Sunday, December 11, 2011

Portland, you need this

Leather beer can cage holding a pint of PBR. It'll match your leather ear plugs and bird tatoos as you strut your car-free stuff... except during the 152 days of rain, when you drive like everyone else.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

PDX Love/Hate

I complain a lot about moving to Portland. It's a big city and I'm a small city guy. It's not as bad as Seattle, San Francisco, or any other big west coast city, but it's still a big city. The riding is good - for a big city. Which means that compared to Eugene or Corvallis (or even Salem), it pretty much sucks. The bike commuting is decent - except that it's soaking wet in the winter and the sheer size of the city makes biking from, say, Sellwood to NW PDX just a miserable affair. You may not get run over, but you'll be riding for a good long while.

The racing culture up here is strange as well. Portland is well known for being a bike Mecca - and it really is. There are bikes everywhere. There are more bike shops than you can shake a stick at, and there are thousands of riders who kit up every weekend in their best team kit and go pile on the miles. But at the same time, there's this really weird sort of vibe to it - it's clique-ish, kind of stuck-up and a touch inauthentic.

Here's a little list of my likes/dislikes with Portland cycling:

Like: Bike friendly coffee shops. Like the Ugly Mug in Sellwood, on my way home - just lean the bike against the window and go inside. Or Marsee Baking, where I have wheeled my cross bike inside while getting a bagel and coffee.

Dislike: Coffee shop rides all winter. OK, one or two are nice, but you won't find fitness at 15mph all winter while talking about racing. I miss the CSC rides in Eugene - hard endurance and race up the hills if you want to. So I go ride above conversation pace alone.

Like: Plenty of other people to ride with.

Dislike: No real open group rides, like CSC. It's all just team rides, emails every week coordinating events, negotiating pace, etc. In Eugene, it's just a matter of deciding if I'm going to the 8:30 Sat/Sun CSC ride or not, and seeing who shows up. No BS. Anyone who wants to ride hard can, and anyone who wants to sit in can. All are welcome. That doesn't exist in PDX, and they are slower for it.

Like: Races are closer.

Dislike: Portlanders still don't like to travel. Dorks. OBRA Championships had less than 30 guys this year.

Like: I always get a team to show up at PIR. Biggest OBRA race I ever did: PIR, with 120 guys. Wait... considering the above, that's kind of lame.

Dislike: PIR. Seriously, people, get over it. Y'all take some stupid risks considering it's the second-widest race course in the US (20 man pile-ups on a Tuesday night? Really?). You guys also treat it like a championship race, which it isn't. There's some serious negative racing out there. It's a Tuesday. It's for training. Ride your balls off, people. It'll make you faster for when you go race out of the city limits... oh wait, you don't.

Like: Saltzman road gravel climb.

Dislike: Everyone's obsession with gravel, Flanders, and talking about how Belgian it is to ride in the rain. No, it's not. It's Portland. And Belgians don't have bird tatoos on their necks, so get over it and go ride somewhere you won't find yourself changing a flat in 38F rain. You're not Belgium, Portland.

Like: Skyline road. The easiest way to get into "real" riding (i.e. not braking for lights ever minute)

Dislike: Skyline road. It's the easiest way out of town but I seem to ride it so damn much that it gets old. I want five more Skylines, going out in multiple directions.

Like: Springwater Corridor. OK, so I live right off of the corridor, but this is a pretty sweet trail that takes you straight out of town or along the water north and south. It's a relatively quick way out - except of course that it's like 12 miles until you are out of the city, and even then there's traffic.

Dislike: Sellwood Bridge. Just google it, along with the word "collapse". Bloody stupid, and you have to ride on the narrow sidewalk or dodge traffic.

Like: My team. Good guys. Funny. Race hard. No excuses.

Dislike: Rapha. Not the team, the company and everything it stands for. It's like W+K decided to design a bike company. Get. Over. Yourselves. Black shorts and pink stripes never made anyone faster. And stop talking about coffee like you have a fetish - we all like the juice, etc etc, go ride your bike.

Like: JVA, aka "Jen Voigt's Army", and more specifically this: since it's the anti-Rapha. This is awesome.

That'll do it for now. I've got to kit up and strap some lights on for the half-hour-plus commute home. Because Portland is awesome like that. But it at least gives me some time to consider how I'm going to crush all fools at PIR next season. Maybe I'll tell the wife that the commute was "epic" and "Belgian" before chugging some beers and drifting off into sleep, dreaming of birds who make fair-trade espresso.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Sigh. For as wet as Western Oregon is, I had it better in Eugene. Looks like a short window of opportunity is coming up - commute time.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Negative, my good man.

Good, I was afraid the WADA code contained a limit on allowable levels of awesomeness in the blood. 

Apparently not.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Premium Suck - or, Death of a Fad

Columbia Pictures gets ahold of it and a million hipsters sneer. Time to go ride unicycles, children.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

... AND that's a season.

Well, April to September is quite a jump. It's all of the bike racing season, in fact. What happened?

Some crits happened. I won one, to my great surprise. Like every one of the very few W's I've ever posted - it was solo. Because if even a newbie Cat 4 Jr woman had been on my wheel, I probably would have lost. Yes, the sprint is that bad. Yes, I work on it. No, I'm not improving.

Lots of PIR happened. Lots. It wasn't that much fun. Well, helping some teammates win a few times was fun, but often it was boring. So I started doing the Monday Masters races - which was fun. Old guys are slower, and I'm young for an old guy, so I attacked a lot.

Elkhorn happened. My favorite stage race. It was a small field this year but some good horsepower, and I managed to attack the remainder of the pack in the 1rst stage to roll in for 4th behind the 3 leaders. Then I did the worst TT of my life, dropped to the bottom of the results page on GC, and phoned in the crit. On the 4th stage I again attacked the remainder of the pack near the top of Dooley Mtn to come in 4th behind the 3 leaders. Hmmm. Something is off there. But, my teammate Josh destroyed everyone in the TT and held on to a good GC position so for having just a 2 man team in the race, we had some solid results.

Masters Nationals happened. I got 5th in the TT, which was nice, but then got pulled for doping control, which was a new experience. The whole process could be the subject of another post, but since it's a TT and you don't know how you did until well after everyone finishes, I had already gone back to the house and showered, peed, etc before checking the results. So it took about 80minutes to produce a sample, and I barely eked out the required 90ml. I do mean barely. It was like right at the line, thanks to some hard work on my part, and I got the stink-eye from the doping control people for such a meager sample. But they let me go.

The Nationals road race also happened. I got 5th again. And this race I replayed over and over in my head wondering how I could have won it. It blew up on the last lap and I rode into contention, over Archie Briggs (a bastard of a hill) I came across in 3rd with a decimated group behind. Somehow it turned into a group of 6 going for the line and the sprint sucked.

And that's it. All of it. So I stopped riding, started eating, drinking and sleeping in.

Good times.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tuesday in PDX

This is what Portland bike racers do on Tuesdays: loops at PIR. It's sort of a Thursday Nighter / Greenhill Crit combo, only without any rollers and with more people. We averaged just over 26mph in the 1/2/3 field, which isn't all that fast even with the winds, when compared to Eugene races. It is far more fast/slow/fast/slow. HPC got our man in the 3-up break to take all the sprints and win the final, and I played the team card all night until Yann and I sat up before the last turn to let the sprinters take over. Good times.

The season has been a non-starter so far. Between getting sick 3x, going to Hawaii for 10 days with the wife, horribly crappy weather even for an Oregon winter, and working, I went from being on par with last year by late January to not riding and feeling like I just had an off season. The rebuild is going slowly - And since Oregonians don't do road races into the summer that means there's about 2 months of good stuff left before it all turns to crits and stage races. Doing PIR 2x a week and riding Skyline after work should do a decent job of getting the speed back - but the lack of fast group rides around here is a real downer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why hello, shadow

Good to see you. The Vitamin D is welcome.

It feels like spring. That may be a bad thing, if we pay for it later, but right now I'm happy to be fenderless and warm(ish).

A few weeks ago I rode down to Eugene with Quinn, who suffered a bad day with 50 or so miles to go. It was pouring rain for the first part of the ride and, predictably, my silliness led to illness and the next week was a total write off. And the following week was nearly so as well - while the symptoms were pretty much gone in my daily life, on the bike I was still crap. JR did some hill climbing intervals with me and kicked me around like I was a Cat 5 on knobby tires. But then a long weekend off the bike and some good R&R put things right - it's as if I woke up and lo, it was springtime - with new legs, good weather, and a much better attitude. Of course - fitness still tanked from two weeks of junk, but that's not insurmountable.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nutella VS Peanut Butter - an old post revived

Did you know that today is National Peanut Butter Day? It's true. And since Peanut Butter is a staple of the cyclist diet, I thought it would be worth reviving a three year old post comparing two spreads that provide so many calories to hungry cyclists: Nutella VS Peanut Butter. The showdown.

Original post here.

Nutella VS Peanut Butter
The Ultimate Face-off.

Peanut butter has long been a staple of the American diet. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich is the quintessential American meal. Athletes too have discovered the values of peanut butter as a delicious, healthy, energy laden food which can be eaten on or with a multitude of other items. What peanut butter is to America, Nutella has long been to Europe. Consisting essentially of milk chocolate and hazelnuts, it can be found on breakfast tables all over the continent, it comes in little packets to be spread with bread at hotel buffets, and has been used as a mid and post-ride recovery food for years. It is only relatively recently that Nutella has been commonly available in the US, and that peanut butter has been available in European stores. Globalization has finally put both products in our cupboards at once. And thus we are torn: which is better? Which is the PRO food to eat, which is the SMART food? Does it matter? Will I be judged by my choices? It is time to duke it out and settle it for good, which one reigns over the stomach of the common cyclist? There is only one fair way to settle it. We will compare the two products across a range of criteria, and score them both on a scale of 1-5. Highest total score wins. It's a straight up Face-Off.

The Contestants

There are many brands of peanut butter available, so we have chosen the most worthwhile competitor for the Nutella: Adam's 100% Natural Peanut Butter. Now, Adam's initially requires mixing, which other brands don't but I believe this will not grossly harm the product's chances.
Nutella Website

1. Presentation
As the saying goes, we eat with our eyes before we eat with our stomachs. Yes, presentation is key. While the perfectly smooth virgin look of any freshly opened jar is a delight to behold, we have to go with Nutella on this one for the totally PRO white top and matching label. The perfectly sized jars also imply rational serving sizing, as opposed to the commonly available massive tubs of peanut butter which are just so white trash. The Euro takes the first round.

Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 5

2. Nutrients
Here we have some interesting numbers. Both listed serving sizes are 2 tablespoons. Nutella registers 190 calories per serving, 100 calories from fat. Peanut butter reads 210, with 150 from fat. However, 21g in the Nutella serving are sugar, versus just 1g for the Peanut Butter, and although sodium is much higher in the PB (120mg versus 15mg), protein is also higher (8g vs 3g) and thus the calories from Peanut Butter are probably of slightly higher value than those in Nutella. Neither, however, is particularly full of carbohydrate, and both are primarily fatty foods, and high calorie. Fool yourself not.

Peanut Butter 3
Nutella 2

3. Spreadability
This one is close. On room temperature breads, both spread about evenly, with maybe a slight edge going to Nutella. On toasted items, however, the Nutella becomes slightly more fluid and glides across your piece with the ease and suppleness one expects from an Italian product. Peanut butter lags just a little behind, but is by no means a difficult spread. Still, the Nutella is just so smooth...

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 5

4. Bananas
Ah, Bananas. The cyclist's favorite food. Full of fibers and cramp-defying potassium, it is a common post-ride snack, often spread on the spot with either Peanut Butter or Nutella. Here, Nutella's spreadability becomes a liability. Peanut butter has a little more heft to it which allows it to stick to a slippery banana. There are not usually unsightly drips, but rather clean scoops balanced perfectly. Peanut butter has an edge, on technical merit alone.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

5. Bread
This is a difficult one. Bread's neutral background is a perfect complement and vehicle for a large expanse of flavors and savors. Both Peanut Butter and Nutella do well with this one. It is hard to think of a bread style that does not work for either - and any bread which works with the one works equally well with the other. I will have to call this one a tie.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 5

6. Bacon
Yes, bacon. There are few things more decadent than a piece of toast, spread with Peanut Butter, and layered with a strip or two of bacon. The combination of salts and fats, especially while still piping hot, is incredible. Try it. The chocolaty Nutella comes in far behind on th this one - Chocolate and Bacon just don't mix.

Peanut Butter 5

Nutella 1

7. Honey
Peanut Butter - Banana - Honey Sandwich, Nutella - Banana - Honey Sandwich, or just Peanut Butter & Honey on Toast, Nutella and Honey on Toast. Wonderful, warm, sticky, messy, sweet goodness. Both the Peanut Butter and Nutella score highly in combinations with Honey. However, the sweetness of Nutella is just a too much sweet when laid on top of sweet honey, here, Peanut Butter edges Nutella slightly for it's more subtle sweetness and nice balance of saltiness for the sweet & salty combo that is warm breakfast perfection.

Peanut Butter 5
Nutella 4

8. Cookies
Peanut Butter takes this one. I have yet to find a pleasing purely Nutella flavored cookie recipe. If one is available, however, do send it this way. Nutella can be mixed well to create a moist chocolate cookie, but it looses the creaminess and the hazlenut flavors in the process, and. Mind you, they are still delicious. Peanut Butter is a very common cookie ingredient, but a tricky one to work with due to the interesting ways in which it changes the consistency of dough, and a chewy Peanut Butter cookie that retains the full Peanut Butter flavors is a challenge. Of course, the Nutella fans will tell you that cookies are for the fat Americanos, and that Nutella makes wonderful Biscotti. Bull.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 2

9. Tortillas
Both items spread well. Neither resists the wrapping process nor spreads excessively once wrapped, and they do not create a mess inside a pocket. Like bread, both flavors are well born by the blandness of the tortilla. Bananas, honey, or other items can easily be added to the tortilla to create a more complex culinary experience. This is a tie. Tip: Avoid the tomato flavored tortillas.

Peanut Butter 4
Nutella 4

10. Straight from the Jar
This is the ultimate test. Armed with a spoon and a jar, and possibly some espresso, which one would you prefer to assault? I think the winner is clear. Peanut butter's heavier texture makes it much more difficult to process in direct form. It sticks to the mouth and the usual saltiness requires more liquids to compensate. Nutella, on the other hand, is a touch smoother to ingest and chocolate's undeniable love affair with coffee is hard to ignore.

Peanut Butter 2
Nutella 5


Peanut Butter: 40
Nutella: 37

And by a whisker, Peanut Butter takes it. Yes, versatility, perseverance, and the need for no special treatment, allows the old PB to nip the proud old Euro PRO at the line. There is just no denying a winner across a wide range of challenges, versus a specialist, no matter the hype.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Tweed Ride: Civil War reinactment for cyclists.

The Tweed Ride


Fashion riders. But with a dash of irony added to the narcissism. Like hipsters for hipsters.

I saw a dude on Skyline the other day with a wool jersey, no rain coat (it was pouring out), and a courier rack.

He looked cold.

Should have had some Tweed.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Portland bike lanes - meet the bike lane guy.

Everyone is familiar with the bike lane guy. You know, the white street painted stick figure hovering over two circles that insinuate that he's riding a bicycle. The bike lane guy lives in the bike lane, letting us all know that this traffic lane is for cyclists.

Most cyclists who live in or commute through a city see, oh, dozens of copies of the bike lane guy every day. This is him:

When we see the same thing over and over - a stick guy on a bike in the lane ahead - our brains start to bybass the actual observation of the image and start to just assume what the image is, what it represents, and assign a value to it - i.e. "bike lane guy, therefore this is a bike lane". So we miss the subtleties that we otherwise would pick up on while looking at side by side images of different bike lane guys.

Here, the bike lane guys is obviously in more of a hurry than the one above as he leans forward slightly:

And here we find bike lane guy sprinting to make an intersection before a red light, or something like that: and judging by the splat on his head it probably isn't going very well.

Now, bike lane guy can get positioned several different ways. I'm pretty sure I've seen bike lane guy in a bike lane recumbent position, and anything in between forward to the racing mode above.

But now I have to ask, how many people noticed when bike lane guy put on a helmet?

Or when bike lane guy, who usually rides left to right across your path, decided to turn himself around and head into the car traffic on your left?

Now that's kind of strange. But since bike lane guy is, afterall, the product of a stencil, it's pretty easy to flip him around and spray him onto the road the other way.

Then bike lane guy changes helmets. Did you notice when his brain bucket got a little more rounded?

Or what about when bike lane guy, who obviously is concerned about the clumsiness of a full sized bike in a city full of alternative transit options and office buildings with limited covered bike parking, got himself a little 20" wheeled Bike Friday?

Then there's the poor bike lane guy who came in the three-piece stencil variety, and got laid on the ground with a little too much paint and suffered a few bumps and bruises:

Although most of his brethren came out OK.

Sometimes bike lane guy is subtle. For example, this bike lane guy traded his old bulky helmet for a svelte new one, with some serious ventilation:

And every once in a while, bike lane guy likes to give us a smile and let us know that bike commuting is not only good for the environment and your health but also fun:

Of course, bike lane guys would be lonely without bike lane gals:

Who might think that they are princesses of the road:

And sometimes bike lane guy decided to do some decidedly silly (and dangerous) things, such as roast marshmallows / play drums while riding:

In downtown Portland, serious businessmen also commute by bike and the bike lane guy respects that:

Although you have to wonder what a Texas Longhorns fan is doing in Duck Country:

Or if Pinnochio really rides a bike:

Or if playing a trumpet while riding is a good idea at all (one nice feature to bikes is how silent they are - this defeats the purpose):

So there you go. Bike lane guy is everywhere, right under your nose, changing outfits, changing stripes, changing colors, toying with your eyes. Remember to give him a nod next time you ride over his head.