This one’s done..can I get another?

Image result for broken bodyThe world needs another post about Trump today like I need another 1st date. So instead I’m obsessing about how knackered my body is. Not just tired, but worn out. Done. Ready for recycling. Broken.

Ok, a little bit of an overstatement, but I so feel busted. Hot on the heels from an ENT appointment about my growing allergy to everything living thing, last week I learned that my nose is busted. One side hasn’t worked for a year or so, and the other side is thinking of decamping to Canada. The impact – that I start suffocating when I’m swimming, hiking, riding, running – is a bit of a challenge but “a simple surgery” with fix it.

The last “simple surgery” took a year off my life, left a hole in my shoulder and added a stone (14lbs) to my ass. I still hurt every day from the “simple-ness” of it all (though my  shoulder makes a great hook for a handbag and stores rainwater).

Next up my knees. I’ve always ridden bikes and I’ve run for 20 or so years including quite a few half marathons. Today.. my doctor says I have the knees of a 65-year-old with no cartilage left and torn fascia. But guess what…. ? A “simple surgery” can help eliminate the problem and have me up on the slopes by spring.

I”m noticing a trend here. I’m broken, but not beyond repair.

Except I’m scared of “simple” anything. After all, this election was meant to be “easy” back when we found out a Cheeto was running…

It seems as we age, anything becomes possible. Surgeries are so “simple” they’re not even called surgery anymore. “Procedures” sound more like what I do when putting on a sports bra.. but every doc I see is aching to offer me one in order to fix my failing bits.

Instead I’ve decided I’m opting for all new, all in one. I’m thinking about a full body transplant. An unemployed millennial fresh from a sofa. They’re not using their bodies, and it would be so damn wonderful to ride my bike without clenching at the pain, walk down the stairs like normal (instead of crabwalking with shrieks) or stand up without an ‘oomph’ and a moment to compose myself.

Yes I might have unshaved legs for the rest of my life,  wear a stupid beany while talking about my ‘woke baes’ but I’d trade it for what I’m working with.

No-one needs this many shrieks and moans at 44.  Not unless a Cheeto is talking.

Who’s with me?

 

 

Back in the saddle

Image result for shoulder brace after surgery womenAs everyone knows, starting something is the hardest part. A diet, a commitment, a new job, the toilet roll. Re-starting something might be even harder. This time around you know what to expect..how hard or painful it’s going to be. This time.. you think, maybe just maybe it’ll be easier than you remember.

Following 2 extensive surgeries on my shoulder last year I found myself restricted from all physical activity involving my arms, shoulders or upper body movement of any kind.  A sneeze rendered me in tears and lifting a mug of tea became my Crossfit. As an independent lass it pained me to have to ask for help lifting groceries into my car (where I’d carry them, one or two items at a time, up 3 flights of stairs) and I became adept at deciding what to cook based on whether I could cook and eat it 1 handed.

It was pitiful, with spots of hilarity (I fell over a LOT).

To call me disabled was an overstatement, but basically I became a human wine box with bruises for 18 months.

Fast forward a year and I graduated from my various slings and arrows, discovered pitches of screams I didn’t know I possessed and managed to carry my first gallon of milk. All in all, almost back to normal. Sure I’ll never salute an officer , throw down a Hiel Hitler (wasn’t going to anyway) or ‘raise the roof’ (ditto) but I can now wear a bra strap, carry a purse and blow dry the back of my head.

Exactly the qualifications for some mountain biking.

I’d wanted to get back on the back for a while… pretty much 10 mins after I came around from surgery the first time. But everything hurt, I literally couldn’t use my arm, and every time I thought about falling… the sense of doom was overwhelming. What if I fell and needed another surgery? Or a new shoulder? I packed away riding for ‘another time’. Which came this last weekend.

It had been so long. so so long. I think Madonna was on her first face lift when I last rode some dirt. And oh how I missed it. The fire in your chest, the thumping of your heart, the feeling of flying on the downhill. The smell of warm pine as you crash into a tree on a particularly tight switch back. Glorious. And I was finally done being afraid.

I packed myself into straining Lycra, grabbed the Percocet and headed to the hills.

I’ll spare the blow-by-blow suffice to say it went something like this:

  • Shock (‘holy cow this is hard’)
  • Concern (‘is my heart meant to be pounding this fast?’)
  • Horror (‘fuck me, I don’t think I’m even moving forward’)
  • Despair (‘oh god, those people with the old dog are passing me’)
  • Hope (‘oooo is that the top? is it? it is isn’t it??)
  • Devastation (‘damn fucking false flat…’)
  • Resignation (‘Why am I doing this ? I’m clearly too old for this shit’)
  • Self criticism (‘Popcorn isn’t a recovery diet dammit.. should have made more soup’
  • Motivated (‘Damn it.. I can do this.. I have to do this or I’ll get old and crinkly and die’
  • Thrilled (‘I did it!!! I rule!!!! I did it!!!)
  • Realization (‘HOLY FUCK GODDAMN THAT HURTS MY SHOULDER’)
  • Alarmed (‘OMG I need to ride down this fucker! This is going to hurt sooooo bad’)
  • Joy (“I’m gonna love every single second of this. This is why I ride’)

I got on my bike, full of Oprah fed wisdom and promptly rode into tree.

Starting again is hard. You look ridiculous, you feel like a loser and your brain never shuts up reminding you of how much better you used to be at this. But the alternate – a life of memories, of ‘remember when?’, fear and failing confidence  – is way way worse.

At my way,  I get to look good in Lycra.. some day.

Riding at my own pace

women mtb groupComing back from shoulder surgery has been hard. Really hard. (apologies to friends, family and random strangers for going on about it all.the.damn.time). I’ve had to deal with a lot of pain, frustration and ridiculous contortions getting out of a sports bra.

But mainly, I’ve had to deal with my head.

Having to fight my inner achiever at every turn.

Of course I can ride my motorcycle. Carry my bike rack. Downward dog. Lift a kettle bell. Tackle a rock garden. Carry the groceries.

Why am I shrieking? Oh that’s just how I do this now.

Not only have I been fighting the obvious challenges of lifting, carrying and moving but on a more basic level, just being stationary has done a number on me. Apparently sitting on your butt for 3 months nursing a bottle of Vicodin isn’t great for your fitness level. Or your mood. Or what used to be your waistline.

FYI I now call it my ‘straightline’.

This was really brought home to me this weekend when I rejoined my cycling chicks for our awesome monthly ride/eat/win stuff/yak (Girls Rock Santa Cruz.. check it out if you possess a vagina and a set of wheels).

Even the drive to the ride gets me excited. Its my chance to connect with non work people, talk in detail about riding minutia and have a laugh.  As I headed off with my usual “Intermediate +” group I was zinging with caffeine and ready to rock.

Except I wasn’t. If you ever watch the Tour De France and there’s a guy who’s dropped off the back and is just way way way back from the peleton (and you sort of feel bad for him but wonder why he’s even riding if he can’t hang)?.  That was me.

Panting like an out of shape pug, thighs screaming louder than my shoulder pain, red faced and apologizing to the sweep girl behind me, I was torn between worrying whether I was having a pulmonary embolism and the humiliation of being so out of shape. As we rode on, the sweep girl started floating the idea of me ‘dropping back’ to the “Beginners+” group who were a few minutes behind.

My ego immediately stood firm “hell no.. I got this.. just give me a few… weeks” while my legs started gumming up with lactic acid and the sweat poured between my boobs. I’m NOT a beginner. I’ve been riding since I was 7.

I wrestled with my superiority for another few switchbacks, falling further and further behind, until my shoulder bitch-slapped me into reality. I’m not fit. I’m still in pain. And riding at this pace would not only ruin me, but remove all the fun for the rest of the group as they waited patiently for the hot, red, slow chick with the massive ego.

I considered that maybe I need to ride at the pace my body was telling me. Slower. Less aggressively, at a pace where I wasn’t going to asphyxiate. After all, the joy of group riding is in the shared experience of a warm autumn ride in one of the most beautiful forests I know. And struggling to catch a group who are happily chatting and rock hopping around for the next 3 hours would be hell. The ride didn’t need to be about pushing. It could and would be more enjoyable if I rode where my body was comfortable.

So I dropped. I sat down and took 5. The Beginners + group started riding up, gritting their teeth and panting.. just like me. After a  warm welcome I hopped back on and resumed the climb. At a pace I could handle. Heck I was able to chit chat. Laugh. My legs stopped screaming. And as I sat mid pack, surrounded by women having a blast and all dealing with their own challenges (how to jump a log, take a berm, ride off that cold), I realized that they weren’t slower. They were just all riding at their own pace. Within their limits.  Enjoying the ride.

Riding at your own pace. Radical huh? In life, in sport, in work and in play. You can appreciate the scenery, make new friends and have more fun.

Who could argue with that?

Its not all about the bike Lance…

Gloves

Its not all about the bike as Lance said (further proof of his ‘not quite human’ reputation).

As every cyclist knows, it’s about the bike, but it’s really all about the GEAR.

For me the obsession started young. Entering Davis’s Bike Shop, the local temple for the serious Sunday road junkie, I was awed by the ceiling of wheel-sets, the racks of steel greyhounds, and the unholy price tagged to each handlebar. I knew at a tender age that these four figured racehorses were out of my league (well, until my paper route started upping my 1 pound weekly salary), but those $6 gloves… THOSE I could afford. Sure they weren’t going to make me go any faster, but they did make me feel like Eddie Merckx, even if I was riding a second-hand racer with bald tires and non-existent brake pads.

And so my obsession was born.

It started small (at $1 a week, it had to). Gloves were followed by my first pair of tights (unpadded). A helmet entered my world in college, and padded shorts arrived with my first post college spurge. With the arrival of mountain biking in 1986, and my first Muddy Fox (RIP), I bought my first lock, gloves with padding and a bike bag. With a water bottle and cage, I was really cruising… until all of it was stolen on my first trip out. Thanks to insurance, I was able to quickly replace everything… until it was all stolen again 6 months later. And so began my entry into ‘insurance upping’ my bike kit.

Lets just say, I went to college on a Muddy Fox and left college on a Kona. With non standard pedals.

But my lust for accessories continued unabated. Mountain biking demanded it. Things broke. New things were invented. Friends had stuff you hadn’t even heard of…and then there were the boys.

Cycling meant riding with boys. Which inevitably led to the nightmare that is ‘dating a fellow cyclist’. Otherwise known as crack addicts with 2 wallets and zero judgement between them. Who better to encourage you onto a new ride, hell, 2 bikes, 3, do we have room for 4? My knowledge of wheel sets, rims, cranks and gears hit ‘professional’ by the time I hit 26. My ability to discourse on steel vs. aluminum, single speed vs. fixie bored even my local bike shop crew but my husband could listen for hours. We sneered along with Bike Snob, and spent our Sunday afternoons checking out the accessories section of every local bike shop we could find. We’re now divorced but I still miss him.. and his extensive knowledge of the one day classic winners (1980-). He also bought the BEST Christmas gifts, though my parents were less impressed with my new pedals than I was.

At the age of 43 I can finally afford to turn over those tags hanging from the handlebars of  ‘greyhound’ bikes. I can, if I’m willing to forgo protein for a few months, afford that new full suspension 26.5 to sit alongside my 29-er.

Instead you’ll usually find me hanging out in the gear section of my local bike shop with my fellow gear heads. We’re checking out the accessories to make our rides faster, our butts less offensive and our gear changing smoother. We’re grabbing the new bike tee and you always need more tubes right? We’re rejecting the big name stores who only stock 1 type of bike cage for the local shop that totally understands you need to choose from 15. Local bike shops we love you. You get it. Its all about the gear. Boulders University Bikes, Buena Vista’s Boneshaker Cycles, Aptos Bike Station.. you get it. And thank you for getting as excited about my new gloves as I am.

Sorry Lance. It’s not ALL about the bike. We know it’s all about the GEAR.  But while I’ve got you, do you know what a Surly Tugnut is for and why do I need it? Because I’m  definitely buying one.

Nothing compares to you: Recovery blues

sineadIts been 7 weeks and 14 hours.. since you took your love away. Cos nothing compares, nothing compares to you.

(I always was a bit of a drama queen.)

After a very necessary shoulder surgery to sew up 10 years of riding and yoga damage, plus my brief foray into Crossfit, I found myself grounded, literally, for 8-12 weeks. No riding.

No jumps, rock hops, preloads or pumps, and for the first 8 weeks, no bikes outside of a gym at all. I have never felt more neutered.

I’ve been riding bikes since I was 7 years old. A late start that I’ve been trying to catch up for the last 36 years.I’ve ridden bikes to escape my parents as a teen, to reach the local lake to race sailboats 4 times a week, to school down the hill of death and even on dates. As an adult, I’ve ridden bikes to explore, to meet new people, to feel free and to forget that Powerpoint even exists. To see stars as my lungs explode, to indulge my geeky desire to build the best, fastest, most responsive machine and yes, I’ll admit it, to build legs I’m proud to show off in lycra shorts any day of the week. I’ve raised money for charity during a 98 degree August day, worked through a divorce over hundreds of miles, and quietened my anxious mind during a joyous descent that almost took my kneecaps off. I’ve found friends on my bike, and more than one love. I’ve been lost on a bike, and over the last 10 years, I found myself on a bike.

Sure, I’ve run into dogs, suffered concussions, torn holes my shins and of course the aforementioned rotator cuff, labrum and bicep tendon tears. But its small payment for the hours of joy, the endorphin rush or just winning the mental battle up a particularly steep and sandy climb while chanting swear words in my head.

To say I’m bereft is an understatement. I’m typing next to trainer, a gym is only 30 feet from my front door and I can still do any activity that doesn’t involve my upper body. But I’m miserable.

My mountain bike sits next to my bed, I’m obsessed with the new bikes I can’t try out and the days are already getting shorter which means mid week, post work rides might disappear before I even get to do one this year.

The elliptical, the stationary bike, hiking or walking my dog on the long, beautiful sandy beaches of Northern California .. everything pals by comparison to the memory of terrifying downhills, breathless climbs and the camaraderie that surrounds riding.

Even if you’re riding by yourself.

So with one more week to go, I excitedly signed up for a non technical, fire road climb with my favorite female riders.. not caring if I’m too out of shape to make it up without stopping, or they have to wait for me at the top.

Because nothing compares to some dirt, sweat and grit in your face.

Suck it Sinead. I’m off to ride my bike.

Waiting for the short bus

 

 

Short-Short-BusI got a concussion this past weekend so please excuse the clarity of my writing.. I’m still not quite myself.

It’s not my first – I seem to have landed on my head a fair amount over the last 42 years – but it was definitely one of my worst.

While mountain biking alongside spectacular scenery, a whole 3 hours of blue sky and single track in front of me, I noticed a lady walking her dogs off leash some ways in front of me. No big deal.

Except it became a big deal when she belatedly called the dogs to her, right in front of my front wheel without an inch to spare. To avoid running over the dog (I’m a pet lover even at 13mph), I braked sharply and flew over the handlebars, landing gracefully on the back of my head.

Thankfully I was wearing a helmet, but pain ricocheted alongside the side of my head and I embarrassingly found myself in tears.. right as the lady – now christened ‘Stupid Bitch’ via my inner dialogue rushed over to pronounce me ‘fine’.  Since I’ve not really been “fine” since birth, how she determined my complete health status within seconds was truly remarkable. That she grabbed hold of the back of my neck and proceeded to start massaging it, also surprised me… but at this point, anything SB did wasn’t really ranking high on my ‘logic’ scale.

Long story short, my friends took care of the situation and I tried to hold my brain in place and 3 hours, one ambulance ride, CT scan and the frightening loss of a few facts.. I’m concussed but completely fine.

Or so I thought. When I finally got around to reading my discharge notes -24 hours later- I realized that a concussion is actually a ‘thing’. And that driving to Whole Foods in order to stand around blankly, forgetting the name of a friend who was standing in front of me and trying to put gas in the car (without taking off the gas cap).. weren’t signs of a brain really functioning all that well.  Apparently its all normal and I can expect my spelling, memory and ability to recall the names of people will all return within 24 hours – 6 MONTHS.

Yikes.

I have a friend who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from an ultimate frisbee incident and she’s not fully recovered after 2 YEARS. And while my injury was nothing akin to hers – I can still get my words out in the correct order – I am now having a whole other level of empathy for those folks who suffer with TBIs. It also got me wondering how many people around me might also have hit their head recently? Potential candidates may include;

  • The news this morning that Tom Ready questions whether the Sandy Hook massacre actually took place or whether it was a hoax to advance gun control measures by the government. Got to love a paranoid Colorado Republican
  • That guy who I went on an awesome date with in July but who has since forgotten my name, number, how awesome a time we had and that date we were going on the following weekend. Clearly he’s wandering around Whole Foods somewhere wondering why he’s there and who that person smiling at him is.
  • The man who yelled at me this morning for letting my dog pee on his sidewalk. While I do pick up after my dog religiously, clearly he was under the misapprehension that I also carry paper towels on my dog walk in order to pick up my dog’s liquid excretions.
  • That fella who contacted me about my motorcycle being for sale and offered me $2000 under listed price OR his grandmother’s 1983 Cadillac as part of the deal. Sweet offer dude.
  • That lady who couldn’t find the appropriate phrasing for ‘vibrator’ on an urgent work call (don’t ask, it’s complicated), and came up with ‘ladies implement’. I don’t know about you, but that could be anything from my eyebrow tweezers to my hairdryer, but now all I can think of is her notion of being ‘impaled’ by something.

The short bus awaits us all. Helmets will be provided.

How to ride the 2015 Tour de France

APTOPIX Cycling Tour De FranceWell my 3 weeks of spending 4 hours a day in front of Lycra clad skinny men with pipe-cleaner arms is over. The Tour De France concluded this Sunday with a solid gold 8 minute advantage win by Vincenzo Nibali (or as I like to call him.. Nibble-on-me.. please). With French riders winning both 2nd and 3rd, it was a Euro domination unlike any we’ve seen for years. Not only was the podium strange but this years Tour was unlike any I’ve seen in the 20 years I’ve been watching it.

The first week involved more people crashing into each other than a 5 year old’s sugar fueled birthday party; by week 2, every single ‘GC One to Watch’ was on the bus home with broken limbs and by week 3, it seemed that the only people left were those over 40 (carefully preserving their bodies as only the aged do), those so slow that they’d missed the major crashed by virtue of being 10 minutes behind everyone else and the lucky 7 or 8 who managed to ride ahead of the peloton before the carnage started. Oh and Nibali. Surrounded by his crew of domestique who essentially glowered any challengers away from their man through the first 100 miles of every stage, Nibali was able to conserve energy and dance to victory again and again.

So based on the lessons learned from 2014, I present ‘How to Ride Better in the 2015 Tour De France’

1. Surround yourself with a pack of glowering Russians. It worked for Nibali and it can work for you. After all, who’s going to fuck with you when you’ve got 550lbs of non English speaking, poker faced cyclo-mo-tons surrounding your every move. I think someone did try to exchange a word with Nabali on stage 7 but we’ve not heard or seen that guy since. I have a feeling he’s now located in a shallow grave just outside Epernay.

2. Ride with bigger tires. I know this might seem obvious, but with those skinny minny ‘wafer-thin mint’ tires with essentially no tread (in fact, some look practically polished) you’re asking for trouble. A spot of rain, a small bug in the road, a sharp comment from a competitors team and those suckers are flatter than Chris Horner’s ass. Sure bigger tires might slow you down some, but you’ll spend far less time that you currently do standing on the side of the French countryside being ‘selfied’ by 100,000 people while waiting for your team car to come give you some air.

3. Don’t ride in the rain. Again, this seems like of obvious. Rain plus skinny tires with no tread = mass pile up. Lets just say if Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are sounding excited, you might want to skip it. These guys love some blood on the road and unless you have the ability to ride downhill at 50 mph while balanced on an oily ice-skate .. stay in bed.

4. Don’t ride so close together. I understand that you can conserve energy by riding in a pack (or ‘peleton’) but really guys…? It does seem to always end up in disaster. Dave gets distracted by the naked guy running down the road while carrying a pitchfork, or the fat Borat wannabe and suddenly you and 19 of your closest friends are Jenga’d in the middle of the road. Leave a little more space, maybe? If not, be prepared to literally ride over your friends as you hit that next oily corner.

5. Wear more sturdy clothing. Like Kevlar. Every guy who went over this year (which was everyone except Nibali and his Russian protection squad), wound up looking as though he’d just jumped out of a burning building. Jerseys we’re shredded, shorts suddenly developed  new venting systems and on several occasions shoes were even ripped off as riders hit the floor. I know that it gets hot; I know that you want to be ‘aero-dynamic’ but I really think your clothing should have a bit more heft to it than a Victorias Secret fantasy bra. I don’t know how you think that wafer thin jersey, spun from the web of the endangered Nepalise ‘Livestrong’ silkworm is protecting you when you hit the road at 45 mph, but I think you’ll agree, its not really doing the job. How about a lightweight leather onesy? A skinsuit of kevlar? At the very least some ripstop nylon would avoid us having to watch the blood oozing out of your hip for the next 3.5 hours.

6. Allow tows up those big hills. If you’ve got your Russian goons, you might as damn well use them. I know you’re not allowed to push yourself off the team car, but I don’t recall anyone saying anything about tows from your actual team mates? Simply fasten some sturdy nylon from your stem to your Russian goons seat post and sit on back. Keep those legs spinning (I mean you need to ‘seem’ like you’re making the effort), and maybe wipe some sweat every couple of miles.. but hey… if it’s not in the rules….

7. Slow down at the corners. I saw this mistake time and time again. The peloton gets all carried away in its fastness and then hits a corner. Cue one poor sod, careening straight towards that field ahead of him (taking out a couple of spectators on the way) while another heads straight into the crash barrier. Cue 19 guys falling on top of him.  Slow down dudes… If you’re leaning at a 45 degree angle at 45 mph shit is going to happen. Add in some rain, those silly tires and fuck.. its amazing any of you made it around any corner at all.

8. Lose some weight. Like 50-60lbs or so. One thing consistent among all Tour riders is their distinct lack of weight. The only area allowed for any constituting ‘mass’ is the thighs and only, ONLY if you’re a sprinter. Arms should literally be strong enough to hold into the bars and brakes, but nothing more. Your head should wobble on your stringy neck and if your calf muscles are wider than your wrist.. forget about it. Tour winners need to be thin. Very thin. So thin that they can ride over that ladybug, leaving him with little more than a vague headache. So thin that when they are flying down the backside of a Col.. they are literally ‘flying’.. as in leaving the ground. If you weigh somewhere in the 110lbs region, you’re right on the money. Anything more than that you need to be German, a sprinter or a race official.

9. Take more drugs. Better drugs. I hate to break it to you but every single rider on the Tour was taking drugs this year.  And last year.. and every year before that since the inception of drugs, and mountains. Looking at the facts – how else can a guy ride over 2,276 miles during 3 weeks (with 2 days off), up and down France’s biggest mountains/ glaciers, on little more than calories and determination? Sorry .. but if you think drugs aren’t involved you are DELUDING yourself.  And this year, no exception. When the fastest man finishes 8 minutes ahead of his nearest opponents (who include Olympic winners and every National champion).. well guess who had the best drugs? So next year I highly suggest you contact every underground lab in the ex Soviet republic or China and see what’s got the rats running ultra-marathons lately. It’s bound to give you a boost and you can always claim it was ‘herbal remedy’ you took in case your pee comes up radioactive.

So there you have it guys and girls.. my guide to riding a better Tour De France in 2015.

And if all else fails, wrap yourself in bubble wrap, buy yourself a motorized scooter and find yourself some new Russian friends with chronic drug problems. You’ll be podium bound in no time.

 

 

 

 

Riding with girls

01 MtnBikingWomen-2500pxI’m easily intimidated and not the most socially adept person when meeting men, women or small children (FYI: dogs love me), but this weekend I decided to do something that scared me, and signed up for a women’s mountain biking clinic.

The group name – Dirt Divas – was my first hurdle. Any association with the word ‘Diva’ implies Mariah Carey, high maintainance women and satin floor length dresses as far as I’m concerned.. non of which naturally sprang to mind in association with mountain biking. Plus ‘Divas’? Does this mean they’re all super awesome pro racers who sneer at us amateurs who still struggle to bunny hop up a curb? But I saw that the clinic was being run by pro downhill racer, Zach Griffith, and figured that I could use any advice for not overshooting switchbacks.. even if I had to do so surrounded by elite riders or chicks in evening gowns. I’ve provided the front range mountain biking community with enough YouTube clips this year thanks and frankly, 1/3 of my salary is going to Bandaids and gauze pads. So if the ‘Divas’ could waive the floor length satin dress requirement .. I was in.

Having ridden with dudes my entire life, I’m a bit tired of being dropped, panting my way up the trail only to have the entire group spring back on their bikes, just as I’m unclipping for a bit of a rest. I hate that dudes consider my walking a 3 ft drop as ‘pussying out’ and frankly, I know I’m never going to be awesome, so I just enjoy doing what I can. As a result, I’ve been riding alone this year. Something that is dangerous when injury is involved (a weekly occurrence for me), plus it changes the ‘post ride beer in the parking lot’ from a fun group activity to a weird ‘stay away from the weird alcoholic lady’ warning to small children.

I need chicks to mountain bike ride with. Women who can actually ride up rocks, but who know that waiting means waiting.. and won’t sneer when you can’t make it up the 10th washout board in the ladder. Who you can emphasize with you when the handlebar jabs you in the boob or when you didn’t unclip fast enough and hit the thorn-bush ass first. But I don’t know any… I did, but they all got married and quit, or now ride with their kids.

I had a moment of fear as I pulled up to the parking lot, frantically checking that no one was wearing downhill pads or a dirt bike helmet, but breathed out as I saw a chick wrestling her Ibis off her rack and not a Fox jersey in sight. In fact, as more of us pulled up, it looked more and more normal. Chicks my age, most of us driving trucks and 4Runners, baring scarred knees, junk in our trunk, dirty shoes and not a swipe of makeup amongst us.

As I stood with the other ‘Divas’ (never was a group so misnamed.. not an inkling of cleavage or small dog amongst us), a chick behind me said ‘I hope no one here is awesome, cos I suck‘ and I knew I’d found my people.

It was GLORIOUS.

The clinic itself – well I’ll skip the details as its only interesting to about 2 other people in the universe was great, but the overwhelming joy I felt was more due to the opportunity to do sports with other women. Something I don’t think I’ve done since high school.

Once we’d gotten over the ‘I’m crapper than you’ modesty show down (can you imagine dudes having that conversation?), it was all about asking for advice, guidance and at one point, a round of applause for some cornering which would make a slalom racer proud.

Do dudes applaud when someone nails it?

Our coach (married with 2 daughters, and seemingly endless patience for chicks) balanced delivering information en masse, followed by one on one, second by second coaching as we rode the course. What normally would have had me knotted and sweaty, morphed into memories of my dad showing me how to ride while running behind me with his hand on my seat. It wasn’t embarrassing or weird, or intimidating in the slightest. Just hearing that voice behind you, and shouts from the chicks waiting their turn, turned the day from a ‘how to’ into one huge bonding session. Soon chicks were videoing each other, showing each other where they were dropping the wrong foot or standing too high, helping to dissect their own and each others bad habits. And with the usual feminine  modesty prevailing, the atmosphere was weirdly supportive and fun rather than critical.

When I found out that the group rides during the week, takes weekend trips to downhill and explore the state both on and off-road, I was sold. Finally, a group of like-minded ladies who aren’t going to leave me in the dust, but still ride hard enough to give me lots to learn. Some are already racers, others (like me), getting the hang of a new bike, without the annoyance of being the slow poke of the group.

As I left the group, grinning like an idiot despite learning that I’ve been riding all kinds of wrong for the last 20 years, I realized that for the first time in my life I’d found a whole group of people just like me. Tomboys. Girls who like to get dirty and sweaty, but haven’t turned into dudes while doing it. Girls who aren’t competitive, but who want to keep learning and pushing themselves for no reason other than it feels good. Girls who don’t take it that seriously and who aren’t afraid to curse loudly when it all goes tits up.

And when someone said ‘lets ride Wednesday’.. I realized that these chicas actually recognized one of their own. And want me to be a ‘diva’ too.

6 years of therapy = one morning with some mountain biking chicks.

So I didn’t meet any actual “Diva’s” and I didn’t get that dirty, but I did learn that doing scary things always has a payoff. And doing scary things with girls doesn’t have to mean cliques, discussions about men, feeling old or being frightened by expertise. You might learn something, you definitely will meet some new people and when one chick mentioned that she’d gotten a new dirt bike, well I think I just met my new best friend.

Spinning makes you fat.. and other “facts”

hbz-september-2013-is-spinning-making-you-fat-quilt-lgRupl-bikeThe other day a friend’s Facebook page blew up when she posted a article from this month’s Harper Bazaar entitled ‘Is Spinning Making you Fat?” (with the accompanying photo on the left)

Now ignoring the fact that posted directly underneath this article is one entitled, “Is your cellphone making you fat?” (apparently HB considers all activities and products potentially responsible for that slight curve around your hip area (otherwise known as “your hips”)).. well lets dive in shall we.

After all, I’m a  spinner and a cyclist. I’d love to know how my burning 550 cals per hour is pushing me toward obesity.

But before we get to the meat of the article (sorry, low carb, low fat, organic, macrobiotic meat substitute.. this is after all, Gwinnies mag of choice), lets first consider the article photo.

I’ve been riding a bike since I was about 5  years old (yes I count the stabilizer years), and I can’t say I’ve ever ridden a bike in this manner. One may question whether the lady is in fact a good illustration for the article as she’s a) clearly not fat, b) she’s facing backwards so clearly hasn’t ridden or even seen a bike being ridden before,  c) is wearing 5 inch heels (probably a bit of a hinderance when climbing those inclines even if she was facing the right way) and d), appears to be riding a padded bike rather than wearing padded shorts. I’m going to skip right past the denim jacket and over application of oil to her legs and come out and say it. Chick isn’t a cyclist at ALL. In fact, chick is clearly deranged (and heading for a very fast accident if she insists on riding backwards). Which is weird because those two words -“deranged” and “cyclist” – typically tend to go hand in hand.

But on to the actual article.

While the author doesn’t discount the fact that a spin class can in fact burn 400-500 cals (apparently she’s not only of questionable intelligence, the chick appears to be somewhat lazy.. 550 MINIMUM lady), she goes on to the horror of the outcome ” Spinning can make your butt and quads bigger”

Whaaaaat?

In fact, she quotes some professor from Appalachian State University (no.. really), “Some cyclists get really big thighs”.

Wow. That university is on the cutting EDGE of research. Next up.. “Air… its so… breathable”

Now I’ll agree that some of my favorite riders have thighs I could gladly lose my life between.. (Tom Boonen comes to mind), but these guys ride 200-300 miles a WEEK. Often more.  A 60 minute spin class is hardly going to give me the glutes of Tor Hushovd (Google them.. they’re magnificant),

Sure.. I’d expect a firmed up butt and potentially a little less jiggle in my thighs as a result of riding, but isn’t that the point?

No says Harpers. Quoting Julie* (named changed to protect her from sane people who ride bicycles)  a 30-year-old publicist, who was forced to quit spinning when she noticed “my butt felt and looked padded and my legs felt heavy”

Yes dhaling. We call that muscle. And that heaviness? Lactic acid build up. It goes away. Take a valium.

But not for Julie. Scampering quickly away from her ‘heavy’ legs, Julie “gave up all exercise for a month to let the muscles atrophy”. I guess now she’s a limp and mushy size 0 but at least she’s happy. Mentally questionable.. but thin.

Even instructors need to beware according to HB, as Erica* (named changed because she sounds like an idiot), a 49-year-old indoor-cycling instructor gave up teaching eight classes a week after she noticed that her jeans were getting “really tight, uncomfortable in the butt and thighs’. Yes Erica. Teaching cycling for 8 hours a week would give you some muscles… didn’t that occur to you AS.A.PROFESSIONAL.INSTRUCTOR???

Apparently not.

(Next week: Ballet dancer complains about sore toes)

Harpers Bazaar really did find some smart people for this article.

Though they do , finally, consider the role of diet in the apparently fattening of the nation through spinning… after all “Cycling makes most people extremely hungry”

(omitting the obvious and yet simple fact that all exercise makes people extremely hungry. Its called ‘burning calories’).

Yes. Cycling can cause you to eat more.

Stop the clocks people. Game over. Exercise makes you eat MORE??? What kind of insanity is this??

Their recommendation. Stop cycling. After all who wants firm muscled thighs and a butt you can bounch a walnut off? Who wants to fill out their jeans and hold up their panties? Who wants to get strong, build up their cardiovascular system and get that endorphin rush when you hit your VO2 max? Who wants to discover new places, new roads, new mountain and vistas you’d never see if you were sitting in a car? Who wants to overtake a weekend warrior on a $7000 bike and mentally punch the air?

Not me. I’ll be sitting on the sofa waiting for my hunger to dissappear, my body to atrophy and my ‘lean’ look to return.

Hang on though.. isn’t that sort of the definition of ….well…dying?

Ah.. the things we do for fashion.

 

 

 

 

The 2013 Tour De France: No Wiggins no wow?

2013 Tour De France: No Wiggins, no wow?

I love that a Brit won the TdF last year.

Growing up watching the race, we rarely had a UK prospect in the field and with a heritage that feared Europeans (they kept invading us dammit), we were forced to cheer for Irish or Aussie riders for years. We had Chris Boardman and Graham Webb but where was the verve, the passion, the personality of our European counterparts? They rode ‘ok’, they seemed like very nice guys but explosive finishes or last minute surges…? Boardman seemed doomed to win the prologue and then crash out on stage 2 as a career move (he did it twice), and Webb was already retired before I was born.  Graeme Obree. a Scot, had a bike obsession (and slight madness), but it reigned on the track rather than the mountains of France and Sean Kelly dominated the classics but never really made his mark in TdF territory (well, he was competing with Merckx). Wiggins rise and growing domination in 2012 was nothing short of history making for us Brits last year.

We almost felt proud.

Finally we could root for the Union Jack, and when Wiggins  pulled it out again for the Olympics and destroyed the field.. well, I for one felt a little nationalistic. Sure he’s probably juiced as the rest of them, but hey, boy can ride. Plus those side burns and his Paul Weller-esque obsession make him ok by me. Dude even rides a scooter.  (hmm… he is single?)

But this year I’m facing a Wiggins-less 2013 TdF, which means I need someone else to root for.  Does this mean no ‘wow’ for us Brits??

Hardly.

I’ve been BMC obsessed for the last few years, not least because of Taylor Phinney (our Boulder home town boy) and Sky Pro has Chris Froome (yay UK) who could be interesting, but I guess I still like seeing my old dudes pulling hard up the mountains. I love knowing that David Millar (UK) is going to look strong and then crash and burn out by stage 9; Cadel Evans (AUS) will be on everyone’s top list but will fade coming down the hills; and of course, Contador (Don’t care) will dance up the mountains like it nothing. And thats before we even get to the Schlecks (one of whom I will marry, even if I have to carry his stick man self up the aisle). Which is to say, while we might not have Wiggins to watch.. we sure do have a lot of other fun riders in play. Or at least  lot of great drama to watch for the next 3 weeks.

I think my money this year its probably on the kids. (and given that most of them were born when I was in high school, yes, I can call them kids). Peter Sagan looks strong (not least because in my mind, he should be on NPR hosting ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’, NOT riding up the Pyrenees) and Lars Boom deserves to win on name alone (c’mon the headlines just write themselves). Gerriant Thomas needs to be on my list (us Welshies need to stick together), and Tejay van Garderen rode awesomely well in the Tour of California but can he handle the hills? Ah the drama.. I’m salivating already. 

Yes I’ll miss Vino/s gritted teeth,  Cavendish’s finger banging finishes and of course good old George Hincapie who almost, coulda, shoulda but didn’t ever win it. I’m grateful that this years’s tour isn’t stunk up by the ghost of Lance or the mass doping fueling exits of whole teams and that we can hopefully, finally, just focus on the cycling for a few weeks.

Now. Time to go re-watch Stage 3, and please you Facebookers… NO SPOILERS.

The 40ish guide to dating a cyclist: Mid Season Woes

The Mid Season Cycling Woes

If, like me, you like your men with butts made of steel and legs lacy with veins, you’re probably well aware of this time of year and the noises you’re starting to hear from your cyclist. June might be all about dusting off the BBQ and getting into the outdoor pool for some, but for partners of cyclists, now is the time for mid season cycling woes.

For the uninitiated who are looking confused and thinking, ‘but it just got warm??’ and ‘I just got my bike out’, your cycling enthusiast is already mid way into his or her seasonal ‘training’ and therefore his (or her) psychosis has a head start in gathering steam. Right around June your loving partner looks in the mirror/ heart rate monitor/ bike computer, reviews his or her performance and decides that the end of the world is nigh. Regardless of the length of the season, June seems to be the hot button month for the cyclist in your life to worry that they’re ‘not where they should be‘ for that 40m crit/ 100m race/ Tour De France and boy.. are they about to become unbearable.

If you’re a seasoned pro at managing this ‘special’ time of year, you have your coping strategies, but for newbies, let me explain what to watch out for and how you can best help your cycling love through the mid season blues.

NOTE: Before we get started, do NOT, I stress, NOT, assure your cyclist that they’re riding enough, looking great, seem really fast… this can backfire faster than a Boonen at the finish line.

 Woes to watch out for

1. “I’m not riding enough’

This is the 101 of every cycling season and resonates across the land come June, regardless of rider, bike preference, age or competitive ability. June is month that every cyclist decides – even if they’ve just finished RAAM – that they’re not riding enough. Regardless of goal – hours in the saddle, race wins, elevation gains, downhill speeds or frequency of actual rides- by June, your cyclist hasn’t ridden enough and it drives. them. crazy. 

  • Why did they take that weekend off to attend that family wedding? Hell, they never liked their brother anyway and who the hell gets married in the UP? 
  • Why didn’t they use that day when they kind of felt flu-ey to get in a few hours on the bike instead of watching Law and Order episodes on TBS?
  • Why didn’t they start riding in February instead of March? It wasn’t that cold and they make tires for snow y’know?

But since time travel still eludes us and (unless you live in Boulder), most of us have to commit some time to earning a living/ raising a family/sleep, there isn’t a way to really make up for those skipped rides and therefore this woe has no fix.

Your Job: Whatever you do, don’t join in on the remembrances of rides skipped (especially if it was due to his hangover) because no-one likes mean mommy (even if she’s right). The best you can do is sagely nod your head and mentally cancel his or her attendance any at evening or weekend event for the next 2 months. You are now officially widowed until Labor day. Deal with it.

2. “My bike/ wheels/ gearset sucks”

Typically the result of a bad ride, but sometimes due to the launch of a new $2000 something, gear frustration really hits a peak in June as your rider decides the reason they’re not riding enough (see #1) is because something on their bike (or their entire bike), sucks.  Which means that until the offending item has been thoroughly researched, reviewed, considered, ordered and replaced.. you’re going to hear about how every ride is just torture/ a waste/ sucky. I’m sure that sometimes this woe has roots in actual fact (I know, my saddle sucks), but largely its an outlet for why more/ better/ faster riding isn’t happening. Its also a good reason to spend hours on the internet looking at cool gear and mentally deciding how much that extra gram of weigh is going to save you on that 42mph descent.
The following gear is likely to be postulated as reason to spend $1800 and/or requiring your approval

  • New weird ratio’d gearset
  • Brakes featuring some new composite that requires 17 hours of set up (and a lot of cursing)
  • Wheelsets that are lighter than a dollar bill (and as strong as dried spaghetti)
  • Forks that save 2 grams but have a ‘totally different angle’ which is going to propel your love to the front of the pack (real or imaginary)
  • Shorts that cost more than your most expensive purse and shoes combined, that look exactly the same as all the other shorts he or she owns

Your Job: Since you don’t know anything about cycling (even if your name is Floyd Landis or you work for Trek), your job is to listen and nod. He (or she) needs to tell you all the reasons why what they have sucks, what the new investment will help him or her achieve, and therefore why its critical that you somehow give them a tacit ok on a purchase which costs the same as a trip to Hawaii.  Even if you don’t get it, be warned that questioning the purchase will just result in the same information being stated again, slower and often with more detail. If you’re really lucky you might get a powerpoint to look at or be dragged in front of the laptop for more information. So, if you value your summer and don’t want to spend it learning about ratios, tensile strength or wind resistance, just remember it makes him or her happy and go with it. Your kids can always go to cosmetology school.

3. “I gotta lose some weight”

Hahahah. Just kidding. Actually you’ll rarely hear this from a cyclist since most of them weigh the same as your purse and despite thighs of Thor, have the arms of a noodle.  There are some who have a body fat % in the single digits yet possess 1 inch of slightly soft flesh onto which they’ve projected all of their angst and mentally turned into the spare tire that is holding them back from the win.
There are some cyclists out there who love to eat as much as they love to ride (or who spend the winter eating their feelings about not riding), who may come home from a particularly painful day in the saddle proclaiming weight as the issue. But regardless of whether its true (your love has handles or not), you can expect woe #3 from some riders right around June as the BBQ’d pork starts to beckon.
Typically riders complaining about weight have powered through woe #1 and #2, now reach #3 as the probable reason for their lack of speed/ skill/stamina/ 1 sec slowdown on that final lap of the neighborhood. But again.. don’t be fooled.

Your Job: Again, on no account can you agree with your cyclist unless you want a really un-fun evening and no sex for the remainder of the summer. No matter your relationship, no cyclist needs to hear the words ‘lose some weight’ coming from you. He’s already pre-Subway Jared in his mind without you jumping in. The best you can do is buy some more greens and hide those Peppermint Patties in the back of the freezer under the kale. Since Trek, Specialized and the rest come out with new gear every week, in all likelihood this woe will fade away as he or she decides that actually, its not weight, but a new bit of gear they totally need… and you can tuck back into your cheeseburger without saying a word. 

4. “I’m too old for this s@#$t”

Don’t be fooled. This isn’t the beginning of a new, balanced lifestyle for your cyclist. No.
This is actually an expression of woe looking for a compliment and/or some reassurance that his or her extended absence from all family events, trips or celebrations isn’t going to result in impending divorce/ dumping. Typically by June, your independent partners are taking up CrossFit, planning weekends away or getting used to being the full time kid care. Those who are new to the game are starting to realize that no, their summer isn’t going to be one of mid day drinks on the patio, ad hoc rafting trips or lazy mornings in bed with their cyclist. For some newbies, now is the time that questioning starts to occur. Is the butt of steel worth the hours in front of the TV/ on the bike/ on cyclingnews.com? Maybe football fans aren’t that bad? This mid season woe is aimed at the long suffering ‘single parent’ or the new girlfriend that implies, just ever so slightly, that this obsession might not be for ever because ‘they’re too old for this shit’.

Your Job: Do not, NOT, agree with this woe. He or she is never too old for this shit and they certainly don’t want or need you to weigh in on this fact. And even if you think this means they actually be considering doing less, ignore any inner feeling of hope. Any sign of tacit agreement means you’re in for a very bumpy evening so just mumble ‘nooooooo’ and shake your head a lot. The only time you can agree is when they’re too blind to see the road, too shaky to hold the handlebars or they can’t remember what a bicycle is.  At which point you put them in a recumbent and attach a GPS.

So there you have it. A few watch out mid season woes for the new partner of a cyclist (or reminders for those of us who are just used to this shit). Just remember that June woes disappear in July as we all sit down to watch the Tour and figure out why they’re not winning.

The indignity of falling off your bike

Most of us have fallen off a bike. Once those training wheels came off it was kind of inevitable. But at the age of 6,9, 22… well you feel ridiculous for a moment, slightly shocked and get back up. If there’s bleeding, well its a badge of honor.

Those who continue to ride bikes after their teens and do so without a wicker basket, tend to fall off a lot more. The advent of mountain biking in the 80’s kept Band-Aid and Neosporin in business I think. My first mountain bike (the gloriously heavy Muddy Fox), spent more time upside down with me entwined in it, than it did right side up. But hey, I was in the teens, it was dirt (or more typically mud) and I’ve always been someone who likes to get dirty.  I loved mountain biking. The insane speeds, missing the switchback and taking an adventurous ‘cut through’ a few trees, bushes and often streams, plus falling off didn’t really hurt. If anything it made the ride.. epic falls became great fodder for post ride beers.

Fast forward to my Colorado days and I noticed that most of my fellow mountain bikers were somehow ‘attached’ to their pedals and as a result, seemed to be able to spring up steps, lift their bikes over massive boulders and land off jumps without ripped off their hip flexors. I figured that as a new American, I needed to get on board with these ‘clip in’ things and bought a pair for my upcoming trip to a place called ‘Moab’. Unbeknownst to me, Moab is rock riding. All rock. Acres and acres of rock that people ride across. As it, no dirt or leaves, no soft welcoming mud, no roots and certainly no places to land which don’t cause immediate holes in your legs. But hey, I’d been riding since I was 7.. I could handle this. Right?
My ‘date’ noticed my new pedals and looked horrified as I pedaled up the first rock of ‘Slickrock’ trail, the watched as I crested, descended straight down and immediately found myself head over ass still attached to my bike.

My fellow Coloradoans hid their snickers and paused while I vainly tried to wipe up the blood trickling from my knees while trying to unclip my feet. But the bastards wouldn’t come off. I yanked my feet this way and that, flopping around like a landed sea bass until one passing rider gently pulled my ankle and mercifully unclipped my foot. If it hadn’t been for him, I might still be there.

If you’ve never ridden ‘clipless’ pedals you’ve probably at least see one person slowly fall sideways at a stop light as they try, in vain, to unclip. Its hysterical to watch, mortifying to experience and there’s nothing you can do if your foot gets stuck. During my first ride at Moab, I think I experienced it on average every 3-4 mins… for 12 miles. At one point I told my crew to just ride off and leave me to figure it out… (and crawl under a rock with embarrassment), leaving me attached to my bike and at one point, taking off my shoes in order to unclip them from my shiny new instruments of torture.  

No-one had told me that you can adjust them.

So, hill after hill, descent after descent, jump after jump I fell off. I fell over my handlebars, off the back of my seat, to the side, and when hitting a sand bar come fast off a rock, I almost did a 360.

I arrived back to camp about an hour after everyone else, bloodied and bruised in every exposed area. My arms, legs, head, neck, hands, knees and even my ear was bleeding.  I had fallen over my hand bars into gorse, catcus, sand, rock, shingle, other riders and even a dog at one point. I was an advert for ‘don’t try clipless pedals for the first time at Moab’. But I had finally figured it out and nothing could scare me on a trail after that ride.You could have beaten me with a 2 x 4 and I wouldn’t have felt it.

Which brings me to this weekend when I found out that falling off a bike, any bike, doesn’t get any easier or less embarrassing. Especially when it weighs 370lbs and is motorized.
I’m just learning the feel of my Guzzi and while I’m perfectly comfortable at speed, as soon as I slow down, I get hit by that old ‘clipless’ pedal feel and I start wobbling like a gelding. I’m just waiting to hit the ground.
Cue my slow sideways fall on Sunday as I stopped at a gas pump and a car clipped my mirror. As he drove off oblivious, I slowly fell sideways.. so slow in fact I registered at least 3 cyclists laughing as I hit the floor.

On the plus side, I wasn’t hurt and all aforementioned cyclists were quick to pull me out from under my bike and assure me that ‘it happens’. And they helped me get my bike back on its stand – no mean feet when it weighs 1/2 of a car. On the negative side, I couldn’t even blame my pedals. It was sheer momentum – 4mph, one tap on my bar mirror and I was roadkill. Or gas station entertainment.
I brushed myself off, tried to remember how to fill my tank and stood with wobbly legs trying to look nonchalant.  Which wasn’t helped when a cyclist came over with my brake lever in his hand which had snapped off during the fall. Ha! who needs brakes during a 30 mile ride home?? !!! No fear here.
Talk about getting back on the horse that bucked you. I think I might have grow a testicle or two during that ride home.Lets just say it was 47 degrees and I’ve never sweated more, braking with my forefinger and praying for my exit. That shot of tequila I sank when I got back to Denver never tasted so good.

The common theme? Falling off your bike doesn’t get easier and its no less embarrassing at 41 than 21. On the plus side, at 41 on a motorcycle, the guys are rushing to help you instead of standing around laughing.. or maybe they just hide their laughing a little better.

Chosing your riders

Tis the season for the cycling spring classics and so that means, yes, its time to chose your favorite riders for the cycling season. If you know nothing about cycling, the spring classics, or don’t even own a bicycle, have no fear. Choosing your favorite riders doesn’t require any skill or expertise.. you just need a few nuggets of information and a love of mens’ butts in cycling shorts.

Step 1: Chose your niche. Are you someone who appreciates the legs of Thor and last minute heart pounding races to the finish? You need a sprinter.
Prefer a stern skinny teeth gritter who’s legs resemble your forearms and probably weighs as much as your 4 yr old? You’re a climbing fan.
Like your heroes middle of the road, predictable and balanced? You’ll be focusing on the GC contenders. Not sure? Pick the guy who looks most crazed during the first time trial and stick with him. Everyone loves to see someone blow up during the second leg. Cycling is a team sport, and yes, you might pick an entire team to favor (Go BMC!), but that’s so American. Its much more fun to pick a few favorites in each category. A wider spread means you won’t be bored through the flat stages or lamenting your guy dropping out as soon as he hits a 3% incline.

Step 2: Chose your nationality. Cyclists, like everything, come in a variety of flavors. And oh, do they support the stereotypes we know and love. This one takes some thought.

The French – Tend to dominate the sport in their own minds (they’re still reliving their domination of the 1960s-70s), but these days, rarely deliver any winners outside of a random Bastille day stage.  Ok, they did have Richard Virenque but he’s long gone.Whether its due to their fear of drugs or a lack of fire in their belly (damn socialists!), the French are good as scenery or as instruction on weird riding styles. Check out Thomas Voeckler who rides as though he just got a bike for the first time, every time he rides. He swings and sways, grimaces and bobbles around as though he can barely stay on the damn thing. Amazingly he’s won a few stages of major races.. though I’m not sure who was more surprised to see him in yellow, himself or every other single cyclist in the entire world.

The Belgians – If you like ’em beefy and stolid, stoic and square jawed, you’ll love the  Belgians riders. The home of the best rider of all time (don’t even consider arguing), Eddy Merckx and not-too-shabby-either Tom Boonen (Big Tom), the Belgians are doing something right as their winner-to-resident ratio is off the charts. I guess there isn’t much else to do in the Hague, given its legendary flatness, but hey, they’re cool, calm and they can blast a bike at the end of a 125 mile ride. Not exactly firework personalities and they rarely shine in the mountains, but damn, they’re dependable riders. And also, not unattractive.

The Germans. I’m not sure what has happened to the Germans these last few years (maybe all that schnitzel is hampering them now that every other cyclist weighs about 90lbs), but the Germans used to rock cycling in the 80s. Erik Zabel and Jan Ullrich started out large every April but by the end of July, could pound the pavement and look like they weren’t killing themselves doing it, (though watching the weight loss was just as interesting as the actual riding sometimes) Personality wise, tended to be less aggressive than you’d think but their size made them easy to spot as they rocketed past those weedy Frenchmen. Plus they all sound like Arnold.

The Italians: Ah, the heady 80s when the Italians added verve and flair, sexy looks and passion to riding. Then they stopped doing coke and it all fell apart. Noone can forget ‘the Lion’, Mario Cipollino, who probably slept his way through every podium girl (and those who lined up for seconds). A madman on the bike and Captain Sex off the bike, his hair still has its own website. Like the Spanish,  the Italians can tend to  be over excitable, and therefore never fail to crash spectacularly.  Despite being part of almost every crash on every course, every year, Ivan Basso and Alessandro Petacchi are worth a look. Very pretty, even though they’re generally riding with blood dripping from somewhere after the first 40km. In 2010 I watched a bare and bloodied buttock for at least 2 hours…worth every second.

The Americans. Well I still count Lance and of course Greg Lemond, so the Yanks do have heritage. We suck on the one day classics, where speed and individual verve is critical, but as team members, hard to beat. The next big GC will be American (Tejay van Garderen is only 24 yrs old people!). Its what the Yanks do best. Unfortunately, as with America, not everyone can be a winner and if your choice is a second tier rider who doesn’t have a great team committed to his success (Levi, Hincapie, Landis), its painful to watch them plug away year on year. Because Yanks don’t quit, even when you wish they would.

The Spaniards. Look no further. Exciting riding, staggering athleticism, big noses and good looks, Spain is where its at. Of course they’re just as likely to cry as any teenage girl, they’re petty and selfish on the road, and could be blown away in a strong gust, but wow, Spain has given us some great riders (drugged or otherwise) over the years. Contador, Sastre, Pereiro and Freire – all spectacular to watch, even as you wonder how drugged they actually are. Contador dances along on his pedals and all of the best climbs featured Spainards, bouncing along as though they’re on the flat. They do well in the heat, but are whiney and unpredictable as soon as the temperature dips below 50 degrees. If its warm, count them in. If its cold, look to a Brit.

The Brits. Growing up on cycling in the UK, I have a soft spot for the unprofessional, eccentric British cyclists. Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish (and I’m counting Sean Kelly), these guys train with long rides in the rain and cold, drink ale as a diet food and lack the team fervor or passion of the Spaniards or the Yanks. But I like the randomness of their success. You might wait for 10 yrs before you see anything approaching a win, but the Brits do love a failure more than a success. The outside bet. Not pretty at high or low speed.

The Ozzies: Better looking than the Brits, less corporate than the Yanks, the Ozzies are everyone’s favorite who don’t take things too seriously. And they can ride. They don’t cry, they don’t skimp on leading the peleton and they churn out some amazing riders (McEwan, Cadel). They’re heads down guys, big of thigh and ginger of head. Not pretty but dependable.

Now that you’ve selected your rider, cue up your DVR and ready the sofa for your post ride/ brunch/ walk/ nap viewing pleasure. Nothing beats watching someone else do a lot of hard work. 

Conversations with my butt cheeks

Have you ever stood on the side of the road and held your butt cheeks while you writhed in pain?

Guess how I spent my weekend?

Sadly the cause wasn’t that fruity. It actually involved my bicycle.

See I love to ride my bike, but my butt does not. Despite my healthy weight I apparently have the sit bones of a 4 yr old child, pointy and fragile, sensitive and prone to whining. Which – during your average day – doesn’t really bother me. In fact, my buttocks are one of my few body areas which I could really ignore for the rest of days unless they suddenly dropped off. What I meant to say is, for most of the year I don’t really think about my butt cheeks. They hold up my jeans, make yoga more comfortable and since they’re located behind me, they don’t laugh in my face every morning in a mockery of my rapidly aging wobbly bits. Nope, my butt cheeks are A-okay.

That is, until the start of the cycling season.

At which point, they’re more vocal, whiny and annoying that a Best Actress Oscar winner wearing a badly fitting pink gown (yes, I mean yous Gwyneth and Anne). Knowing this fact for the last 25 years has resulted in a collection of fancy bike shorts to rival Lance, and a saddle the size and style of a Chesterfield sofa. Lets just say my saddle is ugly and about as aerodynamic as a sofa on the highway.

Even with my padded shorts, my Chesterfield sofa saddle and a liberal amount of chamois cream my butt typically starts screaming around mile 30. By mile 40, I’m in significant pain and at 50, I’ll kill anyone who comes between my and my home. But after a few weeks, things seem to ease up and I can typically ride a 50 miler without much pain and the feeling in my girly bits typically returns in – oo- one to two months.

Recently a friend of mine mentioned that while my bike was pretty slick, my saddle resembled something that fat Aunt Maude might ride to the village for a pint of milk. I made my excuses – painful sit bones, general inability to feel my parts after a few hours if I rode anything else – and left it at that.  I’d had the same saddle now across 4 bikes and took constant pain as a natural factor of riding.  I mean, do those guys on the Tour De France look like they’re having a good time? How fast do they get off those bikes after they cross the finish line?? Huh? Your butt is meant to hurt, isn’t it?

My bike sits in my living room. Which means I look at it every single damn day, almost every hour. And the ‘fat Aunt Maude’ image stuck in my brain like a Donald McGill postcard (Google it).  After doing some research, and talking to a few friends of mine who put in some serious mileage, I convinced myself that a new saddle would be the source of my salvation from pain. I would, as the snow finally melted, be able to spring onto my seat and knock out a 40 miler with no problem. I headed off to have my butt measured (yes, that service exists. No, it wasn’t just a pervy cycle shop dude) and find a new seat.

Fast forward to this weekend when I excitedly wheeled my bike out for the first time since December. Time to get those thighs moving and shake some of that winter baguette of dough from around my middle. And all was good until about 18 miles in…

At which point my sit bones woke up and started talking;

‘No, we don’t like this’

‘Shut up’

‘This hurts’

‘Shut up’

‘Actually this is really really painful’

‘Nope its not, its just the first ride’

‘I think we might be bleeding’

‘No. You’re just whining like usual’

‘Seriously Rachael, stop. I think something is seriously wrong with us’

‘You’ll be fine in a few weeks.. you just need to harden up some’

‘Noooooooooooo. We cannnnnnnnn’t. *sob*’

‘Oh fuck off, my legs feel fine, just shut up and do your job’

‘We’re dyyyyyyyiiiiiinnnnnngggg’

‘FuckShitBugger’

At which point I got off my bike and clutched my butt cheeks as I writhed in pain. I bent over, squatted, even shook my cheeks around like a limbo dancer at Carnival. Tina Turner would have been proud of my tail feather shaking.
The pain was excruciating.
My fellow riders and a few drivers had stopped for my impromptu show, so I remounted and turned for home. Pissed off at body parts and frustrated at my lack of hardiness which typically gets me through most things.
I mean I’ve ridden with my Achilles tendon exposed before now, long gashes in my legs showing bone and even alarming layers of yellow fat exposed.
But no, apparently my sit bones are made of porcelain and age has made my ass not only softer, but a lot lot louder. I cursed the friend who mocked my large, cushioned Chesterfield sofa of a seat. Sure it wasn’t comfortable but it wasn’t out to murder me, ass first.
The new saddle looked fancy, but  kind of like a Lotus, it cornered on rails but wasn’t built for comfort.

By the time I was within a mile of the house I would gladly have given away my custom bike in exchange for a feather pillow and some Vicodin. Every stroke of the pedals made my bones rub against the saddle and my ass screamed in pain. It was like being repeatedly beaten with a stick (not that I know anything about that). If I didn’t know better I would swear that blood must be coursing down my legs and my ass, purple with bruisesBut no, despite standing ass to the mirror for a good 10 minutes upon my return, I noticed a consistency similar to  Swedish Fish in a hot car but no actual visible injury.

The dog wondered what new game this was and returned to his nap while I yelped and eased into the bathtub.

Later I googled my situation and found out that the only remedy is lots more riding. Like every other day.

Oh joy.

So for the next 6 weeks I’ll be standing at my desk wearing a skirt and gingerly easing into any sitting type activity before heading out with 2 pairs of shorts and a Vicodin high every other night.
Remind me why I do this again?

The 40ish guide to dating a cyclist: How to tell is your cyclist is juiced

Despite the predictable admissions from Lance Armstrong this month around his long term use of EPO, blood transfusions and HGH, I was surprised that so many people were surprised. The fact that half of the tour was disqualified in 2009 due to positive drug tests, and that many of Lance’s team mates themselves had been accused of doping apparently didn’t clue anyone into the ever-so-small- possibility that Lancelot himself might be slightly more ‘enhanced’ that other riders.
So today I wanted to help out other citizens who might be starting to question whether their own cyclist partner is ‘juiced’. Here’s a handy guide to checking.

1. Have you recently been unable to locate your partners balls?
Quick, while he’s asleep, check under the covers. If your partner is starting to resemble a Ken doll in the frontage department, he may be juicing. Sure, it gets cold this time of year, and yes, the current trend for skinny jeans has rendered many a genital to Flat Stanley proportions, but if finding them involves a head lamp or tweezers, he’s juicing.

2. Does your partner now weigh 200lbs less than he did in high school?
Sure, he’s now a cyclist and as we’ve noted, cyclists treat body fat like Gwyneth Paltrow treats the lower classes, something she can’t relate to and be rid of asap. But if old high school photos are more Michael Moore than Eddy Merckx, he might not be on the straight and narrow. If your partner’s arms and legs resemble that of an 8 year old girl and he’s riding every week.. he’s probably juicing.

3. Does your partner shave more than 3 times a day?
An interesting side effect of EPO, HGH and steroids is the increase in hirsuteness, or hair growth. Now if his balls are hidden by a new 70’s style afro, his chest hair has grown up over his back and is now carpeting his buttocks, it might be juicing.

4. Could you partner fill your bra better than you?
If you can count your partners abs yet he’s rocking a set of moobs, you definitely have a candidate. Not sure if its moob or pec? If he can hold a pencil under each one..its a moob. If his nips are more perky than yours.. its a moob. If you’re still reading this one looking for other indications..yes.. its a moob. He’s juiced.

5. When angered, do his clothes shred off and his skin turn a mottled green color?
Steroid abuse causes increased feelings of anger and uncontrollable rage. Unless he was exposed to gamma radiation during a laboratory experiment and loves to rock some ‘jorts’, he might be juiced.  If on the off chance that you are living with Bruce Banner, you might want to take yourself off for a pedi when he finds out that you ate the last of the Nutella.

6. Can you 45 year old partner ‘meet your needs’ several times in an hour?
A benefit that Lance clearly enjoyed was the impact of steroids on sex drive. All that testosterone landed him with 5 kids, 2 wives and a pop star ex. All while riding literally 100s of miles every week, 1000s of miles during for 7 consecutive summers and supporting Livestrong in raising $500 million to support cancer victims (what have you done since 2001?). Given his travel schedule alone, how he managed to procreate speaks to some serious juicing. Most 43 yr old guys can’t even muster enthusiasm for some gymnastics after a hard week in the office.

7. Have recent vacations with your partner involved short trips to France, Austria or Spain?
Sure you’ve always wanted to go hiking in the Alps and its lovely to meet some locals, but if your last few vacations have involved extended day hikes to remote areas of the Pyrenees and a highly excited spouse you might want to check those ‘salami’ that Klaus gave you. No-one gets that excited about air dried meats, he’s juicing.

And finally, if your spouse has 1 ball, 7 TdF Championships, multiple team mates accusing him of cheating, has been providing spot checks to the Cycling Federation for the last 12 years and just called Oprah for a quick chat…. I think you know where I’m going. 

The 40ish Guide to dating a cyclist: Whats your type?

Like everything, cyclists come in flavors and each has its own habitat and character traits. Finding a cyclist who meets your needs is critical if you’re going to date one. Since they’d rather be riding than dating,finding your type and tracking one down can be tricky.

Road bikers are easily identifiable by their preference for second skin outfits, 80’s glasses and perma-grimace. Not swayed by fashion, they can be identified in Whole Foods by their bulk mix bags of sunflower seeds, man clogs and shaved legs. Find them stocking up on food, obsessively researching gear or nursing a single beer after a ride. Beware that road cyclists will ride well into their old age so its not unusual to find yourself checking out the butt of a 70 yr old if you’re not careful. Always check the face before you open your mouth.  

  • Benefits – butt like steel until he’s in the grave.  
  • Challenges – face like Iggy Pope due to overexposure to the elements.

Mountain bikers are  the ‘woo hoo’ girls of the cycling world. Loud, trashy and they drink too much, mountain bikers are easily identifiable by their chunky thighs, baggy shorts and bleeding limbs. Find them at the local alehouse, tailgating at the trail-head or just follow the shouts of ‘ooooooohhh shhiiiiit’ when you’re out hiking. Mountain bikers tend to retire to the sofa after the age of 40 (or marriage, whichever comes first), so if you find one out in the wild, know that those thighs are going to resemble yours in about 5 years.  

  • Benefits – unlikely to skip sex in favor of a ride. 
  • Challenges – will be rocking moobs and a pooch by his mid 40s.

Triathlete. Don’t even think about dating a triathlete. They’re just sick and wrong. But if you’re a complete masochist, you don’t like sex, drinking, body fat or socializing then they might be your kinda guy. You can find them swimming across lakes at 5am, running in 98 degrees of heat at noon, or in a fetal position on their aerobars in the middle of Wyoming. Triathletes have much in common with race horses, requiring high maintenance,and a lot of assurance. Unlike race horses they don’t have much ‘go’ in them as your needs come behind training for the next Iron Man.

  • Benefits – so completely self obsessed he won’t notice when you leave.  
  • Challenges – do I really need to list them?

Fixed gear guys. Fixed gear riders are easy to spot by their skinny jeans, lack of helmet and sawn-off handlebars. You can find them sipping organic beer in bars without signage, chowing down vegan BLTs or getting new ink on a Wednesday afternoon. Sometimes you can actually hear the sound of their ACLs wearing away as they try to coast down a hill. Fixies are typically under 35 so unless you’re into chasing veal, step away from the man bag wearing weenie and focus your gaze elsewhere. You’re not cool enough and he’d find your muscular arms too intimidating.

  • Benefits – rides everywhere so rarely overweight
  • Challenges  thinks everything, including you, is ‘over’

Cruiser riders, unicyclists and tall ‘bike’ riders. These aren’t cyclists. These are men using a bike to get between bars without a DUI. Before you chase one down consider what you might tell your future children, ‘ Daddy liked to wear a clown suit and ride around the park on a Wednesday evening at the age of 40’. Really? This is who you’d choose? Unicyclists have no genitals and are simply trying to distract you from the fact (great for asexuals though). I don’t see the attraction in this variation at all, but then I don’t get American football either.

  • Benefits – low bar to clear, he’ll just love you for showing up
  • Challenges  – wearing a paper bag on your head every ride

Recumbent riders: Recumbent riders can be found by following the tall flag, rear view mirrors and luminous yellow jackets on the bike path. These folks used to be proper cyclists but decided that sitting upright was too much work for any activity. Great if you’re close to retirement and can’t bend at the waist, please leave the recumbent rider for your mom.

  • Benefits – I think you can actually sleep while riding a recumbent
  • Challenges – dating a octogenarian in Eddie Bauer fleece and Crocs.

So there you go, a few of the flavors of cyclists you might find out on the road. Identify your type, pump up your tires and go chase one down.

The 40ish Guide to dating a cyclist: The Benefits

Those who know me understand my declared preference for dating cyclists, however few join me in my obsession for Lycra clad skinny guys.  Today I wanted to share some of the benefits to dating a cyclist so you, too, can share in the delights.

The body: Starting with the most obvious benefit of any exercise, most cyclists who venture out on a regular basis are hard-bodies. Now not to be confused with Papa Joe riding his cruiser round the park on a Sunday, a true cyclist can boast a body fat percentage in the single digits, a butt you could bounce a walnut off and the arms of a waifish teenage girl (big arms just interfere with your aerodynamics on a bike). Many rock a 6 pack well into their 50s, most have calves of granite and every single one of them has thighs you could tap dance on. True, the cycling pros tend to cross over from lean to scarily veined anorexics who you could drop kick with your Manolo’s, but find yourself an amateur weekend Cat 3 racer and you’ll never see a man boob again. Believe me, many male cyclists wear Lycra for no reason other than they can and most would probably achieve more poontang if they just abandoned clothes altogether. If you like hard butt, please form a line behind me.

The stamina: Cycling (not to be confused with racing) is a boring sport to partake in. Up to about 40 miles (2 hours) it can be fun. You’re seeing new places, getting in a good workout and piling down a hill, slightly out of control, takes you back to being a kid. After 40 miles, cycling is work. Rhythmic, grinding, leg pumping work. Add in some hills, a little altitude and a headwind, and you’re asking for a level of stamina and focus that even the most boring 4 hr meeting doesn’t demand. Cyclists have insane stamina to keep on pushing the cranks and a remarkable ability to focus on the end point. A good trait to have in a man who’s going to be …um… exercising with you. Sting might be able to have tantric sex for a couple of hours, but your average cyclist can plug away for half the day and barely break a sweat.


The gear love: Cyclists love gear. Show me a cyclist and I’ll show you at least 4 bikes in the garage, a workbench full of tools and enough spare parts to build a Chevy. Add in the specialized clothing, shoes, helmets and food stuffs, all of which get renewed and improved upon every year and, well, you’ll never run out of things to use as bribes. Cyclists are obsessed with finding and trying to new, improved, better, redesigned versions of shit they already have in the quest to improve their performance. This love of  gear and his never ending search for tools bodes well for the bedroom. Wanted to try new things in bed? New toys, positions or places? (heck even new people!) This is the guy who will take it on like a champ (and then discuss and rate it on a forum later). While this might be off-putting to some who are mentally picturing a never ending search for perfection, don’t be. Most cyclists only change out their main bike every few years, by which time he’ll have relegated you to the ‘classic’ part of the garage and never part with you.  

The ‘fuck off’ clause:  Most cyclists have a deep seated desire to always be riding. Anytime the sun is shining and its above 45 degrees, your cycling nut job will be hankering to be out on his bike. Any time not spent out on the bike is meted out to satisfy the wife/family/kids/job requirements and ensure peace.While this can cause resentment from those who need to spend their weekends and evenings with their loved ones, for those of us who get claustrophobic, the cyclist is your perfect mate.  Not only do you get all the time you need to yourself but you get be the ‘good guy’ by suggesting he’d rather be riding. Instead of grinding your teeth at the sound of his breathing, suggest that he might enjoy a ride and say hello to a day, annoyance free. He comes home full of endorphins and you’ve spent the afternoon getting a mani/pedi. Win-win.

So there you have it, a few of the attractions of cyclists. Tomorrow, some of the challenges of dating a cyclist.