Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stupid Belgian Fans and Other Observations:

Watching the Three Days of De Panne on, I noticed that the Belgians still paint “VDB” all over the damn road. Yeah, they’re cheering for Franck Vandenbroucke ( For some reason. I remember watching Liege-Bastogne-Liege from 2003, won by Tyler Hamilton, and painted all over the road was, “VDB, VDB, The King is back!”

No, he’s not. Seriously, guys, it’s over. I’m happy that Vandenbroucke is making another comeback, getting over depression and drug use and whoever knows what else. Sure, he had some decent wins, and you could chalk up his problems once to being a troubled youth. That was when he was a 20-year old whiz kid. That was over 10 years ago.

All right, so he’s Belgian, and the Belgies have been looking for their “next Eddy Merckx” since the Cannibal hung ‘em up.

Um, hello? Guys? You notice the other guy in the race, the tall Belgian with the World Champion’s jersey on? That would be Tom Boonen, of course. Belgian? Check. Winning races? Check.

The King is dead. Long live the king.

Some might say that yours truly spends far too much time ranting about stupid, broken things that people do. So, for today, a realization that is the opposite of a pet peeve: Speedplay is a company that has it all together. I ride Speedplay’s Zero pedal system, and I won’t spend too much time singing that system’s praises for the moment. It’s good, it’s simple, it works. What rocks about Speedplay is the little things. Like the fact that they include a quick-lube grease port on the pedals, so you don’t have to totally disassemble them to service ‘em. The other thing is the thoughtful attention to detail.

It’s vogue, not to mention profitable, for producers of cycling gear to create hierarchies of product lines, in ascending price, theoretically ascending quality, and typically descending weight. Campagnolo does it by inventing some great stuff, calling it Record, bumping last year’s great stuff to be called Chorus, and demoting the previous Chorus into Centaur. Shimano does … well, it does something that makes people pay lots and lots of money for things it labels “Dura-Ace.”

Speedplay numbers their “X” pedal system – X/1 is the best, then X/2, and X/3 got dumped all the way down to X/5. With Zeroes, it’s the metal of the spindle: Titanium, Stainless steel, or Chro-moly steel. They could’ve left it at that – swapping spindle materials, same mold. Instead, they are slightly different: on the axle Chro-moly version, the entry-level pedal, has large, octagonal wrench-flats. One could, and I did, use a standard toolbox 15-millimeter wrench to install and remove them.

I recently picked up some Titanium pedals. At a glance, they’re identical, but upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the Titanium version has very thin wrench flats, round for most of their circumference except in two places. This means that you need a pedal wrench to install them, a tool any decent cycling mechanic will have, but is specific to bike riding. In short, if you’ve bought the pro-level pedal, they assume you’ve got the host of cycling tools to back it up. The entry-level version can be handled by the contents of anyone’s garage.

This is smart. Thanks, Speedplay.

Oh, and the thinner wrench flats means a slightly reduced Q-factor; that is, the cyclists’ feet are closer together, and thus so are his legs, giving him better aerodynamics and increased cornering clearance. The recreational cyclist might appreciate the increased Q-factor of the Chro-moly pedals, which is a bit easier on the knees.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pet Peeve of the Day : Pennies and taxes.

Washington’s got sales tax. Oregon doesn’t. Now that I’m in Seattle, I’ve got to deal with adding between 8.8 and 9.3% to each purchase. The biggest frustration with this isn’t so much paying the government their due, which is mostly unavoidable, but the sheer irritation of not being able to handily pay with cash. Yesterday after a ride I stopped at a convenience store to buy a candy bar, since I was pretty depleted. They were two for a dollar, and, to my happy surprise, all I had to do was hand the cashier a single and I was done. Apparently, candy bars count as “food,” which is tax-exempt. While Twix bars are only questionably food, and I don’t really care about the 9 cents, it was much easier not to either fish out a dime, which I didn’t have anyhow, or end up with a useless 91 cents.

I have a whole bag of change now from buying coffees, sodas, and other things that aren’t considered food. Last week, I tried to take it into my new local US bank branch to exchange it from annoying base metal into far more spend-able virtual credits. No such friggin’ luck. Oh, says the clerk, they don’t have a changer machine, it would have to be pre-rolled for them to accept it. Guys. You are the bank. If you can’t, then

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Veloce Bicycles. Located on the famous Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Veloce Bicycles is one of Portland’s many small bike shops. They’ve got an attractive website and a cool-looking retail store.

Sadly, that’s all I can say for Veloce bicycles. It’s that type of small business in which the owner works there pretty well all of the time. This wouldn’t be so bad if that owner weren’t a complete asshole. Arrogant, self-centered jerk.

Yes, many people have gotten what seemed to be friendly, good service from Veloce, and for good reason: these middle-aged, upper-income types are willing to shell out the big bucks and not ask too many questions. I watched as the owner pulled on his sappy-salesman mode, all syrupy nice-guy, to help a couple of older recreational riders on the $4,000 road bikes they’d bought.

For those not so privileged, though, they don’t want much to do with you. I’ve been to over a dozen bike shops in the Portland area, and I’ve never had such insensitive, poor service. I don’t want to go there again, and I don’t think you should, either. There are plenty of great options for cycle retailers in the area, and nothing particularly sets Veloce apart. If you’re a small shop selling higher-end stuff at retail – that is, you’re not trying to compete on price – you’d better have uncompromising good service, even if it means going out of your way or being friendlier than might want to be.

“Speed” in Italian?

I’m not buying it.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Bonking," "on the rivet," and "argy-bargy." Cycling has a lot of weird terms. One that I never really understood before was "quacking," which is what they call riders bumping into each other during agressive racing.

Cyclingnews finally explained the answer. Kwakken, they tell us, is Dutch for "bump," which happens all the time between the "hard men" of the spring classics.

So, when they say, quit your quacking, now you'll understand.
Just Say NO to Crashing:

Once again, I had a "top 10 ways to..." post in the works. This one was going to be about climbing (hills, on a bicycle), since it's something I'm not bad at but a lot of people seem to fear.

Instead, it needs to be an little guide on NOT CRASHING.

First, the reasons for it:

Thankfully, I have not crashed since last Wednesday, and I don't intend to do it any more than I can help.

The first crash is on the MUT. I'm riding with a partner who hasn't logged very many miles on the roadbike, and it shows a bit. A part of our ride goes through the Interurban Trail from Auburn to Kent, Washington. Along the way, there's a number of wooden posts in the road, to deter motor vehicles from entering the paved trail. Today is cold, rainy, and a little windy, so there are few pedestrians or casual cyclists, so we're moving along at about 30 kilometers per hour. I'm riding easy, often with my hands off the bars, and the aforementioned posts are widely-spaced enough that I don't really pay attention to them; I just keep looking ahead, and that's that. But Matt isn't so confident; he brakes a bit before each one to navigate them, and also brakes before entering these little chutes in which the trail passes under the road. I don't say anything, but this seems like a caution sign about his bike-handling skills.

You're probably thinking, maybe he ran into one.

He didn't.

Instead, he ran down a septuagenerian.

A lot of the blame goes to her stupid little dog, I'll admit.

As we approach the end of the section of trail we're riding on, there are a couple of people walking their dogs: a middle-aged man with a terrier, and a hunched, slightly overweight old lady with a shuffling gait and one of those little, yippy toy dogs.

We say "Coming up on your left," slow to about 20 kph, and they move to the right. Unfortunately, Grandma hasn't reined in Puddles very tightly, and at the last moment, the twenty-ounce fur-ball jumps out into our path. He's still attached to least, so

I swerve off the path, roll along the gravel and grass for a moment, and am about to continue.

Matt, hasn't quite sorted this out. He zigs instead of zags, tries to brake, slides his rear wheel a bit, and ends up square in the middle of Grandma's back. Oops.

Thankfully, she's basically fine. After an embarrassing few moments, she walks away after the middle-aged man, evidently her son, who has in turn walked off after the little dog. Most reasonable dogs would probably get defensive of their master in this situation, but Puddles is making a getaway. Mister Balding is pretty creepy, himself, but I'll get to that later..

Then there's the race. This one's a little uglier.

This week, I went to the Mason Lake road race, my first race of my season. It started a little late, since I've had a couple of crashes and a nasty illness keeping me out of the peloton for a bit. You can find the full race report here, if you're interested. The short of it is that I had good legs, though it was pretty hard to navigate the sketchy, inexperienced pack on the narrow, windy road. In the fifty-mile race, I got off the front in a breakaway with two other guys, dropped them, and was on my own for about twenty miles. One guy can't hold of sixty for very long, and I wasn't really going full gas, so in the end I sat up and waited for the group.

The final two hundred meters of the race, riders in the lead group are allowed the full road for their sprint. We were about two-fifty from the finish, and I was just about to make my jump, when things got a little hairy. Inevitably in a race of inexperienced riders, a few people try to sprint FAR too early, run out of gas, and the people who waited blow past them. The speed difference is impressive.

The rider two guys in front of me tries to jump across the road, but doesn't make it. He catches his front wheel on the back wheel of one these slower riders. The wheel spins, and the rider on HIS back wheel runs right into him. I hear loud cursing, see bikes and bodies flying, and swerve to the left, braking hard to avoid the mess.

I barely make it.

Bike racers crashing normally makes an unmistakable scritching, screeching sound as aluminum, carbon, and steel slide across asphalt. This time, though, it was accompanied by a loud CRACK! POP!

The crack was the first rider's carbon-fiber fork snapping clean off of his bike. It's the end of a $4,000 Orbea, but that's the last of his worries.

The pop is his helmet hitting the ground as he face-plants into the pavement.

I've stopped my bike, laid*** it by the side of the road, and rushed back over the scene.

This is not good.

The second crasher looks mostly okay, just scraped and battered.

The first is lying in a quickly forming pool of blood, unconscious but awake, twiching.

His teeth aren't all right at all. Some protrude through his lip, others have cut a hole in his cheek, and there's a small stick lanced through the other side of his mouth. His left eye is bloodied, shut, and it appears his eye socket is fractured or something. We try talking to him, but he ain't responding. I think his leg is broken, too, but that's not really the concern.

I hope this guy gets out of it with stitches and some capped teeth. He's definitely not dead, and not paralyzed, but for all I know he's broken his back. The ambulance showed up and hauled him away; I don't know any more.

Bloody fucking hell.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It’s supposed to be March.

March the sixteenth, even, which means that spring is just ‘round the proverbial corner.

This is the Pacific Northwest. It’s not supposed to snow here much at all, and certainly not the week before spring. The forecast yesterday was “some showers in the afternoon,” which apparently means “rain all day.”

The depressing part about the weather up here is that it’s pretty much always wet, but rarely really raining. I’m amazed at how much a tenth of an inch of precipitation can get dragged out.

Take a forty-degree day, go for a four-hour ride. In general, it’s not so bad, so long as you’ve dressed properly.

If it were raining hard, I could just go all hardcore on it, accept the wet and mud and sogginess, and that’d be that.

But it won’t actually rain. It just drizzles. All. Day. This means that, after a few miles, the surface of everything is soaked with cold water, and this slowly penetrates everything, starting at the extremities.

After two hours, fingers, toes, nose, and ears, are all hurting. Colder, and they’d go numb, but it’s not that actually cold. Gusts of wind stir this mist around the air, sending the eensy-weensy raindrops flying more horizontally than anything else. The clouds fill the sky in a gray, unchanging mass, smeared over the blue by the wind.

They’re low, and the mountains and hills in the distance are obscured by fog.

Overall, it’s damned near impossible to tell wear the ground ends and the sky begins.

Powerful rain, thunderstorms, and other forces of nature all carry fitting metaphors about power and passion.

Here, life is simply damp.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Seriously, Microsoft, get your act together on this hotmail thing.

It’s getting annoying.

I still keep a hotmail account, that I’ve had since 1998 or something, and it never works right.

Go to the inbox, get a bunch of messages, click on one, start reading. Delete a few, keep others. Then, when you’re done, hit “inbox.” The ones you deleted may, or may not, be back in your inbox, and they may, or may not, be flagged as unread. This can go on many, many times.

It gets old.

Not to mention at least once a week I can’t access my mail because the server is down.

Do you have to try to be this non-functional?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ten Ways to Make Cycling More Comfortable: Wisdom I’ve learned in becoming a Roadie

Nota Bene: These rules specifically apply to your humble narrator, a male road cyclist in the pacific northwest. Your geographic region, gender, species, or favorite type of cookie may have other requirements.

  • Chill Out. You’re riding your bike, and that’s awesome. There’s a lot of people out there that aren’t, or can’t, and your life is much better than theirs. So, relax, and be thankful.
  • Wear an Undershirt. It doesn’t matter if it’s really hot or really cold out, you need moisture transmission. Imagine being out in the desert, where it’s 105 degrees out. Hot, eh? But you’ve got enough water, and some shade. Not that bad. But crank the humidity up to 100%. Feel the muggy stickiness on your skin. Yuck. Now, toss yourself up on the mountain in winter, but give yourself a nice ski jacket. You’re doing fine, until I have you open up the jacket, toss a pitcher of cold water inside, and zip you back up. You’ll have hypothermia in no time. I favor Underarmor “heat gear” short-sleeved and sleeveless tops, but Craft and many other brands work fine. And how Assos can get away with charging a hundred bucks for a “powerstatic base layer,” I have no idea. Undershirts pull moisture away from your skin, and they are the biggest temperature-regulation aid I’ve found. Wear one.
  • Bend your elbows – whether you’re on the hoods or the tops, you need to bend your elbows. Far too many beginners and recreational cyclists straight-arm it, which sends all the road vibrations up into your neck, tenses your shoulders, and abuses your elbows. They should pretty much always be bent at a sixty to ninety degree angle. Just focus on pointing your elbows towards your chest by rotating your arms down and in. It’s more aerodynamic this way, too. You may need to raise your stem to make this work properly.
  • Get Clothes That Fit. Most beginners have a tendency to size their cycling close based on their street clothes, and this invariably leads to cycling clothes that are too baggy. This is only a little annoying in jerseys, where it means that with loaded pockets they have a tendency to shift about, but a really bad idea for shorts. Cycling clothes ought to fit like a second skin. They tend to have a lot of stretchiness to them, and you need to size them so that they’re required to stretch, just a bit, to put them on. Chafing is caused by friction, and friction is caused by fabric sliding against skin, but not sliding very well. If your shorts are too loose, they will slide, and this will lead to very, very bad things in your, ahem, “saddle area.”
  • Downshift. Spinning sucks less than mashing. It doesn’t hurt your knees, disperses lactic acid better, and trains your cardiovascular system more than mashing. Your cadence shouldn't be much below 85 for most of your ride.
  • Get Good Shoes. You’re going to be pressing down on the pedals something like 25,000 times in a long ride. Your shoes need to be seriously comfortable, whatever it takes. For you, this may mean a simple $100 pair of road shoes, or it may mean going to left-and-right-foot differential, custom-footbed $600 Rocket 7’s, but you’ve got to do it.
  • Ride in the Rain. Wait a moment. This doesn’t sound comfortable at all. Why are you telling me to do this? Because people are very good at comparing. You know that the weather on this ride sucks more than the last one, and so you’re cursing it the whole time and you bring it in early. This winter, I got caught in sustained, sub-40 degree downpours a couple of times, and after one famous, epic 8-mile descent on gravel covered in snow and slush on a road bike, 50 degrees and scattered showers seems like the warmth of summer. You don’t have to ride in the snow, but don’t restrict yourself to only riding on the nicest, sunniest days. Then, when it is a nice, sunny day, you’ll appreciate it.
  • Arm Warmers Good, Jackets Bad. An insulated jacket can be a great thing if you’re riding in sub-freezing weather, but I’m guessing that if you’re like most sane people, you’re probably not. If that’s so, you probably don’t want a jacket; they are too bulky, stuffy, and inflexible. Unless you’re riding in 90-degree weather, you do want to bring along arm warmers. Have both thin lycra and thicker, fleece-lined arm-warmers in your wardrobe, along with a thin wind vest and a thicker insulating vest. You’ll be able to pack the right one of each for any riding condition you come upon. When you’re descending, the wind hits your chest and arms, so covering them up helps a lot for temperature regulation, even if it’s just a thin layer – it’s keeping the wind from directly blowing across your skin. Likewise, you’ll warm up and slow down a ton when climbing, and the bare surfaces of your arms make great radiators. As for the vest, when your “core temperature” is right, the circulation will be better in your extremities. You’ll be impressed how much your fingers and toes stay warm when you’ve got something over your chest, but such a thick layer over your whole torso would be far too stuffy.
  • Fuel. About the most uncomfortable thing short of crashing is bonking. We all know the feeling. Bring, and eat, enough food not to do it this time. I know it seems obvious, but you’ve got to fuel. 300 kcal / hour is a good standard.
  • Don’t Crash. Hitting the pavement just plain sucks. See previous post.

That’s it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

This post was previously going to be about ways to make cycling more comfortable, and include a few of my observations about ways to enjoy riding a little more. However, it has become necessary to focus on one for the moment:

If at all possible, do not crash. Crashing sucks, and the next day, you’re very sore. That hurts. Today’s crash was really scary – moreso than being hit by a car, even, in its unexpected suddenness.

For training on rainy days, I’d set up a fixed-gear cycle. These brutally uncompromising beasts are like the bikes of old, and have their rear wheel fixed, hence the name, to the cranks. This means absolutely no slacking, no coasting. I’m learning that they’re also rather dangerous.

Last summer, I cut the end of my thumb off whilst working on said fixed wheel. Today, I learned why a stretched chain is dangerous. Since there’s no derailleur to take up slack in the chain, and no freewheel mechanism, if the chain isn’t tight enough, it can pop off. Today, as I went around a slightly downhill corner, this happened. Suddenly, immediately, the rear wheel was jammed, locked, useless. I slid down the road a little bit, like this, trying to bleed off as much speed as I could, and then the tire whipped sideways, and I went down. I hit my head a bit, I guess, because for a few minutes I had no idea what had happened.

So, now, I’m very, very sore, and cycling isn’t going to be at all comfortable for the next few days.

As a further note, my right elbow seems to take the brunt of every crash I crash. It’s just permanent scar tissue. What, should I wear a friggin’ set of DOWNHILL pads?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bad idea of the day: Store-brand tea.

I love Earl Grey tea, I really do. Despite the fact that it's impossible not to hear Patrick Stewart's voice whilst preparing it, and that I can never seem to recall whether "Grey" has an E or an A, it's all good stuff. I'm typically fond of Twinings, but this week I made the terrible mistake of picking up some store-brand EG. Forgive me; it was two-for-one.

The stupid idea comes in the packaging: usually, when you buy individually wrapped tea bags, they're in a little paper or foil packet. Rip or unfold, drop in in the water, there you go. This store brand tea fails miserably. Perhaps to cut a few fractions of a penny in costs, this tea is packaged individually in little PLASTIC packets. This is the tough, glued typed of plastic you might find sweets in -- not Hershey bars, but those little random 2-for-a-dollar grab bags at convenient stores.

The problem is you simply CANNOT RIP THEM open. There's no little pre-weakend tab, no strip of string or foil to help you out, nothing. It's either pull out the scissors or get really aggressive with your teeth.

What a horrible, horrible idea.

I went back to the store the next day, bought some Twinings like a good boy, and the store brand stuff will remain sealed in plastic in my pantry, awaiting a day when I am entirely out of other types of tea, or perhaps a nuclear winter, which I'm sure it will survive.

Monday, March 06, 2006

eBay is a beautiful thing.

When I first saw this "online-auction" site more than five years ago, I wondered how it could succeed.

But, with a few simple rules, eBay has become a household word and a wonderful method of both increasing and reducing waste.

Have you ever been to a garage sale? Sure you have. Ever had one? Well, maybe your folks did.

But in this digital world, lots of us have little gizmos that were relatively expensive and aren't terribly heavy. Shipping has gotten faster and more reliable. Paypal is one of the Most Brilliant Ideas about the internet. Some whinge about it charging to receive payments. What? Well, it charges to receive, but not to send, and a maximum of about 3 percent. That's less than a credit card provider will charge a small retailer. It means that ANYONE can sell just about anything, and receive their payment for it instantly.

I moved, recently, and found a few things that wouldn't do me any good in boxes. A copy of The Two Towers extended version, still sealed in its original packaging. Sold it for 25 dollars within two hours. A battery pack for a device I no longer owned. 15 dollars. A bunch of ammunition for an Airsoft toy that had broken. $7.99.

Economists have long mused about the effects of "perfect competition." It has conditions that people believe basically impossible, including:
  • No Barriers to Entry
  • Goods are indistinguishable and Perfect Substitutes
  • Consumers have Perfect Information
  • Many Small Sellers; No Monopoly or Oligopoly power exists in the market

No, Ebay is not "perfect" competition. One must pay an average of about 6-8% to complete a sales transaction, including eBay's listing fees, Paypal's fees, and eBay's final value fee. It takes time and energy to list items and build up your "feedback rating" as a trusted seller.

Still, it's awfully close, and it's an impressive contrast to what would've happened just a few years ago. All of the stuff I had would've either remained in a box or been thrown away; instead, it can help a college student afford some textbooks.

Speaking of which: how about, eBay's subsidiary, and textbooks. Every college student has complained about ridiculous textbook prices. For a class whose textbook was sold at my campus bookstore for $105.99, used for $79.99, I bought a slightly battered, previous-edition copy that was completely servicable for $4.99. Ya can't beat that with a stick.
Point-of-Sale Taxes and an Increasingly Globalized World:

I buy much of my cycling gear from the United Kingdom. If one is purchasing more than a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff, it's cheaper this way. The WTO and trade agreements of its nature have ensured that there aren't any tariffs or import duties on things like cranks and tyres. Now, if I were in England, I'd have to pay the VAT (Value Added Tax -- a much cooler creation than a sales tax, but annoying nonetheless) on my purchases. It's a percentage of the markup, not a straight figure, but for a pair of tyres that would cost $70, exchanged, in the UK, I have to pay $58, so that's about a 17 per cent reduction. In King County, Washington, the United States of America, sales tax is 9.1%. This is a big difference when we're talking five hundred dollars.

I have a Visa that's Everywhere I Want to Be, so they tell me. I'm upset at a lot of things credit card companies do, but Providian has actually been pretty good to me. This is the kind of situation where one NEEDS a credit card, not to go into debt, but to swiftly make cross-border transactions. It's a lot faster than an international money order, and I get a fairly decent exchange rate, plus a 1 per cent penalty. Even my own bank would charge 3 per cent!

The main point is this: sales taxes are regional, commerce global. You'd think I'd have to pay taxes at BOTH ends when I ordered across juristictions, but somehow "globalization" means that I pay neither.

As an individual consumer, I'm doing the only thing that makes sense.

I'd feel worse about depriving the government of its take if they'd build more roads and schools and less high explosives.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Today, I did a pretty awesome Ivan Basso impression in the hills around Black Diamond today.

No, not the Basso who dropped everyone except a certain Lance Armstrong on the roads of France these past two years. That guy is far too fast for me.

Today I copied the version of Basso in Stage 14 of the Giro D’Italia, in which Basso was sick to his stomach and had to pull over to the side of the road and vomit before continuing the stage. That Ivan Basso.

Oh, well. In the Giro, Basso famously refused to quit, coming back to win two stages as he recovered from his illness. Let see if I can make that work, hmm?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My arrogant good deed for the day:

It’s a busy road up the canyon at the end of my ride, and I hardly ever see another cyclist here, even though it’s got a wide shoulder and makes a pretty decent road to train on.

Today, though, there was one, and he needed help getting going after a flat tire. He was fidgeting with a little pocket hand-pump as I approached, and looked noticeably relieved to see another cyclist. I swung over to a stop as he waved. “Hey, man, can I borrow your pump? Mine’s broken.”

Getting stranded sucks, and that’s why checking to make sure your gear works before you leave home is a pretty good idea, but I’ve broken stuff before, too. I explained that I only had a C02 inflator, which is good for exactly one use, but he was welcome to it.

Those stupid little hand pumps take about 1,000 strokes to get a tire up to anywhere near decent pressure, and more arm strength than a skinny little cyclist like myself can often muster. A C02 inflator takes about 10 seconds and the push of a button. Whoosh! He was up and running again. “Thanks, man, you saved my ass.”

Not a problem. We chatted a bit as we rode up the road*, and then we got to the part where you could either continue right, or turn left up a nice little leg-burner of a climb, a bit over a kilometer at 10%. He indicated he was turning left, and I nodded. Hey, I didn’t expect that.

The cars clear, and I do my thing up the hill. I’ve learned that this is considerably quicker than most people do. I’m out of the saddle, spinning a 21-tooth cog. Screw that. Upshift, upshift. I’m not flat-out, but I’m breathing pretty hard by the top. I glance down as I turn right.

He’s nowhere in sight.

*As I wrote that sentence, I almost went back to edit it, but I’m leaving the silliness intact.