Announcing the Winner to Yesterday’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Weekly Giveaway

12.22.2005 | 8:18 pm

The comments to yesterday’s Banjo Brothers contest were some of my favorite, ever. It was not easy to choose a winner. Dug wanted to give the award to someone else — specifically, himself —so I had to take matters into my own hands. I finally went with phade33:


Oh, I could most definitely hang all right. Given a year to train, on a flat/downhill stage, a slight tail wind, two IV bags filled with a little plasma and some spun out red blood cells, the use of a barometric chamber, a daily testosterone/insulin/HG/adrenaline cocktail (with and EPO chaser), some of those amphetamine tablets they use to give the fighter pilots, a six pack of Red Bull dehydrated down to powder then reconstituted with a concoction of honey, coffee and MT Dew to wash them down with, six feet of copper tubing, a platinum rod exactly 1.3 meters long, two rolls of duct tape, one roll of masking tape, 9 feet of twine, 6 feet of lock wire, night vision goggles, a grappling hook and 50 feet of bungee cord and I’d be kicking some spandex encased tail all up and down them Alps.


It was the grappling hook that sealed the deal. I’m a big fan of grappling hooks. E-mail me with your address and what you’d like, Phade33.


Show a Little Love to the Banjo Brothers

Just in case you haven’t noticed, not many blogs give something away every week. But I get to, because the Banjo Brothers – a not-very-big company with not a lot of money for giving stuff away — suggested doing this.


One of the nicest things you could do to thank them for doing this would be to visit their site, get to know what they sell, then let your local bike shop know about this cool company with cool products.


Could You Hang?

12.21.2005 | 5:54 pm

I’m convinced that any cyclist who watches the Tour de France has wondered what it would be like to actually ride in the Tour. No, I don’t mean ride the route in one of those tour packages. I mean to actually ride in the Tour de France.
I’ve narrowed that question a little: If, somehow, I were magically allowed to ride in the Tour de France, could I hang for just one day? If I got to pick a nice flat stage, and trained my heart out for that one day, could I stay with the peloton?
I like to imagine that I could, just for one day, ride with the pros — as long as I didn’t have to pull. But I’ve got to be honest: I think I’d cause a wreck, or I’d get spat out the back. And I’d dwell on my failure for the rest of my life, watching the video of me taking out half the field over and over and over.
And over.
I’ve asked other cyclists this same question. Racer says he thinks he could. I’ll bet Racer’s brother Chucky could, too. Most other cyclists are like me: they like to hope they could, but sort of doubt it.
The Fabulous Banjo Brothers Weekly Giveaway Question
So, today’s question is obvious: do you think — if you had all year to train for it — you could hang with the pro peloton in the TdF for one day? Why or why not?
The most interesting answer earns either a messenger bag, rack-top bag, or panniers — your choice.


12.20.2005 | 6:20 pm

For the first time in my career, I have finished the year with more vacation days in the bank than I can carry into the next year. I’m in a use-‘em-or-lose-‘em situation. Obviously, I will use ‘em. Which means that last Friday was my last day of work for the year.

Why am I telling you this? To gloat? Well, yes, a little bit. But mostly, I’m telling you because I’m so excited to have a couple weeks in front of me where my daily ride isn’t a commute. I won’t be packing a messenger bag. I’ll be both starting and ending the ride while it’s light outside. If it’s raining, I’ll wait until it isn’t. Unless I feel like riding in the rain, which has been known to happen.

And I will be riding my fixed gear bike every single ride. I swear, this Bianchi Pista has gotten a hold of me unlike any road bike ever.



So yesterday, I rode around Lake Sammamish. It’s a perfect ride for a fixie: about 30 miles, sometimes flat, sometimes rolling with short, moderate ups and downs, with a big climb at the end. And it’s no bad thing that for big stretches of the ride, you’ve got a beautiful lake on your left (or on your right, if you choose to ride it clockwise).

The first couple miles of winter rides are usually the worst. That’s when you’re warming up, getting used to the feel of the saddle, finding a rhythm for the ride. By the time I got down Inglewood Hill (squeezing the lone MTB brake lever at the top-left of the handlebar all the way – I’m nowhere close to able to use my legs to keep my speed in check down a 10% hill for half a mile), I was warmed up. I settled down into the drops, and cranked away.


My Best Show of Skill Ever

I cruised along East Lake Sammamish Parkway for five or so miles, cut across Marymoor Park, and then started spinning along the length of West Lake Sammamish Parkway. I was feeling good, enjoying the smooth, solid feel of a fixed gear. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that so far on this ride, I hadn’t felt the “kick” a fixed gear gives you when you try to coast. I’m getting used to pedaling full-time.

I crested a hill — standing to pedal — then sat back down and spun lightly down the other side. I’m learning to turn fast circles on the downhill, applying no pressure to the pedals. In this way, I’ve learned to go fairly fast on downhills — maybe 28 mph — without my butt bouncing on the seat. So I didn’t move my hands out of the drops. No need for the brake.

And that’s when a big ol’ Grampa-style car (a Buick? Oldsmobile? Tuna Boat?) pulled through the stop sign at the intersection to my left, going straight through. With an uncanny sense of timing, he was driving in such a way that I would broadside the passenger side of his car almost exactly in the middle.

I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping he would stop before he got to the intersection. Nope. So I cut hard right, turning into the intersection he was going through. Riding in parallel with him.

I missed him. A clean getaway.


I Confront the Driver

I pulled over to the side of the road, actually ahead of the car, and looked back, my hands raised in what I would describe as a “What are you doing?!” gesture. The old man in the car smiled at me and waved as he drove by. He had no idea.

Later, it would occur to me that I had just showed the most riding skill I have ever shown in my life. Namely, I had just executed a 90-degree right turn, on a fixed-gear bike, with my hands in the drops, without touching a brake, at speed (I was coming off a downhill, remember?). Which means that I kept pedaling through this maneuver, and I didn’t instinctively grab for brakes that weren’t there. And I stayed close enough to the curb that I didn’t touch the car that was rolling through.

To tell the truth, I’m still not sure how I pulled it off.

At that moment, though, I put the bike down on the sidewalk, then paced back and forth, unable to think straight, my whole body shaking. It would be another five or so minutes before I’d get back on the bike and start riding again.

First, I needed the rush of adrenaline — compounded by the rage of having been absentmindedly waved to by the guy who just nearly killed me — to subside.


12.19.2005 | 7:02 pm

I think I could make a case that humiliation is the most motivating of all sensations. Last Friday, for example, as I rode into work, I hit a patch of ice as I was turning left through an intersection. I went down, hard, whacking my left knee and banging up my left elbow and wrist. My left ribs are pretty bruised, too.

The thing is, though, I didn’t notice any of the pain for several minutes, because of the nearly blinding sense of humiliation I felt — I pictured how I must look, still clipped in, trying to get untangled and upright, all while holding up traffic.

Yeah, I’m the perfect advertisement for Not Riding Bikes.

But the embarrassment of last Friday was nothing compared to the humiliation of when I first bought clipless pedals.


New Pedals

I had ridden the mountain bike into the shop and bought the shoes and pedals together.

Excited by the positive, locked-in feeling of riding with my feet mechanically attached to the bike, I rode around the parking lot for several minutes. I practiced clipping in, riding, and clipping out.

I became a little bit disdainful of the people who had told me that everyone falls when they first get clipless pedals. These were easy.

I started riding home. The road the bike shop was on was all torn up, in the process of being re-paved. Perfect for riding my mountain bike on. I rolled along on the dirt road, enjoying myself. I then rolled up to a stop light and put my foot down.

Except my foot wouldn’t go down.

Instantly panicking, I completely forgot about the numerous times I had calmly twisted my left foot outward to unclip. I yanked straight back and up — the way I was accustomed to with clips and straps. Once! Twice! No luck.

So I did what gravity demanded I do. I fell over on my side. With several cars behind me, and traffic zooming by in the other direction.

I then thrashed around, trying to separate myself from the bike. My panic grew as I realized the light would not remain forever.

Finally, I remembered: twist. I clicked out got up, and — being careful to not look at anyone — waited for the eternity it took for the light to turn.

Really, the only things missing for this to have been a Keystone Kops film would have been for me to have a waxed mustache and be wearing one of those derbyesque helmets.

How to Buy Gifts for a Cyclist

12.16.2005 | 5:14 pm

There’s a certain irony in buying a cycling-related gift for a cyclist. Since one of the principal aims of a cyclist is, after all, to be light, any time you buy something for that cyclist, you are in grave danger of weighing that cyclist down.

It’s a terrible, heart-wrenching conundrum, which has no doubt brought you grief and no small number of sleepless nights.

You can stop despairing now. I have a solution.

But you’ll have to wait a few minutes for it.


Announcing the Winners of the Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway

I really loved the comments for this contest, almost as much as I love the edgy extremeness the knowledge that I fill my tires with flammable gas gives me.

Mostly, though, I just really like to say “flammable gas.”

That said, there were some problems with selecting a winner this week.


Prize For Entry That Was Absolutely The Best Entry But Doesn’t Get A Bag Because He’s Already A Banjo Brothers Dealer

Racer, the owner of Racer’s Cycle Service, has a very lean, spare sense of humor. A week or so ago, I linked to his home movie of him chasing his dog around the shop; the ordinariness of trying to catch up with a dog paired with the brilliant Cake soundtrack made me watch over and over.

Racer outdid himself, though, with his latest. I believe I have watched it more than ten times. Please, click here to watch it now.

“Racer definitely won,” my wife told me when she saw this. I agreed, but the thing is, Racer is a Banjo Brothers dealer. Sending him a Banjo Brothers bag is a little bit silly. Not that I’m opposed to being silly.

“I’ll make a cool bike chain bracelet for his wife,” said my generous and talented wife. “How about that for a prize?”

I think that will do nicely.


Prize for Entry That Was Only Two Words Long But Was Still Really Funny But Doesn’t Get Any Award Because Your Name Explicitly Says You Don’t Want It

KeepYerBag had a genius suggestion for how to take advantage of the newly-discovered explosive properties of the Big Air! canister: “Gu Brulee.” The juxtaposition of the hardiness of mountain biking with the hoity-toitiness of brulee is a hilarious image. But KeepYerBag has said before that he doesn’t bike and has no use for a seatbag. So that’s that.

By the way, nobody gets to leave a comment wondering why KeepYerBag doesn’t bike. I have, in fact, met KeepYerBag, and the reason he doesn’t bike is because he has developed his brainpower to such a degree that he can now levitate (good for short distances and changing lightbulbs) and instantly teleport himself. Oh, and he can also cause people’s brains to hemorrhage at will, so watch yourself.


Honorary Prize For Being An Exceptionally Good Sport About All This

Tony Hollars, the founder and Director of Technology at Genuine Innovations, has been incredibly good-natured about my questions about Big Air! flammability. He has responded to all my email questions, recommending “Dino Foam” as an excellent propane-propelled foaming bath soap, and even answering my pesky question yesterday afternoon, about whether there was a difference between “propane” and “propane propellant:”

The blends used vary from mostly or all Propane to mostly Butane or Iso-butane. Depends on the use and the target pressure for dispensing.

Ours is mostly propane. I suspect Dino Foam is a Butane / Propane / Iso Butane blend due to the slow dispensing rate.

Tony’s award takes the form of my intention to continue to buy Big Air! canisters for the rest of my life.


Actual Prize

Phew. OK. Now on to the actual winning entry for the contest, per Dug, the appointed judging official:

As cycling chemistry graduate students, my officemate Tim and I decided that it was of the utmost importance to research this topic instead of doing less important things like our actual work, so we spent the better part of the afternoon googling densities and what have you. And we may have even consulted a physical chemistry textbook. We learned:

1. Propane is not lighter than air! It is, in fact, MORE dense than air with a density of 1.9kg/m3 versus air which is 1.3kg/m3

2. Your humble rep at Big Air! even told you that it was propane propellant and not actual propane that you are pumping into your tires! [Well, it turns out in this case there’s no difference. So there! — Ed.]

3. Haven’t you ever taken a match to an aerosol can whilst spraying? What kind of pyro are you?

4. If you would like to play around with chemicals and stick some more in your mouth, etc, stop by the lab and we’ll let you have at it. You can fill your tires with a variety of atmospheric gasses we have laying around the lab, including nitrogen, helium, argon, or anything else of your choosing. If we really like you, we’ll let you freeze things in the liquid nitrogen. Just for fun.

As the Fat Cyclist, you would really love our research. We do stuff with lipids all of the time. And we ride bikes. I mean, we are seriously the coolest ever. Really.

—your humble cycling chemists Sarah & Tim

Dug explains why this is the winning entry thusly:

The winner of today’s contest is Sarah and Tim, humble cycling chemists, for a variety of reasons. First, they diss you, multiple times. Second, they will let you freeze stuff in liquid nitrogen (if they like you). And third, they contrapose. That is, they tell you they are “seriously the coolest ever.” And then they call themselves your “humble” cycling chemists. And finally, if you go to their website, their first sentence is this: “The broad aim of our research is to elucidate the structure and dynamics of membrane proteins, fibrous protein aggregates, and other insoluble macromolecules important in biology.” Turns out, that’s my broad aim too. Crazy coincidence, eh?

Congratulations, Sarah and Tim! Email me with the kind of seat bag you want and your shipping address. I’m afraid you two will have to figure out which of you gets the bag, though.


Let’s Go Shopping

Wow, that bit about the contest really got away from me. I was serious (well, “serious” isn’t really the right word) about having suggestions for what to get cyclists as a gift though. It’s remarkably straightforward, really. Get them what they’d otherwise have to buy for themselves in the course of being cyclists.

Here’s what I mean:

  • Tubes: Find out what kind of tubes the cyclist uses, and buy a bunch of them. It’s really nice to have a stash of tubes sitting in the garage whenever you need one. This isn’t all that great of an idea if your cyclist friend has switched to tubeless.
  • Genuine Innovations’ Microflate: An inexpensive, sturdy, tiny, easy-to-use threaded CO2 (or propane, as it turns out) cartridge valve. I really don’t understand why anyone would use anything else.
  • CO2 and Big Air! canisters: Make sure that the canisters you buy are compatible with the valve your friend uses.
  • Sports food / Sports Drink / Gel: If you know what they eat, drink, or ingest (I have to say “ingest” when talking about gels, because neither “eat” nor “drink” is the correct word), buy them a bunch of it. Be careful you know the correct brand and flavors, though.
  • Helmet: This is something many cyclists replace too rarely. Be sure to get the right size.
  • Messenger Bag: Everyone needs a messenger bag.
  • Entry fee and commitment for support at a race: If your cyclist races, this is a very nice gift indeed
  • Socks: Several pair of the same kind, so that as the cyclist wears them out, they’ve still got matching socks.
  • Lube: Be sure to get the kind your cyclist has settled on. It’s nice to have a year’s supply of lube sitting in the garage, just like it’s nice to have a year’s supply of tubes in there.
  • Shoe cleats: Do you know what kind of pedals your cyclist uses? Buy a new pair of cleats for those shoes. Most cyclists go through a couple pair of these per year, so they’re nice to have.
  • A Floor Pump: When getting started with cycling, most cyclists pick out a cheap floor pump. Then they regret it. But while those cheap floor pumps never quite break — allowing cyclists to discard them in good conscience — they never really work great, either. Go to your local bike store and ask the mechanic what pump they recommend for someone who uses a pump every day (road cyclists in particular pump their tires up before practically every ride), and you’ll give a surprising, exciting gift. I am not kidding. Cyclists love a great floor pump.

You see what I mean? Get cyclists the boring stuff — they stuff they make dozens of trips to the bike shop over the course of the year — and you’ve bought them gifts that will get used for sure. How rare is that?


Presents to Avoid

There are things you want to be careful of when buying gifts for cyclists:

  • A Bike: In principle, this is one of the coolest of all possible gifts. However, bear in mind that most cyclists have something very specific in mind for what their next bike is. If you don’t know what it is and don’t have a clever way to find out and are dead set on your present being a surprise, don’t get your cyclist a bike.
  • Jersey: Your cyclist already has too many.
  • Shorts: There are too many sizes and types. Unless you have specific instructions as to the correct kind to get, you’ll get the wrong ones.
  • Shoes: Same thing as the shorts.
  • Glasses: Same thing as the shoes.

Oh, by the way, just in case anybody is curious: Racer says there are a few size medium Fisher Paragons still in stock.

You know. Just in case you were wondering.

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