04 August 2008

Dog Bites Cyclist

Since I last checked in, I surpassed 1,000 miles on my bike computer (purchased last September). So it stands to reason that, eventually, crazy stuff would start to happen to me along the way. You know... getting hit by a car, stung by bees, caught in hail storms. But I never really thought I'd get bitten by a goddamn dog.

That's exactly what happened last night. I was climbing Gaul Rd. as part of a leisurely 25 mile "easy" ride, and as I hit the third section of 13% gradient, I heard a large dog barking like a maniac behind me and a male human being yelling "Shelby! SHELBY!" I turned my head to look and this large black dog was chasing me down. So as best I could, I started to "sprint" up the 13% hill which means 11mph at maximum effort.

Not fast enough.

The dog ran up and bit me on the back of my left leg just above my achilles tendon. Having a large dog myself, I instinctively yelled out "OFF!" And it worked. The dog turned and bolted back down the hill. In retrospect, it was probably the loud sound I made as it bit me and not my clever dog-training command.

So I stopped to check the damage and sure enough, it had broken the skin with one of its canine teeth and blood was running down my leg. Further down the hill, I watched as "Shelby's" owner attempted to get the dog out of the road while cars and a motorcyclist passed by (fortunately avoiding me on the side of the road).

Once the dog appeared to be out of sight, I turned around and coasted back down to the owner's house to check on the dog's vaccinations. As I pulled into the driveway, a group four rather large women on the back porch alerted the dog's owner that I was there. I waved and smiled politely as the man approached. Large guy -- bright red face, as if he has been drinking beer in the sunshine all day. First sign of trouble.

I asked, "I was wondering if your dog is up to date on her vaccinations. It got me on the back of my leg and--"

The red-faced man interrupted, "Look, ever since this area became part of the suburbs, I hear it from those people across the street. Cyclists and drivers yelling at me, so no offense but this is ridiculous!"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not responsible for other people. All I know is that your dog bit me and I want to know if she's had her shots."

"Yeah she's had her shots!"

"Okay! That's all I wanted to know -- she broke the skin and--"

"She broke the skin?! WELL I DIDN'T KNOW THAT!"

"Yes! But she's had her shots?"


"Okay. Thank you."

I started to pedal back up the driveway when my temper spilled over and I yelled back at the guy, "You know, maybe you need to keep your crazy dog on a leash or in a fenced yard!"

He shouts back, "I have 7 acres!"

And as I started climbing again, I shouted, "Awesome! Then why is your dog running around biting cyclists?"

And that was that. As I continued to climb, I dumped water on the wound and took it easy down Wooltown Rd. It's remarkable to me that a guy allows his dog to run free in his yard, then is shocked and defensive when the dog attacks passers-by. I mean, how entitled (or drunk) do you have to be to 1) yell at the person who was just attacked by your dog, and 2) not apologize profusely for it?

Anyway, I've been riding every other day recently to improve my pathetic average speed over mixed terrain. And last night, even in easy mode with climb and, of course, a stop for the dog bite, I averaged 15mph. Really working on maintaining a circular pedal stroke and a faster cadence. Some intervals, too. I think it's paying off, though not fast enough to outrun dogs on 13% climbs.

16 June 2008


I had an MRI this morning (which is the worst kind of non-intrusive medical torture since turn-your-head-and-cough). It turns out that I have compression fracture of my T11.


I had a weird reaction to the news... It's kind of a badge of honor. I broke my back in a cycling accident. Cool.

I'm lucky to be alive.

Stinging Insects In My Slipstream

I rode on Saturday because I couldn't wait until Sunday to wash the stink from Thursday's sucky ride out of my brain. I'm so glad I did -- Saturday was awesome. I took the traditional route to the Sportsman Rd climb up Texter Mountain.

Sportsman Road was covered with some kind of smashed purple berries in small groupings all along the road. And so there were a lot of bees and other flying, stinging insects having brunch or whatever they do. Several bees decided that I smelled better than the rotting wild fruit on the road (stupid bees) and decided to draft with me for the entire four-mile climb.

As soon as I'd hit a flatter section, I'd accelerate and drop them. Then I'd hit a steeper section and they'd catch back on -- buzzing around my helmet and doing full circular orbits around me and my bike. At one point, I'm fairly convinced that I was stung in the ass. Well, not "IN" the ass, but on the upper left butt cheek. I yelled out, "Screw this!" and accelerated again.

Of course at the top section where the gradient increases to around 10%, it was a little more difficult to drop the bastards, but it didn't matter. I figure I had already been stung once.

I didn't time myself, but I'd bet I've never climbed Sportsman faster. Annoying, but wow -- what a great motivator for climbing.

So I looped down Texter Mountain Rd and then back around Furnace Rd to 422. I stopped at Willow Glen Park (site of Shocktoberfest) and had a banana. Then I decided I felt strong enough to ride over to Gaul Rd and Wooltown Rd for some shorter, more moderate climbing/descending. On Wooltown, I broke 40mph on the descent which was fun.

Total ride distance: 32 miles with climbing and bees.

13 June 2008


Maybe it's some stress from work that sapped the mental energy out of me or maybe I just didn't fuel up enough.

Regardless, I tried some moderate climbing yesterday and I bonked worse that I have in a long, long time. About halfway up North Galen, I almost collapsed with exhaustion. I mean, I literally thought I was going to fall over after only around three miles of 5% climbing.

At that point, I totally lost the will to live and turned back. Which I rarely do. When first started riding, I would at least walk the rest of the way up a climb, but my head just totally fell apart yesterday.

Meanwhile, I went to the chiropractor this morning and Dr. Wolf adjusted my back. Suffice to say, it hurt like hell. When he adjusted the area that I injured, it felt like the initial injury all over again. Awesome.

I might try the North Galen climb again tomorrow morning with -- hopefully -- much more satisfying results.

Meanwhile, here's a video of Slipstream's Tom Danielson in the Pyrenees
training for the Tour. Towards the end, you'll see him fly up a 20% section on the big chainring. Which is inhuman.

09 June 2008

Snitz und Knepp...with Ham!

That was the Sunday special at Risser's Diner in Stouchsburg. I'd never seen it advertised with ham, and, as I passed, my heat-damaged brain forced me to say out loud, "With ham?"

It was 95 degrees with 57 percent humidity on Sunday, so I hit the road early. Around 8AM. I didn't have time for a lot of climbs, so I took the traditional route out to Stouchsburg with a loop through the town itself. (Stouchsburg is old and a perfectly preserved relic of, say, 1950. I sometimes expect to see Barney Fife wandering into Floyd's Barber Shop.)

The riding was grueling, of course. But despite the heat, my fitness appears to be improving -- especially on the rolling hills where I was mostly able to keep up a consistent speed. But the heat was a killer. It's been more than 24 hours since the ride and I still feel a little loopy and drained. While riding, I was in one of those zones in which every little break of the heat was significant. Two seconds of shade, or a drop of water on my leg -- I was thankful for it.

26 miles... with ham.

(Also, read this.)

05 June 2008

The Reading Classic

I spent the day watching the pros ride in big circles around Reading. The speed was insane, especially around the tight corners and through the traffic jam of team cars. Oscar Sevilla Rivera of Rock Racing won the day with last year's champ, Bernard Eisel of High Road, taking second.

Here are some fancy-shmancy "exclusive" Team Spindrift photos.

The women's peloton. They were goddamn FAST!

Catherine Cheatley (left) and Team Cheerwine. Meanwhile, High Road's Ina-Yoko Teutenberg won the women's race.

The Italians from Liquigas.

Victor Hugo Peña, Tyler Hamilton and Rahsaan Bahati of Rock Racing at the sign-in. Can you smell the "edgy"?

Freddie Rodriguez talks to an old dude. Rodriguez crashed early in the race. I blame that old man and his old man curse.

Slipstream-Chipotle at the sign-in. Don't tell them that there's not a single goddamn Chipotle restaurant anywhere near here.

The single-file pack descends Perkiomen Avenue headed towards Penn Street.

The pack turns off Penn Street. Mexican Bernardo Colex of Tecos (middle in red) kicked some ass today. Later, Colex blasted up Mt. Penn alone. Towards the top, the video crew clocked him at 20mph. That's insane. (Fun fact: Duryea Drive is named for the inventor of the first hill-climbing automobile. The prototypes of the car were tested on this road.)

Mt. Penn climbing.

When I shot this, a photographer from VeloNews was on my left and the head of CyclingNews was on my right. Very serious!

Sevilla's one-man breakaway in the final kilometer on his way to victory.

Repairs and Rain

So it wasn't just my brakes rubbing. It turns out the my rear bearings were intermittantly seizing up. Yep. That's probably why it was extra painful to ride a simple, flat ride the other day. My entire rear wheel was basically dead.

The guys at Technocycle fixed up the Kona, though -- repaired the cramped bearings, trued the rear wheel and installed some new rear brakes. Biggety bam. Just like new.

Yesterday, meanwhile, I did a quick 10 miles of climbing in the rain. And a lot of really, really cautious descending. In fact, I tried to ride up North Galen in the opposite direction. But when I turned right onto Preston, the switchback descent was -- sorry to say -- too scary in the pouring rain. This is something I have to overcome. Soon. I love climbing, but I can't be hindered due to the descents.

On Sunday, it's supposed to be 95 degrees. I can't wait. But as painful as it'll be, I'd hate to be the pros in Philly hitting the Manayunk Wall in that heat.

02 June 2008

"Attitude Determines Altitude"

I rode an inexplicably grueling 25 miles to Womelsdorf and back on Thursday. My rear brakes were rubbing, so that couldn't have helped. Regardless, my head just wasn't in the game.

However, the ride reminded me to mention here about the sandwich-board messages at the mental hospital. At the base of the Texter Mountain is located the Wernersville State Hospital: a well-known mental hospital in eastern PA. The best cycle route up to the mountain roads is directly through the hospital grounds via Sportsman Road.

The grounds remind me of the hospital in Cuckoo's Nest. Old brown brick buildings with old-timey doors and tall windows. Basketball courts -- three of them. I can imagine McMurphy showing The Chief how to shoot hoops. Fenced areas, capped with bits of rusty razor wire. Sometimes the patients are walking around the buildings in their pajamas and scrubs. They usually wave to me as I ride by. I always wave back.

Last Summer, I noticed a V-shaped sandwich-board along Sportsman Road -- propped up in the grass and adorned with an inspirational message spelled out in stick-on letters. I can't remember any of the messages from last year, but we were treated to a new one every month or so. At some point, though, the sandwich-board disappeared for the Winter, but I'm proud to report that it's back.

I always used to wonder whether the messages were designed for the patients or for the riders who frequently ride through on their way to big hills. Come to think of it, I imagine it's difficult to tell the difference between guys who wear skin-tight Lykra and hump their way up steep hills on bicycles... and actual mental patients. So it stands to reason that perhaps the messages are designed for both.

To wit: the newest message reads, "Attitude determines altitude." When I read that while on my way to several climbs, I thought to myself, That has to be for the riders. After all, I'm a firm believer that cycling is 90 percent about the brain. The body can adapt to pain. It's the 'attitude' that forces us to keep going when our legs and lungs are screaming for us to stop.

So to whomever is posting the signs... Keep going. They're not lost on passers-by, be they riders or patients.

26 May 2008

Backtracking (Get it? Back?)

I feel like the season has started all over again. This week was the first real week back on the road and my conditioning feels like I've been away for months. Between the resting and the Ibuprophen (which I usually don't take) my body has really taken a huge step backward. So now it's all about backtracking and regaining the fitness I've lost since being hit by a car three weeks ago.

Last Sunday, I rode in the rain with Lauren. It was a fun, short and very freakin' wet ride. Word of warning: saddle bags and handlebar bags aren't waterproof. Both of our cellphones were wet by the time we arrived back at the house.

Last Sunday was also the first time I've been back to the scene of the accident while on my bike. Psychologically, I'm not as healed as my body. I'm finding that I'm really paranoid about drivers -- involuntarily assuming that none of them are paying attention. So I've started to gesture/signal at cars through intersections -- my left hand out, fanning the air as if to say, "I'm riding through this intersection so slow the hell down!"

On Thursday I rode 24 miles out to Womelsdorf and back. Of course the whole way out was haunted by a serious headwind. I mean, probably the worst headwind I've experienced. The kind that pummels the eardrums. So I figure this is what they mean when they say that it's not all about distance. 12 miles into a strong headwind can be more challenging than 25 with a tailwind.

In addition, I tried the Wooltown side of Sportsman Rd (Sportsman Rd "North" I guess). I thought it cut straight through to Wooltown Rd, but nope. After a sharp left turn, it climbed straight up -- 15% for a quarter mile -- before dropping down to Wooltown. Suffice to say, I couldn't hack it. Not in my present shape. So I had to stop for a second, which was terribly disappointing. In my defense, I was cranking hard enough that my front wheel was pulling up and off the road slightly.

And so, thankfully, the ride back was awesome. With the tailwind, I was able to cruise 52-12 (I think) and averaged around 22 mph for the ride back.

Yesterday, Sunday, I hit the hills again. Made it up Martins again, then took the back roads off Fritztown Road which eventually connect over to Wernersville and 422. Then I hit the usual Sportsman Rd climb and was suprised to make it to the top without stopping. I honestly didn't think I was ready. But I think my head has started to come around.

But then... On the way down Texter Mountain Rd, I got spooked at around 35mph and leaned on the brakes too much. Suddenly, PFFFFFFFFFFFT! I'm certain that it was a heat puncture since there were about 20 pinholes in the tube -- each one leaking green slime (which was supposed to fill the holes). Fortunately, I had a spare tube with me. My luck improved when a guy from a nearby house -- also a rider -- let me borrow his floor pump. AND, the guy's family are Obama supporters. Good deal. I didn't have any cash with me, so I promised to do a favor for the next cyclist in peril. Pay it forward, if you will.

It turns out there have been two major crashes in the Texter Mountain area this season. Each one has been during a descent. One of them, on Huntzinger, involved a cyclist whose brakes failed. The dude apparently hit the guardrail and had to be hauled out via medical helicopter with a broken collar bone.

I repeat... All told, I've been very, very lucky. Now that my body is recovering, it's time to get my head back on track.

And finally, I'm honored to have been added to the Belgium Knee Warmers "Most Admired" list. It's my favorite cycling blog, and I'm planning to order two BKW "PRO" water bottles. Seriously, this is very cool. I hope I can rise to the BKW standards of cycling pro-ish-ness.

17 May 2008

Two Weeks Since The Crash

It's been just over two weeks since the accident and I've been under the care of my chiropractor, Dr. Dean Wolf, who has adjusted me three times a week for the last two weeks. My back isn't 100 percent, but it's definitely better. The muscles that run along my spine tense up and spasm every morning at around 4AM. Imagine waking up from a sound sleep to the sensation of someone sitting on your back. That about describes it.

But tomorrow, if the weather holds, I'm riding. Nothing insane. Just maybe out to Stouchsburg and back. Which leads me to my bike...

Other than a few battle scars -- scratched paint and the like -- the Kona Jake is in good condition. It might be because my body broke the fall, but the front end totally collided with that car. I expected the front wheel to at least be really tangled, but nope... totally true.

So I've decided to leave the paint damage alone. Scars can make for excellent reminders. In this case: cyclists are invisible to drivers.

03 May 2008

I Got Hit By A Car

Note to drivers. If you see a cyclist riding on the road in front of you, don't make a right turn in front of the cyclist, thereby cutting him off and forcing him to slam into the side of your car.

Image from BicycleSafe.com

No serious injuries other than strained muscles in the middle of my back. But I got to ride in an awesome ambulance and they gave me some lovely drugs at the hospital. And -- bonus! -- I got to parade around the ER wearing my garish cycling clothes.

28 April 2008

Three Rides

Monday, April 22
For the first time ever, I made it to the top of Martin's Road (25% at the peak) without cracking, but I suffered for the rest of the ride and couldn't quite recover from the early climbing. Nevertheless, I tried to take some new and different roads -- winding my way around the mental hospital area.

Thursday, April 24
Too much climbing. I rode up Sportsman and nearly had to stop during the insanely graded top section. It was one of those moments when I was literally a fraction of an inch away from yanking my foot out of the clip but, at the last second, changed my mind and kept on cranking up toward the top. The descent was incredible though and worth every painful minute of the climb. I was fortunately able to recover on the way down Texter, so I decided to climb Furnace Rd up to the celebrity rehab facility on North Galen.

Sunday, April 27
My first distance-ish ride (35 miles round trip) to Myerstown and back. The Sunday special at Risser's Family Restaurant: Snitz und Knepp. And the business that cracks me up every time I pass it? The Focht Agency. Anyway, just like last year, it takes me until the Conrad Weiser Homestead to warm up. Around eight miles. I really felt strong during the long false-flat after Womelsdorf. By the time I reached the Kumm Esse Diner in Myerstown, my left sit-bone was killing me. Hopefully that will go away after a few more break-in rides. Also, my left knee is holding up. No tendonitis yet.

07 February 2008

Nobody Welcome

Two Sundays in a row... climbing. Last Sunday, January 27, I cycled up two different routes: first, I climbed up Sportsman then down the insanely steep Texter Mountain Rd. The switchbacks at the bottom are around 25% and too fast for my comfort level. Then I looped around Hospital Rd and up Furnace Rd then descended down N. Galen Hall past the celebrity rehab facility.

This past Sunday, I tried Furnace Rd again, but this time, I continued UP N. Galen Hall to Mountain Top Rd, then to the dreaded Huntzinger at the top of the mountain. But I only stayed on Huntzinger long enough to catch the amazing view. I decided instead to descend on Point Rd.

At one point, there was a "Visitor Info" sign with a handpainted "Nobody Welcome" sign underneath. I stopped to snap a photo despite the warning until I heard from *somewhere* an ominous shout, "Get him!" Fortunately, Point is steeper than the bottom of Texter Mountain Rd and I took advantage of the speed to escape whatever the hell that was.

Anyway, I look like a 6'4" ninja on a bike with all of my cold weather gear. I don't blame anyone for feeling a little threatened.