Friday, July 26, 2013

The Leg Report

If I could make one suggestion for the good folks at Strava, it would be for a predictive performance report. It wouldn't be too hard for them to come up with a power profile based on one's cumulative workout history. That could then be used as base to compare against recent rides for some sort of predictive performance. It would be something not unlike how USAC does their pre-race place prediction.

The reason why I know this would be a very popular Strava feature is because my good buddy Shim already does this before every ride. He calls it "the leg report". Without fail, somewhere within five minutes of riding, Shim will sidle up next to you and tell you -- whether you care to hear about it or not -- how his legs are feeling on that particular day. It goes something like this:

"Hey Brady, my legs are feeling awesome today. I was a little worried at first because I rode a 158 miles to and from yesterday's RAGBRAI stage, but after a few minutes, they really opened up, and they feel great now. "

Some days he doesn't give you a leg report. But you know that it's good, because while you're trying to take an easy recovery ride, Shim's up front laying down a blistering pace and gutter-balling everyone in a brutal cross wind. This, while en route for tacos during a friendly lunch ride.

And then he'll tell you he was soft pedaling.

The funny thing about Shim is that if Strava did make such a report, they'd need only two leg report classifications: good and awesome. We all know what Shim's awesome leg report feels like. Good, however, is more loosely defined. It could mean both good or bad. Like, in the example above, he'd prolly say that his leg report was good, despite having having taken two local KOMs while riding the 158 miles RAGBRAI miles the day before. For anyone else, their legs would be thrashed. That's a good leg report for Shim.

Still, there are some curious outliers in Shim's profile that may need to be filtered out by Strava. Yesterday was one such example. About 20 minutes into our taco ride, Shim was nowhere to be found. I finally found him behind me, which is very rare. I drifted back to check on him.

"Can you be my soigneur?" He says

"Sure. What do you need?"

"Hold this for me."

We were riding on a crappy road filled with deep cracks and potholes that required all of one's focus to keep it upright. While looking forward and keeping one hand on the bar, I blindly reach out towards him, expecting to get a water bottle in my hand. What I got instead felt something like a shoe. A shoe? Nah, it had to be water bottle. But when I looked down, it was indeed his shoe.

"Why are you giving me your shoe?"

"Bad leg report," he says.

"What does your shoe have to do with your leg report?"

"Nothing. It's my sock. It's inside out and driving me nuts."

He then precedes to take his sock off, turns it right side in and puts it back on, all the while clipped in and pedaling with his other good leg and navigating the quagmire of potholes.

"That's better," he says when he's got his sock on correctly. "Can I have my shoe back now?"

I give him back his shoe.

"Thanks. Now be a good domestique and pull me back up to the group."

For the remainder of the ride, Shim had an awesome leg report.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Genu Valgum

Genu Valgum isn't Latin for Fred's favorite three letter acronym, GSV. No, Fred's TLA translated into Latin would be Juniperus Communis Hoohah Inebriat (JCVI).


Anyway, Genu Valgum is the medical terminology for having what's commonly known as "knock-knee". Apparently, I have a mild case of this.

To say I have a mild case of this may or may not be correct. You see, I haven't officially been diagnosed with this condition. Yet. Not unless Chris Spence has a medical degree that I'm unaware of.

I must admit that this whole thread is a kludge, right from the beginning. So let's back up and take it straight from the top.

My Physical Therapist, Mike Bartels, was present at a recent Wednesday night group ride. That was good, because for the past few months I've been meaning to ask him why my groin/abductors have been as tight as a bear trap. The internet suggested poor core strength as a possible reason. When I brought this up to PT Mike, he said that six pack abs does nothing for a spine that is as crooked as question mark. Now, I could have told you that Mike was going to say that. He specializes in posture and alignment issues. What I needed to next, he continued, was to schedule an appointment at his office...

Some 90 minutes later, after we had all beaten the living snot out of each other in hills, heat and humidity, Jordan remarked that Shim and Jonathan Wait's heads bob up and down when they climb hills. Shim and Jonathan wanted nothing of his feedback. I rolled up next to Jordan and asked for comments on my riding form. Jordan said that I was smooth as butter in the saddle while climbing. When I heard that, I flashed my most annoying grin toward Shim, gloating and such.

Chris Spence then rode up next to me. "You want to know what's wrong with your form?"

"Tell me."

Your knees."

"My knees?"

"Yes, I've noticed this for a long time. When you ride, your knees are really close to your top tube instead of being directly over your pedals. You should ride with your knees over your pedals for optimal biomechanical function."

It's funny that after all these years of cycling, I am only now hearing about my knock knees. Thanks for the feedback, Chris. Seriously, I appreciate it.

For the past couple weeks I've been mulling this over. Not so much the knock knees. What I've been mostly baffled about is that my own teammates, who ride with me every day, have let me pedal around all knock-kneed and stuff all this time. I'm looking at you, Shim. And you too, Savery. And Fred? You were there from day one. You could have prevented all of this silliness before it even started.

Having good form has always been important for me. Mostly, because I didn't want to look stupid. If I could somehow manage to look reasonably cool, then even better.

Back when I was kid, I tried to emulate the running style of my bff Steve Missey. Steve ran pigeon-toed. In and of itself, that wasn't so fantastic. But after scoring goals in soccer, he ran back to midfield with his toes pointed inward. That was it for me. If running pigeon-toed resulted in scoring, then that was the only way to run.

More recently, I knew better than to ride my bicycle in the style of Eric Brunt. Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for Eric. He's as strong as a bull on a bicycle. But I noticed a few years ago at the Twilight Crit that when he hammered the pedals, his head bobbed up and down. It didn't look right and I swore on the spot that I'd never be a head-bobber. That's why I'm smooth as butter, Jordan. True Story.

But Spence's comment a couple weeks ago was a shocker. I didn't know that about my knees. I turned to the internet to research knock kneed cycling. To my surprise, the netizen had nothing but praise for riding with knees close to the top tube. One forum user even claimed that the entire peloton rides knock-kneed nowadays.

So in conclusion, I'm confused. Maybe Spence was incorrect in his assessment of my riding form. Perhaps Shim, Savery and Fred have known all along that riding knock kneed is where it's at.

Awe, the heck with it. If it's good for Tour de France, it must be good for me, right?

Hey Spence, the thing I've just started noticing about your form is that your knees are too far away from the top tube. You should consider the Genu Valgum Riding style. It's the rage.

Knock-kneed and pigeon toed, but no head bobbing!
Team Sky Chris Froome riding knock-kneed

Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Christian Knees, um,knock-kneed at this year's Giro
The entire team Sky all aero-kneed and such at the  TdF TTT

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ahh, A Bear in His Natural Habitat

Last weekend, we were in Denver visiting family. As I mentioned, one of the highlights of the trip was tagging along with my Dad at the Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet, hosted this year in Colorado Springs from July 1-6.

Until this past weekend, I had no clue that a subculture of rabid Studebaker enthusiasts existed out there. I quickly found out that Studebakering is a lifestyle choice, complete with layers of strata within. Like, those who completely restore their cars but rarely drive them, known as trailer queens, to those who modify them into a trick car, complete with a 5.0 Ford Mustang engine shoe-horned beneath the hood. But whether a purist or a tinkerer, or a simpleton like me, the trip alone was worth gawking at them for an afternoon.

If you're like me, you probably don't know much about Studebaker automobiles. My first recollection of a Studebaker was Fozzie Bear's 1951 Bullet Nose Commander in the Muppet Movie (1979). The quirky Studebaker brand was spot on for the Muppets. So much so that a bear driving a Studebaker across the country with a frog bent on reuniting with his pig girlfriend almost seemed plausible.

"A bear in his natural habitat, a Studebaker" -- Fozzie Bear
Moving right along, that scene from the Muppet Movie came to mind a couple years back when my Dad announced quite suddenly in an email that he had purchased a vintage 1963 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk off of eBay. A Studebaker? Dad had always talked of one day owning a Studebaker. But my Dad is a conservative. Dreams seldom come true for conservatives.
1963 Gran Turismo Hawk
But there it was, his dream had come true: a Misty Rose GT Hawk, complete with lots of chrome trim and whitewall tires. When he picked it up , it had 53,000 original miles on it from its two previous owners. The body and paint were in nearly perfect condition, having been garaged all these years. It still has most of its original stock parts and doesn't leak oil, nor any other fluids. The best part is firing it up and hearing that throaty growl emanating from its two chrome-capped tail pipes fluting out from the rear.

With 50K miles on it, his GT Hawk was no trailer queen. To prove it, Dad let me take it out on the open road. Though Studebaker made automatics, this one had a three speed stick mounted on the steering column, three-on-the tree, as they say. Driving it took a little getting used to, the shifting pattern, no power steering nor power brakes, etc. But once I got settled in, I opened up the throttle and got up to highway speeds quickly. It was a hoot to drive.

While the car has a lot of distinct features, it's the Misty Rose paint job that makes Dad's Hawk stand out among the others. The color was an original option, but apparently not many chose it. Dad has since found out that the color appeals to women. Mom liked it right from the beginning. And at conventions, the Misty Rose paint scheme draws plenty of comments from females.

While Dad's Hawk was drawing its share of oglers, I took a tour of the parking lot to see what else was on hand at this year's International Studebakers Driving Club Convention. Now I'm certainly no expert or anything on these cars. Dad tried to bring me up to speed on the subtle differences among the various Studebaker models, but it was way too much to take in. That's okay; the visual appeal of these cars were more than enough.

For instance, take a look at the fine details of these Studebaker hood ornaments:

Does your vehicle(s) have a hood ornament like that? Let me reset that: Does it even have a hood ornament?

Indeed, the Studebaker represents much of the essence of the Golden Age of the automobile.

Friday, July 5, 2013

On Vacation

This post will have to be brief as I'm on vacation visiting family in Denver.

Anyway, I posted something earlier on Tuesday, so my editor shouldn't fire me for missing this week's deadline.

The highlights of the trip so far has been driving my Dad's '63 Studebaker Hawk from the Studebaker convention in Colorado Springs, and seeing my niece Charlotte enjoying her first 4th of July Bike Parade. 

Good times here in Colorado. Happy Independence Weekend everyone. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Red Baron

[Omaha, NE.] The following scene unfolded while soft-pedaling through North Omaha during yesterday's lunch ride.

"Check it out," Leah says to me while motioning excitedly over her shoulder.

I look back from where we just came and see some guy on a red mountain bike furiously hammering down on his pedals. The bike is a heap. A Schwinn, in fact. The rider's wearing no helmet, let alone a shirt. But he does have a lit cigarette in his mouth.

"Oh boy, here we go" I mutter to myself. At that moment, I immediately knew:
1) Being overtaken was imminent
2) Shim won't go down without a fight.

I drew a deep breath, then call out with my best booming voice:

Just then, the shirtless wonder blasts by at 14 MPH. That may not sound like much, but when you're JRA at 11 MPH, it was quite impressive. Even more so considering he was dragging on a cigarette.

The attacker dusts all of us, including Shim.

Shim looks back to us in wonderment as to what just transpired, then in one seemingly preordained movement, clicks through his SRAM drivetrain while turning forward and jumping to cover the gap.

It was all over in about two seconds. Shim covered it, the bogey gave up, and they both sat up for a few pictures and smiles to preserve the memory.

Oh boy indeed.