Financial advice (from a cyclist)

Now that I’m 30*, racing season is over, and the extension is going towards its end, I figured it was time to finish my tax return. This can be surprisingly complicated if you, like me, have lived in several different countries. And if you’re severely disorganized. And if you are financially oblivious.

The IRS wants to know that I have a Swedish bank account with 14 cents in it. (Why do I have that? I don’t know! I already said I’m financially oblivious!)

So I did what every reasonable 30-year-old would do, or so I believe: I gave up. I’m paying a nice gentleman in a fancy-schmancy office downtown to figure it out for me.

With the tax return hopefully properly filed soon, my thoughts continued onwards to financial planning. After all, I have those 14 cents stashed away in Sweden, I also found $50 invested in some random company on the Swedish stock market, and who knows what the coins in the jar on top of my fridge are worth.

I’m thinking bikes would be a sound investment. Besides, the rules state the the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned – and I only owned n bikes! So when I found an appropriate time trial frame on eBay, I made the appropriate calculations, but more importantly, avoided the inappropriate calculations.

Inappropriate calculation that I did not perform:
– Considering my road bike with clip-on aerobars compared to an actual time trial bike: what is the cost in dollars per second saved in time trials?

Appropriate calculation that I did perform:
– Assume a total cost of final bike build of $2000. I won $10 in a time trial a couple of weeks ago. If we assume that I will win $10 every time I enter a time trial in the future, this bike will have paid for itself after only 200 time trials. Sweet!

Inappropriate calculation that I did not perform:
– Total cost of entry fees for said 200 races.

As a result of my thorough calculations and ingenious financial planning, this beautiful frame arrived today:

I will build this up with parts that I find throughout the winter, so this will be both a money sink and a time sink before it’s even done! That’s a successful financial investment if you ask me.

So, if you have an awkward chunk of money left in your wallet at the end of the month every once in a while and you’re considering how to invest it, bear in mind:

  • The correct number of bikes you should own is one more than you currently have.
  • The IRS couldn’t care less about your bikes, so rather than investing in stock which will just make your tax return more complicated, buy bikes!

I would like to conclude this post with a photo from last week’s meeting for the Support Group for Girls with Training Plans. I had bought the time trial bike seen above, and Tina had bought a new road bike frame as well as a cyclocross bike, so this called for a celebratory dinner:

Tina with fish soup

* I love saying “now that I’m 30”, almost anything can be prefixed with that!

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The Swedish election, summarized by me

The Swedish elections for the parliament, the county councils, and the municipal assemblies took place last Sunday.

Since I don’t live in Sweden anymore, I only get to vote for the parliament. Which I hope I did. What are the chances that the vote I mailed from Mountain View on the 14th would have arrived in Sweden on the 20th…? Dear USPS, I hope you did your job, for once.

Most of the time there are seven parties in the parliament. At least 4 % of the votes are required for getting any of the 349 seats; aside from that exception, seat allocation is more or less proportional to share of votes received. With no party getting the majority of votes, one coalition is formed by the evil right wing parties, and another by the red-green mess.

The evil right wing parties

The evil right wing parties have ruled for the past four years. They want things like lower taxes, less support for people on long-term sick leave, cementing gender roles, and torturing puppies. They have formed a coalition government consisting of the following four parties:

Moderate Party (M)

The moderate party —  not too much, not too little. Just right. This encapsulates the Swedish mentality perfectly. Lagom. That doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with their politics, and it tells you nothing about the party leader that mostly looks like an egg:

Fredrik Reinfeldt, egg shaped.

This documentary is informative of their efforts in privatization, if you understand Swedish.

Center Party (C)

The center party is for everyone who loves cows and wears hats like this:

The classic Lantmännen cap

No, they’re not hipsters! They’re farmers. They’ve worn the same cap since the spring of 1957 (probably without washing it) and drive tractors, not fixies.

Liberal People’s Party (FP)

You should always be suspicious of a party or a country that has “people” in its name. The problem lies in that “people” isn’t well-defined in this context. Like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is mostly for people named Kim Jong-Il, or the Danish People’s Party which doesn’t acknowledge the people-ness of persons that are not of sufficiently Danish origin according to their standards. The Swedish People’s Party isn’t as restrictive, but it still makes me question whether they consider voters that don’t support them to be people or not.

Christian Democratic Party (KD)

We already sent most of our religious crazy people to the US in the 1800s, so there’s not really a whole lot of need for a Christian party. This party is for the approximate total of three old ladies in the country that still go to church on Sundays, and for a handful of members of Christian cults in the woods who like to shoot their guns but don’t like divorces. The Christan Democratic Party member is an endangered species.

The red-green mess

The commie parties, or the red-green mess as they are commonly referred to, are a lot less evil but only slightly less delusional. They like the Swedish welfare system but keep nibbling at it, equality for everyone except for maybe some, and kittens. It consists of:

Social Democratic Party (S)

The Social Democratic Party has been the largest party for the last 437 years* or so and thus it would be more fair to say that this party represents the Swedish mentality, rather than the Moderate Party. This is the party to vote for if you have 1.8 kids, your favorite dish is meatballs, and you drive a Volvo. Some of their party leaders have, perhaps, been even less photogenic than that egg dude of the Moderate Party. Ingvar Carlsson was commonly mistaken for a shoe:

1989 footage from screenshot via Youtube, oh yeah!

Ingvar Carlsson, shoe shaped.

Green Party (MP)

Supporters of the Green Party are often found near a big old rock covered in moss where they quietly stare at a string of ants passing by for hours, or in their back yard throwing smelly things on their mistreated compost, or perhaps at a campfire where they are cooking a healthy meal consisting of pine needles and old, withered leaves.

Left Party (V)

This used to be called the Left Party – Communists, but since they realized that as far as Americans are concerned we’re all commies in Sweden so they dropped the redundant bit in 1990.

As far as Swedes are concerned, they’re not really commies anymore. Unfortunately Lars Ohly didn’t get the memo and happily called himself a communist when he became the party chairman in 2004 – a mistake that cost a lot of votes.

Some other random parties that think they have a chance, too

There are a few parties that don’t fit in but who have been trying hard to get into the parliament.

Pirate Party (PP)

Arrrr! No, really. These guys are for real, and they’re pretty popular. They want to reform legislation on copyright and patents, and strengthen the right to privacy. While they have not yet reached the magical 4 % of votes to enter the Swedish parliament, they hold two seats in the European parliament.

Feminist Initiative (FI)

The Feminist Initiative party is spearheaded by Gudrun Schyman, formerly of Left Party. She’s the only politician who took proper notice of this “Party” word that adorns the names of, well, the parties – she’s been known to frequent rave parties and music festivals hanging out with people young enough to be her kids. If you want gender equality or a drink, this is the party to vote for.

Yeah Gudrun!

Sweden Democrats (SD)

This is a great party for anyone who thinks that that Hitler dude was kind of a swell guy after all, that anyone who doesn’t have blond hair with blue eyes should “go home”** and is somewhat confused about the definition of “home”, or that we should take care to preserve our wonderful Swedish culture but isn’t too concerned with definitions. Pizza is as Swedish as can be, right?

WTF (or, Results)

As the double-commie I am (1. Swedish 2. sympathizes with the red-green mess), I was disappointed to see that the evil right wing parties got more votes, again. That’s another four years of torturing puppies and distributing wealth in a manner more favorable for those who need it less.

But the real WTF lurks towards the right, in an innocent looking, dull shade of blue – 5.7 % of the votes to the Sweden Democrats.

That’s 94.3 % of Swedish voters being furious over what the hell those 5.7 % were thinking. Embarrassed that 1/20 people are bloody racist. People actually voted for this man:

I’d threaten to move to Canada, but that doesn’t make much sense, now does it.

* This is what I write when I’m too lazy to look up how long it’s actually been

** At least they should be ok with me staying in the US then I guess, I don’t have to “go home”!

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My next bike

I found this “New Road Racing Bicycle with Coaster Brake” on eBay, and I’m thinking this is what I will race on next season:

I’m thinking I could paint some blue dots on it to match my team kit.

I will be unstoppable!

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Season is over

I just finished my last race for the season at the Folsom Cyclebration. The last month ended up being make-your-own-stage-race season: inaugurated with the San Ardo-University duo and cheap-ish hotels, followed by the Winters-Vacaville-Vacaville* trifecta and a stay at the Metromint Zoo** in Davis, with the Challenge Challenge-Giro di SF birthday party with a houseboat stay, and completed with the three-day Folsom Cyclebration TT, crit, and circuit race. I also managed to finish “in the T-shirts” a couple of times this season and I’ve proudly worn my tent sized, mustard yellow Patterson Pass T-shirt in bed at night. It’s not very flattering, but hey! It’s a coveted Velo Promo T-shirt!

The Folsom Cyclebration ended up being a much better end to the season than I could ever imagine. With it being a 1/2/3 race, my chances of doing much of anything were slim I thought.

But then Molly emailed me the night before the time trial and asked if I wanted to use her old TT bike in the race. YES!

In case anyone doesn’t know this already, Molly is a crazy good time trialist and wins almost all of them. I heard a couple of people beat her some time last summer, at some little race called something along the lines of “Masters TT World Championships”, but other than that, she pretty much always wins.

Her wizard husband Rob set me up on her bike and I felt totally badass. I had a disc wheel and everything! And with Molly’s bike karma, obviously I would win! Never mind that Molly was also riding Molly’s bike, except the newer and fancier version, and that she’s Molly. And that there were all these other people in the race.

That was a joke… but as it turns out, Molly’s bike is magic, and I GOT SECOND! Getting second after Molly in a TT is pretty much like winning, since there’s no way anyone will beat her! Here’s Molly and I on the TT “podium”:

Photo by Rob van Houweling

Then I got like third to last or something in the crit, as I had expected.

The circuit race was a lot better! It looked kind of like this as my break went through one of the hairpins:

Photo by Rob van Houweling

This resulted in a podium that looked kind of like this:

Photo by Rob van Houweling

And – holy shit! They let the silly cat 3 girl onto the podium for the omnium as well!

Photo by Rob van Houweling

I’m not really sure how that happened, but there’s a race report about it.

And Tina won the cat 4 circuit race!

Photo not taken by Rob!

And after this, Tina and I went home for the final meeting for the now somewhat obsolete Support Group for Girls with Training Plans. We found an aptly named beer at Monk’s Kettle and had one each to celebrate Tina’s victory, Molly’s TT win and 3rd in the omnium, and that I was somehow allowed to sneak in on the podium photos above.

* That race is worth doing twice!

** Niki’s house. Three dogs and five cats.

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I’m so behind on everything.

I have lots of stuff to write, but I have to go to sleep now.

And I have a todo-list that is impossibly long, and with some Really Important And Urgent things on it.

But now my racing season is over, and I don’t know what to do with myself. It should be good that I might have time for stuff, but instead I panic over

a) lack of bike racing
b) what am I supposed to do with all this time?!

Anyway. I had a fantastic last race weekend of the season, and updates will follow shortly.

And panic.

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What it’s like to be 30

My birthday weekend started with Mark and I driving towards Lake Oroville for a weekend of racing and houseboating, but we didn’t get further than to Fairfield before we panicked. What if we didn’t have enough food?! We stopped at Safeway where Mark bought loads of salmon, more coffee, and several cans of double-shot espresso. Phew.

Mark, Ariel, Menso, and I all arrived at our home for the weekend, a houseboat, a bit after midnight. Power and water kind of worked, slightly. As we were to discover the next morning when we got up at 5:30, that didn’t last for long. The gas stove wasn’t working either! NO COFFEE! And we were going to a race!

There was, however, a dancing bass that could sing “Don’t worry, be happy” which worked just fine, since it’s running on batteries. Clearly the owners of the houseboat didn’t get their priorities straight.

Fortunately Mark is a genius and I had a can of double-shot espresso, although the milk that they contain didn’t agree with all the houseboat inhabitants, though this problem was solved at a grocery store on the way to the race. Sadly, it was very apparent from the lack of words exiting my mouth during the drive that the canned espresso did not contain sufficient amounts of caffeine.

We arrived at my birthday party and I was still in my pre-caffeine daze at the start line, which I shared with all of three other women: Johanna Trueblood from Davis, Helen Casabona unattached with a better-than-Yahoo jersey, and Maggie Jones from Chico Corsa. With only four racers, I was certain we’d all finish in the T-shirts! Sweet!

The race started with a long, crazy bumpy descent, which fortunately was neutral the first time around. That was some seriously patchy paving, and not easy to handle since the bikes were only touching ground a fraction of the time – but it was pretty fun! Then we went around the course which was awesome with a hella fast descent, lots of climbing, and great scenery.

On the second lap my life nearly ended before my actual birthminute had been reached. As I was riding down the bumpy descent hella fast, a car suddenly barreled out right in front of me from a small dirt road. WHOA! I braked as hard as I could without falling over, started fishtailing, let up, just barely managed to steer the bike around the car that had now stopped in the middle of the road – no way was there enough distance for me to actually stop. That was fucking close.

And like any good racer, I kept going because, hey! I didn’t die! And the race was on! BAM! Uh-oh, apparently my rear tube did not agree and exploded, and my emergency stopping powers were once again about to be put to test. How do you brake fast enough on a descent where you’re just bouncing around, so that you’ve come to a stop before you’re riding on your rims and lose all stopping power? Oh, turns out you don’t. When I had stopped, significant amounts of aluminum had been shaved off my rim, the tube was hanging off on the side, and the tire was shred to pieces.

So I sat down in the dirt by the side of the road and only had to wait for a few minutes before a guy named Scott came by and picked me up, and I chatted with him and another victim of flats named Johnny (the victim, not the flats – no one names their flats) as we drove around the course. We stopped in the feed zone to drop Johnny off and say hi to Scott’s friends, and they gave me a beer. Sweet! Before my competitors had even reached the feed zone, I was drinking beer!

I didn’t get a T-shirt though, since I didn’t finish the race. 😦 But that’s ok, I’ll come back for one next year. Aside from murder cars, this course is awesome!

At some point back on the boat I turned 30 for realz.

Then I tried what kayaking is like at the age of 30, and what it’s like to have a barbecue at the age of 30. (It’s awesome!) Kaya and Josh arrived just as we were about to start dinner and poor Menso must have felt left out as he was the only one that wasn’t in his 30s and all mature and grown up and stuff.

Mark baked me a cake! And everyone wanted to help light the 30 candles in Metromint colors:

Delicious cake

Everyone but Mark (who had fallen asleep on a chair) slept on the roof of the houseboat after watching a whole bunch of shooting stars. The very same roof came to good use the following day, too, as we jumped into the water from it.

The birthday weekend trip finished with a visit to Sierra Nevada in Chico, where we had lunch and went for a tour, and didn’t have any beer at all since we felt there had been enough of it the previous night. Despite my slight panic of turning 30 a couple of weeks before the fact, this turned out to be one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had!

All in all, 30 seems really awesome so far. It seems like you don’t have to work a whole lot when you’re 30 either – Monday was labor day a.k.a. Giro di San Francisco day, and I had Friday off so I could go do the time trial that was part of the Folsom omnium. But that deserves its own post…

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Oops, I haven’t written much lately. It’s not for lack of trying; I’ve written a full race report and started several blog posts, but they sucked more than usual, so they shall remain unposted.

In any case, I’m turning 30 tomorrow. I feel like there are a lot of things I should do while I’m still in my 20s.

Most importantly, I should make potato salad and I should pack, since my 30th birthday will be celebrated 3 hours north of here. Velo Promo have kindly organized a birthday party for me! It starts at 8:35 am in Challenge, CA. So far it seems like the only attendees will be me and two women in their 40s who both kick my ass up hills, which is unfortunate, since this birthday party includes 6k feet of climbing. Aside from the primary celebration, me and some poor other souls are leaving for a houseboat tonight, where barbecuing and beer drinking will happen — thus I’m doing lots of cooking today.

Other things that I want to do while I’m still in my 20s are getting a haircut and going to the dentist. I feel like people in their 30s should be well groomed, although I’m less sure about the need of taking care of your teeth as they will probably fall out soon anyway. Ok, skip the dentist.

One of the more urgent things on my list is to do a 30 minute pre-race spin. I cannot stress enough that I think this is something every 30-year-old should have gotten out of their way in time, in case they’re doing a race birthday party the next day or so.

There’s also this list of books that one should read before one turns 30. There’s no way I can read the remaining 20.5 in the next 9 hours, so I think I will admit defeat on this one. Besides, I don’t think self help sites by smug married couples* are necessarily the best source of reading lists in the first place.

Thanks to Sumeet I was at least able to spend last night being irresponsible and go out drinking and go to bed at 2 am — something I surely can’t do from tomorrow on as I’ll be far too mature for that. I haven’t entirely figured out how Sumeet was able to go out drinking yesterday since he’s well above 30, but maybe he got an exemption from the rules somehow, or had a note from his mom perhaps.

Mark also says we need to stop at a supermarket on our way to the houseboat so I guess that’s another one of those things I need to do before I turn 30.

I really should clean my chain and perhaps adjust my derailleur, too. Women in their 30s need to race with dignity.

I’ll be back with a report on what it’s like to be 30.

* Am I turning into Bridget Jones…?

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