Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday's mural...

well, not an actual mural this time, but art anyway. Not sure when I first began to notice these little art exhibitions arrayed outside a house on Berkley Avenue, but it is always a pleasant surprise to come riding along and see the color and creativity on display. The exhibits change periodically, and I wish I had taken photos of all the different ones, but only have these two. Don't know if the young artists live at the house, or if they are from a day care, or what, but it is a very cool little taste of the Claremont art scene.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The lycra/denim helmet divide...

I have been hesitant to enter the Great Helmet or No Helmet Debate, not out of some fear of putting my neck on the chopping block, but because, age aside, I have always believed it is a matter of individual choice. My choice is to always have a helmet on; this is a decision that probably evolved from several contributory factors. First when I started racing, in the late 1980s helmet use was mandated by the United States Cycling Federation (USCF), if you were at a race and had a leg over the top tube, you had better have a helmet secured to your noggin, or an official could kick you out of the race (still that way today). After that it was just natural to have it on all the time. After all, during all my years of racing I have only crashed twice during races; far more often they occur during training rides, solo or group, or commuting. Funny thing is, before I started racing, I almost never wore a helmet, nor did I wear lycra - shorts and tee shirt was all, pretty typical Southern California attire. Second contributing factor would be experience. Almost too many crashes that I can remember. True, some of these have been at higher speeds than most people ride, but others have been at more sedate paces. A knock to the head, is a knock to the head, and as we know concussions are nothing to be trifled with, so why take the chance.

Anyway I have been taking random photos of people on their bikes for this blog for a good year now, and there seems to be a general trend. If these photos are any indication, people who wear lycra tend to also wear helmets. Conversely, people riding in regular street / work clothes tend to go without. Additionally, the percentage of lycra wearers without a helmet is smaller than the percentage of others with a helmet.

I am not sure what to make of this. I won't suggest that lycra wearers might be smarter, it could be that we are more susceptible to following routine. Many lycra wearers also race, and like myself, may have come to helmet wearing the same way I did. However, just as many people, and probably more, wearing lycra don't race. Rather, they train for fitness and health, camaraderie, or what ever other reasons they might have. Are they helmet wearers to "fit in" with the crowd? I don't believe so.

Sometimes I think it could be a local thing. Claremont is a rather smallish college town, and college students tend to do their own thing. They also may only ride between classes, or between school and town, and whether it is a correct assumption or not, they may equate distance with safety, and regard helmets as unnecessary as a result. In comparison, take a look at the photos of Meligrosa at Bikes and the City. A far greater percentage of the riders (mostly non-lycra) are wearing helmets. Many of her subjects seem to be daily commuters, or others who mostly get around town by bike. I consider San Francisco (where Bikes and the City) is written and photographed, to be one of the more bike-savvy locales in this part of the world and suspect that may have something to do with it. I also notice that Meli sometimes wears a helmet, and sometimes does not. I may have to look back through some of her older posts in search of a reason; what factors determine when to wear or not to wear.

Maybe I should conduct a local study, devise a questionnaire on helmet use; do you, don't you, when, why, lycra or no. Would it answer any of my questions, would it solve the riddle of the great lycra / denim helmet divide, or make it more complicated? It seems like there are an infinite number of variables which determine helmet use or lack thereof, and these may make generalizations such as mine void. I have used the word tend for this very reason. There is likely no hard and fast rule. Rather, there are tendencies, and I think determining them would make an interesting study.

And yes, I have picked the photos for this post that support the thesis, and yes I do have photos which are exceptions. I am not saying there is some universal truth here, just that there seems to be a trend.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cycling Claremont: the Euro Cafe...

I have been dining at the Euro Cafe since it opened. It is kind of a non-descript place, at least from the outside, the interior is nice. That, however, is irrelevant because the food is the draw, breakfast, lunch or dinner. As the sign says it is Portuguese and Italian cuisine. The owner is a Portuguese man who will come out to greet you when he is there. I swear by the seafood linguini, and my son is equally adamant about the chicken fettucini. The panini's are good, so too the soups and baked goods. And don't leave without bringing home a piece of the bread pudding with caramel sauce.

The last Saturday of the month is Flamenco, tapas and sangria night, and tonight was the first for the year so we rode over to enjoy. I decided to try the shrimp tacos, which were on the tapas menu - good, but certainly not as filling as my usual, so I got the bread pudding to round it off.

caldo verde and sangria

Various rides start and end here on the weekends, or use the Euro as their turn around point. The place is a local favorite of cyclists. No bike rack nearby, which is a bummer because there is room. That is alright though, just lean them against something and eat outside. They also have one of those cyclist's emergency kits inside, with spare bits to repair flats and what-not.

Colnago Victory...

Saw this beauty today while making my weekly stop-by at the Velo. Small body required because it is a small frame, but it is pretty. 1980s model, full period correct Campagnolo. 

Stupid things...

Human beings, in both individual and group forms have a long history of making ill-advised decisions and actions. Some of these are small in scale while others are monumental. The repercussions of these decisions and actions may at times result in embarrassment, ripped clothes, torn skin, or tragically and unfortunately far worse. As a result municipalities, public agencies and other such entities sometimes find it necessary to enact regulations or devise various constructions in an attempt to prevent people from doing stupid things.

Today's example of one such construct comes from the San Gabriel River Trail where these little wing fences were constructed to the tops of each check dam wall in order to keep people from walking all the way out to the end of the wall. Keep in mind that there is no other fencing along this portion of the river, between the bike path and the river, to limit access. What sort of stupid thing preventers have you come across while out riding?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mountain biking good deed doers...

on Glendora Mountain Road help prevent a forest fire and arrest an arsonist. Story here.

From the archives: Thurlow Rogers at Diamond Bar...

Earlier, I posted a photo of Thurlow at the 1992 Mexican Independence Day Criterium. Here is another from June 7 of the same year at the Clean Air Circuit Race, which was held in Diamond Bar. The Diamond Bar circuit had a nice little hill to challenge the racers; the finish was, of course, at the top of the hill. Thurlow, wearing Subaru colors appears to have a slight advantage in this final charge to the line. My note on the back of the original photo says that it was taken "just before the incident". I have no idea what I meant by that; likely there was some contact between the two during the sprint, or the inside rider was run into the cones. Sprints can get pretty messy. 

As is usual with too many of these photos from the archives, my notes are incomplete. I don't know who the other racer is. If anyone does please let me know.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cycling Claremont: Last Drop Cafe...

I have mentioned the Last Drop Cafe, located on Harvard before, maybe even a few times. It is one of my favorite places in town for morning coffee or a lunchtime sandwich. A couple tables and benches out front for the nice days, and cozy inside for the not-so-nice ones. One of those places with loyal customers, so everyone seems to know the next person who walks through the door. There are bike racks nearby (up or down the street); none out front, but that does not keep bikes from being stacked up anyway.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lingo lesson for the masses: Peloton...

One of the things I recommended (earlier post) you do in preparation of the Tour of California visiting Claremont this May, was to learn the lingo of the cycling world. That way when the race becomes the talk of the town, you will be able to impress your friends and neighbors, or at least converse with all the racing types who will invade for a day or two. One way to do this might be to find a glossary of cycling terms; they are around, in books or online, and not too difficult to find. Short of that, you can check in here, and I will present you with a new term (at least one) each week - how to pronounce it correctly, define it, and explain how to use it. This method is time consuming and a bit of a pain in the a**, but it is a quick and easy post for me.

For the first term we might as well start big and basic - peloton. The word peloton is a three sylable noun, pronounced as pel-ɘ-tån. The word is of French origin, apparently dating to the 1950s, although that seems a bit late to moi. The peloton is the main group of racers in any given race. I say main group because the peloton can fracture at multiple times during a race, with smaller groups in front or behind. In fact, the peloton is usually in a constant state of flux.

Peloton is not the only word used to describe this group - if you have an Italian bent, rather than French, you might use the term groupo, you might even just call it the group. But, peloton seems to be the most widely accepted term. If you choose to use the term groupo, you should be aware that groupo also refers to a group of bike components, all of the same model and manufacture, such as Campagnolo Record, or Shimano Dura-Ace. If you find someone saying he has a full Chorus groupo on his latest bike, it does not mean that he carries around a lot of people with great voices; it just means all his components are Campagnolo Chorus. Also don't confuse groupo with groupie - the one is inside looking out, the other is outside wanting in. Best just to stick with peloton or group (without the 'o'), less confusion that way. Another thing to consider is that peloton usually, if not always, refers to a road event. For instance a group of mountain bikers up in the hills, no matter how large the group is, and to the best of my knowledge, will never be referred to as a peloton. Similarly, a group of cyclocross racers may be a peloton at the very start of a race, but before one lap as been completed, the racers will be so completely spread out around the course as to make the use of the term, well, useless.

So, how do you use the word? Simply put, I recommend sparingly. Some common times and ways to use it include when something happens to the group, such as "that crosswind absolutely decimated the peloton today" or, "the hills will quickly take their toll on the peloton." Additionally, mix up its use with the word group, which is a perfectly acceptable word. They are interchangeable. Keep in mind that, although the term peloton has become the most widely accepted word to call the larger group of racers, it is not necessarily the most often used, especially in this country. Group will suffice in most occasions. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cycling Claremont: Le Pain Quotidien...

Le Pain Quotidien is one the establishments that came to life a couple years ago in the Village West expansion area (they have other bakery/restaurants around the world). It's front doors and patio dining area open up to an expansive courtyard with seating, shade trees, fountains, and weekly music, some planned some spontaneous, throughout much of the year. Ask most people to describe Le Pain Quotidien and they might say it is that French restaurant with the long table. Indeed that would be my initial description, but I see from their website that the owner worked as a chef in Brussels, as in Belgium. I guess if you combine those two, that would make it Flemish. What ever it is, it is good, the restaurant and the bakery. The communal table if a great idea, a good way to meet your neighbors, but they also have smaller, private tables as well.  

As I was sitting in the courtyard courting my morning cup of coffee, I was hoping someone would ride by so I could combine bike and restaurant for the post. Just as I was about to give up, a rider did come along trailing a big bunch of balloons. He sat nearby and started to work on his computer and left his bike and balloons to make the photo.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kevin Unck Memorial Ride...

The memorial ride in honor of Kevin's life was run without a hitch this morning. We could not have ordered a more beautiful morning for such a tribute. Well over two hundred (maybe even over three hundred) riders came out, some who knew Kevin personally, others who simply wanted to pay their respects in memory of a fallen fellow rider. Before the ride pulled out Corey, from Coates, said a few emotional words, as did a rider from the Cycling Connection (Billy Corn perhaps), and finally, [Laura] Armstrong read a couple moving poems picked by Kevin's wife for the occasion. A sedate pace was set by Kevin's team-mates from the Back Abbey team, and everyone was content to roll along in their wake. It was a fitting tribute to a fellow rider, and I felt honored to have been a part of it, and proud that so many others from our cycling community were compelled to play a part. My thoughts are with everyone attending the memorial at Pomona College this afternoon.

Riders beginning to gather:

 Back Abbey riders leading out:

200, 300 riders up the road, or back behind:

The remainder of the photos, showing the group descending Padua Avenue in Claremont, as well as a few others, have been moved in an effort to save space. They can still be viewed however, on my Facebook page here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Follis vintage...

believed to be 1950s era, excluding the wheelset and shifters which are of more recent manufacture. Follis, a French bicycle manufacturer, began producing bikes in 1903. They built a wide range of bikes, but seem to have been best known for their tandems. Their racing bikes were also popular, both in Europe and in the United States. This one was not given the care and attention it deserved, but from what I saw the rust was superficial and it should clean up quite easily. I especially like the lugwork at the headtube with the Follis name above, and Lyon (where they were made) below. Mafac brakes, Simplex der's, Campagnolo seatpost -I didn't note down the entire spec sheet. A couple other interesting features, the pegs for the pump, and the internal routing for the rear brake cable.

As usual, this classic and vintage pick of the week is at the Velo.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The World's: Twenty-five years and counting...

That is twenty-five years since the cycling World Road Championships were last held in the United States.

Kind of hard to believe that they have not been able to make it back here at least once in that time. They came close when they visited Hamilton, Canada in 2003, but that has been it. In fact that has been it since 1927, the first year that a professional road race championship was held. Since that date, the road championships have only visited the States that one time. Of course it has only been within the past three decades or so, that American riders have had much of a consistent impact in the sport, but isn't it about time to come back here. Now, keep in mind that the Track World's are another matter (the road and track races are not always held in the same place), and as a result the track World Championships were held in Los Angeles in 2005, and even earlier in 1912 in Newark, and 1893 (the first) in Chicago.

One of the little bits of cycling memorabilia I have picked up over the years is this pin from the events of 1986, when the races, both road and track, were held at Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The podium for the men's road race was filled by Moreno Argenin of Italy with the gold medal, Charly Mottet of France with silver, and Guiseppe Saronni with bronze. The women's road race was won by the indefatigable Jeanne Longo, followed by Janelle Parks, the only American to medal that year, and Alla Jakovleva of the Soviet Union.

Funny how things work out sometimes. After I wrote this little post I stopped by the Velo and was shown a collection of cycling posters that had just come into the shop, among which was the Campagnolo  one marking the 1986 Worlds shown below. I apologize for the quality, although other than the Campy logo, there is not much to see in the central portion anyway.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tour of California 2011, Stage 7 - What to expect...

By now you may be aware that the City of Claremont has been selected to host the start of a stage of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California. Many of you will know what a bike race of this calibre is all about, what it is like, what takes place, what to expect, but others do not. So, what exactly can you, as a resident of Claremont or other neighboring town, expect? When the official announcement was made, the news was welcomed with widespread enthusiasm by the local cycling community. The Tour of California is one of the most significant races contested in the United States, and the premier stage race on these shores. As such the race garners much attention, not just here at home, but around the world as well. Many of the top domestic racers will compete in the weeklong race, and if past editions are any indication, the race will be well attended by big-name Euro-pros as well. Expect to see people, a lot of people - racers and their team support staff, race officials and their support staff, local, national and international press, tourists and racing fans from all over. The quickest and easiest way to get around town for a couple days in May will be by bike and by foot. Don't look at this negatively though, look on it as an opportunity, one of discovery and learning. I guarantee, if you allow it, the experience will be fun.

The race will actually spend relatively little time within Claremont, as the route will take the racers into the mountains for most of the day, finishing with a final tortuous climb to the ski lifts on Mount Baldy. It will likely be the most decisive day of racing in TOC history. As the peloton races along the streets of Claremont, the racers will know full well what awaits them in the mountains, and will likely be in no hurry to get there. Expect a more relaxed pace along our tree-lined streets, which should give spectators plenty of opportunity to experience the pageantry of a professional stage race. That is unless a rider, or group of riders, fearing what awaits them at the higher elevations decides to attack early, build a lead, and claim a moment in the sun.

The atmosphere prior to the firing of the starting pistol will be festive to say the least. No other sport allows spectators to mingle and interact in such close proximity to the athletes as does cycling. Expect to see the racers warming up, giving interviews, signing autographs, or just standing around talking in the start area. As the minutes from the start tick down to mere seconds, the atmosphere will change to electric in anticipation. Signs, banners, flags will line the beginning of the route. If you are able, and can set up a table and chairs along the way, you can sip your morning cup o’ joe, and enjoy some breakfast fare, toasting the peloton as it rolls by at a stately early speed. Just don’t be fooled into thinking, “that’s it?” The speed will pick up soon, enough so that long time racers like myself would find ourselves, as we say “shot out the back.” Of course you need not stay within the city to watch the proceedings. If you prefer, head up to the mountains for a different roadside view of the action. The steep muscle tearing, lung bursting climbs and razor's edge descents are where the winner will emerge from the seething mass of the peloton. Keep in mind that roads and streets of the actual route as well as others around the start area will be closed for varying lengths of time. The best way to get around will be by bike or foot.

The Tour of California, by coming to Claremont, will offer up the opportunity for residents to learn about, and even participate, in this sport that so many of us have a passion for. Immerse yourself in the new experience and pursue it with gusto. Follow the race over the days preceding its arrival in our city, learn the lingo of bike racing, or become a race volunteer (the Amgen TOC website will have sign-up information). If you are feeling especially enthusiastic and are well prepared from a fitness and experience standpoint, sign up for L'etape du California, a pre-race (the weekend before) ride for the public that will follow the same route as the race - that's 100 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation gain. On race day visit the Lifestyle Festival in the start area, ride your bike to the course and watch the race rush by, try to spot the various race leader jersey's (gold, red, blue, green, and white) as they ride by, collect autographs, take photographs. It does not happen so close to home very often, so make the most of it.

Watch for additional information, events, opportunities in the coming months as the date of the race approaches. Check the Amgen TOC website, City of Claremont sources, and my blog.

Most current event schedule 19 May, here.

Some easy links to earlier TOC posts here:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Claremont Cruising...

no beach required.

Flip-flops and sandals permitted.

Just another warm day in sunny Southern California.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ladybugs of the Icehouse...

Traded my Gatorskins for a pair of Vibram soles and took them for a hike into Icehouse Canyon.

Yes, those are lady bugs.

If you have never been up there when they emerge at the end of winter (or has this freakishly warm weather confused them), it is some sight to behold. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions at their peak

Of course the snow and the stone-walled ruins are always an attraction too.

Seamus Elliott...

Before there was a King Kelly, before Roche's triple crown victories, before Earley, or Kimmage, there was Elliott. 2011 marks the 40th year of the death of Seamus (Shay) Elliott (1934-1971)

Elliott is widely considered to have been the first Irish racer to have widespread success racing on the continent. Elliott's Wikipedia entry has a lot of interesting information on the racer, however there is some contradiction between that and the video above concerning how the 1962 World Championship Road Race played out for Jean Stablinski and Elliot, who finished 1st and 2nd. If you are curious put on your houndstooth cap and do a little investigating.

Elliott's palmares include 1st at the GP d'Isbergues (1956), 1st at the Semaine Bretonne, and Circuit de la Vienne, as well as 1st in the points classification of Paris-Nice (1957), 1st in the points classification and two stages at the 1958 Four Days of Dunkirk, 1st in the 1959 Omloop Het Volk, 1st at the GP de Denain and GP de Nice (1959), 1st on stage 18 of the 1960 Giro d'Italia. In 1962 he finished 3rd overall and the Vuelta a Espana, winning stage four and wearing the gold jersey for nine stages. The following year he won stage 13 of the Vuelta, as well as stage 3 of the Tour de France, during which he wore the yellow jersey for three stages. In 1965 Elliot won the Tour de l'Oise, GP de Saint-Raphael, GP d'Esperaza, and the GP d'Orchies. His final win came in 1966 at the GP du Tregor. Prior to these professional continental victories, Elliott was also two time Irish National Road Champion (1954 & 1955), and once Irish amateur road champion (1953).

Elliott was one of the classic "hard men" of the peloton. In 1954, at his first professional training camp (Team Simplex), the soigneur Raymond Le Bert exclaimed: "Ah ha, now this is really rock. He is a real flahute". "Flahute" refers to an old-type tough Flemish roadman. The Shay Elliott Memorial Road Race is held each April in his honor, while a monument to Elliott sits atop a climb near Glenmalure, County Wicklow. The Memorial road race has been dominated by Irish riders over its 53 editions (the race was previously known by another name), but the victor list includes some of the top racers in the professional peloton including, Sean Kelly (twice), Martin Earley, and Malcolm Elliot among other notables.

Wikipedia is a good source for collecting facts about personalities, such as Elliott, but these facts often miss the story. Elliott was found dead of a presumed self-inflicted shotgun blast two days following the death of this father. His business ventures had either failed or were unfulfilling, an attempted comeback at racing fell short, and his marriage had collapsed numerous year previously. His estranged wife, Marguerite, a French national and sister of Elliott's former teammate and friend, Jean Stablinski, was at the funeral of Shay's father, but returned to France almost immediately after. Two days later Seamus Elliott was dead. 

Seamus Elliott on the Web:

Dublin Wheelers Cycling Club
Bike Race Info by Owen Mulholland
Fast Eddy's Flandria Cafe

In addition an Irish television documentary was produced on the life of Elliott called Cycle of Betrayal (2010), but good luck finding it on this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunate; it sounds very interesting, and the short clip on YouTube would seem to support that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Seal Beach Project 1...

I have had this idea for a while to find a spot that has a lot of bike traffic and take a photo of everyone who rides by within a set period of time. I am not sure why but, with the weather as perfect as it has been, I decided to give it a go today, at the end of the San Gabriel River Trail in Seal Beach. I set up at two locations, first, the absolute end of path next to the Rivers End Cafe, and then at the gate where the path has to cross Marina Drive. I couldn't decide on the right angle for the second spot, and played around with a couple different angles until finally settling on one. Anyway, I spent 30 minutes at each spot, with photos of well over 200 riders.

Seal Beach Project 1 from Michael Wagner on Vimeo.

Orange you glad to be a cyclist...

on a warm, sunny day

mobile under your own power

experiencing life, rather than driving through it.

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