Friday, January 10, 2014

Never Eat Sour Watermelon

Ride-starved from not being on my bike for a week, I blatantly disregarded the Law of 45/15 and hit the levee Thursday morning in spite of the 41° reported by KMSY. With the normal levee access closed for construction, we huddled on the shoulder of River Road waiting for everyone to arrive so we could proceed up River Road en masse and minimize the probability of someone getting squashed in the darkened road. In attendance were Brian B, Big Rich, Triceps Dave, Scott S, Randy L, and Danielle L. When we got on the levee we were joined by a guy with aerobars I don't know, or at least didn't recognize in the dark. As we approached the playground, just mounting his bike at his car and whistling to alert us of what was in store, was HL. I can't explain why a group sprint didn't spontaneously commence at the whistle, but we softed it until HL climbed the levee.

Shortly after we started, shortly after HL's first turn on the front, shortly after Danielle and the guy with aerobars got dropped, I had settled on a theme for this blog post. It was going to be a humorous piece about a recipe for the perfect winter training regimen which included intervals. Take six guys willing to rotate steadily at 23 - 24 mph and lightly mix until a smooth paceline is achieved, then add an extra large measure of HL surging to 27.5 and voila -- you have a 20-second-on/120-second-off interval workout.

But as I was contemplating lists of pithy adjectives which might accurately describe HL's dead-of-winter riding style (which, it turns out, would be equally accurate during racing season), a series of events began to unfold which demanded that I abandon the fertile subject of HL and focus on the troublesome, even perturbing, failing on the part of certain cyclists to exhibit even the most rudimentary understanding of the physical world in which they have somehow managed to survive for many years, decades.

Attempting to enlighten these Certain Cyclists (CC) is important since a matter quite dear to me is implicated by their behavior: my personal safety. In order to do them any good it is apparent the most elementary of principles needs to be covered. I fear, however, my efforts may be in vain since most of what will be discussed herein,  about which these CC show an utter lack of comprehension, is universally included in the various curricula of school systems across the country (even in Louisiana) at the earliest levels, and, almost without exception, are matters of common frigging sense.

Not actual picture of wind
The glorious combination of gases which makes up the Earth's atmosphere and allows for our existence and for that matter all fauna and flora on the planet, extant and extinct, is colorless and cannot be seen. It is called air. At a basic level, which I think it advisable to maintain here, variations in temperature, atmospheric pressure, and the Coriolis force cause the air to move at various speeds and directions. We call this movement wind. Stay with me, now. Wind does not look like the figure at right. It, like the stillest of air, cannot be seen. Nevertheless, it is perceivable in many, many ways. Perhaps most germane to our discussion here, we can observe the wind's effect on objects around us. Moreover, its effect on us can be sensed. We can feel the wind. CC, will you kindly read this paragraph several times and try to absorb and incorporate it principles. I can recommend further reading on any of the concepts mentioned, if necessary. Also please pay particular attention to the notion that wind has perceptible direction, as this is important and understanding this point is essential to grasping what follows.

By convention, direction is divided into four cardinal points: north, east, south and west. These terms are often represented graphically on what is called a compass rose with north being at the top. The other directions proceed, clockwise from there. . . Wait -- a familiarity with a clock and the movement of the hands around its face is assumed. Again, further reading can be recommended. Clockwise from north is east, south and west. A popular mnemonic useful to little children, and might also assist CC, in remembering this is Never Eat Sour Watermelon. Okay, so picture watermelon, sour, sour watermelon. Next, we'll discuss several of the concepts we've learned today and how they are important to cycling. So it may be wise for CC to review this paragraph now. Also, I have provided below a written quiz(1) on direction to aid you in your study. Please do your best to answer the questions and mail the completed quiz to Big Rich for grading. Don't worry, the results will not be published.

Here is a graphic which I would ask CC to peruse carefully (take as much time as is necessary):

Click on image for larger view
Although Ormond (the turnaround) is generally west of New Orleans (where we start), so that the route of the levee ride is generally west on the outbound leg and generally east on the inward leg, the route actually changes directions thousands upon thousands of times. Most of the changes are imperceptible and inconsequential, but as is evident from the graphic above, significant directional alterations are made throughout the ride. The red arrows represent just ten of the many significant course changes.

Okay. These next couple of concepts are somewhat abstract, but if CC try their best, I'm sure they can eventually get these pesky notions underhand. While our direction changes often during the two hours we are on the levee, the direction of the wind changes very little, if at all.  During Thursday's ride, the wind varied no more than 10 degrees. It was always between 70 and 80 degrees. That is between ENE and E, but for simplicity's sake, let's just call it east.

Listen up, CC. This is important to grasp. Please carefully examine the above map. Can you see that during the leg of the ride marked with the arrow labeled 2, or in other words, when traveling NNW, an east wind, just like Thursday morning's wind, would make it advisable for the rider on front to move all the way over to the right side of the path to allow those following to echelon on his leeward side? Can you also see that if you found yourself on the front again during leg number 4 of the ride (heading SSW) it would then behoove you to pull as far to the left as possible, allowing some protection for your fellow riders?

As a concrete example, near the end of Thursady's ride, on leg number 10, heading NE, a CC of considerable and admirable strength took a long, fast pull. However, one would assume that such cyclist, or any cyclist of generous spirit, who desired to work in concert with his fellow riders (keep in mind that the Tuesday/Thursday levee ride, despite HL's riding style, isn't a race), would ride as far as possible to the right. However, this CC was riding on the left side, causing everyone following to ride in the left gutter and precariously choose between a draft and the precipitous and sometimes hazardous drop-off into the grass/dirt/whatever.

More disturbing were other occurrences involving another CC, who repeatedly pulled on the windward side of the path, as is appropriate, but got off the front by blithely gliding leeward across the path and across the near-crossed wheel a foot or so behind. This is not aerospace engineering or neurosurgery.  Another graphic may help.

 Isn't it apparent that the pulling rider should get off the front by staying windward and dropping back instead of moving leeward into echeloned riders? CC, green checkmark: good. Red X: bad. That is green checkmark means happytime, and red X is a no-no. Red X bad. Very bad.

This ridiculous, recurrent habit by someone who has been riding for better than a decade is inexplicable and much more disconcerting than not offering fellow riders the best draft. It is dangerous. So learn, dammit. After more than ten years of riding in groups, you should know better. Please learn, and never eat sour watermelon.

l to r: Rolan, Big Rich, Randy, and Certain Cyclists

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[Note: This blog isn't intended to disparage or offend anyone. If anything contained herein is believed to be inaccurate or offensive, please leave a comment. Any such comment may change nothing, but will be stark evidence of your right to free expression of thought and opinion, much as this blog evidences mine. Thanks for visiting.]


  1. Some may consider you a blow hard-I don't

  2. Yea, wtf that was happening when I lived there. Hilarious stuff...