Cycling

This Saturday’s WSJ story, For Cycling’s Big Backers, Joy Ride Ends in Grief saddened me. It’s been hard these past few years to be a professional cycling fan – with all the doping and such. But I am not deterred. Cycling is one of the hardest physical sports on earth, and I will always respect the guys and nowadays women that commit themselves to it.

I started riding seriously in college in 1987 and raced competitively for three years until I graduated. If I was not in class or studying I was on my bike putting in between 200 to 250 training miles per week. I raced every week from spring through fall while idolizing Greg Lemond and the Tour de France. I was also involved in quite a few major crashes while racing (1989 picture) which I am still reminded of when I look at myself in the mirror. I no longer race competitively, but have kept training to this day.

A few years ago as CEO of a software company I had co-founded. I started sponsoring local teams and criteriums. In total I sponsored over 450+ riders spanning three teams in the bay area from 2007-2009. This was my first experience as a cycling sponsor and I was especially proud of the Los Gatos Elite Women’s team in 2007-8. Last year I sponsored Third Pillar Racing via BackBeatApps.

So…it is hard to see the sport of cycling go through such publicly difficult times today. Compared to other popular sports such as football, baseball, basketball, tennis and running – all great sports. Cycling by far requires more endurance, core strength and skill. The effort to crank out 50 miles in less then three hours can not be matched. The life long benefits of a strong heart and vascular system with minimal impact to bones and cartilage is also unmatched. Cycling is also good for the mind. Riding for two to three hours can help reduce my stress level in that I can get my emotions out on the bike and what ever might be bothering me at the end of the ride is usually real, not emotional. I have also found that by riding I can sustain greater stress loads in my daily life…the list goes on.

One final perspective on the present doping problem, I do not think it is fair to pay professional cyclists a fraction of what most athletes earn and expect one or two team leaders to place first out of 115+ Tour de France riders for consecutive years in a row. Greg and Lance proved it can be done and I belive they were clean when they did it. But as a rule I do not think it is realistic for one person to win a 21 stage, 2,100 mile race every year with such odds.

If it would only stop raining so I could go out for a ride. -john

Cycling

Laguna Seca

This year I rode eight track days on three raceways; Streets of Willow, Sears Point and Laguna Seca. After spending most of my time training with Keith Code and his superbike school. I am now focusing on applying the riding techniques I have learned in a more open track environment provided by Lance Keigwin of Keigwins@thetrack. Both Keith and Lance offer excellent programs for learning and applying the required skills to master the art of track riding some of the most powerful superbikes built today. I plan on spending more time with both of them in 2011. I am also looking forward to riding Thunderhill, Miller and Buttonwill racetracks, I hope.


Thanks to GotBlueMilk for the photo.

Yesterday I rode Laguna Seca with Keigwins@thetrack. It was an odd day in that it rained most of the day. Most riders including myself aren’t to keen to ride superbikes down Laguna’s five story ‘Cork Screw’ drop in the poring down rain. The turnout was lite, and most of the riders that did ride retired early. I rode about five sessions, then decided to call it around 2PM with myself and bike intact. The odd thing about the day though, was that I had a great time. The track was wide open, my bike slid around but for the most part was fairly stable – and I did not crash, like a lot of other folks (no injuries thankfully). I think the reason I enjoyed the day was because after all of the training I have had this year my riding finnaly started to click. I was a happy boy.

After committing to BMW’s S1000RR superbike this fall I have been learning how to become one with the machine. I like the fact the bike is light, 448 pounds and features an incredible 185 horsepower inline four cylinder engine. The good news is that it also features a very smart computer mounted on the tank that provides traction control including a gyroscope, abs brakes and on the fly suspension tuning for rain, sport or track setups. The suspension is also very adjustable. So adjustible you need an expert to help fit the bike to you. About a month ago I took it my local shop and spent about two hours with an engineer going over the suspension documentation fitting the bike to my height 6’1 and weight 192pounds. We did it by the book and the bike felt pretty good or so I thought.

During a break at the track yesterday, I had the bike checked by a racing suspension expert Dave Muse of Catalyst Reaction. I thought Dave would confirm my previous settings, but instead he changed my setup completely. He said he liked the bike, but the brakes were ‘too good’ and the fork springs not strong enough. He was right, in my next session the bike felt completely different. It was firm and smooth in the turns and the back wheel did not spin and push the tail up on the straightaways. Net, net I am now a big fan of Dave and plan to spend more time with him tuning the bike to my body and riding style this next year. I also would caution in not putting too much faith in BMW’s suspension default settings. Get a racing suspension expert to help, it can make a big difference to your riding and enjoyment.
-john

www.crstuning.com
www.onthethrottle.com

Update: 1-11-11
Based on feedback from friends and relatives, I realize that not everyone is into superbikes. For what its worth,…I take training and rider safety very seriously. Track riding on a controlled circuit like Laguna Sega is much safer then riding on the open street.

Laguna Seca

Mountain Charlie


Google Earth Image.

Mountain Charlie road in Santa Cruz is my favorite ride. It’s only about 14 miles round trip, but what it lacks in distance it makes up for in altitude, sharp twisty one lane roads and best of all some the largest Redwoods in county. My riding friend Tom Walsh and I try and ride it once or twice a week. We’ve had to switch to mountain bikes recently due to the cracked and potholed pavement. Our wrists just could not take the vibrations no matter how many layers of tape we added to our handlebars. Mountain bikes are slower, but for us old guys they are  a lot more comfortable.

Above are my stats from Friday’s ride. It was a rainy, foggy, but not too cold ride. We finished at the Big Tree. The picture below shows only half of this great trees’ width. It’s over 260 feet tall and over 1000 years old.
-john

Mountain Charlie

The Wall

The first time I saw Roger Waters, The Wall (the movie) was on a boarding school field trip in 1983. I was fourteen or so at the time. I remember liking the move, but not understanding it. On Tuesday Fred scored some tickets to Roger playing in San Jose. I havent listend to Roger or Pink Floyd in some years. I did not have any of Roger’s music in my collection, but I did have The Wall dvd. This week I watched it four times before the concert. The dvd has a lyrics display option which helped in understanding the movie and music.

I started playing the drums about three years ago. I mostly practice to BPM tracts, but for kicks I played along with the Wall to see how it felt. I was surprised at the slow, but powerful tempo. Whenever I wanted to hit the snare I had to wait an extra beat. That was my surprise. I can see how this effect makes the music feel much deeper. It’s hard to play slow.

I enjoyed watching the movie again. I think I understand it this time. Perhaps I just needed to grow older to appreciate Pink’s situation, contemplation and ultimate breakthrough resolution. Years ago I started a software project that grew beyond my imagination. The early joys were deadened by unyielding stress, changing relationships and fatigue. I too started to question the meaning of my efforts like Pink.

My favorite lyric, “when they have given you their all, some stagger and fall, after all, it’s not easy”

-john

The Wall

Crown remains

Starting in the 1860’s western homesteaders and industrialists in the Santa Cruz mountains cut down most of the giant Redwood trees. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Redwoods that had stood for hundreds of years were used to rebuild the city.

I took this picture yesterday during a rainstorm on our forest property. I was standing in the center of a stump. It has been about a hundred years since this Redwood was cut down. After a tree is fallen, a ring of new trees emerge in a circle around the cut stump. All that remains of this once giant Redwood is it’s crown.
-john

Crown remains