Thursday, June 22, 2017

What Mircobes You Running?

Before anything else, I've been meaning to mention this for the last few days:

Apologies for my tardiness.

However, the festival runs through the 25th, and you've still got time to get in on this tonight:

I would totally go see this tonight if I could:

A Sunday In Hell Trailer Amedeo and Simone Pace Score (Blonde Redhead) from Bicycle Film Festival on Vimeo.

But I can't, so I'm not.

Moving on, a number of people have forwarded me this, so now I'm subjecting you to it:

To be a professional cyclist, one must have guts, microbiologist Lauren Peterson says, and she doesn’t just mean that in the metaphorical sense. Peterson, herself a pro endurance mountain biker, has theorized that elite cyclists have a certain microbiome living in their intestines that may allow them to perform better, and if you don’t have it, well, there may soon be a way to get it. . . .

Oh yeah, this is going exactly where you hoped it wouldn't:

Peterson hosts Prevotella in her gut, thanks to a fecal transplant she administered herself three years ago. Her donor? Another elite athlete.

So how do you pull off an amateur fecal transplant with a fellow athlete?  I just assumed you'd go butt-to-butt, but in fact what you do is you perform a "reverse enema:"

But through chance, she came across a donor, an elite long-distance racer, who had his microbiome mapped and screened after a case of food poisoning, which showed he was otherwise healthy. So Peterson took antibiotics to wipe out her own gut bacteria and essentially performed a reverse enema.

“I just did it at home,” she said of the February 2014 procedure. “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.”

Incidentally, "Reverse Enema" is also the name of my pop punk band, and that's exactly how Brooklyn Vegan reviewed our first album:

Anyway, the story leaves certain questions unanswered (chief among them being #whatpressureyourunning on that reverse enema), but results are results:

Within a month, Peterson said, she began feeling better than she’d felt in years. She said before her transplant she was having trouble just training on her bike; just months later, she said she began winning pro races.

Of course, there is no way to prove the fecal transplant, opposed to other changes she may have made in her lifestyle or even the placebo effect, was the cause for her rebound.

And sure, it's all too easy to laugh at stuff like poop and enemas (in fact I'm laughing even as I type this), but keep in mind this is someone who's been suffering from the effects of Lyme disease, which can be debilitating, and if this relieved those symptoms then that's no joke.

Still, my concern is that fecal transplants and reverse enemas will fall into the wrong hands.  Yeah, you know which hands I'm talking about: Fred hands.  Freds are like North Korea in that if you allow them access to any sort of technology or information they'll turn around and use it against society.  (To wit: Strava, power meters, Zwift, the list goes on.)  Given this, all it takes is for one Fred to read that certain intestinal microbiomes are performance-enhancing and before you know it they're all sticking tubeless sealant injectors up their ass before races:

Which means doctors are going to be seeing a lot of this:

Don't think this is dangerous?  Well consider which publication broke the story in the first place:

Bicycling is the Fred bible, and not only do they name all the performance-enhancing microbes:

In addition to Prevotella, Petersen has identified an archeon named Methanobrevibacter smithii, or M. smithii, which she believes is also significant. Archeon are ancient microorganisms that have managed to survive for millions of years in hostile habitats like sulfur springs and deep in the ocean. They also live in the human digestive system, where they have specialized functions. Like Prevotella, Elite cyclists often have M. smithii, but it’s less common in amateur racers. That’s significant because M. smithii also appears to be a performance-enhancing microbe.

But they even mention carbon!

What does it do? In science terms, it thrives on hydrogen and carbon dioxide and other bacterial waste products in the gut. In 12-year old boy terms, M. smithii eats the poop of bacteria. Yes, everybody poops, even bacteria, and it can have detrimental effects on your health. Namely: buildups of hydrogen and carbon dioxide can prevent the other bacteria in your gut from properly breaking down your food for fuel, which is bad news if you need calories for that sprint.

Performance enhancing and carbon?  That squirting sound you hear is a thousand self-administered reverse enemas.

But of course like any other cutting-edge Fred tech you pay a high price for being an early adopter:

“What we’re learning is going to change a lot for cyclists as well as the rest of the population,” says Petersen. “If you get tested and you’re missing something, maybe in three years you’ll be able to get it through a pill instead of a fecal transplant. We’ve got data that no one has ever seen before, and we’re learning a lot. And I think I can say with confidence that bacterial doping— call it poop doping, if you must— is coming soon.”

Shoulda waited for the pill.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Rolling In With The Autobus

Just as water takes the shape of the vessel into which it is poured, so does cycling adapt to your current lifestyle.  For example, before my days were consumed by child-curation, I used to spend hours and hours swaddled in Lycra and racing about on bicycles of crabon.  Now, if I'm lucky, I can maybe squeeze in a half-hour of Category 6 Citi Biking to get my competitive cycling fix:

(One of my rivals doing intervals on the stationary trainer.)

While I may eschew Strava, wattage meters, and the like, I do check my Citi Bike times, for in the Cat 6 universe this the only metric that matters.  And while my quasi-career as a semi-professional bike blogger has taken me as far as Jersey City on those bikes of blue, my personal fitness testbed is the York and Jay to MacDougal and Prince segment.  So after last night's run I logged in and was pleasd to find that my form is coming along right on schedule:

(Other trips blurred because my whereabouts are a matter of national security.)

The most recent trip is on top, and you'll notice that with each ride I'm shaving at least a minute off my previous time.  Clearly I've got good legs after the Brompton World Championships, and I only wish there were some other goofy novelty race coming up because I'm clearly peaking.  Alas, in the absence of formalized competitionI may just have to ride back and forth over one of the East River bridges asking other riders, "Do you want any of this?," at least until such time as I'm arrested.

Of course, when you're talking about competitive cycling you can't ignore the importance of equipment, and it helps that last night I arrived at the station just as they were unloading some fresh bikes:

This meant that:

1) I had my pick of the litter;
2) The bikes had been freshly tuned;
3) Presumably they'd been disinfected as well, making it slightly less likely I'd contract some sort of illness or horrific Froome-like parasite that could put paid to my entire racing season.

Anyway, when you're out of the saddle on a Citi Bike and it isn't creaking like wet rattan or slipping out of gear then you know you've chosen well:

At this rate I expect sub-18 minute times by September.

In the meantime, by way of a recovery ride I pointed my bike towards some dirt this morning, only to be greeted by a brace of tick-ridden sentinels:

Both of whom regarded me with vacant, expressionless faces:

Which, it's worth noting, is pretty much the same look you get from a typical roadie:

When I first started riding up this way I found the deer sort of beguiling, but now I realize they're common as squirrels, and I guess they're so pervasive because they have no natural predators apart from people who drive pickup trucks with TRUMP stickers on them.

Anyway, even my recreational cycling is conforming to the somewhat confining vessel which is my life, because I'm currently doing what was once unthinkable, which is riding with flat pedals:

I put them on a few weeks back for a leisurely afternoon eating-and-drinking tour of Brooklyn my wife and I did a few weeks back, and since then I can't really think of a good reason to take them off again.  While I certainly don't intend to dispense with clicky shoes altogether, I've also come to realize that they're mostly pointless a fair amount of the time, and only now am I beginning to truly embrace the joy of cycling in "regular" clothes--though it goes without saying that I plan to upgrade to titanium pedals immediately:

Then I'll need a pair of those $995 sneakers, and of course a special gravel-specific frame protector:


Frame protection is for "woosies."

Speaking of Kickstarters, here's one for a tool kit that goes in your steer tube:

I'm partial to tool rolls these days myself, but if you don't want to spoil the clean lines of your ugly-ass mountain bike (yes, all mountain bikes are ugly) this might be for you.

And sorry, Freds, it doesn't work with crabon:

The Dialed Cap is compatible with any metal 1-1/8'' Steer tube. Currently NOT compatible with carbon steer tubes.

Lastly, as a parent of a balance-biking toddler, I was simultaneously amazed and horrified by this video which was forwarded by a reader:

It's like watching a bunch of zoo seals at feeding time.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I may need to Kickstart myself some dignity.

Further to yesterday's post on the subject of the Brompton World Championships, if you're the one (1) person who wanted actual details about the actual race, I'm pleased to report that I've received a press release from Brompton which includes photos of the starting lineup:

The pointy end of the race, which I was nowhere near, hence my lack of a blow-by-blow account:

The finishing sprint:

The women's podium:

And the names of the victors in both the men's:

With a number of previous Brompton World Championship USA winners participating in the event, it was always going to be an exciting race. The battle for the finish line was intense, with 2015 USA Brompton Champion, Dave Mackay, and Victor Gras, a talented New York cyclist who placed second in the recent Grand Fondo New York, going head-to-head in a sprint finish. Dave took the win with a late surge of power, gaining just over a bike length by the line.

And women's categories:

New contender, Kristin Negele, took the women’s title and the 2011 USA women’s champion, Julie Secor, came third. The female and male champions both win flights to the UK and entry to participate in the Brompton World Championship final in London. The team event, sponsored by Brooks England, was convincingly won by the Prospect Park Pelicans, with the Philadelphia Fliers coming second and the Brompton NYC team coming in third.

So there you go.

I knew if I didn't do my job Brompton would eventually do it for me.

Oh, and one amateur photographer was kind enough to forward along some action shots of your's truley.  Notice my face is extremely flushed from the heat:

Fortunately when the man with the ices cart came by moments before the start I joined my kids in yelling "PLEEEASE!!!" until my wife finally bought us all some, and if it wasn't for that pre-race cup of frosty rainbow goodness I'd almost certainly have left in an ambulance.

Also, while on the surface the Brompton race would appear to be something of a novelty, it was in many ways like any of the more "serious" races in which I've participated over the years.  For example, like any Fred, after a race I'd always spend lots of time scouring the Internet for pictures of myself only to be deeply embarrassed by the results.  Sure, I may have felt cool at the time, but the photos invariably reveal that I was more schmo than pro.  Similarly, in this case, while everyone else looked dapper and composed:

I looked like a total schlub:

Not only am I about to lose my shorts:

But I'm also perspiring profusely in my tramp stamp area:

And speaking of tattoos, yes, I do realize I have one on my leg, and yes, I also realize it looks like one you'd find on the sorts of people who wear jorts to the water park.

It is what it is.

But don't feel bad for me, feel bad for Brompton, because that sound you hear is a bunch of people folding theirs up and consigning them to the closet forever after seeing those photos.

On the plus side, I may be able to get a lucrative automotive endorsement deal after all of this:

In other news, here's one of the most grandiose Kickstarter videos I've ever seen, and it's for...a helmet mirror:

Mind you, I have nothing against helmet mirrors.  In fact, given what's been going on here in New York recently I'd say they're probably a hell of a lot more important than helmets:

Though perhaps not quite as important as brakes:

But that's another discussion.

I do confess I've never actually used a helmet mirror while cycling, probably because I suffer from the distorted sense of aesthetics that caused me to get a leg tattoo all those years back, but a shatter- and vibration-proof rear-view mirror that clips to pretty much anything seems like a good idea to me.

However, I'll defer to people who actually use them as to whether or not this is the case.  (But please don't then go on about your damn recumbent--though feel free to weigh in on whether or not a recumbent-specific mirror that attaches to a beard is a good idea.)

And in other Kickstarting news, here's someone who thinks triathletes can Go Fit Themselves:

Here's his motivation:

"Every day I'm contacted by triathletes from around the world who simply want to get comfortable on their bike."

Silly triathletes.  How can you ever be truly comfortable on this?

That's like a folding bike rider consulting an expert on how to look dignified.

It just ain't gonna happen.

But this particular bike fitter is also a prop comic:

"...she'd been assured by somebody that these aerobars were going to meet her needs.  Quite frankly..."

[Pushes red button]

BZZZZZ: That was bullshit!

Wow.  He should totally Kickstart an aerobar attachment for that button.

Of course, triathlon equipment arguably lends itself just as well to prop comedy as a novelty buzzer:

And while I'm not particularly moved by this project I would totally fund a triathlete intervention video series that consisted entirely of scenes like this:

And yes, I realize full well the irony of my making fun of triathletes:

Hey, I shattered my glass house years ago.  At this point what do I have left to lose?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Brompton World Championships: I Came, I Saw, I Folded

As the sporting world knows, yesterday saw the running of the Brompton World Championship USA race at the Harlem Skyscraper Criterium, a race in which I decided to compete after receiving a special "action suit" from a popular chain of menswear shops:

By the way, it's worth noting their stock rallied after my announcement, indicated by the green arrow:

I'm just saying.

Of course yesterday was also Fathers Day, and so that morning I took my elder son out for a ride on his new all-terrain bicycle:

This is his first geared bicycle, and I'm pleased to report he got the hang of shifting rather quickly, though that's hardly surprising as he's the beneficiary of my prodigious cycling genes.  I did however spare him my retrogrouchical tendencies, providing him with a bicycle equipped with both hydraulic disc brakes and a suspension fork.  Clearly, like many self-made moguls who pull themselves up from their bootstraps and then proceed to spoil their progeny, I am coddling him when it comes to cycling equipment.

(I've also installed a dropper post on my younger child's balance bike, though without a crank I'm not sure how to go about fitting an SRM.)

Anyway, after our excursion, I stuffed the top half of my "action suit" and a helmet into my Brompton bag:

And the whole crew boarded a train bound for Harlem USA:

Arriving at Marcus Garvey Park, the competition was as dapper as it was fierce:

And attire ran the spectrum from Park Avenue Doorman:

To Battle of Verdun:

Deeply intimidated, I nevertheless steadied my hands just enough to pin up:

Each safety pin a stake through the heart of my AWEAR-TECH by AWEARNESS Kenneth Cole suit:

It uses 37.5 technology, an advanced fabric technology from the high-performance sports world, in case you were wondering.

Of course you were.

I also pinned my necktie to my shirt so it wouldn't fly over my shoulder once I unleashed my incredible speed:

Brompton riders are a shifty bunch and you never know when one of them might grab onto your tie for a free ride.

At this point I should mention that it was rather hot.  Also, the Harlem crit is famous for crashes, and the race immediately preceding ours was the Category 3/4, arguably the crashiest field in all of amateur bicycle racing.  The upshot of this is was that our race was delayed considerably while an ambulance tended to the wounded, meaning we all spent at least an additional hour waiting for the start and sweating in our finery.

Linen clearly would have been the move.

In any case, eventually what was left of the 3/4 field finished their race and the Bromptonauts took to the course:

To some (okay, all) it might have looked like a sideshow, but for us it was the main event:

Rolling out towards the start, I experienced an exhilarating mix of intense anticipation and mild embarrassment:

Though it also might just have been the early stages of heatstroke.

We then lined up our machines for the Le Mans start:

And an impressive array it most certainly was:

We then lined up across from our Bromptons, and as we received our pre-race briefing this crew took the opportunity to briefly upstage us:

For that moment, the photographed became the photographers:

"I'm the king of the world!," this rider did not shout:

And then finally we were off.

What ensued were 10 extremely hot laps during which I would have given anything to discard my jacket, and you haven't experienced excitement until you've opened a button and loosened your tie while racing in a criterium on a bicycle with 16-inch wheels:

Next year I'm going with carbon trispokes and seersucker.