Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Biggest Loser

The show "The Biggest Loser" had its season premiere tonight. On the show, two teams of fat people compete to see who can lose the most weight. Every week, someone on whichever team didn't do as well that week gets voted off. So kind of like fat survivor.

I usually consider reality shows to be pure exploitation. And a show in which fat people are seen being fat, sweating, and arguing with each other should be the worst. But it isn't. I think that what makes this show different from a lot of shows is that the contestants are really trying to do something. They all, for whatever reasons, want to recreate their bodies. The challenges and reality show conventions become secondary.

Before reality TV, shows always had some kind of story. Unless it was "Seinfeld." In a format with a beginning, middle, and end, like a book or a play, the main character is almost always the one who changes. The rest of the story serves as a vehicle for this personal growth. That gets lost in TV, and completely eliminated in most reality TV. On "The Biggest Loser," people really are trying to change themselves. Story is reintroduced through a back door. I think that's why a show about people who I have to admit to looking past or through in real life is compelling to me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Badass points

So today I drove a 10' box truck from Brooklyn to somewhere in Westchester. (If it were being shown on CNN, the location would be given that way.) It was fun. I really like driving the big vehicles, and while this isn't that big, it's my new high-water mark for biggest vehicle I've driven any kind of distance.

I always find SUVs amusing, but I find them more amusing when I'm sitting in something that really doesn't care what it looks like, looking down at them. Kind of like those wierd fashion clothes with camouflage patterns and high price tags as opposed to a pair of $15 BDU pants.

Full-sized trucks and cargo vans are nice because they're very honest. They have good road-feel, handle about as well as something that tall could possibly be expected too, and intimidate even a New York driver. Not as much as one might expect, but it helps when the roads are packed and I need to change lanes.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Eating crow. But not really.

So I got to try out the new setup on my bike today. I don't know if it was the changes the guy at the shop made, or if I was just in a good mood, but it felt much faster. My cruising speed was higher and I could come out of intersections faster. And the handling felt tighter. Most importantly, while tomorrow morning is the moment of truth, my knees are feeling pretty good.

More specifically, the bottom of the pedal's circle has always been a bit of a dead spot in my stroke, and now it's not. So I think I even buy the hyperextension thing. Part of my wants to mess with my saddle height more, but I don't even know what I'm trying to feel. I think I need to lay down more mileage with the bike and see if I get a better idea. The biggest difference is probably the insoles, though, although the saddle height is a pretty major change too.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The only person in history with the saddle too high

So yesterday I had my bike fit at a shop. The guy set it up in a stationary trainer and watched me ride, then started tweaking stuff to try to make it better. The first thing he did was have me add some obnoxiously colored insoles with a corrective shim thing to my shoes. We'll have to see how I like them when I actually lay down some miles, but for now the fancy footbed seems to be a huge improvement.

Next there was some tweaking of the handlebar position, and then he lowered my saddle. A lot. I think I may be the only cyclist in NYC who was riding with it too high. The method I learned was to put the saddle at a height that required me to almost straighten my leg at the bottom of the stroke. I've also run into fit articles that talk about raising the saddle until the rider's hips have to dip to reach the bottom of the stroke, then backing off a quarter of an inch or so until they're stable again, and raising the saddle such that there's a little space, maybe a centimeter, between the bottom of the rider's foot if it's flexed and the leg's straight and the pedal. This guy wanted my knee to have a 30° angle between my upper and lower leg at the bottom of the stroke. I didn't let him put my saddle that low because it made the top of the stroke feel really cramped, especially in my right knee, which tends to be a little worse, but even though it feels really wierd to be so much lower over the pedals, I'm going to try it for a while. If my bike fit had worked, I wouldn't be having problems with longer rides, so it's time to try someone else's technique.

On thinking about it further, the "high as possible" method of saddle placement makes more sense on an old-style platform pedal, or one with loose toeclips. My leg pushes down most strongly when it's almost straight, so if the downstroke is the only part of my pedal stroke that generates power, a higher saddle position is more efficient.

I ride with clipless pedals, and can exert force on them in any direction. If my leg is almost straight, my hamstrings are in a position in which they have very little leverage, so the transition from the downward part of the circle to the upward part is going to be pretty inefficient. If the saddle position is lower, then my hamstrings are already in a position to do some good. Frequently, with physical performance stuff, inefficient and unhealthy are the same thing. So since I pedal in a circle, as opposed to alternate pushes on either side, the new position will, hopefully, be much better for me. Anyway, I'll try it for a while and see how it goes.

We also added some shims between the pedal axles and the crank to put the pedals out further. I think it'll need to go further still, but the shop would need to special order a part for that, so I'm going to put some mileage on the bike and see how I feel.

The last adjustment was just to change the stem. Since the saddle is lower, the handlebars need to be lower too, and the stem I had was too long to go low enough.

On my way out of the shop, I got a call for some work. So I haven't had a chance to try the bike over some actual mileage with the new fit. I think that I definitely deserve hotness points for driving a cargo van through Manhattan and then into Brooklyn in heavy traffic.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm on the Interweb! Net. Something.

So I was browsing through my hit counter's records, which is always fun, and I ran across the Washington Post in a couple of my referring links. The Washington Post!? I think they probably backtrace some of their hits, same as I do, and ran into people reading their article after linking to it from my blog about the bike trail. But this is the first time that I've bumped into people linking to my blog from anywhere other than another "me" site or the "Next Blog" link on most blogger.com blogs. In the words of Keanu Reaves, whoa.

Makes me wish I wrote it better. Like with a beginning, middle and end, perhaps.