kottke.org posts about cycling
The competitors in standard course triathlons, which is the format used for the Olympics, have to swim nearly a mile, bike 25 miles, and run 6.2 miles. The men’s gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics finished with a time of 1 hour 45 minutes. The Ironman triathlon is much longer: a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and then you run an entire marathon (26.2 miles); the current world record for this distance is 7 hours 35 minutes.
The Quintuple Anvil Triathlon is five Ironman triathlons in five days, i.e. your basic total insanity.
Crushed by exhaustion, you may dream of a competitor’s head morphing into a Pokémon-like demon — and then open your eyes and still see it. The next day you will quit the race.
To fill your queasy stomach during your third 112-mile bike ride, you will discover the best way to eat a sausage-and-egg sandwich: shove it in your mouth and let it slowly dissolve.
After 500 miles on a bike, 10 in the water and more than 100 on foot, it will make perfect sense to grab a branch and a broomstick in a desperate bid to propel yourself — like a giant mutant insect — the last 31 miles. It will not be enough. You will collapse on the road.
Seasick, miles into the swim, you will vomit. Twice.
Neck cramps will attack so fiercely on the bike that your head will slump. You will go cross-eyed and nearly crash.
This reminds me of one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted, this story about ultra-endurance cyclist Jure Robic.
For one thing, Jure Robic sleeps 90 minutes or less a day when competing in ultracycling events lasting a week or more…and goes crazy, like actually insane, during the races because of it. Because he’s insane, his support crew makes all the decisions for him, an arrangement that allows Robic’s body to keep going even though his mind would have told him to quit long ago.
I’m also reminded of Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere skiing/walking to the South Pole and back, covering a distance of 1795 miles in 105 days. That’s 17 miles a day for more than three straight months. And just this morning, I was thinking my chair was a little uncomfortable.
Update: So get this: the the Quintuple Anvil Triathlon is a mere trifle compared to the Triple DECA Iron in which competitors do an Ironman triathlon every day for 30 days. ASDFADASGRETHRYJH!!! I cannot even start to think about beginning to even with this. (via @ben_lings)
Trials rider Danny MacAskill busts out some more amazing tricks as he takes a mountain bike out for a ride in the area around Edinburgh. This could double as a tourism video for Scotland…the scenery almost steals the show here. (via @mathowie)
Velocipedia is a collection of drawings of bicycles paired with realistic renderings of what the real-life bikes would look like. Some of the sketches, drawn from memory, are not that accurate and result in hilariously non-functional bikes.
From the excellent collection of British Pathé videos on YouTube comes footage of a 1928 bicycle race on penny farthings aka the “boneshaker” aka those bikes with the big wheel in front. Here are a couple of contemporary penny farthing races. (via @sampotts)
Late last year, Todd Schneider did a big data analysis of taxi and Uber usage in NYC. This morning, he posted the results of a similar analysis for Citi Bike.
But unlike the taxi data, Citi Bike includes demographic information about its riders, namely gender, birth year, and subscriber status. At first glance that might not seem too revealing, but it turns out that it’s enough to uniquely identify many Citi Bike trips. If you know the following information about an individual Citi Bike trip:
1. The rider is an annual subscriber
2. Their gender
3. Their birth year
4. The station where they picked up a Citi Bike
5. The date and time they picked up the bike, rounded to the nearest hour
Then you can uniquely identify that individual trip 84% of the time! That means you can find out where and when the rider dropped off the bike, which might be sensitive information. Because men account for 77% of all subscriber trips, it’s even easier to uniquely identify rides by women: if we restrict to female riders, then 92% of trips can be uniquely identified.
This video shows the evolution of the design of the bicycle, from the (contested) first French bike in the 1790s to the more-or-less modern bike of the 1890s. (via @daveg)
Red Bull spared no expense in shooting this video with BMX rider Kriss Kyle…I’ve never seen a BMX course quite like this one. (thx, nick)
Nicole Frýbortová can do things on a bicycle that will make your eyes pop out of your head, including a no-hands, one-foot, backwards wheelie.
How many times have you seen a car parked in the bike lane and wanted to somehow move it out of the way? Well, this very large cyclist felt that way and lifted this small car right out of his way.
I would love to see someone do this to an NYPD cruiser.1
The Program is an upcoming film about the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity). It’s based on David Walsh’s book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.
Do you think you could ride a bicycle that steers backwards…aka it turns left when you turn right and vice versa? It sounds easy but years of normal bike riding experience makes it almost impossible. Destin Sandlin of Smarter Everyday taught himself how to ride the backwards-steering bike; it took months. Then he tried riding a normal bicycle again…
Loved this video…great stuff. (via ★interesting)
Lilly Yokoi was an acrobat who specialized in performing on a bicycle. During her career, she toured around the world and appeared on the Ed Sullivan show three times. In this performance from 1965, Yokoi does some seriously before-their-time tricks on her Golden Bicycle, including a no-hands handlebar spin, a no-hands wheelie, a handstand over the handlebars, and several other tricks…all in chunky high heels, mind you.
Here’s an even earlier performance, from 1961. See also some bike tricks filmed by Thomas Edison in 1899.
In his mid-20s, James Golding was diagnosed with cancer. In the hospital, he weighed 84 pounds and was given a 5% chance of living. Five years later, he embarked on a journey to France to break the record for most distance ridden on a bike in 7 days. This video follows Golding through his record-breaking attempt.
The video was produced by the same team that did the lovely Experiments in Speed video.
In 1986, the BBC produced a short documentary film on the Taylor brothers, a trio of professional cyclists from the 1930s and 40s. The three of them operated a bicycle shop, which turned out handmade bikes for decades.
Delightful. Don’t miss one of the brothers putting the racing stripes on a frame by hand starting at around 12:00. You can read a bit more about the brothers here and here. (via @cdevroe)
This is intense: video from one of the riders during the sprint finish of stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse.
I don’t know how all of those riders are working that hard so close together without constantly crashing into each other. The number of “I’ve got my bike slightly in front of your bike now move the hell over” moves shown in the video reminded me of how NYC taxi drivers negotiate the streets of Manhattan. (via @polarben)
Three years ago, Kayla Montgomery was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Faced with the prospect of being confined to a wheelchair someday, Montgomery, one of the slower runners on her high school cross country team, told her coach she was short on time and wanted to run faster. Now she’s one of the fastest runners in the country and perhaps the MS has something to do with it.
Kayla Montgomery, 18, was found to have multiple sclerosis three years ago. Defying most logic, she has gone on to become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country — one who cannot stay on her feet after crossing the finish line.
Because M.S. blocks nerve signals from Montgomery’s legs to her brain, particularly as her body temperature increases, she can move at steady speeds that cause other runners pain she cannot sense, creating the peculiar circumstance in which the symptoms of a disease might confer an athletic advantage.
But intense exercise can also trigger weakness and instability; as Montgomery goes numb in races, she can continue moving forward as if on autopilot, but any disruption, like stopping, makes her lose control.
“When I finish, it feels like there’s nothing underneath me,” Montgomery said. “I start out feeling normal and then my legs gradually go numb. I’ve trained myself to think about other things while I race, to get through. But when I break the motion, I can’t control them and I fall.”
Montgomery’s story reminds me of ultra-endurance racer Jure Robic, particularly this bit in a NY Times profile:
Researchers, however, have long noted a link between neurological disorders and athletic potential. In the late 1800’s, the pioneering French doctor Philippe Tissie observed that phobias and epilepsy could be beneficial for athletic training. A few decades later, the German surgeon August Bier measured the spontaneous long jump of a mentally disturbed patient, noting that it compared favorably to the existing world record. These types of exertions seemed to defy the notion of built-in muscular limits and, Bier noted, were made possible by “powerful mental stimuli and the simultaneous elimination of inhibitions.”
Questions about the muscle-centered model came up again in 1989 when Canadian researchers published the results of an experiment called Operation Everest II, in which athletes did heavy exercise in altitude chambers. The athletes reached exhaustion despite the fact that their lactic-acid concentrations remained comfortably low. Fatigue, it seemed, might be caused by something else.
In 1999, three physiologists from the University of Cape Town Medical School in South Africa took the next step. They worked a group of cyclists to exhaustion during a 62-mile laboratory ride and measured, via electrodes, the percentage of leg muscles they were using at the fatigue limit. If standard theories were true, they reasoned, the body should recruit more muscle fibers as it approached exhaustion — a natural compensation for tired, weakening muscles.
Instead, the researchers observed the opposite result. As the riders approached complete fatigue, the percentage of active muscle fibers decreased, until they were using only about 30 percent. Even as the athletes felt they were giving their all, the reality was that more of their muscles were at rest. Was the brain purposely holding back the body?
“It was as if the brain was playing a trick on the body, to save it,” says Timothy Noakes, head of the Cape Town group. “Which makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. In fatigue, it only feels like we’re going to die. The actual physiological risks that fatigue represents are essentially trivial.”
Update: While still in middle school, thirteen-year-old Amaris Tyynismaa is putting up some of the best distance running times in the country against high school competition. And she does it in spite of, or perhaps, because of battling with Tourette syndrome since she was a little girl.
Some athletes with TS attribute near-magical powers to their condition. Tim Howard, the goalkeeper of last year’s U.S. World Cup soccer team, says that TS has given him vision and reflexes that other players simply don’t have. Famed physician Oliver Sacks once wrote about a ping-pong player whose abnormal quickness and ability to knock back unreturnable shots, he believed, had to be connected to TS. One reason is that people with Tourette’s also tend to have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (Amaris included). They need to repeat behaviors-whether it’s preventing balls from going into the net or running improbably long distances-until they do it just right. “I’m not saying it’s a good thing to have,” Sacks told a reporter last year, “but if one has Tourette’s, there are advantages.” New research out of the University of Nottingham shows that the brains of TS patients are physically different from everyone else’s, transformed by years of operating under much greater than normal resistance and better at controlling the body.
Neurologists at the Tourette Syndrome Association aren’t quite ready to embrace a connection between TS and superior athleticism. They are more comfortable saying that people with TS often see their symptoms subside when they’re playing sports or otherwise engaged in something that focuses their attention away from the urge to tic.
Soccer quieted the noise in Amaris’ head. After taking up the game, she began to tic less off the field. She did better in school. She talked more. Actually, she talked a lot, like she does now. In her last game in England, she scored three goals and the other kids lifted her up on their shoulders and carried her around. She would have had a major problem with that just months before-too many germs-but she loved it.
Not sure if he’s still out there or not, but Dexter Benjamin has been a bike messenger in NYC for more than 20 years, navigating his bike around the city on only one leg. He lost the leg pushing a boy out of traffic in his native Trinidad. Here’s a 2006 interview with Benjamin:
And from the NY Times in 2005, a brief profile.
He came to New York to participate in a marathon, decided to stay, and before long was leaning on a crutch and panhandling in Grand Central Terminal. He spent many nights sleeping in a shelter, and more than one dawn wondering who would stoop to steal a one-legged man’s shoe.
Another Trinidad native, Steve Alexis, eventually hired him as a messenger. “He could walk with crutches,” Mr. Alexis says. “I figure if he rides a bike, that’s even better.”
After learning to shift his weight for proper balance, Mr. Benjamin was soon darting through Manhattan streets in a triumphal blur. “I love their reaction when I pass them,” he says of others. “They’re seeing something impossible.”
A few months ago, the site featured the BMX tricks of Tim Knoll, which were some of the most unusual tricks I’d seen. (That semi trailer limbo!) Tate Roskelley’s tricks are even weirder, so much so that they seem more like an artistic statement on tricks than tricks themselves:
I think the “artist’s statement” on YouTube is spot on:
Tate’s got just about the most original perspective on BMX you can imagine. I think years ago when Jim C said “I just want to see what’s possible”, Tate took his words at face value. His riding is less about making a statement and more about asking questions. What is a bike trick? What is a street spot? The answers aren’t always pretty (I’m sure he isn’t going to start riding around with his stem bolts loose full time) but they’re always interesting and Tate is always having fun.
Ethen Godfrey Roberts pulled off a trick called a Superman double backflip the other day and it is a thing to behold:
Sploid says the trick “seems to murder the laws of physics” but if you can close your mouth long enough to stop drooling (this took me several views, BTW), the law of conservation of angular momentum is responsible for the optical illusion that makes the trick look so cool. The trick begins with a tight backwards flip, which happens quickly because all of the weight (human + bike) is distributed close to the center of gravity. By opening his body up in the middle part of the flip, Roberts slows down the rotation, just like a figure skater, diver, or ballerina would by throwing out their arms or legs. And then he gathers himself back onto the bike, which spins quickly again because the weight is all back close to the center. Boom, physics.
Watch as a trio of trials riders zoom across rusty old bridges, up rocky mountains, and down dry water slides on skinny-tired road bikes. An eye-popping collection of tricks.
There’s a bit of a backstory to this video. It’s a sequel to a similar video performed solo by Martyn Ashton. In the middle of filming this sequel, Ashton broke his back during a demonstration and is currently paralyzed from the waist down. Friends and fellow trials riders Chris Akrigg and Danny MacAskill stepped in to help Ashton complete the video. (via digg)
The Sweethome tested a bunch of locks, consulted with bike thieves, and sifted through other reviews and chose the best bike lock for your bike.
The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.
But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.
Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike — and its expensive components — is what makes the thing worth stealing.
BMX rider Tyrone Williams checks out a Citi Bike and puts it though its paces, first with a wheelie or two and eventually on a dirt track.
(via animal & @claytoncubitt)
Bike frame builder Tom Donhou, inspired by the home-built cars of yore ripping it up on the salt flats of Utah, wanted to see if he could build a bike in his shop that would do 100 mph. This video documents his quest.
I love everything about this video, but especially the pace car. (via ★interesting)
Five-year-old Jack is trials rider Danny MacAskill’s biggest fan. (Don’t know who MacAskill is? Start here.) Inspired by his hero, Jack made a video of himself riding his bike around and doing some tricks.
Oh man, there’s water coming out of my face now. #cryingatwork (thx, meg)
Hannah Grant, a chef who used to work for highly influential Noma (among other places), is now the chef for the Saxo-Tinkoff cycling team currently competing in the Tour de France. She cooks for the entire team out of a food truck.
First of all, I set the menu. I mean, they can request stuff, the riders, if they want. I’ll note it and I’ll do it if it’s possible. But, obviously, then there’s rules to how to assemble the menu. Today’s a rest day, so we do a low-carb lunch for them. They’re not going so far, they just want to keep their legs going, so we don’t want to fill them up too much. And we don’t want to go too hard on the carbs so they don’t gain weight.
Then we have a philosophy of using lots of vegetables, proteins, and cold-pressed fats, and then we use a lot of gluten-free alternatives. So we try to encourage the riders to try other things than just pasta and bread. I do gluten-free breads as well.
It’s all to minimize all the little things that can stop you from performing 100 percent, that promote injuries, stomach problems, all those things. So that’s a big difference (from cooking in a restaurant), because I have to follow all those rules. I can’t just cook whatever I think is amazing. It has to be within those guidelines.
Then I take it as my personal job to take these guidelines and then make an incredible product from it, so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on things. It shouldn’t be a punishment to travel with a kitchen truck and a chef who cooks you food that’s good for you.
Grant’s cooking seems to be paying off for the team…Saxo-Tinkoff currently has two riders in the top five and is in second place overall in the team classification. (via @sampotts)
Last month, we posted a video of Tim Knoll doing ridiculous and panic-inducing circus style tricks on his bike. In the video below, he explains how he does the bike limbo, riding under several semi trucks in a row. Just because he tells you how to do it, does not mean you should try it. In fact, it is the expressed opinion of this blog you should not try it. However, if you do try it and you do feel yourself falling — which you will, because let’s be honest — don’t try to lift your head up. Just fall, because as Knoll says, “scrapes are better than stitches.”
Here’s an unfortunately short bit of circus riding by Tim Knoll. You often see a lot of the same tricks in bike videos, so Knoll’s style mix of flatland, street, and circus riding is refreshing. I do get nervous when he stands on his handlebars or plays limbo with a row for semi-trucks. Be careful, Tim Knoll!
Some interesting data about how protected bike lanes in NYC dramatically increased retail sales of local businesses.
A new study from the New York Department of Transportation shows that streets that safely accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel are especially good at boosting small businesses, even in a recession.
NYC DOT found that protected bikeways had a significant positive impact on local business strength. After the construction of a protected bicycle lane on 9th Avenue, local businesses saw a 49% increase in retail sales. In comparison, local businesses throughout Manhattan only saw a 3% increase in retail sales.
And that’s just one of the many tidbits from a NYC DOT report released last November (right around the time of Hurricane Sandy, which is probably why no one noticed at the time); read the whole report here:
Among them: “retail sales increased a whopping 172% after the city converted an underused parking area in Brooklyn into a pedestrian plaza”, and traffic calming in the Bronx decreased speeding by ~30% and pedestrian crashes by 67%. (via @lhl)
NYC is set to introduce their bike-share program at the end of the month. I think it’s a great idea and am interested to follow how it does in practice. Many have objected to the share program even before it starts (reminding me of the smoking ban protests, ultimately much ado about nothing) but Sommer Mathis does an admirable job heading them off.
Claim #3: The stations are too ugly for historic neighborhoods, and Citibank’s sponsorship is too crassly commercial.
These are just some of the claims behind a series of lawsuits that are already in the works, brought by specific building owners who argue that docking stations don’t belong next to their beautiful buildings. They’re also worried that delivery truck access may be impeded by the presence of some stations. The lawsuits are being filed within the context of additional complaints that neighbors feel they weren’t consulted on the location of some stations, despite the city’s department of transportation having held nearly 400 meetings on station locations with community boards and other neighborhood groups. This is a classic NIMBY reaction, and by far the easiest one the city could have predicted. The idea that bike-share infrastructure is somehow uglier or more commercial than any other element of New York’s streetscape is easy enough to debunk. But the truth is, one of the best things about the design of the Alta bike-share stations is how easy they are to install and, if need be, later remove. It’s entirely possible that small problems with the specific locations of some stations will become apparent after the program launches, and they’ll need to be moved around the corner or across the street to better serve users. This has happened here in Washington, D.C., and it’ll happen for sure in New York. But that’s all part of the bike-share roll-out process. If there’s a legitimate problem with the location of a single station, that can actually be fixed within in a matter of hours or at worst, a day or two.
Our neighborhood newspaper went full-NIMBY about the bike-share this week and hit all the major points addressed in this article, including the ridiculous “bike racks are taking valuable parking spots” one. (via @jmseabrook)
Martyn Ashton takes a carbon fiber road bike (the same bike Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France with) and does some trials riding with it. It’s a bit like recreating the Mini Cooper chase scene in the Bourne Identity with a Bugatti Veyron.