Saturday, December 29, 2012
Why passing Roadies on expensive road bikes makes me feel good.
I ride at White Rock Lake trail a lot. White Rock Lake is a lake with a beautiful bicycle and pedestrian trail located in the nicer, upper echelon part of Dallas. It's an almost ten mile loop around the lake, and can be a good workout if you lap the lake several times, as I do on my old, steel and vintage bicycles.
Today I was on the lake riding along when out of my peripheral vision I saw a Dura Ace crankset and a carbon fork come up next to me as the rider yelled "On your left!". My guess is he was expecting to fly by me and take control of my lane. Under normal circumstances, I abide to these rider's requests with no problem. There was nothing wrong in the way he engaged me, and I actually thought he was polite. But today I had a score to settle with the roadies on the lake. Maybe it's buildup from having so many of them pass me and scoff at me and my bike. Today my legs were good and they were well underneath me, my knees riding parallel to my frame, and I felt they could give a lot more. Today he would take the brunt of my frustrations with roadies.
So I said no to the rider's request. I didn't say no physically, I sped up and didn't let him in my lane. He wasn't going to have it his way today, not with me anyway. As I sped up so did he, and I finally offered him entrance into the lane. He denied, so I went into a full sprint. I didn't see him again until after I had arrived at my car, within 3 minutes of my arrival. As I left him and he posse of carbon and spandex behind me, I was later told that words were being shouted and hand gestures were raised. That made me feel even better. Perhaps they weren't expecting the surprise that I gave them. Perhaps it was the way I blew them away on 30 pounds of 30 some odd years of steel. Perhaps its because I spent $20 on my bike and spent another $200 in the restoration cost, while they spent about $5,000 each on their "steeds". Today at least that group of roadies got a wake up call. They are not the fastest, most omnipotent things on the lake that can just weave in and out of their constituents without confrontation.
I attempted a few bicycle races in the past without any success. Road bike racing season here in Texas occurs during the same time of year as the rest of the country, which is flawed reasoning if you ask me. Riding in 105 degree weather isn't my forte. Put me in 41 degree weather and sunny, now we are talking! My robust frame handles the cold much better than the heat. While it's funny to see the cold weather blowing roadies and carbon off the trail like a giant leaf blower, I am usually too anchored down by my old bike and riding with too much momentum to be slowed down by headwind.
Maybe I'm just hating. I don't own any fancy bicycles, and the bikes that I do own are cheap by comparison to these newer, high end bicycles. Having been raised up with little means, I took a disdain early on from the mockery proceeding of the preppy, the opulent, the football jocks, and the aristocratic. Although I have nothing to prove to these people, when I am out doing my sport, they are in my territory. It's safe to say that races can and will happen, whether intentioned of not. Sometimes they initiate, sometimes I do. Sometimes it's just getting behind them and drafting on them for a few minutes. Sometimes it's sprint intervals. Either way, these races are real, and for someone without the means to compete professionally, free of admission and registration. Finish lines aren't drawn, these races are simply to see who will crack first. Once the other guy can't respond to a sprint or an acceleration, you know you've won. You can be king of White Rock Lake for a day, leader of your own general classification.
I ride all year long, sometimes putting up to 90 miles or more in a week when I am seriously "training" (for no reason as I don't compete). I have ridden on some of the hottest days and on a lot of the coldest ones. Just a few days ago it was snowing here in Texas. As the seasons change I adapt with them. Riding my bicycle is simply my routine. I don't log miles, average speeds or calories anymore. I just make sure that when I ride, I am putting my whole soul into it. I do it because I want to, and since I have nothing to prove, I believe that makes me more formidable than someone who, say, likes to flaunt their wallet on their bike.
Maybe one day, if I save up enough, I will get my Cannondale Super Six Hi Mod Team Liquidgas edition road bike, and I will join that special club of high end bicycle elitists known as "the Roadies". Maybe one day, even better, I'll just become a tough-as-nails old rider that can smoke anyone on an old, steel frame. I don't know, I haven't decided which way to go on this. Suggestions?
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Are you a history buff? Cycling fanatic? Vintage bicycle enthusiast? Or just love an all around good read? Then you have to read the autobiography of the late Gino Bartali Road to Valor- A true story of World War II Italy, the Nazis. and the cyclist who inspired a nation. This is a well written documentation of the life and trials of this famous cyclist, who as it was later discovered, became one of the greatest humanitarians of his time.
The backdrop of this true story is set in pre-war and post war Europe, namely in the agrarian region of Italy known as Tuscany, from which Gino hails from. Tuscany as well as southern Italy can be described as a picturesque, paradisaical landscape which most of us only dream of seeing, especially in it's pre-war days. The book describes in great detail the rolling hills and lush vineyards that surrounded Bartali's hometown near Florence. But a dark shadow was looming over the country in the early part of the 1920's. With Mussolini in power as the country's dictator, a Fascist presence fully manifested itself during World War II and threatened to rip the country apart. Gino did not give in to the xenophobic demands of his government at the time. Rather, he used his fame and his talents in an underground life saving work. As part of a human rescue mission, he helped Jews fleeing for their lives to obtain false documentation during the Nazi regime, thus leading to hundreds of lives being saved. He would smuggle all these documents in the frame of his bicycle, using what was once his means of livelihood to save lives.
In 1938, Gino was in his prime of fitness. As the war escalated, Italy distanced itself from the Allied Nations. Italy did not partake of the Tour De France after Gino's Tour win in 1938. The Tour was altogether canceled for a number of years during the latter half of the second world war. After the war, Gino emerged a changed man. Having lost his prime racing years and a lot of his fitness during the war, a insurmountable task lay ahead of him, win the Tour De France of 1948. He would have to do this ten years after his first tour win. Despite the odds, Gino Bartali took victory in France in 1948, closing a ten year gap of virtual non-existence on the professional cycling level. He won the race on the mountain stages. He summited up gravel and mud roads in the middle of two freak snowstorms that left his opponents literally frozen. When it was all said and done, Gino won with a mind blowing 21 minute lead over the field, a feat that very few elite cyclists have achieved, even today.
During his racing career, Gino Bartali made many friendships and rivalries. His biggest rival was fellow countryman Fausto Coppi. While Gino was a clean racer, a man devoted to his family, and in his own way a deeply religious man, Fausto Coppi contrasted him in many ways. While many can identify with Fausto Coppi of being the secular champion of Italian cycling, I believe Gino Bartali deserves more merit. His accomplishments go far beyond the world of cycling as his cause was far bigger than himself. I would have to say I personally identify with Gino Bartali on many points, both as a cyclist and as a person. I guess, after reading this book, I am now a Bartaliani (read the book, see the reference).
Final thoughts-Today's cycling scene can greatly benefit from the examples of great cyclists like Gino Bartali and even the way the race was raced back in the day. Today people talk about a new cycling phenom called gravel grinding. This back then would be simply referred to as ciclismo. There were essentially no paved roads back then, and cyclists rode on vintage steel bikes with cottered cranks. Now that's hard core. I would like to see that in modern times. That would really level out the playing field, and no amount of steroids would be able to compensate for the pure skill and athletic ability one would need to have to do what these great masters did back then.
I will end this review with one of the most inspirational quotes that I have read, in Bartali's own words.
"Everyone in their life has his own particular way of expressing life's purpose-the lawyer his eloquence, the painter his palette, and the man of letters his pen from which quick words of his story flow.
I have my bicycle."
Sunday, December 9, 2012
I Finally found a workaround for uploading photos on this blog, so I won't be starting a new one for now. Here's some updates on my Peugeot UO8 restoration. This bicycle has been repainted and decaled. It was a long and complicated process, I would provide some how to articles on this bike but they would be too entensive and detailed as to what I had to do to restore this bike, especially removing the cottered cranks. I will, at the readers request, provide any information that they would like to know on any specific topic. Hopefully, my next restoration will be less complicated than this one.