Earworms

I’m bugged. Somehow, things are getting into my brain, messing with my ability to concentrate while out on the road, and generally driving me nuts.

Those things are earworms.

If you haven’t heard the term before, it refers to those songs that play in your head — over and over and over. If you try to drive them out, they just get louder.

Now, I normally wouldn’t mind a song in my head. I like music. The trouble is, the songs that have been playing lately are unwelcome, because they’re a) irritating, b) bad songs in general, or c) bad biking songs in particular.

A bad song is anything that I never enjoyed listening to, even if it was a hit. Most pop songs of the ’70s and ’80s fall into this category, but there were some real gems from earlier than that. Do you remember “A white sport coat, and a pink carnation…I’m all dressed up for the dance”? Or, “Honey,” by Bobby Goldsboro? “See the tree, how big it’s grown…”

Not only are they awful songs, but they’re particularly bad for biking. When I’m out on the road, I want something that helps me maintain my pace: Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” or most anything by the Rolling Stones. But those songs never invade my cranial innards.

Motown? I love Motown! At first blush, it might seem like the beat is a tad on the slow side. But “I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops (“Sugarpie, honeybunch”) has a beat that you want to hit on the downstroke of your pedal. I have been known to sing “Tears of a Clown” out loud while pedaling down a lonesome country road.

The bad songs don’t have that kind of beat. Or, they’re way too slow. Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” is a great song, but you don’t want its syrupy strains spreading through your head when you’re trying to keep up a 15 mile per hour pace.

The worst one, though, was the one that got me last week. It wasn’t even a song, but a commercial jingle. For a regional chain of liquor stores.

Got cheer, all through the year — Chocolate, coffee, cheese — And a case of cold beer

Okay, it’s kind of catchy.

Spec’s fine spirits and finer foods — World class service — It’s all about you

But there’s a major problem with it:

Shop Spec’s — Low price amazing — Here’s to you (shout!) — Here’s to savings!

It’s only 30 seconds long! If I’m out for a two-hour ride on the weekend, and that’s the only thing playing in my head… it’s enough to drive a cyclist nuts.

How do you deal with earworms on a ride?

(If you’re not from Texas, and you’ve never heard the Spec’s jingle, here you go — but don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

 

Winding Down for the Year

Like many of us, I spent several days around Christmas in another part of the country. Among other things, that meant no biking for five days in a row — tough to take when I had hoped to get a lot of riding in over the break.

We got back home Saturday, a day early, and I was looking forward to getting out on the roads on Sunday.

Of course, the weather report was dead on — we had rain. A steady downpour greeted us as we woke up, and the temperature hovered just a few degrees above freezing. The thought of getting out on the bike was pretty unpalatable.

When things did clear up in the afternoon, I was tied up with homebody things. It looks like I’ll have to wait until Monday to resume my riding. But I’ll do something. The forecast looks good, we’re in that lazy time between holidays. What could be more conducive to riding?

Gifts for the Cyclist

As an internationally-renowned bike blogger, I get hit up on a regular basis from entrepreneurs who would like to some help publicizing their products. I generally resist such entreaties, because this blog is not in the business of giving free publicity to consumer products (Although I’ve done it before, and will probably do it again).

Anyhow, with the holidays approaching I’ve been besieged with more requests than usual. So I figured, what the heck? Let’s feature some of the more interesting ones that have come my way. Maybe you’ll be interested enough to back these budding billionaires, or maybe just buy their products for Christmas gifts for your cycling buddies.

First — Dappercap! It’s a British-made cycling helmet for the urban cyclist, that aims to bring a touch of style to a much-maligned cycling essential. The helmets will be hand made in Cornwall and tested to European standards.

dappercap

Dappercap will launch with these four colors, but expects to add more.

Dappercap will launch with these four colors, but expects to add more.

Sorry — it’s not available in time for Christmas this year. They expect to introduce it in Europe in April, 2015, and reach the U.S. and Canada in September next year. But if you’d like to support them, their Kickstarter program is open until December 5.

Wearable technology is all the rage now, and a company called 1 Voice hopes to fill a perceived need among workout fiends who can’t be without their music. They’re introducing the 1Voice sports headband. It’s got a built-in Bluetooth receiver, which eliminates the need to hard wire your MP3 player. The headband has built-in earbuds, which the company says will not fall out during a workout.

1 Voice has just introduced the headband to go along with its beanie.

1 Voice has just introduced the headband to go along with its beanie.

If you’re interested, check out 1 Voice’s website.

Ever get frustrated when you signal your turns, but for whatever reason motorists don’t see you? Another Kickstarter program hopes to remedy that situation. It’s another British venture called Wing Lights, and they’re bicycle turn indicators. Attach them to the ends of your handlebars, and when you intend to make a turn, press them with your hand and they’ll start to flash.

3bf0bd8a1695dc2df3615e10c69498ca_large winglights

 

Wing Lights are only available for straight bar bikes. They can’t be fitted to drop bars or cruiser handlebars. For more information, check their Kickstarter page.

Finally, here’s one just for the guys. Because I know we all have this problem, right? It’s a problem unique to guys, because of our…uhh…equipment. A new product called “HappySacs” is supposed to make sure you’re not caught during Public Displays of Adjustment, as the company puts it. It’s very simple — a sack for your sac.

happysac

They claim you won’t have to worry about discomfort and chafing, and won’t have to use chamois creams, either. For info, check their website.

Now that I’ve handled your Christmas shopping needs, we can get back to biking.

 

Do You Shave Your Legs Yet?

You should. At least, if you’re a racer guy type of rider.

Even since I began road cycling, I’ve been reading of the debate over leg shaving. To me, the arguments in favor never seemed compelling enough. Band-Aids will come off easier after a crash. It’s more aerodynamic (Yeah, right). It’s easier to slide tights or leg warmers over them when it’s chilly outside.

Then, I learned that some friends were shaving their legs. Heck, even one of our fine guest posters gave in to the craze. Bosh, says I.

But another friend pointed me to a video posted by the folks over at Specialized bikes. They actually conducted experiments in a wind tunnel to see if leg shaving had any benefits. The quick answer: You betcha.

Riders who shaved their legs saved an average of 70 seconds over 40 kilometers. Being able to finish more than a minute ahead of your competition just might make shaving worth it. Take a look at the video.

But for me, racing never was a consideration. And whether I finish my Sunday ride a minute or so faster doesn’t matter in the least. What does is whether I had fun, whether I shared some good times with friends, and whether I got some much-needed exercise. I will continue to view leg shaving as a silly affectation of our sport.

But if you decide to go that route, I will no longer ridicule you.

 

A Different Kind of Clipless Fall

Had a great Sunday ride in fall temperatures. I enjoy riding in arm warmers, and the cooler weather might have been a factor in my improved performance on hills. I had a PR on one hill that has bedeviled me for years.

I approached the house after a little more than two hours on the bike, thinking about all the work I had to do for the rest of the day. I turned into the driveway, applied the brakes, unclipped my right foot, put it down, and turned the handlebars slightly to the right.

A picture perfect finish to the ride. But then I slightly raised my right foot at the same time I attempted to unclip from the left pedal. For some reason, the cleat wouldn’t come loose. But the shift in weight rocked the front wheel over to the left, and I felt that familiar old feeling — I was going down on my left side, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

This time, I quickly got the bike off my body and sprang up, looking up and down the block to see if any of the neighbors had seen my embarrassing tumble. No one was outside. Dignity intact.

Clipless falls happen to every rider, I’m sure. I had mine early on, but I’ve also had some after riding for some time. But I’ver never had one when I was stopped with one foot already on the ground.

No pictures. I got the bike into the garage and closed the door behind me.

The Lost Weekend

The_Lost_Weekend_posterNo, this post is not about a Ray Milland film from the 1940s. I’ll be traveling this weekend to Oklahoma, where I will attend a conference. That means much of my time will be spent sitting in open, airy rooms where they pack in too many seats, listening to speakers who never learned how to make an effective presentation.

The downside of that (you mean, that was the upside?) is that I won’t be able to get in any biking.

With any luck, I’ll be back Sunday in time to take out the mountain bike for awhile. Its gears are all working properly now, but I haven’t ridden it since I got it back from the mechanic two weeks ago. We’ve had a lot of rain around here lately, and the trails have been muddy. They ought to be dry enough to ride now.

Don’t cha just hate it when the demands of everyday life trump the fun stuff?