Monday, December 30, 2013

A Standing Ovation for Tom Southam and Rapha

The following is cut and paste from the FAQ section on Rapha's Website . I have an opinion on helmet use that I won't repeat. Rather, read Tom Southam's response because quite frankly, I couldn't have said it any better myself.

  • Q. Why do the riders in your imagery sometimes not wear helmets?
    A. Some imagery on the Rapha website shows riders on bicycles who are not wearing helmets. Rapha does not enforce any helmet policy on the riders in its photoshoots other than they adhere to the law of the land. Writer, Rapha model and former professional rider, Tom Southam, tells it like it is after a sequence shot on the Monte Zoncolan:
OK, for the record. Helmet choice is not Rapha's, it is mine, in line with the laws of the land where the images were shot. I have to say, that while I am pro helmets, and I understand their obvious and indisputable safety benefits, I am also pro choice. The freedom to wake up each day and make intelligent, informed choices in my life is something that I believe in very strongly. I do not think that getting angry and chastising Rapha over images used in their ad campaigns is really doing anything for anyone. I am not trying to make any statement that not wearing a helmet is cool, but I was riding at (much less than) 10 miles an hour, up a hill, with no traffic, with a film crew hanging out of a Fiat doblo, or whatever it was 6 inches from my face. My choice not to wear a helmet was quite obvious in that scenario. I do understand that there is a risk that kids will see this and potentially think that it is cool to ride without a helmet, but Rapha is as much a cycle safety awareness campaign as Bono is the savior of humanity. I am a 31 year old man, with 18 years riding experience. I have fallen off countless times, broken bones, skinned my backside, lost all of the skin from both of my hands, and in one quite extraordinary accident lost a nipple. Riding a bicycle is dangerous, period. Life is- like it or not- also a risky business. It is cruel, and hard and mean and even now, in the safest times that humanity has ever existed you, and everyone else around you will have to make choices, every single day of your lives to stay safe. Those choices should never be based on what looks cool. So, yes wear a damn helmet, but know why you wear a helmet, and make your own choice to wear a helmet, and have the intelligence in yourself, and promote the kind of intelligence in others, that allows people to be able to see an image in an advert without being compelled to go and risk your or their own life for the sake of looking cool, in exactly the same way that you can read that story and not be compelled to go and get drunk. This is my opinion, I am OK that many people will see it as wrong and I appreciate that. But, I personally salute Rapha for allowing me the freedom of choice, and helping to stop the world becoming the sterile kind of environment where no one understands that the obligation for their own safety lies with themselves and the people directly around them, and nowhere else.
Bravo Tom Southam and Bravo Rapha.

You get a standing ovation from me, a 46 year old man with over three decades of riding and racing experience who has also fallen off countless times and broken bones and skinned myself up and who also believes very strongly that it is up to each individual to make an informed decision for themselves.

Monday, November 19, 2012

A CX Philistine Travels to Mecca

Whenever anyone asks me if I race cyclocross I usually pick from the following standard replies:

  1. No, racing cross is the only thing sillier than racing track and I already do that.
  2. No, why would I get off of a perfectly good bicycle to heft it over my shoulder and run.
  3. No, doesn't that involve running? I don't even like to walk briskly.
  4. No
  5. Hell no
So I am rather entertained by the fact that I am about to embark on a trip across the pond to journey to the holy land of cyclocross: Belgium. I am specifically traveling over to attend a cyclocross race. Not just any cyclocross race either but The World Cup being held in Koksijde.

I will be traveling over with Logan Owen who currently sits in 3rd overall in the Junior 17-18 World Cup Standings. Logan is aiming for the podium (specifically the top step of the podium) at The Cyclocross World Championships being held in KY in February. The top 16 starting positions (the first 2 rows) are determined by your standing in the World Cup. Logan has already attended the two World Cup races in CZK last month with USA Cycling and will be traveling back in December with USAC to compete in the events at Zolder and Rome. He wanted to add a little insurance and thanks to the gracious support of the Seattle area CX community and the USAC Development Foundation he will be able to make the trip to Koksijde. I will be accompanying him as his Mr French.

While we are there I am hoping to make a brief journey to one night of the Ghent Six Day which will be going on as well.

So I will be able to check off 2 boxes on the cycling discipline specific Mecca list.

It should be a ton of fun. Look for updates at

And wish this Philistine some luck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bike Stuff for Sale

I can be a bit of hoarder. Most of my stuff is of the "vintage bike racing" variety. I have finally decided that it is time to cut ties with a lot of items that of late have done nothing but collect cobwebs in my basement. A few of these items are listed below.

I am motivated to get rid of these and ultimately I understand that any dollar given in exchange for these items is more than what I have for them right now. However, I also have an understanding of that these items do have some value and therefore I have a minimum threshold.

That said, any reasonable offer will be entertained. So, in no particular order, here are a few of the items:

Albert Eisentraut Tandem:

This is a late 70's tandem hand built by Albert for a very good friend of mine who happened to be Albert's college roommate. I have had since the mid-90's and it has been ridden "sparingly". 

Top Tube both front and back measures 56cm c to c and the seat tube measures 53cm c to c for both front and back.

Parts are a mix of Campagnolo NR and SR and TA Cranks. There are a few minor scratches in the places that you would expect to find them on a 30+ year old bike. The wheels are 27" (popular at that time) built onto 48 spoke Campagnolo large flange hubs. The wheels alone are a rarity.

Campagnolo Nuevo Record Brakes NOS:

What needs to be said? These are Campagnolo Nuovo Record Brakes that are New Old Stock. And yes, they still have the cardboard piece on the adjusting barrel. The box itself has some minor damage to it. Included are original cables and housing.

Campagnolo Sigma Pave Tubulars, C-Record Hubs

36 hole with Vittoria Competition tubular tires. I will include the Sun Tour New Winner freewheel. These wheels are bullet proof. If I could figure a way to put a 10 speed cassette on them I would still be racing them, but I can't. So I am selling them. 

As I said, I am motivated to sell this stuff. Any REASONABLE offers will be entertained and probably accepted, because this stuff is just collecting dust and cobwebs in my basement. Seriously , make me an offer. 

If interested ping me at: jgholmes at comcast dot net. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The Evolution of a Cycling Lifer

The Evolution of a Cycling Lifer

The cycling bug bit me when I was a kid in the early eighties. My first ride of any note was during the summer of 1980. I was 12 years old and I rode a Schwinn Stingray Fastback complete with a banana seat, high rise handlebars and a 5 speed shifter on the top tube 86 miles in 8 hours on a 2.5 mile course. It was in a bicycle marathon on the University of Toledo's Scott Park Campus. I was also wearing blue jeans, and started out in a raincoat. It was awesome.

Later that summer I graduated from the Stingray to a 10 speed with 26 inch steel wheels and "safety" levers. It weighed a ton. I proceeded to ride that in various AYH Bicycle Tours in the area many of them in the 100 kilometer range. I even took my steel behemoth to the local Toledo Glass City Classic Bike Race and entered the youth race. I got dropped before the first turn trying to negotiate my foot into the toe clip.

Me, the steel behemoth and my buddy Mike getting ready for the '80 Irish Hills Tour 
(No, he wasn't the reigning World Champion at the time and yes he is wearing a skate board helmet.)

A bike upgrade and more recreational tours ensued. My riding partner at the time was a neighbor kid who was a year older than me. His parents took us to all of the local recreational rides. Our goal during these rides was to stay with the local racers for as long as we could. Eventually on one of these rides in '82 one of the racers suggested that we come out and give a local training race a try. So my buddy and I rode our bikes out to the local criterium that was located about 10 miles away. The course was a .8 mile flat, four corner affair in an industrial parkway. I got dropped, quickly. If memory serves me correctly I got lapped 7 or 8 times during the ensuing 60 minute race. I had no idea what I was doing. It didn't matter to me though. That was all it took. I was hooked. All I needed was a little taste and I have been addicted ever since. It is now thirty years later and I have yet to find a twelve step program that works.

Me doing my best Euro Guy Look for a HS Freshman Yearbook Photo Shoot

I think cycling beckoned to my "think outside the box" rebellious nature. I had played team sports when I was younger and although I enjoyed them they just didn't sing to me. Cycling was an entirely different thing. Give me my bike, my Walkman with auto-reverse and a mix tape of the Sex Pistols, Devo, the Smiths and New Order and Northwest Ohio in the eighties was not quite that terrible of a place.

Ever since I was bitten by the cycling bug as a kid the bike has always been a part of my life. There were years that I tried other endeavors like the period in college in the early nineties when I first discovered rock climbing. I put a lot of effort into climbing and approached it with a training mindset born from cycling. Even during the years that I was road tripping to climbing spots all over the country I still managed to ride and even enter the occasional bike race. A seven week road trip in 1993 was comprised of rock climbing in Leavenworth, Index, Smith Rocks, City of Rocks, American Fork Canyon, Devil's Tower, reaching the summit of Rainier for the first time.....and a bike race in Kent, Washington (along with my first ride on the BG Trail out to the Marymoor Velodrome for a few hot laps). My training for Denali in 1998 was comprised entirely of a spring of early season road races

Always the bike.....

I raced all over the Midwest and East Coast competing in such races as Superweek in Wisconsin (a.k.a. Christmas in July), the Tour de Moore in North Carolina, the National Capital Open held on the Ellipse in front of the White House, Windsor-Detroit on Labor Day, The Tours of Michigan and Ohio and Athens Twilight. I got my start on the track at the old Dorais Velodrome in Detroit getting advice yelled at me by two cycling legends, Mike Walden and Claire Young. I wasn't particularly good in those early years but it didn't matter. I still loved it.

Me rocking the hairnet, Adidas System 3's and Ray Bans at the Windsor Star Classic 1989

Training knowledge in NW Ohio was virtually non-existent when I started. Most of our summer training days were comprised of 1.5 to 2 hrs on the little ring with a few sprints thrown in. The remainder of the day was spent catching rays at the local swimming quarry Breaking Away style. In November the fixed gear went on (42x18 or so) and stayed on until almost March. When I moved to Columbus for college the cycling scene was much better there and I started to get a bit of a clue but still lacked the necessary discipline and dedication.

It took moving to Southern California for the light bulb to finally go from a dim flicker to actually turning on. I was very fortunate to become friends with a number of successful professionals and Olympians and see what real training was all about. But then the pendulum swung too far. I tried doing way too much volume and even though I had been racing for many years my body wasn't used to the work load. My other sin was being a slave to the many group rides that were available. These rides were fun but from a training standpoint proved counter-productive. They were too hard to be considered recovery but not hard enough to push the envelope. I spent a lot of time riding around at 75%. I improved, but never had the sharp edge needed to really perform at a high level. I was able to race on some pretty good teams during my time in So Cal and got a level of support that quite honestly a rider of my meager ability at that time didn't deserve. The learning process and love for the bike continued though.

About that same time I became a board member of the Encino Velodrome first as the race director and then president. Then I got my first sport director gig for an amateur team in 2002. 2003 followed with a job directing a professional team comprised of some Americans, some Australians and some New Zealanders. It was based out of New York. The team itself was a disaster and I would say "professional" in name only but I learned a lot of valuable lessons. I often think you can learn more from failure than you do from success.

2003 also saw a move from So Cal to the Pacific Northwest. I "stepped away" from cycling at the end of the season and focused on the task at hand which was managing a local climbing gym. Stepping away meant only doing a handful of races, not riding quite as much and rock climbing a little bit more.

Around 2005 some local businessmen discovered my cycling background and encouraged me to help them put on some bike races. I also started competing in more and more local races. The other thing that happened is that I spent a lot of time riding by myself (not a big cycling scene on the Kitsap Peninsula which is a 1 hour ferry ride from Seattle). Since I was working a full time job I also became very time disciplined and the B.S. rides came to an end. After getting some decent results and demonstrating that I knew my way around a bike race I was asked to join one of the better local teams. Rehab was over and I was back on the hard stuff. It was fantastic.
Victory is mine!

Fast forward to the present. Since I moved to the PNW I have promoted 10 races including 2 state championship events. I recently agreed to be the race director for the longest continuously held race in the country. I became a board member for the Washington State Bicycle Association which is the Local Association for USA Cycling and was elected president last year. 

I was a guest director for a team at Cascade in 2006 and even got to experience a stage win by one of the riders. From 2008 until May of this year I was the sport director for one of the most successful amateur programs in the country. In July I will be back at Cascade as a guest director for a continental team. 

Last year I also spent a lot of time expanding my knowledge base. I attended a couple of USA Cycling coaching seminars and became a Level 2 coach and am pursuing a Level 1 license. I have also had the good fortune of getting to work with some really great up and coming riders and I hope that trend continues. One rider that I have been working with for over four years now won his 7th National Championship in January and had the privilege of representing the US at the World Cyclocross Championships in Belgium. 

I have been a bike racer almost my entire life. There is nothing I know as much about as cycling. I have made some pretty bad decisions over the years because of it but at the end of the day all of my closest friends have come from cycling and it is a huge part of who I am.

Obsessed? Probably.
Addicted? Yes.
Better off because of it? Absolutely.

Let the evolution continue.....

Photo of me taken in a race just this past Saturday. 
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'
-Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Living the Dream

A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

-Francois Auguste Rene' Chateaubriand
That quote does a pretty good job summing up my existence as of late. Now, I would not be so bold to call myself a master of anything. I am not. If you consider yourself a master then you stand a good chance of falling into the trap of complacency. When that happens the pursuit of excellence comes to a screeching halt.
Rather, this quote for me sums up what happens when you are able to pursue your passion. The line between work and play becomes very fuzzy, almost non-existent. I have had the good fortune these past three years to be the sport director for The Hagens Berman Cycling Team. 2012 will be my fourth with the team. I have also started to expand my knowledge base by partaking in a number of coaching seminars in the past 12 months and toying with the idea of doing some coaching beyond the four athletes I currently work with. Prior to that I was was a climbing instructor/guide for over a decade.
The main take away is that I have been able to cobble together an income and live a life pursuing my passions. Am I getting rich off of it? No. Has it always been easy? No. Would I be able to do it without a partner of over 16 years who has always been supportive? No (and a big thank you to her for that). But what I am doing doesn't feel like work. And for that I am grateful because I really am living the dream.