Bike Shaped Objects

Funky bikes and news

I’m starting to get bike racing

Bike Racing is important just because it’s bike racing.

bike racing - getting itThat sounds silly but it’s true. I’ve been trying to look at bike racing like it was a two-wheeled human-powered version of NASCAR. That just doesn’t work and while watching a NASCAR race this weekend I realized why.

Where did NASCAR race two weeks ago? I don’t know either and I watched the race. The problem with NASCAR is that there are so many races, and except for a few, they are almost identical. Cycling has nothing like that problem.

Each bike race has a distinct personality and a unique place in the calendar. While I can’t really argue that the Tour de France isn’t the biggest dog in the kennel, for me the Tour of California is the most important race, cause it’s the only major race I’ve seen in person.

I now realize that everything I complained about in my last few posts are exactly what makes bike racing so exciting. I have to change my thinking from season-long championship to a group of events that are interesting on their own. Yes there’s a world tour and points and rankings but from a fan’s point of view maybe those aren’t all that important.

Back to this weekend, even before I realized it, I was more interested in the Dauphine than NASCAR. I still love car racing but there’s something special about a breakaway that actually succeeds in staying ahead of the big group. Watching actual human beings struggle with their very own muscles to climb mountains. Wonderful.

My new hobby, and probably the topic of my next blog post, is to reverse engineer why what teams use what riders in what race. The focus of this will be the Tour de France prep races. Should be interesting.


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Bike racing is even more confusing

More confusing in a good way. Maybe.

more confusingThe problem isn’t lack of information. All the information you could ever want is out there. Unfortunately it is hidden away on websites with poor SEO and little context. The context part isn’t really their fault. It turns out that bike racing, or at least road racing, has no context by design.

I’ve been trying to fit a very square peg into a very round hole. While there is something called the National Pro Tour, all its events are not created equal. Some have much more prestige and/or prize money than others. To make things more confusing many of these events conflict with each other.

Then there’s those darn Canadians. As expected Canada has its own races and most of the top American teams race in them. Also, the Canadians come down here. What this creates then is a bunch of teams from different countries racing in an unconnected series of races. Hardly satisfying for a detail-oriented person such as myself.

Then there is the concept of the “winner.” While a race does have a general classification winner there are also rankings for climbers, sprinters, young’uns and teams. Sometimes those winners are all the same people, but usually they aren’t. On longer races you also have to follow and compare stage results with overall standings. This is starting to look like a big data exercise.

Then there are the point standings. The national organizations keep track of event results and create rankings based on some form of alternative math where the leaders get fewer points than the losers. In a future post I will try to figure out how that works.

In another post I will try to understand what teams are allowed to race where they do and how they figure out their schedules.

For simplicity sake I’m going to concentrate my “following” efforts on the teams. They are the pivotal data point in this schema of things. Still working on the details of how I’m going to do that.

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Swiss Army Bike on eBay

The Swiss Army Bike is vintage bike Nirvana

Swiss Army BikeOutside of a really nice touring bike this is my dream bike. Like a Swiss Army knife, it has all the cool tools and accessories.

Of course I love any bike with rod brakes. It’s almost a fetish of mine. Perhaps I would love them less if I ever had to rely on them downhill in the rain. Until then, I consider them an essential item of vintageness.

The generator-powered front light, the pump, the bag, the spring-loaded seat and the chain ring would be enough to stir my lust but when I saw the closeup of the coaster brake arm I fell in love.

Instead a plain hunk of dark scrap metal, this one is a shiny sculpted thing with the word Torpedo and a cool little logo on it. Gorgeous.

I also love the severely full coverage fenders. It’s not often you see fenders go below the hub line.

Then there is the cruel joke that fortune is playing on me. The current bid is $2.25. That’s less than a single bus ride here in San Francisco. Of course the reserve is not met. I know that the price will go up but the dreamy part of my brain is trying to convince me that maybe this will be the bike that doesn’t go for way more than I could ever afford.

So as long as you don’t plan on bidding yourself, take a look at the full listing and enjoy.

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Bike Racing is Confusing

Confusing to the point of I Must learn more.

confusing bike raceIt’s an apparent anarchy of zero body fatted people zooming about on two wheels. I’ve been watching the occasional bike race here and there and finally figured out race strategy and all that fun stuff, but the rest in just confusing.

Through my time watching I became a fan of one bike racer in particular, Danny Pate. You may not know who he is. He is one of those people who work really hard to get the team leader to the front then let them sprint ahead for the win.

I became a fan because he does not fit the bike racing mold. He is too tall and too heavy, and yet, has been very successful. This year though, Danny left the international scene to race for an American team, Rally Cycling. So I decided to follow Danny’s new team.

That’s where things start to fall apart. I’m used to car racing where a team, with a fairly steady group of drivers, races in a series towards a championship. None of that exists in bike racing. Championships are one day events, but there are a bunch of them. There is also a national “calendar” of events, but I’m not sure why. Even the members of a team change from event to event.

I should note that when I say bike racing I really mean bicycle road racing. There are also races for all other kinds of bikes or in some case human powered vehicles. Plus divisions by surface and venue type. Even road racing consists of a variety of different events.

Perhaps now you can see why I say that bike racing is confusing. What I am hoping to do is blog about my attempts to make sense of all this. Future posts will include:

  • Who runs bike racing?
  • What are the different types of races?
  • How do I follow bike racing?
  • Where can I watch a bike race?
  • What is a team and why do they exist?
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