Sunday, November 28, 2010

Base Miles

So yes, I have indeed been rather derelict in my blogging duties. There are ten zillion thousand hundred velo bloggers out there, yet only a small percentage actually blog faithfully and persistantly year-in and year-out (or as a true cyclist would say: "season in, season out"). I gave it a go for two years, and not only was it great fun that connected me to a great community of fellow Jewish cyclists, but to the greater cycling community as well.

However, things happen in the cycling world that cause us to fall out of the fray for a little while. For pro cyclists, it's a doping bust ("...see you in two years, when I plan to get signed to a ProTour team and secure a spot on the Italian Worlds team"). For amateurs, it's the economy, career, and family, also known as "real life". Well, I'm not a pro, and the closest I get to doping is perhaps one too many energy gels. But I am an amateur, so I have tested positive over the last two years for job loss, job gain, career-focus, and family growth. Still, one thing is for sure:

No matter what happens, you're still a cyclist.

I've often mentioned that when you finish your ride, swing a leg over the top tube, and hang up your bike until the next ride, you're still very much a cylist. Linking together each ride is how you eat, how you maintain your fitness, how you budget your time, how you budget your finances, and what beer you drink. However, between each ride may also be a major change in your life, such as a dramitic shift in the economy, loss of a job, focus on maintaining your career path, obtaining a new job, and growing your family. Sometimes, it's not a day or two between rides; sometimes it's days, weeks, or months. Yet, no matter how flabby our midsections become, no matter how hairy our legs grow, or how dusty our bikes get, we're still cyclists. For us, between each ride can be time enough to read a whole issue of Bicycling Magazine, watching Paris-Roubaix on DVR for the third time, or connecting to our faux-Belgian cycling heritage by sampling yet another Flandrian ale.

Or bogging!

So I apologize for my absence, thank those of you who've read and followed this blog in the past, and as I ask for your forgiveness as a derelict blogger with dusty bikes and a flabby midsection, I only ask that you bear with me while I bring this blog and this enthusiasm for hardcore cycling and the lifestyle of a hardcore Jew who is a hardcore cyclist ("hey look, it's the day after Shabbat, it's 41 degrees out, and the skies are grey and promising freezing rain; let's ride!)

Oh yeah, blog posts without pictures suck. Here's my Cannondale Cyclocross bike after a Maryland mudbath.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Coming Back to Life...

So let's see, my last post was in regards to the 2009 Paris-Roubaix. Looking at my watch, I see that it is now...oh...practically a year and a half later.

Oy Gevult!

OK, rather than bore you with a lengthy tome as to what the hell has been up, down, left, right, over, and under with my life over the past year and a half, let me muster up what feeble little blogging credability I have left and excite you with the news that I am staging a comeback to blogging about all things Jewish cycling.

Or at least, trying. So bear with me, and in the meantime, blog posts without pictures suck, so here's my singlespeed pimped out as only a non-hipster Jewish cyclist can pimp out a singlespeed.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Pavé, Pain, and Pesach: Paris-Roubaix 2009

Like many pro cycling fans, I look forward to Paris-Roubaix the same way an American football fan looks forward to the Super Bowl. My whole day was about anticipation leading up to this ultimate bike race, and excitement in preparing for it.

However, unlike most pro cycling fans, I'm an observant Jew, and since Paris-Roubaix this year falls on Chol HaMoed Pesach (the interim days of Passover), I had to curtail, or at least, customize my race-day party in order to fulfill the dietary restrictions of the holiday.

Luckily I'm married to an awesome cycling-supportive spouse, and in celebration of this classic race and in accordance with Pesach, we prepared kosher l'Pesach steak frites, matza pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil, and in lieu of a fine Belgian Ale (beer is not kosher for Passover), we sipped a nice, crisp kosher moscato. No, I don't think this is how they celebrated at the legendary Cafe de L'Arbre.

As for the race itself, Paris-Roubaix is something special. It's the race I saw in 1985 which first transfixed me and made me a cyclist. It's the race which inspires legions of cyclists and fans alike. It's a race which ignites national pride, especially amongst Flemish Belgian. Whether you know it as "The Queen of the Classics" or "The Hell of the North", the very visuals of this brutal race over the worst cobblestone roads in Europe through the barren farmlands of northern France, through the maddened throngs of fans and a backdrop of merciless rain, wind, mud, dust, crashes, and pain captivate us and draw us back year after year.

And it's what draws back men like Belgian Tom Boonen, who survived the merciless cobbles and stomped his way to an awesome third victory in a race which dates back to 1896. With the rare exception of men like Boonen, Paris-Roubaix is a race which favors nobody - the cobbles are blind assassins, but as Boonen himself has said: "You must be willing to suffer, suffer, suffer, and whomever suffers the most wins the race". Boonen knows how to suffer, but he also has that rare Belgian trait, which allows him to have a finer sense when racing at top speed on harsh surfaces in harsh conditions. And now Boonen has three wins, one away from tying the record of four wins by Roger De Vlaemick, though for right now he enjoys the company of great men like Eddy Merckx, Rik Van Looy, and Johann Museeuw.

Monday, April 6, 2009

De Ronde van Vlanderaan: Great Excuse to get rid of some Chametz

It's spring, beginning of April to be precise, and for Jews, that means only one thing: Pesach is coming. Pesach, better known when incorrectly translated as "Passover", is a week-long holiday commemorating the deliverance of the Israeli people from slavery in Egypt. The holiday has many factors, but the main one is the dietary angle, where leavened and grain products are completely avoided. This kind of food is known in Hebrew as "Chametz", and Jews the world over are commanded to completely remove all chametz from their homes and their possession. The result is a major round of "spring cleaning" prior to the holiday, where Jews go through their homes with proverbial fine-tooth combs searching out every last piece of chametz to either eat, throw away, or sell to a non-Jew.

April is also the start of the Spring Classics, a month where we see the hardest, most epic one-day bike races in the world, and the first race is always the Ronde van Vlanderaan. For those of you who don't speak Flemish (a prerequisite to being a real cyclist), the Ronde is simply "The Tour of Flanders". And of course, the Flandrian countryside is in Belgian, the spiritual homeland of cycling (kinda like cycling's Israel). So of course I was watching the Ronde, and watching Stijn Devolder ride away to his second straight win, and as is compulsory with watching pro cycling in Belgium, I had to drink a Belgian beer. In this case it was Leffe Blonde, which doubles as my official Shabbat beer.

The whole point of this post is this: I got to enjoy watching the Ronde, and in the process of finishing off my beers, which are chametz, I was both supporting my sport, supporting a Belgian Brewery, and doing the mitzvah of ridding my house of chametz prior to Pesach.

Jewish Cycling indeed!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cyclocross World Championships on TV Today!

Universal Sports TV, broadcast by NBC Television, will be showing the World Cyclocross Championships this afternoon. If you live on the East Coast on the United States, it will be aired from 5-6 PM. Local MABRA/MAC cyclists and cyclocrossers that subscribe to Comcast can find Universal Sports on channel 207. Otherwise, check channels and times on your local affiliate.

BTW, the Worlds happened back at the end of January in Hoogerheide, and pretty much all 'crossers know who won, but for all cyclists and non-cyclists, this is an awesome event to watch. However, don't forget to get your Shabbat preparations done, since right after the broadcast is over, it's gonna be time to set your lights and get dressed and ready to head out for mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 Lance Armstong Reveals He's Jewish!

...Actually, no he's not.

His real name is not really Levi Aronovich, he doesn't use a non-Jewish body double to race on Shabbat and Chagi'im, and Mellow Johnnys will not be opening up a shop in Tel-Aviv.

I've been getting smacked around all day by cycling-related April Fool's posting on the interwebs that I felt obliged to do one myself (Jewish-theme, of course). However, since today is a busy day for me, I did this post in, like, three minutes.

Here's a much better job of an April Fools post. This one is good also.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On Judaism and Crashing Nice Bikes.

Many years ago, I read a very useful tip in Bicycling Magazine.

The tip was about using the palm of your cycling glove to clean potentially hazardous debris off your tires while riding in order to avoid a puncture. Little did I know that this tip, which I've used successfully on countless occasions over so many years, would one day come back to bite me in the ass (almost literally!)

By many years ago, I mean back in the days when high-end race bikes cost a wallet-burning $2000, the lightest pro bikes weighed a feathery 19.5 pounds, and shift levers were brazed onto beautifully painted down tubes. And talking about those down tubes, all bike frames consisted of round tubes. So when you did this tip of cleaning the tires with your gloves, you gently touched the palm of your cycling glove to the tire while the bike was in motion. After brushing off the front tire, you reached back and brushed off the rear tire. Brushing off the rear tire was a trickier motion, so you reached back, felt for the seat tube, and then slid your hand between the seat tube and the tire. This was generally a safe thing to do, since between the round seat tube and the spinning rear tire, you still had a safe amount of space to work with.

Over the years, this practice became second nature to me, and I used it safely on six different bikes, all with round seat tubes. Then, one day a few weeks ago, I did it on my newest bike, a Giant TCR-C2. The one with the swoopy and curvacious carbon frame. The one with the compact geometry. The one with the airfoil down tube, which barely allows for a grain of sand to fit between the tube and the tire. This is how it went down, or rather, this is how the bike and I went down.

So I ride through a sandy patch on the road and hear the gritty sound of grainy rubber on asphalt. As always, I reach down and rub clean the front tire. Then I turn around to do the same to the rear, and the moment I feel the back tire, I realized that I was about to do something terribly wrong. As I make contact with the back tire, my pinky, then my glove, gets sucked into the airfoil. The back wheel locks up, the rear end slides out, and down I go.

It was quick, and thankfully painless. High-speed slides are easier on the bike and rider than low-speed slams. The bike suffered only a scuffed-up Ultegra shifter and a scraped-up Easton skewer on the rear wheel. As for the rider, my clothes stayed intact, but my butt and elbow shed a little skin, and that would become plainly evident the next morning in a most Jewish of fashions.

The next morning I'm at Minyan (yishar koach!). In an experience unique only to Jewish cyclists, I had the scathing pleasure to wrap Tefillin around fresh road rash. Yes, those first two wraps around the lower arm were indeed a bit to the sensitive side. Even better, the rabbi called me up for Hagba, where I and my sore and battered body would get to lift the Sefer Torah for everybody to see. Great! One day after nearly trashing $3000 worth of bike, I have to try to lift and not drop $100,000 worth of hand-made Torah, which itself weighs as much as a bike with Mavic Aksium wheels. Luckily, I didn't drop it, but my form was rather shaky.

Either way, the Giant, the Torah, and The Complete Jewish Cyclist all lived to fight another day. And BTW, if you do go down on your bike in the DC area, might I recommend having the folks at the The Bike Rack check it out afterwards. One reason my bike survived and survives is because of the phenomenal build and servicing my bike has received from them.