Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Terrorists on wheels

That might as well have been the title of Claire McNear's column in the Chicago Maroon. My favorite passages:

it clacks its fierce metallic teeth and charges at students, clicking its gears menacingly

The University would be wise to [...] impose regulations upon the well-armed hooligans who circle our campus astride their potent death machines, forever in search of speed and the blood of innocents.

The article is a fine example of hysterical alarmism; it is hardly possible to take this overblown caricature seriously, let alone relate to it. A balanced presentation would have served Ms McNear's cause better.

Style considerations aside, the Maroon is right in pointing out the rude behavior of cyclists. (I am the first one to admit not respecting all traffic rules, although I don't ride on campus.) The problem lies in the "special" status of bikers: they're not pedestrians, but they're not accountable for respecting traffic laws either (or at least not forced to).

The solution is not "requiring cyclists to obtain licenses," as Ms McNear says. Who are we kidding? What difference is it gonna make to pass a test? And how much money would it cost the University to "train" the hundreds of bike users that join the neighborhood every year, as well as to administer the system?

The only things that would change the behavior of cyclists would be:

(a) Setting clear rules of where and how cyclists and pedestrians can share the campus roads and sideways. For example, are bikes supposed to use pedestrian crossings? Are they supposed to ride on the quads? Which areas are off limits for bikes? And so on.

(b) Enforcing those rules, as well as the regular traffic rules (does any day pass without seeing a biker going the wrong way in the street?)

Enforcement is probably the hardest and the most important part. But the UCPD is overburdened as it is. And lately they have to worry about people's getting shot, which seems more important than regulating bike traffic. I don't know how many cops you'd have to use to make a significant difference. Maybe you'd only need a few, especially if the penalties for careless or unlawful riding were steep.

But, again, in order to implement any enforcement system you first need to set clear rules about what you're not supposed to do while riding your bike on campus.

U of C Economics Professor on Performance Enhancers

An interesting op-ed from Allen Sanderson, U of C economics professor, regarding the problem in line drawing when talking about performance enhancers.


Also, when I get a little time, I will post about a continuing legal education program I attended a few weeks ago that was on the topic of performance enhancing drugs. It featured the General Counsel of the US ADA, an attorney who defends accused atheletes, and Greg Lemond. I thought Greg's perspective was pretty interesting -- a bit unfortunate and not one I agree with, but understandable hearing how his career ended.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Style points for Sunday's vintage racer ride

Six brave riders weathered the cutting lakepath wind and damp for Sunday's parade of lead-sleds.

Jesse was the hands-down winner for style points--+25 for the old raleigh (and bonus points for platform petals coupled with pumas...no toe covers in sight!) and an additional +25 for the amazing vintage Depauw cheerleader sweater worn over a backpack.

J and Yoko get +20 for matching argyle knee socks and very stylish flannel, and another +10 to J for actually wearing those goggles all the way up to Metropolis and back.

Taylor gets +20 for the gorgeous old campy on the blue raleigh and an additional +5 for braving the questionable standover height and riding the bike despite the perils presented by the top-tube.

Ben's rig was by far the classiest of the bunch, which earns him at least +10 patience points for putting up with our unusual peleton.

And I award myself +10 for the battle cry of the Zeus (i.e. copious shrieking that accompanies any attempt to break) but -5 for covering the wool jersey with a wind-blocking soft-shell (I'm a wimp!).

Yay for base miles on the winter bikes!

HPTT 12 November

Sorry for the belated post! Last week's times were pretty fast, but given tonight's conditions, I predict even quicker splits. The prize of the week is courtesy of Aspen: a swanky "ZIPP Speed Weaponry" t-shirt, size medium in black. As always, please bring lights and remember that the start time has been bumped forward to 5:15PM.

For newbies, I've posted the route info and rules at the bottom of this page:

Grant 12:52
Danny 14:29
Maris 14:01
Jesse Y.
Tony C.
Loren 14:19
Taylor 14:02
Rob F.
J. 14:03
Dan 13:53
Phil 14:56
Jeff 14:40
John R.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Non-doping cyclists finish Tour de France

All right, this is dated material, but hilarious nonetheless. Hat tip to Nora.

Non-Doping Cyclists Finish Tour De France (The Onion, August 30, 2007)

PARIS—A small but enthusiastic crowd of several dozen was on hand at the Tour de France's finish line on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées Tuesday to applaud the efforts of the 28 cyclists who completed the grueling 20-stage, 2,208.3-mile race without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

Great Britain's Bradley Wiggins finished the final 56km time trial in a respectable and drug-free 4 hours and 38 minutes.
Finland's Piet Kvistik, a domestique with the Crédit Mondial team, was this year's highest-finishing non-doping rider (142nd overall). Kvistik claimed the maillot propre, the blue jersey worn by the highest-placed "clean" rider, on the ninth stage of the race when the six riders who had previously worn it tested positive for EPO, elevated levels of testosterone, and blood-packing.

"This is a very, very proud day for me," said the 115-pound Kvistik, who lost 45% of his body mass during the event, toppled from his saddle moments after finishing, and had to be administered oxygen, fed intravenously, and injected with adrenaline by attending medical personnel. "They say it is...

Continue reading it here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

HPTT 5 November

Tonight was just a taste of what's to come, my friends: some wind, a chill, and burning lungs. As usual, one rider got lost, and another had a mechanical. The only other casualty was John's coffee mug.
  • Liam wins tonight's form award. It was actually too dark to really see it, but I trust his spin continues to smooth out and his torso was very quiet for the entire ride. Liam's prize is a pair of super skinny 559 tubes for his new 26" Schwalbe cyclocross tires.
  • Maris wins tonight's pity award. He got a flat mid-course and had to borrow a wheel in order to ride back home. Maris wins a tube and flat repair and careful examination of his crazy malformed Shimano wheels.
  • Katherine wins tonight's best bike award. I suppose she could also win the heaviest bike award, but I'm just glad to see her out with the crew! Her prize is a package of Cola flavored Clif Shot Blocks.

Liam 13:43
Andy 20:18
Phil 15:08
Kevin 17:40
Katherine 18:03
Claus 14:09
Maris 32:16
Grant 13:20
Suchandra 15:27
James 15:01
Jeff 14:30

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Scary stuff for gentlemen

This is a bit old, but I don't think saddle designers have made much progress since 2005. From the New York Times:

Serious Riders, Your Bicycle Seat May Affect Your Love Life

Published: October 4, 2005

A raft of new studies suggest that cyclists, particularly men, should be careful which bicycle seats they choose.

The studies add to earlier evidence that traditional bicycle saddles, the kind with a narrow rear and pointy nose, play a role in sexual impotence.

Read the whole thing here.

legal doping

From The Economist:

How to cheat without cheating
Nov 1st 2007

Athletes and the placebo effect

THE murky world of doping in sport may be about to get murkier still. Having spent decades trying to detect the use of performance-enhancing drugs, officials may soon be confronted with the paradoxical problem of detecting their non-use.

The reason for this paradox is the placebo effect: believing a treatment to be effective is sometimes enough to make it so. It is what lies at the heart of otherwise scientifically unproven fields such as homeopathy—and also, it must be said, at the heart of a lot of mainstream medicine. An analysis published a few years ago suggested that perhaps a third of medically approved drugs might be acting as placebos. And that thought led Fabrizio Benedetti and his colleagues at the University of Turin to wonder if the placebo effect might be important in sport, too. The answer is that it might.

Every year the World Anti-Doping Agency publishes a list of prohibited substances and methods, divided into those prohibited at all times and those outlawed only during competitions. Dr Benedetti observed that morphine falls into the second category. Since it is a painkiller, denying it to athletes in training would be unethical. It is forbidden during competitions because its painkilling properties would give users an unfair advantage, but the effect is short-lived—unlike, say, that of anabolic steroids that build up muscles.

Killing pain, however, is one of the things that the placebo effect is best at. In 1999 Dr Benedetti himself showed that someone who is injected with morphine for two days in a row experiences a powerful analgesic response not only on those days but also on the next, if the morphine is replaced by a placebo without his knowledge. That led Dr Benedetti to wonder if the effect of legally administered pre-competition morphine might, perfectly legally, be carried over into a competition by giving a placebo.

In their new experiment, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, he and his colleagues simulated a sporting competition by pitting four teams of ten athletic young men against each other in a pain-endurance test. With a tourniquet strapped around one forearm, these men had to squeeze a hand-spring exerciser repeatedly until pain forced them to stop. Their scores, measured by the time they managed to keep going, were averaged over the whole team.

One of the teams received a morphine injection just before training sessions held two weeks and one week before the contest, and an injection of saline solution on the big day, along with the suggestion that it was morphine. Another received the same regime, but the saline was combined with naloxone, an opiate-blocking drug. The remaining teams received either no treatment at all, or the placebo on competition day alone.

Members of the team that received morphine followed by a placebo were able to endure significantly more pain during the competition than any of their rivals. In particular, those injected with naloxone did no better than the other two control groups. This finding supports the theory that placebos reduce pain by encouraging the brain to produce more natural opiates than usual.

Although hand-spring squeezing is not yet an Olympic sport, it is a good enough surrogate to suggest that these effects might be shown in real competitions, too. So the question is, how useful would Dr Benedetti's observations be, should they be taken up by an unscrupulous but legalistic coach?

That depends how cynical athletes really are. The placebo effect depends on what the recipient believes is happening, so he would have to think he was cheating, even though, strictly, he wasn't. Also, if the practice became widespread, it would be hard to maintain the fiction that the injection on competition day contained the drug. On the other hand, as Dr Benedetti observes, doctors have been getting away with giving placebos for millennia, and their patients still fall for it. Perhaps if it were sold to athletes as a form of homeopathy, they would not ask too many awkward questions.

frame pumps

I've noticed that a few people have trouble inflating their tires on the road. I don't mind letting you use my pump, but one day you'll be riding by yourself or with somebody with an unusable pump, and you'll get stranded. It's a good idea to try to inflate your tires with your frame pump at home, and make sure that it works. If it doesn't, most likely there is a problem with one of the rubber pieces inside the head of the pump. You can try to replace the piece, or buy a decent frame pump.

Many of those little frame pumps that people use are very cute and light, but completely ineffective at actually pumping air into your tires. I'd recommend that you buy a pump from the Topeak Morph series. This one for example. A feature I always look for in a frame pump is a hose, so that you won't bend the valve stem when you're pumping hard. (To minimize that risk, you should also use tubes with threaded valve stems.) Another handy feature is a fold-out foot pad that you can step on, so that you can use your frame pump exactly as if it was a floor pump. Some of these Topeak Morph come with a gauge. The model I link to in this post, and which I own, can inflate your tires up to 140+ psi (it takes me time and patience, but I can get there).

I don't know where you can find these pumps for the lowest price, but even if you spend 30 bucks on one, it's money well spent.

Does anyone know where I can buy a sleeve for my frame pump? I want to protect it from water and dirt, so I'm using an umbrella sleeve. But my cranks rub on it and already made some holes, so I need to find something better. (Plus, it looks awful.)