a Bakersfield Road Cycling Resource
The SeatBag, Page 3

The Skin Game

I have been a routine user of sunblock, but long-term exposure inevitably has led to what is termed “actinic keratoses”.  These are areas of the skin, which due to ultraviolet sunlight exposure, have undergone changes which can ultimately lead to skin cancer.  Having previously dealt with a melanoma scare, I am trying to limit the damage I’m self-inflicting. 

At my annual “mole patrol” visit with my Dermatologist, he explained that sunblock is essential to protect exposed areas from UV damage. Areas which have already been damaged might, over time, develop into skin cancer.  Treatment options include doing nothing (watching and waiting), local excision (removal) of skin lesions, and fluorouracil therapy.   

Efudex® (fluorouracil) is a prescription cream or topical solution which is used for the treatment of multiple actinic or solar keratoses.   It is placed on the affected skin areas daily for 2 to 4 weeks.  Typically, the initial manifestations of its action are reddening of the areas which have suffered the most sun damage.  This progresses to a rash-like effect that proceeds to erosion and peeling off of the damaged skin layer.  Ultimately, re-epithelialization (growth of a new skin layer) occurs, to replace the “bad” layer.

Adverse reactions are related to the pharmacologic (how the stuff works) activity of the drug:  they may include, but are not limited to, burning, crusting, irritation, sun hypersensitivity, itching, soreness and ulceration.  Sounds pretty nasty, doesn’t it!!
The advantage of this treatment approach is that it avoids the potential scarring associated with surgical removal of pre-cancerous skin areas.  It also does not depend on the diagnostic ability of the dermatologist to determine which areas to treat.  The medication “seeks and destroys” pre-cancerous tissues, even if they look normal to the eye.   The disadvantages are that it is uncomfortable, and you can expect that casual observers may wonder what happened to your face!  You’ll probably want to limit your non-essential social contacts for a week or two (it wouldn’t be the ideal time to get fixed up on a blind date…..actually if your date is blind, it wouldn’t really matter!).  You’ll likely want to limit your sun exposure. Generally, things get pretty much back to normal within 4 to 6 weeks from the beginning of treatment.  I wasn’t a real happy camper for about one week during the most sensitive phase of treatment, but now that my skin is healed, I’m pleased with the outcome. 

Most of us have no lack of sun exposure. Especially if you are fair-skinned, do your skin a favor and use an effective UV sunblock regularily on exposed areas.  And do yourself a favor...a yearly check-up with your physician or a dermatologist is a great idea!

What’s in it, And How it Works

Sunscreen works in one of two ways: It either blends into the skin and absorbs UVA and UVB rays (more on those below), or it sits on top of the skin and reflects damaging rays.

The types that blend into the skin use chemical blockers such as avobenzone and Mexoryl, which can degrade in the heat and through sweat. They must be reapplied regularly if you’re exposed for an extended period of time.

The other type, the physical blockers, that sit on the skin include zinc oxide (made famous on the noses of lifeguards) and titanium dioxide. While they may work better for some folks with sensitive skin, they’re obviously not ideal for cyclists.

What Do the Letters and Numbers Mean?
UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburns and skin cancer. The sun-protection factor (SPF) number provides an indication of how long the sunscreen formula resists those harmful UVB rays. For example, if your skin typically would start to burn after 10 minutes of exposure, a liberal coat of SPF 30 will multiply that time by 30, giving you roughly 300 minutes of protection against UVB rays.

Again, though, environmental factors (swimming, sweating, heat, etc.) degrade many sunscreens, decreasing the SPF and requiring regular reapplication to maintain protection. Some sunscreen is water-resistant, but none is waterproof. If it is labeled “water-resistant,” it is supposed to remain effective for 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating (the label should state the claimed time).

Also, the SPF number does not describe protection against UVA rays, those responsible for prematurely aging the skin; UVA rays can also cause cancer. So, to provide protection against both UVB and UVA rays, you need to use a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” protection.

How Long Does a Tube or Bottle Last?
Just as environmental factors degrade sunscreen on your body, the product in the tube or bottle can likewise be degraded if left in the heat or direct sun. Keep an eye on the color and consistency of the product; if it changes, toss it. And consider doing the same with whatever’s left if the bottle at the end of summer.

FDA Labeling Regulations
As the scientific testing of sunscreens has become more advanced, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rolled out new sunscreen labeling regulations to both simplify and clarify the claims and labels used by manufacturers. 

Under the regulations, sunscreen products that protect against all types of sun-induced skin damage are labeled "Broad Spectrum" and “SPF 15” (or higher) on the front.

The labeling also tells consumers on the back of the product that sunscreens labeled as both “Broad Spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) not only protect against sunburn, but, if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.

The FDA regs announced in 2011 included these additional labeling provisions:

Sunscreen products that are not broad spectrum or that are broad spectrum with SPF values from 2 to14 will be labeled with a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert:  Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
Water resistance claims on the product's front label must tell how much time a user can expect to get the declared SPF level of protection while swimming or sweating, based on standard testing. Two times will be permitted on labels: 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
Manufacturers cannot make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof” or identify their products as “sunblocks.”  
Also, sunscreens cannot claim protection immediately on application (for example, “instant protection”) or protection for more than two hours without reapplication, unless they submit data and get approval from FDA.
Finally, the FDA created the following, which you’ll find nearly verbatim on the back labels of your sunscreen container:
Spending time in the sun increases a person's risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. To reduce these risks, consumers should regularly use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures such as:

Limiting time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM when the sun's rays are the strongest. [Tip! Most online forecasts have a UV Index listing. You can see that mid-day listings typically reach 10, the highest rating indicating the strongest UV rays.
Wearing clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun (long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats) when possible
Using a water-resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating
Reapplying sunscreen, even if it is labeled as water resistant, at least every 2 hours. (Water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied more often after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the label.)

Tire Rotation?
Should bike tires be rotated like car tires to extend their life? 
Not really, but kinda….. 

Smart rotation is to have your best rubber on the front end of the bike, which is the end that has the most to say about your staying upright…...When you install a single new tire, always put it on the front and rotate the older front tire to the rear.  
What's not smart is rotating a half-worn rear tire to the front in an attempt to keep both tires on the bike until they simultaneously wear out.  Don't make it easier to lose control because of a front-tire flat or blowout. 
Perhaps more to the point is when to “retire” a tire?
Some guidelines:
1. If you can see cord or casing because of excessive rubber wear.

2. If you’ve had a succession of flats, get the message and replace the tire.
3. If there is a cut that needed to be booted to effect an “on the road” repair…..You can boot a cut from the inside with various things. A tube patch,strapping (filament) tape, duct tape are all handy to have in your seat bag.  A paper bill works well (a $20 is much better than a $1).  A boot is good to get home, but you really need new rubber!  
4. Riding on a dry, cracked tire,  no matter how little tread wear there is, is a bad idea.  Check for dryness when the tire isn't inflated. Pinch the tread and look for telltale cracks. Scrape your fingernail along the sidewall and watch for powdery residue.  Tires dry out from too much sun exposure or a dry climate, like I'm starting to do.  And from ozone exposure or Bakersfield smog or extended storage near an electric motor.   Armor All will prevent drying, but I'd be wary of putting anything that slippery near rims and brake pads. Remember, these are just bike tires, not works of art. Replace them if they're questionable.
NEWS FLASH!!  For you gals and guys who ride in a fast group or race, NEVER do it on a compromised tire. A blowout in race conditions could put your life on the line (and the lives of riders around you).
If you can't race on good tires, stay home and earn enough dough till you can afford them. 

Patch This! 
 What's up with glueless patches? 

Is there a limit to the number of patches (glueless or conventional) you can put on a tube? 
Glueless patches have been around for several years and they seem to work just fine. The hard part is peeling the backing away. 
Use the sandpaper provided or just wipe the punctured area with a clean rag to remove any tire talc. Remember to clean an area bigger than the patch. 
Traditional patches, such as Rema, are a little messy because of the glue. 
Use the sandpaper to gently rough up an area slightly bigger than the patch. Put on glue sparingly in an area slightly bigger than the patch (is there an echo in here?). Wait for the glue to dry! Peel off the foil and apply the patch. 
The cellophane should then be removed, although some leave it on, claiming it keeps the patch from ever sticking to the inside of the tire. 
Replace a tube once it has three or four patches. Otherwise, you're playing with house odds. Is the next flat a leaky patch, a new hole, or all of the above? 
Carry a couple of new tubes in your seat bag. If you puncture, find the culprit in the tire, remove it and put in a fresh tube. Patch the bad one when you get home (don't forget) and put it in your bag. 
I'll patch a flat during a ride only if I've used all of my spare tubes and my buddies' tubes as well.

Wheels of Misfortune
 (reprinted in part from

At we've stated our opinion of low-spoke-count wheels a few times. We consider them "event wheels" and believe they should be used that way -- for special rides or races, not for everyday cycling or training.     In our view there are two main problems with event wheels (three if you count high price):  
---Spoke replacement.  Spokes are almost never the same among different wheel brands or even among different models from the same company. This means shops can't stock a complete selection and may not even have the required spoke tool. If a spoke breaks, the wheel may be out of commission for a few days while parts are on order -- or a few weeks if the wheel needs to be returned to the manufacturer for repair (it happens).  
    ---Spoke catastrophe.  If a spoke breaks, you may be out of commission too. The reason? With so few spokes supporting the rim, loss of tension in just one can make the wheel go wildly out of true.  The rim might jam against a brake caliper or a chainstay or your fork, causing an instant loss of control and a crash. 
Spoke tension is important. Low-spoke-count wheels can be trued, but it needs to be done by an expert, not a ham-fisted home mechanic. Many amateur racers on limited budgets seem to think, 'I ride, therefore I am a great mechanic.' They ride on used stuff or buy some bargain basement crap online. Just cause it looks like a good wheel, doesn't make it a good wheel.  
When a customer brings in a wheel that won't stay true, the first thing a mechanic may look for is cracks in the rim at the spoke holes. We just replaced a high-zoot Bontrager rear wheel with that problem, ridden by a woman who's a strong recreational rider. The wheel had paired spokes with very high tension.  
One other aspect in this sea of wheel insanity is travel. I guarantee you that a little shop in Tuscany cannot fix your Zipp carbon wonder wheel, nor can they ever get parts. Many riders go to Europe or elsewhere for personal or commercial tours. It's better to take no-frills 'normal' wheels that Uncle Guido can fix, than to turn a cycling vacation into a component-driven disaster.  
I wish bike companies would put normal wheels on stock machines instead of event wheels. If someone wants the cool stuff, they can buy it in the aftermarket. Unfortunately marketing drives the industry more than practicality does. Every manufacturer is putting 'silly' wheels on their offerings."

We know some of you 24/7 event-wheel users can tell us tales of great reliability. That's how it should be for any wheel. But we don't like to gamble.  
For all-round durability coupled with good rolling performance, we recommend well-made 32-spoke wheels with a 3-cross spoking pattern. They were the standard for years and are still the best choice for recreational road cycling despite the proliferation of so many wheels with 12, 16 or 24 spokes. Save wear-and-tear on such wheels to preserve their reliability in events.   
Interestingly, Trek has introduced a wheel called Bontrager Classics.32 hole, three cross, with a sensible hub and rim. They'll cost about $600 per pair and are touted as the wheel the Team Discovery boys used for the spring classics (sew-up version).

Bike Care:  the Danger Zones
Danger Zone, pt. 1:  Bike Parts 

 Several tips that can keep you out of the Danger Zone when it comes to part failures. Use this checklist to inspect your bicicletta:  
---Handlebar.  If you've crashed it and it's carbon, replace it. Now! You cannot see the damage a fall has caused because it's inside the bar. You'll notice many pros don't use carbon bars because they can't rely on them to stay in one piece after a fall. An alloy bar will generally bend before it breaks, and you can usually finish a ride safely.  
 ---Rims.  Look for small cracks around the holes where the spokes enter the rim. They won't usually result in a catastrophic failure, but they'll grow over time and your wheels will not stay true or round.  
 ---Hubs.  If a hub develops looseness for no apparent reason, the axle may be broken. It's rare for a front hub but not uncommon for a rear, due to the offset for the cassette. The quick-release skewer will hold the whole shebang together, so don't pull it out during a ride to investigate why the hub is wobbling, unless you have a lift home. Realize, though, that riding on a broken axle will ruin the hub's innards.  
 ---Saddle.  If your seat has titanium or aluminum rails and they are bent at all, they will fail sooner rather than later. Damaged carbon rails simply break without warning. Some failures are no big deal; others are gonna hurt like hell and it may be impossible to ride home (or have kids). Also check the underside of the saddle's shell. I've seen many a fractured saddle held together only by its cover and padding. A seat in this condition will be swayback, it might creak, and it should feel awful.  
 ---Seatpost.  Inspect the clamp at the top of the post. This is the most likely place for a failure. In most cases this top section is welded or bonded to the post. It's subject to heavy stress, especially if there is lots of setback and you're a big rider. Failure means the top of the post, with your seat, falls off. I can't paint a pretty picture of what comes next. "Wrecked him? Nearly killed him!" 
 If you have a carbon seatpost and have distorted/crimped it by using too much clamp force where it enters the frame, replace the post ASAP. A break here is about as nasty as the clamp breaking off.  
 ---Crankarms.  If your shoe rubs either arm to the point where it's removing material from the crankarm, whether aluminum or carbon, replace the arm(s) without delay. Crankarms don't break in the garage, they break when you're putting lots of watts into them, as when climbing or sprinting. It happens without warning and usually results in a spectacular tumble when your foot, wearing the pedal and a piece of the crankarm, slams into the pavement.  
 Look at it this way: You live to ride (and I hope you love your bike as well). If you pay attention to the condition of each part on your machine and replace anything that's questionable, you minimize some of cycling's risk. It's a small price to pay for having the confidence that your bike is in tip-top shape.
Danger Zone, pt. 2:  Fork Failure 
  As cyclists we're responsible for knowing the state of our equipment. Periodic bike inspection is an absolute must. A crash demands an immediate exam -- especially when there's been an impact involving the front end.  
The fork is probably the strongest single element of a bike. It takes a lot to damage one, but you must be absolutely sure all is well. After all, not much in life is scarier than a fork failure, and you don't want that on your mind -- like at descending speed.  
        Let's look at two main ways forks get broken.             
---Front Wheel Impacts.  This includes riding into a curb, into a nasty pothole, or into any other immovable object. You don't need to be going fast or even crash to ruin a fork. If you suspect it was damaged by a hard hit, get on the cell phone and call for a ride. Yours is over.  
 With a carbon fork, the damage may be internal and unseen. The fork must be pulled from the frame to check for injury to the steerer tube, the fork legs or the crown. A simple look while it's still in the frame is not enough. Take it out and put it under a bright light.  
 You're looking for cracks, dents, dings and bent or loose dropouts. Gouges, discoloration, peeling, delamination -- all spell impending disaster. So do buzzing sounds from inside the legs during riding. And then there's the tell-tale sensation that the bike doesn't steer or behave like it used to. If you lack the experience to do this kind of inspection, take your bike to the most experienced mechanic at your LBS. He/she might just save your life.  
 With a steel fork, a big frontal impact will generally bend the fork (or more likely the frame). I have seen steel forks bent to ridiculous angles, but I've never seen one fail catastrophically under a rider. That's a testimony to steel's ultimate strength and forgiveness. 
  If you're riding on an aluminum fork you should have replaced it eons ago. Aluminum forks become mushy and flexible over time. I've never thought aluminum is a good choice for a fork. The only time I had a bike with one, I worried so much that I got rid of that rig after only two months. The fork was way light and it was good on rough pavement, but it seemed like an accident waiting to happen. 
 ---Garage Calamities.  I hope this has never happened to you, but it's happened to plenty of tired riders driving home with the bike on top. One push of the garage door's remote button and in a nano-second . . . disaster! After calming down, you need to take the bike (and what remains of the roof rack) to the LBS. It's going to take time to check everything that could be damaged. If it's only the fork you were lucky in the extreme. Make your next stop at the auto body shop, then drop by the local construction contractor to arrange for a repair estimate. Don't forget to mention that the garage door no longer works. 
 Never, ever take a chance on fork failure. Sure, a good bike's fork is expensive to replace. But that pales in comparison to the pain of a crash and cost of an ER visit. 
  With our bikes it's the same. We must maintain our equipment and spend what it takes to replace anything that's questionable. Especially the fork. 

Danger Zone, pt. 3:  Frame Fractures 
Don't kid yourself. Your frame can break. Every frame can break. Doesn't matter whether it's made of "gonna last forever" titanium, ornately lugged steel, exotic carbon or ultra-light aluminum. 
 But take heart -- very few frames do break, considering how many are on the road and being ridden hard. And even fewer come apart when you're JRA ("just riding along").

 That's because bicycle frames are an amazingly strong conglomeration of small tubes joined by the mastery of the builder. The fact that so few break is testimony to the strength of a design that has been around since the late 1800s. We may be building bike frames out of different materials these days, but the tried-and-true basics remain unchanged.

That said, you don't want to be part of even a small sad statistic. It's important to know how to check your frame for fractures that could lead to tube separation and possible injury on the road. Let's see how.

---The first step is to have a clean bike and keep it that way. Most frame failures begin as a hairline crack. How would you expect to find one under a layer of crud?  

---Remove the rear wheel to examine the dropouts and the tubes ("stays") they're joined to. This is one of the most likely places a crack will occur. Look closely at both sides of each dropout. Use a bright light so you can really see if that scratch is only a scratch.

---Follow the chainstays forward to where they join the bottom bracket shell. Check the chainstay bridge, the small tube that joins the chainstays behind the BB. Some frames may not have this reinforcing tube; on others it's a place cracks can develop.

   ---Follow the seatstays up to the bridge for the rear brake. This is a very high stress area, but is also over-built for that reason. Go up to the seat cluster. The top tube, seat tube and seatstays all join here. It's a complicated joint and requires extra care in building. Check it carefully. Other than an accident, the main reason for damage here is using a seatpost that doesn't extend far enough below the cluster. 
   ---Move to the front of the bike and examine the joints around the head tube. This is another area subjected to a variety of forces. If the bike has had a frontal impact (curb, dog, garage on a roof rack), look closely under the head tube end of the down tube. If it's bulged, cracked or discolored, go bike shopping.

  Now, most of this so far pertains to metal frames. It can be harder to spot a problem in a carbon frame. Carbon is unique in its amazing strength, but its natural color can mask signs of damage that do occur.  

 ---One sign of carbon tube failure is a rag getting snagged when you're wiping down the frame. Gouges, deep scratches or displaced paint need a serious look.   

   ---As with any frame material, if your bike starts handling strangely or develops mysterious creaking, cracking or popping noises, stop riding it and run the above checks for tube failure. 

 Don't be paranoid about your bike. The point is simple: Be diligent. Keep your bike clean. Inspect the frame, fork and other parts once a month or after any kind if mishap. By doing so you'll be safe, sound and out of the Danger Zone of hassles and injuries related to equipment failure.

Soft Pedaling
No, not a “smooth sale” marketing technique.  That’s the soft peddle….. what I’m talking about is the soft pedal!  Drafting is the essence of group cycling, but many cyclists don't do it as well as they could.  When riding in a paceline, and the gap between your front wheel and the wheel you’re following closes, the rookie/instinctive reaction is to grab the brakes.  But that should be avoided. Braking should be the last resort in a paceline or anytime another rider is close behind. It slows you too abruptly and might cause following riders to do what you're trying to avoid -- hit a rear wheel.  If wheels touch, the front rider will maybe feel a slight bump, but the following rider could be in a heap.  Perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to experience this phenomenon!   It takes better bike-handling skills than even many pros possess to stay up after front-wheel contact. Instead, soft pedal. 

Here's how: Soft pedaling is the art of continuing to turn the cranks without applying power. You're coasting but it doesn't look like it. This should temper your speed just enough. As you drift back a bit, smoothly resume pedal pressure to maintain the gap.

Soft pedaling makes you much smoother than alternating coasting and pedaling. Not to mention how maddening that can be to the riders behind you. Suddenly stopping and starting your legs is a sure way to annoy your riding partners.  It’s also less efficient to be doing the “stop/start pedal dance” than to be spinning more fluidly by soft pedaling. When everyone in a paceline is always turning their cranks -- with power or without -- it's a thing of beauty.   Take a look at a pro peloton, and you’ll see what I mean.

Some other non-braking tips:
---Sit up.  As you soft pedal, this helps your body catch more air to reduce speed. In effect, your upper body is acting as a speed brake.

---Move slightly left or right.  Two benefits: It slows you quicker by putting you slightly out of the slipstream, and it makes sure wheels won't touch. Do it smoothly and minimally for the safety of riders behind. Then flow back in line and resume normal pedaling.

---Always ride at the very back of the group.  Since no one is behind you, your technique can be terrible and there won’t be any following riders to be bothered by it!


 You've probably seen photos and videos of pros careening down European passes. Their butts are
on the top tube in front of the saddle. Their hands are grasping the bar next to the stem. Their chins are nearly touching the front wheel. 
Don't try it! This position may be aero but it's also extremely unstable. Pros can get away with it, but they can do lots of things we can't. 
You'll go almost as fast -- assuming you want to go fast -- and be much steadier if you use a sensible
---Hold the crankarms horizontal.  Some riders like the right foot forward, others the left. It doesn't matter, so do what feels natural. 
---Scoot back.  Slide to the rear of the saddle and rise slightly so your weight is supported mainly by your feet and hands. But don't get totally off the saddle. Keep it between your thighs for control and stability. 
---Grip the drops.  Have your hands far enough forward so it's easy to reach the brake levers. 
---Alternate the brakes.  To keep speed under control, apply the front brake for a moment, then the rear.
Don't risk a blowout from overheated rims by dragging the pads down the hill. Still too fast? Sit higher so your body catches more air. 
---Squeeze your knees.  If your bike has a tendency to wobble on fast descents, let one knee (or shin, in the case of compact frames) rest against the top tube. If shimmy does start, clamp the tube between your legs. 
---Keep your head up.  If speed is your thing, you will need to be low to reduce wind resistance but, again, be sensible and don't overdo it. Comfort and safety are more important than another mph or two. 
---Think fast.  Look up the road and anticipate dangers. Is there gravel on that corner? A blind driveway? An intersection? 
Enjoy the thrill, but always remember: The faster you descend, the more margin you need for the unexpected.

You Light Up My Life

Over the past several years, I have repeatedly danced around the issue of purchasing a front bike light for riding in pre-dawn or after sundown hours.

A rear blinky light is fine to be seen from behind, but riding with a pathetic front light is not only stupid, it can be terrifying to feel as if one is riding blind.  Although frugality was a part of my lack of motivation to spring for a light, my main reluctance stemmed from an unwillingness to purchase a light which was unwieldy and used a heavy, proprietary, wired battery pack. Well, I discovered, thanks to peloton buddy Tom Morgan, the miracle of light!  I had noticed that he was riding with what appeared to be a mini-mag-type light mounted on his handlebars as well as on his helmet.  I was impressed how unbelievably bright each was and either alone would be totally satisfactory to illuminate the road ahead.  Tom explained that he uses both lights because he bike-commutes to work, and the helmet light is useful to “see” around corners, as well as to catch the attention of inattentive motorists.  A company called 4sevens makes a full range of flashlights, many of which are ideal for bike handlebar and/or helmet mounting.  They operate on standard batteries, either AA or 123 (photo battery), disposable or rechargeable.  They are compact, lightweight, built like a quality tool, and they are amazingly bright!!  You can check out their product line at   I opted for the Quark 123² model which fits handily on my handlebars with a rubber and velcro mounting block.  It is totally adequate for my morning ride-to-the-ride commute and can be conveniently removed and placed in the pocket for camping, car use, or interrogating a suspect! Max power (190 lumens) run time
is approximately 1½ hours, and on lower settings, run time is significantly longer. 

Whereas I used to tip-toe down the bike path at maybe 14mph in the pre-dawn dark, now I can ride at speed with plenty of light in front of me.

And those riders coming in your direction with what look like aircraft landing lights; now I am one of them!

Be a better cyclist!
Riding Tips

---Seams and cracks.  When these run parallel to your direction of travel they can catch your front wheel. So be vigilant, particularly when entering a shaded section that makes cracks and seams hard to see. If your wheels become trapped, don't try to turn to the right or left. That's likely to make you crash. Stop pedaling and either continue in the rut until it ends, or jump the bike up and to the side to untrap the wheels -- a skill worth practicing because you don't want to be trying it for the first time in emergency conditions.
---Rough or broken pavement.  When approaching long sections with a gnarly surface, sit back, shift to the next higher gear, grip the bar top or brake lever hoods, and steadily pedal through. The slightly bigger gear adds resistance and slows your cadence so you can pedal smoother with less bike chatter.
---Painted lines.  They can be as slippery as ice when they're wet. Be wary entering any corner in urban areas where there may be painted crosswalks or other road markings. Slow down and do your best to cross them at a right angle with your bike perpendicular.
---Wet metal.  Anything metal and wet is ultra slippery. This includes manhole covers, plates, grates, metal bridge surfaces, railroad tracks and so on. Again, slow down and do your best to cross wet metal at a right angle with your bike perpendicular.
---Fallen leaves.  Leaves usually aren't a problem when you're riding straight through them (although they may cover potholes or other dangers). But in a corner, watch out. If there is wetness between the leaves, they can be slippery and cause you to slide down. In the off season when there are freezing temperatures overnight, what appear to be dry leaves can actually have frost between them or even an ice slick underneath.
---Gravel and sand.  When the loose stuff is on a flat section, use the same technique described for rough or broken pavement. When sand or gravel is in a turn, initiate your turn before reaching it. Then straighten the bike just before you cross. If your bike is upright on a slippery patch, it's less likely to slide out from under you. Once safely across, lean the bike again to complete the turn.
Tip!  Never hit the brakes while the bike is leaned over on any slippery surface. A braked wheel tends to go straight, so if you clamp on the stoppers while you're cornering, you'll almost certainly go down.

Cycling in Books

Thomas Dekker's 'Descent' Into Doping
In his award-winning, international bestseller, DESCENT: My Epic Fall from Cycling Superstardom to Doping Dead End (, Dutch racer Thomas Dekker reveals in sordid detail the lifestyle of professional cyclists during the height of cycling’s EPO and blood doping era.
[DESCENT.WEB] It was a time (think back to such names as Jan Ulrich and Michael Boogerd and such "national" teams as Rabobank) when sponsorship money, drugs and blood flowed freely in the pro ranks, and riders like Dekker thought nothing of going on booze-fueled benders and hiring hookers in cities across Europe.
Like all riders worthy of the pro peloton, Dekker was a Type-A competitor who rose through the local ranks, winning small-time races in Dutch backwaters and climbing the cycling ladder. At age 20, he was earning €100,000 a year—as an amateur. When Dekker turned pro, signing with Rabobank, his salary quadrupled, then jumped to €900,000 as his talent established him as a super-domestique among Europe’s wealthiest cycling teams.
Before long, though, Dekker found himself corrupted by the money, bedazzled by the fame, and utterly incapable of handling the relentless pressure to perform at the level of his fellow uber-competitors. “I have success, money, women. I’ve been lionized by the public and the press. The world is at my feet. I’ve spread my wings and here I am, soaring above everything and everyone. But in reality, the descent has already begun.”
As was common for the era, there weren't more than 2 degrees of separation between a rider and source of doping – the two main types in the early to mid-2000s were EPO (and derivatives) and blood doping (basically, having your own blood drawn, frozen and stored for future use to boost your body's own ability to perform and endure).
In Dekker's case, he simply asked a teammate or two for their source, and his own team's medical staff helped monitor his blood levels to guard against positive tests. In short, unlike on some of the other pro teams that had systemic doping programs, Rabobank riders like Dekker ran their own personal programs. Which meant, unscheduled trips to fly to visit the "vampires" who surreptitiously took his blood in a foreign hotel where it was not at all unusual to see other pro riders haunting the same hallways. (Dekker was, in fact, caught up in the Operacion Puerto scandal and served a 2-year ban in the middle of his career.)
The book makes crystal clear that Dekker was a self-indulgent (to put it mildly) and self-destructive character from the beginning. Adding the sauce of money, sex, fast cars, fame – and enough success to want more of it all – only added to the seeming inevitability of his personal outcome.  
Descent is a fascinating character study, as much about what money and fame and competitiveness can do to a person lavished with all those things long before he has the emotional ability to handle any of them. Add a healthy dose of self-loathing, and you have Thomas Dekker in the midst of the pro cycling peloton's Wild West doping days of the 2000s.
The book is barely over 200 pages and a quick and entertaining read.

"Positively False" 
I  recently read Floyd's 2007 book "Positively False",  written after his 2006 Tour de France victory (which was later vacated).   In the book, Floyd details the "real" story of how he won the TdF.   Actually, the book was interesting reading (at least the first half) where he tells of his early years and development into a Pro Road Racer.  It was odd reading later in the book when he writes: "I did not use performance-enhancing drugs in the 2006 Tour de France or any other time in my career."   His strenuous denials of any impropriety in his conduct and defense of his "clean" status are tough to get through in light of his recent acknowledgement of doping, after all.   Especially disturbing is how Floyd enlisted the support of notable, (previously) reputable cycling authorities such as Arnie Baker, MD to "prove" his innocence.   In the book, he does reference Lance Armstrong numerous times, having ridden as a teammate on US Postal Team with Lance.   Although there is no mention of any drug usage re: Lance or any of Floyd's teammates, it is not difficult to understand why, now, 4 years later, Floyd is gunning for Armstrong.   Lance and Floyd didn't necessarily see eye-to-eye as fellow Pro Cyclists, and now, Floyd apparently wants some pay-back.
It's just difficult to Floyd telling the truth now, or was he then, or what?
By the way, I picked up the retail $24.95 hardcover book at one of Bakersfield's  99cent stores!....that detail should be some indication of it's true value.  But it IS worth reading for a dollar.

"The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance"
 Written by David Herlihy, it's the story of a young American named Frank Lenz, a national hero in the 1890s as he set out to ride his bicycle 20,000 miles (32,200 km) around the world. Somewhere in Turkey, Lenz disappeared without a trace. This 336-page book describes his journey and the efforts to find him. The Associate Press says, "Herlihy's gripping, fast-paced tale of larger-than-life cyclists and the era in which the bicycle came into its own . . .combines elements of a mystery thriller with those of a fascinating travel tale set in the historical context of a fast-changing world on the brink of the 20th century.  The book has numerous photos Lenz mailed from his trek. $15.60 at

"Bobke II" 
The Continuing Misadventures of Bob Roll

This collection from cyclist Bob Roll reflects his unique perspective on the professional racing circuit and his own brand of dry humor. Straightforward yet sly, funny and a little crazy, Roll calls it like he sees it. Here are anecdotes about the Tour de France, international mountain-bike tournaments, training struggles, heart-stopping crashes, and personal vendettas, all of which provide a fascinating inside look at the world of championship cycling.  This is some VERY funny stuff!!!

"Ten Points" 
 A memoir by Bill Strickland 

 In "Ten Points", Bill Strickland takes you further into the bodies, the heads, and hearts of serious cyclists than you’ve ever been before…but he does something far more important.  You learn about nightmare encounters with fathers and drugs, the tenderness of fatherhood, and why, in the end, the devil drives. 
  A lifelong but decidedly average bicyclist, Strickland was challenged by his young daughter to score ten points in a series of weekly races dominated by pro racers, national champions, and legends of the sport.  He hoped that if he could achieve this impossible feat, he might similarly triumph over the indestructible demon that haunted his life. This book is brutally honest and beautifully written.....Well worth reading!!