Sunday, July 30, 2006

Sunday Musette

OK, I'll admit that I thought the idea of biodeisel based on human fat was more than a little bit bizarre, but then again, it's a bizarre world we live in. Alert reader, and the Master Po of bike bloggers, Fritz of Cycle-licious, sent me this link.

If Gilligan could have plugged that gaping hole in S.S. Minnow, he may have looked at the skipper in an entirely new light!


Earthrace Skipper undergoes liposuction to fuel his Superboat

11th November 2005, Auckland, New Zealand

The Earthrace is an 80ft superboat currently nearing completion in Auckland New Zealand, and it will attempt the world circumnavigation speed record running 100% renewable, biodiesel fuel. Pete Bethune, Skipper of this amazing vessel, says "that one of the great things about biodiesel is it can be made from so many different sources". And to prove his point, he underwent liposuction yesterday, the fat of which will be converted to fuel to run in his boat.

For more information visit

Key Contact: Pete Bethune, project founder, Skipper: email, ph +64 21 415 342

For press release archive, go to


I often have the television on as I sit at the computer. It's behind me with the sound turned down low, tuned to CNN, Headline News, or the Weather Channel. An ad for the Sharper Image Personal Cooling System caught my attention. This looks like one of those electronic collars used for training bird dogs. It's the high-zoot version of a wet bandana tied around your neck, but thrity bucks could buy a whole bunch of bandanas!

It's bad enough that Mary expects me to come when called, remain faithfully at her heel at the grocery store, and refrain from sniffing at strange women, but there's no way I'll wear a collar too!

When it's blazingly hot, don't you dread leaving the air-conditioned comfort of your home? Maybe you've tried an ice-soaked towel around your neck — but that's nothing compared to the long-lasting, total-body comfort of our Personal Cooling System™.

...Our wearable invention houses a patented, miniature evaporative-cooling system. Just fill with a few ounces of water, place around your neck and switch it on: A quiet motor drives a tiny fan that creates evaporative cooling; flexible sides hold aluminum cooling plates against your neck — and your entire body enjoys up to four hours of relief. What's more, the fan inside adds even more cooling by directing a gentle breeze over the back of your neck. Comes with 2-oz. water bottle for on-the-go refilling.


Finally, and this isn't bike-related, I changed the filter on the refrigerator water line yesterday. This normally isn't a big deal, but apparently the company that made the filter elements went out of business. I had to use an entirely different filter, a Whirlpool in-line unit promising easy, no-hassle instalation that required a minimum of tools and no plumbing changes. I know better, of course.

This thing takes 1/4 inch copper tubing in either end. The easy installation instructions say to simply push the tubing into the filter far enough to engage the compression fittings, the pull back slightly to tighten them. Actually, this would probably work if (1) the line was brand-new rather than nearly 20 years old, (2) it was laser-straight rather than slightly bowed from nearly 20 years of previous filter replacements, and (3) the person doing the installation had the patience of Job. On second thought, I take that back. Job would have used much the same colorful language as I did while water spurted from either end of the filter. It was almost like something from the Three Stooges. I'd get one end to stop dripping only to see water coming from the other one.

My work was supervised by three small kittens equipped with extremely sharp teeth and claws. They were fascinated that an entire human was lying prone in their domain and they investigated every part they could reach. They attack animate and inanimate objects. Nothing is beyond their curiosity. They're brigands and thugs. We are no longer on speaking terms.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Manly men...

"Manly men, doing manly things, in a manly way!"

There's a Hummer ad in short rotation right now. The scene is a grocery store checkout line. Guy Number One is waiting for the clerk to ring up his tofu, bean sprouts, and organic soy burgers when Guy Number Two arrives and starts piling up steaks and ribs on the conveyor belt. Guy One feels belittled and frustrated, obviously not as masculine as Guy Two.

But wait! Salvation is at hand! There's a print ad for a new Hummer conveniently located next to the cash register. Guy Number One sees it and realizes he can reclaim his masculinity. He rushes from the store to the car dealer and purchases a brand new Hummer! Now he's a man! He secures his future as a procreator and obviously superior contributor to the human gene pool.

It's ridiculous, but I have to assume these ads actually sell vehicles, otherwise they'd never be seen. The connection between masculinity and the kind of vehicle one drives strikes me as tenuous, at best. This is all about self-image, and if we're to believe that a more manly man drives a Hummer, couldn't he get the same effect with the equally well-touted Enzyte? If a guy is dumb enough to believe this crap, maybe some Enzyte will make him taller.

Does anyone really need to drive a quasi-military vehicle to the grocery store?

A big chunk of our manufacturing is devoted to building and selling enormous, wasteful vehicles to people who believe that they'll be more sexually attractive if they're seen driving one. Such is the power of advertising. In order to support that huge manufacturing effort, we require cheap fuel.

We're devoting extensive financial resources and untold lives in order to maintain cheap oil prices. In effect, we're trading the lives of American servicemen to enhance some short, pudgy, bald guy's chances of getting laid. In reality, we're giving him just the illusion that he'll get laid. Maybe the world would be a better place if sexually repressed American men, doubtful of their ability to attract a member of the opposite sex, could get cheap porn as a substitute for an expensive vehicle and all the energy that vehicle requires. Maybe if we provided free Viagra and Enzyte to anyone who asked, we wouldn't need to spend American lives and dollars propping up unpopular regimes simply because they sit atop a big pool of oil.

So instead of a big gas-hole vehicle, perhaps Guy Number One could take his free daily dose of Enzyte and be secure in the knowledge that he's a proud, upstanding member of society, free to eat tofu and bean sprouts if he desires. And he probably doesn't really need a hummer. Yes, he'll be livin' large and life will be lookin' up, up, up! Guy Number One will be thinking big!

I've seen too many of those damned Enzyte ads!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Wednesday Musette

Tuesday Musette

I was riding to work Monday along the frontage road that parallels US169.
It's slightly downhill and that was welcome because the wind was in my face.

A short distance ahead, I saw a cyclist coming toward me in the opposite
lane. A car was about to overtake him when he swerved left into my lane and
continued pedaling along on the shoulder.

I don't like wrong-way cyclists. Actually, they shouldn't be called
'cyclists' because they're more like pedestrians-on-bikes. They're
terrified of being run down by a car, so they compensate by doing
squirrelly, unpredictable maneuvers. Worse, motorists don't see them
because in all their driving experience they've been effectively programmed
to look everywhere EXCEPT where wrong-way riders appear. Going the wrong
way, it nearly impossible to see signals too, but then again, such
'cyclists' are rarely concerned with signals. They're pedestrians on

The car went by. The wrong-way rider was approaching on my right. He
looked to be a teenager. I used my most intimidating "Parental Command"
voice and yelled, "Get on the right side of the road!" He looked shocked,
but just after I passed, he went back over into the right lane.

I can only hope he stays there.


One of our cats was involved in an 'indiscretion' with a neighborhood tom,
and we now have three kittens running about the house. They're cute.
They're cuddly. They have amazingly sharp claws. They have extremely poor
judgment - inherited from their mother, no doubt - and at this stage in
life, they're still basically wild animals. They enjoy attacking bare feet.
Did I mention the very sharp claws?

The kittens will be weaned in another week or two. Then the question
becomes how to get rid of them. Mary and the kids would gladly keep them,
but we already have too many animals. The city permits 2 dogs and three
cats. We're over the limit. So the kittens have to go.

I've suggested calling the Russians to see if they need any cats for space
shots. I've said that kittens make excellent coyote bait. I've suggested
calling the vets office and the pet shops. As a last resort, I said we
could give them to Animal Control. Who knows? There may even be some

None of this was met with enthusiasm. In fact, I realized that by
continuing in that vein I'd probably be sleeping in the garage, if Mary was
feeling charitable.

So what am I going to do with these kittens? And don't suggest serving them
with some carrots and onions. I already tried that and it earned me the


We reached temperatures of 104F (40C) here last week, and today it's
supposed to top at 97F (36.1C). I've been drinking water constantly,
downing a full bottle before the ride home and drinking another 2 over the
10 mile commute. I arrive home dripping. It's not a pretty sight.

Some years back, the kids gave me a heart rate monitor. I use it as a rev
limiter when it's stinkin' hot. My normal heart rate around the shop is in
the 80s, but when I walk out onto that parking lot and the heat rises in
waves from the pavement, my heart hits 110 or 115 just walking to the bike
rack. The heart works harder simply moving blood around, trying to cool the
body. Toss in some exercise on top of that and the heart rate goes up over
the limit. Mine's set conservatively at 155 right now. But the scary thing
is that it doesn't feel like I'm working hard. There's no burn from lactic
acid. I don't feel like I'm going to explode. But my heart is working flat

I reached an intersection on one of the hot days just as the light was about
to change. I briefly contemplated sprinting through it. Like I said, it
was a brief thought. Better judgment prevailed and I stopped. When the
light changed, I got up to speed again, and the HRM chirped away almost
instantly! Just that effort of accelerating to 15 mph or so was enough to
exceed the limit.

It's little wonder that men around here have heat-related heart attacks.

Be careful out there.


I don't remember if I've mentioned this. I've been asked to write a grant
proposal for a bicycling project. The deadline is sometime in August, if I
remember right, and with everything that's happened recently, there's no way
I'll be finished by the deadline. So I'm not going to worry about it. I'll
plan to hit the next one in the fall.

I have no experience writing grant proposals. This is utterly new, so any
advice would be most welcome.

I've been thinking about something along the line of public art/bicycle
racks, possibly with some corporate involvement. It would involve getting
local artists to design the racks, perhaps even build them. But I was also
thinking about getting Vo-Tech involved in fabrication, and trying to get
some corporate funding as well as a grant. So, as an example, if a
coffee-themed bicycle rack were located in front of a coffee shop, part of
it would be paid for through grants and part by the business.

Just a thought, so far.

Of course, if I could figure a way to get grant money for studying, say, new
trends in bartending or maybe labor and price variations in local bicycle
shops, I'd do that in a heartbeat!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A man who makes...crepes

We're tying to get Lyndsay to eat a lot of complex carbs in order to restore her strength and energy.

Over the weekend I went to our local farmer's market looking for fresh fruit. I came back with zucchini, yellow squash, and some peppers, but I told one of the women I really wanted some peaches. "Oh, you should have been here LAST week!" she said.

"Well, actually I was here last week, and I bought some peaches. I want some more because they're my daughter's favorite. I made crepes on Sunday, stuffed them with fresh peaches and cream cheese, and then sprinkled some powdered sugar on top."

"Crepes? A man who makes crepes for breakfast?" She was incredulous. "What time is breakfast tomorrow?"

When I was single, I never thought of becoming a great cook as a way to lure women. Too soon old, too late smart.

I'm the breakfast cook here at our unstately mansion. I can turn out pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, and a couple versions of eggs. I have a magic pancake bowl that was most likely a factory second from Shenango China and I've been lugging it around for over 25 years. It's a piece of stoneware, lopsided and probably more oval than round, but it's produced thousands of pancakes. I use an old cast iron griddle too. I cherish both of them.

Who knows - maybe I'll try to make quiche someday, but I'll have to learn how to make a good piecrust first.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stock Tip! (Satire)

Soylent Energy LLC, a research division of the J. Swift multinational petrochemical giant, has developed an innovative, far-sighted approach to the problem of dwindling energy supplies in spite of the continued increase in worldwide demand.  In one bold stroke, Soylent Energy tackles two problems facing the western world: energy consumption and over-population.

In a press conference earlier today, company spokesman Alfred Packer said,  "Analysts at Soylent Energy have read the research paper done by Karl Ulrich and were very impressed with it.  It inspired this novel approach to the energy market, an approach that combines simplicity with a far-reaching vision of the future of our planet, and if I dare say so, the very existence of mankind.  Soylent Energy has always been a leader in environmentally friendly, bio-diesel research, and this new initiative thrusts our company to the forefront of worldwide energy development.  We're proposing an entirely new energy economy based on utilization of the nation's excess body fat.  Our parent company, J. Swift, calls this a
modest proposal toward energy independence.  We think it's much more than that!"

The paper Alfred Packer  referred to is "
The Environmental Paradox of Bicycling" by Karl T. Ulrich.  He wrote:

"Coley (2001) argued that the energy efficiency of human-powered transportation is typically overestimated because of a failure to account for the latent energy associated with the production,  processing, and distribution of the food that provides the energy for human power.  Higgins and Higgins (2005) argued that the body fat of the overweight population is actually a significant and environmentally beneficial potential source of energy for transportation."

Packer said their focus was on the last statement regarding the potential untapped energy resource of an overweight population and went on to say that this new initiative benefits both individuals and the nation.  Those with, shall we say an ample supply of body fat would be capable of supplying enough Soylent Bio-Diesel to run a small automobile for a week.  He envisioned a network of checkpoints throughout the country, screening individuals for suitability as energy resources.  They would be 'encouraged' to make a donation toward our nation's energy independence.  Lean, fit people would be of little interest for this program, but would not be turned away if they volunteered.

Packer went on to say, "It's patriotic!  It reduces our dependence on foreign oil, reduces the population of those obese people sucking up the bulk of the health-care, and reduces our need for big fat cars and SUVs since we'll have fewer big fat people."

Former professional cyclist Eddy "The Cannibal" Merckx has been signed as a spokesman for the European advertising, and the company says it may sponsor a soccer team in the near future.

Media packets are available by contacting Alfred Packer directly.

Soylent Energy LLC closed 9 5/8 higher on the NYSE after the announcement.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Family update

There's a question at the end of this, if you want to skip all the family

Lyndsay is improving, so that ends a very worrying couple of weeks.

It started over Independence Day weekend. She didn't feel well, but toughed
it out at work and got through her shift on Monday. She was scheduled to
work Independence Day too, and although she reported for work at 7AM, she
was home and in bed by 930. She was achy, tired, and ran a mild fever.

Jordan had a pile of fireworks for that evening, but since Lyndsay was sick,
he had to set them off all by himself. It was a sacrifice, but he was
willing to shoulder the load. Lyndsay sat in a lawn chair, wrapped in a
blanket because she felt cold. She watched the fireworks, but seemed
listless. Fortunately she wasn't on the work schedule for a few days.

She dragged herself around the house becoming progressively sicker and
weaker as days passed. Mary kept a watchful eye on her temperature, and
when she spiked at 104.7F early one morning, Mary called the family doctor.
His receptionist said that they couldn't see her until late that afternoon.
This wasn't acceptable, so Mary took Lyndsay to the local emergency clinic.

Initially, the clinic doctor thought Lyndsay had a virus and it would pass.
He gave her a prescription and sent her home with instructions to visit
again if she didn't improve in a few days. She didn't improve. She
developed a higher fever, tea-colored urine, and jaundice - all symptoms of
hepatitis and other liver diseases. When she went back to the clinic, he
called to get her a hospital room.

That's when it got scary.

We had a flat tire on the way to the hospital, right along a busy part of
US75. I changed it quickly and still dripped with sweat as we arrived at
the hospital.

She was admitted and placed in a private room for isolation. Since there
was a possibility she was infectious, they didn't want to take the chance
that she'd infect another patient. Fighting the fever was difficult.
Tylenol fights fever very well, but it also causes some liver problems. She
was already showing some liver involvement, so they brought her temperature
down with cold compresses. The doctor aptly described her illness as the
"flu from Hell".

Lyndsay had CAT scans and x-rays, and a host of blood tests. She saw a
couple of doctors, all of them seeming to agree that she had hepatitis E, a
relatively rare form of the disease in the United States, but more common in
other parts of the world. She tested negative for all forms of hepatitis,
and the doctors ruled out tumors, cancer, or a blockage.

Mary stayed at the hospital with Lyndsay. Neither of them slept much. The
nursing staff clearly appreciated having Mary there to help, and several of
them commented on the obvious tight bond between mother and daughter.

Jordan and I had to fend for ourselves at home. He had football practice
each morning, so I'd get him to practice and back. We'd have lunch, then go
down to the hospital. Jordan had great difficulty dealing with the stress
of seeing his sister so dangerously ill. He babbled and paced, unable to
help, but full of nervous energy that needed an outlet. He did some long
walks through the hospital. After a couple of days, he was our tour guide
because he'd been everywhere.

On Friday afternoon, Lyndsay was released. They still didn't know what she
had, but the blood work indicated she was getting better.

Since then, her fever has gone up and down. The spikes were progressively
lower and further apart. The jaundice disappeared. She started sleeping
normally again in the last couple of days, sleeping through the night rather
than catnapping around the clock. She's taking fluids and her appetite is
coming back slowly, but she's unnervingly pale, with sunken cheeks and
flattened affect.

Yesterday, we visited the doctor's office for more blood work. Her liver
enzymes continue to improve. But the tests offered no further information
about what had made her ill in the first place. Regardless, recovery may
take two or three months and she may have permanent liver damage.

Mary was curious as to what other conditions mimicked hepatitis, so she did
a bit of searching and turned up some interesting information. Chronic
dehydration can cause headaches, dizziness, liver enlargement, tea-colored
urine, and fever. We're wondering if this could be Lyndsay's problem. She
worries about getting fat, and we know she doesn't normally drink enough.
Could this have developed from dehydration? I don't know, because while
I've dehydrated badly once or twice, I've never experienced these symptoms.

(Late Thursday)

The doctor's office called to tell us she's been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, a form of infectious mononucleosis. Mary looked it up on the CDC site. In 20% of the cases, it attacks the liver, and just like hepatitis, it can take months to recover. Nearly all adults have been exposed, but most developed cold or flu-like symptoms.

Now we know what we're fighting.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A quick note...

Lyndsay is home from the hospital. She tested negative for all forms of hepatitis, though some of the other viral test results aren't back yet. Still, she may have permanent liver damage.

This has been a trying experience for all of us.

We're making her favorite foods in an undisguised effort to get her energy level back up. Last night, it was grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and fruit salad. Since it was 101F here, the fruit salad was especially welcome.

This morning, brunch will be crepes stuffed with fresh peaches and cream cheese.


Jordan informed me he doesn't eat crepes. "Pancakes are OK", he said, "but not crepes. I don't like them." This was AFTER I'd already made 15 crepes.

This could be simple teenage intransigence, or it may have something to do with French food. He won't eat quiche, either, but if I tell him it's a Southwestern omlet in a pie crust, it's acceptable.

Friday, July 14, 2006

OT - family news...

My daughter, Lyndsay, has been hospitalized with high fever, nausea, and jaundice. She may have contracted something during a mission trip to Mexico. At this point, we simply don't know. I'm hoping we can get her home over the weekend. Currently she's in an isolation unit.

So I haven't been writing much, and I definitely do not feel particularly humorous just now. I've burned through a bunch of vacation days, splitting the time between home and hospital. This has been difficult for all of us, but it's hit Mary hardest. She's staying at the hospital to assist Lyndsay to the bathroom and back, essentially acting as a private nurse. Lyndsay's her baby, after all, and even I know better than to get between mom and a sick kid!

We are all lions in defense of our children.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Number One Son Jordan informed me yesterday that he wants to start racing again. Bike riding has been on a hiatus since he's more preoccupied with girls, football, girls, weight lifting, girls, the old Toyota in the driveway, and girls. He's taken a keen interest in girls. I think cycling is a primarily a means of staying in shape for football through the off-season, but he was interested in trying cyclocross again this year. I spent the morning putting an old Giant together for him.

This could mean we'll both be racing cyclocross this season! You didn't think I'd let him ride alone, did you?

"Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! Two hundred and ten pounds of ground-pounding POWER!!!"

I'm told those ads are called 'pukers' in the radio trade, but I don't know why. If vague reports of earthquake-like tremors start filtering out of Oklahoma, that'll just be me hitting the ground - again.

I'll press the old Centurion back into service as a 'cross bike, this time as a single-speed. I know I'm not competitive with the fast guys, and I'm certainly not going to make the attempt. Cyclocross is aptly described as a mass start event that quickly devolves to an individual time trial, as us slow guys watch the front-runners pull away. The last time I did this, I was lapped twice. I have few illusions.

Jordan, on the other hand, is not on the same planet as the rest of us. Like I said, he's thinking about that old Toyota, a 1985 Celica with 250,000 miles on the odometer. It's safe to say the car is almost used up, but it's perfect for a teenage driver. I paid $250 for it, so you know it's hardly pristine.

Jordan went on-line one day, and when I got home, informed me that all the body parts are available, as well as a new interior, hot-rod engine, turbocharger, racing suspension, and high-performance wheels and tires. "It's kinda expensive though, Dad." he noted.

I pointed out that the battery doesn't hold a charge for long, and it needs a new one. "Do you have fifty bucks for a battery for your car?" I asked.

"Fifty bucks! That's a lot of money!"

This may be one of the factors bringing him back to bicycling. The kid can be tight with a dollar when it's his dollar being spent. I've tried to point out that Dad is not a bottomless pit of money. I'm hardly even a shallow puddle of money. So when it comes to fixing up HIS car, it'll be HIS cash doing it. That changes things!

Of course, if it needs tires, brakes, or suspension, I'll take care of it. Those are essentials to vehicle safety and I clearly wouldn't want my son driving an unsafe car. I just won't TELL him I'll take care of those!

Jordan will be 16 and a freshman at the beginning of this school year. The Owasso school district changed the driver's ed curriculum and won't offer it until the sophomore year. Jordan was held back one year, so he desperately wants to get his driver's license and he doesn't want to wait until next year.

I made a deal with him. If he comes up with half the money, I'll pay the other half for private driver's ed training. The private instruction costs $300. He's been cutting grass and scraping together all his pennies.

Learning the true costs of automobile ownership is a good lesson for a kid.

Bozone Alert!

It's a rite of summer. When the weather conditions cooperate, the Tulsa area experiences another bozone alert.

I'm not talking about ozone. That happens when an atmospheric 'cap' traps pollutants at ground level. Bozone is similar in that it occurs at ground level, but the atmospheric conditions are slightly different. A bozone alert most commonly happens when the temperatures cool sufficiently to allow motorists to roll their windows down. Normally, daytime temperatures here are in the mid-90s in July, but the recent mild weather has brought cooler, drier air that produced temperatures only in the 80s.

Bozone alert conditions can be highly localized. Ozone affects the entire region, but bozone can occur in an area of a mile or less. Motorists have some arcane sense that allows them to detect minute traces of bozone, and they often sound their horns as a warning to everyone in the area. A short toot warns of a low concentration, while a long blast denotes a higher one. As yet, there's no explanation for this ability. It seems to come naturally once someone possesses a driver's license. As cyclists, we should be grateful because motorists serve as our equivalent of a canary in a coalmine.

Sometimes there isn't a horn to provide a warning of a bozone alert area. I'm thinking of a crest along my commute route. Now and then, a motorist will overtake and pass me right at the crest, despite not being able to see if there's any on-coming traffic. Surely that's a bozone alert area. For that matter, any two-lane road where motorists pass a cyclist by driving into on-coming traffic must be a bozone alert area too.

For some strange reason, bozone alert areas are usually widely separated from intersections. A speeding car may sound a horn, or the driver may shout the traditional "Get the #%$@ off the road!" which is a linguistic derivation of the ancient Phoenician expression that loosely translates as "Dear me, those shorts are stunningly attractive!" Yet when they near an intersection where a cyclist could properly thank them for sounding an alert, they remain silent. The only explanation is that bozone concentrations do not occur when one road crosses another and traffic has to stop for a red light.

Another unexplained phenomenon is the effect a nearby police car has on bozone. It seems that bozone formation is almost totally suppressed when a cop is in close proximity to a cyclist, though to be fair, some police cars produce their own highly concentrated bozone in a tightly confined area. There's no way to predict which effect will occur, but anecdotal accounts seem to indicate that county sheriffs deputies experience a higher incidence of bozone concentrations.

Cyclists themselves are capable of producing bozone alerts, of course. Wrong way riders and those who routinely ignore traffic lights and simple traffic law hear a cacophony of horns. Just like those county sheriffs deputies, some cyclists seem to carry a bozone alert along as they travel. It truly is a mystery.

As for the impact of bozone on health, opinions differ greatly. Some cyclists believe that bozone represents a significant health risk. Others think that its primary effect is on those canary-in-a-coal-mine motorists. As yet, no definitive scientific research has been conducted. However, if anyone wants to send large sums of cash, preferably in unmarked bills, I may consider doing the basic research myself. And don’t send counterfeit money this time! It wasn’t funny!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Performance enhancing drugs

In my case, a performance enhancing drug would be vodka, because it makes me THINK I'm doing better!

The latest drug scandal in professional cycling has elicited the usual accusations and denials in an almost ritualized performance. Everyone knows their roles. Everyone knows their lines. The story will play out in predictable fashion.

Yet there's something about this story that bothers me. In case you've been living under a rock, Spanish police conducted a 6 month investigation of alleged doping and brought charges against team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes of Liberty Seguros-Würth (now Astana-Wurth). They found a coded list of clients that apparently included Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, and others. So far, 13 riders have withdrawn from the Tour de France after their names were found on a list of 56 riders.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) exists to combat doping. Professional cyclists are subjected to random drug testing year-round, and that includes the off season. Race winners, like Basso, who won the Giro earlier this year, are tested after every stage. Top finishers and other riders selected at random are tested too. And that's a good thing. Using performance enhancing drugs is a form of cheating, and I think everyone would agree that cheating should be eliminated.

Yet, despite all that testing, WADA did not detect any doping products in these athletes. They stepped in, along with the UCI, to assist the Spanish police. They did not detect any illegal substances used by Ivan Basso in the Giro, or by Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour of Switzerland. WADA had to piggyback on the Spanish cop's investigation. It makes me wonder if WADA is merely ineffective or grossly incompetent.

Dick Pound heads WADA. His dire warnings and predictions on the future of professional cycling are a ruse to divert attention away from the failure of his agency to detect cheaters. With any other organization, a failure of this magnitude would lead to a massive examination of their shortcomings, yet there's been no evidence that WADA has done so.

Cycling's image 'in the toilet'

World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chairman Dick Pound says cycling's image is "in the toilet".

Pound warned the sport that it risks losing competitors unless it acts after the pre-Tour de France doping scandal.

"The image of your sport and flagship event is in the toilet," Pound told Five Live's Sportsweek.

"You've got to do something about it or the risk is that your sport will be ignored by everybody, marginalised by others and it won't be sport any more."

In all, 13 riders were withdrawn by their teams the day before the Tour de France started on Saturday after being on a list of 56 implicated in a Spanish doping investigation.

Cycling generally has been pretty close to clinical denial about the extent of the problem

The 13 included two of the sport's leading stars and pre-Tour favourites, German Jan Ullrich and Italian Ivan Basso, who have both protested their innocence.

But Pound believes the knock-on affect of such negative publicity could affect the numbers taking up cycling.

"Under these circumstances, if I had a child who showed some potential in this, I'd say 'it appears that if you want to get to the top of this sport you've got to use all these drugs, so why don't we find some other sport for you'," he added.

"I think cycling generally has been pretty close to clinical denial about the extent of the problem in this sport and now this is open for the entire world to see.

"I think if they resolve to actually do something about it they have a chance to take some steps that they haven't been able to in the past."

The latest doping investigation is the biggest scandal to hit the sport since the Festina affair during the 1998 Tour de France, which brought to light the use of the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO) among riders.

Seven-times King of the Mountains winner Richard Virenque was handed a nine-month ban after admitting to doping offences.

Last year's Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras was also banned for two years in November after testing positive for EPO during the race.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

From Velorution

"One of the greatest thrills you can have as a needy journalist is discovering that the stranger sitting next to you on the train is avidly reading something you wrote in that morning’s newspaper."

Lucy Kellaway writes about influencing people to try cycling. She writes about that special thrill that comes from seeing someone reading a piece she's written.

We all try to persuade people that riding a bicycle is good for a host of reasons. Indeed, I've said that we persuade by simply riding legally and responsibly, yet Ms. Kellaway is far more eloquent than I could hope to be! She rides to work wearing high heels and lipstick, and I can only imagine the challenge that heels offer. But I will only imagine it, because despite having tried some truly odd things over the years, I'm not going to find a pair of 13E stilettos to discover for myself just how challenging it may be!



Your favourite cycle shop in London

Effortless conversion

By Andrea on All

Another Financial Times columnist, Lucy Kellaway, enthuses over cycling:

One of the greatest thrills you can have as a needy journalist is discovering that the stranger sitting next to you on the train is avidly reading something you wrote in that morning’s newspaper. In 20-odd years I have had such a thrill twice, each time glorious enough to be worth a decade’s wait.

Alas, this pleasure is no longer available to me: 18 months ago I gave up the train and now cycle to work instead. However, the other day something even more gratifying (and odder) happened on my bike on the way to work. I had stopped at traffic lights beside a fine looking man in an expensive suit not designed for cycling. We looked at each other, looked away and then he looked back at me intently. This sort of thing never happens to me these days (if it ever did) and particularly not when I’m wearing an oversized, fluorescent, road sweeper’s tabard and garish cycling helmet.
Then he said: “I’m riding my bike today because of your article in the paper.” The lights turned to green, and off he went.

This was joyous. It was also puzzling as I hadn’t written about cycling: I had written about being middle-aged. Still, he had read an article of mine and had been converted to cycling as a result.

It made me think: if I can convert one man without even trying, think how many more I can convert if I put some effort into it.

So today I have come up with 10 excellent reasons why cycling to work would be a very good idea for you. It will make you richer, healthier, possibly thinner and definitely less bonkers. It will help you make new friends, it will make you feel virtuous, it will give you more spare time. You will be more productive at work and you’ll also save the planet. If you are in your mid forties, you will lose a quarter of a century instantly and feel just like an undergraduate again.

This is a very impressive list of benefits, you must agree. In fact I defy anyone to name any other change to the working day that could be so beneficial in so many ways as commuting by bike.

Admittedly one can get a bit sweaty when cycling, and one can also get killed, but I’ll come to these drawbacks in a minute.
By far the biggest advantage for me is what my bike does to my spirits. Every day I am calmed and cheered by my ride. Cycling is the perfect buffer between work and home. You have to concentrate when you are cycling, which means you can’t think much, and you can’t fret – neither about the children’s missed dentist appointments nor that half-baked column. Instead I often sing as I cycle. Today it was the Chris Isaak song “Wicked Game

The other great beauty of cycling is its efficiency. My commute is five minutes quicker than the train and costs £80 ($145) less a month. I never have to wait, I never have to be crammed up against other people’s bodies at rush hour. Neither do I ever have to go to the gym, spending hundreds of pounds a year and many wasted hours on those awful machines.

(In truth I never went to the gym anyway, which means that cycling has made me fit for the first time in my life, which is nice, if strange.)
I cycle quite fast now and so occasionally overtake young men wearing all the kit on Southwark Bridge, which gets the morning off to an agreeably competitive start.

If your employer has a bike shed then you will find you make new friends as you lift your bike into the racks every day. You have nice little undemanding chats about the traffic and the weather – which are the sort of thing that make office life so reassuring.

Now for the two main shortfalls. The first is sweat, which a lot of people tell me is what prevents them from getting on their bikes. Speaking personally, I don’t find this much of a problem. I cycle in high heels, lipstick and normal office clothes and go straight from the bike sheds to my desk neither unduly soggy nor dishevelled.

I noticed one young City of London banker cycling along Cheapside last week looking cool in a beautiful double-cuffed pink shirt and Church’s brogues, with one pinstriped trouser leg pulled up to save it from getting stuck in the chain, revealing a touchingly white hairy calf.

For nerdier, sweatier cyclists who insist on doing their brief commute dressed for the Tour de France, most big offices have showers so that they can peel off their clinging garments, wash and put on something more suitable.

There is finally the question about getting killed. Cyclists are bundles of soft tissue who don’t have much chance when up against one of those massive bendy buses. Cycling is dangerous, and you are very silly if you cycle without a helmet and all the safety gear.

Yet despite the risk, I hardly ever feel frightened on my bike. I feel alert and alive, but not scared. Recently
I was cycling out one hot evening to give a speech to some businesspeople. I was feeling fine about the ride, but not fine about the impending talk. On the way, I was nearly hit by a passenger door being flung open, swerved and narrowly avoided a van.

I put the thought to myself: how come I’m not frightened of being crushed to death but I’m terrified of minor humiliation in front of a small audience of civilised people?

Suddenly I wasn’t frightened any more. I may have perspired a little on that hot night cycling at speed, but on the stage sweaty palms were no longer a problem. Which is the most unexpected bonus of all. Cycling has made me a bit more intrepid, not just in the saddle but out of it, too.