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On mushrooms in an arboretum

– Race season looms. Since New Year’s our group rides are reaching full-boil ever earlier. And, worse, rumors of solitary stealth training abound -- the cycling version of fish tales -- who solo-climbed what how many times; how fast; how far; how little they eat; how ‘a drink’ has come to mean Perrier.

The mileage and intensity escalates, which means the most precious gift of all is within grasp. It’s not fitness I’m speaking of, wonderful as that is. Rather, it’s the rest day. That blessed hour or two where no force goes into the pedals. You’re not a racer that day, but a rider. An illuminated rider, though, because it’s the prior hours of self-made pain that makes this ride such a joy. It’s a ride into the 4th dimension: Awareness, contentment -- the things banished from the brain when the hard training starts -- they’re at the fore on the rest ride.

Is this what meditation is all about? Like the time I took mushrooms in an arboretum. I’m spinning under a spell of x-ray vision, so attentive to the beauty of everything. I can spot the Titleist nested in the roadside rough from 50m away. I’m awed by the juiciness of the House of Kolor orange of the General Lee replica idling at the traffic light. The bitten-open condom foil in the baby blue color of lovebirds all across America -- today, on this day, instead of grossing out I bunnyhop it with joy for their pleasure. The rest ride puts my brain elsewhere, someplace better, and this is reason #1 I train.

– In the spirit of this week’s near-narcotic happiness, some other things worth celebrating:

April tired. It’s said there are no atheists in foxholes. Surely the same is true for the souls who pin on a number at the Ronde or Paris-Roubaix. PROs gut themselves in April in a way unseen for the rest of the year. You can have your Grand Tours.

Round, shallow-drop handlebars. The beauty of round is its infinite hand position possibilities, unlike the circumscribed limitations of ergonomic drops. And shallow? Who doesn’t want nearness to their levers and tops? For those who say ‘…but my wrists hit the bar when I sprint’ I reply, ‘Move your wrists out of the way.’ Show up to a ride with ergo bars and you’ll get a look here akin to wearing a Camelbak. Bars that flare out at the drops? You might as well arrive with clip-ons or try to take that phone call once we roll. When I’m king bars will be round, shallow, and never wider than 40cm and I think maybe we’ll start by refusing to sell anything else.

Andrea Tafi’s Cap. It’s from the ’03 Paris-Roubaix and it’s this week’s SIBE (shit I’d buy on Ebay). The day was wicked-fast thanks to the bone dry conditions (see here if your preference is for mud) and oddly enough there are no clips of the day to be found on Youtube. Do yourself a favor a grab a copy from WCP, it was a fabulous race to watch and ranks alongside my other 2 favorite editions, ’97 and ’09. Dig the hat because customization-by-Fiskars is always cool. Dig the hat because it shows how Puma was hot before the Hipsters appropriated the brand. (In truth, it was hot even before Tafi.) And dig it because in ’04 we were in the full-on helmet era, and PRO faces of pain were always more exquisite when they weren’t strapped and capped with a brick of Styrofoam.

Organizational development. Business here has been excellent, and we’re massively grateful to all of you, our customers, for being the driving force behind it. Business has been so good, in fact, that our company growth is the total inverse of the US economy. We’re adding jobs like mad: Compared to this time last year, our staff is 25% bigger. A high-impact addition to our staff is our new (and first-ever) Director of Sales and Marketing, Matt Heitmann. Those of you in New York and Philly are likely already familiar with Matt. He was a co-founder of Cadence Cycling & Multisport Centers. Matt has long been a friend of ours, and we always admired what he accomplished during his tenure at Cadence. By having him here, we’ll get ever-more innovative with our marketing programs, and we’ll continue to fine-tune our standards of customer service. An added bonus of Matt’s presence is that I can watch a double feature of La Course en Tete and the 2003 Paris-Roubaix daily, ever-dissecting the PRO minutiae there. In addition, I can focus on juicy forms of web development & business development that’ll make your experience on Competitive Cyclist more full of fun and retail temptation than ever before.

Speaking of job growth, by the way, we’re still seeking applicants for a full-time Photographer/Videographer, for Customer Service Representatives, for Service staff, and for Fulfillment staff as well. Please click here for full details .

Food. Eating (and time-to-time outright gluttony) is reason #2 that training is so lovely. A bulletproof conscience at the table is luxurious. Here’s a new site with some promise. I dig the idea: Epicurious for athletes.

Initiations. Actually, they don’t make me happy. But they do make me laugh. Take your pick: initiation Italian neopro-style, or Morehouse fraternity pledge-style --