Saturday, December 26, 2009

MTA Workers Steal Seats from Paying Customers

This just in from BBB's underground journal: an MTA worker who can't move his COAT off the seat for a crowded car of people because, well, he just doesn't want to.

When a woman got on the train and asked him if she could sit down, he refused to budge, and pretended to not even notice her, studiously burying his head in the trashy novel he was "reading".

That's why we have increases in the MTA fares, and decreases in service: because of the arrogant self entitled people like him working for the MTA.

He should be fired--for at least the reason that every single time he rides the subway, which is presumably twice a day, he is stealing two seats from paying customers. One for his seat, which he does not pay for, and the second for the seat his coat is on.

If you multiply that times half the payroll of the MTA, voila, there is your budget deficit--all in their big butts and antisocial, self indulgent behavior.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Surviving the Winter (c)

With that first major snowfall of the year, the heart of a cyclist goes into the stage of sorrow, and their mouths go into a silent scream. They know from now on they'll have to watch and wait for clear streets ahead before they get back on the road .

Photo Credit Michael Oryl

But many cycling maniacs still ride not only through cold weather--defined as below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but also through the snow. ( I don't say below 32, which is freezing, because of wind chill--more on that later).

Gavriel Epstein reported he rode through fresh snow this morning.  Here is his ride on Map My Ride--about 50 miles round trip from Fort Lee to Haverstraw and back. Many cyclists take their chances riding alongside massive snowbanks, melting and re-iced snow, and reduced width roads. One site, Icebike, is all about riding your bike in the snow.  The site even has an entire page dedicated to classifying 10 different ice road conditions, from dry asphalt to "glare" ice.  

There is also a long discussion of "windchill" which I am happy to report to Eugene Boronow of Mengoni who always runs off to Arizona in the winter but nevertheless insists that there is "no such thing" as wind chill.

I am happy to report that the ice bike experts confirm that there IS windchill, Eugene, and that it is calculated in the following way by the U.S. National Weather Service:
T(wc) = 0.0817(3.71V**0.5 + 5.81 -0.25V)(T - 91.4) + 91.4
T(wc) is the wind chill, V is in the wind speed in statute miles per hour and T is the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

The relief is that wind chill no longer operates at negative 40 degrees, so if you are riding at 15 miles per hour in minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it will actually feel like -40 degrees and no more (or is it no less?) So when it is negative 40 degrees, Eugene, you are right, there is no windchill!

Zakopane - Tatra Mountains - Poland (Piotr Chilecki)

I have seen some cyclists with studded nails in their wheels so they can ride on snow and ice.  It can be pretty exciting, the fresh snow under your tires making it a little slippery, the fresh air, the gorgeous white stuff all around you, it's quite a rush.

But if you ride on the road, the presence of snow and ice add to the statistical average that you will have an accident or worse be struck by a vehicle. Cars also are less predictable and are more likely to slip or skid --with you in the way.

So when it snows or dips below 35 degrees (25 degrees is my absolute limit) you're better off joining a gym and signing up for some tough spin classes and swimming or enjoying some outdoor winter sports like cross country skiing.

Before you do, check out some Artic bike riding tips by blogger and author Jill Homer to see what you are really missing.  Some of these are really useful, like "Stay away from Moose tracks."  At least in Alaska there is no chance of being hit by cars as you cycle across the Tundra. Another tip, use wider tires and let some air out.

Spin Classes

Spinning is a great way to prevent the winter weight from taking control, and often the intensity will allow you do get away with a one hour work out instead of three hours of road riding.  But spin classes are designed for non-cyclists and are often taught by non-cyclists.  So you will need to adapt your workout to suit a cyclist's needs.

For one, spin instructors often mistake standing up as a better work out. Actually, it's a better way to ruin your knees.  You'd be better off practicing a full 50% of your sprints in the saddle than out of it.

Just mention to them at the beginning of class that you are a cyclist and therefore need to watch your knees and won't do every move that they tell you to do, so they won't humiliate you in front of everyone by pointing out what you are doing wrong. Eventually spin instructors will get the message and learn how to protect cyclists' knees.

Another thing that spin instructors don't warn you to do: from a saddle position to a stand up position requires increasing the tension by at least a full turn of the handle, again otherwise you can really hurt your knees.

And finally, make sure your position on the bike is not too high or too low--this also can really damage your knees. Take the time to check your seat position carefully before you start.

Another thing cyclists really have to watch for is BOREDOM when either spinning or doing any other indoor sport. So choose your gym and your classes well--make sure the teacher is inspiring and you like the music and the people around you. I like gyms where the cyclists scream in pain, it makes me feel like we're actually working (if you live in New Jersey, try the Jewish Community Center in Tenafly, they're the best.)

If you don't have access to a gym, you can buy a trainer. But be warned, even though trainers are more convenient and you can watch your favorite TV show while you work out, the lack of competition from other spinners around you, as well as the absence of a driving, screaming instructor, makes home-based work outs less effective.

Cross Country Skiing

Although it takes really good snow coverage to get a run in, we already have had a huge nor' easter, with more than a foot of snow today (well if you don't know that you're either living in another part of the country or you're not among the living). Skiing was possible this weekend even in New York's Central and Prospect Parks.

Often it's best to plan your ski run first thing in the morning when there are few cars, and less chance for the snow to melt. Just after a major snowfall in the middle of the night--like 2 a.m., can be a great time to ski especially if there is some moonlight (though some parks are officially closed after midnight, so be careful.)

The trail ahead, Tallman Park, Dec. 20, 2009 (Benepe) 

In the burbs, many private and public golf courses can be the perfect place for a midnight run.

During the daytime, parks are best for skiing. In New York state, Tallman Park, a mere 20 minute's drive or a 45 minute bus ride from Manhattan offers up to 5 miles of trails.  You can also ski the Old Erie Trail from Orangeburg to Nyack, NY, so round trip will be more than 10 miles.

And if you can drive to Nyack Beach in Nyack, you can ski from Nyack to Haverstraw along the Hudson River--a distance of about 12 miles out and back.

Though skiing does not offer the same intense, long distance work out that cycling does, it allows you to work on muscles that rarely get any work at all-arms, stomach and full leg stretches.

Ah, the joys of winter: The sun faintly coming through the trees, Tallman Park, Dec. 20, 2009 (Benepe)

Swimming and Weights

If you can join a gym, try to find one with a pool. There are many reasons for this. For one, swimming is excellent for recuperating any back issues that you've kept tensely wrapped up in your body from ride to ride all summer.

The stretching motion of a standard swim stroke also lengthens and strengthens stomach, back, shoulder and arm muscles, the most neglected parts of a cyclist's body. Many cyclists have excess fat around their stomachs even in the middle of the summer, which means, working on your stomach now will pay off later.

But the best solution to prevent weight gain is to do at least two spin classes a week coupled with at least two 50 to 70 lap pool workouts.

Add to that weight lifting for both arms and legs. Yes arms, because now you are swimming, but also because now that you are not riding as much, your arms will lose their fitness quickly. Leg muscles are a must too because these weight workouts will allow you to retain strength for the spring season.


Hiking is a great way to be outdoors and not freeze your butt off if skiing and running are not your cup of tea. It's also a great way to bond with the people and pets you have ignored all year while you take both Saturdays and Sundays to do three to five hour rides.

Two caveats--one, conditions on rocks can be icy, adding to your potential for injury.  And storm conditions can make hiking hazardous if you get caught on a mountain at the wrong time.

Ana Banana, BBB dog going on a cross country ski at Tallman Park, Dec. 20, 2009, after she was let out of the bag (see below).

Many mountains do not have cell towers nearby, and you can find yourself in a fading light with freezing weather conditions and dangerous ice or snow underfoot, and no way to communicate with the world. Some areas without cell communication include most of Bear Mountain and Harriman State Park, the hike to the old burned out hotel above Woodstock, NY, and all of the major trails at North and South Lake near Hunter, NY. 

One year I climbed a mountain after a major snow fall only to find on the way down that there was a fine sheet of ice under the snow, so every step would send me flying. I had to make my way down the 3 mile hike on a sliver of a 5 inch strip along the edge of the trail while also carrying a freezing dog in one arm wrapped in my down jacket.

If you plan to do a lot of winter hiking, invest either in a pair of snow shoes or clip on spikes for your hiking boots, and make sure you have adequate water and clothing for the colder trip down.

And make sure you have provisions for woman's best friend too (like Ana Banana here, wistfully packaged in a warm bag.)


I saved this for last because most cyclists don't really like running which is why they ride. For one, it feels distinctly uncomfortable on the feet and knees, and it is certainly a lot less refined.

However, if you can invest in a good pair of shoes, and assuming you didn't start cycling because you ruined your knees running, it's a very good way to stay in shape over the winter.

For one, it is about the only thing you can do when the temperature slips below 20 degrees, and still feel warm.  As long as you have a warm hat and very warm gloves, two upper layers and one lower layer should be enough in 20 degree temperature.  Running on packed snow is one of the most beautiful experiences in the world, while running in deep, soft snow is not so great. It's best if you can do a minimum of three miles. If you're on the home work out plan, add an hour of indoor training to get the equivalent of three and a half hours of cycling (it's not as much, but it should do.)

Finally, stop eating so much

The hardest thing for a distance cyclist to do is to eat less. Just look at professional cyclists when they stop competing--they balloon out into caricatures of their previous selves.  It's always very sad to see, but cyclists know in their hearts of hearts that it isn't because they stopped taking speed and other performance enhancement drugs. It's because they didn't stop eating as much as they used to.

As much as I love dispensing this advice, I often find myself being one of the best candidates for motion control when it comes to consumption.

So here are some tips on how to cut down on the invisible calories that are ruining your physique. Don't listen to all the pundits about eating breakfast in the morning. My advice, don't eat unless you are hungry. Repeat after me: don't eat unless you are hungry. That includes the morning.

Why? It's your body telling you that you don't need food. If you like a cup of coffee in the morning, make sure you have milk with it so you don't ruin your stomach. And if you aren't hungry until lunch eat something nutritious but low calorie, like a whole wheat bread sandwich with turkey, or home made chicken soup and low fat cheese.

And then don't eat again until dinner time. Two meals a day are best for cyclists with reduced work outs, even if you are doing a back-to-back swim and spin, or run and train.

Here's another tip. Stock up on lean meats and lots of vegetables, stay away from butter, and cook vegetables and meats with juice and a tiny bit of oil instead of lots of oil.  And if you have to eat sweets, make them yourself. Why? Home made cookies and sweets are infinitely more nutritious if you load them with oatmeal, whole wheat flour, nuts, cranberries and raisins. And because of this, you'll eat fewer of them.

In any event, winter should be your opportunity to fight the boredom of riding the same route 100 times over and over again, and give you the chance to re-balance you leg-heavy muscle ratio.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and move!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes, 5BBC Bash, HV Fashion Show and More

There is so much going on I just don't know where to start!

Okay I just can't help it. Lance got his new kit, you saw it first here (though of course I think it must have hit the airwaves already.) Thanks to Doug Daniele for his sleuth work.

Now, a poll. Please tell me what you think of this new kit (entries below).

Frankly for the many millions of dollars riding on this sports relationship, you would think they would have hired someone who knew what they were doing when they designed this jersey.

Next: real New York gossip, via the Five Borough Bike Club party last Saturday.

It was a cold, dark, rainy, almost snowy night when I trudged my way through the subway system to get to the annual 5BBC party being held in the Woolworth Building.

Today I still have a hangover from the three glasses of champagne I consumed.

Don't ask me why I did that, it may have been because earlier that day I fell and sprained my wrist and finger, and both had blossomed with pain and I walked around the party wearing a massive ice pack on my wrist like a corsage.

Pic: Bob Castro, Noah Budnick, and Beth Katz (Benepe) 

I have never seen such a huge gathering of New York personalities except perhaps at a Woodstock political gathering for a liberal candidate. 

The 5BBC is one of the biggest cycling clubs in New York at almost 1400 members only matched by New York Cycle Club, and Century Road Club Association (the latter is a racing club, ergo, it's a mystery to me why we need two recreational clubs).

Last year bbb missed the party out of sheer bimboism, having bought the ticket but spaced the date. (Now why is that a surprise? )

This year no such error was to be repeated considering all the fun I would be missing and also that my alter ego, that rapacious capitalist Hotvelociti CEO was giving away a jersey in the end of night raffle.

 Steve and Linda Faust

First let me say all the greats of cycling came to the party. That includes Danny Lieberman who leads many of the group rides, in particular the ice cream tasting ride held mid-summer.

Danny started ebikes, the most central and pivotal electronic exchange for cycling politics in New York. He bought me my first glass of champagne and from then on it was downhill.

Nick Asadourian, Ed Bruno, and Deborah Lehrer

There also was Barry Hartglass, program manager for the club who arranged this swanky soiree at Kitchen. At $20 a head in advance it was well worth the price---food was ample, though Lieberman did get yelled at by the owner for starting to put salad on his plate before the rest of the entrees had been brought out.

Danny would not let us forget it until dessert rolled around, and I have to say, I didn't know he was so sensitive! You have to realize though that there is a disconnect between the world of cyclists and the rest of the world: I have never seen so many people so hungry when that food finally arrived. They practically knocked the food right out of the waiters' hands as they brought it to the table, their plates, forks, and knives poised appropriately for the pounce.

One family member who seemed to do very well for herself in the food competition was 3-year-old Isabella Delarosa, who not only jumped to the front of the line before anyone, but also ate all the hors d'oeuvres. Here she is sucking on a lime! Nothing like learning early from older cyclists how to get food fast!

Isabella,  Naylani, and Eddie Delarosa and cousin Kyron Sepulvuda

Dec 1st marks the end of the fiscal calendar for 5BBC, thus also the changeover in board members. So the old and the new were there. Please don't ask me to keep track, because there is no way.

But among them were the greats of the greats in cycling like Steve Faust and his wife Linda, Ed Ravin, Ed DeFreitas (who miraculously won two lottery drawings), Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives, Andrea Mercado, Debbie Lehrer and Nick Asadourian, Bob Castro, and so many other personalities that have been defining cycling in New York for decades (in Budnick's case it must have started on the tricycle.)

Lynette Chiang (left) showed off her sprightly folding bike body with a bright red dress. Chiang is a bike blogger and bicycle bag maker as well as a businesswoman. Here is her story on pole dancing.

Scroll down to see the picture of how she did on her first pole. More on pole dancing below.

One couple said they had been members since 1962.

I checked this little factoid with Barry Hartglass and this is what he said:" The 5BBC was formed in 1990 and was an outgrowth of The Metropolitan Bike Committee of The AYH Hostel (dating back to the 1960's).  The 5BBC was part of AYH until I believe 1/1/01 and then became an independent organization."

So then, it HAS been in existence since 1962, just under a different rubric.

There were even members at the party who used to ride, like one who now has to move around in a wheelchair. He doesn't care, he likes the memories, the good company, and the idea of being around a bunch of cyclists.


You're not getting off so easy, buster!

Hotvelociti, the rapacious, capitalist alter ego of BBB, is having a 2010 Collection Fashion Show, Pole Dancing Party and Sample Sale TOMORROW.

Here are the details:

Dec. 9, 2009 at 244 East 51st St., at Haven NY, from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. So far at least 50 cyclists from New York and New Jersey will be there. Don't miss this fun time.

Among the models will be sexy Crisy Roman, a pole dancer who now teaches; fabulous Mai, and sizzling Nicole. Among the men will be Javier, the national champion in triathlons in Dominican Republic (hot! the country I mean.)

There will be no nudity: the POINT is to show off the clothing, remember?

You'll also get to buy Hotvelociti samples at 50% off retail at this event!

Stay tuned for more party news: the next one is Dec. 15th.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cassell Cause of Deadly Crash Under Investigation

Contrary to mainstream news reports, officers at the Greenburgh police department did not blame Cassell for his crash with the Westchester Bee Line bus on November 6.

The crash that killed Merrill Cassell, 66, of Elmsford, NY is still under investigation said Captain Joseph DeCarlo of the Greenburgh Police Dept.

For that reason he said, they still have not determined what was the cause of Cassell's death, and perhaps if the driver of the bus was careless when he came around him on Route 119 going east. The incident occurred at the intersection of Tarrytown Road and Aqueduct Road, at about 3:30 p.m., not during rush hour said the Captain.

He also noted that the weather was clear and there was good visibility at that time.

Route 119 has four lanes, two in each direction. The roadway is bordered with parked cars, and businesses, and there is no bike lane on either side of the lane.

There also is no extra space, requiring that motorists traveling in the right hand side--as the Bee-Line bus was--must move out into the other lane in order to pass a cyclist.

Capt. DeCarlo ruled out the state of the road and whether a rock or potholes was a factor, or anything else suggesting that it was Cassell who lost control and not the driver who made an error---as some of the media have suggested. "It is still under investigation," he noted, saying that they had not made a determination in either direction.

The Greenburgh Police will also be interviewing passengers who were on the bus, and seeking other witnesses who may have seen what happened.

"Something happened that caused him to fall," said Capt. DeCarlo. But determining what that was, "is part of the ongoing investigation."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Elmsford Cyclist Put to Rest Today: Merrill Cassell

Taught 10,000 children how to swim in Sri Lanka.

Accompanied by more than 20 cyclists and heartbroken relatives, slain cyclist Merrill Cassell, 66, was taken to his final resting place today.

Bikes lay on the ground at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale (Photo: Jen Benepe (C)).

It was cold and comfortless, raining and bitter, but Cassell's family came from around the country and across the world to say good bye.

Sobbing uncontrollably, Cassell's sister Erin who had traveled from Sri Lanka to bid good-bye appeared devastated and beyond words.

"I lost my brother," she choked between tears, outside Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Main Street as she left the 10:30 am services.

Erin, sister of Cassell flanked by another sister Winnie Rodriguez and a niece of the fallen cyclist, outside the Church of Our Lady of Carmel. (Jen Benepe)

She spoke long enough to murmur a few words about losing her own brother to his bicycle, and burst into tears again.

Behind her, Cassell's wife of more than 40 years, Maximilla Cassell, wailed with grief, and was supported by relatives as she walked to a car that would follow her husband for the first and last time to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale.

It was the same wife that had greeted Cassell after his many triumphant finishes in Central Park of the New York City Marathon. And now she was bidding him farewell because of the sport he loved so much.

Cassell's funeral at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale.  His coffin flanked by close family. (Jen Benepe)

Cassell was struck and killed by a Westchester Bee-Line bus last Friday, October 6 on Route 119 in Greenburgh, NY during the late afternoon rush hour.

Greenburgh police Capt, Joseph DeCarlo said Cassell was riding alongside the bus, heading east when he was hit by the bus, and crushed by it.

Paul Feiner, Town of Greenburgh Supervisor knew Cassell and is organizing a Town Hall Meeting in December to discuss improving cycling safety. (Jen Benepe)

As is typical in many news reports, the Lower Hudson paper described Cassell's crash in words that could be described as blaming the victim, agreed some cyclists because it said "Cassell collided with the side of the bus and fell under it," and, "Police are still investigating what made him fall." It was not clear if these were the words of the reporter or the police, since no quotation was provided.

Why had the reporter not written "The bus collided with Cassell and caused him to fall," or, "The bus hit Cassell as it came around him. It is not clear if the driver swerved too quickly or didn't see the cyclist because he was in a hurry." This is the more likely scenario said several cyclists we interviewed today.

Reporters and police often blame cyclists because the rule of the road has long held that motorists--and the cars they drive--are king--and dead cyclists cannot speak for themselves. Often the only witness --as in this case--is the driver who killed them and has an incentive to doctor the truth.
Jen Laurita and Cyrus Afzali came to show their respect. (Jen Benepe)

And as with other accidents, like that of Jessica Purcell who was derided by bus travelers as she lay bleeding and unconscious on the ground this past summer, often non-riders denigrate cyclists for their sport, possibly because the two-wheelers are in the habit of constantly reminding drivers that the roads are not made exclusively for cars.

And so without the ability to tell his own story, it appears another fallen cyclist has been blamed for his own death.

Incomprehensibly so, because Cassell owned six or seven bikes and was a very experienced rider, said fellow cyclists who attended the funeral and rode the bitter and cold five miles in front of the hearse holding Cassell's body to the cemetery.

Pic: David Wilson talks to cyclists before they ride to the cemetery behind Cassell's hearse. (Jen Benepe)

When news of Cassell's death hit the newspapers, some people who wrote into the paper by email made comments that would curl any reasonable person's nails, much less inspire others to hatred and violence.

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner who called Cassell's death "tragic and horrible," also described the comments of some readers as "despicable, terrible and disgusting."

Feiner attended the funeral and rode in the bike procession today, and plans a town hall meeting on December 9 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss how the town can improve cycling safety.

Some of the comments to the LoHud article (you need to be registered to read them,) ranged from the truly ignorant to the grossly insane. Take for example this man who wrote:  "66 YEARS OLD AND STILL FOOLING AROUND WITH A BICYCLE!!!??? THIS JERK NEVER GREW UP, AND NOW HE NEVER WILL!!! GOOD RIDDANCE!!! ONE LESS PEST ON THE ROAD!!! AND 2 THINGS: I HOPE THAT THE BUS IS OK, AND BAN BICYCLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Still, two cyclists who attended the funeral said they thought reporting of Cassell's incident (not some comments by readers) had been fair. Liam Allen, 27 of Yorktown who began cycling about a year ago said he had read many of the news reports and found them balanced.
His friend Rory Salsh, also 27 said some of the riding in the area was dangerous, and that some roads posed more dangers than others such as the presence of pot holes.  But both riders said they thought drivers often rush home from work, use their cellphones while driving, and often don't pay attention. "Truthfully it is not a shocker because the roads are dangerous," said Allen.

Loading Cassell into the hearse. His last ride. (Jen Benepe)

Feiner praised Cassell for his involvement in cycling issues in the area: "Merrill was not careless, he was very methodical," he noted.

Feiner also said Cassell was a "very decent person, and very unassuming," even as he helped raised awareness and work on cycling advocacy issues.

David Wilson, president of the Westchester Cycling Club who organized the ride described Cassell as a wonderful person, an environmentalist, and "a very, very good rider."

A friend of Cassell's quietly stood at the edge of the funeral proceedings holding a red rose. (Jen Benepe)

The driver of the bus was not arrested and was allowed to go home after the crash. Reports say he was not using the telephone or drunk. But it is not clear if passengers in the bus saw Cassell or the accident and might have a different story to tell.

The accident is still under investigation by the Greenburgh Police Department.

Bicycle accidents are not unusual in this area. In 2003, while working with the New York Bicycling Coalition, a statewide cycling advocacy group, BBB attended several meetings to help make cycling safer in Greenburgh and Elmsford. Several roads were targeted for improvement including Routes 100 and 119 where Cassell was killed. BBB even made presentations in two of the local schools for safer cycling.

It is not clear is any of the recommendations made by NYBC were implemented by the New York State Department of Transportation. At the time of publication, emails to then NYBC's director Jesse Day for clarification have not been returned.

Melanie, granddaughter of Cassell playing with a dog at the funeral. (Jen Benepe)

Another cyclist from the area, Lorraine Valentini of Hartsdale and a member of the Westchester Bicycle Club suffered a terrible accident on Route 22 in June 2005. She broke her neck and became a paraplegic from her injuries: she died this July.

Route 22 was another road that was identified by cyclists as being a problematic road, and those comments and suggestions for improvements were also made to the state DOT. It is not clear if the cause of Valentini's accident and the road issues were consistent.

Cassell was originally from Sri Lanka and was a retired budget director for UNICEF. But he also spent a lot of time working on helping make roads safer for cyclists in the area, said Wilson.

Back in his country he was well known for having trained more than 10,000 children to swim, said his niece Delano Cassell as she stood with her brother Frank nearby the gravesite, her eyes red from crying.

Cassell pictured right in an undated photo was an avid cyclist. Source: Cassell's blog.

Many people from his work at the United Nations came to pay their respects, and family members were numerous. Cassell's daughter, Tania, put the last rose on his casket before it was lowered into the ground.

The grandfather and cyclist was also a marathon runner, and his blog shows many happy photos of him coming in at the finish line with his wife Maximilia greeting him.

In 2008, Cassell won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sri Lanka Consulate in the US for his role in teaching poor Sri Lankan children to swim in the 1960's. His photos show a youthful, robust man in his prime.  The excerpt below is from his blog.

Cassell after an undated finish of the NYC Marathon, with his wife, Maximilla.  Source: Cassell's blog.

On Saturday August 8, 2008, the same day the Olympics started in Beijing, the Sri Lanka Consulate in the USA in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Association of New York, awarded me a life-time achievement award (please see picture below).  A good citizen by the name of Jay Liyanage, a sportsman himself in his youth, took the initiative to recognize my achievements in swimming in the early to mid 1960s, where I organized Learn-to-Swim campaigns in Sri Lanka teaching more than 10,000 poor village children in the finer art of swimming.  If I changed the bias that poor village children cannot swim, I am sure Cullen Jones will succeed in changing the bias in the USA that blacks can't swim......
The award was presented in Denville, New Jersey, USA by Congressman Rodney Frelingheusen . The mayor of Denville has declared one day in August as the Sri Lanka Sports Day.  

Below, Cassell this past winter riding in the snow. He frequently rode in the snow according to his blog. The entry below is what he wrote in his blog to accompany this photo:

"Bicycling in the snow, winter 2009"
"In 1997 I traded the second car we owned for a bicycle and never felt the need to get another car. I have spent the past decade transforming other people to get fit by bicycling, swimming or walking/running.  I have been a long distance swimmer, long distance runner and lately a long-distance bicyclist.  However, my long distance bicycling is long for my age and environment and is no comparison to the extraordinary long distance riders.  If a 70-100 mile bicycle ride is not long for a 66-year old, then what is long?  I cycle in all seasons of the year and hope to try out snow bicycling with snow-studded tires soon and some adventure rides (basically not knowing what is on the other side)."

Pic: Cassell after a long ride in Westchester in April 2007. This is what he said about the ride on his blog:

Westchester, New York
After personal best on the North County Bicycle trail - 33 miles in 2 hours 22 minutes riding as recent as April 28, 2007. Previous times ranged from 2 hours 40 minutes to 3 hours some times. This was an unusual day. On July 11, 2009, I rode the same 33 miles in 2 hours 19 minutes on my new Trek Madone 5.2.

Cassell leaves his wife, Maximilla, a daughter, Tania, and two grandchildren.

Monday, November 09, 2009

One Year Ago: Camille Savoy was Struck by a Driver

Today it is November 9, 2009, exactly one year since Camille Savoy was struck by an automobile on Route 9W near Alpine, NJ.

t was a clear day--a Sunday to be exact, wet leaves were on the ground.

But the sun was shining and visibility was excellent. As Savoy came close to passing the turnoff to Indian Head, a private road, Wha S. Kim 72, of Englewood, NJ, wandered over the fog line into the shoulder by one and a half feet and struck him with such force, Savoy's bike was broken in two.

His head also was broken, injuries that he never survived:  on November 26, 2008, Savoy died from complications related to severe head injuries. It was a Thanksgiving that his friends and family would never forget for the rest of their lives.

In many cases there is no justice for cyclists, because they are not capable of testifying about the exact circumstances of the accident because they are either too injured--or dead.

The police incident report stated, "Cyclist was unable to give statement."  Kim was acquitted of careless driving this year, despite conclusive testimony by the Bergen County Prosecutor's office showing that she had broken the law, and wandered into the shoulder. 

Kim wasn't even required to speak for herself in court--her self-saving statement given the day of the accident was enough for Judge Robert Ritter to let her walk away.

Savoy's friends and family were devastated the day he died, and attended the December 7 memorial held for him by over 100 cyclists who rode through snowfall on a freezing day from Fort Lee, NJ, to the spot where he was struck.

Today, we publish a statement from one of Savoy's good friends, Jeannette Newman who was there on December 7.

As the anniversary of Camille's fatal accident approaches (November 9), many of us will struggle to hold onto all the positive memories that we have of him, and not become overwhelmed with sorrow and anger.

Camille brought great joy to my life, for that I am very grateful. I periodically look at your blog and continue to appreciate your voice. You were a source of information during a very devastating time and I appreciate your continued efforts to speak out for those, like Camille, who love cycling.

Every time I pass a cyclist (much more carefully now) in my car, I think of the senselessness of his death.
And thankfully, especially when I laugh heartily, I think of him more often in life - his great humor, his generosity, his integrity. He continues to occupy a very special and large place in the hearts of many of us who knew him. I am touched that even many who didn't know him leave flowers and trees and messages at the ghost bike dedicated to him. He is a part of the good that is in all of us.

Thank you Jeannette.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Doctor Found Guilty of Ramming Cyclists off Road

The news has been out all day, so many of you  may already know this.

The California based doctor who was tried for intentionally running two cyclists off the road in Los Angeles, CA, was found guilty today of mayhem and assault with a deadly weapon.

The 60-year-old emergency room doctor, Christopher Thompson, had admitted to police that he was trying to teach the two a lesson when he pulled in front of them and slammed on the brakes.

One of the two cyclists, Ron Peterson, 41,  went into his back window, and the other, Christian Stoehr, 30, crashed into the street, separating his shoulder.  The incident occurred on Mandeville Canyon Road on July 4, 2008.

The officer who came to the scene of the accident is said to have never before in his many years on the force to hear such a bad case of road rage.

Thompson faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 3.

The LA Times  sheds light on both sides of the story. Thompson said he could not get by the group of cyclists, but the cyclists said as they tried to single file, he came around too fast. Thompson said the cyclists cursed at him and gave him the finger, and he decided to stop the car to take a picture.

But other cyclists had had run-ins with the doctor before on the same road, and he had also stopped short in front of them.

Peterson was permanently scared by his injuries after going through the glass, and Stoehr lost a lot of time from work. But Stoehr is quoted as saying he felt sorry for Thompson as he was being led away in handcuffs.

Stories in the press,0,761131.story

Monday, November 02, 2009

And Now for Something Disgusting (Amid all the Good News, Lance Back in Piermont For A Scone)

A tag is circulating around Facebook for a young cyclist Ashleigh Jackson, 24, who was struck and severely injured by a hit and run driver earlier this year.

The crash occurred on April 19, 2009 in Saratoga, CA. Her boyfriend David Nelson said that a silver BMW passed and struck Jackson in the back of the head, throwing her to the ground. She suffered brain trauma.

Oh and did I mention there is an $11,000 reward for information leading to this deadbeat driver's identification and arrest?

The accident occurred on Highway 9 and Fruitdale Avenue, according to the flyer. Jackson is a member of the Alto Velo Cycling team.

Apparently Ashleigh is better and even riding again as of this posting, but if you have any information about the hit and run driver, please contact the Saratoga Police Dept.

Okay I know it is nowhere NEAR New York or New Jersey but maybe you have a cousin in California? I know I do, and this is one way to let drivers know that their actions will not be forgotten. (Maybe that's why they always seem to be so angry?)

And Now the Good News:

Maybe Armstrong was feeling in a better mood today, because he rode up the Palisades again, this time stopping at Bunberry's in Piermont to talk to all the gawkers and starstruck, among them Raffe, Wilson Vasquez, and Richard Benfield.

I guess Armstrong kind of made up to Benfield who was with me last night when the gatekeepers at the Livestrong auction wouldn't let us in to do some reporting. He not only gave him an autograph, but he also chatted about his ride. Just another guy! Hey, I hope we don't get used to this!

Benfield reports that Armstrong "looks great, as good as a movie star." Hey, that is a good vote of confidence. Gone are the gaunt looks of the TDF, thank God.

PHOTO: Bill Rigler

Armstrong tweeted that he was a Scone-ologist and that Bunberry's cinannmon chip scone was one of the best he ever had.

Said Benfield, "He might be a famous scone-ologist, but he didn't finish it, he left a quarter of it unfinished." That's what happens when you're used to riding hundreds of miles but you only do a measly 40 to Piermont--you just aren't that hungry.

Later Armstrong said the ride along the Hudson is "one of the best in America."

 Now that is a thrill, though we kind of know it already (even though it does get boring after the 11,000th time.)

Armstrong was riding with Bart Knaggs who is his business partner at the Mellow Johnny's bike shop in Austin, Texas.  The two were both wearing Mellow Johnny's gear with the big Texas star in the back.

I have never gotten so many phone calls and emails in the space of five minutes as I did today! Too bad I couldn't be there, I wanted to see which of the seven bikes from the auction he was riding (just joking.)

Wrote cyclists Morene Bangel, "Hi, Jen...I'm a BBB follower and NY cyclist...Lance DID stop in Piermont today (Bunbury)...unfortunately I didn't, but I saw him twice on my ride today...getting off the GWB and on Ft. Washington on my way home! Should I play Lotto tonight???"

My answer? Definitely!

Armstrong's Hirst Bike Sells for Half a Million Dollars

Despite cool weather and light attendance, Lance Armstrong's bike that he rode along the Champs Elysees at this year's Tour de France fetched $500,000 at a Sotheby's auction yesterday.

A cadre of Livestrong and Sotheby personnel waiting for bidders to arrive. Later they were all checking their Blackberry's, no doubt to see Armstrong's Twitters.

Seven of Armstrong's bikes in all were auctioned off for a total of $1.3 million, which will benefit his cancer research cause, Livestrong.

The event proved both on the frontline and behind the scenes, that Armstrong is a master marketer, with a Twitter before the event, and live updates during the auction, updates that were never even issued by his own group. If Armstrong has a PR firm, it might be time to let them go because frankly, no one can best his own tweets. 

The event was hosted for free by Sotheby's, though the Livestrong crew refused entry for journalists who wanted to attend the event citing lack of space. But only about 20 or so of the 120 invitation only guests had shown up by 7:45 pm, and some had already come and gone including real estate marketer Michael Shvo with a blond date on his arm.  Still, many bids are now made online or over the phone, so attendance at the event was not necessarily an indication of its success.

With me last night and also turned away was a New York Times freelance reporter who lost his wife to cancer. Those facts didn't seem to sway the gatekeepers whose names and contact information wasn't made public before the event. Trying to call Sotheby's ahead of time turned out to be a nightmare, with no one answering published phone numbers on the weekend. If they were trying to keep publicity away, they succeeded.

The best price $500K was fetched by the Damien Hirst bike which had been decorated with butterflies all over the frame and rims. The artist's cachet is certain to have lifted the price, but the fact that the seven-time Tour de France winner rode the OCLV Red Carbon Madone with SRAM gruppo over the finish line at the Champs Elysees in front of millions of the French this year may have upped its price a bit.

A cycling fan named David who lost several friends to cancer and became a triathelete a few years ago,  stood outside the Sotheby's entrance waiting for Armstrong in the cold said he would not ride the Hirst bike but would rather hang it on the wall. David who has done seven half iron mans and wakes up at 4 in the morning to do some of his events said that Armstrong was inspirational: "People who come back from that kind of illness like he did, it's amazing," he said.

The final bidder on the Hirst bike--if indeed they are male-- might also not want to ride the bike because its rims are pink, and the bike frame is covered with many pastel butterflies and a pink "TREK" logo. But those points had no effect on the price. And anyway, "Lance rode it,"  said David.

A time trial bicycle decorated with boxing-gloved cartoons and the words, "Never forget your beginner's spirit," by artist Yoshitomo Nara fetched $200,000.  That Speed Concept bike made with OCLV Red carbon and also with SRAM time trial components proved to be the second fastest by only 3 seconds in the individual time trial at Annecy on July 23rd, and secured Armstrong's third place position on podium in Paris.

Three people leaving only about one half hour after they arrived at the auction. Many of the bids may have been online or by phone.

KAWS, a bike with teeth stenciled all over its frame and wheel rims, went for $160,000. That bike, designed by Brian Donnelly was later labeled "The Widowmaker," because Armstrong crashed and broke his collarbone while riding it in the Vuelta de Castillo y Leon.

The fourth best price of $130K was paid for "The Stolen Bike," a bike that was stolen and later recovered at the Tour of California.  That OCLV Red carbon time trial bike marked Armstrong's return to cycling competition after being in retirement for almost four years. The number 1274/27.5 on this bike, and the others, is the number of days he had stopped racing during which time 27.5 million people died of cancer.

Mark Newson's Speed Concept bike, another Trek time trial bike, garnered $110K.  That OCLV Red carbon bike with SRAM time trial components was used in this year's opening time trial at the Tour de France. It's back wheel is painted with a stroboscopic design. "When filmed moving, the rear wheel should appear static," said Newson describing his work.

Michael Shvo getting into his car with his date about one half hour after arriving.

The Shepard Fairey decorated bike also went for $110K, and Kenny Scharf's creation, another time trialing machine used in the Giro D'Italia, fetched $45,000.

The lack of publicity for the event may well have been planned, since the public was not invited to the event, and bidders were by invitation only. Although stories ran in publications far away from New York City, no real New York press carried news of the event. Publicity was thin especially for the public viewing that took place for a week or so before the auction, and that can often drive real buyers to attend.

Those missteps were sure to affect the results of the bids, which also had very strong competition from an upcoming auction on Wednesday at Sotheby's of some of the most important art works in the world, including several Picassos, Miro's, and other grand masters from the Impressionist school. That auction has works estimated at $12 million.

Weighing all the negatives, including the date--on the eve of the NYC Marathon which snarled traffic for miles, and made traveling to the auction difficult, in terms of performance, the auction was quite successful, even coming close to Damien Hirst's solo Sotheby's London auction in 2008 that raised $200 million.

Other autograph hunters standing outside Sotheby's in the cold may have been disappointed last night, as they waited for hours for Armstrong to appear.

Below is a blow by blow of Armstrong's twitter last night:

Thank you to Sothebys for hosting us and donating ALL of their work to @livestrong. You rock!

1.3 mil raised for @livestrong!!! So incredibly humbling.

"Stolen Bike" goes for 130,000.00!!!

The "Stolen Bike" is up next...

The Newsom goes for 110,000.00!

Marc Newsome is up next..

KAWS goes for 160,000.00. Stunned.

The KAWS is up next..

The Shep Fairey goes for 110,000.00!! This is insane..

The Shep Fairey is up next.

The NARA goes for 200,000.00!!! 200 grand!

The Nara is up next. Rode it in the Annecy TT from this year's TdF.

The Kenny Scharf TT bike from the Giro goes for 45,000!!!

The Hirst bike from the Champs Elysses goes for 500,000.00!!! Half a million bucks!!!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sotheby's to Auction off Armstrong Bikes

It's confirmed that Lance Armstrong, seven time Tour de France winner will be auctioning off some of his bikes at Sotheby's tonight.

The dedicated cyclist was in New York to speak to Mayor Michael Bloomberg these past two days, and even got a ride in along New Jersey and New York roads before he headed back to Austin, Texas to trick and treat with his kids, showing that besides being the best draft in the world he is also one of the most dedicated dads.

Why? Because he's coming back to New York City for the Sotheby's event tonight at 7 pm on First Avenue.

Seven bikes will be auctioned off, all except one of which have been decorated by artists Damien Hirst, Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairey, Marc Newson, Kaws (Brian Donnelly) and Yoshitomo Nara.  The seventh bike is the "Stolen Bike" the bike that was stolen at the Tour de California and then recovered by police (the thieves were caught and prosecuted.) Trek made a second one just like it in time for Armstrong's time trial. The proceeds are going to Armstrong's LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Campaign.

A little something about the bikes, all of them top racing machines already worth in gearing, construction, and parts well over $10,000 each, but now with the artists' touch as well as having been between the legs of the master, they could each be worth at least $20,000.  It will be interesting to see how much they will actually go for in this down economy. Will rich art or cycling aficionados pony up the cash? All of them can also be seen on the Trek site (though I could not find the Stolen Bike there.)

Damien Hirst (of Shark Tank fame,) placed real butterflies inside the frame and the wheel rims of the Trek Madone machine that Armstrong raced in the Tour de France this year.

Brian Connelly designed KAWS with teeth lining the sides for the monster to eat the road. That bike was dubbed "The Widowmaker" when Armstrong at the last minute entered the Vuelta Leon Y Castillo and crashed, breaking his collarbone. That crash really cost him in fitness when he entered the TDF later.

The red OCLV carbon Trek designed by Kenny Scharf is a time trial bike  covered in stars and planets for the time traveler and red and blue comet cartoons.

Shepard Fairey who was the author of the Obama Hope poster (and all the resulting legal mess with the Wall Street Journal who claimed he stole their photo when he created it,) and has his own OBEY clothing line, has placed filigree patterns reminiscent of classic Italian architecture in black all over the yellow Trek designed for the Giro D'Italia.

The time trial bike designed by Marc Newson and used in the opening time trial of the 2009 TDF has a stroboscopic rear wheel that changes patterns when it moves.

Yoshitomo Nara designed Lance's time trial bike used in Annecy on July 23rd in the TDF. It has cartoon characters with boxing gloves and a says, "Never forget your beginner's spirit." That is the time trial that gave Armstrong his second place podium position in the final rankings. 

Describing no. 7, the Stolen Bike, the auctioneer booklet says,  "On February 15, 2009 it was stolen from Lance’s equipment trailer in Sacramento after its run in the Tour of California prologue. Though it was recovered by police shortly afterward in time for use by Lance in the time trial (the two thieves were quickly caught and prosecuted), an immediate replacement was issued by Trek as much-needed backup. On it was painted the legend “Ride this one like YOU stole it.”

It is not clear if the bike for sale is THE stolen bike, or the replacement.

The brochure goes on to say: “The 1274/27.5” Madone 6.9 and TTX 9.9 SSL cycles were designed to be messaging machines as well as road warriors. The number 1274 signifies the number of days Armstrong was in retirement following his final (and seventh) Tour de France victory in 2005. During this time, nearly 27.5 million people worldwide died from cancer. It’s a totally unacceptable statistic that ultimately prompted Lance to get back on the bike to raise the yellow flag of cancer awareness on a heightened global scale. Graphically, the bikes are works of art, and represent the pinnacle of Trek’s aesthetic engineering. The distinctive paint schemes were designed within the Trek creative team, and painted in their state-of-the-art Waterloo, Wisconsin facility using no decals. Look close, and you’ll realize the challenge in not applying vinyl stickers for graphics. Using a complex series of paint masks, each letter, logo and design element was masked to size, painted and then covered for the next layer in a painstaking 40-hour process."

My bet? The Stolen Bike and the Shepard Fairey bikes will fetch the highest prices.

The bikes will be available for viewing at Sotheby's until the 31st of October  (oops too late) at 1334 York Avenue.  Inquiries,  512 279 8356