Mornings have been…brisk.  Well below freezing this week and if I thought it was challenging to ride at 5 above, it’s considerably more so at 7 below.  I still manage to work up a sweat which is mildly concerning from a what-if-I-break-down-and-freeze-to-death perspective – clearly haven’t figured out the layers yet.  So much simpler to ride in Calgary summers.

The comments (and readership if I’m honest) here are pretty slim.  I know most all of my regulars in the real world (and thank you for your continued patronage).  Even my international readership was quickly traced to my travelling family (thanks for reading while in Italy guys!).  I do however get a whack of hits thanks to this photo.  Rasmussen.  I ripped it from the web and posted it up while snidely remarking that I’d rather not be a cyclist if this is what they look like.  Well Mr. Rasmussen the Pro Cyclist gets lots of hits from people looking for what I assume to be real information, so they land here, curse the site for misleading them and leave pretty much immediately.

Waiting for first-time-comment moderation (a policy introduced thanks to the voluminous spam this blog attracts) was a legitimate comment from some poor schlep who landed here searching for Rasmussen.  I skimmed it quickly, finger already on the mark-as-spam button when something caught my attention.  It lacked the usual content “ Your blogging is best I have read.  You have many expertise on this subject and I will come to here much often!” signed by triple X email address.  Sure.  Anyway – I opened my eyes a little further and re-read it, still mostly asleep.  I caught “oh my god”, “look” and “Rasmussen” and I said to no one in particular – I know – how translucent can a guy be?  I patted myself on the back for garnering a comment from some random interweber all the way from the fatherland of pretzels and giant beer steins.  A smile slowly crept across my sleepy face as my finger headed for the “oh yes, definitely approved” button as I read it one more time.

A new comment on About is waiting for moderation:
Author: Silk
Oh My God.
I’d rather look like Rasmussen.

Oh…ouch.  That’s a hurricane hook kick to the ego.  The comment was posted to this picture of yours truly.

Now I know it excels in its dorktastic Fredulence.  I was told I looked like a mall cop before I posted it.  It’s intentionally ridiculous but it’s still me.

The comment stung because the author highlighted my dig at Rasmussen.  What I did was steal a picture of a real individual, post it on my blog, then mock his appearance. Seems fair to have my picture mocked as well.  It wasn’t particularly nice of me and frankly I didn’t give a moment’s thought about the individual in the picture.

But then this is the internet where nobody is safe from ridicule and ripping, and worse yet, I’ma  true fred banging on a legitimate, prize-winning pro cyclist.  Who am I to mock his glow-in-the-dark pastiness or his Buchewaldian physique?  I’m sorryish.  Almost.

What’s the difference between a doping cyclist and a doping bodybuilding?  One dopes to be strong with the least amount of mass possible, the other dopes in pursuit of the greatest mass, and volume, they can afford.  Otherwise both compete in sports that, apart from massaging the competitive drive in its participants and the wallets of sponsors, do nothing.  Both are clearly obsessed.

We think nothing of snickering at the “elite” bodybuilder who looks like a circus freak because they’re so extreme, so far outside of normal as to be cartoonish.

Markus Ruehl - freakishly big

So is Rasmussen.


His single-minded pursuit of pro-cycling excellence leaves him looking like a caricature.  I’d even been advised that “that picture of Rasmussen on your blog – it’s going to drive people away.  You should warn your readers that it’s there”.

So does being outside the norm – and just what is norm anyway  – mean you’re a fair target for unflattering commentary?  Everyone or just some people?  Celebrities?  Unknown, nobody bloggers?  I’m not sure I know how to draw the line.  As a parent I don’t want people making my kids feel bad about their looks – there’s an entire cosmetics and fashion industry that can do that thanks – and it would be unconscionable to poke at someone else’s.  What about strangers?  Friends?  Family?  I’m thinking the last two are clear “yes” answers.  If I can’t rib my own friends and family, how will they know they’re in the cool group? I don’t know.

At any rate,  I can take my dorkinian helmet with its nü-rider accessory mirror off, put it on the shelf and become an average, anonymous, polite and apologetic Canadian and I’m pretty happy with that. Besides, Best Wife will take me even with the nerd-pot strapped to my head and she’s the only one I need to impress.

I Do and I Am…Maybe

Lacking any modesty, I use any opportunity to pronounce my new-found religion.  Meet for lunch?  Only if it’s nearby – I cycled to work todayGive you a lift?  Sorry – rode my bike this morning.  Lost weight?  Thanks, yeah, 30 pounds now, riding my bike all the time.  This is typically greeted with a positive response – Really?  That’s cool. – followed almost immediately by one of the following.

You don’t wear spandex do you
This seems to be the primary concern of my friends.  It’s almost as if they’re afraid of catching some heretofore unproven-but-suspected sickness that might render them powerless against showing up at the office Christmas party or the Friday-night poker game in head-to-toe spandex.   Ken, completely bonkers downhill racer, a man I’ve known since before either of us could shave and never noted as a conformist rolled his eyes “oh gawd, you’re not wearing those black spandex shorts are you?”, the disgust dripping from his words.

In truth, I don’t but that’s not because I’m unwilling…now.  When I was 40 pounds overweight (as opposed to the optimistic 10 I am now), you wouldn’t have been able to bribe me into them in public at any price.  I rode in my cargo shorts with the stealth chamois shorts hidden underneath.  I thought it was perfect but then single-digit temperatures arrived.

It didn’t take too many mornings in the almost-freezing air to figure out I needed something to cover my knees if nothing else.  Enter my first stretchy-pants – the MEC winter cycling tights.  When asked recently if I wear those shorts I replied “no – I have stretchy pants, like tights” just to watch the reaction.  As predicted, my friend reacted with horror, disapproval and disappointment.  You’d have thought I’d just told him I’d been having an affair with the neighbour’s poodle.

It’s not like I’m asking them to join me in my new-found clothing choices.  I’m comfortable in my choice of clothing – I don’t need someone else to validate it for me.  Yeesh – it’s not even like we’re riding together and they can’t handle being seen with a lycra-clad rider in the group.  Doesn’t matter though – switching back and forth between the cargo shorts and the stretchy-pants leaves no doubt – stretchy-pants rule and stretchy shorts are a foregone conclusion when the temperatures relent.

You’re not going to be one of those guys
Jason and I went for lunch recently and the topic of my riding came up…because I brought it up.  Jason, who doesn’t ride and hasn’t expressed an interest to (yet) has no problems with my stretchy-pants though he expressed some degree of relief that I wasn’t wearing them in the restaurant.  Jason was supportive and complimentary, arguably the most supportive of my small cadre of friends.  He came from a different angle.  “Are you going to ride this winter” he asked, to which  I replied with an enthusiastic maybe.  “I’d like to” I told him “but we’ll see how much I want to when there’s snow on the ground and no room in the lane”.

“Noooooooooooooooooooo” was the immediate response, his head shaking .  “Don’t be that guy!  Put the bike away and just drive a car like a normal human”.   Now, I could see if I was his courier or pizza delivery service how my desire to pedal through the winter might cause him some concern.  Luckily for both of us, I am neither of those.  So, what’s the issue?  We don’t work or live in the same quadrant of the city and virtually none of our respective commutes or general travel overlap…so what if I ride?  The reaction is almost reason enough and Jason is not alone in his disapproval of my plan.  Well, not really a plan so much as an idea.


Now these are all friends that have eaten my food, who have fed me and my family.  They’ve taken their weekends and evenings to move me – in the case of Ken, 3 times in a single 12 month period.  These guys aren’t peripheral or fair-weather friends – they’re the real deal and I’m lucky to have them.  So what is it about cycling that makes even your closest friends hang their heads, cluck their tongues and nod disapprovingly?  If I’d bought a motorcycle and we were talking about leather chaps or riding in the rain, there wouldn’t be any such reaction – unless I demonstrated my predilection for wearing the chaps without anything underneath them.  What is it about bicycles that puts everything on its head?

My Winter Conundrum

With fall in full swing and winter seemingly around the corner, I’ve been pondering my cycling options.  While it’s true I’ve said I intend to ride all winter long, it should not be construed as “I’m going to ride my daily commute irrespective of the weather”.  Based on 20ish years in Calgary, I expect I’ll be able to get some path/road rides at least every month, if not every week.  I don’t expect to ride outdoors every day by any stretch – I’m not that damaged.

I’ve participated in outdoor activities in the dead of winter.  I’ve put on the long underwear, fleece pants, snow pants, t-shirt, long-sleeve, sweater and finally winter jacket, followed by regular socks, then wool socks and winter boots, a scarf, a balaclava and finally a helmet to go and ride my snowmobile when it’s -30˚C.  You sweat and almost overheat while getting dressed and out to the snowmobile, then the wind sucks away all but the minimum of heat and you’re sledding feeling reasonably comfortable, except that you’re wearing an extra forty pounds of clothing.  This doesn’t sound conducive to cycling.

I’m also not keen on the idea of spending more time pushing than riding.  If I leave early enough to avoid the traffic that will certainly be looking to run me into the snowdrifts, I will get to the paths without trouble.  The path network however is not like our sidewalks – they are not all slated to be cleared.  I can only imagine how much fun it’s going to be to start doing the hike-a-bike in winter gear after a big dump of snow.  So when it’s too bleeding cold or there’s too much snow to ride outside what shall I do?

Ride inside is the obvious answer.  I could ride in the basement once the kids have gone to bed, or before they got up.  Well…not before they got up – that’s not possible – my middle monster doesn’t actually sleep, she only lies in her bed until she’s bored of lying there and then she’s up again.  Looking for company.  I could set up and ride in the garage – private, no little fingers poking into things, no concerns about break downs or flat tires leaving me sweaty and stranded in the middle of nowhere, still winter-cold but no wind so I can dress warm enough to keep from freezing without ending up like A Christmas Story.

So we have the where, now I need the what.  What kind of contraption do I use to ride?  Oh and there are all kinds of options here.  Fluid trainers, mag trainers, wind trainers, inertial trainers, rollers, rollers with resistance, free-motion rollers, trainers that are internet-enabled, trainers that let you rock – or in my case, wobble – back and forth.  The list is almost endless with prices running from under a hundred for the no-name mag trainers to a couple of grand for the internet-enabled, remote controlled, alien-inspired, laser-guided version.  Okay, that last bit isn’t entirely true – you have to use your own laser. Tangent: I don’t have a maintenance stand for the bike so I hang it from the garage roof with a couple of straps.  Once, on a whim and understanding the foolishness of it, I suspended my bike from the garage ceiling such that I could climb aboard and pedal it.  You have not lived until you’ve ridden a suspended bicycle as fast as you can (I was only willing to do it once however as the foolishness exceeded my repeat threshold). /tangent

I’m not in a position to buy the alien technology though I’m sure hooking it into the internet so a virtual Lance Armstrong can lap me before I’ve shifted out of the small ring would do wonders for my ego.  I’m faced with two categories – rollers or trainers?  Rollers will, through negative reinforcement encourage me to use a more disciplined riding style and to pay attention to “my line”.  I like the free-standing aspect – nothing but balance and gyro holding up the bike, lots of focus on cadence and riding smooth. Unless I buy (or build) the free-motion rollers though, I can’t stand and sprint on them.  On the other hand, a fluid or mag trainer can be set up to provide a load for aerobic training or strength training depending on what you’re after, but there’s not the discipline on form enforced as the bike is pinned to the trainer and – at least theoretically – it can’t fall over.

I can throw the bike on the rollers and ride – theoretically – without having to do any more than I would if I was going for a ride on the paths.  The trainers all lock on to the rear axle, an act that would take at least 15, perhaps 30 seconds of my precious ride time.  A trainer is rumoured to be harder on the rear wheel than rollers, but rollers require two smooth (IE not winter knobbies) tires or you’ll be spinning and buzzing the entire time.  In a perfect world I’d have both – the galacticaly-connected super trainer with ego-crushing option and the full-motion rollers with resistance and throw-you-down-and-humiliate options with dedicated bikes for each, in a specially air-conditioned room with large-screen televisions and an endless supply of mental distractions to keep me riding.  This is not a perfect world however.

What say you?  Do you have rollers?  A trainer?  Should I buy the Amazon $60 trainer or will that just be $60 I didn’t put toward the Cycleops trainer or a set of rollers? Have you tried the opposite?  Would you have both if you could?  Have you lost focus at high speed and ridden off the side of your rollers only to have your wheel’s spinning inertia blast you forward into your precariously balanced distraction device, therein wreaking havoc upon your domain?  ’Cause that would be a good story.