The Biking Lifeby: Naomi Bloom 2/1/2007
Rainy Day Web Ride
So. . .it's raining outside -- AGAIN! You've already watched all your DVDs of Lance's victories. You'd rather die than face your indoor trainer -- AGAIN! But before you consider cleaning your bike (AGAIN!), here's a cross-training tip: Go surfing. No, not at Mavericks; no telling when that Great White Shark will turn up.
Of course, I'm referring to web surfing. After all, you found your way here to BikeCal.com. And like me, you probably have more than a few cycling sites bookmarked already. One rainy day last month I Googled and noodled around a bit to find a few more out-of-the-way fun and useful sites you might not yet know about. I've divided them into rather loose categories so you can scroll to those that interest you most. But if you're a racer, don't be too quick to pooh-pooh the touring or commuting sites. You just might learn something new, especially about the cycling industry.
Bryn Dole has been compiling this collection of links since 1993, when he was a student at Purdue. Now he's one of the web wonks at Open Directory (aka dmoz). He mentions that he has less time to devote to this site, which is obvious from the large number of bad links. For instance, cycling.org no longer exists, and the Motorola racing team has long since disappeared. Yet there's no mention of the US Postal Service or Discovery Channel or teams, although there is a link near the top to lancearmstrong.com. Still, there's a lot to learn from this wide-ranging compendium of information. There's also a decent headline news feed.
TouringBicycle Touring 101
The site is the brainchild of one Jamie Noble, who writes, "This website relies on feedback from as many bicycle tourists as possible in order to be a successful source of worthwhile information. This website celebrates diversity! The best way to provide useful information is for people to share what works for them and also what doesn't work so well."
Jamie offers articles and interviews, as well as some pretty interesting "polls." He relies heavily on contributors, real touring cyclists riding out there in the real world. No corporate bike industry hype to be found here. There's also a section of "special offers" which isn't exactly extensive but does provide value in the character and enthusiasm they represent.
One of Jamie's strongest influences is another site listed in his links, Crazy Guy on a Bike. This one's almost exclusively a collection of journals from bike tourists worldwide. Imagine my delight to find Ranger Rick Madden among them. No update on his recent crash, though. (Not to worry; he's OK but his bike took a bit of a beating.)
RacingThe Broadband Racer
The Broadband Racer features video highlights, news, analysis and original content that afford an inside view of pro cycling worldwide. The site's focus is the TBR Highlight Show, an in-studio program delivered a la ESPN's Sportscenter. There are also interviews and pro rider video blogs from Team CSC's Christian Vande Velde and Davitamon-Lotto's Freddie Rodriguez, among others. The pro riders take cameras where traditional media never go. Site producer Martin Church feels that broadband is ready to support "a sophisticated cycling site with quality content and aesthetics that represent the cycling enthusiasts. . . ."
Video and design quality may be up there with the latest and greatest, but for a California enterprise, IMHO TBR's written content displays a disappointing lack of knowledge of American English grammar.
Active.com's Tour de France blogs
Last year's bloggers included best-selling author Martin Dugard, Fast Freddie Rodriguez (the same D-L guy from Emeryville), TdF for Dummies co-author James Raia, and Lance Armstrong's coach Chris Carmichael. So the coverage ranges from cultural "background" to team strategy to racer blues. A couple of these guys have removed themselves from Active.com's roster, so what this year's coverage will look like is anybody's guess. If it's half as perceptive as Raia's praise of France's roundabouts, it'll be worth a bookmark. Meanwhile, you can relive last year's tour with the July and August 2006 posts.
CommutingPaul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips
"Just a few years ago I was in pretty poor shape: a pack-a-day smoker, a frequent drinker, a tendency for exercise avoidance, rarely outdoors," says San Franciscan Paul Dorn on his home page. Now, "I can't imagine traveling to work any other way than by bicycle. I don't waste a second stuck in traffic. No long waits for an oil change, a car wash, service from a parts store or a muffler shop. I spend precisely no time filling my gas tank every week."
Paul's tips are truly practical and not at all commercially motivated. His site is "not a 'program' intended to work for everyone, in every situation. It merely relates the hard lessons learned by one cyclist over many years of riding to work everyday. My hope is that prospective bike commuters will avoid my errors. If nothing else, my experience demonstrates that it can be done. The addiction to driving can be broken, the necessity of mass transit strap-hanging can be avoided."
The Adventures of Crazy Biker Chick
Tanya is not your ordinary all-American female cyclist. For starters, she's Canadian, riding year-round in Toronto. Brrrrrrrr! And DARK this time of year! Her blog is a revelation to those of us who wimp out at the first drops of precipitation. And an inspiration. Her "Open Letter to Motorists Who Dislike Cyclists" (aka "Things a non-cyclist might not understand") is a classic.
Product reviews galore! Francis Cebedo and Greg Kato have enlisted shops, vendors and fellow cyclists in a compendium of bargains, opinions and diatribe. It's kind of hard to weed out the advertising links from the content, not unlike all too many other web sites out there. But a little bit of patient scrolling can glean a lot of valuable information about what's available. If you're in the market for a new bike, or new components, clothes or accessories, this is a great place to check out.
One of the best features of RoadBikeREVIEW is the forum site. Topics run from cyclocross to nutrition to women's cycling to -- I guess it was inevitable -- "Podium Girls." There's also a long list of regional forums, with Northern California right on top.
This may be a British publication, but it's one heck of a source for industry, tech and team information. If there is any news online, just about anywhere, Bike Biz will report it and/or link to it. Last month they quickly put up a link to Specialized's "Happy Holidays" Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies composed on drive train components. (Missed it? Check it out here -- hope it's still live!)
There's even a jobs board, although I wish they'd open it up to opportunities stateside and on the Continent. Hey, you never know!
If you absolutely must have industry news American style, there's always the BRAIN (aka Bicycle Industry and Retailer News). But Bike Biz is way easier to read online, not to mention cleverly designed. Those Brits know what they're doing.
There now, feel better? Now log off, get out of that chair and get on that trainer. Maybe tomorrow the sun will shine
Naomi can be reached at email@example.com