UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #1:
THE RED LIGHT FOOT BUTTON.
Do I even need to explain this? If you’ve even gone on a half dozen road rides in your life you know what this means. You pull up to a red light…you stay clipped in and pause…surely the light’s gonna turn…you track stand…any second now…wait for it…waaaaaait for it…nothing…so you relent, unclip, and as soon as your foot touches the ground, blink! It turns green. Son of a…! Is there a device buried in the pavement that reacts to your cleat? A magnetic trigger? Unless we dig up the street with a backhoe, we’ll never know.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #2:
FLATS COME IN THREES
You can go six months without a hitch and then bam. And bam. And bam, bam, bam. All in a few days. Seems like every time you roll out of your driveway is going to end with you bent over on the side of a treeless road or trail, dripping with sweat, wrestling with a flattened tire. And at $5 a pop you’re looking at an expensive week.
But things settle in and get back to normal. No flats for a long time. Long enough to lull you into cocky complacency until…
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #3:HEADWIND BOTH WAYS.
I’m an optimist. Let’s just get that straight right now. When I head out on a windy day I deal with the headwinds knowing that I’ll reap the benefits after the turnaround with that nice, robust tailwind, right?
Then there are days that challenge my sunny disposition.
As soon as you change directions, the wind decides to do the same. Yep, few things more lame than pedaling downhill.
How the hell does this happen? How is this even possible? How is it that some winds have sentience? How is it that some winds are not only able to track my ride like a thinking being, but do it like a truly evil thinking being?
Call them “Headwind Both Ways Days,” call them “M.C. Escher Rides (uphill both ways),” call them what you will, but I call them deeply unfair.
Perhaps someday one of us will experience the opposite. The ride that only exists in myth. The “Tailwind Both Ways” ride. One can dream.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #4:
COST + $500 RULE.
So, been riding long enough that you’re gonna build up your own bike, eh? Good for you! Got it all figured out, right? Frame costs this much, add in wheels, bars, drivetrain, stem, headset…fun stuff isn’t it? Add it all up plus labor and there it is…right?
Wrong. Oh my, so wrong.
Now tack on $500. Ta da! There you go! That’s your total cost.
Why? How do we know? We just do. And before you start calling us names, know that we’re not being smug, we’re just trying to help you.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #5: CYCLISTS FIND THINGS
You want to know what we’re talking about when we explain how cyclists travelthrough the world instead of just passing it by (like you do in a car)? This is it. When you’re on a bike you find stuff.
Your head is down.
You’re soaking up the world around you.
You feel the wind.
You…hey, is that an allen wrench set in the gutter? Sweet!
Geography dictates what you find, too. Here in the Southwest we find a lot of tools (all the contractor and gardener trucks bouncing around, spilling tools). In cities like London and NYC you find money. Especially on Saturday and Sunday mornings (from the previous night’s drunken cab passengers fumbling for cash).
In an earlier, more impoverished stage of my life I lived near a “gentleman’s” club and early morning rides meant angry notes from the evening before in the gutter – presumably left on the windshields of cheating boyfriends and such. Such colorful prose. Wish I’d gathered them.
Back to the present day. We find stuff all the time. And you will eventually be able to find some of these items for re-sale in our store once we get it set up. An odd assortment of things. Put it this way, if one of you out there is looking to open a TGI Friday’s, you could buy the whole lot and cover the walls with this crap.
If selling this stuff seems strange, well…it is. But check this out - a portion of the sale price will be donated to charity – to partially offset the karma and try to turn someone’s loss into someone else’s gain. Kinda.
(illustration courtesy, of course, of Rhys. He likes drawing magpies because they find things. Right Rhys?)
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #6: YOU’RE NEVER DONE BUYING BIKES.
The ideal number of bikes is however many you have right now + 1.
“I don’t think I’ll ever want another bike.”
“This is it…a custom bike…it’s the last bike I’ll ever need.”
Been there, brother.
“Why do I need another bike? I’m happy with the ones I have.”
Okay, just stop lying to yourself. Stop denying the fact that if I were to march into your house, get on your computer and go to your internet history, besides “very personal media” I’d find mostly bike sites.
If you’re reading this right now, you’ve got the hots for cycling. And that means there’s always another bike out there you want. There, doesn’t it feel good to come clean?
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #7: LARGE OBJECT LASER LOCK
You’re out there on the trail or even on the road.
It’s wide open. Nothing in front of you.
Well actually, there’s a single object. Could be a rock on a fire road. Could be a can or bottle out there on the street.
Whatever it is, because you looked at it, your front wheel is pulled toward it like a magnet.
I’ve had other cyclists tell me that, especially on the trail, you should keep your eyes on the open spaces. The clear path. Then your wheel will go there.
They’re right. It works. For about five minutes. Then the concentration required for this makes my brain hurt. Evolution has trained our brains to look for hazards in our way. However, evolution has yet to train us to then avoid it.
Until then, I’ll keep nailing every other rock or can or whatever out there on the otherwise wide open road.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #8: THE CROPDUSTER
You’re approaching the base of a nice, steep climb.
Just as the road pitches up and you hit the steep stuff and need all the oxygen you can get, a heavy, loud, stinky truck rumbles, belches and farts past you, filling up your entire path with thick diesel exhaust.
You’ve just been cropdusted.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #9: “PASSING ANOTHER CYCLIST” BREATHING.
Of all the egregious displays of the cyclist’s fragile ego (and let’s be honest, there are plenty) this one is up there. Here’s what we’re talking about:
You’re climbing. One of those hills that’s so intimidating it has a name…like “widowmaker” or “quad buster” or “the three bitches” (they always have names like these). You’re majorly sucking wind, using every single milliliter of your lung capacity.
But then…you spot something up ahead. Oh, is that another cyclist up there? It is.
Time to reel ‘em in.
But you couldn’t possibly let him or her know that you’re out of breath (good God, especially if it’s a her). So as you near the other cyclist you let off the gas juuuust a tad and do whatever it takes to catch your breath. Massive gulps of air. Mop the sweat off your brow. Gotta make this hill seem effortless. The goal is to make it appear as if this hill only requires about ¼ of your lung capacity. You take one last, big gulp of air, hold your breath, put on your best “I just sidled up to you at a cocktail party” voice and…
“Hello there…on your left…nice frame…so, where you riding today?…me? Today’s a recovery day so just an easy 40 or so…well, have a good one…”
And as soon as they’re comfortably out of sight you spend 4 miles gasping for air until…is that someone up ahead?
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #10: THE EXTRA, ECCENTRIC, SELDOM-RIDDEN PROJECT BIKE.
If cycling becomes a part of your life, you will eventually (or constantly) have that one bike in the garage that’s the oddball. At best it’s the pub bike. Or the doughnut runner. But hey, it’s a bike, so it’s part of the solution, right? Except for the fact that it only gets out and stretches its legs a few times a year.
Usually built out of some spare parts, it’s clumsily justified to your significant other as a matter of practicality: You’re just making good use of otherwise unused parts. Or maybe it’s your “rain bike.”
Sure. Righty-o, Mr. Hardcore. Like you’re gonna get out there and brave a downpour on your terrible fixie conversion, your singlespeed whatever-the-hell-that-thing-is, your hideous drop-bar Alex Moulton-framed randonneur or your vintage scorcher-type abomination.
Face it – it’s a creative expression and nothing more. You put these parts together because you can. You read a bike maintenance book and became a cycling Dr. Moreau. Sometimes with less of a conscience.
Mine? It’s my old racing frame – a Bianchi Mega Pro XL - converted to singlespeed with priest bars and flat pedals for use with street shoes.
It weighs about eleven pounds and is insanely fun to ride with the kids to school in the morning but it’s a freak. And with every turn of the pedals, I imagine Marco Pantani turning over in his tiny, tiny grave.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #11: MOUNTAIN BIKING MAKES BEER TASTE BETTER.
At 18 Miles Per Hour, we ain’t no scientists. We cannot prove whether it’s the trail vibrations and dust that make the nerve endings in our tastebuds more receptive to suds. We just know what we know. And we know that riding and sweating on dirt makes beer taste deliciously great. Yes, sometimes even if that ride ends at 10:00am.
Okay, while we’re getting all confessional here, we’ll just say it: We’re human and sometimes we wonder if we’d be better off, healthier and faster if we cut out alcohol altogether. But a beer after a day of riding is so pleasurable that sobriety, for now, just doesn’t stand a chance. And listen, we don’t overdo it and we’re responsible. But 18 miles per hour is just sayin’.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #12: ROAD CYCLING MAKES WINE TASTE BETTER
This is all about brainwashing. It’s all those images from the Tour and Giro. It’s a long marriage of the European history of road racing - especially through Italy and France - and sipping wine. Normally we’re all about fighting this kind of brainwashing (see Hallmark+Valentine’s Day) but in this case, it results in drinking wine, so we’re willing to let it slide.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #13: MYSTERIOUS, OVERNIGHT FLATS.
It’s the night before a good ride. Bottles are filled. Clothes are ready. Bike is looked over. Everything checks out.
Then you go out in the morning and…G&%$ D#@! Flat tire! No thorns, no pinch flats, no faulty valve stems.
By the artwork above, clearly Rhys imagines a committee of rodents, birds and other wildlife that get their jollies by gnawing through our tires at 2am – as if they know we’ve got a big ride the next day.
Me? I think that’s crazy. Wildlife isn’t that clever or smart. And even if they were they’re too adorable to do something so vengeful. Nope. The only sane explanation is some kind of elf or gnome. As if those little bastards don’t have anything better to do. Don’t you have cookies to bake in a tree somewhere? Toys to make? Shoes to cobble?
Then again maybe, just maybe, it could just be the corroded, 10-for-$10 tubes I got on sale at Nashbar. Could it be my cheapness has caught up with me? Effed by my frugality?
Nope. Gnomes. Gotta be gnomes.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #14:
THERE ARE 2 KINDS OF CYCLISTS.
ONES WHO SAY “HELLO” AND ONES WHO DON’T.
Guess it’s pretty obvious which side of this issue we fall on, yeah?
Mountain bikers, you may be excused. Overall you seem to have the kindness thing figured out. Roadies…pull up a chair. This one’s for you.
Here’s the scenario: You’re out on a ride and see a cyclist or few coming toward you. Being a steward of the sport, you greet them as they pass. Sometimes it’s a full on “Hello!” Sometimes it’s a wave. Sometimes it’s just eye-contact and the little lifting of the hand off the bars thing.
Sometimes you get a nice greeting or a wave back. Nice. That small but bonding gesture. Then there are the ones who ice you.
Really? And I’m not talking about the times where they may not have heard you. I’m talking about eye-contact, multiple greetings and…nothing. Sometimes even a scowly-face.
Working on the middle-east crisis, handling the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan, fighting a raging forest fire, fixing a problem at the international space station - these are the kinds of situations where dead-seriousness and scowly faces are completely cool. Understandable. But riding a bicycle on a Sunday afternoon in perfect, Southern Californian weather? Nope.
Why should this bother us? Are we that needy? No. And honestly, most times we just let it roll off our backs. But overall, it’s about manners. When you think about it, technically, people don’t have to say please or thank you. They don’t have to smile at one another. They don’t have to respect one another’s personal space and well-being. But it’s what makes life tolerable. It’s called civility and it’s really, really simple.
Roadies who actively race have the worst track record when it comes to this kind of thing. There’s a certain club on the west side of Los Angeles that has cultivated a culture of acting superior to all others on the road.
Lighten up, fellas.
I love and respect our sport too. Between us, we’ve been doing it at a pretty high level for over 40 years. But we do it because it’s fun. Period. And yes, we race, too. Racing and kindness are not mutually exclusive.
And let’s break it down – we’re both out there putting our next-to-nothing bodies into the mix against multi-ton steel cars on tight roads. Oh, and we’re in form-fitting lycra.
In the great food chain out there on the roads we’re pretty down there. Seems like we need some solidarity.
So as you pass this little online article, let me be the first to wave and say “Hello.”
Hope you wave back.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #15: OBSTRUCTION SYNCHRONICITY.
Carl Jung must’ve been a roadie. There’s no other way to explain how he so adequately detailed and summarized the theory of synchronicity.
Here’s how it always goes down:
You’re riding along, the road to yourself. Up ahead you see flotsam in the bike lane. Hazardous flotsam like shattered glass, nails and destroyed pavement. You have no choice but to swerve into the roadway to avoid it.
But at the exact moment you reach said pile of tire-shredding material, here comes a flood of cars that whizz by you, right on your elbow.
Planets align leaving you with nowhere to go.
In the miles leading up to this obstruction you had the road to yourself. And once you pass this obstruction, the road will again be wide open.
But at that exact moment, all comes together.
Jung calls it Synchronicity.
I call it a maddeningly frustrating, perfect storm of horseshit.
I like my description better.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #16: NEW BIKE WEATHER
Buy a new bike and the Gods sense it. They immediately send in three weeks of storms. Or record-breaking, pavement-melting heat.
And spare me the “but in (insert part of the country here) we don’t let weather affect us, we’re hardcore. We ride anyway.”
Not on a new bike that you’ve been lusting after for years you don’t.
No way you’re subjecting that custom steel or carbon-fibery thing to foul weather.
So all you can do is go into the garage at night and stare at her. Maybe polish her, check the tires and fill the water bottles. Lay out the bike clothes for that first, big ride that’ll happen someday…someday.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #17: THE BROWN MILE
This is the first mile or so of any major trailhead.
See, mountain bikers aren’t the only ones who are anxious to hit the trail after a long ride in the car – hikers’ dogs are, too. And what’s the first thing they do after being cooped up for so long? They bound up the trail a few dozen yards, squat and create pungent landmines for us to slalom as we warm up our legs.
Rhys couldn’t get himself to draw several steaming piles of dog stink so he drew another, similarly annoying item: The brown bag.
This is when the dog’s owner appears to be doing everyone a favor by bagging their dog’s waste. But instead of carrying it out, they leave it in the bag, on the trail.
Thanks for nothing.
Instead of flicking the stool into the bushes for it to biodegrade or work its way back into the circle of life, they leave Mother Nature with a bunch of plastic to deal with as well. Or are they hoping someone else will tote their dog’s stool out for them? Does the Parks Department have a crap valet service?
At any rate, on a hot summer morning I find dodging these fragrant piles an awfully uninspiring way to start a ride.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #18: BIKE CATALOGUES ARE THE BEST BATHROOM READING
Performance, Nashbar, Colorado Cyclist, etcetera. Even the catalogues from bike manufacturers that you grab from the bike store.
Even if you’ve looked at the same catalogue a hundred times.
And every one has the same stuff in it – the same old, discount helmets – the same Tribal ® jerseys of questionable taste – but it doesn’t matter. It’s still the most relaxing toilet read.
Am I ever going to get that whole set of Park Tools? How about the rock band-themed jersey? Or those arm warmers that look like you have sleeve tats? Not a chance. But looking at that bike shop flotsam somehow makes you feel like you’re and active part of the cycling world, even when you’re just in there, flying your daily sortie over Porcelonia.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #19: IT TAKES 9MPH TO OUT-RUN A MUSCA DOMESTICA.
We at 18milesperhour have an intuition about the correlation between speed and experiences - hence the name. Our intuition about 18mph, being a comfortable speed for riding and experiencing life and landscapes seems to resonate with riders, and appears to be backed up by science.
So here’s another.
It takes 9 mph to out run a fly. Any less, and the pesky like creatures appear to slipstream, hover, land and generally do all that fussing and buzzing that flies do. They apparently see us, in all our sweaty glory, as large, two-wheeled, moving piles of dog waste.
If you pause at the top of climb to admire the view, there they are. Stop to change a flat, and there’s a hat load of them. It’s as if you’re loitering in a fly hatchery. But the moment you set off again, gain a bit of momentum, and hit the magic 9 mph, that’s it, they’re blown away, unable to keep up with your blistering turn of speed. Try it some time.
So we did a bit of scientific research, and yes it appears that the average speed of a common fly is just shy of 5mph. So a top-flight, lycra-clad fly - pardon the image - may peak out at 7.5 mph.
Just for the record, the drawing above shows the average speeds for some more of our flying friends. Oh, and you read that right at the bottom there. A Horsefly is positively supersonic - with an average speed of 90.1mph! Don’t believe us? Look it up.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #20: SONG STUCK IN YOUR HEAD.
Music has been called the speech of angels.
Then there are the times when a song like “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride” gets inexplicably stuck on repeat in our skulls over the course of a 3+ hour ride.
Then, music is the flatulence of Satan.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #21: THE MID-RIDE CROSSROADS.
You’re on a ride – the training ride you have committed to, or written down in your training plan. But it’s one of those less-than-motivated days. Then you approach a crossroads.
Left takes you to right to the comforts of home, right turn takes you further on your ride. It’s a commitment. Hmmm? Go home and be a good husband? Be a good father? Kick back with a glass of wine and some Jeno’s® Pizza Rolls? Or push on like a hard cyclist? Shit. Go riding, Right it is. Off you go.
Next junction. Another opportunity to bail out. If you turn left here, you could be home in 30 minutes. NO, don’t be a slacker. Ok. Right it is.
Top of the climb. Nice, that’s good, maybe you’ll just turn around and spin back home from here. If you push on, it means committing to another 30 additional minutes.
You get the picture. Another crossroads, another internal battle. The reality is, some days you just aren’t feeling it, you cut the ride short, turn for home and it’s for the best. Other days you push on. And when you return, you’re a better person for it…or at least easier to live with. It’s all about decisions, commitment and keeping the rich loveliness of life in balance.
We’re all human and just a little bit lazy. But we do love to ride. And the truth is, I think that those T-junctions and crossroads are more than just moments of decision regarding the ride at hand. They are little occasions for us to take stock regarding why we ride. Do we ride too much? Why do we do it anyway?
And then we decide. Turn left or right.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #22: CHECKING OUT YOUR REFLECTION IN SHOP WINDOWS.
“Let a man find himself, in distinction from others, on top of two wheels with a chain - at least in a poor country like Russia - and his vanity begins to swell out like his tires. In America it takes an automobile to produce this effect.”
- - Leon Trotsky
Correction, Leon. It also takes a bike that costs as much as an automobile, plus a row of shop windows, to produce this effect.
You can’t resist it. You can’t roll by a line of shops with all that reflective glass without at least glancing over and getting a glimpse of how you’re looking on the bike.
First you do that little look-around to see if anyone is watching you check yourself out. Then you glance.
If it’s a flattering window, you’ve got on your nicest kit and you’re in good shape, you give yourself a few, long seconds to soak it in as you roll by.
But not to worry. For if the bicycle helps enable vanity, it can also deliver us from its clutches. Take it away, Franz.
“Always first draw fresh breath after outbursts of vanity and complacency.”
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING #23: RAIN PROOF JACKETS ARE NOT
We at 18milesperhour talk a lot about embracing the weather around you. Being present. Not fighting the elements, but embracing them.
Part of this comes from the 18milesperhour ethos: To ride through the world instead of just passing it by.
Another part comes from where we live. Southern California weather is fairly mild year ‘round so it’s easy for us to have such a cavalier attitude regarding the weather. If there is a Mother Nature, we in the west are the favorite children and a fair bit of the rest of the country gets a regular whuppin’.
And yet another reason we feel this way is because we’ve surrendered to the fact that rain proof cycling jackets, and the companies that claim they function as such, are full of…pardon me…horse shit.
Sure, there are the clear plastic or bright yellow non-breathing ones that create such an intolerably-hot, humid microclimate all around your body that you could grow mushrooms on your chamois. But we’re talking about the super-pricey, highly-technological, supposedly-breathable things that end up as soaked as the rest of your body.
These posh jackets are fine in a mist or even a gentle sprinkle for about ten minutes.
Then, as Rhys says, they’re about as waterproof as a teabag.
UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF CYCLING # 24: INSIDE EVERY CYCLIST IS THE GODFATHER OF SOUL.
You’re out there, sucking wind on a climb. You get that little bit of phlegm that you gotta get up, get on up…get up, get on up!
You do those little JB grunts and hacks.
Uhgh. Hughghh! Heeaaaayychhh!
If you had the funky drummer behind you, you’d sound like Mr. Dynamite.
Don’t believe us? Listen for yourself. Turn it up and get on down.