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My Friend Garrett Lai

October 7, 2020

A little over a week ago, my friend and quiet mentor Garrett Lai passed away. I don’t have the complete details, but I’ve been told that he collapsed and passed away while riding his rollers in his garage. An exact cause of death has not been made public at this time, pending a coroner’s report, as I understand. That bit of technicality does not soften or mitigate the gaping hole caused by this loss. It’s been over a week now, and I’m still a bit immobilized by the fact that I can’t text him and ask him a question about the mammoth typewriter sitting beside me that needs repairs that I can’t even begin to diagnose. It’s been sitting here for a few days now, waiting for me to crack it open and begin investigating it, but I’ve struggled to find the focus to dig in with the insights Garrett passed on to me in recent years.

After Garrett’s untimely passing, my friend Patrick Brady wrote a great memoriam to Garrett, and shortly after that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News also posted a nice “obituary” to him. And about the same time, my friend Joe Lindsey messaged me on Twitter to check in on me, and share some of his own memories and grief. It made the loss seem less of a mystery, in terms of the hole and ache I have been feeling, hearing more from others about the impact he’d had on them as well.

I’ve been holding back on posting anything more than what I shared on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, but since I’ve found myself unable to sit at my typewriters and type, I’ve been hoping this step would help me begin to take the next step in the grieving process.

With that in mind, below is the remembrance I sent to Patrick for a possible collection he may put together;

***

“I’m choking back tears as I try to find words … and words have always been the only thing I’ve ever had. “Words are my currency.” And yet I am bankrupt right now.

It was bicycles and words that first brought Garrett and I together. At first, I only knew of Garrett as a very insightful tech editor and talented writer. When I became the Brand Manager at Masi Bicycles, I inherited a bunch of branding materials he’d written when Haro first purchased Masi, and we began a dialog of handing things off. That little intro in 2004 began a friendship that morphed over the years, with gaps in time between conversations, and then out of nowhere I’d hear from Garrett again, or we’d be working on a project together- like when one of his clients, and a brand I worked for, both sponsored a women’s pro team and we hung out together during a team camp event. We only had the fortune of riding together a few times in all those years of knowing each other, but there were so many other great conversations.

Garrett was gifted. He could write. I mean, he could really, really write. And he did as much of it as he could on an old typewriter, often a Hermes Rocket that he would travel with, hauling it on flights around the world. Whether he was writing about bicycles or cars, or anything else, he most often composed on the typewriter before it would become a digital document. I had immense respect for him, as a writer and as a PR/ Marketing professional- in many ways he helped nurture my own pursuit of my fledgling career in the freelance world. He was never a “competitor,” but was always a mentor. We talked countless times about the opportunities to work together- usually it was Garrett who would try to find the ways. When he landed a gig with a car company, he reached out and said I was top on his list of contractors to hire. I told him I knew next to nothing about cars, and he said that was exactly what he needed; “I need a non-car guy who can write, and you can write.” It was little comments like that, where he lifted me up with him, that filled me with pride. He elevated me to his level, though I never felt I was good enough. Garrett was enamored with esoteric minutia, and had an encyclopedic memory for details that history would forget, but not him. One of his Instagram projects was called Veloxmachina, which was dedicated to the tiniest of details that made things incredible. He had one of his usual detailed posts about outboard boat motors, which was shockingly something I knew a little about from my time growing up in the south and my uncle who worked on them. I offered commentary and he texted me immediately saying he loved the insight that I shared, that he hadn’t had on his own. And man, did I smile. He had reached out to me as he was beginning to build Veloxmachina, before it went live, and sought my thoughts, feedback, and suggestions. As was his way, he had bigger goals for the concept, eventually branching into creating curated products to sell to very discerning lovers of details and finely crafted pieces. And he wanted me to be a part of it when it happened- but it didn’t reach that phase. Garrett’s attention, instead, moved more completely to typewriters.

And it was typewriters that further brought us together into a closer friendship. Garrett obviously knew that I was a writer, we’d talk about it for years. He saw some posts I’d had on Instagram about fountain pens- my first writing tool of choice- and shared his own passion for fine writing devices, especially typewriters. He’d begun another Instagram project, initially just for his own machines and the few he would occasionally find, repair, and resell- TimeTravelTypewriters. He became one of the top resources for typewriter aficionados and would attend various typewriter events, working with many writers and artists who shared a love of the simple and complicated beasts. His infectious love for the machines infected me, and after lots of going back and forth about it, he finally convinced me I needed a typewriter in my life. Mind you, I was always- and remain- a shitty typist. I still know nothing about how to properly use the machines I have. Don’t ask me about setting margins, or tabs, or other technical fineries of typing. I suck as a typist. But Garrett convinced me to not be afraid. So, it was only fitting and certainly the only way it was going to happen, that Garrett found me my first typewriter and restored it fully for me. He’d been holding on to it, since it was one of his favorite machines and wanted it to go to the “write” person. He, of course, knew the full history of the machine and who had used it. He provided detailed information about it, famous writers to have used the same machine, and told me everything I’d ever need to know about it. I got the “good guy price,” and had to buy him a coffee and a scone at a mutually favorite coffee shop on the coast, where we made the purchase real. My 1951 Hermes Rocket ultraportable typewriter began what has grown to a slightly larger collection of (currently) seven machines, with an eighth that was given to my uncle. Ironically, and painfully now, I was literally going to send Garrett a text message and link to a machine I was looking at the day he died. It’s an ugly 60’s green Royal Empress. It doesn’t have a case, and I have no way of knowing if it really works. I did a little research on the machine, figuring out what model it is, since the seller doesn’t know. It’s kinda ugly, but still kinda, maybe a little cool. The price has come down. Maybe it’s worth it? I’ll ask Garrett and he can help me get it working, just like he did with the excellent 1958 Olympia SM4 De Luxe that I got for a steal! I can hear the likely words that would’ve popped up on my phone, and then the likely phone call to either talk me out of it, or explain why it was worth the gamble. His voice is clear in my head, along with the fact he would’ve (again) laughed at me and taken credit for my love of these wonderfully awful, excellent, incredible machines. I may still buy that ugly 1960’s Royal, if it’s still for sale, just so I can continue the conversation with Garrett inside my head, and pretend that he gave me enough of an education on how to repair it. I actually own cleaning supplies and tools for repairing typewriters, just because of him.

In late May of 2019, Garrett excitedly texted me, “If I send you a photo can you promise not to post, pass around, etc?” I quickly replied, “YES!” Garrett had been contracted to inspect, confirm, and repair a typewriter that had been purportedly owned and used by John Steinbeck. As it turns out, the very same machine that Garrett had sold to me- 1951 Hermes Rocket. Best of all, since he still had my machine’s serial number (but of course he did), he was able to confirm that my machine and Steinbeck’s machine had been produced likely weeks apart, certainly within the same month, almost without question by the same people. He was giddy, as a Steinbeck fan, but also for the fact that the same fingers that assembled Steinbeck’s Rocket would’ve also touched mine- passing along that magic soul to mine.

Also because of Garrett, and almost exclusively because of him, I began my own Instagram project of esoterica dedicated to typewriters and fountain pens- Analog Assassins- that really is only an excuse to reconnect to my love of writing poetry. At first, I was way too scared to compose on the machines. I would always handwrite with the fountain pens, and then type what I had written. I was too intimidated by my clumsy fingers. Composing while hunting for type keys, which vary from machine to machine, scared me wordless. But Garrett told me to embrace the typos, which still KILL ME, and just find my way. And I have. I still suck at typing, but I throw away a lot less paper than I used to. Most importantly, and due to Garrett, I have been almost as poetically productive as I was in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I wrote feverishly every day, like my life depended on it, and did countless poetry readings (scared out of my fucking head every time). I doubt I’ll ever stand in front of a crowd and read my poems again, but I am writing a lot and planning to publish a book eventually- and it’s because of Garrett.

So now, every time I type or even write a poem, I will have Garrett in my thoughts. Maybe one day it won’t make me cry like it does right now. Today though, it’s a tear-heavy day, and I’ll likely cry when I go for my ride, as I remember our countless bike conversations and our shared passion for racing on the track.

I didn’t get the chance to send that text message, and never knew I needed to say “I love you, man.” But that’s likely going to be on repeat in my mind all day today. God speed, my friend- ‘spin to win.'”

***

Below is follow-up post from Instagram, about that ugly typewriter I’d wanted to talk to him about on the day he passed away;

***

“So, I bought the typewriter today that I was wanting to chat with Garrett about, on the day he passed away. It’s kinda ugly, massively huge, weighs as much as a small refrigerator, and had been drowned in WD-40. It’s way above my limited repair experience, and I’m in over my head. All that said, I still cried when I drove home with it beside me.

I can hear Garrett laughing at me, and gently offering tips- like using an air compressor to blow out the funk as a first step. Then he’d tell me to scrub the segment with alcohol and a good brush, like a toothbrush with the bristles trimmed shorter for better stiffness. Using a toothpick or good dental pick, he’d advise me to clean the type slugs. I think he’d like the Elite typeface. I know he’d like the original metal ribbon spools.

It turns out that it’s a 1964 Royal Empress. If any of you have experience with these behemoths, I’d love some tips to help me start digging in to this- it’s my tribute to Garrett, since it was the machine he would’ve likely talked me out of buying, or laughed at my misplaced exuberance. This is genuinely a labor of love, in the truest of meanings.

I’m blaming you, my dear friend Garrett. I’m going to reread the emails with helpful hints you sent me when I was struggling with the Smith Corona Clipper and Silent, which now both work wonderfully because of you.”

***

Over the years that I knew Garrett, the only other thing he and I both waxed poetic about- aside from writing and typewriters- was track racing. He and I both love track bikes, track cycling, and racing. Garrett was perhaps less actively competitive, and raced less than I did, but we both had a love/ hate relationship with the Kilo. We both also really loved racing on the old 1984 Los Angeles Olympics velodrome at Dominguez Hills. Without a doubt, I’ve never posted faster times than I did there, and Garrett spent countless hours there perfecting his incredibly smooth pedal stroke. He would often check in with me after my Tuesday Night Racing events here on our local track, and loved the recaps of the racing and my gear choices. Sadly, we never got the chance to ride on the track together, and only rode together a handful of times ever. The only photo I have of riding with Garrett was during Sea Otter one year, when I was with BH Bicycles and Sidi was one of his clients. BH and Sidi both sponsored the Primal/ BH women’s professional team, so we did a VIP/ sponsor ride along 17 Mile Drive in Monterey one morning during Sea Otter. It’s a shitty photo, over my head, behind me, with Garrett’s business partner and all-around awesome person Sara Ecclesine directly behind me … and Garrett way at the back talking to another rider. We had respective sponsor duties during the ride and didn’t get to truly chat a lot, but it was still a special day, just the same.

The 1964 Royal Empress still sits, smelling like WD-40 (which is really bad for typewriters), and I’ve been a bit paralyzed by fear to begin the process of tearing it apart to clean it. I think there might be a few missing pieces, which Garrett’s help would certainly remedy. Nonetheless, I’m going to open the large hood on the machine and begin the process of cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a good brush- like he taught me to do- and start the process of getting the sticky segment moving. Then I have to figure out how to thread a ribbon through the really funky ribbon vibrator the Empress has. The original metal spools will get wrapped in new black and red ribbon, and eventually the massive desktop typewriter will click away again. I’ll have Garrett’s words of advice- and his laugh- in my head as I go through the process of getting it working again.

Dammit, I miss you already, Garrett. A lot. But I do genuinely owe you for putting a typewriter in my hands, and getting my desire to write again fired back up. There are now hundreds of typed poems sitting in a folder or in a pile at my desk. And, if I’m lucky, maybe more will follow.

You will be missed, and forever loved, my friend.

Tim

Love Hurts, But Should It?

February 24, 2020

Cycling, as both an industry and sport, can be an extremely cruel mistress (or master). It often rewards those willing to suffer for their love, and punishes those same people who put love before personal gain or greed, willing to chase their dreams out of pure passion. The rewards often seem to fall to those who either cheat, take shortcuts, or place themselves ahead of others. The idealogical claim that “a high tide lifts all boats” falls short of actually happening when some of the boats have leaking hulls and short anchor chains.

A recent article on CyclingTips by retired pro cyclist Molly Weaver highlighted the stark and punitive disparities between professional men’s and women’s cycling at the very highest levels of the sport. In her article, the first in a series, Molly points out the many forms of abusive sacrifices she made to be able to do what she loves- race her bicycle at the highest level of the sport. In her pro career, riding in the top echelon of the sport, she was paid nothing at all for two seasons, and never more than £9900. Her salaries ranged from 0 to £3050-5400 … to ride for teams that raced at the women’s top level. Granted, here in the US, there are “professional” men and women who both race their entire “pro” careers making little to no salary at all. Racing domestically, many of the best racers in the country only earn money via cash payouts at races. And if they’re women, that’s significantly harder than it is for the men.

Molly’s piece leaves a lot to digest and underscores one of the biggest hurdles in the sport for women’s racing; money. There are brands in the bike industry who do a pretty good job of supporting women’s cycling. But even those, I’m looking at brands like Specialized, could do much more … by simply shuffling their sponsorship decks. Specialized, again as an example, seems to sponsor about half the men’s World Tour, as well as some of the best women’s teams. But if they just culled one of their mens teams and gave that same level of support to a women’s program … it would have a HUGE impact on that program. Sponsorship dollars are overwhelmingly male, and until the industry and other sponsors place a genuine value on women’s teams- at the expense of the men- change is going to continue to happen at a glacial pace.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the work that is being done by brands like Specialized and Canyon. Both brands support strong women’s teams already. But they don’t do so at the expense of the men’s teams … which is what happens for women now. Brands will cut their support of women’s teams/ athletes, before they cut it for men- and more deeply. I also recognize that the entire racing landscape in North America, for both men and women, is hurting. Badly and bigly. Men’s racing struggles for broader support, and there is no longer a WorldTour event like Tour of California. One bright spot, for the women at least, is the Colorado Classic, which dropped its men’s race for 2019 … with pretty great success. Now, in its second year as a women-only event, it has become a major part of the race calendar in North America for the best riders in the world.

But there’s another element to this story, for me at least, and that’s how closely Molly’s experience mirrors my own experience within both the sport and industry. I got into both the sport and the industry in 1982. I began as a skinny junior racer and young shop rat. My first shop job, in a tiny Alabama town, was sweeping floors and building skateboards. I wasn’t trusted to touch the bikes, and the owner was really just paying me to keep me out of the way since I began to essentially spend every minute of the day there. I was passionate about bikes and the sport, and irreversibly naive. I believed in bikes, and also believed that I was destined to become the next LeMond … or Merckx. In the summer of 1986 my mother, sister, and I moved to San Diego, California to be with my mother’s side of the family. And I was elated to be closer to reaching my racing goals, after just finishing second in my first ever “real” race- the Alabama State Olympics. I was certain I was on my way. Not long after getting to San Diego, I got my second shop job in a shop near my home. Mostly, I worked in exchange for bike parts. Not cash. I was a broke kid who wanted to race bikes and be near them every chance I got. I rode my bike any time I wasn’t in school or in the shop.

Racing was brutal in San Diego, compared to Alabama, and I got routinely shelled by the much more advanced riders in California. I was utterly outclassed. But I kept riding. I kept training. I kept reading everything I could. And more importantly- I kept dreaming. Some knee injuries at the end of my senior year of high school put me off the bike for about a year, but the bug was still there, and once I was healthy and recovered my stolen bike … I was back at it. Like Molly, and countless other riders, I was willing to keep getting back on the bike- no matter what- because I loved it. And, truth be told, I still do.

I fancied myself good enough to eventually turn pro, but I got good in the late 80’s and early 90’s, as the sport was eyeballs deep in doping. I didn’t know it at first, but the many of the guys I just couldn’t seem to beat were pissing antifreeze and nitrous. I reached the peak of my elite racing in 1996, pre-Athens Olympics. It was then that I was offered “assistance” with my training … but I couldn’t do it. I loved the sport, and the purity of the suffering, too much. I was good enough to be able to compete with some of the best track racers in the world in 1996, getting utterly blown out of the water … but with integrity. That year, returning to the gym late in the season, I completely blew out my knees and back from doing far too much weight training. And then once back on the bike, I crashed during a night ride, and blew out the PCL in my left knee … ending any hope I had of returning to the very highest levels of the sport.

It was also in 1996 that I got my “break” in the cycling industry, and moved out of retail and into the brand side of the business. I became the Customer Service and Tech/ Repair Manager for NiteRider Technical Lighting Systems. I stayed in that position and grew with the company for 5yrs. I moved on from NiteRider and ventured into the outside world, working for a faux stone manufacturing company, but I couldn’t handle the normal world … so I went back to the bike world with Canari Cyclewear, then on to my most known role as the Brand Manager for Masi Bicycles. And then on to Fuji. Then Pivot/BH. Then Focus Bikes. And since that time freelance in the Marketing/ PR/ Media/ Content Creation world.

The point is, I’m a “lifer” in the bike business. For better or for worse … and some in my life would strongly argue it’s been for the worse. But here I am.

Just like Molly’s devotion to and time within the sport, I’ve had an equally tumultuous time within the industry itself. And many of the people I have known in the industry have as well. Some of the genuinely brightest and most creative people I’ve ever known, I’ve met within the business of cycling. And, with little exception, regardless of professional success very few of them have actually become “wealthy” from their talents in the bike business. Some have done pretty well. But most have survived with a heaping dose of luck … and spouses or partners with better incomes. I always credited legendary framebuilder Bill Holland for the saying, because I heard it from him first, that “the best way to make a small fortune in the bike business, is to start with a big one.” Ain’t it true though …

Many of us who have spent the better parts of our lives in the bike business, have done so with a slavish devotion to the cruelty of it, simply because of our love for bikes, cycling, and the people who feel the same ways we do about it all. As an ex-wife of mine used to say about the industry, “it’s a kingdom of princes- devoted to their own Peter Pan syndrome, refusing to grow up.” And she wasn’t entirely wrong.

And just as there are teams with bigger budgets, snagging the biggest chunks of success, there are dominant brands in multiple categories whose power and success leave little room for anybody else to nibble from the ever-shrinking marketshare pie. Though a high tide may indeed lift all boats, some of those boats have leaky hulls and very short anchor chains, while those who control the harbor have a vested interest in making sure those smaller boats never leave the harbor. The bike industry, in terms of sales growth, has been flat to down for about two decades. The dollars within and the size of the market (consumers), has essentially remained unchanged for those two decades. There have been notable spikes- like the explosion of road in the late 90’s, the growth of cyclocross, the brief boom in fixed gear bikes, the return of MTB (beginning with the boom in 29ers), and the current over-saturation in gravel. But we’ve essentially relied on carving ever smaller slices of the same pie, hoping that there are still enough consumers who buy into the N+1 narrative a little longer. The biggest potential bright spot on the existing horizon, is the growth in e-bikes; this category is bringing in more new and non-cyclists than any other we’ve seen in decades. Yet, as an industry, we still fumble with how to wedge this new and largely unfamiliar category into “the way we’ve always done things.” (Which isn’t going to work.)

I worked in a Schwinn dealership when I first got a shop job in San Diego, while still in high school. I sold A LOT of those bikes. I woulda never been convinced that Schwinn would fall from grace, go through bankruptcy, and become a much smaller, different player in the US bike market. But the dynasty collapsed, for a myriad of reasons. Trek and Specialized are both so overwhelmingly dominant in the market, that they can control a massive segment of the business. Both pretty regularly dictate the terms of business for North American bike retail. And I don’t even say that as an outright negative- they’ve both done a lot to get to the spots they have. But like all dynasties, they too can collapse. Ask Schwinn and Rome about that.

Cycling truly is a thing of beauty. And as much as I complain about the industry itself, it comes from a place of unwavering love. I need both the sport and the industry to survive. I need both the sport and the industry, TO SURVIVE. The business side of cycling is just as dysfunctional as the sport, but we don’t even have a governing body to attempt to make things better for everybody. The UCI is not my favorite organization in the world, and USA Cycling certainly needs help too … but at least they exist to try to make improvements, at least in theory.

I don’t pretend to have the answers, not for the industry or the sport. But I do hope that more and more sponsors of cycling will more evenly distribute their financial support between men’s and women’s programs. Who knows, we might even grow both the sport and the market if we made things more equitable and inclusive.

Just spitballing …

Tim

CABDA West (Del Mar) 2020

January 18, 2020

This week saw the first of the cycling industry tradeshows of 2020 with the CABDA West event in Del Mar, California, just a few miles up the road from my home. As none of my clients were exhibiting at the show this year, I had no “bidnitz” at the event, but Jim Kersten- organizer and head honcho of CABDA- was gracious enough to provide me with a Guest/ Media pass for the show. My “job” at the show was to have a look on behalf of my clients, and to wander aimlessly through the halls having a sniff of all the goodies and have good conversations with my industry chums. In that respect, it was a wonderful show!

I attended last year’s inaugural event as an exhibitor, so I had a very limited view of things. Last year, the event had to deal with cool weather and plenty of rain to dampen things a bit, but this year’s event enjoyed better weather. Though chilly- by SoCal terms- it was at least very dry. The event boasted of “100% growth” over last year, and expanded into two additional halls- one for registration and event services, the other for additional exhibitor space.

Traffic last year was mixed, with the first day having busy waves and slow waves, and the second day being comparatively very slow … ghost town by noon. This year, though I was there an hour after opening each day, felt busier over all; the first day felt like it had much better/ more consistent traffic flow, and the second day had WAY better flow than last year. There was clearly more traffic, though at times it did *feel* like there were as many (or more) exhibitor/ industry folk than actual retailers. That said, I did see more bodies than last year.

Unfortunately, that increase in traffic was hardly felt in the second exhibitor building. The hall was about the same size as the main hall, but only about a third of the space was used- with the rest being left open and vacant … which just looked depressing. The space was used for an indoor BMX stunt show a couple times, but was empty the rest of the time. Add to that, the hall itself was either unheated, or just too big and empty to heat well, and remained very frigid both days. There were a few strong brands present in the hall, as well as seminars being held there, but it never seemed to draw any real traffic to the hall on day one … so a few of the exhibitors simply “asked for forgiveness, rather than permission”, and moved into a few empty spots inside the main hall before the show began on day two. I’m not sure that Jim and CABDA really could’ve done much to improve things in the second hall, given the number of exhibitors, but perhaps splitting more of the big brands between the two halls would’ve promoted better traffic flow for all exhibitors. In the end, the second hall felt a little like the basement of Interbike in Anaheim 20+ years ago.

The consensus wasn’t quite a consensus. There were grumblings of “this was pointless” and rants of “this was perfect.” Both were true, depending on your objectives and actions. I did see plenty of folks seemingly conducting business, and a few retailers I know were very pleased about the exhibitor turnout. With the demise of Interbike, we (The Bike Industry®) lack a unifying event in North America. CABDA, to their incredible praise, has done an excellent job with their shows- which now include the original Chicago event, plus Del Mar and New York. They have truly stepped up with trying to replace and improve upon Interbike’s position. That said, they still remain largely regional shows that don’t have the support of the major players in the industry- Trek, Specialized, Giant, and the other key brands. That is far from being their fault, and Jim certainly has his doors open to them. He gets zero complaint from me. The closest thing currently to what Interbike once was, is now Sea Otter. The Big Gear Show coming in July seeks to replace Interbike and improve upon its reach, by combining multiple outdoor industries in one event. It’s a formula that hasn’t worked yet, but certainly has the potential to- and with former Interbike director and Lifeboat event owner Lance Camisasca now running the bike side of things, it has a lot more firepower. But will it work for the full ecosystem of the industry? Suppliers, brands, distributors, OEM manufacturers, retailers, advocacy groups and media? And maybe even the ever-important consumer? So far, for North America, I’ve yet to see the right formula emerge and gain support from the broader industry. Again, largely by default, Sea Otter is the closest thing we have.


Example; my client Elastic Interface is the leading supplier of chamois pads to the cycling clothing brands. Where do they go in North America to conduct business? CABDA had a few clothing brands present, but none of them had their design teams or product developers there. Sea Otter, by sheer volume and weight, now has some of those individuals in attendance. Will The Big Gear Show draw those same people? CABDA is a victim of its successful design of being lower stress, and is usually handled by a brand’s regional sales reps or national sales managers and marketing folks, leaving the designers and developers back home. This presents problems for the suppliers like Elastic Interface who do not sell to retailers or directly to consumers, but to the brands both of them buy. Again, this is no fault of CABDA, by any means. Nor will it be the fault of The Big Gear Show if they are unable to draw a broader swath of the industry’s personnel.

Times have changed, and the roll of tradeshows has changed as well, thanks in part to the real-time speed of the internet for spreading news, as well as countless brands choosing to control their messaging and audience with private events/ shows. Product cycles are different for clothing and bikes and components, so no date on the calendar is perfect for the entire industry’s support networks. If you include the major shows outside of the US- Eurobike, Taipei Cycle Show, and Taichung Bike Week- the entire ecosystem is taken care of … but no longer here in North America (and not in one show), limiting the reach and access of many smaller brands, and larger suppliers. As of yet, there is no answer that I can see on the immediate horizon, though I eagerly await one to emerge. Some say tradeshows are dead relics of a bygone time, but I would passionately argue that nothing beats genuine face to face conversations … and we have fewer and fewer good opportunities for them.

Tim

Mic check … Testing, testing … Is this thing on?

January 12, 2020

I’ve made attempts to refocus my attention on this space before. I’ve proclaimed a return. I’ve set the public challenge to hold me accountable, to once again spend time at the keyboard arranging words into sentences, paragraphs, and occasional coherent thoughts.

And though I have been writing elsewhere, and have been pursuing the creative path in different ways, I’ve yet to successfully truly return to “blogging” in any significant way. And I miss it. The truth is, I miss the words and the act of sharing them with an audience … even if the audience is often the small echo chamber of my own head.

So I’m once again making an attempt to pry the words from my fingers and brain, and carve out some time to sit in front of my computer and stare into the glowing abyss of this content editor … and write. For the last several months, the overwhelming majority of my writing has been on paper with a fountain pen, or typing on my restored typewriters. It has been an excellent exercise to reconnect to the tactile and physical act of “writing” again … and yet I miss this colder, digital interface because of the connection I have made to the few of you who read the things I put into the electronic sphere.

I hope that I will be more successful than I have been the other times I have made this feeble attempt to post again. I have more, not fewer, distractions and demands. I have more, not fewer, things I want to say and share. Maybe this time it’ll happen more often than every few months … before fizzling out altogether. I’m hoping anyway.

Tim

2019 Tour de France; Let’s Get Ready To Market Expensive Bike Stuff!!! (Oh, there’s also a bike race happening.)

July 3, 2019

So … the time is upon us for yet another 3 weeks of velocipede exercising around the country of France, with a brief foray into Belgium at the beginning of the lengthy gran fondo. Once again, the vast majority of the cycling world and the cycling press and the non-cycling press and non-cycling enthusiasts with mild curiosity about skinny dudes in lycra riding skinny tires across France in the peak of a heat wave will be focused on the next 3 weeks. Thankfully, we’ll also get to be unendingly marinated in #MarketingMasturbation too! Did you know that Cannondale, Specialized, and Name-A-Fucking-Brand have just released/ are about to release new products? Well, if you didn’t know that the Tour de France is the biggest showcase of cycling in the world, you might’ve missed that it’s also the biggest #Marketing for the industry as well. You would be forgiven for not knowing there’s a bike race to watch, but there actually IS a bike race to watch!

And this year, it might just be a good one!

As is always the case, there are legitimate contenders, way more pretenders, and lots of hopefuls. The thing about le Tour, for better or worse (worse), it is the most important race in the world. Entire teams and careers are built on just the 3 weeks in July every year. A rider’s career can be defined by a single performance at the Tour- whether it be wearing yellow, polka dots, green, or winning a stage, the Tour carries significant value in a rider’s career. ASO, the organizer of the race, is more than happy to remind the world of this fact, and giddily makes or destroys entire fortunes with the race. ASO is practically the mafia of bike races, with the UCI basically a pistol-less cop with no more power than the words, “please stop being a bully.”

And yet … we watch. We can’t help it. The Tour, with all its warts and blemishes, is still The Tour. For 3 weeks every July, it’s the most wonderful showcase of cycling. It’s become pedantic and boring due to its excessive importance- nobody is willing to take too big a risk, teams are built to dominate and keep things predictable and safe, and the “business” of the race is rarely allowed to veer off script. And yet … we watch.

So let’s take a look at the teams and see what their chances are for victory or glory … or lots of road rash.

Ag2r La Mondiale
BARDET Romain
NAESEN Oliver
GALLOPIN Tony
CHEREL Mickaël
VUILLERMOZ Alexis
FRANK Mathias
GOUGEARD Alexis
COSNEFROY Benoît

Ag2r is the Frenchiest of the French teams, in terms of their history. With only one Swiss and one Belgian rider on the roster, the only team more French is Arkea-Samsic with 7 of 8 riders being French. Romain Bardet has been “the next French hope” nearly his entire pro career. I meet him during a product launch in France years ago, when he was just beginning to make headlines with Ag2r, and he’s a good kid. Can he win? Maybe? He can’t time trial at all, but there’s barely any TT miles in this year’s race. He can climb really, really well, and has proven to be smarter than a few of his rivals. The team is banking heavily on him, but also has some stage chances with a number of their riders. Unlike many of the French teams, Ag2r likes to race aggressively, and might see an opportunity this year with an-ever-so-slightly-less-dominant Team Ineos (formerly SKY). Can they win? Lots of champagne and brie is sitting on tables waiting to celebrate if they do.

Arkéa-Samsic
GREIPEL André
BARGUIL Warren
BOUET Maxime
DELAPLACE Anthony
GESBERT Élie
LEDANOIS Kévin
MOINARD Amaël
VACHON Florian

This team is one of the small wildcard invites, and only because of Warren Barguil and André Greipel. Barguil has won stages and has the French fans in a lather, while Greipel has won numerous sprint stages during his lengthy career. Barguil was once heralded as a contender- he’s not- and Greipel once dominated sprints, but has aged a little. Don’t get me wrong, I like Barguil’s aggressive style, but he’s far from a surprise when he rolls up the road. He’ll have a hard time sneaking away anymore. Greipel has had a very quiet start to the year and is old enough to be call an “aging veteran.” That said, on the right day, if the other speedsters are napping, he’s still got a remarkable kick. Can either rider snag a win … possibly. They have a plucky band of riders, so they can’t be ignored. Week three will be a challenge for them, given the mountains and the lack of racing the team has had in bigger events.

Astana
SÁNCHEZ Luis León
BILBAO Pello
IZAGIRRE Gorka
FUGLSANG Jakob
LUTSENKO Alexey
CORT Magnus
FRAILE Omar
HOULE Hugo

Mostly, for GC purposes, the team is built around Jakob Fuglsang. The team is strong, and with the experienced (and tainted) hand of Alexander Vinokourov pulling the strings, they know how to ride for 3 weeks. Fuglsang recently won the shorter Dauphiné and has been touted as a contender before, but he’s yet to have a “breakout” Tour. This year could be different, maybe, since he’s obviously got great form currently. Is he overcooked or primed for a result? No way to know until things get really hot. He’ll have a great support cast, including Canadian rider Hugo Houle. I worked with Hugo when he rode for Ag2R and I was with FOCUS. He’s a good kid with goo TT chops and a long burning fuse. He’ll be important on flatter stages and early slopes of climbs. Luis León Sánchez will be critical too, and the Spaniard can’t be ruled out for stage win either. He’s still plenty quick, and smart enough to be in a good spot when it counts. Astana has a great team here, but the GC is likely a big reach for them, though they’ll still try.

Bahrain-Merida
CARUSO Damiano
COLBRELLI Sonny
GARCÍA CORTINA Iván
DENNIS Rohan
MOHORIČ Matej
NIBALI Vincenzo
TEUNS Dylan
TRATNIK Jan

Like him or not (or not much), Nibali can’t be looked over as a contender. He’s won the Tour before, along with the Giro and Vuelta. He shines in grand tours, can still out climb most riders, and is a ridonculous descender. He’s always aggressive, and also slightly bitchy when people don’t play his game. But … dude can ride a bike for 3 weeks. He’ll be supported well, and can be expected to attack a lot. He’s got less pressure on him, but he’s also savvy enough to know he’s got a legitimate shot at the win without Froome in the race and hardly any TT miles to get in his way. Barring a mishap, I’d be surprised to see him finish out of the top five … and maybe even take the win. It’s possible. He’s got plenty of guys on the team who can win stages too, so the day-to-day pressure will be managed for him.

Bora-Hansgrohe
BUCHMANN Emanuel
KONRAD Patrick
SAGAN Peter
OSS Daniel
MÜHLBERGER Gregor
PÖSTLBERGER Lukas
BURGHARDT Marcus
SCHACHMANN Maximilian

Peter Sagan. Enough said.

Ok, fine … there are other guys on the team too, and they’ll work their asses off for Sagan to get another Green/Points jersey by Paris. He’s the most likely guy to win it- again- because he’s simply that consistent. He’s had a quiet-for-Sagan early season, but the Tour is where he almost always dominates. He’s got an excellent team with him, and he’ll be HEAVILY marketed by Specialized and 100%. Trust me, by the end of the Tour, you’ll be tired of his name … but not the way he rides a bike.

CCC Team
VAN AVERMAET Greg
BEVIN Patrick
DE MARCHI Alessandro
GESCHKE Simon
PAUWELS Serge
ROSSKOPF Joey
SCHÄR Michael
WIŚNIOWSKI Łukasz

Well, they won’t win the Tour and they’re not there to try. Greg Van Avermaet is gonna win a stage or more, and will be Sagan’s likely biggest threat for Green. He’s good. And he’s got a good team with him. American Joey Rosskopf is strong as an ox and an ride a TT bike really freakin’ fast. The entire team can win stages, and you can expect to see the very bright orange kits going for stage wins often. They’re gonna take home some prize money when the race is over, that much is certain.

Cofidis
HERRADA Jesús
BERHANE Natnael
EDET Nicolas
LAPORTE Christophe
PEREZ Anthony
PÉRICHON Pierre-Luc
ROSSETTO Stéphane
SIMON Julien

“The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be,
Ain’t what she used to be, ain’t what she used to be …”

There was a time when Cofidis was one of the best teams in cycling, and the best team in France. That’s changed. A lot. Over the years, Cofidis has bounced in and out of relevance. Currently, they’re usually more known for their mercurial (and idiotic) sprinter Nacer Bouhanni … who again, will not be at the Tour. This gives the team a legitimate chance to win a stage, without catering to Bouhanni’s inability to factor in the race. Though a few of the riders are “older”, the full team can be expected to try a little something, most likely in the mountains and daylong suicide breaks for tv time. They’ll likely target the Polka Dot/Climber’s jersey and stage wins, so look for them to light up the first climbs that offer points. After that, they’ll fade into protecting the jersey, if they get it early. Otherwise … long days in the breaks for tv viewers.

EF Education First
URÁN Rigoberto
VAN GARDEREN Tejay
CRADDOCK Lawson
PHINNEY Taylor
BETTIOL Alberto
WOODS Michael

Rigoberto Urán is the man at EF for the Tour. He’s a GC threat when healthy, and hopefully he is now. After some early season injuries, he looks to be coming alive now. If he’s got the climbing legs and TT chops of years past, he’ll be considered a real threat. He’ll be backed by a strong team. Team owner Jonathan Vaughters is pretty good at piecing teams and riders together, and he’s got a mix of youth and experience. Americans Lawson Craddock, Taylor Phinney, and Tejay Van Garderen will all be chuffed to get things going. No longer carrying the GC pressure, Tejay might finally refund the legs that made him a contender. Phinney is a monster when healthy, and can maybe even win a stage early. And then there’s the Canadian flavor sensation Michael Woods. He’s an unknown of sorts in the Tour- he’s yet to reach his full potential, but he can ride with the best of them, and has shown a knack for attacking. I’m watching Woods with a curious eye …

Deceuninck-Quick-Step
ALAPHILIPPE Julian
ASGREEN Kasper
DEVENYNS Dries
MAS Enric
LAMPAERT Yves
MØRKØV Michael
RICHEZE Maximiliano
VIVIANI Elia

How many stages can DQS win? Most of them. For serious … they can win a lot of stages. Julian Alaphilippe has been on fire. He seems to win any time he tries. He can climb, sprint, or get away early. And then Elia Viviani is among the very best sprinters in the world too. He’s won a bunch of sprints this year already, too. The team won more races than anybody last season, and is on top of the board again this year. They aren’t hunting the GC, and team director Patrick Lefevre rarely does, so stage wins and the endless press attention is the goal. Oh, and they also ride Specialized bikes … who has a new bike out now … so … #Marketing!

Dimension Data
KREUZIGER Roman
BOASSON HAGEN Edvald
BAK Lars
CUMMINGS Steve
KING Ben
JANSE VAN RENSBURG Reinardt
VALGREN Michael
NIZZOLO Giacomo

No Cavendish this year. They’ve left the Manxman off of the team roster this year. #Controversy

I like American Ben King. He’s a good rider, classy guy, and can actually mix it up for a stage win. They don’t have a GC rider, so Ben and Edvald Boasson Hagen are among their stage hunters. EBH is another Green contender, and can get into the break and ruin the day for his companions with lesser sprint legs. EBH, Van Avermaet, and Sagan in a three-man break would be The BOMB! (But it won’t happen.) Steve Cummings has won before and is a good chap, so keep an eye on him too.

Groupama-FDJ
PINOT Thibaut
BONNET William
ROUX Anthony
REICHENBACH Sébastien
MOLARD Rudy
GAUDU David
KÜNG Stefan
LADAGNOUS Matthieu

Man, if Thibaut Pinot ever lives up to his potential and the hype surrounding him every year, he’ll win the Tour by an hour or two. Well … maybe by a few seconds at least. Built around Pinot, for better or worse, FDJ is always a fan favorite, and team manager Marc Madiot is a little bit of a magician. They have to be taken seriously … until Pinot’s almost-guaranteed implosion occurs. Mostly, they’re looking for stage wins or the Polka Dot jersey with Pinot. But … if the stars align and the prayers of French fans are answered, Pinot could do something special. (But likely won’t.)

Jumbo-Visma
GROENEWEGEN Dylan
KRUIJSWIJK Steven
VAN AERT Wout
MARTIN Tony
BENNETT George
JANSEN Amund Grøndahl
DE PLUS Laurens
TEUNISSEN Mike

SO MUCH TALENT on this team! No real GC threat, but bejesus do they have stage winners! Groenewegen- Groaning Wagon- can smash the pedals SO hard in a sprint. I bet they have to give that boy a new frame after every sprint stage. Wout Van Aert is a CX World Champion- thrice- and now the Belgian TT champ. He’s kinda got skills … to pay some bills, as it were. And Tony Martin … yeah, he’s still quick. These guys will win something. Maybe a few somethings. But for certain, they will crank out wattage numbers that make their power meters ask “WTF, brah?”

Katusha-Alpecin
ZAKARIN Ilnur
DOWSETT Alex
DEBUSSCHERE Jens
GONÇALVES José
HALLER Marco
POLITT Nils
WÜRTZ SCHMIDT Mads
ZABEL Rick

Caffeine shampoo isn’t gonna be enough to help them win the Tour. They’ve got a lot of talent, and a fragile GC contender with Ilnur Zakarin, but little hope of more than a few stage wins. A lot of teams would be happy with that prospect, but they’ve got a big enough budget that they need better results. So … they’re gonna be hungry to keep the paychecks coming in. SRAM’s new APX components will be front and center for 3 weeks … #Marketing … so expect to see a lot of SRAM and Zipp advertising!

Lotto-Soudal
DE GENDT Thomas
BENOOT Tiesj
KLUGE Roger
MONFORT Maxime
EWAN Caleb
WELLENS Tim
DE BUYST Jasper
KEUKELEIRE Jens

Stacked with talent, Lotto-Soudal is bringing another strong team to the start line. With young sprinter Caleb Ewan making his Tour debut, they’re gonna be hunting stages, as always. Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens are both hyper-experienced stage hunters, and they’ll be doing exactly that. Tiesj Benoot is another Belgian young star with tons of talent, so he’ll likely be given a few chances to shine along the way. Like a few of the other teams, they have a deep talent pool of riders on the roster who will certainly keep things interesting.

Mitchelton-Scott
YATES Adam
YATES Simon
DURBRIDGE Luke
HAIG Jack
HEPBURN Michael
JUUL-JENSEN Christopher
IMPEY Daryl
TRENTIN Matteo

I really hope the Yates twins switch bib numbers and screw with the rest of the peloton a few times. I’ll be pissed if they don’t try at least once.

The Australian team comes equipped for a GC fight and they’re bringing sharp knives for it. Yates will have plenty of help from his brother, as well as the rest of the team. And don’t ask me if the GC Yates is Adam or Simon because I never know! The team is deep in talent and they can not be ruled out, especially in the third week. They’ve got the motors, they’ve got the climbers, and they know how to ride the Stage 2 Team Time Trial. They’ll be in it to win it.

Movistar
QUINTANA Nairo
LANDA Mikel
VALVERDE Alejandro
SOLER Marc
ERVITI Imanol
VERONA Carlos
OLIVEIRA Nelson
AMADOR Andrey

Oh, hey, Movistar is bringing 3 GC contenders again. It’s worked for them perfectly every time before … oh, wait, not it hasn’t. So Quintana, Valverde, and Landa will again line up as team co-co-co-leaders. It’s a shitty move again, but it seems that Movistar loves to lose the Tour. It’s almost as if they come to France each year with the objective of not-winning. That said, they won’t win it. You can quote me. But, hey, at least they’ll get a lot of press for how strong the team is “on paper”, and how surprising it is that the three-pronged approach has yet again failed them.

Sunweb
KELDERMAN Wilco
MATTHEWS Michael
KRAGH ANDERSEN Søren
ARNDT Nikias
BOL Cees
HAGA Chad
KÄMNA Lennard
ROCHE Nicolas

With Tom Dumoulin out, due to lingering injuries from his crash at the Giro, Sunweb is hunting stages. That said, they ain’t in a shortage position for talent in that regard. Michael Matthews is a legitimate threat for Sagan’s Green jersey, with the ability to sprint well and climb well enough to finish in select groups. Chad Haga is an outstanding fella, and another of the emotional favorites among American fans. The team is prepared to ride 3 weeks, and would be set to deliver Dumoulin to the GC podium, but now have to switch into stage mode. I’d be shocked if they didn’t make good on that talent pool.

Team Ineos
THOMAS Geraint
BERNAL Egan
CASTROVIEJO Jonathan
KWIATKOWSKI Michał
MOSCON Gianni
POELS Wout
ROWE Luke
VAN BAARLE Dylan

No Froome.

That makes Geraint Thomas’s job as defending champion a little less complicated. Having Froome on the team would help Thomas, since he’s won 4 Tours and would be the co-favorite to win, but at least the internal dynamics of the team are slightly cleaner. There is that Egan Bernal kid who has shown that he’s ready to win a big race too … but Brailsford has shown an ability to squash internal skirmishes … usually. Make zero mistake, Ineos is still SKY, just in uglier kits. Without a doubt, Thomas can be expected to put up one helluva fight to defend his win from last year. Ineos has deep talent and they’ll put all of it to the task of winning again. And they can. The entire roster is strong, no weak links. If they can keep Gianni Moscon from getting into a fight, or getting expelled from the race for being a racist prick, they’ll even contend for the team title too. It’s their race to lose, and the entire peloton will be looking to them to lead. Whether or not they can defend will depend on how well they keep themselves cohesive- and so far, they’ve proven regularly that they can.

Total Direct Energie
CALMEJANE Lilian
TERPSTRA Niki
TURGIS Anthony
SICARD Romain
TAARAMÄE Rein
OURSELIN Paul
GRELLIER Fabien
BONIFAZIO Niccolò

Another of the French wildcard teams. but less of a “wildcard” since they are always there. They’ve been around for years, in various forms, and have been the home of much-loved riders like Voeckler, Chavanel, and others. Now the team is built around the stage hunting goals of Nikki Terpstra. The team has plenty of talent, even if they lack any meaningful results this season. The Tour roster is a mix of riders capable of winning different stage types, and with NO threat to the GC on the roster, they’ll be given plenty of opportunities in breakaways.

Trek-Segafredo
PORTE Richie
MOLLEMA Bauke
BERNARD Julien
CICCONE Giulio
DE KORT Koen
FELLINE Fabio
SKUJIŅŠ Toms
STUYVEN Jasper

I’m sorry, Australia, Richie Porte is not going to become the second Aussie to win the Tour, this year. He isn’t. He’ll probably ride into the top ten again, though, so there’s that. There’s a chance he’ll take a stage win, or that one of the other Trek-Seafood guys will. I mean, there’s no shortage of talent. Even young gun Toms Skujins (impossible to pronounce while sober), can win a stage and his attacking style is fun to watch. Not sure yet if Trek in unveiling a new bike at this year’s race … but with Specialized unleashing their #Marketing machine on the race, it would make sense that they’ll offer up something to combat the noise coming from California.

UAE-Team Emirates
ARU Fabio
BYSTRØM Sven Erik
COSTA Rui
HENAO Sergio
KRISTOFF Alexander
LAENGEN Vegard Stake
MARTIN Dan
PHILIPSEN Jasper

Fabio Aru is back to regale us all with his impressive pain faces, and slobber suffering. But he’s not gonna be a GC contender. The kid has been able to get out of his own way for the past few seasons, and is fragile- physically and between the ears. Rui Costa can win a stage still, but has been quiet lately. Kristoff can vie for the Green jersey. And Dan Martin rode a great race last year, and hopefully will again this year. The team has the ability to take a few stages, but the GC is way out of reach of Aru again. He shines in Italy and wilts in France. Henao has some good legs and can threaten in the mountains too, but GC is not his game. But, damn, they ride some pretty Colnago bikes!

Wanty-Groupe Gobert
DE GENDT Aimé
EIKING Odd Christian
MARTIN Guillaume
MEURISSE Xandro
PASQUALON Andrea
BACKAERT Frederik
VAN MELSEN Kevin
OFFREDO Yoann

Wanty is an emotional favorite of the wildcard teams. They’re in the race to hunt stages and get tv air time. They’re in over their heads against the bigger teams, but they always seem to punch above their weight regardless. They’ll feature in nearly every doomed break over the next 3 weeks, along with the Arkéa and Direct Energie teams. Of the three, I’d put my money on Wanty for a stage win … just because. I like their Cube bikes and their kits. So yeah, I want them to win because they’re pretty.

It’s up to Ineos to defend, and everybody else to attack the juggernaut. In recent years, Ineos (as SKY), has proven to be nearly flawless and utterly robotic in their domination. Few teams have challenged them. But maybe, just maybe, this year will be different. In theory, this year’s race is a little more open. Without any real TT miles, the climbers have a better chance- which helps the French. The winner is unlikely to be a surprise, but might not be the odds-on favorite.

I like Geraint Thomas and wouldn’t be bummed to see him repeat. I’d be happier to see Uran get the win, or even Bardet. Until we get into the mountains, it’s hard to say who has the best chance. Needless to say, I look forward to seeing which team has the best #Marketing campaigns built around them by their sponsors. That should decide the winner! (Or not.)

Here’s to the race finishing without controversy or major injuries. Rubber side down, boys!

Allez, Allez, ALLEZ! (Not the Specialized® Allez© … don’t sue me!)

*featured image by Chungkong Art

#SkinnyTimIsDead #LongLiveSkinnyTim

June 5, 2019

Since I was a kid, I’ve struggled with weight and body image. Over the years, that struggle has taken on numerous forms. When I was in school, I was painfully thin, and during my youth in Alabama I was picked on and bullied pretty heavily. It taught me to run fast and how to fight when cornered.

I wasn’t garden variety skinny; I was 6′ tall before I was 100lbs. In a state like Alabama, where football is a religion, you can guess the level of popularity I enjoyed with either the girls or the boys my age. As my dad joked, and he grew up the same kind of skinny, “boy, if you were to turn sideways and stick out your tongue, you’d look just like a zipper.”

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I was called string bean, bean pole, chicken legs, or worse. Mostly, I was happy to be ignored. I was very shy- nobody believes me when I say I still am quite shy- and so I was happiest when I flew under the radar.

Photo; Mom

It wasn’t until I discovered cycling in 1982 that I found a home for my skinny body, and a way to excel at something. Being so skinny, I was able to go up hill faster than anybody I knew- even the adults who rode bikes. I couldn’t sprint to save my life, but I could ride ALL DAY and I could out climb anybody who rode with me at the time in Alabama. It was my first taste of being good at something … anything. The bike was freedom to roam, and finally an opportunity to NOT hate my body.

My hummingbird metabolism meant I couldn’t gain weight no matter what I did. I’d ride for hours and hours, every single chance I got, and then would eat anything that wasn’t nailed down or rotting. My appetite was ravenous, and I still feel bad for the way I destroyed the groceries my mother would buy.

But I was still freakishly skinny.

Photo; Chris Wimpey

Since those days of being a skinny and awkward kid, and into “adulthood”, I’ve continued to struggle with how I feel about my body- weight, composition, body fat versus muscle mass, all of it. I have a much better handle on things now, but I’m still me … and “still batshit crazy.”

Once I discovered track cycling, I really found my home, and then suddenly in 1993 as I got good at track racing, my metabolism began to change and I finally began to add muscle to my frame. By 1996, I was up to a whopping 185lbs (!) with a 29″ waist and 30″ quads. As a dear friend still refers to them- “the freak legs.” But at the time, I was an emerging Match Sprint racer here in SoCal, and was racing against guys who were the best of the best in the US and abroad. Guys who went on to World and Olympic medals. And I was still “too skinny” to be a proper sprinter, as the other top guys were well over 200lbs. So I was still ashamed of my body.

After injuries ended my pursuit of an elite career, I kept gaining weight. It really didn’t seem to matter how many miles I put in, I kept gaining weight … and now I began to feel too fat. Mind you, I didn’t do anything with my diet to fix the problem I felt I had. I still ate like I had the skinny metabolism, if not the skinny body. I was neurotic, but also lazy!

Photo; Nils Nilsen

In time, more than one period, I got up to an uncomfortable-to-me 225+lbs. I felt horrible. I was powerful. I was fast enough in sprints. I was winning races. But I felt disgusted with myself. I was pudgy, for me, and hated to see the roundness of my face. I felt fat. Regular old fat.

Photo; Steve Driscoll

But then, after the realization that my drinking had gotten out of control, I gave up alcohol completely. In sobriety, in only a few months, I dropped below 200lbs again. I got a little neurotic about riding and my weight again, and found myself at 165lbs … which was a little too light for me. But man, I was climbing again! That said, I saw that I was too skinny and let some weight back on. By January of 2016, I was in the best shape I’d been in for at least 20yrs. Not quite as good as those 1996 legs, but damn close.

And then I had a huge crash, thanks to the driver of a large pickup truck, while descending a local hill. Multiple bone fractures and a wrist surgery put weight back on me again, and killed that fitness I was building for Masters Track Worlds. So my dream of racing Worlds in Los Angeles died. But I didn’t.

And now, after getting reasonably fit and not feeling overly grossed out about my bodyweight and composition, I find myself recovering from the fateful fall down my father’s basement stairs on March 23rd. After again breaking a handful of bones, I am back on the bike and trying to lose weight and regain fitness over fatness.

And that’s where the neurotic brain comes back into play. I’m currently bouncing back and forth between upper 180’s and mid 190’s. Which, for a 49yr old dude with a list of injuries longer than a RiteAid receipt, isn’t bad.

But my lifelong athlete and cyclist brain keeps whispering, “you need to be lighter.”

The funny thing is, I’d be happy at 225lbs, if I was also less than 10% body fat too … but that’s not happening any time soon … because I’m practical enough to know that I’m too lazy to change my eating habits (I love food), or do the extra miles or exercises to get “skinny” again.

We humans, and especially us cyclists, are funny beings. I recognize that I’m not overweight. I know I’m not fat. But my brain says different.

All of this rambling is to say that I understand the battles so many people go through with body image issues, of all types and varieties. I know what it’s like to want to be “other”, different from what you are. I know what it’s like to be targeted for what you are, at least at a very superficial level.

Be kind to yourself. Love you for you. Be who you are and shine. I hate lots of things about myself, and have since I was a child. I’m slowly, very slowly, learning to like a few things too. I’m almost 50 and just getting to that point. But it can be done. I promise you, it can.

Tim

It Only Hurts When I Smile

May 30, 2019

I’ve now ridden six times since May 24th, with one day off after the second ride, so that means I’ve been riding for seven days with one rest day. That almost sounds like a regular week of training! Were it not for the fact that the rides are all short and slow, with zero focus or intensity other than simply pedaling my bike, it really would be like a regular week of training.

At the moment, the only thing I’m trying to do is simply get things moving again, and begin to rebuild something that resembles enough fitness to hopefully return to do a few races at the track this year. Obviously, after just six rides in one week, I’m nowhere near ready to pin a number on and roll up to a start line … but, damn, that itch is already returning.

The right elbow is still far from straightening fully, but I’m heading back for more physical therapy soon to help with that- hopefully. The right wrist, the one that had a plate and five screws put in it after the 2016 crash, has been achy and sore, but does not appear to have new injuries … I think. Under the category of #cyclistproblems, one of the biggest issues I’m currently dealing with is noodle arms and fatigued triceps. After the two full months off the bike, with as little use of arms as possible, they both wear out within about 20 miles. The right arm is weak from being in the cast and immobile, while the left arm burns up quickly from compensating for the deficiency in the right. The right arm is effectively shorter than the left now, so my right shoulder tends to drop, which leads to additional overcompensations and imbalances. Thankfully, my legs don’t actually feel all that bad! Maybe there’s something to be said for the countless base miles and muscle memory of 37yrs of competitive cycling?

Second ride, and first #TimJacksonOverheadSelfie®.

Overall, the right arm is dysfunctionally functional, and I keep getting on my bike. I tried the fixie on my third ride back on the bike … and it wasn’t my smartest idea. But nobody has accused me of being terribly smart. Ever. Taking my patented #TimJacksonOverheadSelfie® is a bit awkward now, as I’m having to learn how to be consistent with my left arm. Ive also noticed an unwelcome feeling of greater vulnerability on the bike- a bit more anxiously watching each and every driver and car, looking for signs of their intentions or distractions, desperately hoping not to have to take extra evasive actions … or worse. If my elbow and wrist weren’t in their current condition, I’d simply head for the dirt/gravel to rebuild fitness- but it’s currently not physically an option.

But … BUT … each time I get on my bike, I remember that I’m grateful to be alive and not more badly broken. “It coulda been worse.” It really coulda. It hurts. I’m really impatient. I want to get back to where I was on March 23rd … today. I’m unhappy about this massive setback, and fear for the overall recovery of range of motion. But, again, it coulda been worse- and I’m on my bike trying to make it less bad. I love to ride my bike. I yearn to get back to racing. I wanna be “the fast old guy” again. It’s gonna take more time than I want it to, and I have to force myself to go slow(er).

Eddy Merckx is famously credited for saying that, “cycling is 20% physical and 80% mental.” Lord knows I’m plenty mental, so I hope it pays off.

Tim

(still) Not Dead (yet)

May 23, 2019
David Brinton via VeloNews 2008

Late evening, on March 23rd, my first night back in Alabama to visit my dad and stepmother with my daughters, I stepped literally into the dark void and fell down a flight of stairs into the basement of my father’s home. I’d only ever been to my father’s home twice before, with the last time being nearly 17yrs prior, so I mistook the door to the basement as the door to the room my daughters were sleeping in … which was an unpleasant mistake to make.

That trip down the stairs gave me a broken right elbow (radius) and six non-displaced rib fractures. Needless to say, the rest of the visit did not go as planned … and was a lot more painful. My daughters and I still managed to enjoy the time there, but the dynamics were clearly very different and we didn’t get to go visit the small town I grew up in, 6hrs south of where we were staying … it was decided that the drive would be far too painful for me to make. That said, the time that we spent at my father’s home was a quieter and more casual visit, allowing us to simply spend time talking and slowing down from our usual lives.

The immediate downside, is the obvious injury recovery … something I am no stranger to; 2016 crash involving large pickup truck and surgery to repair broken wrist, along with three pelvic fractures, 2015 hit by car and was gifted a posterior separation of left shoulder, and of course the 2008 biggie that came far too close to killing me. Those are just the most recent ones, sadly.

Similar to the 2008 and 2016 crashes, I’m left recovering and rebuilding as the cycling season speeds along without me. Racing at the velodrome is underway, and even with our wetter than normal weather, I’m itching to get back on the bike … again. Luckily, a few days ago, I was able to get on my road bike and pedal up and down the street without too much difficulty- aside from being way out of shape. The elbow on right arm is still the issue, and I am still unable to straighten my arm, but thankfully the current range of motion feels adequate to allow me to pedal slowly and rebuild.

I’m fond of the expression “broken not buried“, and it has applied to me in many ways over the years- some physical, and some very deeply and personally emotional ways. Though I’m inching along with recovery again, the process is painful and tedious … and if I’m honest, it has gotten harder as I’ve gotten older … both physically and emotionally. But alas, I’m still here somehow.

In recent years, due to work, life, children, and massive personal upheavals, my ability and desire to return to “blogging” and long form writing has taken a huge hit. What was once incredibly easy and vital, has become harder and harder to maintain- or even begin. But, like injury recovery or my commitment to sobriety, I find myself often returning to make another effort. And here I am now, once more trying to break through the mental blockage and noise in my head to tap on the keys enough to create a few coherent sentences that hopefully don’t read entirely like gibberish.

As much as my bike means to me, words mean even more- especially as I’ve gotten older. I still have dreams of race victories, but I still also have a tiny space in my soul dedicated to the dream that one day a poem of mine will grace the pages of The New Yorker. The race win is way more likely to happen long before I even get the courage to submit a poem to The New Yorker … but that tiny little dream, as big and absurd as it is, is still given the space to breathe inside me.

Hopefully, unlike all the other proclamations over the years that “I’m resurrecting my blog”, I’ll actually make some headway into semi-resurrecting the focus to let some of the words out of my head more frequently. There’s too many of them in there, along with the voices, so it’s time I put some of them to work.

… my apologies in advance …

Tim

#SugarKits Special Edition

March 14, 2018

Wow, things have been quiet around here for a pretty damned long time. Life, as they say, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. And, luckily, I have great clients who happen to keep me busy enough that I’ve become really, really bad at the whole blogging thing … or updating my business website … and lots of other non-work-related things.

But life happens. And it happens fast. Sometimes, not at all in the ways we would like it to. And, furthermore, in ways we would never want to experience.

Back on January 3rd, my buddy Stevil of All Hail The Black Market fame/infamy and I had a meaningful conversation that centered around the topic of suicide. He’d just lost a friend to suicide, and he and I shared a virtual hug between each other. From that brief exchange sprouted something that is a humble gesture to make sure that nobody ever succumbs to the darkness and sadness that is depression or anxiety, or any other emotional/ mental boogeyman in their hearts or minds. Depression is a subtle foe, and one that I have personally dealt with since my early teens. I’ve even struggled with suicidal ideation, and thoughts that I really hope nobody else has … but I know that many do. And many give in to those voices that say “there’s no other way to make it stop.” Believe me, I know it way too well.

Some have noticed and noted, or reached out, that I’ve personally been a bit quiet until very recently. I won’t get into too many details, in order to protect the privacy of those involved, but depression and its dark voices came calling a little too close to home, and I don’t know that things will ever be quite the same.

In the aftermath, I wanted to turn the experience into something potentially positive. Something that could ease the pain, and give it a different ending and greater purpose.

It’s a tiny thing, really, but it’s the only thing I could think of right away.

I’m re-releasing the most recent Castellicustom kit preorder, and have changed the usual “sugar” themed hashtag to the #NonSuicidePact that Stevil and I came up with back in January. All proceeds from the sale of the clothing with be donated to the AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). The AFSP “raises awareness, funds scientific research and provides resources and aid to those affected by suicide.” AFSP is the largest suicide prevention organization in the US, so its work is felt nationally and across a broad spectrum of people. I know many folks have special favorite orgs that are also very worthy, but my hope is to be able to provide the AFSP with some small token of support (though a large one would be great too). With that in mind, ALL profits from the sale of these kits and accessories will be given directly to AFSP.

The last time around with these designs, we didn’t meet the minimum quantities to be able to get the order into production, and refunds had to be issued. I deeply regret that I did such a poor job of communicating that as the deadlines kept rolling by. It is, however, my sincere hope that we can meet the very generously low minimums Castelli is giving us to get this order into production and perhaps send AFSP a check for a few bucks. Maybe it really is only a couple bucks- if so, I’ll add a few more of my own- but at least the kits will be out in the wild with the hashtag providing a sincere reminder that nobody has to be truly alone in the darkness, and that suicide genuinely is “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

In order to help make this more affordable, I’ve reduced the prices of the items offered to about 10% below MSRP across the board on all items. Because as much as I want to send AFSP a little money, I know lots of folks who might be interested in buying these kits are not made of money … I’m certainly not. So when you visit the Servizio Corse store for the pre-order, you’ll see pricing that reflects the discount already. Also of note, international shipping will once again be provided (flat rate of $30), so folks outside of the US will be able to ride in style (even if AFSP isn’t working directly in other countries).

The little image gallery above only shows a few of the items offered, but several more items will be offered;

  • Podio Jersey- men/women- $80 (both blue and hi-viz yellow designs)
  • Team Bibshort- men/women with Kiss Pad- $100 (both blue and hi-viz yellow designs)
  • LS Speedsuit- $200 (hi-viz yellow)
  • Team Mesh Sleeveless Baselayer- $45
  • Head Thingy” (neck gaiter)- $25
  • Aero Sock- $30
  • Thermo Arm Warmer- $35
  • Thermo Knee Warmer- $37.50
  • Thermo Leg Warmer- $40

So, as you can see … there’s a little something for everybody. And the two color options are intended to mix-and-match well, in case you already have one of the blue kits from last year.

And by all means, please, please, PLEASE feel free to share this with all your cycling friends. Maybe the colors or design don’t work for you (that’s cool, man), but maybe you know somebody else who might like the color, design, or just the cause.

The order window is only 15 days- this will provide an estimated ship date of May 14th. 

Let’s make this happen; let’s put a few bucks into the hands of the AFSP, and hope in the heart of darkness that sits like a ton of lead on somebody you, I, all of us love. The things that lead to suicide or attempted suicide are widely varied, but one thing remains universal- it’s never the right answer, and it always leaves behind people wondering what they could’ve done to stop it from happening. Let’s really keep the #NonSuicidePact alive, as well as each other.

Tim
aka Sugar

The FINAL PUSH! #sugarkits

September 26, 2017

The final push is on to meet the minimums and close the order for the #sugarhigh re-order and hi-viz second color option. I don’t like to beg, but I’m not afraid to … so #pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease place an order (or finalize your order) on the Castelli custom website. You and I both know you want to look beautiful this fall/winter in the most amazing kit of the year! Everybody loves puppies, kitties, rainbows, and unicorns … but they don’t make you eleventeen percent faster, or able to corner telepathically, or climb like your ass is on fire, or sprint like 7 Peter Sagans shot out of a cannon! Neither will my #sugarkits, but you’ll LOOK amazing riding however you like to ride.

I’m not a particularly smart man, or even very attractive, but I’m pretty sure I look smarter and more less-ugly when I saddle up wearing one of the Castelli-made #sugarkits designs. So don’t be a Debbie Downer, a Negative Nancy, or a Gassy Gustavo. Head over to the Team Store and buy some really radical stretchy clothing and help me, help you, help yourself to a whole new world of amazeballs-ness.

Sugar aka Tim