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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  10/1/2006

Trash Talk from Scott

A bundle of the content in this month's column comes to you courtesy of Scott Martin. A denizen of Santa Cruz County, Scott is often spotted winning (or at least placing) on and off the road for The Bicycle Trip's racing team.

Scott's somewhat cynical observations of the biking life appear weekly in Road Bike Rider. Back in the day, he used to write a tad less facetiously for Bicycling magazine. His humor, although somewhat skewed to the macho mega-miler wannabe, never fails to tickle someone who's just the opposite -- me. Sometimes I even see myself in his little vignettes.

For instance, Scott has astutely observed that "there's nothing like a strategically placed comment to throw your. . .riding partners off." Like: "Only three miles to the top."

Response: "I thought this was the top!" Accompanied by a drastic reduction in speed.

Scott featured that sort of "trash talk" in a column entitled "Mentally Challenged." " . . .to paraphrase Yogi Berra," he wrote, "50% of cycling is 90% mental." I couldn't agree more. I just wish my mental state wouldn't delude me so often.

I distinctly recall once ascending the steepest section of Arastradero Road (what my old riding buddy Leo Moll calls a "puppy hill"), when a voice behind me pipes up: "Naomi, don't stop now!" Hey, just because I'm slow doesn't mean I'm stopping! That doesn't happen until my pace sinks below 3 mph. Then I don't exactly stop; I just fall over.

Another way to psych out a riding partner, Scott claims, is the old "it's all downhill" ploy. How many times have we all heard, "It's all downhill from here"? Sure it is, except for the uphills.

Been ridin' much?

A few weeks later, I discovered a partial solution to the delusion. Where else? In another Scott Martin column. It started with the perennial question, "Been ridin' much?"

"As any true cyclist knows, the correct answer -- whether you logged 2 or 200 miles last week -- is: 'Nah, I haven't been riding much at all.' Remember to preface your response by rolling your eyes and grimacing."

Of course, no one will believe you. I, myself, am telling the truth, with no eye-rolling or grimacing to detract from my honesty. I'm slower than ever and my mileage has gone south. And the reason is that I'm not riding nearly as much as I used to. But everyone still expects me to be charging ahead and zipping up hills.

Yet "we're all such good liars," Scott insists. If that's indeed the case, there must be ways to ferret out the truth. Of course, Scott has outlined a few telltale markers for us:

  • Look for fancy, expensive gear.
    "Anyone with big bucks can buy a fancy bike and a flashy jersey. Anyone with big bucks is probably working too much and riding too little." But if you spot torn handlebar tape and a worn saddle, you gotta figure there must be a reason. This guy or gal has been putting in the miles.
  • Don't be fooled by saddlebag size either.
    "Y'ud think: the smaller the seatbag, the faster the rider. Caution: Some well-prepared riders (usually bike mechanics or ex-Boy Scouts) will stomp you even while toting three pounds of tools and parts." My guy Jim has proved this in the French Alps, where he hauled a small set of tools, sandwiches for six and a sweater up the Col du Galibier to watch the TdF come through.
  • Likewise, shaved legs may not indicate a strong rider.
    "Many hairy gorillas roam the cycling jungle," warns Scott. I dunno. Just this past Labor Day weekend was I was dusted by a pair of shaved legs topped by a stubble face. Was that Jake Gyllenhaal doing his Lance thing?
  • A champion jersey is a true sign of a poseur.
    Many a licensed racer (or former racer) is ready to spit wooden nickels when they spy a cyclist wearing a rainbow or California Republic jersey they didn't earn. The real pros only wear them for sanctioned events. So be warned next time you spot one on the sale rack at your LBS.
  • Absence of body fat.
    Do you see deep smile lines when a new cycling acquaintance flashes a welcoming grin? Does a deep canyon appear on either side of her nose? "Be very afraid," warns Scott. "She has no body fat. And you have no hope.

Scott's Dos and Don'ts

Yet another SM column endeavored to instruct us ignoramuses about on-bike etiquette. Or, how to lose friends and never have anyone else to ride with:
  • Don't point out obstacles.
    "Riders behind you will appreciate the challenge of not knowing what lies ahead." Potholes, death cookies, oil slicks, gravel are merely learning opportunities, right? I'd add, don't bother to signal your intention to stop or turn, either. And be sure to block the right turn lane at the intersection so the motorists behind you can't make their turns. They'll just love you for it.
  • Sit in for miles, then attack near the finish.
    "Your fellow cyclists who've been trading pulls into a stiff headwind will love it when you sprint ahead and force them to chase. After all, you're giving them a better workout. That goes double for dropped riders, who obviously need more training anyway."
  • Do ride as far to the right as possible.
    ". . . Riding in the gutter improves bike-handling and flat-fixing skills."
  • Don't take a steady pull [in a paceline] when you hit the front.
    "This is your moment to shine, so surge, surge, surge. Trailing riders will be impressed with your strength and say admiring things about you (especially the guy who took the pull just before yours)." And be sure to peel off in less than 30 seconds so the rider behind you can shine, too.
  • Do stand frequently, pushing your bike back as you rise from the saddle.
    "With luck, your rear tire will rub the following rider's front tire. This spares her the pesky task of swiping her gloved hand on the tread to wipe away the broken glass you didn't point out."
  • Hey, don't worry about her tire. Worry about the fact that, unless she's a superior bike handler, she'll be groveling on the ground beneath her bike. You may be ticked off when you swerve a bit. But she's going to go down in a heap.

I've experienced this lesson on two memorable occasions. The first was sometime in the 1980s, when I introduced a triathlete friend to the Cinderella Classic. She'd never drafted before and wasn't really aware that she was doing it. I felt a slight bump. She dumped. Fortunately, she rode away with just a few scratches on her knee.

The second time was a few years ago on a century in Sonoma County. I was on the back of the tandem. Some yahoo was pulling away from his buddies and just had to turn around and offer them some snarky remark. SLAM! He hit us full force. And down he went to the loud guffaws of his supposedly dropped pack. C'mon, fella. If you can't seen a tandem in front of you, you should know you sure as hell can't knock it down!

Thanks, Scott, for bringing memories like these to the top of my brain. It's part of what makes an old fart who gets fat in winter keep pedaling. And I sure hope that yahoo in Sonoma wasn't you!

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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