Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Meddle Race

Well it seems as though fellow NY rider Senor BSNYC continues to set the blogdome/blogosphere discourse on riding the fixed gears and while in the past I have tried to tread different ground than my more esteemed and well read colleague (if that's a fair statement), yesterday's post on the Metal Race stirred up all sorts varied sentiments, both in myself and others. Having spent the time to sort through the comments to the post its seems that like a similar dredging of the east river might turn up some gems, it also turned up a ton of junk. However after sorting all that out, there remain a few salient points that deserve a bit more attention. The first of these is the state of alleycatting and the heavy derision it seems to fall under from various fronts. The first bit of criticism that gets lobbed at the alleycat is that it is so far denuded from its original purpose that it is starting to resemble the nth copy of Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. This may be true, certainly when the racing first began it was much closer to the courier community and had fewer interlopers and imitators than it does now. The original purpose of trying to find the best courier in a controlled environment seems to have faded into "racing" from point to point in an effort to exert semi-maximal effort, often while drinking and performing nonmessenger related activities. Well that's fine. If we'll still treat the alleycat as a truly competitive event, is it really that much differant than what happens to any form of competition as it's base grows and talent/skill/fitness start to stratify? Is the differance between a CMWC caliber of race any further distanced from a "Metal Race" than a Central Park Cat 5 race is from one the Classics? I would argue no. Does that make the participants in either ride ripe for ridicule? Clearly, if the event or riders seem to be losing perspective of where exactly it all fits together, then, yeah, sure rip on them but is that really what is happening here? Further to say that a fixed gear rider who alleycats doesn't know the meaning of what it is to ride through the pain is also disingenuine. If The Rider taught me anything, its that no one is really capable of suffering to the extant that we believe ourself to be capable of and for people that hang their hat on that fact, it will be ever thus.
I could go on but this is getting to the point of treatise on alleycatting and only furthering the sort of discourse that I hate, mainly the us v. them; black v. white. All that I'm really trying to say is that it would do the whole "community" (such that it is) to look for a little more "grey". Is an event like the "Metal Race" ripe for satire, of course. Is it approriate to then use that satire to further personal attacks on the culture of alleycatting, of course not. Ultimately mixing a little biking, with a little boozing, and a touch of face paint never really hurt any one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where were we...

Well no where, really, but that doesn't mean we can't end up somewhere. Also by we I mean me but who's counting. I didn't really know what to make this post about but then something happened in my NYC riding life that called for some sort of transmission to whomever may be reading this blog. What was that something you may ask? It was a seminal moment for bikers in the city that marks the transition from summer to fall, a cycling solstice of sorts. This morning I was able to get my commute over with without breaking a serious sweat. I don't mean that I pulled up to the trusty bike rack, locked up, and wiped my brow only to find nothing to wipe, oh no there was still plenty of that salty sweaty goodness but instead after dabbing my brow a few times I was good to go, done with the perspiration. Usually in the summer I am good for a solid 45 minutes of that quasi-embarrassing post-ride routine of continually removing those glistening beads of moisture from my exposed forehead, partly because I sweat a ton (I guess that's just my burden to bear) but more importantly, because riding in the city in the summertime is a fucking disaster. Sure Prospect Park in the early AM has its moments but really at that hour, if I'm up, I'm making a bee line for the bed not the pace line. In terms of practical biking (e.g transportation) riding in the summer is pretty much bad news and I'm glad that we might be moving past that for a few months (I'm looking in your direction Indian Summer, please remain seated).
I had thought this post was going to be a recap of all the things that I learned whilst riding through these dog days in particular and perhaps that post is still on its way (probably will be) but mostly I just want to say how happy I am for summer to be winding down, for the prospect of some cool rides, and for those beautiful morning when you get outside, swing a leg over your bars, and take that first crisp, cold breath of air and think to yourself, "man I'm overdressed, I am going to be sweating like a pig when I get to where I'm going."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Milking a Dead Cow

As was promised a long time ago here are the last few pictures from CMWC; they're just bikes that caught my eye for various reasons. Now that I'm done milking CMWC pictures for content its just my own inane ramblings about things mildly bike related.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Things have been a little sporadic over the past few weeks here because I have been on vacation and recovering from said vacations but I'm back in the city now for the rest of the summer and hopefully this blog will pick up a more frequent posting schedule and I am told that is the key to a good blog. Well that and decent content. So I still have some left over bike pics from the CMWC to throw up but for now I'll open with a bit of Tour de France rant. I hadn't really been watching the tour for the last few years because for whatever reason the proliferation of doping in the peloton ruined the credibility of the sport for me. I thought that it was odd at first for that to be the case because in regards to doping in American sports I wasn't nearly as turned off by what I knew to be tainted endeavors. Perhaps it was the odious intersection of American chauvinism and righteousness about the dominance of "Mellow Johnny" while unequivocally denying the possibility that he too was doping. That possibility was something that should have been up for debate given the prevalence of doping within the sport and his dominance of said sport, which should either implicate him in the doping, undermine the beneficial effects of doping, or put him into some superhuman category of athlete. I don't think it diminshes the radness of his accomplishments because relative to his competition he was an extradinarily dominant athlete but still a little more give and take on the subject would have been appreciated.
Well back to the Tour at hand. I have been enjoying the hell out of this year's little jaunt through the French country side. I do honestly believe that the sport has done its best to get the doping out of cycling which has left the peloton cleaner than it has been in the past and made for a more "real" event. Most importantly it looks like there is a new generation of riders that are riding clean and seem to have a promising career ahead of them. (Sidenote, I was really enjoying Ricco and his riding and that little EPO piss positive was a serious downer, especially because he is such a shit talker off of the course.) The man from the Isle of Mann, Cavendish, was a blast to watch ride and it's been a blast watching Vandevelde ride so well has been great as well. Most importantly, there has been a good mix of tremendous individual efforts coupled with solid strategic team riding that has led to high drama in both the individual stages and on the overall leader board.
All of which is a round about way saying that watching the tour this year has gotten me hyped to be on the bike, hammer out some longer rides, and push my own skill level. And really that is what it's all about. Rah Rah, solidarity, and what not

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bike Polo

For me the highlight of the weekend was a truly epic bike polo finals event that included both the prerequisite drama/intrique/blood but added some mild hypothermia along with more profanity to the mix. (Quick explanation of bike polo: three person teams, semifinals/finals were untimed with teams playing to a preset goal limit that was raised for the finals, goals are scored by hitting the ball through your opponents' cones, contact is generally discouraged/illegal but at times is unavoidable, players cannot touch the ground with a foot and remain in play without first touching the center line.) Like the main race, qualifying for the finals bracket was held on Saturday and as one might imagine consisted of teams playing multiple games with the more successful teams advancing to play the next day. Long story short: four courts, lots of games, cheers, tears, some busted up bikes, teams advance, teams go home/to the "bar", and then the semi's roll around. The first match was between NYC's Trackstar team and a Madison, Wisc. team. The court was slick from the rain that was a constant at that point in the day and play was chippy. NYC took an early lead while play was still fairly open but Madison rallied back with some timely scoring as the game became more settled in the half court. Cheering was decidedly split between a rowdy contigent of NYC backers and the equally vocal Wisco kids. {Sidenote: if awards were given to spectators the Wisco kids would take home some sort on hardware for the bunker they built by propping plywood between a fence and bleachers. It was pretty impressive for an improv structure with found materials, plus it kept me pretty dry and warm, so thanks for that. If any one has a picture of the structure I would appreciate it if you could send it on to me.) The NYC/Madison game was suspended briefly after one of the players on the Madison caught an errant elbow that opened a nasty gash below his left eye. Rugged. Play would resume after tempers cooled a bit and NYC would end up carrying the match but for sheer entertainment value, I believe this match outdid the final. While the NYC/Madison match was on hiatus the second semi-final match was played between Milwaukee and East Vancouver. This match ended up being a slightly more civil affair but with high quality play from both sides. It seemed that Milwaukee benefitted when the game opened up but eventually E.Van were able to exert their will, settle the game down, and capture a finals berth. Most of the rain had abated by the time the finals rolled around but daylight was in short supply. The two teams traded periods of dominant play, with NYC jumping out quickly only to have E. Van battle back and so on and so forth with NYC eventually emerging as your inaugural champs. Also a pretty nice little youtube clip of these fine young Luchadors pilfered from John Prolly's blog

Monday, July 7, 2008

Main Race

The task of sorting the wheat from the chaff continued with the main race. The mad dash start of the finals race would have been a familiar sight to most alleycat racers and while the main race borrowed much of its structure from more standard forms of alleycat racing there were slight variations to the structure that made the race a unique experience. The race itself was an extended version of the qualifying race loop and many of the stations had been moved as well, so maybe not an extended version so much as a version that used the same paths as the day before in an entirely different extended manner. However, unlike qualifying, the field was pared down at timed intervals based on completed manifests, which not only allowed the event to test riders' endurance on a closed course but also promised a sprint finish full of suspense, drama, intrigue, sweat, blood, slick pavement, and bikes. Some pictures of the event are included below, I would caption them but it is fairly clear whats going on without further commentary.

Upcoming: Bike Polo coverage, bikes of the CMWC.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

CMWC Qualifiying

The first full day of the CMWC consisted mainly of the qualifying races and games for the subsequent day's championship race and Bike Polo final. The qualifying road races ran throughout the day and consisted of a more basic course than what was to await riders successful enough to make the finals. The course map below outlines the stations for the first days worth of racing.

Competitors queued at the main start and headed out individually and overall competitor times were done through stamped manifests at dispatch. The quality of riding during qualifying, as would be expected, was a bit up and down with those who would go on to be competitive in the finals clearly distinguishing themselves from the field and the middling riders fighting to make the cut.
The start tent for the qualifying heats.

Tomorrow I'll have coverage of the championship race.