Saturday, December 3, 2011

Just When I Thought I Was Out...

Sunshiny December Day
I had come to terms with my road cycling days being over for the season. The Northeast Bicycle Club women's rides ended with the summer. I no longer had a fast roadbike in my possession. The days grew short, reducing precious daylight hours. And it snowed in October. I was content fitting in a quick fixed gear ride here and there. Soon winter would start in earnest and take that away from me as well. And I was okay with that, I thought; I was ready.

Moser, Handlebars
But boy, was I lying to myself. Putting together the Moser this late in the Fall, I planned to take it on a couple of test rides, then put it on the trainer. But the bike's dynamite handling snapped me out of my "waiting for winter" stupor and made me want to ride, ride, ride. Somehow I found the time despite the limited daylight, and still I wanted more.

Moser, Ride Studio Cafe Bike Rack
I knew that the Ride Studio Cafe had recently started offering a weekly Women's Ride, which they planned to continue for as long as the weather permitted. Their mixed gender rides have a reputation for being tougher than described, so I never worked up the courage to join those over the summer. Would the women's rides be more accessible? I was nervous, but ultimately felt that I had no choice: my bike was demanding to go. Can't argue with a bike. 

Pamela, Ride Studio Cafe
I arrived early to have some coffee and take a break from riding to the ride itself. A few minutes later another woman walked in. Gosh, she looked familiar. We said hello and she introduced herself as Pamela. I realised that she was Pamela Blalock - a rather famous New England cyclist, who has done Paris-Brest-Paris and cycled up Mt. Washington multiple times. Suddenly I had doubts that I belonged on this ride. But I tried to keep calm, curiosity overcoming my fear of riding with serious cyclists. 

Ride Studio Cafe, Wonder Woman
It helped that I already knew the ride leader, Patria (shown here as Wonderwoman on Halloween). A strong cyclist with a road racing background, she also has a talent for putting people at ease - handy when dealing with neurotics like me. Two other women arrived, making it five of us in total. Shrugging off the morning chill, we set off on a very similar route to the one I had gotten accustomed to on the NEBC paceline rides. The ride itself however, was entirely different. 

For one thing, it was not a paceline ride but more of a social ride. We rode in pairs or clusters and talked the entire time, as opposed to cycling in a tight single-file procession while listening to the leader's instructions. I am unaccustomed to (and fearful of!) this more social kind of group ride, but got used to it fairly quickly. I noticed that I am a lot more comfortable riding side by side with another cyclist in close proximity than I used to be. Our abilities were all over the spectrum, which kept the pace of the ride manageable. Each of our bikes was different as well: steel, titanium, aluminum and carbon fiber were all represented, as were different type of shifter setups.

Reclining Moser
The funny thing is that I don't have much of a memory of the ride itself, since all of it was spent in conversation. The miles rolled by quickly and the weather was ridiculously gorgeous for the first day of December. In the end I wanted more, which is always a good note on which to end an activity. I am now debating whether to attempt the RSC mixed gender ride, or to leave well enough alone and stick to the women's rides.

I have an annoying tendency to get overexcited about things that I enjoy doing, and I know I am setting myself up for a terrific let-down if I get all roadcycling-crazy again and then bang, it starts snowing. But gosh, I can't help it - I want to ride! 

54 comments:

  1. You're discovering the unique joy of the social ride! AKA: One of my favorite activities EVER. Right up there with touring. (The short bike camping trips I've done with friends? Quite possibly, my definition of bliss.) Going on a few of the social rides here in Portland are part of what made me obsessed with bicycles, because bicycles went from just a method of transportation, to a method of socializing as well! What can I say, I'm extroverted. Almost any activity, for me, is more fun when shared.

    Next thing you know, you'll be on the Boston equivalent of the Midnight Mystery Ride.

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  2. Sounds like great fun. Try going on the mixed ride, worst thing that could happen is that you get exhausted, but those people sound like a nice gang, I doubt they would just outpace you. If you do get tired ask to be allowed to stick to someone strongers wheel, that would allow you to keep the same speed but at perhaps 80% of the power output.
    Rides that are hardcore "pedal till you cramp and puke if you are weak" tend to be indicated as such no?
    Sooner or later you'll go on a ride and there will be a new cyclist there, you wouldn't look down on them if they needed some help would you? Chances are you'll be able to tag along perfectly well even on the mixed ride, which will give you even more of an egoboost and more options for people to bike with. If they are too fast just keep riding with the women group. I say go for it before the snow comes.
    A tip is that if you are feeling lactic acid forming in your legs, try to lower your power output to a lower level (for instance by drafting on someone else). Going for a some time in anaerobic phase over your lactic acid threshold will make you unable to keep speed up no matter how strong willed you are. Just listen to your body and ride smart and you should be able to keep up even if they are faster on average.

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  3. I have to say I love the social aspect of riding side by side and it does make the miles fly by. I don't give a toss about distance or speed or sport or any of that aspect of cycling but an afternoon spent chatting on a bike in good company is absolutely my favourite kind of afternoon so this ride sounds a gem.

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  4. Ride Velouria Ride! Go with your feelings while they're hot.

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  5. If you love riding why don't you just ride alone? Do you really need a group of people for motivation?

    What made me think though is that you took that ride on Dec 1st. That was Thursday. You people don't work at all? How would you find time for any ride in the middle of the week, especially when days are so short?

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  6. "I want to ride!" Can't argue with that :D Sounds like you had an awesome time,I wish they had rides like that here.

    Disabled Cyclist

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  7. bostonbybike - I do ride alone, that is mostly what I do, which is why I am not used to group rides. But I have also realised that riding alone is not as challenging, it never can be. I learned more from the paceline rides I had joined over the summer than I had during the previous 2 years of cycling on my own. I still ride on my own mostly. But overcoming my lone wolf mentality at least once a week is good for me and will help me improve.

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  8. Oh no, I want to ride too now....

    Must get road bike.

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  9. Another great post. I definitely 1. was anxious and 2. learned a lot more, when I biked briefly this year with a mountain-bike gang. I didn't really fit into that group though, so I'll be scouting for others. No way to know without trying.

    But wow, you have the same Cateye odometer on your Moser that I have on my Soma (well, there's a bunch of models in that housing). Given your love and need of different hand positions, I'm surprised where you've placed it. My terminology is shaky but I have mine on the stem that connects the top end of the head tube to handlebars. I even had it on the top tube when I was training for my Century, since the cue sheet covered it, though that was more difficult to check when riding.

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  10. Seeing a picture of Pamela on your blog gave me a smile. It's always fun running into her and Jon at different parts in the New England bike scene. They're great company, and always great to have for a social ride.

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  11. I had just about guilted myself into splitting some firewood, you made me realize there probably aren't going to be any more sunny, 50 degree Saturday afternoons for awhile. Thanks V.
    See ya...

    Spindizzy

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  12. Riding in pairs and clusters is usually called pack riding and has always been the norm for how cycists ride. 'En peloton' in French. Ordered lines are reserved for beginners (you aren't one of those anymore) and for max speed and very windy conditions.

    Riding with good riders is easy and relaxing. Riding with good riders makes you a better rider quickly. Seems you belong there.

    What you're calling mixed-gender rides is what the guys call "a ride". Have low expectations. If I'm wrong about that, be happy.

    Please please do not clamp the Moser to a trainer. You have no idea how many different ways a trainer can ruin a bike. Trainer on a Craigslist bike. Or start looking for a set of used rollers. Moser would be happy up on a set of rollers.

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  13. "Riding in pairs and clusters is usually called pack riding and has always been the norm for how cycists ride... Ordered lines are reserved for beginners"

    That is odd. As far as I saw, all the NEBC women's training rides (all levels, including the 19mph+ group) were conducted paceline style.

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  14. "Given your love and need of different hand positions, I'm surprised where you've placed [the computer]."

    While I love having a multitude of hand positions, I cannot hold my hands on the "tops" (MTB style) at all; that particular position is death to my hands. So that part of the handlebars is where I put the computer and my battery operated headlight when need be. Doesn't interfere one bit.

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  15. I am sure group rides are wonderful fun for those so inclined. But they are certainly not the only way to become an adept cyclist. World travelers such as Heinz Stucke have ridden mainly alone for decades. In the process they have overcome far more challenges than any amateur (or pro, for that matter) racer:

    http://www.heinzstucke.com/

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  16. I am local and would love to join a womens ride. So if I am reading between the lines correctly, would you say that the RSC rides are more suitable for beginners than the NEBC rides? Seems like they are more accepting of different bikes at least. I still remember reading about your experience when you showed up on your first ride with your loaded Rivendell! I have a vintage road bike with down tube shifters and a rack.

    Terry

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  17. Terry - First, I just want to be very clear that I am not comparing the NEBC vs the RSC rides to one another favourably or unfavourably. They were just different types of rides and I liked them both. It is generous of both clubs to hold these rides for the public free of charge.

    Having said that: It depends what you mean by "suitable for beginners." The NEBC has a beginner level ride. But it assumes that you are there to learn paceline skills, and that you have a modern road/racing bike. On a heavier vintage bike with DT shifters you may feel out of place and may have trouble keeping up. And if you are not ready to learn paceline skills, it will be a shock.

    In comparison, the RSC rides do not have a specific agenda, and the women who show up are more diverse in terms of abilities and equipment. You will probably do fine on your bike. Or (as I understand it) you can take one of their demo roadbikes for a test ride during the ride.

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  18. Great post. Ride, ride ride. And then keep riding :-)

    Welcome to the world of road/group riding.

    This year has been awesome as far as weather goes. I did a 55 mile group ride today morning. Normally, I stop riding in early November when temps plummet and snow/ice is on the roads, and by December I'm banished to riding my bike indoors on the trainer.

    This year, I'm clinging to riding no matter the temperature as long as the snow doesn't start falling and sticking to the ground.

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  19. V @7:57

    Not odd at all. Anywhere in the world of cycling you go you'll find riders in packs. Pacelines happen if someone organizes them and the riders are ready to accept the discipline. Makes a lot of sense for beginners and then you don't need it anymore. Pack riding is scary and chaotic if you've never ridden close with more than a friend or two, pacelining is a way to dip your toe.

    I really hadn't known your paceline rides were paceline, and paceline, and paceline. The few examples I've seen of that kind of organization have a social warmup, a social wrapup, and start to look like any other pack ride by season's end.

    Pacelines or echelons generate spontaneously when there's a big headwind. If a smallish group with approximately matched skills just plain want to go fast they'll line up. At any skill level.

    In a singlefile paceline the sweetspot of sheltered air can be small. Some riders are just slippery and it will feel like there's no pocket at all until you're really right on their tire. In a pack there's shelter all over. It's a big mass of moving air. Even the lead riders are somewhat in that envelope of air.
    Within that envelope you can move up and down the line pretty freely. When it's very fast, riders usually start to bunch tight but there's no need. The suction effect goes 3 or 6 lengths behind the last rider.

    Pacelines aren't stable without a lot of discipline. Someone lets a gap go, someone behind comes around to fill it, suddenly there are lots of gaps and a chase. Even skilled riders will have very different notions as to when a gap must be filled and when to wait and see. Packs are remarkably stable. They flow.

    This will all make sense to you soon. I think you just graduated. Congratulations.

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  20. I love this blog, because it inspires me. I own a road bike, and I never ride it because I'm honestly scared to. The thin tires and riding position are a bit overwhelming for me since I haven't been on a bike for more than 20 yrs. But, I want to ride! I'd love to find a group I could ride with, but I guess without much practice I might not make it past 15 minutes. I'm now looking for something like a step-thru or mixte hoping it will me become better acclimated with riding on the road. I'd like to eventually get back on that road bike and go the distance. I'm currently debating between the Paper Bike and the Betty Foy. No Bettys in NYC to test ride, so it makes the decision tough. I'd like a bike that can potentially handle long distances, conquer hilly terrain and go over potholes with ease. I've been doing my homework, but the overwhelming amount of choices is making me go nuts (in a good way).

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  21. This sounds like a great ride! While I ride solo 90% of the time, some of my most memorable rides are social rides taken with friends. Good times on a bike!

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  22. Looks like all it takes to make you happy is a great road bike. Too bad there was no one to introduce you to cycling all those years, but better late than never. As a woman in your early 30s you are perfect for the sport, lots of potential. If you want to race, train and you'll get there. You'll see.

    Matt

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  23. Funny, I've heard the "women in their 30s" (and 40s) thing before in relation to cycling. Supposedly there is more endurance at that age?

    Anyway, thanks everyone. And Matt - I don't think I could have just gotten a roadbike years ago; it's been a sloooww learning curve and in 2009 I could hardly handle an upright step-through bike. But I am happy to have arrived here.

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  24. "please do not clamp the Moser to a trainer. You have no idea how many different ways a trainer can ruin a bike. Trainer on a Craigslist bike."

    Really? I've seen people keep their nicest bikes on trainers. I am sure the Moser has been on one before in any case. Admit it, you're just trying to get me to by more bikes on Craigslist?

    "Or start looking for a set of used rollers."

    Oh God no. Please not the rollers! I have this waiting under the bed. Nice and safe.

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  25. "I am now debating whether to attempt the RSC mixed gender ride, or to leave well enough alone and stick to the women's rides."

    Why choose when you can do both!

    Also, I would love to see pictures of the other ladies who show up to these rides. Maybe you could do a photo documentary on women and their road bikes?

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  26. Anon 6:08 - Yes, I meant trying the mixed gender rides in addition to, not instead : )

    I did not photograph or describe the other women who were there for reasons of privacy. I felt that even asking them would be intrusive - They came to ride, not to end up featured on some website. Pamela and Patria are public figures, so it's different.

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  27. Teresa - Three years or so ago I started to cycle again and the best thing I did was start with a fat tire mountain bike. Endurance built and got use to speed gradually. I bought faster bikes as I progressed and gained confidence. I took a bicycle safety course to increase skill. I was able to ride with another person who showed me areas that were pretty safe to ride. I'm still not where I want to be but I'm having fun. I can't imagine not cycling. Just ride and all things come in time. If riding a road bike is what you eventually want to do, you'll do it.

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  28. yup, it's addictive that road bicycling...

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  29. Anon 11:57 reflects my experience. A couple groups I ride with (consisting of 20 to 25 riders, but sometimes up to as many as 45) generally move as a pack with a less regimented circulation for taking turns at the front. Pacelines occasionally form up, and echelons too, if there’s room on the road, and depending upon conditions and objectives. Aside from wind direction, I think we end up in a paceline often because of the constraints of the road allowing no more than two abreast, and so in that way can circulate fresh legs to the front. But I prefer when we take up the whole lane and just move as a bunch, and this allows me to sit toward the back if I want to, where I can eat my snacks and gossip with the other jokers.

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  30. Good to hear that you are loving your new bike so much and making the most of this unseasonably mild weather. The ride sounds great - that's my kind of group ride.

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  31. I've heard a ton of "advice", claiming trainers aren't bad for your bike.

    That wasn't my experience, though.

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  32. Yes people use their best bikes on stationary trainers. You have to remember this is a high dollar sport and "people" buy new top end bikes every year. Year after year. What will be big shattering damage to you is just incidentals to them.

    Ask at the bike shop. They can show you examples.

    Anyway you get the same workout on a stationary Gazelle (probably stout enough to take the abuse) and a stationary Moser. And rollers are a blast.

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  33. You are saying that road cyclists who are not sponsored/pros buy a new bike every year??..

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  34. V @ 11:48

    Yes. Keeps bike shops alive. Assures a supply of used bikes and parts. Think of all the bikes you've bought the past few years. Some do all that and do it new. Assuming you race you'll see fields where yours is the only bike more than a few months old. And they show up next week on another new bike.

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  35. Re trainers: From what I've read, it's mostly out of the saddle sprinting that's bad for the bike. If you do it on the road the rear can swing from side to side. On the trainer that isn't possible because the dropouts are clamped tight and therefore the lateral force deforms the rear triangle with every pedal stroke. I can see how that could be damaging to the frame in the long term. Normal riding, on the other hand, shouldn't be a problem.

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  36. My 2 cents of advise for a trainer: make sure you have the proper quick release for the wheel. I made the mistake of putting my suntour quick release in a used trainer and the bike promptly fell out. Luckily no serious damage, but there could have been. Downloaded the manual for the trainer and come to find out there is a special quick release built just for the trainer that is more secure. Trying to find a replacement has been difficult because the model is discontinued. Meh.

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  37. Anon 12:40 - I am not being critical of how others spend their money, I am just genuinely surprised. My bike purchases have mostly been due to looking for "the right one(s)," and I always sell the ones that get replaced. If I found a roadbike that worked for me, I would expect to keep it until the components wore out, then replace the components but still keep the bike.

    The women roadies I've spoken to tend to follow a pattern where they buy a sub-$1K bike to start with, then almost immediately (or after 1 season the latest) upgrade to a $3K+ bike. But that second one they seem to keep for a while.

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  38. There should be sumptuary regulation on race bikes. In lower categories $3000 bikes still exist. Barely.

    Maybe New Englanders are more rational. The bike you have is competitive and further expenditure means little. In any case any woman who shows talent gets sponsorship quickly.

    Lots of bikes past 10,000 on any club ride

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  39. "Lots of bikes past 10,000 on any club ride"

    Jesus, no way. Okay, I am just curious at this point. My absolute no-holds-barred dream Seven or Peter Mooney or what have you roadbike would cost half that. What on Earth could make a bike cost $10K, gold-plated components?.. One of my sponsors, KGS Bikes, sells high end bikes that I know can cost that and more. But their client base is small - you will not find random cyclists at races riding those bikes.

    The $3K bikes I speak of are the Trek Madones WSD and Specialized Rubies. Those are more or less ubiquitous among the Boston cycling ladies I see. Some local builders are represented as well: Independent Fabrications, Seven, Geekhouse, Circle A. Also some slightly older Serottas and Merlins. Haven't seen much else.

    I know of very few local female racers who are sponsored with a bike. Those who are, it is usually a Seven. Geekhouse sponsors as well, but I am not sure if the riders get to keep the bikes or only use them for a season. I know of no local female racer who is sponsored by a major manufacturer. Everyone complains how expensive racing is and how no one wants to sponsor women.

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  40. http://www.bikeradar.com/news/article/10000-bikes-whats-the-point-32350/

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  41. Ah, of course.

    No but I mean, I understand the appeal of such a bike to those who have the money. I was just surprised by the suggestion that there are "lots of bikes past 10,000 on any club ride."

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  42. Okay. I had never looked up the price of a Di2 groupset before. Now I have. Forget my last several comments. Holy mother of cat.

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  43. Peppy (amazing cycling cat, the)December 4, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    Yes?

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  44. Velouria,
    I'm sure you know this but maybe your readers don't - If you added blue to the finishing wrap colors on your handlebar tape, you would have the rainbow colors of a cycling world champion. It's a no-no to have the rainbow colors on a bike unless the brand has won a world championship, and it's definitely a no-no to wear those colors on your person unless you have personally won a world championship. Just sayin'.

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  45. Bike Hermit - Can't decide whether you're serious, but just in case...

    1. My stripes are missing blue, so technically they are not the actual world championship stripes.

    2. The frame itself has the world champion stripes as part of its original decals, as well as a decal explaining that the model won some race or another.

    3. Lots and lots of cycling clothing and accessories feature the stripes. Seems best not to take this stuff too seriously.

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  46. Thank you, don't know how I could have missed that. There is so much I don't know. Must print out and memorise those rules. My vague tanlines are particularly embarrassing : (

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  47. Just came across this.http://www.leboncoin.fr/velos/236853515.htm?ca=6_s speaking of Moser...If only it was a bigger frame..

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  48. Lemond had the world champion stripes on his bike brand too. Both Moser and LeMond were world road champions, so even though technically it may not be proper to adorn a brand that didn't acheive the status, both riders are respected enough that they can get away with it. I guess, dunno.

    Happy to report that in my roadie group $10K machines remain only the stuff rumor. But I'll keep an eye out for signs of $10K brashness. I wouldn't put it past the triathletes and Iron Man types. They'll buy anything.

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  49. Greg Lemond and Francesco Moser can do whatever they want! If a world champion decides to build bikes, they can put whatever they want to on the bikes as well. They can paint there house with the rainbow stripes if they want. That's the point. But they still can't wear the jersey in a U.C.I. race. Only the current world champ is allowed that. "The World Championships take place once a year. They officially close the season and bring together a selection of the best riders from each country. The one who comes first in each speciality wins the title of World Champion and wears the World Champion rainbow jersey until the following edition."
    To wear the rainbow colors at any time by a non world champion is just bad form.

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  50. Peppy (the whole mouse, I eats it)December 7, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    I wear the stripes on my tail because I can has cat cycling championship.

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  51. Please say hi to Pamela Blalock for me. I was a friend of hers when she lived for a short time in New Zealand.

    I follow your blog but was very surprised to see Pamela on it. I also ride a Mercian that was made for me in 2007 when I was in the UK.

    Early next year I will ride my Mercian around the world hopefully in 6-7mths. Pls feel free to check it out on my blog http://niel-the-wheel.blogspot.com/

    All the best Niel

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  52. "But they still can't wear the jersey in a U.C.I. race. Only the current world champ is allowed that. "

    Phew! And to think I nearly wore one to my last UCI race. That would have been awkward.

    Niel - Small world : ) It might please you to know that Pamela has now started a blog. Stop by and say hello!

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