14 November 2014

Recommended Reading for a Friday

A number of topics have caught my interest this week

Time for a recommended reading list....

A tale of the toughest bike race held across northern France through the battlefields just after the end of The Great War. What rider today could you imagine being this tough to complete an arduous race such as this? Circuit des Champs de Bataille By Rouleur Magazine.

In a week of Armistice Day and Veteran's day around the globe, Pez Cycling reflects on how the battlefields crossed during the 2014 Tour de France left a big impact on what they thought would be a simple visit to cheer on a bike race. Remembrance at Le Tour de France By Peter Pestes for Pez.

News about an event organizer taking steps to ward off a damaged reputation by banning all formerly suspended dopers from participation. The Taiwan KOM Challenge: why we banned all formerly suspended riders from our race By Crankpunk

An honest interview about one female cyclist's view of the current state of women's racing. Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By Simon Withers of CyclingNews

Now that you read that article, read these 'Cycling is now one of Britain's best loved sports' and Sir Bradley Wiggins: I want my Team Sky development team to create a lasting legacy for next 10 years By Tom Carey of The Telegraph. It is interesting the things top cyclists negotiate into their contracts.

Anyone who has not yet discovered the Flipboard App or Longform online or app, needs to check them both out - they will expand your world through excellent writing.

This week on Longform I enjoyed reading the amazing story of Vivien Thomas (I had seen the movie years ago) titled Like Something the Lord Made A great read by Katie McCabe for The Washingtonian about an individual who truly advanced cardiac medicine.

On a fun note, the Mile High Urban Cyclocross Chaos race takes place this Sunday in Denver. An unusual race based near the rail yards of downtown Denver. An unlikely setting for a bike race but one with tons of character and good cheer. The temperature at 8:30am, when the first wave of racers are set to take to the frozen course, is estimated to be 14˚F. If a bike racer can work in that temperature, I sure hope my camera can. (video of the race by OnSightMedia)

To leave you on the note of good character and racing - read Be Your Personal Best by Selene Yeager of Bicycling

13 November 2014

The growing force of womens cycling

What do I think of women's bike racing?

It seems I ask this question of myself every other week; the answer, I find, is often different.

One thing is for certain - womens cycling is again growing and I better adjust to changing times. With brutal honesty I admit I was fearful of the change and uncertain of how I would cover the newly added women's stage races to the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. Was it social pressure to suddenly know everything there was to know about womens cycling or was it recognition of my own ignorance about the sport of womens cycling.

I followed the generation who created the womens movement, I was schooled through Title 9, I have witnessed the unequal status of women's sport for decades. And yet I have never been on the forefront of making the change happen. I honestly have never been into all women's sports, only a select few. I enjoy watching women tennis, swimming, skiing, track and field; all exciting sports in their own right. But womens hockey, baseball, or soccer? No.

I reasoned that just because I like men's football, basketball, golf and cycling, that was no reason why I must also follow women's football, basketball, golf or cycling. In my mind they were separate sports and one did not piggy back upon the other. I had no obligation to a professional sport simply because women did it, or simply because I was a woman.

Now that researchers have been trying to lay to rest the myth that sex sells sport, most fans admit they mostly look for ability on the field from top athletes (except for those nude women's kits that got far too much press in 2014). This revelation means we can focus on the excitement of pure athleticism and good competition. Perhaps the reason I have never really been into women's cycling is simply because I have not been exposed to the highest level.

My point is - maybe it is time that I give some attention to learn about professional women's cycling. Maybe I will enjoy the sport. I don't get that excited watching a local amateur race, but expose me to the best men in the world racing a WorldTour race and I get plenty thrilled. I know all the teams and the riders, I have my favorites and I know the history. I unabashedly celebrate the outcomes of individual effort in sport as if the athletes were my best friends.

It took me years to learn about professional men's cycling.

Maybe if I start learning now about women's cycling, I can catch up to the point where I can truly appreciate the athletes and their performance. This is exactly the opportunity we are being given by way of the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge having added multiple day women's races to their 2015 calendars.

Even if we are not fans of womens cycling today - we might be tomorrow, or better yet - next year. Our daughters, nieces and neighbors might be the next great stars of the sport. We grow our interest, we grow our support, and the athletes benefit now. It takes a willingness to say yes, I am going to watch and encourage more women's bike races.

For now if these races have to piggy-back onto the men's races, so be it. Soon they will stand on their own and maybe one day we will hear that a mens race has been added to a womens stage race. The best form of equality is when the athlete becomes known as a professional bike racer of outstanding ability, without gender attached.

I better step up and be part of this change, I know I have a lot to learn. Womens bike racing is in no way new and the sport has waxed and waned over the years. Growth has not been a constant upward curve, races have been eliminated, diminished, reborn again. But I hope the movement now gathering steam sticks and womens cycling continues to earn respect, admiration and sponsorship.

The Amgen Tour of California included a womens criterium as early as 2008, adding a time trial in 2011. Finally 2015 will see a three-day stage race, followed by a separate ITT for the women five days later. The men's and women's races will overlap, spreading viewership, I worry. More info: amgentourofcalifornia.com/competition/womens-races.

The USA Pro Challenge had previously featured a womens circuit race run in conjunction with the pro race on the streets of Aspen, but in 2015 race organizers will present an official USA Pro Challenge womens stage race. Full details have yet to be released for the 2015 mens or womens parcours in Colorado.

The Giro-Rosa in Italy is the most prestigious women's stage race. We have only four opportunities in America to see the best of the best in womens racing. If you live in Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arkansas - you are the lucky ones. I won't make it to any of these races in 2015, but I will make a point of watching online, if possible (How to follow women's road cycle races live).

It is clear that change is in the air worldwide for womens bike racing. “We’re going to have a much stronger world cup calendar and international calendar,” UCI president Brian Cookson recently told CyclingNews. Listen to Cookson address women's minimum wage and calendar and developments on this CyclingNews video: UCI President Brian Cookson on the progress of women’s international cycling. Cookson states "women's events don't always need to be secondary or subsidiary to men's events, they can stand on their own and be really successful." 

Having women's cycling stand on it's own is my hope and vision for the future. When we achieve a mixture of men and women leadership and sponsorship throughout both men's and women's bike racing, the result benefits everyone and signals an appreciation of the truly able athlete. That is when we know we have equality.

I believe building a solid following might have more to do with the quality of the business and operation then in the quantity on the calendar.  

Womens top level pro races in the USA for 2015 - Full Calendar Women 2015
Total UCI Womens Races over the year (signs of adjustment):
  • 2006 - 57
  • 2011 - 70
  • 2013 - 65
  • 2014 - 76
  • 2015 - 78
Learn more:
Update 11/14/14: Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By CyclingNews An honest interview about the current state of women's cycling.

10 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - an old Denver tradition

Cruising to coffee in downtown Denver

Not all coffee shops survive - as I can attest - because two of the coffee shops I hunted for during this Coffeeneuring Challenge had up and vanished before I was able to pedal to their doorstep. For my #7 of 7 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge I decided to visit a coffee shop that has survived the test of times. The Market - in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver).

When I moved to Denver in 1990, The Market was the first coffee shop I ever visited in this large city. That is because The Market was pretty much the only coffee shop in Denver. After living overseas in Southeast Asia for 5 years, I had become accustomed to afternoon tea or coffee. The coffee shop craze, although already active in Seattle and Portland, had yet to migrate inland to Denver.

Life as an expat taught me that taking time for a warm drink in the afternoon signaled a moment of relaxation. It was a tradition I quickly learned to enjoy. I liked going to The Market to overhear foreign accents (something I missed terribly when I moved back to the U.S.) and watch others who practiced the tradition of good conversation and relaxation over a cup of coffee. The Market was a bit before it's time and it's patrons have rewarded it with consistent business for 31 years.

In 1983 two brothers, Mark and Gary Greenberg,  from New Jersey bought the market and created the current format of service including a coffee bar, fresh foods, deli, chocolates, bakery, catering, and specialty grocery items. The company website claims, "The Market was the first espresso bar between New York and Los Angeles, eighteen years before it became trendy to open a coffee house on every corner." Plenty of restaurants and shops have come and gone on Larimer Street over the years, but The Market has remained steady.

In the 1970's and 80s downtown Denver was sorely neglected, unattractive, dirty, without use. Then the mayor promoted an economic urban renewal that made the area attractive to restaurants, shops, loft living and plenty of new businesses. LoDo boomed. Before the renovation of Lower Downtown the single block of Larimer Street, between 14th and 15th streets, was a small oasis of preserved historic architecture. The Market has always been the cornerstone of Larimer Street, although it resides in the center of the block. The Market is a Denver tradition.

My coffeeneuring challenge To LoDo Denver

Adventure #7
Coffee Shop: The Market
Website: http://themarketatlarimer.com/
Address: 1445 Larimer St
City: Denver
Neighborhood: LoDo (Lower Downtown historic district)
Date visited: 11/09/14
Bike ridden: cruiser bike
Miles ridden: 10
Coffee enjoyed: Latte mocha mint
Eats: nothing, the coffee was like pudding!

Photos from my ride:
The city never sleeps, even on a Sunday morning (mountains in the background)
The modern landscape of the upper part of downtown
Typical historic architecture found in the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district of Denver
The Market !
The coffee bar with fresh baked goodies
The market
The entrance has that old time historical feel
My Latte mocha mint. The Barrista took his time to hand blend this yummy drink for me and added the nice design on top.
Sitting at an outside table in front of The Market on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Blake St (near to Larimer St) in 1866. We've come a long way!
 It was a great setting yesterday outside this traditional coffee shop in Denver. TODAY IT IS SNOWING!!!

I have completed my coffeeneuring challenge for 2014, but will be pedaling to more coffee shops in the future. That was tons of fun - thanks Chasing Mailboxes for organizing and inspiring the challenge.

09 November 2014

Catching up with tech advances in cycling

Who says a bicycle never changes

Did anyone else complete the 2014 Cyclingnews Reader Poll? Sure I know all the riders, sure I know all the races, and most certainly I have my opinions on who and what are the best. But then the tech questions appeared before my eyes. Uh-oh I don't know all these, I realized in shame.  There have been a lot of new technological equipment changes and advances in the bicycle industry over the past year(s). I need to catch up.

Advances are so numerous, the Cycling News poll devoted two pages to best new tech advance and best new product. I copied the two pages onto an email to myself, titled it "Learn" and sent it off to myself as a message to get-with-it. Today it has become my Sunday homework, and now, yours.

What is the Best New Product?
  • Speedplay SYZR pedal
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Garmin Edge 1000
  • Shimano XTR Di2 electronic mountain bike transmission
  • GoPro Hero 4
  • Giro Synthe aero road helmet
  • Fabric ALM saddle
  • Zwift virtual group ride indoor training system
  • Campagnolo Record/Super Record road group
  • SRAM Force CX1 1x11 cyclo-cross bike transmission
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below) 

Take the time to read up on each of these new products and you will know a lot about recent developments in our sport. I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web (actually my favorite reviewers are Logan VonBokel, James Huang and Ben Delaney but I have ventured to offer a variety). In order of new products listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

The fact that I had to dig past every major online sales site to find a review of the new GoPro Hero 4 might indicate who is making a gazillion bucks on the newest product released.  If you read Logan VonBokel's review of the new Shimano XTR Di2 you will read how he thinks it is "The best group." Now that it is winter in Colorado, I think the Zwift Indoor Trainer would come in very handy.

What is the best new tech advancement?
  • Full-suspension fat bikes
  • BioShift automatic shifting
  • Focus RAT quick-release thru-axle system
  • Inexpensive power meters
  • Direct-mount road brakes
  • Canyon MRSC magnetic suspension system
  • Automatically adjusting safety lights
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Advanced aluminium frames  
  • 3D printing
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below)

Next take the time to read up on each of these tech advancements. Again I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web. In order of new tech updates listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

What this homework exercise has taught me is that bikes do indeed change and advances are continuously made as man is forever trying to improve. It also makes me realize there is an endless amount of gear to spend my money upon and an old bike is any bike older that three years. Mostly this quick review of tech advances in the bike industry for 2014 has taught me that I should have been a gear tech reviewer. Could you imagine the pure happiness of package after package of this goodness arriving at the doorstep of your office, or being flown out to new tech press announcements? I would love my job.

Look how happy these people look to be riding a bike indoors? That might be the biggest advancement ever in cycling.

Somehow I ended up not linking to any Cycling News tech reviews, for a full list of their reviews, please read: cyclingnews.com/tech

Related posts by Pedal Dancer®: The bikes that won the 2014 Tour de France

01 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - old & new roads near home

A traditional stop at Hudson Gardens

Chasing Mailboxes 7-week 7-coffee shop 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge continues.

I would bet that every road cyclist in Denver has stopped in at the tiny refreshment hut called Nixons at Hudson Gardens. Hudson Gardens sits right on the Platte River bike path. Try as I might to avoid bike paths, I am not alone is using this path to quickly get south out of town. On summer weekends the place is packed with cyclists. In early spring or late fall, less so; today was very quiet. The Hudson Garden rest stop was fixed up a couple of years ago and now offers fine tables, shade, restrooms, water fountain, bike pump and tool station and a snack shop.

Today I ordered a cappuccino. I sat and enjoyed my coffee with my friend Julie, whom I met out riding.

I am on Coffeeneuring Adventure #6 and have been trying to visit a different neighborhood and order a different kind of coffee drink at each challenge. Hard to believe I only have one more challenge to go, which is good timing because I am trying to avoid the chocolate mochas or pumpkin Lattes. It seems my New Year's Resolution to loose some weight has hit me early. So far I have enjoyed an Americano (my standard favorite), a boiled coffee, drip coffee, iced coffee, cafe latte, and a cappuccino. I hope I find something different next week.

My journey into new neighborhoods has been a great experience. Today after meeting up with friends, I said no thank you to taking the same bike path back home, intead I continued south toward Chatfield Park and then east connecting to Clarkson Street. Clarkson is a fantastic road for cycling. Quiet, pretty and rolling - it's just plain great. I had never used the southern part of the road before and was happy to discover that it is a much better alternative to the bike path (except I would miss Hudson Gardens).

I'm not crazy about bike paths, mostly because they are truly mixed-use paths with small children, dogs on leashes, skaters, and couples walking side by side. Kind of a crazy environment for a road cyclist. Plus bike paths are graded so that a rider's challenge stays too steady between -3 to +3 degrees in grade. I rarely get my heart rate up. I prefer to use my gears and vary my speed. I like rollers and small climbs and I don't like only looking at the shoulder/saddle of the rider in front of me. I am happiest when I am on a real road. The trick, these days, is finding safe roads.

Today I found new safe roads in the city and had a good cup of coffee.

A recommended inner city 29-mile loop ride in Denver and Littleton (click to enlarge)
I could easily extend this ride southwest into Chatfield Reservoir (doing hill repeats on the road up to the dam), or continue up Deer Creek Rd. Or I could link this route east to Cherry Creek Reservoir using East Quincy Ave (another nice inner city road to ride on a bike) .

Adventure #6
Coffee Shop: Nixons at Hudson Gardens
Website: hudsongardens.org/content/snackshop and www.hudsongardens.org/
Address: 6115 South Santa Fe Drive
City: Littleton
Neighborhood: South Platte River
Date visited:11/01/14
Bike ridden: road bike
Miles ridden: 29.0
Coffee enjoyed: cappuccino
Eats: nothing (the gardens are only 10.0 miles from my house)
Weather: 64 degrees, windy
Comments: nice setting, very quiet in November
Music: Pandora blues guitar channel

Nixons' friendly sign on the bike path at Hudson Gardens welcomes cyclists.
Nixons on the Platte River bike path in Littleton. Bike-in only, no cars.
The one of a kind rest stop in the Denver area. this area is usually filled with cyclists resting under shade trees.
My cappuccino in it's small white cup awaits me
I think I am going continue this challenge as long as winter allows.