Monthly Archives: April 2008

The ABCs of cycling

Lamborghini with a bike rack

The Dallas Morning News has a great story today on cycling for beginners. They even developed some ABCs of cycling that I’ve included below. As someone who was “bitten by the cycling bug” 2 years ago, the best advice I can give is to get out and ride. Riding cures everything. You’ll learn how to stay upright and steer the bike with practice; you’ll learn how to change a flat via “baptism-by-fire” when you are stuck on the side of the road by yourself and try to figure out how the tire lever works; most important, all the little aches and pains you have when you first start riding (hand pains, sore neck, sore butt) all magically go away as you ride more.  In the words of Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist ever, when asked for his advice to younger riders who wanted to become professionals, he said simply, “Ride lots.”

Always wear a helmet. Even a slow-speed fall can cause traumatic head injury because of the distance to the ground.

B is for bike store, not big box. A good bike shop has employees who can help you sort through myriad choices and price ranges. A bike shop can put you on the right bike for your needs and in the correct size.

Commute. Consider using a bicycle as a transportation alternative. Each gallon of gasoline you save keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air and $3.50 in your pocket.

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Build a base with short rides on a regular basis. Increase your time or distance by 10 percent each week.

Enter a bike rally; there are many to choose from. A rally is a goal to train for and will expose you to the cycling bug. It’s fine to start with a short distance.

F is for fun, not just fitness. Fitness, weight and other goals are fine, but you’re more apt to reach them if you’re having fun.

Gears. Learn to use them. Pedaling, especially initially, should be easy. Think circles as you pedal, not individual downward strokes. (See Knees.)

Hills. Find a hill and ride up it; that’s what it’s for. Hills build core strength that will allow you to fly across the prairie. No hills? Then ride into the wind.

Inner tube. Have one that’s right for your bike, and know how to change it on the road.

Jersey. A good bike jersey wicks perspiration away from your body, keeping you cooler. Many have three pockets in back for cellphones, inner tubes or an energy snack.

Knees. Many of you considering bike riding are high-impact-sport enthusiasts who need relief. Cycling is kind on the knees.

Lock. Get a good one.

Maintenance. Take a class or ask a cyclist about taking care of your bike. Your first goals should be to change a tire and maintain the gear chain.

Neighborhood. You shouldn’t have to take your bike somewhere to ride it. Even people in busy areas should be a couple of blocks from an acceptable riding area. Remember, frequency is the key.

Outside. One of the best elements of cycling, even in Texas. Spring (now!) is an ideal time to start, and if you do, you will be able to ride through the summer heat. Airflow is nature’s air conditioning.

Pump. Get a good one and use it. Properly inflated tires will help you roll merrily along.

Quick release. Proper rear wheel quick-release tension is critical. You might find yourself on the pavement with the first hard pedal stroke.

Right of way. You have all the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle on Texas roads, but remember to yield to cars. You don’t want to be dead right.

Saddle. Perhaps the most important part of the bike, it’s where the rider meets the bike. If riding is a pain, you probably haven’t found the right saddle. There are saddles for men and women. The correct narrow seat should be much more comfortable than a wide, tractor-style seat. Consult a good bike shop.

Tire tools. These little beauties will help you change a tire without puncturing the new tube.

Underwear. Don’t need it. That’s what the silly black shorts are for. The built-in chamois liner keeps you from getting chapped.

Velodrome. Check out the races this summer at Superdrome in Frisco, 9700 Wade Blvd., for a preview of cycling events in the Olympic Games. Track racers compete on a banked oval. See www.superdrome.com.

Water. You’ll need plenty in Texas. Water bottles are cheap and get the job done. Caution: If you ride rallies, the freebie bottles can take over like bamboo in a flowerbed.

eXtras. You’ve got plenty of time to get extras. Start with a bike, helmet and pump, if cash is a barrier. Then slowly add cycling shoes, gloves and a heart rate monitor.

Yellow Jersey. Watch at least some Tour de France race coverage in July. It’ll add to your enthusiasm during the dog days of summer. Enjoy the ribbon of team colors as it flows through the French countryside.

Zen. Grasshopper: The sum of cycling is greater than its parts. It’s man or woman and machine; a time to think through problems while gaining confidence in your ability.

Weekend Rides

Hill repeats

I had a great weekend of riding.

Friday I pulled Grant in his trailer on my cyclocross bike. Grant hasn’t ridden with me in months (even though I ask him to come almost every day), but I convinced him to come Friday after work and we had a great time. We rode up and down the Trinity Trail. We looked for bats under every bridge (he’s convinced every bridge has bats living under it like the Congress Ave. bridge in Austin) and we tried to “catch the train” whenever we heard the whistle blow. I also realized how much Grant is growing. When we was 18 months, pulling his trailer was no big deal. However, now that he is 3 (and probably 35 pounds) it makes for more of a workout up the hills.

Saturday I did 78 miles with Kevin. We rode out to, and around, Lake Weatherford and then came back via Aledo and Lake Benbrook. The weather was perfect and we managed a slightly-less-than-tempo pace for most of the ride. Kevin’s gotten much stronger in the last few months (I’m sure his sweet new bike helps) and we’re able to cover a lot more ground when we ride together now. I finished with a TSS of 260 for the ride, so a solid workout.

On Sunday it was raining. So I stayed in and played with Grant all day (we also watched the NFL Draft). But in the afternoon it cleared up so I headed out for a couple hours of hill repeats. There is a great hill in the new Edwards Ranch development they’re building in Fort Worth. I knocked off two sets of 10 hill repeats and then did some tempo riding for an hour.

My legs are starting to feel pretty good again, so I might try and race at the Wed. Crit this week if everything works out.

Budding Entrepreneur

kiddos

The pic above is of Grant (on the right) with his cousins at the Zoo this week. Grant’s been great since Lauren was born and he’s really enjoyed all the company we’ve had come visit.  Jess’s Grandma (so Grant’s Great Grandma) has been staying with us for the last week or so. I went home for lunch today (one of the perks of living 5 minutes from the ThinkCash HQ) and Grant was playing with GG (his Great Grandma) in Lauren’s room. Lauren’s room has a garden theme with a flower rug, tree painted on the wall, etc. Grant was excited to see me and tell me about the game they were playing – Flower Pickers. According to Grant, here is how you play:

  • You pick flowers
  • Then you put the flowers in a refrigerated truck
  • Then you drive them to a store where people can buy them with “cash money”

So, I know I’m biased (as most parents are with their own kids), but Grant just turned 3 and he has already figured-out how commerce works in a free market economy.

Back in the saddle again

toilet bike

So I finally got my bike back on Tuesday. It’s been 2.5 weeks since my crash at Mineral Wells and I’ve been riding my cyclocross bike while waiting for my new frame to come in. Luckily Kuota has a 50% off crash replacement policy and I only had to buy a new frame (amazingly everything else was salvageable except my front wheel).

The good folks at FWCycling got my bike put together ASAP so I could take it for a ride on Tuesday afternoon as part of the first ever ThinkCash Tuesday Night Tour. We now have about 7 guys at work who ride, so we decided it was time to start a weekly ride. We rolled out of the office at 5 and headed out to Lake Benbrook and back. I felt like the “protected” yellow jersey wearer in the Tour de France since I had on my blue Moritz kit and was surrounded by riders in green ThinkCash kits.

It felt good to be on my road bike again and to have my PowerTap back. Riding my cross bike for the last couple weeks made me realize what a valuable training tool my PowerTap can be. Since I haven’t done any intervals or high-intensity work since my crash, I’m no where near race-ready right now, which is disappointing because I had really good form heading into Mineral Wells/Fort Davis. If nothing else, I’ll have the opportunity now to build a big base this summer and peak for cross season 😉

 

Why won’t Google let us make search ads more interesting?

Google AdWords

So the ThinkCash team tested a pretty unique ad on Google this week for our PayDay One site on the terms “payday loans” and “cash advance“. The results were bitter sweet. Paid search ads are a huge channel for any online advertiser. The problem is that you can’t get very “creative” when you’re ad is limited to a handful of characters of Tahoma-font-text.

Google Ad

We decided to test some ad creative using “ASCII Art” (see above) that we thought was pretty unique. The ad is in no way misleading, but rather a more interesting way to try and attract the attention of a consumer that has already indicated that they have an emergency cash need based on their search query.

So I said the results were bitter sweet. The sweet portion is that we saw a 50% higher CTR on this ad versus our control. The bitter part – Google yanked our ad and said that we weren’t complying with AdWords guidelines (they specifically cited the excessive use of punctuation and capitalization).

ad rejection

I know Google has a tough job and managing click fraud and deceptive search marketing practices is a huge challenge for them. However, I think the time has come for the simple-text search ad to evolve . . . I’m OK with baby steps forward, but let’s just keep moving forward.

Bicycle racing . . . best advice ever

Wood bike race

I just read one of the best post I’ve ever read on amateur bicycle racing at BikeSnobNYC. For those of us who race (and have ever “sprinted” for any place outside of the Top-20), you’ll understand the truth in his message. For those of you thinking about racing, it’s a great read to “manage expectations” (albeit in a humorous way).

Separated at birth? And other musings on the NFL Draft

Matt Ryan and Ryan Leaf

So the NFL Draft is this month and the only “franchise” QB in the draft this year is Matt Ryan from Boston College. Now I don’t know Matt Ryan from Adam, but I have seen a couple of his games. My analysis, he is a good QB prospect, maybet a “franchise” quarterback at the NFL level. So what are my draft-analysis-credentials?

  • I’ve TIVO’d every episode of “Path to the Draft” on The NFL Network (btw, Mike Mayock is the best draft expert on TV and much better than Mel Kiper).
  • I watch a ton of college football.
  • I’ve watched at least the first two rounds of every NFL draft over the last 20 years.
  • I partially paid my way through college as a sports writer for the Daily Advertiserin Lafayette, LA. As a writer for the Advertiser I actually got to cover the 1996 NFL draft from the Saints’ headquarters, which was an amazing opportunity since that was Mike Ditka’s first year as the Saints’ coach.
  • Like every other Draft-Nik I actually think I know what I’m talking about.

So after watching highlights of Matt Ryan’s Pro Day workout, I realized something – Matt Ryan is the spitting image of Ryan Leaf. Now this coincidence should scare any NFL GM considering Matt Ryan since Ryan Leaf was one of the biggest NFL draft busts ever. It’s funny, but just think that 10 years ago there was legitimate debate whether the Colts should draft Leaf instead of Peyton Manning . . . the Colts made the right choice. However, I actually think Matt Ryan will be a very good pro and there’s little chance he becomes a “bust”, but in memory of Ryan Leaf here are my 14 biggest busts in recent NFL draft history:

Brian Bosworth

Brian Bosworth, LB – 1987, Supplemental Draft, Seattle Seahawks

After Bosworth won the Butkus Award twice at Oklahoma, the Seahawks selected him in the 1987 supplemental draft and signed him to a 10-year, $11 million deal. He had one of the coolest sports posters of all-time (remember “The Land of Boz”). With his funky haircuts and his bad boy attitude, he was supposed to be the Dick Butkus of the 90’s. Instead, injuries and the embarassment of being run over by Bo Jackson on Monday Night Football limited him to a disappointing three-year career. However, Bosworth has had some minor success as an actor including Stone Cold and The Longest Yard.

Aundrey Bruce

Aundray Bruce, LB – 1988, #1 , Atlanta Falcons

Remember Aundrey Bruce? You’re not alone. The former Auburn star had four average seasons in Atlanta managed to hang around the league for another 7 years, but never produced. Probably one of the biggest non-injury-related #1 pick busts ever.

Tony Mandarich

Tony Mandarich, OL – 1989, #2, Green Bay Packers

SI called this guy the greatest offensive-line prospect of all time and if memory serves, Dr. Z (a NFL writer for SI) said he was one of the safest picks ever. Turns out Dr. Z was wrong. After holding out for a huge deal his rookie season, he was a disappointment from the start and only played three years for Green Bay and then made a comeback with the Colts. What makes this pick particular tough is the three picks that came after Mandarich (other players Green Bay could have taken) – Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders . . . ouch.

Andre Ware

Andre Ware, QB – 1990, #7, Detroit Lions

Ware won the Heisman Trophy and put up amazing numbers at Houston, but his game did not translate to the NFL. He was the first of several run-and-shoot collegiate quarterbacks to become NFL flops (similar to the current trend of spread-offense QB flops in the NFL). Ware couldn’t even get off the bench in the Canadian Football League – literally.

Blair Thomas

Blair Thomas, RB – 1990, #2, New York Jets

All that needs to be said is this:

Blair Thomas career rushing yards – 2,236

Emmit Smith career rushing yards (taken 17th in 1990) – 18,355

Todd Marinovich

Todd Marinovich, RB – 1991, #24, Oakland Raiders

Marinovich’s status as a draft bust is mostly due to the hype that surrounded him coming out of high school. “Robo-QB” was the first of the high school QBs groomed for a career in the NFL their whole life (his Dad played OL for the Raiders). He ran into trouble with drugs while starring at USC, and his problems continued after joining the Raiders, where he lasted just two seasons. I knew this kid was destined to blow-up after a story on him was printed that he had never had McDonald’s in his life. Therefore, when he was no longer under his Dad’s careful watch at USC, he became a Big Mac addict. So I guess Big Macs were his “gateway drug”.

Emtman and Coryatt

Steve Emtman, DL – 1992, #1 & Quentin Coryatt, LB – 1992, #2 Indianapolis Colts

An outstanding D-lineman at University of Washington, Emtman blew out his knee nine games into his rookie season, beginning a cycle of injuries he never overcame. Coryatt played five seasons for Colts before being released in 1997. Maybe the worst draft ever – not just for the Colts, 1992 was devoid of any real “star” talent.

David Klingler

David Klingler, QB – 1992, #6, Cincinnati Bengals

At the University of Houston (following in the footsteps of Andre Ware), Klingler threw 54 TDs in a season and six TDs in a quarter. He only threw 16 TDs in four whole seasons with the Bengals. I’ve often heard that Klinger had the best arm in the history of the NFL (including stories of the ability to throw the ball 100 yards in the air), but none of that helped him when he played for the “Bungles”.

Heath Shuler

Heath Shuler, QB – 1994, #3, Washington Redskins

This is a crazy one. It was always said that Shuler had the physical tools, but he never understood the nuances of an NFL offense while in Washington. This suggest that he wasn’t very smart; however, Shuler is back in Washington, but now as a U.S. Congressman reprensenting North Carolina . . . (insert joke here)

Ki-Jana Carter

Ki-Jana Carter, RB – 1995, #1, Cincinnati Bengals

After playing on one of the most talented offenses in college football histiry at Penn State, Carter blew out his knee before ever taking a snap in an NFL regular-season game. When he did make it back on the filed he only averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Injuries plagues him his whole career (or lack thereof).

Lawrence Philips

Lawrence Phillips, RB – 1996, #6, St. Louis Rams

Before PacMan Jones there was Lawrence Philips. A speedster out of Nebraska, Phillips may have gone even higher if he hadn’t pleaded no contest to domestic-violence charges while in college (one of his many “incidents” in college). Even the great Dick Vermeil (widely known as the best “players coach” ever) couldn’t help the troubled back. As a result, St. Louis released Phillips a year after drafting him.

Ryan Leaf

Ryan Leaf, QB – 1998, #2, San Diego Chargers

I have several friends that went to WaZoo (Washington State) with Ryan Leaf. Every one of them told me he was a jerk. So I wasn’t shocked that he basically become the definition of a “bust” in in the NFL . Looking back, it’s pretty comical to think that there was actually a debate over which QB should be #1 – Leaf or Peyton Manning. Let’s just say the Colts made the right choice.

Akili Smith

Akili Smith, QB – 1999, #3, Cincinnati Bengals

Smith emerged after one good season at Oregon and almost went No. 1 over Tim Couch (who just missed making my list) and Donovan McNabb. This is the classic example of coaches and player personnel folks falling in love with a guys “measurables” and not trusting the film. Yes, he had one good year at Oregon, but to take a QB at #3, you need more film (guy has to do it for more than 11 games).

Charles Rogers

Charles Rogers, WR – 2003, #3, Detriot Lions

The gut you see on Rogers above is indicative of his poor attitude and poor work ethic. He also had issues with failing the NFL substance abuse policy and will probably never play again. This is pretty sad since this guy had Randy Moss-type talent.

Jim Drunkenmiller

Jim Drunkenmiller, QB – 1997, #26, San Franciso 49ers

This was the classic case of SF needing a QB of the future, but there was no QB worth a first round pick available. Therefore, the 49ers really reached on Drunkenmiller. The best thing about Drunkenmiller was his stregth – which is great if you are a linebacker, not so important if you are a QB. He was literally the strongest guy on the Va Tech team and benched 405 lbs and could clean-and-jerk 400 lbs+. His agent even put together a video of Drunkenmiller doing a “World’s Strongest Man” workout (lifting huge barrels, dragging big bags of sand behind him) that he sent to all the NFL teams. Looks like it worked.

UPDATE 10-1-2008: If you love sports, make sure to check out my post on the launch of OneSeason.com.

Ouch!

taco'ed wheel

So this weekend’s racing did not go as I had planned. Saturday’s race was perfect. I felt really good and worked for my teammate Brian who took the win. Sunday’s race in Mineral Wells is the race I had been waiting and training for. Two weeks ago I did an insane workout and pre-rode the course with some teammates and this week I really rested well so I would be on a full tank of gas. The Sunday race was 62 miles and featured the longest climb in N. Texas (Cherry Pie Hill) at the end. I really felt prepared for a Top-5 placing. That all changed around mile 16.

Just after we made a turn on to Highway 180, cruising along (my PT says we were doing 27 mph), the guy in front of me (a large guy, probably 220 lbs) suddenly went down at a 90 degree angle. I tried to get around him and almost did, but he kept sliding and I plowed right into him. As you can see from the picture above, my front wheel taco’ed and I basically landed on my head/face. The race officials were amazing and on the scene in a matter of seconds. I never lost consciousness and was really more upset about not getting to finish the race then anything else. It was only later when I surveyed the damage to my bike and myself that I feel very fortunate . . . it could have been much worse

trashed handlebar

Damage to bike:

  • Front wheel destroyed
  • Frame cracked
  • Handlebar cracked and tape shredded
  • Fork cracked
  • Shifters dented and cracked
  • Rear derailer trashed

Damage to Ben:

  • Road rash everywhere (elbows, back, knees, hands, shoulder)
  • No more fingertips on four fingers
  • Helmet burns on my forehead (helmet cracked as designed – thanks Bell!)
  • 15 stitches in my chin and lip
  • black eye
  • sore/dislocated jaw

I will be off the bike for a while to heal and figure out what to do about my road bike (luckily I have a cyclocross bike to ride for a while). The only expensive part on my bike not damaged was my PowerTap – for which I am grateful. Unfortunately, I will now miss Fort Davis and the Joe Martin stage race in Arkansas (both races with lots of climbing that would have suited me well). Time to re-think my goals for the rest of the year.

A big thanks to a few folks.

  • Andy, the race promoter, for giving me a ride back to the start/finish and giving me a good pep talk on the way there.
  • Katie (my teammate Brian’s wife) for cleaning up my wounds (luckily she is a nurse)
  • Brian, for getting me back to FW in record time.
  • The Doc for stitching me up – maybe my modeling career isn’t over 😉
  • My Moritz teammates for emailing or calling to check on me.

It’s times like this I appreciate how close-knit the Texas racing community is and how grateful I am to have some really great teammates.
trashed hb

More Baby Lauren pics

So yesterday I was finally able to download some photos from the camera. We are definitely in “survival mode” in the Cooper household, but having Grandma (Jess’s Mom) with us has been a huge help this first week. Grant has quickly adapted to the role of Big Brother and wants to help with “his baby”.

Published again!

April Racing Post

In college I had a pretty cool job. I was a sports writer for The Daily Advertiser in Lafayette, LA. My beat was mostly high school football and basketball, but I had some great experiences including:

  • Covering the New Orleans Saints’ 1997 draft (from the team headquarters). This was Mike Dikta’s first year as the coach of the Saints, so I had the opportunity to speak with him and several ESPN personalities that were reporting live from the scene including Linda Cohn – with whom I lost a $5 bet on who the Saints would take with their #10 pick (damn Chris Naeole).
  • Being in the newsroom (and putting on the headline) when LSU beat then #1 Florida – in my opinion the first spark in what became LSU’s recent mini-dynasty.
  • Covering numerous high school players that have gone on to success in the NFL.

Ever since I got my first job in the “real world” I’ve always missed the creative outlet that being a writer provided. That is one of the reasons that I started this blog. Well, I’m proud to say that I have “picked up my pen” one more time and have a story in this month’s Racing Post. The Racing Post is THE #1 authority on all things cycling in Texas. They have great coverage on Texas racing, rally rides, etc. You’ll find a PDF my story on page 29 through this link The magazine is also availble in bike shops all over Texas. The motivation to write the story came from my son, Grant, who continues to inspire me on a daily basis.

Hope you enjoy and with any luck I’ll write a few more.