eye and displays a map of where the cyclist is riding, in addition to displaying incoming Twitter Tweets from friends.  Sweet.  As if navigating a traffic-congested busy street isn't enough of an obstacle course, let's try it with one eye tied behind your back.  (Full apologies to all one-eyed cyclists and cyclopians out there).  You can read more about it here.

Perhaps this is an elaborate way for cyclists to participate in the recent pirate fixation that has a grip on our culture.  If that is the case, I guess I would rather wear an old-fashioned eye patch.  Let me digress for a moment more:  I have no sense of direction.  This has been a constant source of irritation for me my entire life.  I’ve been lost more times than I care to remember, and it can be maddening, especially when it happens right here in COMO.  But I would rather be lost than suffer the indignity of wearing an iPhone on my head.

Yet another iPhone app now available and marketed for cyclists is the EveryTrail Bike Computer which calculates your average and max speeds, as well as the elapsed time ridden and an odometer all on a large screen seen here:

Unfortunately, there are currently no commercially available bike mounts for an iPhone (although I'm sure 30 different models are in the works), thus this handy app must be used like this:

Whereas the previous device takes one eye away from the cyclist, this little piece of techno heaven occupies one hand and both eyes.  Brilliant.  Take note for a minute that the genius who is one-handing this particular iPhone has covered 0.9 miles averaging 11.9 miles an hour and is currently riding perpendicularly across a road (which will henceforth be referred to as "squirreling").  Good luck, Rocky.  I hope that iPhone also has an app that dials 911 for you when it senses your head has bounced off the grill of a pick-up.  And how about another app which tells you to try using those things under your feet called pedals so you can actually generate a speed faster than what my granny could do on her Rascal.

As Vince "ShamWOW" Shlomi would say, "But wait, THERE'S MORE!"

The following is an absurd iPhone trio of cycling apps described here:

1) Cyclemeter:  An app which detects your speed by the audible sound of your wheel revolving.  You may be wondering,  "How can my iPhone detect this sound?"  Read the directions yourself:

"CycleMeter uses sound. Put a small plastic tag on one spoke so it hits the fork on every revolution. Then run the cable of your earbuds down the fork and secure the microphone next to this point. The tick, tick, tick of the plastic tab is picked up and the rest is done in software."

I tend to think the slang adjective "ghetto" used to describe a hack-jobbed, jury-rigged, Rube Goldberg contraption is overused.  But it seems to suit this impending debacle nicely.

2) BrakeLights:  For this, you duct tape your iPhone to your ass (or somehow secure it to your backside) and when the device's accelerometer detects you are slowing, a red light glows on the screen like this:

3) Bicycle Back Safety Flashlight:  As if the above red light wasn't douchey enough, with this app you can program in a word to appear on the screen.  The suggested word is "STOP"  however I suppose you could also have the words "I'M A TOOL" appear.  Again - the iPhone must be duct taped to your ass.

In case you were wondering, no, I don't have an iPhone.  I'm supposed to pick one up this week.

Pedal on.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to COMO CYCO

Yes, I finally caved to probably well-deserved peer pressure to give up the moniker of "Bike Snob COMO." It was fun to pretend to be an acutal bike snob, but let's face it - I didn't have the chops or expertise to match the wit of our beloved BSNYC. And as he grows in popularity with forthcoming book releases, and articles in Bicycling and Outside Magazine, I continued to grow uneasy that what started off as an intended clever knock-off was becoming a cheap imitation. Who wants to listen to a half-assed cover band if you can go to the real show?

So here is the all-new format. The content will be much the same - but I'll be trying to cover the COMO cycling scene in more detail to keep everybody posted on the goings on about town. We are lucky to have such a rich diversity of cycling subcultures here in COMO - and my aim is to celebrate them all. Hope you'll come along for the ride. It'll be a lot more fun if you join me. Send me your stories, photos, bitches and gripes and I'll do my best to make sense of them all and offer them up to the great cycling Gods in the sky.

Let's ride!