Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meet Me In The Dollar Bin.

Alright, here I go, wading into the Groupset wars with no real expertise whatsoever. Except that, true to form, I once again think the concept is largely bullshit. It's foolish to think that one company does every single thing better than another, not to mention incorrect. I have tried all three now, on a variety of bikes, all three from a variety of eras, and one component has generally worked well in one groupset, whereas another from that same groupset has not. So instead of giving my entire endorsement to one or the other, I present for you a series of components that I think are great (and that you could get to work together).

Please note that most of my technical information comes from Sean "The Man" Hurley, who occasionally wrenches for Genesys. That's experience enough from me. I also get a lot of info from Dan, whom you should know already.

Starting from the front, you should get SRAM shifters. Initially I liked Dura Ace shifters better, but I'm come to love the way you can flick down with the SRAM a lot easier. Plus, you can use the brakes and shift down at the same time. That's handy. I never liked Campy shifters because I don't like the thumb shifter. We developed opposable thumbs so we could hold on to things, and I like to use mine to hold on to my handlebars.

However, you should get Dura Ace brakes. They seem to offer the best modulation, plus when you grab a handful they're as grippy as hell. I haven't tried all the variation of brakes, of course. There seem to be thousands these days, but Shimano varieties are still probably the most common. That helps when it comes time to replace some little broken bit in the middle of nowhere.

I also recommend a Dura Ace front derailleur. The Campy ones won't work with your SRAM shifters, and the SRAM ones - well, the SRAM Red one that I am still using - are as flexy as hell (though I hear that the Force ones are stiffer, perhaps because they use the force to change gears, rather than traditional methods of derailment).

If I had my way I'd currently be running a Cannondale Hollowgram crankset, but because I have a stupid non BB30 frame, I'm not. Instead I'm vouching for a 10-speed Campy crankset. They have the lowest Q-factor of any of the three big guys. Q-factor - essentially the distance between the pedals - is important. You know that bit in The Flying Scotsman where Graeme O'Bree is laying on the floor pedaling with his wife? And he points out that the natural pedaling action is one banana wide, whereas most pedals are two bananas wide? Dude was on to something.

Generally you have to run the same bottom bracket as your crankset, so do that. You don't wanna get too fancy now. Although I gotta say that the White Industries bottom brackets look the goods. If anyone wants me to test ride one, I'd happily do it. When I test ride something I get to keep it, right?

Are pedals part of the groupset? I don't know. But I like Dura Ace, again. They're steady, stable, virtually indestructible, and relatively light. I've also ridden Speedplay, but they have significant reliability issues, so I'm pretty down on them.

I have the same issues with SRAM chainrings as I do with their front derailleurs - they're flexy as hell. Apparently some SRAM sponsored pros are using the SRAM time trial chainrings to deal with this, but I'm not SRAM sponsored, so I can just switch to 10-speed Campy again. Or Dura Ace. On this one I'm not convinced there's a discernible difference between those two.

Down the back you're going to need a SRAM rear derailleur, because it's the only one that will match your SRAM shifters. But that's ok, because they offer the most consistent and immediate shifting I've experienced. Feel good about your choice, and have no regrets.

But - and here's where things get controversial - you should get a Shimano 105 cassette. The SRAM ones wear out quickly, and both the Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra ones do likewise. For the average shunter like me that's an important consideration - definitely more important than an extra 50 grams in weight. The Campy ones are pretty good, but don't mesh with the shifters. So go with the 105.

Tying it all together should be a Campy 10-speed chain. Campy chains are the best. You know that bullshit line about Campy wearing in, not wearing out? In regards to the chain, it's almost true. It'll wear out eventually, but it'll take a fuckload longer than any of the others. Sure, it's more expensive, but it's totally worth it. You'll also encounter some skepticism about the chain's compatibility with all of those Dura Ace parts. Those skeptics are wrong. Embrace it.

And that's about it. Next review will be of gloves, I promise*.

* Non-binding promise.

** I also make no promises about the accuracy of the pictures in the links. Google images can sometimes be a little off, you know?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And I Thought Suicide Was A Suburban Myth.

Welcome to another La Musique Mercredi, which I think I might also begin referring to as Lazy Writing Wednesday.

I was at this show. It was really good:

And now here's the guitar sound that inspired Albini in the first place:

Stepping away from the shredding for a while, here's some shitty footage of one of my favourite all time songs. Sometimes I wish I was more into Coldplay, because all of their videos are fucking impeccable. But then I remember how fucking awful Coldplay are, and I feel a lot better about my choices. As a slightly cycling-related aside, I bet Anthony Tan likes Coldplay. He seems like the kind of guy who would like Coldplay.

Anyway, here's a song about dying, which never seems to happen to the right people.

I reckon in 2002 I quoted this song so many times - to so many different girls in different countries - that I probably should've been paying John K. Samson royalties. This is a pretty nice stripped-back version, which almost allows me to overlook how godawful the Weakerthans have been since Left And Leaving.

And, while we're in a quieter mood:

See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 27, 2012

There's No Greater Meaning.

Here's an annotated list of things I don't care about:

GreenEDGE Pro Cycling Team

I suppose my lack of interest is due to a strain of anti-patriotism that is particularly strong in me, but I also think everyone else's extreme interest is mostly due to confirmation bias. Folks who are predicting that GreenEDGE will be ridiculously successful in their first year have simply been reading too much Australian media, and probably have tattoos of the boxing kangaroo. Give the team time to develop and they'll go alright, but probably not in 2012.

Also, I'm fundamentally opposed to teams / bands / political philosophies that have stupid spelling and/or punctuation in their titles.

The Grading In Club Races.

Yep, I really don't care, so please stop complaining to me about how some really good kid smashed everyone in C grade last week, and how he should be in A grade because he won a junior time trial last year. For the most part, handicappers do a really good job. Some times they stuff it up though, and that's when people notice. Just like football umpires, I guess.

Here's the thing though. Sometimes racing is hard. Sometimes you don't win because someone way better than you smashes it off the front, and you spend your whole day chewing bar tape in hot pursuit. If you're in C grade, you can relax, because you know that he probably won't be racing in C grade again next week. If you're in A grade and someone way better than you smashes it off the front, however, you're fucked.

Rivalry Between Clubs.

Sometimes I make fun of Northcote having no members, or Caulfield-Carnegie yelling at you, or St Kilda not being interested in races that last longer than an hour, or Italo having an entry requirement that states you must be a) incredibly handsome and b) a handy bike rider. But none of it means anything at all. No one cares what club you're from, and unless you wear your club's jersey, they probably wouldn't even know. There is no real animosity between clubs.

The Tattoo You're Going To Get.

Ok, so this is personal. Unless it's bona-fide fucking hilarious, like a monkey fighting a souvlaki, I don't care. And even if it is a monkey fighting a souvlaki, you'd probably be better off just showing me, rather than sharing your ideas before they become reality.

Where's My Pension Plan?

Alright, so I'm currently a little loose due to copious consumption of painkillers. Like I just told the dentist, I know I've got lots of tattoos, but I'm kind of a wuss when it comes to pain, so right now Panadeine Forte is my best buddy. This, of course, pisses off my other buddy, quality writing, who has no doubt by this point left the building. Proceed with caution.

The other day, down at Birrarung Marr, when I found a moment's respite from being an elitist hipster fuck, I went and chatted to the girls at what was definitely not the Cycling Australia tent. Like I said earlier, they really knew their shit. On a whim I asked them about a press pass to the Track World Champs. Slightly skeptical, they asked me who I had written for. When I told them I'd done work for Cycling News their eyebrows lowered a little bit, and they told me I could apply through the UCI, and that there was a link on the World Champs site.

So I found the link, and set up an account with the UCI. When they asked about my website, I wrote down that it was The New Timer. I didn't think anything more about it, firm in the knowledge that a website that features YouTube clips of old punk rock bands and moaning about mystery illnesses doesn't hold much sway in Aigle.

But then last night I received this email:

"Accreditation request approved.

Hello Brendan Bailey Brendan Bailey,

your accreditation request for UCI Track World Championships 2012 (Melbourne-AUS) has been accepted.

Please check the accreditation centre opening hours in your personal page

Demande d'accréditation acceptée.

Bonjour Brendan Bailey Brendan Bailey,

votre demande d'accréditation pour UCI Track World Championships 2012 (Melbourne-AUS) a été acceptée.

Veuillez vérifier SVP les horaires d'ouverture du centre d'accréditation dans votre page personnelle."

I'm not entirely sure what the French part says, but I'm guessing that it also tells me that I've scored a press pass. Either that, or confesses that Pat McQuaid is a mad Milemarker fan. I will, of course, be convinced of both facts only when I have the lanyard around my neck, but until proven otherwise I'm going to continue to believe it is true. All day I've been fantasizing about asking Sarah Hammer if she is related to MC, giving Chris Hoy tactical advice, and trying to convince Matthew Glaetzer that religion is the opiate of the masses. However, like when Helmets are Hot interviewed Anna Meares, I'm also keen to hear your questions. Who would you like me to interview? And what questions would you like to hear answered? I intend to be there every session - school holidays are a hell of a thing - so will probably have heaps of both time and access. So post your questions below and I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rhetoric And Treason.

Hollaback, it's another Friday Roundup!

First things first, it's FJ's birthday! And Heavy Metal Jono's! And, according to facebook, my friend from highschool Stella Young. She's pretty rad. I see her on TV sometimes. I'm sure she'd be stoked to find she shares a birthday with two such rad metal fans.

Secondly, I think I owe St Kilda Cycling Club an apology. A bit of research has revealed that their prize money allocation is allegedly based on the number of riders in the particular grade, rather than any perceived notions about the quality of the racing or the gender of the participants. So sorry for calling you sexist, St Kilda. I am, however, glad that me shooting off at the mouth resulted in a frank and open discussion about prize money and where it goes. Seems going off half cocked can be beneficial occasionally.

Moving right along, the next three weekends (not including this one) see three of the biggest events on the track racing calendar. Next weekend there's the Melbourne Madison, the weekend after that there's the Bendigo Madison Carnival (which I'm aiming for this year... ahahahahaha!), and then the Austral the weekend after that. See the Cycling Victoria website for more information on all three. All of these events are benefiting from the quickly approaching UCI world track champs, in that a whole bunch of impressive track racers are in town and looking for events to warm them up. Rocking up will mean you get to see some of the best track cyclists in the world. That rules!

And finally, here's some rad pictures of Australian Cycling in the early 1900s. Check out some folks who are way harder than you will ever be.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Now We Gotta Do Much Better.

So, here's the deal. I'm suffering from Overtraining Syndrome. Yes, it's a real thing. I'm overcooked, my system is burnt out, I have something like a stress fracture, but for my entire system, rather than just a bone. When the doctor diagnosed it last Thursday he described me as an exercise junkie who had overdosed. He then berated me for not having enough rest in my program. From that moment on I thought he was pretty rad (apparently being Steve Hooker's doctor when he won gold at Beijing wasn't enough).

But then he outlined some rules for me. Definitely two days off a week, and that means absolutely nothing related to training at all. Go get a massage, he said, or see a movie. He even wrote the latter down on my instruction sheet. And a minimum six week break every year. That sounded pretty good.

It got worse though. I'm still off the bike - completely - until the start of March. And then no more than fifteen minute rides on alternate days for the first week. No intensity whatsoever, just ticking the legs over. The next week, twenty minute rides. And so on. After the first month I'm allowed to do two sessions in a row, and a bit longer, with maybe some low level intensity. Apparently it's going to take me a minimum of six weeks to build it back up.

That sounds shit, and it probably will be, but I'm freaking stoked. Knowing what's wrong - and how to fix it - comes as such a relief, that I have no doubts whatsoever that I'll stick to this stupid, lame-ass program like glue. I want to get back to where I was at this time last year, and if I have to do a series of fifteen minute bike rides on non-consecutive days, well, I'll get that job done.

Edit: There's some really great stuff on overtraining here. I told you it was a real thing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lost The Thought.

Hey, it's La Musique Mercredi!

Please note new and awesome name.

Crappy sound in this one, but the sight of everyone going absolutely nuts to one of the best ever songs by one of the best ever bands in what is obviously freezing cold weather was too much to pass by:

More shitty sound, but check how stoked everyone is to be dragged up on stage for a Creedence singalong:

And while I'm posting singalongs, here's the Constantines covering Acca Dacca. Which every band should be contractually obliged to do.

I've posted this before, but screw you guys, I'm posting it again. The best performance to ever occur at 10am:

I was never a huge fan of the White Stripes, but if one of their songs came on at a party, I would totally rock that shit. This song is a prime example, and I liked it so much I nearly bought one of their records. But, you know, hardcore pride...

And that's La Musique Mercredi done for another week. You're welcome!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wish On Everything.

So, this was going to be another rant about sexism in cycling. Seriously, I was loaded and ready to fire. And it wouldn't be the first time I've gone off half cocked. But instead, I waited, bided my time, and did some further investigation. And that investigation revealed that it wasn't a matter of sexism, just a lost opportunity.

Here's the deal. I went down to the Treadlie Bikefest Market on Friday night. It was pretty rad. There were food tents and bike tents and everything in between. I was also pretty stoked to see that there was a tent there representing the UCI track world champs, because I love it when two different cycling tribes overlap.

I was chatting to someone in one of the tents when this extremely attractive young woman, wearing bright pink lipstick and approximately twenty gallons of fake tan, rocked up. "Um, I'm looking for the cycling tent?" she asked. With that much information I was stumped. "The one with the big cycling event in April?" She continued. I pointed her in the direction of the rainbow stripes that represented what I came to - possibly incorrectly - call the Cycling Australia tent.

Later that night I was surprised, given the lack of knowledge she had already displayed on the matter, to see her handing out flyers for the track world champs. And this was when my sexism rant started to formulate itself. I was all set to call this young woman out, but still I had doubts. There was always a slim possibility that it was some A grade trackie from out of town who was just disoriented by the big city lights. After all, the other women down at the Cycling Australia tent certainly knew their shit. So I waited.

I returned to the Market on Sunday to compere the roller racing. This time I was armed with a megaphone, which someone had foolishly given me in order to spare my voice a little. The young woman was there again, walking around in a Cyclones jersey, with the same bright lipstick and fake tan. But this time she had some hot young guy with her, also in a Cyclones jersey, and armed with flyers. My sexism rant melted away, but I asked some questions regardless. All on the megaphone, of course.

"Hey, I'm keen to come to that! What night is the scratch race on?"
The guy answered. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "This event is in April."
"Yeah I know. I want to go to the scratch race. What night is it on?"
He shrugged his shoulders again.
"You don't know anything about the event, do you?"
He shook his head and began walking away.
"Do you even ride a bike?"
He walked away a little quicker.

Obviously this wasn't a sexism issue, but someone had hired two models, with little to no experience of cycling, to promote their event. There's obviously a reason for this - people are more likely to respond well when someone attractive approaches them bearing flyers. But that's some grade A horseshit that we shouldn't buy into. This was a sweet opportunity for whoever was doing the promoting to put word out among the cyclists of Melbourne that volunteers were needed to help promote the track world champs. Certainly there are cyclists around who are equally as attractive, if not more attractive, than the models hired. And those cyclists would have been able to not only provide accurate information about the event, but also share with the punters the enthusiasm, the passion and the excitement they feel for the sport.

And, furthermore, they probably would've worked for free tickets.

So it's not about people being sexist, for once. It's probably more about people being lazy, and going through their existing channels, rather than investigating new, initially more difficult, but eventually more rewarding ones.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

All Your Love Has Gone.

No post today, because I'm too tired from doing this all day yesterday:

Doctors orders are not to ride my bike until March, and then only in 15 minute increments on alternate days. I have failed to obey my doctor already, and today am paying the price. It's 5.30 and I'm ready for bed. Goodnight!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hold On.

Hold on to your hats, it's time for the Friday Roundup!

Once again, this Sunday I and a bunch of other folks will be down on Birrarung Marr encouraging folks to set a freaking fast time on the rollers, and perhaps even show your friends that you really are better than them. This may be an excellent chance to redeem yourself after you don't win at the St Kilda crits. Check out the details and a rad picture of me and Sam McGregor here, and check out the people who are providing prizes - Northside Wheelers and Creux Velowear.

I will say one thing about the blog - it has attracted a number of comments, and those comments have, for the most part, been considered and well written. This seems to be in direct comments with the rest of the internet, where petty name-calling and kneejerk reactionism is the status quo. Good job, punters.

Long time readers of the blog, however, will understand that for some time the posts were almost solely about how I was sick, and didn't know why. The sickness was stopping me from cycling, which in turn encouraged me to write more. Mostly I turned to the subject at hand, which got pretty grim for a while there. But last night I spent a long time with a Sports Medicine doctor who specializes in fatigue issues. He took a look at my long list of symptoms, checked out all of my blood test results, and made a diagnosis. It wasn't great - I'm looking at about six months worth of rehabilitation - but at least now I know there's a way out of it. And that feels pretty good. As an aside, if anyone wants to come on a fifteen minute bike ride, let me know.

And hey, Saint Cloud are turning two! When they first popped up I was certain the store wouldn't last long, probably because I'm not really their targeted demographic, but in those two years Nick has really made the store an integral part of the community. He's a quiet guy, modest where others bluster, and will help you get your bike going when you're desperate. Plus, he occasionally races on the track! What a mad dog.

And that's it for the week, folks. See you Monday.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I Hear Them All.

No blog post today. Well, that's not entirely true, because this is one. But this is all there is. A series of doctor's appointments, followed by social appointments, followed by pleasant times with old friends, meant that I haven't been home for the prerequisite 45 minutes that it takes to write a post. I'll attempt to bring you all up to date in tomorrow's roundup. Until then, goodnight.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Time It Was.

Screw you guys, it's video clip Wednesday!

(Which, incidentally, I haven't been able to brand with a catchy label yet. You may have noticed).

Please note that I have finally stopped listening to Milemarker. But that doesn't mean I've stopped dancing. Here's some Dirtbombs:

Some classic rock from a duo I really like (Gillian Welch and David Rawlings) and a group I don't really like, but who go alright here (Old Crow Medicine Show):

As if I wasn't going to throw in some PE. Surprisingly, given how rad it is, this is a newer one:

And, finally, here's an appropriate one for all of you who came here from a St Kilda Cycling Club re-tweet. Incidentally, I'm a little disappointed that no one has called me a Commie since that post. I guess the Cold War is over. Anyways, here's some Propagandhi:

Monday, February 13, 2012

It Hurts Me More.

The Dads at the kid's clinic are a little paunchier than they were. They gradually gravitate towards each other, stand in a semi-circle, avoiding the intimacy of face to face conversation, arms crossed against heavy chests. Weight on their heels, three quarter length shorts revealing still-shaven legs.

They watch their offspring with feigned disinterest, offer hesitant encouragement, careful not to crush the petals when the interest is just beginning to bloom. They pretend not to care, but they make sure their kid has the best of the shared bikes.

They squint into the sun and slowly reveal their pride with deprecating jokes. They laugh together, scratch an itch, recognize it in each other.

When they talk to me it's as if I'm in my twenties. They look me up and down and ask about the racing, the training, the bike I'm riding, and tell me I'm looking fit, even when I'm not.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I Have A Voice.

Here's a question for you: Why would a cycling club, which has perhaps the greatest percentage of female cyclists of any Victorian club, which has a dedicated women's development squad, which has women's subcommittee whose stated aim is "To encourage, support and provide opportunities for women of all ages and abilities to reach their cycling goals", not pay equal prize money at their team time trial challenge? That's right, St Kilda Cycling Club, I'm talking about you. It's bad enough you have a quasi-racist Phil Liggett quote on your front page ("The Colombians are wonderful climbers, they just tend to fall off their bikes a lot on the descents," Don't get me wrong, I love Phil as much as you do, but he's been around a while, and blokes of his age have a tendency to drop the odd racist clanger. Don't think that's a racist statement? Lumping distinct individuals into one group based on their nationality ok by you? Perhaps you need to read more of this blog). But really, with all the work you've put into ensuring women feel welcome at your club, why would you slap them in the face with this second-class citizen bullshit?

At the Cyclocross we paid equal prize money. Not just for men and women, but across the grades and categories. If you won the A grade cyclocross, you got the same as whoever won the B grade open bikes. Equal prize money across the grades and genders is a system that is open to abuse, but was - in our experience - rarely abused. It acknowledges that in a race everyone is busting their guts, regardless of whether it's D grade averaging 30ks an hour, or A grade averaging 50. Or whether they're women racing other men, or women racing other women.

It could be argued that this creates a disincentive for elite riders to turn up. Here's the thing, though - elite riders aren't riding for the hundred dollars they might win at St Kilda on a Sunday morning. They're racing to win. The amount of money on the line doesn't matter. It's the win that they want above all else.

But when you're telling someone that their win is somehow worth less than the win of others - especially if it's because of their gender - then that's kinda fucked up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

That's How Grateful We Are.

Friday Roundup!

So, tonight - in about half an hour, in fact, Andy and Prolly themselves are going to be screening some fixie movie that will make you feel like it's 2006 all over again. I'm almost 100% certain the movie won't be winning any Oscars any time soon, but if you're reading this blog, there's a pretty strong chance that everyone you've ever met will be there, and as such, you'll have a totally kicking rad time.

On Sunday the third round of the courier cup kicks off, and it's a sprints / bike drag racing / trixxx extravaganza down in the Flemington Drains. Last time some rad individuals ran a drag event down there I did irreparable damage to my eyesight staring for too long at Shifter Dan in fishnets... Let's hope there's more of the same on Sunday. Sign into Facebook and check it out here. Stop pretending you don't have a Facebook, everyone knows you do.

I got an invite to the Melbourne Bikefest Opening night party the other day, and on the invite it wrote that everyone is welcome, but you have to RSVP. I've already RSVP'd, but if you want to come along too, email this guy: Tell them that you're coming along in order to ensure someone drinks my portion of the free beer and eats all the cheese.

Also at Bikefest from the 17th to the 19th is the Bikefest Treadlie Market, which is actually shaping up pretty cool. You don't know how stoked I am that they've included the Track World Champs in their program - talk about a commitment to bringing the disparate cycling worlds together! Some schmucks will also have the famous Brunswick Cycling Club rollers down there on Sunday, and will be running a whole heap of fun events for everyone. I'm not yet sure how the rollers are going to arrive down there, but rest assured they will, and much sweaty adventure will be had by all. Check it out here. And be warned: there will be minibikes.

And, to wrap it all up on a non-cycling note, special note must go out to Vegan Warrior Emily Jans, who - after specializing in boxing for the whole of eight or nine weeks - just last weekend became Australian Champion in her weight class. Apparently a bunch of folks - me included - ducked home early last Saturday night to watch it on the Internet, and were universally stoked to see a friend of ours firstly thinking, and then punching her way to victory. I get the impression that in the future I'll be telling people I know her.

The Ones Who Don't Think Were Just Thinking Ahead.

I've been off the bike a month or so now, and I gotta tell you, I'm pretty jack of it. As strange as this may seem, I'm totally missing killing myself out on the road, battling to keep my heart rate at the same number of beats per minutes for hours at a time. Or destroying myself on the ergo, sweating out a stink in the end room that will linger for days to come. Or smashing it on the track, chasing some kid literally half my age until I pop. Hell, I'm even starting to miss the gym, which I only ever did to improve my cycling, but which I came to love - in time. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Endorphins are a hell of a drug.

So far I've somehow resisted becoming more competitive in everyday life (my then housemate Leith was quite relieved when I first started cycling, as it meant that he was less often challenged to see "who could make it from one side of the lounge room to the other without touching the ground", or "who could eat 100 vegetarian noodles from Camy's Shanghai Noodle House"). I haven't been getting angry at random members of the public, and nor have I threatened to put any of my students in the gutter if they drop the wheel.

What is different is that now when people tell me that they haven't had time to train, or that they're having some time off, or that they're not really into cycling any more, I'm considerably less sympathetic than I previously was. I know this isn't fair, and I'm kind of a jerk for even thinking it. But right now, if I could ride my bike without ruining myself for days afterwards, I would. And when other people are physically capable of doing it, but choose not to, it drives me nuts. I want them to hand that capability over to me. Just for a couple of years or so, while they're spending their time wandering from country to country, or falling over drunk, or working, or whatever they want to do instead of cycling. I'd train that capability right, look after it with healthy food and ample sleep, and make sure it felt appreciated, all day, every day.

But they can't.

Which, you know, sucks.

Here's another clip from the Milemarker set at Michiganfest in 2002. The Hot Snakes also played that show, and The Constantines. Man, that show would've ruled.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shrink To Fit.

I found this book on a hallstand at my ex-girlfriend's parent's house in Hudson, Quebec. It doesn't belong to me - the sticker on the front cover indicates that its rightful owner is her Grandmother, and even indicates her address in Guelph, should I ever feel the inclination to return it to her. The byline suggests that the book is "a native narrative" (native in this instance should be taken to mean First Nations, or North American Indian), but a better description is in the title. 'Jeez,' I remember thinking, 'That's an ostentatious claim. I better check this out.'

If anything, it's a narrative about narrative. Each and every chapter begins with the same traditional First Nations story, with a few details changed here and there - the location of the story, the description of the character. Immediately after telling the story the author - Thomas King - invokes the title, stating that "The truth about stories is that that's all we are." Then, after telling a number of autobiographical stories, he finishes each and every chapter with slight variations on this paragraph:

"Take this story, for instance. It's yours. Do with it what you will. Cry over it. Get angry. Forget it. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard this story.

You've heard it now."

This is a story about me picking up a book that was laying on a hallstand, reading it, reading it again, going back to it and referring to it, and eventually packing it away with the rest of my things when I left that ex-girlfriend. Sure, it's a Canadian book, but when I re-read it now I don't feel any pangs of absence. Nor do I think about that ex-girlfriend, or her parent's house, or her grandmother. I do, however, think about the stories that I tell myself, that I tell other people, that I tell to amuse people, or to scare them, to romance them or intimidate them. Even the posts on this blog labelled 'Opinion' or 'Product Reviews' or even 'Video Clips' are stories. And I guess the reason I'm writing them is to give these stories, which somehow make sense to me, to you. And now, like King says, they're yours. Do with them what you will. Be bored by them. Get angry. Forget them. But don't say in the years to come that you would have lived your life differently if only you had heard these stories.

You're hearing them now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Dirty Bomb.

It seems every other cycling blog on the planet has commented on the Contador saga, so I guess I should too. Fortunately for me, the full extent of my reaction to the matter can be summed up like this:


Here's a sweet Milemarker clip to make it all go away.

Furthermore, if anyone out there wants to form a Milemarker-esque band with hilarious lyrics about both competitive and recreational cycling, you should get in touch. I've been trying to make that particular band happen since about 2006, to no avail. Because if there's one thing us uptight cyclist types need, it's some time on the dancefloor.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two Sides.

In light of the comments that are still appearing underneath this post, I've come to the conclusion that in order to be fair to this issue, I should present the other side of the story. I'll start by using one of my own examples: at the master's state track championships the other day I saw some excellent racing, talked to some rad people and generally had a pretty good time. There's never anything bad about the racing or the people involved, and even I have to admit that the vibe is less cut-throat than in elite racing.

Please bear in mind that this is a purely theoretical discussion - I certainly have no sway whatsoever with the powers that be down at CV, and I'm pretty certain those guys aren't reading my blog. So next to nothing will change as a result of these two articles. This being said, I welcome your opinion, but if you don't keep it constructive and on topic, then sunshine, it ain't gonna get approved.

It seems people's responses can be summed up into seven distinct themes.

1. Master's racing encourages participation, due mostly to not being particularly serious.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. If it's a race, then it's serious, and you're trying to win!

2. Master's racing offers a greater variety of events.

This is true, but perhaps a condemnation of our mates at CV or even the clubs that put on the same races every week, rather than a defense of masters racing.

3. Life pressures take a greater toll in the master's years.

This was best summed up by local rider and total hardman Kos Samaras, who commented:

"The reason why masters classifications exist in my opinion is to give a generation of riders an additional experience to the sport beyond just racing young blokes. Young blokes who still can strive for that something extra, a career, a spot in an NRS team versus those over 30 who have no chance to aspire to such goals, who have a mortgage, kids, work careers to attend to and like something different to aspire to. The masters Cat IMO is there for that precise reason, for 'mature athletes' who either have come late into this sport, who have come back to this sport after a long spell (me), or those who have raced the pro scene, elite scene and have now moved into a new career, family etc, Tom Leaper springs to mind here.

Once you are over 30, in most cases before that age, life starts throwing a lot more at you then simply worrying about what your going to do at uni. You can't always work towards the Nationals versus elite riders, work gets in the way, especially if you work in sales, construction and other seasonal related occupations. Masters exist for these and many other reasons. Its this sports way of saying ‘look, we know your not like an aspiring 21 year old, you cant always compete in their national events, so we will give you a chance to pit yourself against your own ilk”

4. Grading is not the answer.

I can't answer this - well, not without starting a whole new flame war. I know grading is imperfect.

5. Master's racing helps in the industry.

This was an offhand comment, but I think it's a good one. Those older guys are the ones buying the Parlees and Baums. It sure as hell isn't the kid still living at home with their parents.

6. You're just masters bashing like everyone else.

I guess this is also kinda true, in that offering criticism could be seen as 'bashing', whether it's constructive or not. Bear in mind, however, that my criticism was not of the riders or the racing, but of the concept. And I'm a concept basher from way back.

7. You're a dickhead and I'm using this issue as an excuse to a) berate someone I don't like and b) use the C-Word.

Cool story, bro.

So that should be about it, I reckon. I did ask a few people if they would write this article themselves, but - nicely in line with point 3 above - folks were generally too busy. And in general, like most of us, they'd prefer to be riding their bikes than talking about doing so.

In fact, I'm going to go ride mine right now.

Friday, February 3, 2012


This is an intersection just down the road from my parent's house, in the town where I grew up. A week and a bit after I was up there, on my way to the Christmas Carnival in Horsham, a 42 year old man rode his bike into this intersection and was hit by a car driven by a 19 year old girl. The police report, given here, doesn't say who was at fault, and I'm not interested in assigning blame.

This is my home town, and I'm a bit protective of it. The old building in the background is the train station, where I spent a lot of my time waiting for the bus to come and take me to my then girlfriend's house in Ararat - and, incidentally, a few years later, where my dad spent a lot of his time waiting for that same bus to come and drop me home, after I'd spent another weekend of refuge in the city. Another girlfriend and I, wandering around late at night, stumbled upon an intense looking police operation that we later discovered was in the midst of foiling some crazy guy's plan to blow up the tin shed to the left - a stonemason's. Further to the left, just out of this picture, there's an old fashioned Milk Bar, known as Roslyn's, even though no Roslyn has worked there for some time. It even has a little steel step in front of the counter, so very young kids can step up and pick what lollies they want. And under that huge tree on the right there's a park bench. One night when I was running through town, messed up on something or another, I bumped into my friends Michael Baukes and Dougie Burkhalter. They were just sitting on the park bench, talking. Bauksie told me I didn't look so great. Dougie asked where I was going. I told him I didn't know. They both gave me these huge, full bodied hugs. I kept running, most of the way out to Hall's Gap, until someone I knew stopped their car and insisted on driving me the rest of the way.

And now there's another story. The one about the guy who died there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'll Come To Your House And Punch You In The Mouth.

Welcome to your first ever Friday Roundup, because everyone knows that by Friday afternoon no-one has enough coherent thoughts to maintain a theme throughout an entire post. A blogpost, for fuck's sake! Having not enough attention for a blogpost is like having not enough boogers to blow your nose.

Firstly, though, a little housekeeping. I like it when people argue with each other in the comments section, because I'm a firm believer in the concept of the dialectic (you know, as opposed to the concept of dianetics). But I'm no fan of folks dropping the C bomb. I know, given that the very name of this blog used to have a swear in it, that's a tad hypocritical, but a) I don't care and b) This dislike extends to all gender-based swears. I've left the offending comment up, because I think it made some interesting points, but in future, the same rule will apply to the C-word as applies to sexist, racist, libelous and homophobic comments: not approved. There's a reason why I have to approve comments first, you know.

Second of all, entries for the Ballarat Spokes Madison Festival close on Sunday. I'm not in the habit of spruiking all of Cycling Victoria's events, but the Spokes festival was probably the most fun Open I did all last year. Not everyone gets to do the Madison - if you're just an average guy, heading up to Ballarat and racing your grade will be just as fun. And then you'd get to kick back and watch the Victorian Madison Championships. That would be much more fun than riding them, trust me.

Thirdly, super-rad individual and CV board member Monique Hanley and I must've been watching the same women's scratch race at last week's National Track Champs, because a couple of days later she posted this interesting idea on twitter:

"How to avoid negative racing culture: penalise teams that don't commit to making a race entertaining to watch. If all riders finish = fail."

I did ask her if she wanted to elaborate in a full article, but given she's also a working mother, as well as being on the CV board, as well as occasionally riding her bike herself, she doesn't have the time. Still, it's an intriguing notion. I get angry when a race I'm in is negative - and I get bored when a race I'm watching is negative - but I'm not entirely sure that there should be punitive action in those cases. I'll leave it up to you folks.

Finally, as stated earlier, I'll be offering commentary at the Master's Track Champs on Sunday, so if you're a Masters rider and are keen to have your say, come along (though I'm much less eloquent in person, and will probably respond to any intellectual critique with a profoundly deep shrug of the shoulders). I'd be great to say hi in person.

And that's it from me. Enjoy the weekend, suckers.

Ps. As well as being some seriously noxious shit, the Roundup pictured above is apparently owned by Monsanto, who don't have the most ethical of business practices. Do Not Purchase.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

We Are The People And We'd Like You To Know.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but over the summer break I became quite protective of the track racing I know and love - mostly because I wasn't able to do it. I decided that in my absence from racing I'd do as much as I could to spread the word around. For the most part, it's been pretty fun. Actually, all of it has been pretty fun. I specifically targeted the good readers of Cycling Tips Blog, however, as I knew there were cyclists there who were interested in track, had probably seen it on the TV, and maybe even knew one or two of the serious names, but hadn't yet made the jump themselves. I figured that these folks just needed to hear a couple more stories about having fun on the track, about how tight and fast and rad it is to race, and they'd all of a sudden have the urge to wander down to DISC on a Tuesday night.

Maybe that's you. Maybe you checked out the Christmas Carnivals article, then clicked through to here, and then in turn clicked on that DISC link. Maybe you thought you'd go down and watch at first. So you wandered down to the butt-end of Thornbury and into the world class velodrome that was built for the 2006 Commonwealth Games. You sat in one of the multicoloured chairs and looked out into the floodlights, the advertising signs, the intimidating banks of polished pine. There's no way in hell you'd be able to get up to the top of those goddamn things, you remember thinking. But then you sat a little longer, and watched as first little kids - those young 'uns know no fear - and then slightly portly older gentlemen do exactly that. They rolled around for about a lap, then swung up high, allowing the bunch to roll past in a line, then stuck back on to the back. Five or six laps later they raced, and one of them won.

As the night goes on you saw more races, some faster, some slower, but at the end of the night was that first race that stuck with you. You remembered that some of them didn't look all that fit, some of them didn't handle their bikes so great, and some of them didn't win. And eventually you found yourself thinking that if they could do it, so could you.

So you did. You went down to the track, talked to the rego desk, lined up a club bike to use. You didn't even have to buy your own track bike - you just borrowed the club's, and provided your own shoes and pedals. You fiddled around with the bike for ages, adjusting the seat, pumping the tyres, looking at the gears. When your grade was called you put on your helmet, looked around a bit - to make sure you weren't the first, or the last guy - then rolled up to the fence. You were shitscared.

But then the commissaire told you to roll out. You pushed one foot, then the other. You rolled up on to the blue part of the track and waited for the whistle to blow. When it finally did the race was on. You were on the track, chasing the guy in front of you, not thinking about the fear or sliding down the track on your ass in front of all of these people. You were just chasing. And it hurt. Those guys were fast. When you did your turn on the front you kept the pace up, mostly because you didn't want anyone to yell at you. Then you swung up, looked out over the infield and thought to yourself, "Holy shit, I'm doing it."

Eventually there was only one lap to go. The bell rang, and you sprinted your guts out, but someone else came around the top of you and took the win from under you. You eventually rolled down the track and tried to catch your breath. The guy who beat you came around and shook your hand. You exchanged pleasantries and mentioned it's your first time. He tried to make you feel better about not winning, but in your head you were only thinking, "Next time, mate, you're going down."

From then on you were there every week. You moved up the grades, bought your own bike, had more and more fun. And then eventually you found yourself not being able to race, for one reason or another, and so you took it upon yourself to spread the fun around.

Which leaves us nicely where we are right now.