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Descente cares about your penis (sorry, I mean your Penis)

I'm probably not the only one keeping one eye on my email and another on the Live Reports from the Tour of California, via Cyclingnews.com. So today - just now, in fact - I saw a couple of ads on the site framing the live updates that deserve a little recognition. Here's the page with the ads (click to enlarge - the ads are on top and the left hand side):


Clicking through the ads takes you to a site called "Dr. Frank Speak" and featuring a medical-looking fellow, presumably named Dr. Frank Speak. He tells us, in plain English (though I can't help imagine that it's with a German accent), "Chronic microtraumitization wreaks havoc on the penis, scrotum, labia and anus. While bike fit and cycling dynamics play an important role in the overall comfort of your cycling experience, your bike shorts provide the first line of defense against a numb penis or sore labia." Then the site links to men's shorts and women's shorts.

Love the ad, love the concept, love that it got through to my attention not by blinking wildly, promising me a huge discount or by following the tried and true Wrench Science formula - but by, well, speaking frankly. I only wish there were more of a microsite with some actual science behind the claims (I'm serious - to me, arcane and specific knowledge is power) instead of just a jump page. Dr. Frank Speak should have his own articles on the site, podcasts, some educational videos (remember "Your Testicles and You" from Johnny Dangerously?), interviews with pro riders about their penis protection secrets - the possibilities are endless.

He should NOT, however, have a user-submitted photo gallery.

"The bike is like a beautiful woman, to be appreciated every day."

It sounds even better in Italian, when Paolo Bettini says it, in the new promo video on this new mini site by Specialized, who scored a major coup whe the Quick Step team signed on to ride their bikes this year.

You ever hear someone describe what it feels like to be in love, to have found a partner? Invariably the definition is nebulous and imprecise, but if you've actually felt it you can understand with perfect clarity. If you can't see into a lover's definition of love, you haven't been there yourself yet. For me, my fiancee's definition hit closest to home when she said she believed that a partnership is "a home for the soul, and a place for dialogue."

So Paolo says, "The bike is like a beautiful woman, to be appreciated every day," and you either get it or you don't. And if you do, it's because you know what it's like to have a partner in your bike - one you can count on, that (I'll stop short of saying 'who') inspires you, that enables you to be more of the You you want to be. Because I believe a bike should do that - it should make you feel lucky every day to have found it.

If you don't get it, you don't have the right bike.

Floyd's new bike (or, How to Build a Remarkable Ride)

It's rare when a highly-visible pro actually gets some say in their own equipment (in any sport, for that matter). Floyd Landis now has that opportunity, on account of he doesn't have a team. Say what you want about Floyd - believe him or no - but the guy's got a strong personality, style and a sense of humor. You see all of it in his new bike, which was just featured in one of Bicycling Magazine's blogs.

The bike was a gift from Saris (PowerTap), for Floyd to ride at his Training with Power camp. It's a Pegoretti built out of Scandium, with SRAM Force, Wheelbuilder.com wheels with the PowerTap SL hub, and I think a Salsa stem, which pays a little homage to Floyd's MTB roots.

The most remarkable feature of the bike though is printed all over the frame. Floyd's evidently a big "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey fan, and the frame is practically wallpapered with his quotations, including:

- "Smith and Wesson: The original point and click interface"
- "If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?"
- "If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?"
- "Where do forest rangers go to get away from it all?"
-  "There's no future in time travel"

Funny, and remarkable in that the bike becomes a microcosm of Floyd's personality. I just rebuilt a bike myself - a 1993 handbuilt steel frame I used to race. The bike had tons of character but at 22.5 lbs wasn't very competitive. I got it down to about 18 lbs and like it so much it'll be my main race bike this year.

One of the reasons I wanted to rebuild it was to have a remarkable bike to race. A bike is a very personal choice, but the last team I was on had me ride a fairly unremarkable big-name, seen-in-every-shop, 2-dozen-in-every-pack frame, with Dura-Ace and Ksyrium SLs, etc. The bike positively dripped with technology, but lacked character. And ultimately I realized, I'm just not good enough a racer to have to ride someone else's bike choice. It's one advantage to being mediocre - people may notice what I DO ride, but no one will take note of what I DON'T ride.

So when rebuilding my bike I thought about what makes a bike remarkable, and aimed for it. I think in short, it's a commitment to deliberate choices, instead of shoulder-shrugging acceptance of what's readily available or safe. For me, that meant SRAM Force gruppo and cranks (compact), a Ritchey WCS Bar, Stem and Headset (a nod to my MTB background as well, as well as my bike's roots - it's a Brodie Rodie, made by a company in Vancouver BC that's almost exclusively mountain bikes), handbuilt wheels around black Mavic Open Pro rims, and an old-school looking Selle Italia seat.

And I found out there are ways to make a bike remarkable through details that don't require a $1500 overhaul, like these customized frame stickers, or even doing a short run of your own customized watter bottles (if you spend $60 each for a pair of carbon bottle cages, you can pony up $100 for 15 race day watter bottles with your name - or anything else - on them).

BRILFdom is a Two-Legged Stool

The BRILF philosophy is embarassingly simple. Cyclists are most attractive when we:

1. Win Races
2. Look Good

That's it, really. Pursuit of one or the other is common, but the simultaneous achievement of both is kind of what I mean by 'BRILF'. And it's no easy accomplishment, being fast and looking good. Sure, we all think we look better at the front, but reaching the level of fitness necessary to get there is what Alexander Pope would call a "Ruling Passion", often coming at the expense of style, social graces, even personal hygeine. I heard someone say not long ago that "Cycling is the only sport where you have to be incredibly fit, just to not be in contention." Truer than a pair of hand-built Mavics.

So too with looking good. No sport I know of is a bigger hotbed of vanity than cycling. Face the fact: we shave our legs because it makes them look better. Road rash blah-blah facilitating massage yadda-yadda aerodynamics do-you-think-i'm-stupid long-standing tradition - ok, I'll give you that one, but it only proves my point. Cyclists 60 years ago were just as concerned about showing off their sculpted gams as we are.

For me, anyway, that's the appeal - finding the balance between racing well and indulging my vanity. Because both contribute in some way to self-confidence, a sense of achievement, some aspect of self-identity. "I'm a bike racer." At least, that's how I want to be able to define myself. And to say it convincingly I need visible evidence - actual ability, and an appearance that backs up my claim.

And that's why I call it a two-legged stool - because it is a balancing act, and it's a lot easier to topple over than remain upright. There is no point of relaxed stability in bike racing, no way to win if you don't bring your A-game. One lazy week of training, a single lapse of concentration at any point in the last 5 minutes of a race, a missed shift, a tiny tactical error - any of these is the difference between sprinting for the podium and an ignominious pack finish.

And when that happens, we can always fall back on knowing we at least look like bike racers - at the gym, in the office, the coffee shop, picking our kids up from school, in the ball pit at Ikea - anyplace but on the course. The lure to scale back on the performance and become an accomplished poseur is great.

So most of the stuff I'll write about - and link to - here will have to do with one of the two attributes of BRILF - winning races and looking good, though always with the balance between the two in mind.