A Letter from Your Bike

Dear Rider,

I hope this letter finds you doing well. I’ve enjoyed our last few rides, but I have a few things I’d like to share with you. I don’t mean to be a nag. I try to stay as quiet as possible, unless you don’t lubricate my chain like you’re suppose to do. We have to work together to be solid team. I can only do so much; as you know, I am limited to what you can do. But here are a few things that might help us.

First, you can change out my bottle cages for ones that are 10 grams lighter and replace my crank set from standard to mid to compact and put on a lighter wheel set, but have you ever weighed yourself? I mean I can weight 14.6 pounds at the bike shop, while everybody picks me up and talks about how light I am, but I bet they won’t pick me up with you strapped to my saddle. My word of encouragement is to push away from the table a bit quicker, so that we can be.

I am aware that probably stung a little bit, but like I said we are a team and need to work together as one. I would also like to bring your attention to gears. This is an important part of my ability and what I can give to you. That crunching sound that you hear when you are applying a great amount of force to my pedals while shifting gears is not good. Prepare for shifts. Don’t panic and shift. There is a big difference, and it will help you ride more efficient.

Now, if you went as long without a bath as I do, people would find it hard to be around you. I have a lot moving parts that need lubrication. Those two things attract dirt, not only to my moving parts but also my frame. You seriously can’t expect me to operate at full capacity when day after day you just roll me out and drop some lube on my chain and off we go. I need a little TLC. I promise to give it right back to you.

Well, I’ve taken enough of your time. I do want to thank you for keeping me in the spare bedroom, even though your partner doesn’t completely love the idea. I feel a bit of jealousy between me and her. I know we spend a lot of time together, but I don’t think I can provide what she can give you . . . yeah, the spare bedroom is a bit close to your bedroom. Oh, and before I let you go, is it possible to move the mountain bike to the other side of the room, since it is the off season for him? He’s a bit rough and bossy. His comments about me being prissy aren’t welcomed. Thanks in advance. I’ll see you this afternoon.

Bike #1

(the backup bike says hey)

Helping Greg

Beginning to write this, I have some trepidation. I have written before that there is a very, very fine line between promoting an idea and self promotion. I loathe self promotion. But what happened this past Wednesday afternoon is something that I can’t get off my mind. It needs to happen more in my life and should be more prevalent in all our lives.

The clouds were swirling and pulling in various directions, grey and threatening. A few people in the normal group ride on Wednesday afternoon had already made a proclamation that come hell or high water they were riding. At the start time, I was alone. Wind was picking up. Yep, it was gonna storm. I had chosen my back-up bike, knowing the weather conditions, so I was set.

“Hey, are you here to ride with that group?”

I looked around and found a young kid, probably around 17 years old, on a very old Bianchi that had probably seen its better days. Weird thing was that I recognized the bike from hanging out in my favorite bike shop and the owner taping the bars. He said he felt sorry for the kid and knew that he didn’t have much, so he was taping his bars and trying to get the bike rideable. Mike often does work like that pro bono. Now, looking at the kid straddling this bike I kind of understood. He had a very cheap helmet that was too big for him and wearing some old board shorts and a white tank top.

“Yep,” I replied, “but I don’t think anyone is gonna show.”

The kid looked at the sky. “People are too soft these days.”

I chuckled inside. For being a kid, he was dead on. Thomas Paine talked about “sunshine patriots.” It works the same in cycling. Everyone is on board if everything is just right, and there are enough people to do most of the pulling. Throw in some water falling from the sky and a bit of wind, and you have two people show up to the group ride.

“Can I ride with you?”

I knew it was coming. I cringed. That would suck. What would be the point in riding? There was no way he could keep up to allow me to get in good work. So I said what anyone would say, forcing myself to smile.

“Of course you can.”

Off we went. The kid could talk. Holy smokes, could he ever talk. I was doing the normal things at the start, checking my computer, adjusting myself on the saddle, trying to warm the legs, etc. I learned that kid’s name was Greg. He was a nice young man. I began to feel like an ass for even thinking the way I was thinking. Heck, I was the one who had written blogs before about helping others, and here I am concerned about me. For an instant, I had become one of those: a bike elitist. In my book, they are the textbook definition of self promotion. That why it thrills me to no ends to dominate their pompous rear ends in a sprint or a climb. But I digress . . . sort of.

Usually for the first ten miles or so, I’m just warming up and getting things set. It was during this time that I noticed Greg’s legs doing about 150 RPM to stay even with me. I suggested that he stay in the big ring for now and just pedal it out. He said that his legs were already starting to burn, and I again told him that his cadence was way high and to switch over. He asked the obvious: how? After I told him and a series of tries, his front derailleur would not move the chain over. Bless his heart. This would be a long ride.

“Question.” Gregg said through heavy gasps of breath. “Do you think if I work really hard that I could might ride in the Tour de France, one day?”

He asked me this at the exact moment that I was getting a quick sip. It took everything I had not to cough, as I sucked most of the water into my windpipe. Slowly, I placed my bottle back in the cage and thought about my answer. In no way would I ever shoot down a kid’s dream; after all I am a teacher and am constantly telling students to reach and dream HUGE.

“Well, Greg, I’m not gonna lie. You absolutely can, but it will take a huge amount of time and dedication on your part. Most of your life will be spent on a bicycle, eating correctly, and honing your craft.”

Greg gave me a quick glance. “Well, one  . . . thing . . . is . . . for . . . sure: I . . . got . . . to . . . get  . . . my . . . legs . . . to . . . quit . . . burning . . . so much.” Then he smiled.

Greg and I rode for another 20 miles. My heart rate hadn’t hit 130 yet. The rain was beginning to fall, and the wind picking up. Drafting became a lesson I taught him, and he seemed to enjoy riding behind me. He continued to ask questions about clipping his feet to the pedals and getting real cycling clothes and why my bike sounded like a robot when I shifted gears. Somewhere between his 26th and 34th question, I heard his chain come off. I turned around. By the time I did, Greg had his bike flipped over and resting on the saddle and handlebars.

“Do we need to take the chain apart? I have no clue how to do this. Can you do it?”

I continued to pedal around my young padawan. “First, no YOU don’t have take the chain apart. Second, no I will not do it for you. Just grab the chain pull it toward your chain rings. The hanger on the rear derailleur will allow you room to place the chain on the ring and then just turn the pedals.”

Greg popped the chain on, flipped the bike, and jumped on. “Cool.”

He was eager to learn. “Just think, Greg. If you work hard enough like you said you wanted to do, you’ll have a crew to do most of your mechanic stuff.”

“I look forward to that!”

The rest of the ride went by without anymore mechanicals. The rain began to come down in buckets, and thunder rolled through the sky, vibrating my bike. On the last section of ten miles or so, I told Gregg that we were almost back to the bike path and asked him if he was okay to make it back. He confirmed that he knew where he was and thanked me for helping him and apologized for “screwing up my ride.” I assured him that he in no way did that and I hoped to on day soon ride again with a future Tour rider. He flashed a big smile. It was then that I let Greg know that I was gonna ride kind of fast on the last ten miles to bump up my heart rate and get a little training in on something I needed to work on. He asked if I minded if he tried to keep up. He’s such a great kid.

I rode on and glanced back one time, a little bit down the rode, and Greg saluted me from a distance and pumped his fist in the air. I didn’t see him after that. I made it back to my truck, loaded everything, and immediately called Mike on his cell phone. I asked him about Greg and getting in touch with him. Mike said that he didn’t know and that, as far as he knew, Greg didn’t have a cell phone. I told Mike about Greg’s front derailleur. Mike said that when Greg wandered in again he would get a way for me to contact him.

We all need to help a Greg and remember the joy of riding and helping others.

$8,000,000,000,000 a Year

Very aware that this is an international blog, I hate to air my country’s dirty laundry for all to see, but the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. Yes, property values have leveled off and stock market numbers are showing positive signs, but why? The United States is not exporting more and industrial creation is about the same or actually a little below average; in fact, most of our country’s new industry is from overseas companies that we wave tax fees so that they’ll come. So what is the answer? Borrowing. I’m not currently in the woods building a societal-breakdown bunker, wearing a tinfoil hat, or stockpiling candles. But here are some very sobering facts:

  • According to the U.S Census Bureau, 49% of all U.S. citizens collect some form of monetary benefit from the government . . . this does NOT include illegal immigrants who receive benefits.
  • 50 years ago, 1 out of 50 Americans were receiving Medicaid. Now, more than 70 million are receiving those benefits and Obamacare is projected to add 16 million more.
  • Going farther back, 70 years ago, there were 45 workers for every retiree on Social Security. Today, there are 2.5 workers for every recipient.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau reports, in 2014, that more than 50% of all Americans bring home less than $30,000 a year in wages.
  • The rate of home ownership has declined for the 7th year in a row, the lowest in 20 years.
  • In the past six years, more U.S. businesses have closed than have opened. This has never happened in U.S. history prior to 2008.

JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon just sent out a 39-page letter on April 8th, 2015 to shareholders and wrote in part, “Recent activity in the Treasury markets and the currency markets is a warning shot across the bow. Treasury markets were quite turbulent in the spring and summer of 2013, when the Fed hinted that it soon would slow its asset purchases. Then on one day, October 15, 2014, Treasury securities moved 40 basis points, statistically 7 to 8 standard deviations – an unprecedented move – an event that is supposed to happen only once in every 3 billion years or so (the Treasury market has only been around for 200 years or so – of course, this should make you question statistics to begin with). Some currencies recently have had similar large moves. Importantly, Treasuries and major country currencies are considered the most standardized and liquid financial instruments in the world. Today, some banks are starting to charge customers for deposits, a reflection on the insane effects of negative interest rates.

The United States jumped away from the Gold Standard decades ago, so the idea of monetary value of a dollar is based on faith; this so that government could print money out of thin air without backing. The trillions in newly printed money has and is causing a catastrophic devaluing of the dollar. Since 2003, the value of the dollar has plummeted as much as 20%. Even recently, it was reported that Warren Buffett suddenly moved more than 70% of his government-backed investments into foreign currency. He just woke up one morning and felt like doing that? I don’t think so.

To put this in a little bit of a perspective of how bad the debt and dollar situation is, in 1974 the United States was $484 billion in debt; that means it took 200 years to get into that much debt. Since 1974, a mere 20 years later, we have amassed $16 trillion in debt.  How come? Off the gold standard and printing at will. We have come to the point where we are borrowing $10 million for every minute of the day. Don’t live in the United States? Doesn’t affect you? Just think. The U.S. makes up more than a third of ALL the debt on the entire planet! Europe was and is still freaking out about Greece’s problems. David Walker, the U.S. comptroller until 2008 said the debt number is more like $70 trillion because the United States does not (for whatever reason) figure in Social Security, Medicare, employee pensions, and other governmental liabilities to which the government is already committed.

This post is not to panic anyone. It is always better to be prepared than scared. Don’t listen to anyone who sets a date of a financial collapse. There is absolutely no way to predict an event like that. It could happen in 10 days or 10 months from now. Keep your head up. Look at the market and what the “big money” guys are doing with their investments. There are several options to consider when preparing for when this will happen . . . there is no IF. Research those options and find out what is best for you and your family. No set of things is the right thing for everyone. What would you do tomorrow if everything in your account was frozen

“All truth passes through three stages:

First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

— Arthur Schopenhauer

Allow Me One More Swipe at the Dead Horse

Goofy article

Sometimes I think I get something out of my system and then someone has to say something else. As most of the known world knows, Jordan Spieth won the Masters. Now, the above article pops up on the Internet today. Okay, take just a second to read it. Finished?

First, if Yahoo Sports is this desperate for contributors, where do I sign up for that job? The first article that I would submit would be a comparison article on Bobby Jones and Adam Scott. Who is the better golfer? Adam Scott hits it farther. Adam Scott has his pro card. Adam Scott made more money. Adam Scott is better; after all, Bobby Jones’s best result in the Masters was T13, and Adam Scott won it. Yeah, I know Bobby Jones won 13 majors, but we’ve got to stay focused on the Masters. Yeah, I know Bobby Jones played with real woods with wooden shafts, but I don’t think that factors in. If that article is accepted, I think I’ll write another article comparing apples to Buicks. Apples taste so much better.

After the Masters concluded on Sunday, I was very happy for Jordan Spieth. A very mature young man who understands the word humility and enjoys having fun. I know that television and other forms of media are all about ratings. Continuing the talk about Tiger is getting very old very fast. Phil Mickelson played a wonderful tournament. He’s a gentleman and great golfer, but I guess, in the eyes of the media attention, nice guys don’t draw the ratings. The PGA seemingly wants a guy who always complains of injury constantly, the sun being in his eyes, or screaming G-D or M-F when his drive doesn’t hit the fairway (which is often). The LPGA made a different attempt at ratings and failed miserably with Michelle Wie who finally pulled off a major in 2014, after much of the hype about her had died down.

I am not ignorant to the fact that Tiger played tremendously good golf at one point, but so have many throughout the decades. Since 2009, Tiger’s flame hasn’t reignited . . . even with the gallons and gallons of fuel the media has tossed on it. The effort by Jordan Spieth on Sunday, or for that matter the entire tournament, should be a topic of discussion for a long time, just in light of the records broken and a champion that restates the words Gentlemen’s Game.

Like a Meteor Plummeting to the Earth

His fall from grace was sudden and shocking. His throne was the golfing world. He ruled. He dominated. He intimidated. As the years trickled steadily by and the Masters Championship rolls around, we are again reminded of the his heinous. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I hold a grudge against any professional athlete who make a mistake. I have a HUGE problem with arrogance. The incident of November 28, 2009 changed it all and left many with their mouths hanging open. What has happened since then? Nothing. Tiger Woods is still a pompous arse.

Contrition is something that is very endearing to humans. If someone is truly repentant after making a mistake, it is highly probable that most of would forgive and move on. It’s the Lances and the Tigers that I find hard to understand. Lance still wants the spotlight; after all, any attention is good attention. Tiger states that it’s not being a good Buddhist that has caused him problems. Well, I got news for Tiger: Your karma is still jacked up.

Now that I am sitting comfortably after a hard ride on my bike and catching up on the Masters, I cannot help but wonder why so many commentators schmooze up to Tiger. The guy can be 12 shots off of the lead, and a commentator will say, after Tiger chips off of the green edge to within 5 feet of the hole, “Oooh, he’s still got it!” What? Even with everything going on with the setting of a course record and Jordan Spieth blasting the field, CBS Sports website is still all over what Tiger is doing . . . Keep up with Tiger’s scorecard, Tiger is back in form, Tiger used the restroom twice this morning! For the love of all things holy, he’s still the arrogant jerk who still spews out a tirade of profanity every time he shanks one and then acts like a two-year old, pouting and blaming the snap of someone’s camera.

Maybe one day, before it’s too late, Tiger will realize that humility is something he should try. He smiles when times are good and is pleasant when he’s played a good round, but is downright nasty if things don’t go his way. I’m not a rabid golf fan, nor do I care if Tiger breaks Jack’s record (won’t happen by the way). I would just like some of the self appointed demi-gods in sports to actually be repentant and humble and remember that they are actually human.

The Lack of a Good Support Vehicle

Most would automatically assume from the title that this is another discussion about cycling. It is not. As a teacher in the public school system for over 14 years, one thing is drastically obvious when it comes to the education of students: the rapidly diminishing amount of educational support at home. Just like the best cyclist in the world, with all of the tools he needs to accomplish his goals, he still needs support to give nourishment or a word of encouragement or direction or tell him to get his head out of his rear end and do his job.

As the world picks up the pace day-by-day and parents struggle to provide or are just all out selfish with their time, it becomes blatantly obvious that future generation of students are falling further and further behind. Many point to the educational system, and yes there are problems that can be fixed there too. Standarized testing has become the norm and takes weeks out of the learning process to test students on what the teacher is already testing them on in the first place; all of that to take a look at data, eyeing bar graphs and charts of demographics and other superficial drivel. Testing data that cannot show a kindergartner having to prepare supper for himself or a middle school child taking care of her four siblings. Data also does not show abuse or hunger.

As the years slip by, I become more and more amazed at the lack of student motivation and thirst for knowledge. Most students’ only goal is to exist. Many of my colleagues over time have only waved a hand in the air and mumbled something about this generation. In my opinion, we’ve been on a downward trajectory for a while. Students could not care less. It is most shocking to discover what students have never been introduced to. Here are a couple of examples: Recently, a middle school child conveyed to me that he had no concept of what the Eiffel Tower is or even where it is possibly located. After giving the class an assignment, I had an eleventh grade student tell me that her computer at home was old, so it is a possibility that it won’t have Roman numerals on the keyboard! What?

All of us have experience the wide-eyed amazement of a child and the questions that go along with everything he sees. From birth to around six years old, a child’s mind is constantly absorbing everything that the senses can feed into it. I remember both of children asking everything from the color of the sky to why we don’t come from eggs. It was during those times that my wife and I did everything in our power to answer the questions and return more questions to keep them thinking. If the question had something to do with thunder, we didn’t reply with things like angels stomping their feet or God bowling. We discussed warm and cold air masses. Too much? Over their head? Good. It creates thirst for learning. Not that we have all of the answers, but my son is now a software engineer and my daughter is burning it up in college.

As parents, the last thing we need to say is that is teacher’s job to teach the children everything they need to know. In the years past, it was job of the whole community to teach to be strong intellectually and socially. The school was a reinforcement of values and curriculum. Take a look at this test from 1895 8th grade exit exam and see how well you could have performed. Remember. This is an exam for an 8th grader. We have slid so far.

Who is the best . . . at the moment? Who will prove to be the best by year’s end?

In the first part of the classics, names begin popping up all over the place. Speculations on this rider being a “dark horse” or another rider failing to meet expectations begins to surface. Here is a list of the few of the top names (not in any particular order) and then what maybe the chink in the armor. Who do YOU think is the best? If he’s not on the list, throw a name into the pot.

  • Alexander Kristoff, a sprinter/classics dude, Team Katusha
  • Niki Terpstra, classics standout, Team Etixx-Quick Step
  • Peter Sagan, puncheur/sprinter/classics specialist, Team Tinkoff-Saxo
  • Richie Porte, all around (sprint?), Team Sky
  • Geraint Thomas, all around, Team Sky
  • Nairo Quintana Rojas, climber, Team Movistar
  • John Degenkolb, sprinter/classics guy, Team Giant-Alpecin
  • Rigoberto Uran, all around, Team Etixx-Quick Step
  • Sylvain Chavanel, all around, Team I AM Cycling
  • Tony Gallopin, puncheur. Team Lotto-Soudal

Kristoff–right now? maybe nothing. He’s strong in the sprint. He can’t be dropped. He can close a big gap. And oh yeah, he can climb.

Terpstra–stands out too much, by way of questionable moves in a race or running his mouth too often. . . It’s puts a target on his back.

Sagan–too much of a surfer boy attitude, meaning he has aire of “whatever” all of the time. He could possibly be a force if focused.

Porte–needy. If his team performs well and keeps him wrapped tightly, he’s good. Better at being a crazy good #2 guy.

Thomas–incredible rider with an even great propensity to whine . . . It’s the wind. It’s the team. It’s the fans. Geez.

Rojas–like a chipmunk on a bicycle, this dude can climb like crazy, but the tiny frame is also what hurts him in the mostly flat rides. He’s come on strong this year. Proof’s in the pudding at the GC’s.

Degenkolb–on the team of sprinters, he is one of the best within 500 meters. One of his thighs weighs as much as Quintana; so obviously for him to become the best and bring home more than a stage here and there, he must lighten the load.

Uran–not aggressive enough? A great all around rider, he is in the shadow of his team’s sprinter and must make a name for himself as the premier rider he is. Not heard of him? He’s won, but most people wouldn’t recognize the name.

Chavanel–like Kristoff, he has everything. All around means all around with this guy. The only draw back that could hold him from claiming more podiums is his team. I AM is a good team, but do they have what it takes to protect and promote Chav?

Gallopin–winning a stage at Paris Nice is great, but he seems to fluctuate so much with where he places that it is hard to put him at the top. So much of Gallopin’s success depends on having exactly the right road for him to ride. Maybe not, but he also seems to shut down if not in a good position or no chance to win.

I know there are many, many other riders that I didn’t mention. Tell me who they are. I have some ideas of who might be brought up. The season is ON! Who will be the guy who stands above the rest at the end of it all?

Pinarello VENETO– New Vintage Bike

The students and teachers are out for spring break this time of year. I mostly spend my time riding my bike, working a little in the yard, turkey hunting, and hanging out at the Bike Pedaler in Columbus, Georgia. It was at the bike shop when I spotted this gem being assembled. It is the new old school bike from Pinarello and is a beauty to behold. There are only 500 of them made, and the shop owner said this one is the only one that has been imported into the United States, at this point.

The paint on the steel frame is gorgeous. It has a deep pearl-like luster to it. I like the down tube shifters (ignore the zip ties . . . the bike was being built when I took these pictures). The only thing that I would have liked to have seen is a true throw-back bike, with old school braking system and period derailleurs. I know that they made it to be ridden today, but I think a true collector piece would be cool to have it exactly the same way it was back in the day.

WP_20150330_005The way the seat and chain stays are left with a polished steel look is nicely done and tied into the seat tube flawlessly. The detail of the old Pinarello lettering is also a nice touch.

The imitation Brooks saddle is a bit strange. Pinarello, being the large company it is, maybe should have worked out a deal with Brooks to put the real deal on there. The bike weighs a little less than a 1978 Buick Electra, but it is still an incredible bike; one that I would love to own. It can be purchased for around $3500. Here is what it will look like when it is finished or visit here: