Pay attention!

Rider and bike at Lake Tahoe

Ride, ride, ride, and do it safely. Pay attention!

Recently, I wrote about a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk bicyclist in Truckee, on July 4. On July 9, the gentleman who was hit died from his head injuries.

About 3 days ago, there was an article in the Sacramento Bee about another cycling accident. Seems a cyclist ran a stop sign, and was hit and seriously injured by a car which had the right of way. Both of these accidents were completely preventable. I don’t know if the stop sign running cyclist has survived or not.

It is distressing to be in the Sacramento area, Folsom to Mid-Town, Downtown, Roseville, Granite Bay, Citrus Heights, and so on, and observe so many cyclists simply ignoring the rules of the road. I ride, a lot. I stop at stop signs. I actually signal my turns. I don’t think it takes any more brains or energy to ride safely.

Now, I may not look like a Tour de France rider, or a club rider, or a model for spandex, but I do know that, gray beard and all, the rules of the road apply to me and every other bike rider out there.

I stink at math, but simple physics tells me that since my bike and I weigh less than the average set of tires on a car, I will be the clear loser in any crash with an auto of any kind.

A very long time ago, while in my teens, an older driver, stopped at a stop sign, decided that it was OK to pull out into the main road, where I was riding, and had the right of way. He looked right, then left, right at me, then forward, and, gripping the huge steering wheel with both hands, pulled right on out.

I had no chance, although I vaguely remember slamming on the brakes and attempting to swerve out of his way. It didn’t work. I was T-boned, meeting the great chrome bumper on his great big tank of a car, and subsequently greeting the pavement, where, fortunately, no other cars were travelling. I didn’t enjoy the experience very much, nor did my bike. Physics and experience are at work here.

There is no excuse for any rider to ignore stop signs, stop lights, pedestrians, or any common sense rules. Those who do endanger all of us. There are already too many car drivers who’d rather we didn’t ride. Pay attention. Being an idiot on a bike is a losing proposition. Wise up.

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Changes in the Tour? Maybe

saddle with nails protruding

Time for a reality check photo/C. Ferris

This years Tour de France, lit off last Saturday, thundered through Corsica, and hit the French mainland with panache. Always full of fun, strategery, crashes, miracles, and just good excitement, it’s one time of the year that I’ll put off my ride for an hour while I wait to see the peloton appear like something out of Starwars as it reels in the breakaway not far from the finish. Always exciting.

Are things changing in the Tour? What may, and only may, be different this year is that the young riders coming up through the ranks seem to be doing so on their own power. Tejay Van Garderen, Peter Sagan, Andrew Talansky, Peter Kennaugh, Cameron Meyer, Nairo Quintana, and others who are in the younger group, seem determined to put the doping stupidity out of its misery. I want to know without a hint of a doubt that the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, is powered only by his training and ability and desire to outsprint everyone.

I can only hope this is true. Time will tell of course.¬† Armstrong’s contention that you couldn’t win the Tour, at least while he was riding, without a chemical boost may be true.

For the next generation of great riders, perhaps not. As I have said before, if I want to see spaced out weirdness, I can go see it on the streets of any big city. I’m not interested in watching it while someone is pedaling up a HC mountain in the Tour, or demolishing another rider in a breakaway.

I really enjoy watching the Tour. It is inspiring, even to a grey beard rider like me. Let’s hope that this really is the start of something new in the pro ranks. Ride on!

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New Year, new adventures

Boomers after the ride/ photo A. Molinari

Boomers after the ride/ photo A. Molinari

We’ve launched into 2012, having bid 2011 a fond, or not, farewell. We have 365 days to enjoy, and hopefully that is just exactly what we get to do.

I counted up the days that I was able to ride last year. I got out on my bike 90 times, in a variety of places and weather conditions, road bike and mountain bike. In addition to that, we cross county skied, snowshoed, hiked, and walked throughout the year.  In short, we got out when we could.

There is quite a lot happening in the coming year. For cycling Boomers, there’s all of the pro tours that have yet to be ridden watched and commented on.

There’s the continuing drive to rid the pro ranks of doping, and the still awaited decision regarding Alberto Contrador and the 2010 Tour de France.

By now, who cares? It won’t do anyone any good to move up a notch in the 2010 standings. It’s a moot point, except for the cloud that continues to hang over the field. One simply hopes that the teams rigorously enforce the no doping ethic that is brightening the entire pro field.

Race radios, anyone? Bike weights that approach the weight of a sack of feathers, but just barely make the gram count for qualifying to be ridden in the tours. Sponsors signing off, new ones signing on. The peloton continuing to be a great surging mass to watch. Still a very complex and interesting sport, no matter what.

CycloCross racing continues to rack up the points in popularity. Muddy bikes, spandex, and riders, howling fans–must be something to it.

Mountain bikes are continuing to evolve. The 29ers (wheels are 29 inches instead of 26) are rapidly populating the field. Friends who have them tell me that they go over things with their 29er that would simply have stopped them on their old bikes. Since I’m not prone to going over anything too much, I’m not likely to be able to speak from a position of reality on this. I’ll pass on the wisdom of those who enjoy launching themselves and their bikes over rocks, logs, and other debris.

Single speed bikes, aka “fixies”, are staging a comeback. If you are of a certain age, that’s what you had to ride when you were young. The idea of shifting gears with something other than your leg power wasn’t on the menu. A good single speed today is a skinny tired marvel that costs substantially less than their geared and derailuered brethern. If you have legs like tree trunks you could ride one where I live.

Make some resolutions for the new year. I did. Here’s mine: Get out more. That completes my list. Anything more complicated or longer than that isn’t something I’m likely to remember, or do.

Have a great year. Ride on!

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Tour de France, Sat. July 2

TDF, 2010

TDF, 2010

Last year at this time the realization that the Grand Dame of them all, the Tour de France, was just a few days away began to enter the frontal lobe of cyclists all over the world. This year it’s the same.

July 2d is just about here. The Tour will begin right on time. It’s a Saturday, so getting up a bit early to watch the peloton start to spin the pedals won’t be a difficult effort. After all, most of the Boomers on Bicycles don’t have to be at work on Sunday.

With the teams in place, the gear on board, the riders ready to go, we are in for the annual treat of watching some of the world’s best bicycle riders go at it for a couple of weeks, all the while listening to Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and Bob Role make the whole thing come to life with their expert commentary. It’s simply one of the most entertaining events of the year.

Get ready, set the alarm, put the coffee on. The Tour is about to begin! Ride on!

Posted in bicycles, blogging, business, cycling, education, families, Tour de France, Uncategorized

TDF: July 2d-July24th

The pros in action/photo J Ferris

The pros in action/photo J Ferris

Here we are at the midpoint of June. Summer is a mere two weeks away. Following the June 21 debut of this year’s version of summer, will be the Grandmother of all Tours.

The 2011 Tour de France will begin pedaling on July 2d, riding out of Passage Du Gois, heading to Mount Des Allouettes, 228 km (136.8 miles) away.

Boomers, and other, younger and not quite as experienced riders, across the planet will either pull up stakes and head for France, or will take a portion of their day and watch Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and Bob Roll bring the entire thing to life on the Versus television channel. Productivity in factories will plummet, absenteeism will rise, but the nations of the world will have 22 days of riding splendor to watch.

It is always a kick to watch the boys with no body fat make riding multiple centuries over multiple days look, well, rather common place. It isn’t of course. Still, one has to wonder, could I do it? Maybe, about 40 years ago. Now, ah, well, the definitive answer to that is no.

The usual complaints will surface, the constant banter about doping, race radios, race rules and so on will keep us informed of some of the inner workings of the sport. Some of us will write about it, others will ignore the entire thing.

I am in the watching and writing about it group. Unless someone comes up with a really good offer prior to the start though, it will be from the comfort of my couch, laptop fired up, coffee at hand, bagels at the ready.

Get your gear lined up. July 2d will be here before you can blink, and certainly before you can learn enough French to understand much of anything.

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The Tour de France and you

Andy Schleck tour leader (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

Andy Schleck tour leader (AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski)

The Tour de France hit day 12 today, and things are heating up. Literally. The Tour rode in 100 degree temperatures on the route yesterday and¬† today. Yesterdays stage was won by Sergio Paulinho of team Radio Shack. It was Paulinho’s first stage win in a Tour de France. Wednesday was also Bastille Day in France, but the the lone French rider in the breakaway just couldn’t quite keep up.

The ride yesterday featured a flat start that then went into the mountains. The last climb was a 5.3% grade, a catergory 2 climb. There were no serious disruptions today, as the peloton played it safe and let the breakaways stay out in front. There was no need for the peloton to catch anyone, as the standing weren’t likely to change unless there was a time consuming crash involving a lot of riders. There wasn’t, and the ride today, though hard fought at the end, was relatively uneventful.

Tuedays stage may have had something to with it, as it was a brutal day in the mountains, with the last climb being a long beyond category (HC) climb. The climb up was very difficult, and the descent was perilous as well.

Today’s stage 11 was won by HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish, giving him 13 overall stage wins during his many Tours. Mark Renshaw, HTC-Columbia, Cavendish’s lead-out man, was disqualified from the tour. He had to bump Julian Dean out of the way as Dean leaned in on him, and then seemingly impeded Tyler Farrar as they headed for the line. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin’s comment on that was that it seemed a bit harsh, but perhaps was a warning to the rest of the riders to play nice. Saxobank‘s Andy Schleck retains the yellow jersey as tour leader.

If you have been following the Tour, and wonder what it’s like to ride up a mountain, you’re likely not alone. Your immediate area may not have anything to test your climbing ability. Look around and find something relatively close by that has some decent climbs. Anywhere in the mountains, if you have them, could do just fine. Foothill areas ofter offer some decent climbs as well.

The easiest place to test your climbing legs is on any of the routes that have mostly uphill all the way, with a couple of not so steep sections and a couple of downhills after the top of some of the climbs.

Get your road bike ready, or rent one from your local bike shop. Head up to your chosen spot, then start looking for a place to park.

You will need enough water for the day. One bottle will not suffice. You will need something to eat along the way, just like the pros on the Tour. Sunscreen is a very good thing to slather on, as there is little or no shade along the way. Take an extra tube or two and a patch kit, along with a pump. Take your cell phone with you.

When you begin your ride, take it easy. Take a buddy or two with you to share the load. Riding it by yourself will put you in the same frame of mind as the lone breakaway rider on any stage of the tour. You really will be on your own. Ride at a steady pace, hydrating constantly along the way.

To really get the feel of what the boys on the Tour do, when you are a few hundred meters from the top of any climb, get off the saddle and start dancing on the pedals to pull yourself over the top. At the  last climb take a breath and enjoy the top.

What goes up must come down. Catch your breath, drink, and eat something. Take 10-15 minutes to catch your breath, then start riding. Any longer than 15 minutes and your legs may begin to cramp. The way back is probably a steady downhill with some climbs thrown in. Maybe there are even a couple of pretty good curves to negotiate.With luck, the¬† traffic will be¬† light. If you get into trouble, flag someone down. It’s a long walk back.

You may pick up a pretty good head of steam on some of the sections as you head back. Go only as fast as you are willing to fall. Road rash out there could be really, really ugly.

When you get back to your car, drink, and eat a bit more. You have just had a little bit of the experience of what some of the climbs on the Tour are. You and your buddies deserve a pat on the back. There’s no podium here, so that will have to do.

Stay tuned, as there are more mountains to climb, both on the Tour, and in your own back yard. Remember to get out there and ride.

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Le Tour de France

Stage 3 winner Thor Hushovd

Stage 3 winner Thor Hushovd

The Tour launched on Saturday with a prologue in Holland, then moved into Belgium for Stage 1. It was a bit of a crash fest. Stage 2, Monday in Belgium, was ridden in the rain, with everything drying out in the later part of the stage. It was another crash fest, so much so that the peloton, having been bested by Sylvain Chavenal, who also took the yellow jersey for the next stage, rode en-masse across the finish line, in apparent protest of the route, the conditions, or both. This has been done only once before in the history of the Tour, and that time, in 1967, was in respect for a rider who died on the course. Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett, who along with Bob Role are the voices of the tour, pointed out that the route was known for a year, the teams had scouted out and probably ridden most of the route, and it was, after all, a bike race. Fabian Cancellera, who was wearing the yellow jersey at the time, clearly was in control of the peloton and it was he who apparently lead the peloton to cross the finish as a group. It was an interesting day on the Tour.

Today’s Stage 3 also had a batch of crashes, one of which took out Frank Schleck, who along with his brother Andy, rides for Saxobank. He took a hard spill on the cobblestones, and broke his collar bone. It is a definite blow to the team. Other riders crashed on the cobblestones as well. One stretch of the cobbles is part of the same section that is ridden in the Paris-Roubaix race. Inherent in any road race are crashes, and one of the dangers of being in the peloton is being involved in one. When riders go down in front, those following have to scramble to stay upright. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. The Tour is now in France for the rest of the race.

As of now, Fabian Cancellara is back in yellow as the Tour leader. Lance Armstrong, stung by a flat tire as he chased the lead group down, dropped to 18th, with Alberto Contrador in 9th place. So far, the Tour has been very interesting to watch and follow. Tomorrow’s stage 4 starts in Cambrai and finishes in Reims, home to many of the great champagne houses. It is a relatively short stage and should prove to be a fast paced ride. The entire tour will consume 2, 235 miles before it is over.

The pageantry, the team strategies, the individual efforts and challenges always make the tour a great spectacle to watch. Stay tuned.

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