Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Add Mionske to Your List

Every now and then, Roadies will try to rank their favorite American riders of all time. When they do this, the same old names come up: Lemond, Phinney, Kiefel, Grewal, Andreu, Hampsten, etc. But one that usually gets overlooked is Bob Mionske. He's enjoying renewed popularity because of his "Legally Speaking" column on and his book "Bicycling and the Law". But what most people forget is his two Olympic Team spots, his 1990 National Road Championship, and his leadership on the old Shaklee team and later on the fledgling Saturn Cycling Team in the early 1990s.
Here's his baseball card when he rode for Shaklee in the late-1800s.

There's a short glimpse of him at the 4:10 mark of this YouTube clip from the 1993 Superweek telecast.

And you can see him racing in Green Bay at the 3:50 mark in this video:

Did you see him waggle his wheel a bit as they went into the turn? He's blocking for his teammate who is in the breakaway, so he's trying to slow the field down, right? One way to do it is to pretend to be a little sketchy when you hit the turn so that no one will go around you. You waggle your wheels without really causing a hazard, and it freezes the guys behind you in their tracks temporarily. Legal. Crafty. Cool.
We've exchanged some emails lately, so I decided to shoot him some off-beat random questions.

1. What do you miss about your days as a pro racer?
Probably the days when my only job, my only concern was riding for 5 hours. I would ride with music and AM talk radio to pass the time. If you ride for two hours west of Madison you could get out into some very remote and beautiful country. (This summer was the first time I rode 100 miles since retiring in 1993 and I did it twice. The first time was a hot summer day and I rode from Portland to Longview in Washington State. I had only intended to go for a two hour ride, but I started
feeling good and since it was an 'out and back' ride on the same road I figured if I went to the 35 mile mark I would have an easy 70, which is long for me these days. When I got there I realized that in another 15 miles I would be at 50 and that I would be forced to ride 100!
The interesting part of riding so far is that your body feels different and I have this old chemistry still in me somewhere and started really moving over the last 25 miles.
The next century I completed was in fall on a trip to Memphis to give a bike/law talk at the Tennessee Bicycle Racing awards banquet. The morning of the banquet there was a century in a nearby town and I was asked if I wanted to take part. I agreed and only later realized I would have to get up at 4:00 am (2:00 am Portland time). Additionally, the riders were intent on breaking the time record for this century-reportedly set by Kent Bostick and friends. The 'ride' started out at 25- 30 mph and at points much faster. I was on a borrowed bike and didn't bother to even try to get it set up to my position. 3 hours 44 minutes later we were back at the high school parking lot were we had started and had broken the record.)
1a. who are some of the personalities that you miss spending time with?
I miss all the guys I raced with from the 80's and 90's and run into them in all sorts of places around the country.

2. what aspect of bike racing do you think people have the hardest time understanding?
That the strongest rider doesn't always win. I will explain this to people by pointing out that if the strongest rider takes off and the second strongest chases him down (with others in tow) neither is likely to win. Of course, some
will stare at you blankly after offering this example...

3. How'd your column start, and what's been the response?
In 1999 I approached Velonews with the idea of a legal column. Actually I pitched it to another web page first and they said it wouldn't work. Charles Pelkey a former racer from Wyoming was the web editor and thought it was a great idea. I have been doing ever since and Charles is still the editor and is about to graduate from Wyoming law school soon. I think that it has been a good service to the riding community and I have met so many riders through the years that it has been rewarding for me as well. When I started you could google 'bike lawyer' and find a handful of attorneys. Do it now and you will get thousands. I guess I was a bit out in front of the curve on this subject but now everyone seems to know a bike attorney which is great because our rights are always being challenged.

I know I'm only supposed to shill my own book here, but Mionske writes really well and has a great topic. He was a shit-kicker on the bike, and should be mentioned among the favorite American cyclists. His book is a "must have" for any Roadie on a bike.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Indoor Training - An excerpt from Roadie

The Chinese proverb says "better to light a candle than to curse the darkness", but there aren't enough candles in the world to prevent me from cursing the switch from Daylight Savings Time. It doesn't mean the end of riding, per se; we all have super cool lighting systems that allow us to ride through the night. But it signals the imminent arrival of winter and the ...ugh... indoor riding season.
In case you haven't read it yet, here's how I address this least favorite activity of year in the book: Roadie.
But first, here's how Jef addresses it. He's part genius, part pen.

Speaking of pain and suffering . . . another type of solo training ride takes place in the basement during the dark days of winter when the roads are impassable and the weather deplorable. This ride takes place on the indoor trainer. Ordinary people call it a stationary bicycle. Many Roadies call it torture.
There are two basic designs: rollers and wind trainers. Neither one is fun to ride. A roller system is like a treadmill for bikes. It consists of three cylindrical drums (each about the size of a rolling pin) attached to a metal frame. The bike is placed on the drums. The drums turn when the bike’s wheels turn. It’s a simple device, and it closely replicates the motion of bike riding. Riding on rollers requires a certain degree of balance and concentration. It’s easy to drift too far to the left or right and suddenly find yourself hurtling across your basement. Proper concentration is a must.
Wind trainers are more stationary. The rear end of the bike is affixed to a metal bracket and held in a rigid upright position. The bike’s rear tire makes contact with a single small cylinder attached to a turbo fan. As the cylinder turns faster, a great load is created by the device, increasing the resistance for the rider. There is very little about this system that feels natural.
Roadies generally have a love-hate relationship with indoor training systems. I don’t know of any riders who like them, yet I don’t know of any who don’t own one. Few riders can last more than thirty minutes on such a system without going mad. But since their winter fi tness depends on their dedication to riding on this device, they push themselves to ride as much as possible.
The trouble with trainers is that they are mind-numbingly boring. Despite the technological advancements that allow the device to interface with a computer, thus adding virtual reality to the training session, trainers remain a necessary evil. They provide the mechanics and motion of cycling without the pleasurable aspects.
The rest of the chapter goes on to describe my love of chocolate chip cookies. If you haven't read it, you're not missing much. Oh, except the part where I disclose the meaning of life and the cure for the common cold. Other than that...
Another quote regarding darkness. This one from Madeleine L'engle:
"Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light." What she means is that you can't do well at the Spring race series without first killing yourself on the trainer.

Addendum: Check out this book. This may help you stave off the Boredom Monster!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Car Gods Read This Blog

No pictures to back this one up. Just use your imagination where needed. Flashback nine days to the aborted road ride followed by the aborted road ride due to negative motorist interaction.
OK, this Sunday's ride was the exact opposite. 77 miles with not one interaction of any type. Not only that, but in +4 hours on the road, I was passed by a grand total of 39 cars. I counted them. There was no one on the road. I don't know/care where they were, but I saw practically no one. Granted, the first and last 7 miles were on a rail trail where there shouldn't have been any cars anyway, but I've been chased by cars in the middle of a lake, so I make no assumptions.
It makes no sense. The weather was stellar, and the fall colors are on fire (cue: imagination). I was expecting a busy roadway full of Leaf Watchers. Instead, it was almost lonely. It was Erie. (That's how we spell eery here in Michigan where our spelling is Superior. Hey Smith, Huron a roll!) It was as if aliens had landed and eaten all the spark plugs - a frequent dream of mine.
The only plausible explanation I can come up with is that a lot of people here are hoping to see the Detroit Lions go 0-16, so they may have been camped in front of the TV.
So evidently the Car Gods read this blog and took pity on me. The pendulum, she swings.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Cyclist in a Car World.

Evidently, October 10th was Harass A Cyclist Day, huh? I didn't see it advertised in the newspapers, but I felt the full effect on the roads on Friday.
You can tell it's going to be a bad day when you get shat upon in your own subdivision.
I was rolling up to a stop sign when the car behind me swung out and ran the stop sign, apparently just to get past me. I caught her at the next stop sign 50 yards away and went right to her window. "I guess stop signs don't apply to you?"
She said, "I didn't see it." (mental note: we should give those things a distinctive color so they stand out. Like maybe RED?)
Right, she didn't see it.
So in the next 18 miles, I had about 10 minor episodes with rude motorists. That's about 1 every 2 miles. That's a high number. I usually get one or two per ride. So rather than risk more and maybe worse, I decided to get off the paved roads altogether. I went home and changed bikes. (I never do this, but something was in the air, and I want to live to see my kid's graduate from college.)
(I don't have kids.)
So I grabbed my 'cross bike and headed for the relative safety of the dirt roads and rail trails. Ah, but not 200 feet out of my subdivision, I had a truck swerve near me and blast the horn. But this is funny: he makes a quick turn back INTO my sub at the next entrance, and he then doubles back to the road that I came OUT of the sub on. So let's get this straight: he WAS going to turn in where I pulled out, but decided he had to harass me, so he misses his turn, blasts his horn at me, then takes the long route back into the sub? Yes, he went out of his way to harass a cyclist. Classy.
I eventually made it to the dirt roads and rail trails, and immediately ran into trouble again. I'm tellin' ya, it was in the air.
Two more episodes occur on back roads where there should be no trouble, and I was ready to pop.
A few miles later, I had a school bus lurking behind me as I went up a long hill. I was flying. I just wanted to get out of her way. After we crested the hill, I heard someone honking behind me. "What the...?? Again with the horn? For the love of Chr....!" This time, it was the school bus, and all the kids on the bus were waving and giving thumbs up. (The wheels on the bus were just going round and round.)
OK, one cool experience in a sea of crap. I'll take it. Thank you. My faith in humanity is restored, but I was still getting off the bike. I went back to my house (careful for the idiots who drive in my sub) and loaded up my rowing scull. For sure, I would be free of the automobile community once I got out on the lake. Surely, no car would come near me when I'm surrounded by water.

Wait for it.

Now just in case you doubt that cars rule the Earth, or if you doubt that this was a day for cars, or if you think I'm hyperbolizing, take a look at this photograph. THIS is what passed me on the lake when I was rowing.
... scroll down....

Yep, one of only 100 remaining Amphicars in the US finds its way onto my lake and we had to change course to avoid hitting each other.
I'm not making any of this up.
It's a car world, and we're all just in the way.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Emotion of Winning

I'll admit it: I just don't get the allure of a running race.
I recently attended a half-marathon in my town and I was nearly blown away by the lack of electricity surrounding the event. Oh, there was plenty of excitement among the common folk in the back of the pack. They're celebrating the lifestyle that moves them. For example: Pat McKay. He's into it at the age of 48. He shows it when he passes by. That's awesome. That's the cool part of the sport; people who aren't here for the winning but for the doing.
But up front, the outcome was as anti-climactic as you can imagine.
First of all, putting on an event of this magnitude is mind-boggling. And I never thought my town would quietly allow the closure of 13 miles of roads. (As it turns out, they didn't. City Hall was flooded with complaints on Monday morning. The organizers had clamped shut every major arterial road for the full four hours, and the people didn't like it.) With all the work that went into the event, I expected more out of the finish. I come from bike racing which sees much more drama in the closing minutes of a race, so to see no drama at all is a letdown.
Th local running team had four runners on the start line. And they finished in the lead together in their small foursome 1:08.19 later. But if you look at the photo, which one is the winner? The happy one with his arms in the air? The one conducting the orchestra? (Armstrong) The one rocking a baby? (Museeuw) The one shooting an arrow into the sky? (Bettini) Or the one who just happens to be in the lead as they cross the line?
I'm bored by the lack of thrill. This is a first year event that honors a deceased son of a community leader, and these runners crossed the line looking like they were bored. One runner is clapping. The others didn't even grin, wave, or raise an eyebrow. No acknowlegement of anything.
Were they happy to win? Did they know they were done? Were they thinking about the economy?
Yes, they decimated the field and finished together as a group. That's cool, I guess. I think they're happy/proud, but there's nothing that shows that in their faces, so maybe they're not.
And why not sprint for it? Fake it if you have to. Make it look like you're interested in winning, not just finishing a training run.
I've been in bike races in which the finish was pre-ordained, but we made it look good. Put on a show. Give the spectators some sort of reward for waiting around. Honor the event by racing and winning instead of negotiating the finish.
It's an insult to go over the top with it, of course, but it's a bit insulting to the other competitors to be so blase` as you win the race. If it means so little to you, why do it?