Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

When the guys at Belgianwerkx updated their Facebook page with this picture of Team Extreme’s Brian Petted, resplendent in devil horns at last Saturday’s Halloween ’Cross race in Milwaukee, I was moved to poetry by some unseen and sinister hand ...
For the cyclist who goes to Hell
There is no pain or strife.
He had quite enough of both
In his unhappy life.
But greeting him in his new home
The Devil has no doubt
That he is just the sort of man
To dish some suff’ring out.
And soon he finds himself employed,
With demons on each side,
To punish all the curs’ed souls
Who never learned to ride.
The Devil always will make work
For idle hands to do.
It is best to be a cyclist
Before he gets to you!
And that is why for Satan’s team
We cyclists are well vetted.
Woe to you, my evil friends,
When you next see Brian Petted.
Inspired. And yet, only two “Likes” on Facebook. That’s my curse: too hip for the room.

Happy Halloween.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Here’s The Deal ...

I have a “new” vehicle, a 2003 Dodge Caravan that until today belonged to my wife’s parents. It replaces a 1999 Ford Taurus that had seen better days. I never thought I would own a minivan, much less be excited by the prospect, but I think it is going to be a very good fit for me.

Replacing the Taurus didn’t seem possible until a few days ago. It just wasn’t in the budget. But what a target of opportunity! My in-laws wanted to trade in the Caravan as part of their new car purchase but decided to sell it to me on very favorable terms after they saw how little the dealer was going to give them. Resale on minivans is brutal. In a lot of cases you’re looking at vehicles that were owned by the parents of small children. High mileage and hard wear are typical. Mine was a grocery-getter for a retired couple who kept up with the maintenance schedule. They bought it new and then used it far less than is typical for a vehicle of its age.

Working from home for the last three years, I haven’t really needed a car. The Taurus was our backup, a vehicle used only for short trips around town. Our Toyota RAV4 has been very reliable and my first choice—really my only option—when I have driven to a distant cycling event. But the RAV4 is not very big. With its removable second- and third-row seats, the Caravan has a ton of interior space. I imagine taking it to a race and simply sleeping inside it rather than paying for a hotel or setting up a tent. And it will accommodate bikes, extra wheels, tools, etcetera. No more living out of a footlocker; I will have my own mobile service course.

My employer gives me a lot of vacation time, and the job itself is something I can do wherever I find an Internet connection. Because of their work and school schedules, Maria and the kids have more restrictions. I expect the new vehicle to allow for trips that otherwise wouldn’t fit into the family’s plans—cycling trips in particular. WORS and WEMS weekends just got a lot easier, but I also can contemplate more distant venues. Will I head south for a few days of warm weather before the end of the year? Maybe. Will 2014 will be the year in which I finally do the Ride Across Indiana? How about a multi-day rail trail adventure or a spring training camp? There are lots of possibilities now.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Bike Lane For West Bend?

If you wanted to bring a bike lane to West Bend, where would you put it? Before you answer, let’s look at how current state statutes and municipal code handle bike traffic.

As a limited-access freeway, US Highway 45 is off-limits for cyclists, but all surface streets are yours to use … plus the Eisenbahn State Trail, plus miles of city park paths, plus 99 percent of the sidewalks. Why not 100 percent? Well, you may not be aware that the State of Wisconsin prohibits adults from riding bicycles on sidewalks unless the local municipality expressly permits such activity. And West Bend does, except in areas that are zoned B-2 Central Business District. That means no riding on the sidewalks in downtown West Bend or in downtown Barton. (For my out-of-town readers, Barton is a neighborhood on the city’s north side that was a separate village until 1961.) The reason for the prohibition is obvious: high pedestrian traffic. It’s simply not safe to have cyclists and pedestrians sharing the sidewalks in those areas. West Bend’s other commercial areas don’t have the same limitation, and even very competent cyclists would agree that the sidewalks along Washington Street, South Main Street, and Paradise Drive can be better options than the streets themselves.

I understand that in larger cities with bigger traffic problems, or in places where geography demands that everyone share the only road, protected bike lanes make sense. But I can’t think of anywhere in West Bend that needs one and I am entirely unsympathetic to the notion of signed bike routes, as I think it would send a message to cyclists and motorists alike that such routes are to be used to the exclusion of other options.

Establishing a bike infrastructure in West Bend wouldn’t be a practical matter; it would be a political one. So, then, where do you want to make your statement? Take the busiest thoroughfares out of the equation, because you’ll never get the City Council to fund bike lanes there. Think small. Think Vine Street:

This is where I would start. Paint a bike lane from 7th Avenue to Sylvan Way and you will connect McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, City Hall / Police Department, Ziegler Park and Decorah Elementary School. And the lane would meet an existing bike/pedestrian path at Sylvan Way, connecting the street to the Eisenbahn.

Again, as a practical matter there isn’t a good argument for a bike lane on Vine Street. It’s already wider than average and is flanked on both sides by quiet sidewalks. But as a visible and enforceable place to take a symbolic stand, I think it is the best option. Your best option.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Peak Colors

This was the view from the old Woodford Drive bridge late this afternoon. Not bad, but those pretty autumn colors won't last much longer. Get out and enjoy the scenery while you can.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cleared For Takeoff

This morning a new set of X-rays showed excellent progress. The doctor says my broken collarbone now appears unlikely to require surgery. I will go back for another set of X-rays on Dec. 3.

The doctor wants me to stay away from mountain biking, but otherwise I am free to ride. I will continue to train with the Dec. 7 state cyclocross championships in mind.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Watching, Riding, And Still Hoping

Grafton’s PumpkinCross would have been one of my highest priorities this year if not for the broken collarbone that has kept me out of competition since Sep. 8. On Saturday morning I cheered from the sidelines and wished I were able to participate. The crew from Belgianwerkx did a great job setting up the Bike Science Coaching-designed course, so different from previous editions of the race and so much to my liking as someone who can climb a little bit. All those ascents of the hill on my practice course at Royal Oaks Park would have been good preparation. Congratulations to Jeff Melcher (Team Pedal Moraine), Mike Bown (Belgianwerkx) and Patrick Brock (My Wife Inc.) for representing West Bend so well by winning their respective categories.

Melcher also won the singlespeed race today in Verona. I did this, counter-clockwise:

My ride was just 20 miles but that was all I wanted today. It wrapped up a return to training that covered 120 miles in 7 hours spread over 5 rides. This afternoon was sunny and, well, warm enough. I need to make peace with cooler temperatures now—and with legitimately cold temperatures soon—if I want to be ready for the state cyclocross championships on Dec. 7.

Today I had it better than the pros at Bpost Bank Trophy Cyclocross in Ronse, Belgium. Rain and high winds certainly affected their race and may have limited the online coverage. I watched the text updates and occasionally got to see a video clip of a highlight from a few minutes earlier, but there was no truly live video.

Paris—Tours was on NBC Sports Network this afternoon. It wasn’t truly live either; it was tape-delayed. But at least it was free of technical glitches and it actually began and ended on schedule. NBC Sports has had a really bad history of bumping its cycling coverage to accommodate other programming. And the network has taken a beating in online forums from disgruntled viewers, so it’s strange to me that NBC said nothing about today’s coverage on Facebook or Twitter. If I were in charge, I would waste no opportunity to call attention to the things the network does right.

Tomorrow a new round of X-rays will show how my collarbone is healing, but it still may be too soon to guess when I will be able to race again. I will be OK as long as I still can ride and work toward new goals. For example, my fifth straight 4,000-mile season is now just 333 miles away. Not too long ago, a 4,000-mile season would have been the goal; now it’s a consolation prize.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Commencing Countdown, Engines On

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.
Cheesehead Roubaix will return on Sunday, Apr. 27, 2014. That’s 200 days from today. Some of the details still need work, so keep watching this blog and I will release additional information as soon as I can.

The state cyclocross championships are just 60 days from today. There are many arguments against my participation—not the least of which is my broken collarbone—but right now I still can hope. This afternoon I did my first outdoor bike ride since Sep. 8. I am not fully healed and another crash could be really bad. I will stay away from technical terrain for as long as I can, but eventually I must work on my bike handling again. During today’s 90-minute ride I covered 23 miles on my cyclocross bike. It was one of those mixed-surface rides that I like so well:

Some asphalt, some gravel, some dirt, some boardwalk …
With today’s ride I reached 39,000 career miles. Coming into the season I really wanted to reach 40,000 and I was well on my way until an entire month was wiped out by injury. You don’t suppose a slim chance remains, do you? I still have unscheduled vacation to use before the end of the year, and those three cousins in Texas whose invitations always sound so appealing as the Wisconsin winter approaches …

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A 2014 WCBC Time Trial Series?

If I revive the Washington County Bicycle Club time trial series for 2014, then I may know already where the course will be. Last February I identified a course in the Town of Addison that would be great for TTs. I envisioned an event of 40 kilometers, the same distance as the state championships. At the time, I was thinking about a new date on the WCA or Wisport calendar, not about a club-level event.

Washington County doesn’t produce a lot of time trialists. But Washington County does produce multisport racers, and a lot of those triathletes/duathletes have shown an interest in the WCBC during the last couple of years. Group road rides don’t really serve their needs, but could we bring them into the club by offering a TT series? It’s worth a try. Forty kilometers isn’t just the state championship distance, it’s also the Olympic standard for triathlons. Some of the athletes in our area might appreciate an opportunity to practice that distance. But I also want to offer a 20-kilometer option—the standard for “sprint” triathlons—as I suspect most of our multisport athletes will face the shorter distance more often, if not exclusively.

I tried to find a second course on which the 20-kilometer TT could be held. Then I asked myself why I wanted to have separate dates and locations for the two distances. Why not do it all simultaneously? As it turns out, my original location can work for both.

Two laps of the blue course would be 20 km. Three laps of the red course would be 40 km. Obviously, you could do four laps of the blue course to get to 40 km but using both options would have some advantages. The most obvious is fewer laps, as I think most people would rather do three longer ones than four shorter ones … especially since I have decided to move the finish line to the top of a long climb instead of having it at the bottom.

Originally I placed the start/finish line at the intersection of Indian Drive and Deer Road. By moving the start/finish line to the intersection of Aurora Road and Cedar View Drive, a single race official could track all of the racers. Someone doing 20 km would start by going north on Aurora; someone doing 40 km would start by going west on Cedar View. Two riders could start simultaneously, one in each direction, and they would be unlikely to see each other thereafter. That’s good because without officials all along the course there is no way to prevent drafting. There’s also no way to cut the course short: the race official would ensure that the 40 km riders always make the left-hand turn on Cedar View. Getting all participants on course as quickly as possible is a good thing, but it’s critical to create and maintain separation. I cannot imagine anyone trying to cheat—riders will be competing only against the clock, after all—but why not remove the opportunity and also make the race easy to administer?

I can’t stress strongly enough that this TT series would be strictly against the clock. To put racers in direct competition with each other would violate the terms of the club’s insurance. As long as they race only to set and then to improve upon their own times, these TTs would not have to be insured separately as special events. The focus would be on fun, fitness, and preparation for sanctioned events.

I am not prepared to set the dates yet, but I think one TT per month from May through August would be ideal. These would be Saturday mornings on which no club road ride is scheduled. It’s pretty easy to predict when the club road rides will fall in 2014 but there are other factors to consider. I hope to see some of the WCA, Wisport, ABR and multisport calendars before setting the club TT dates.