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August: A rolling boil

- Mine was a natural boyhood curiosity about fire, with nothing that would ever pass as pyromania. Light the match, touch the paper, then watch the sheet curl up on itself orange then black. And now on climbs in August I wait for the tops of my forearms to do the same -- for the skin to broil and go airborne in little glowpieces, floating back onto me in the breeze.

The very hotness of the heat is only part of it. There’s its weight, the few grams-per-minute it seems to add to my Lazer, ever-driving my forehead down, down, down towards the stem. My eyes roll upward in my skull. The struggle to keep my line, the mirages too many to count -- the most frightful of which comes with my quick rearward glance -- that rider, who is it?, are they really making ground on me? Climbing in August. It’s dreadful like little else.

- A nice primer on bike tire engineering.

- August heat spells the end of the race season here. The post-morteming -- what went right, what didn’t, etc -- is already cranking up. One highlight: Good eating habits + big miles + no alcohol dropped me to a weight I haven’t been since I was 20. Shedding pounds is addictive, maybe because each pound lost is a victory -- and bike racing is a sport where victory is so rare. So stuff like this -- the sort of stuff I’ve never considered…hell I never even knew it existed -- is it a low-hassle way to lose a bonus pound or two, or is playing body-as-chemistry-set something laymen should best avoid?

- Pro cycling and free agency. The Boulder Report shows just how surreal it can be.

- August is theoretically part of the bike race season…but really it’s not. Highlights (if that’s what you must call them) are the youngest & least-notable 1-day ‘classics’ of the year -- San Sebastian, Vatenfall, Zurich. The stage races of August -- just uttering their names puts me to sleep. Eneco, Burgos, Portugal, Ireland.

Shutting down for August is a European cultural birthright, and it carries through in the tenor of the bike races. As Michael Barry spells out here, the pros are either half-paralytic in a post-Tour hangover, with the rest using August suffering to tune up for the monster races of autumn -- the Vuelta, Worlds, Lombardy. It’s the black sheep of the season. Nobody targets August because so little in August matters.

- Deep section carbon rims are billboard material second only to jerseys themselves. The logos are getting bigger and more garish by the race, and by comparison the no-decal look of carbon rims of yesteryear is dignified like little else. We don’t pine for lugs or downtube shifters -- but naked deep section rims? If that’s old school, we’re buying a booth at the NAHBS.

- Here’s another vote for an oldie-but-goodie: Oakley Zero sunglasses. No doubt they have lots going against them: From a fashion standpoint they’re have no off-the-bike style whatsoever. From a practical standpoint you can’t swap lens tints. And from a Rorschach Test standpoint, who doesn’t regress into their still-undiminished heartache related to l’affaire Landis from the ’06 Tour?

All that being said, we nonetheless busted out our Zeros this summer and fell in love with them all over again. Whether you’re aero-tucked for a TT, or balling yourself up as small as you can in a blazing single-file paceline -- the fact you can ride chin-to-chest with your head cocked down and eyes rolled up and still get a full field of vision of what’s up the road -- with no lens-holding crossbar impeding your view -- to us, that’s a godsend. As cyclists our heads naturally go low when we’re on the rivet. Frameless glasses -- a fashion trend that isn’t vanishing from the prescription eyewear scene anytime soon-- it’s pure pragmatism on the bike, especially at times (dying to hang onto the wheel in front of you) when ever little advantage is huge. Why don’t more companies make frameless shades?

Oakley Zeros: I have my own. To my knowledge we can’t get them from Oakley anymore, and they’re not manufacturing them in favor of Radars and Jawbones. Do yourself a favor and hop onto Ebay and score yourself a set. You won’t regret it.

- Big props to Tyler Farrar of Team Garm*n for his scorching sprint at yesterday’s edition of the Vatenfall Classic in Hamburg. His lifetime of hairy American crit bell laps was doubtlessly useful for him. It’s the biggest-ever win for Garm*n. One World Cup-level single-day victory (even if it is in August) is worth a dozen Giro TTT’s in terms of guts & panache. It was a breakthrough day for the team, and for those in the audience who wonder ‘What would cycling look like if everyone was clean?’ -- watch a video of Vatenfall. It was a huge validation of the principles upon which Garm*n was built. Congrats.