Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thus Spake Harrison Bergeron

When I was 12 or so, the East Brunswick Recreational Soccer League messed up the draft. The Yellow and Red teams were decent, the Green, Purple, and Blue teams were doomed to a bad season, but the Gray team was stacked. I was lucky enough to be on the Gray team, and let me tell you, that was a fun season.

The margin of victory was rarely less than 5 or 6 goals, and we were only scored on once or twice. Needless to say, we went undefeated.

During one game, winning 12-0, the coach pulled me and two other players aside. Each had scored a hat-trick already. "No more shooting from inside the 18," instructed the coach, a Brit who liked to tell us to "give it th' boot! and agayn!"

This seemed reasonable. At 12, I had a pretty solid grasp of sportsmanship, and I had spent previous seasons floundering in the misery of an underperforming team. There was no need to rub salt into the wounds.

At 12, though, as at 25, as is likely will be at 85, I recognized the difference between sporting and tiddlywinks. So when their goalie rolled a lazy outlet to a nearby defender, I happily darted in and intercepted. Standing 6 yards from an empty net, it took a great deal of restraint to follow the coach's directive... but follow it I did.

I dribbled from the 6 back past the 18, pivoted, and put the ball in the back of the net. Following the letter of the law, if not the spirit. Because competition is a primal feature of the human condition, because it was there for the taking, because this wasn't Soviet Russia.

Then the coach benched me for the rest of the game.

Today, I am not a particularly good soccer player. Instead I am a student, en route to being a professional Biomedical Engineer.

Coincidentally, I've never been benched for acing an exam, not even when my classmates were frustrated by their low scores. Hmmm, he says as he pensively strokes his beard.

A 9 year old Connecticut boy has been benched for being too good at baseball, because "'Facing that kind of speed' is frightening for beginning players". Elsewhere, a troupe of dancers wore heavy weights and masks, "so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in".

So, okay. One of those things only happened in a short story from 1961. But the other one happened in real life in 2008.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Twenty bloody Four freakin Hours of Allamuchy

The team was named C-Rock All-Stars - "C-Rock" as an homage to our favorite off-road stomping grounds, Chimney Rock Park, and "All Stars" as an homage to, you know, to ourselves.

I was substituting for the injured Jim, who'd hurt his back in a crash. No, wait, I was substituting for the injured Charlie, who'd hurt his leg in a crash. No, wait, I was substituting for Mike, who had family obligations. Okay, so the weeks leading up to the race were a big question mark, but Saturday was race day and all the chaos was put behind us... to be replaced with a whole new 24 (well, 25) hours of chaos.

The final team composition was Jim, Charlie, Jay, and myself. Our plan was to have Jim and Charlie lead off, then to have me race as often as possible until dark. I don't ride at night (that's when the vampires come out). Then in the morning I'd be well-rested and would give the guys as much recovery as possible between their laps.

Jim on a wicked-steep climb

The race was held at Allamuchy, which is primarily a Boy Scout camp. Despite never having gotten past the third grade Cub Scouts (unlike my illustrious Eagle of a brother), it will still be fun to honor the grand traditions of our weekend hosts in this here lil' ol' blog.

It is therefore with the greatest esteem and aplomb that I commandeer "The Boy Scout Law" and take more than my fair share of liberties with its order and spirit.

(Aplomb? Sure, why not. Aplomb.)

Ladies and gentlemen, with minimal further ado:

A C-Rock All-Star is...

Ah, the best laid plans, etc. I wanted to ride every other lap in the afternoon. After my second lap, I had to admit that I'd need two laps of rest. It stung, deeply, to say so. Pride, though, has no place in this sort of venture. I could've tried to protect my ego, could've raced another lap on minimal rest... and I would've crawled around the course and cost us a chunk of time. To deserve my teammates' trust, I had to let go of my considerable pride. Harder than it sounds.

From another angle, imagine what goes through a racer's head in the last mile of a lap. He's just spent nearly an hour (okay, significantly less if he's Jim or Chaz) suffering in the woods. He's tired and thirsty and aching all over, but he's pushing yet, because he trusts that there's a teammate waiting for him at the line. Otherwise, he may as well have just walked that last climb, or coasted a bit more. He squeezes every last bit out of himself, out of faith that it is energy well spent.

That, my friends, is trust.

Every so often, a racer would stop on the side of the trail. Sometimes he'd be fixing some technical difficulty with his bike, and sometimes he'd be clutching an injury. Sometimes he'd just be taking a breather. As per the unwritten code of mountain biking, you always ask if that poor soul needs any assistance that you might lend.

Because it very much is just that: a loan. And in the grand scheme of things, one would hope that this loan will be repaid.

There are some real characters at any off-road event. The unbearable ego that bears down at road races like a humid mist of pomposity is simply nowhere to be found. Making conversation, with everyone from the stupid-fast pros to the overweight in-over-their-head newbies, is a rare treat that can only be found at this sort of occasion.
Jay takes a silly line
photo by ImageExtreme
The trails are pretty narrow, and racing means making a lot of passes over the course of 24+ hours. Generally, the slower rider will yield, not because it's required, but because it's the decent thing to do. The faster rider, then, will always say "thank you, good luck". Or just "thanks", because going fast is hard work.

It is a sign of gratitude to the rider who has yielded at the expense of his own race. Even better, it's a backhanded platitude to the rider who hasn't.

I don't know, I guess we're just nice guys. Jeez, Boy Scouts, are "kind" and "friendly" and "courteous" really all that different? Couldn't you write your law without a thesaurus?

Um, I need to buy a suspension fork. To have any grip at all on this rigid monster of mine, I need to run low pressures, and that means risking a flat tire. I got a flat tire, two miles into the 9.5 mile course.

I then, somehow, got a pinch-flat on my spare tube. While inflating it. Is that even possible? Explain it to me!
photo by ImageExtreme
So I had two flat tubes. Then some kind soul tossed me a patch kit... which had run out of glue.

So I had two flat tubes and a worthless patch kit. Then some kind soul tossed me a spare tube... which was the wrong size for my wheel.

So I had two flat tubes, a worthless patch kit, and a worthless tube. Finally some other kind soul gave me his properly-sized spare. Bless his heart.

I must've looked ridiculous, riding around with that much crap (plus pump, tools, battery, and spare light) in my pockets. But dammit, I couldn't just leave that much garbage in the woods.

What if a baby rabbit tried to eat a patch kit? Would you be comfortable killing Thumper?

Didn't think so.

Because of the flats, I was still out on the course after sunset. I had never in my life ridden a mountain bike at night. It was thrilling and terrifying and brutal and miserable and lonely. I haven't had that much fun in a long time.

Also I crashed. A lot.

Being Boy Scout property, there were strict rules about the possession and consumption of alcohol. And we respected those rules, no matter how sweet a sip of the ol' Recovery Ale would've tasted when the last lap was in the record books.

This was tough. Really tough. More so for the guys who'd wrangled lap after lap in the quiet, dark solitude of night riding. By Sunday morning, we were all pretty beat up. But somehow, we were cheerful. It's the beauty of a team effort, especially with this team. It is truly easy to be optimistic with these guys.
Chaz never looks anything less than intense,
because that's just how he races
photo by ImageExtreme
It wasn't about your burning lungs, nor your aching back or your deadened legs. It was about getting to that finish line so that the next guy could start, so that you could limp back to the camp site and look your teammates in the eye. Had you put me on a bike in identical conditions, with exactly the same time between laps, I would've ridden significantly slower, because neither Charlie nor Jay nor Jim would've been waiting for me .

I don't toss the word "miracle" around often, but Sunday saw two unbelievable efforts from the C-Rock All-Stars squad. Knowing that to have any shot at a top-3 finish, we needed to send a rider out for an extra lap just before the "finish" at noon, Jim and Charlie rode absolutely blistering laps.

You don't understand, they crushed the course. They had their way with that course. After 22 hours of racing, they both rode their second-fastest laps of the race. If you listen closely, if the wind is from the north and the moon is high in the night sky, you can hear the trails of Allamuchy call, "we are Jim's and Charlie's bitch!"

Meanwhile, the team in 3rd somehow failed to notice that they were about to be overtaken, and they didn't even bother to send out a rider to defend their 10 minute lead. All Jay had to do was ride conservatively and just finish one last lap.

The last three hours of this race were downright miraculous.
Jim turned himself inside out
photo by ImageExtreme

Ben tells me that this is the lost 13th rule of Scouting, or something. It seems a Boy Scout is also Dirty.

Jay and I were standing at the finish line, waiting for Charlie to arrive. The rider from Team Sids, then in 3rd place, finished his lap, and Charlie wasn't due to finish for 10 minutes.

A Sids teammate called to his rider. "Don't worry, we're done". Done? "There's no way they can catch us!" Um, we're right here. We can catch you.

It dawned on us that the Sids guys were looking at the standings in their age group. Being younger, we weren't even on their radar. They didn't realize that we were about to overtake them, in the Overall competition.

As the Sids guys walked away, Jay did his best to hide from them. Not by cowering, no, but by keeping his numbers out of their sight. It's not our responsibility to suggest tactics to our competitors.

We'll never know if Sids realized their mistake. They probably figured it out at the awards ceremony, though. Ha!
1st Place 20-29, 3rd Place Overall
Team C-Rock All-Stars
(l to r) Charlie, Jay, Don, Jim

quotes of the weekend:
Good Samaritan, after giving me his only spare tube:
"Take it. I don't need it. Nothing's going to happen to me"

Jay, on the subject of songs getting stuck in one's head:
"Nobody had it worse than me. From 2 A.M., I spent an entire lap with the song from those Priceline commercials stuck in my head. You know how that song goes? "Priceline Negotiator". That's it! Over and over and over!"

Charlie, while lounging on a camping chair, eating warm chili next to his lovely wife:
"I love that I'm racing right now"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so... SCARED!

The 24 Hours of Allamuchy starts in but 3 hours. Keep, if you would, Team "C-Rock All-Stars" in your thoughts.

I've never undertaken a task of this magnitude on a bicycle, knobby-tired or otherwise. I've also not been so excited in quite some time.

Hand in hand with this excitement comes abject terror. But that's being suppressed, and once I'm on the trail it'll vanish, as always.

What has me really scared is this. Because that's probably not what the world needs.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Operation Eat Lots

It's not like I'm undernourished. I don't have eating disorders, despite what you may have heard.

It's the headaches. I started getting these hellacious headaches a few hours after every meal, the sort that are generally reserved for when my brother pontificates on politics, or when Jay cracks puns, or when Will talks.

I'm not myself between meals - crankier, more absent-minded, downright stupider. My face pales, becomes gaunt and hollow. Hardly the Ninja-like lifestyle to which your humble scribe has grown accustomed.

Also, bike rides haven't felt good since June. There's no snap in the legs, no crackle. Whatever happened to my pop?

After a few weeks of this daily pattern, I think I've figured out what the cause is: I don't eat enough. Not nearly enough.

That in mind, yesterday I went to the grocery store and bought $200 worth of food. It should last a week and a half, maybe two. I've spent the past two days, or at least the waking hours therein, eating every 2 hours.

It's bliss.

In two weeks, it'll be time for a self-check. If the new plan has worked, and I'm not getting the headaches and grouchiness, then I'll keep it up. Otherwise, I'll have to go to the doctor or something? Ugh.

Status, as of day 2:
No headaches, better mood, better sleep, and good sensations on the bike. Work is even going better, which is nice.

Having written all of this, I'm tempted to erase it. I have too many friends with body issues, who will silently hate me for being able to say "I don't eat enough. Even when not hungry, I will force food down my gullet". Too many friends who're trying to keep their weight down, that they might ride uphill fast enough to win next Saturday's Tour de Cat 3.

So I apologize if your feelings have been hurt by my dilemma. I just want the headaches to go away.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

This topic is important to me, because it hits close to home. Like the eponymous Doctor, I am a Ph.D. (student), a (karaoke) singer, and a blogger (duh). The only difference is that I'm getting my degree in Biomedical Engineering, not "Horribleness".

Irony is so funny, isn't it? With irony, you can appear to like something, but by virtue of that thing's obvious dearth of like-ability, the very semblance of liking it becomes the source of laughter.

Hence, hipsters.

Doogie Howser, M.D. yielded, if nothing else, an ironic hero in the form of Neil Patrick Harris. He co-starred as himself in the Harold and Kumar movies, a major plot device that is based solely on the fact that Neil Patrick Harris played Doogie Howser in the early 90s.

When it comes to Neil Patrick Harris, the humor is thick like ironic paté, and it need not be anything more.

But somehow, it is.

After a series of bit parts in sitcoms and TV-movies (I'd say his biggest role since the demise of Howser was in Starship Troopers), Harris stormed back to the cultural foreground as Barney on How I Met Your Mother. The character is, dare I say, hilarious, but the writing would fall flat without a suitable actor in the role.

You would know this if you had any taste, because How I Met Your Mother is legen... wait for it... dary. You philis... wait for it... tines.

He also did a funny commercial for Old Spice that you've certainly seen if you've been watching TV, but that's really neither here nor there.

So it turns out that this guy is really talented, and deserving of more credit than as an ironically comical child star. Harold and Kumar treats him like he's Chuck Norris or Gary Coleman... albeit tastefully.

Apparently there's a cult following of Joss Whedon, although I'll confess, I never followed his creations, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or any of the spinoffs. Don't you just cringe at the word "Buffy-verse"? Let's presume, though, that Joss Whedon is pretty good at this creativity thing.

These two forces have combined, and the result is thoroughly awesome. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. It's a 45 minute mini-movie that is primarily a twisted take on the idea of Super Heroes and Super Villains, but is also a love story. And a musical.

It's been released on the internet, and quite for free. I watched it and loved it. You should too.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Equestrian is ... Awesome?

Out of morbid curiosity, I've been watching the Dressage competition on the interwebs. Which is where a person sits on a horse and makes it walk with awkward gait patterns. Which is athletic.

I've been accused by more than a few people of being more than a little negative in my assessments of the Beijing Olympics. That's a fair critique, which I will address forthwith:

There is plenty of good in these Olympics. There is! Not the least of which is Equestrian flippin' Dressage.

Not because of the "horse ballet". Horsies are cute and all, but they're not Olympians.

Dressage is awesome because of one thing: the uniforms.

Morning coats and top hats. Oh hell yes.

You know who else wears sweet-ass morning coats?

You guessed it.

It's not such a logical leap to see what's missing from the above picture. It's a gap for which I don't think I can ever forgive The Cap'n, nor Mrs. The Cap'n.

Top hats and horses, guys. Next time somebody makes me (okay, lets me) wear a morning coat, there'd better be top hats and horsies involved.

Monocles wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Creepy Fans

Everybody's written about the little ugly singer girl. And the fake fireworks. And the underage gymnasts. And occasionally, they even write about how they've been dealing with rampant poverty.

But has anybody blogged about the creepy cycling "fans"? Not until today.

Being a cycling enthusiast with an internet connection, I'm currently watching a replay of last night's Olympic Time Trial competition. Don't worry, I won't put any spoilers here - except I must divulge that Lance Armstrong didn't win.

One thing you should know about bike racing is that spectating is free, at least for road races. If you want to watch, just get yourself to somewhere on the course and wait for the cyclists to fly by.

The Olympic road races from last weekend were noteworthy for their utter lack of spectators. In post-race interviews, a common theme was how unnerving it was to be racing in silence.

Of course, cycling isn't huge in China, and from the looks of things, the bulk of the racing was conducted in the middle of nowhere. It isn't surprising that there weren't a ton of spectators.

Apparently the Chinese organizers and police have been a little overzealous, too.

Sayeth the article:
" Officials reportedly will ask the Chinese to relax their security to allow more fans on the road side for the time trial"

When you're not letting the racers' own families watch the race, it's a pretty good sign you've gone too far. Wives shouldn't have to bribe policemen or sneak over fences just to watch their husbands ride in circles in the middle of nowhere.

Well, I'm watching coverage. It would appear the organizers did not relax. There appear to be about three dozen fans, concentrated in little packs about the 24k course. Most of them are wearing official Beijing Olympics T-shirts, similar to what you see aides wearing on the sidelines of other sports.

The organizers aren't stupid. They know that their policy has raised eyebrows in the cycling community, and they mustn't allow The Party to appear flawed. But they can't just let spectators move freely about the course... that could be catastrophic!

And so they settled on the creepiest solution possible: Little crowds of BOGOC employees are sure to behave, so place them in small groups near the most frequently used cameras.

Oh, and make sure they make noise. The only way to be certain is to have a drill sergeant cheerleader. Seriously, watch the coverage. It's the same chant over and over. China's answer to R. Lee Ermey shouts something, presumably in some dialect of Chinese, and the crowd echoes it in unison. Ad nauseum.

It creeps me out. People being wrangled like steer, standing where they're told to stand and shouting when and what they're told to shout. Or, I dunno, maybe they just spontaneously clustered that way, after getting off the government-provided buses (okay, that bus part was just conjecture, but it wasn't unreasonable).

Ride faster, Danny! For ever and ever and ever

Reason #382 to be a cyclist

Sandwiches so large that they defy - nay, transcend -
the limits of ordinary sandwich bags.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Assorted thoughts on the Opening Ceremonies

Because everyone (everyone) is an expert on international relations, the nuances of diplomacy, and the current state of Sino-American politicking, a big deal has been made about President Bush's attendance at the Olympic Games' opening ceremonies. Because Thursday was a slow news day, a bunch of major news outlets reported Mayor (of NYC) Bloomberg's opinion on the matter.

Said Bloomberg (who is, coincidentally, a Phi Psi, and therefore my brother-from-another-mother, or "brosef"): "I thought the president of the United States stood up this morning and said what a lot of Americans believe: that individual rights aren't as open there as they are in America and that they should be".

I'm not going to comment on Bush's attendance, nor on Bloomie's response. I have opinions on both, but I don't care nearly enough to write about them. However, I will say just one thing about the whole affair:

It's pronounced "America", Brother Bloomberg. Not "Americker". Your accent is ludicrous.

I'm not a big fan of pageantry. Josh was right when he warned me about the Opening Ceremonies, that there was nothing really going on. It was one of those weird circumstances where the sum is way less than any of the parts. Taken in 2-minute segments, the dancing and costumes and whatnot were actually pretty damn cool. Whoever choreographed that show was creative in a way that I can't even imagine.

But I watched for more than 2 minutes... which reduced the whole spectacle to a boring waste of time. Funny how that works.

Who gave Bob Costas a microphone?

The parade of nations is actually kind of enjoyable. Kind of. I like the idea of creating a painting by having athletes walk across it. I also enjoy the stories of the flag-bearers. But come on, Costas and Lauer. COME ON. How can they so mindlessly "commentate", by which I mean "mock indiginous clothing", "comment on politics", and "say nothing of athletic consequence".

They could have introduced us to so many dramatic stories, making the events of the coming weeks that much more interesting. I might actually watch some stupid sport - let's say equestrian - if I knew that there was a Phelps-Lochte-esque rivalry.

Instead, all we got to hear about, when Costas and Lauer deigned speak of athletics, was Phelps and the like. As if people need to have that sort of story hyped any more. I call that a wasted opportunity.

Bob Costas is the new Al Trautwig. Pleasant of voice, and capable of filling airspace for hours... but with an endless capacity for making me ornery.

Coolest. Torch. Lighting. Ever.

Everybody's heard about how the American cyclists - specifically, Meatball and Syd's brother - have incurred the wrath of the Chinese government for wearing filter masks. Again, it never would've been reported if Thursday wasn't a slow news day. But there it is, all over the news: Americans have offended the Chinese, who insist that THERE IS NO POLLUTION, because THE GOVERNMENT IS NEVER WRONG.


I love that this is happening. Everything that the government has tried to keep under wraps - Tibet, pollution, poverty - has just been magnified by media attention to the downplaying itself.

Do you think that anyone would have thought twice about Beijing residents' fondness for spitting, had the government not cracked down on it?

Totalitarianism is kinda cute, in a better-them-than-me sort of way. In a more absolute way, it's horrifying.

That's it, Bob Costas. You're done. I'm putting you on Double Secret Verbal Probation.

Did anyone else catch how prevalent Environmentalism was as a theme in the opening ceremonies? It makes sense because the Chinese are super-green. Oh, they're not? Okay, but at least they're working hand-in-hand with us Americans to sacrifice prosperity for sustainability. Oh, that's not true either?

Wait. Don't tell me that the Chinese stand to gain economically from America's environmentalism. Oh. I see.

Well that certainly puts the whole environmentalism-as-a-theme thing in a different light.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


"Please, don't offer me anything. I'll tell you what I want"
-J. Black

As I left for work yesterday morning, the doorbell rang. This was surprising, because I didn't actually know we have a doorbell. Apparently, there's a buzzer by the main door, which leads to the upstairs apartment rather than to mine. Go figure.

Two middle aged ladies in sundresses were indiscriminately ringing doorbells. I asked if I could help them. They said "hello!" with an excess of neighborly spirit and a European (German? Polish? hard to tell) accent. "Can we offer you something to read?"

They were carrying pamphlets. There was a cross on the cover. I said no thank you. That was that.

Tuesday morning was sticky-hot and cloudless. Two men in white shirts and ties were knocking on my neighbors' door. A young boy, also wearing a tie, was kicking a rock on the sidewalk.

I don't think either of us was happy with the situation.

Okay, so I understand that they're doing this for my benefit, in accordance to the principles that govern their lives. And they were nothing if not jovial and polite. The Inquisition this ain't (then again, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition).

Still, it's a bit offensive to be told "you're wrong, unless you agree with us". This "sharing" of the good news has a strong implication that my life is inherently worse for lack thereof. It is, at the very least, patronizing.

Doesn't it degrade one's own beliefs to be a door-to-door faith salesman? It reduces religion to comparability with a pyramid scheme.

This whole affair, which could only have happened in a place that isn't the Grad Dorms, makes me appreciate my friends that much more. Some are religious, some are atheist, but all are comfortable with each other. We avoid proselytizing, and in doing so we demonstrate our mutual respect.

Half a day later, I finished my bike ride and peeled off my jersey. The doorbell rang, and I ventured outside to greet my visitor, forgetting that I was pouring sweat and wearing spandex shorts (and nothing else).

Waiting at the front door was a college age girl wearing overalls. We exchanged greetings, but she was clearly a bit taken aback. She recovered admirably, though, and launched into her sale:

"Hi, I'm with NJPIRG. Do you know what PIRG is?"

. Yes I do.

I didn't have the heart, nor the blood sugar, to tell her that I so despise her organization that I've written a thousand-word diatribe about it. Which is probably for the best. She bid me adieu and moved on to exploit the next household.

Being Tuesday evening, I had the great pleasure of meeting Bearded Megan for Beers and Noble.
The vast majority of what we discussed is private, thankyouverymuch, and will therefore not be reported here. Or at all. Other parts, such as the unceasing amusement provided by the motley crew of Tuesday evening bar patrons, I'm happy to describe.

A couple of weeks ago, for example, we saw an Axl Rose impersonator. It was a brilliant likeness, and it was probably unintentional, which actually compounds the brilliance.

Megan and I, sitting in a booth and people watching, were approached by a very attractive young lady carrying a tray of shots. She asked if we would like any shots. Of course I said "no thanks"... but I found myself yearning to say yes. I didn't actually want any shots, but it was very difficult to say no to this girl.

Listen up, Clarissa, 'cause I'm about to explain it all: Sex sells.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Re: Why don't you go to the beach?

You live 30 minutes from the shore. Why do you never go there? There are kids in Nebraska who'd kill just to see the ocean, and you just take it for granted. You smug prick.

Aside from the dire threat that sunbathing poses to my hard-earned tanlines? Mostly it's people like this...

Warning, NSFW language abounds.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Thoughts on "Minimum Weight"

There are a number of sports that I've been following somewhat closely. Obviously, bike racing is one. More and more, I've been paying attention to car racing. Governing bodies in both sports have imposed minimum weight restrictions, and after giving it much thought, I've decided that this is stupid.

Bikes used to be made out of steel and aluminum, and using too little steel or aluminum makes a bike susceptible to failure. Epic failure. Or so the logic goes. In an era of carbon fiber, though, with molding rather than welding and exotic space-age materials, this isn't a problem. Bikes can be featherweights without suddenly exploding.

To meet minimum weight requirements, pros have to outfit their bikes with unnecessarily heavy components, like stems and saddles. Or they cheat - I remember reading a story from the 2004 Tour, where bikes were filled with ice during weigh-in, then raced after the ice had melted.

So what the hell is the point of imposing a minimum weight? It's certainly can't be safety. Heavier pedals do not a sturdier bicycle make, nor beefy bars a tank.

Remember the "Legalize My Cannondale" Protest?

The UCI should eliminate the minimum weight law. Manufacturers may play a game of weight-based brinksmanship, fighting to see who's products can be lightest, but nobody wants to be associated with failure, so this might be self-regulating.

Or, if the UCI wants to ensure safety, they can test the durability of racers' frames in a lab. Empirically. With some relevance to the real world.

Moving on.

Formula One is infamous for being a parade. After the first 10 minutes, there is no passing, just cars driving one-by-one around a track at very fast speeds. Officials are always trying to figure out how to make the racing better, which generally means facilitating passing.

One way to pass is to "out-brake" the other driver, to wait a little longer than he does before slowing into a corner. It takes a lot of nerve, and also confidence in your car's handling. A lighter car (and a better engine) will let a car accelerate out of the corner faster, and being light also lets a driver brake later.

So, Formula One dictates a minimum weight. For safety, just like the bicycles. The thing is, though, the chassis are now made out of carbon fiber, and they too can be both ridiculously light and acceptably sturdy.

To meet the minimum weight, constructors will put ballast in the car. Mounting pieces of lead to a carbon chassis will not make it any safer. If anything, it allows the mechanics to improve the balance of the car, so that it handles better through the corners.

Imagine a race with no minimum weight. Sure, the cars get lighter, but that means sacrificing ballast, which hurts handling. Drivers can brake later, but they have to scrub more speed to be able to maintain grip through the corner. Other cars may be set up with ballast, which is heavier but allows tighter turning.

Two setups, two sets of pros and cons, and two lines through all but the fastest corners.

Maybe this "mechanical grip" effect would be overshadowed by the influence of downforce via "aero grip", but that's questionable, especially with the new F1 rules for 2009 that reduces the size of the cars' wings.

The take home message is this: Rules that promote safety are just fine in my book. Nobody's life should be put at risk just to entertain me. However, rules that claim to promote safety while only actually wasting ink are irksome. Rules for the sake of rules don't do anyone any good.