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Monday
Dec092013

Amgen to stop making EPO

Amgen the company that manufactures Epogen, otherwise known as EPO is to scale down and eventually stop production of the drug over the next twelve months.

Epogen is a legitimate medical treatment that increases the red blood cells in patients with certain cancers and kidney disease.

Used illegally by pro cyclists and other athletes, it also increase red blood cells, thereby carrying more oxygen to the muscles, resulting in a huge boost in performance.

I have always found it interesting and fascinating that Amgen sponsors the Tour of California professional bike race each year.

Is this a mere coincidence? At what board meeting did someone suggest that a company that makes medication for very sick people would benefit, and boost sales by sponsoring a professional bike race?

Amgen, based in Longmont, California is shutting down production of Epogen because of a steady decrease in sales over recent years. Figures went from 2.6 billion in 2009, to 2.5 billion in 2010, to 2 billion in 2011. (Note that is Billion with a “B.”) The decline in sales is still falling with current quarterly earnings down 3% on last year’s sales.

I am not speculating as to why Amgen’s sale of Epogen is declining, I am simply asking why? Are there less sick people needing the drug, because that is not how patterns in a population’s health usually go. There may be fluctuations up and down from one year to the next, but not usually a steady decline.

Is it yet another coincidence that sales have declined since 2009, over the same period that professional cycling started to clean up its act? And is it possible that illegal sales of EPO could run into Billions with a “B?”

These are simply questions I am asking. I do not have the time or resources to follow up on this story. But it would be interesting to go into Amgen’s financial records and follow the money trail, and find out where all that Epogen went.

 

Here is the link to the Amgen closure story. 

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Friday
Dec062013

Hypocrisy

In this recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport in Rome, Lance Armstrong is still whining that he got a raw deal and was treated unfairly compared to others who doped.

He stated that there is, “A lot of hypocrisy in cycling.” I would say there is less hypocrisy now that Lance Armstrong has been removed. He is the epitome of hypocrisy.

Lance Armstrong beat cancer and came back to win the Tour de France. If he had left it at that, he would still be a beloved celebrity, heading his cancer foundation. He could have taken that one monumental achievement to the bank for the rest of his life.

But no, he was not content with that. Not even content to go on and equal the record number of five wins achieved by several of the world’s greatest ever cyclists.

Not content to beat the previous record and win it six times. No, he had to bury the record at seven times. And even that was not enough, he came back after three years in retirement to try to win again. That was his downfall, no one likes a show-off.

I cannot stand people who bring down a ton of crap on themselves, then whine that it is someone else’s fault. Yes LA doped in an era when everyone doped, but he was the King Pin who took it to a never before seen level of sophistication and organization.

Other people who doped did not sue, and destroy the lives of people who spoke out against them. Others did not manipulate the press, or hide behind the mantle of Cancer Savior. Even today people who win races are accused of doping, but none are suing people for saying it.

Armstrong says he is through with cycling and has no desire to compete again ever. Well that is great news, because the sport of cycling can sure as hell do without Lance Armstrong. He has all but destroyed professional cycling, and it will take years to restore it to any level of credibility.

After Rome, LA is heading for Paris. I am sure the French will be even less sympathetic than the Italians. He says he has taken up golf. Golf was one of the last sports to allow people of color, and women into their exclusive clubs. I doubt there will be any welcome banners out for a disgraced ex-cyclist.

I wish Lance Armstrong would just disappear, I get tired of looking at his face, which is why I didn’t post a picture here. I don’t plan on making a habit of writing about Armstong. There is already too much written about him, without me adding to the shit pile. It was just the “Hypocrisy in Cycling,” quote I couldn’t let go by without having a little rant.

Thanks for indulging me. Feel free to post your own views in the comment section.

 

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Thursday
Nov282013

Giving Thanks

If you will indulge me on this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to give reasons I have to be thankful.

For my good health, that enables me to still ride a bike and enjoy it probably more than I have ever done.

The reason? There is no pressure. I do not have to train for anything, just stay at a level of fitness that I can ride in a manner that gives me pleasure. I have nothing to prove, to myself or anyone else.

For my creative abilities that have got me this far in life and continue to give me the feeling that my best work is yet to come.

The driving force behind any creative person or artist is a desire to affect the lives of others in a positive way; without it, there would be no artists. No actors and movies, no songwriters and music, no authors and books to read.

To explain; a person works at a minimum wage job, or maybe even two minimum wage jobs, and still lives on the poverty line. In addition to being poor, their lives are not always happy because although the work they do is an essential part of our society, no one thanks them or gives them validation.

Another person, like me for example, decided to build bicycle frames, and for many years I worked long hours for maybe less than minimum wage, but the difference was there were a few people willing to pay money for my frames and were extremely happy with what they bought. I had affected their lives in a positive way, and my work was validated.

Eventually I had enough customers that I could make a decent living. Some artists become celebrities and make a lot of money, but that is not the driving force. The money is only a validation of that persons work.

Unfortunately, corporations are taking over the work of individual craftsmen. They give us cellular phones, SUVs, and flat screen TVs. Things that can improve the quality of our lives, but sometimes lead to a path of wanting more and more, and being satisfied less and less.

Corporations are now in the bicycle business, producing carbon fiber wonders that cost a lot of money; but do they bring any more satisfaction? I give thanks that there are still individual craftsmen who can make a hand built product. I just hope there will always be enough people who can validate their work by buying what they make.

I am blessed with a following of people who own bikes that I built, many are original owners and will not part with them They don’t care that they are riding something that some would consider outdated; at least it was made by a real person.

Although I will never make another penny from any bike I sold in the 1980s or one someone else sells on eBay; I still have the extreme satisfaction that my creation is still affecting someone’s life in a positive way.

I have been blessed with a gift that keeps on giving and like the Master Card ad is "Priceless," and for that, I give thanks.

 

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Wednesday
Nov202013

More about shimmy

Hold a bicycle wheel at arm’s length in front of you, hold the hub spindle with your left and right fingers. Now move your hands in the motion of pedaling a miniature bike. The wheel may be spinning or not for the purpose of this demonstration.

This is the motion of the bicycle or motor cycle’s front wheel during a speed wobble of shimmy. It is not simply a fluttering back and forth in the horizontal plane, about the bike’s steering, but it is fluttering, or wobbling in a two dimensional fashion in both the horizontal and vertical planes, violently shaking the whole bike and the rider.

I used to think this was a design flaw, but now I am inclined to think it is a natural occurrence that happens because it can. On a two wheel vehicle the front wheel is able to move in both planes, whereas on a four wheel vehicle the front wheel can only move left and right about its steering axis.

However, when the steering bearings wear out on an older car, the wheel can then move in both planes, and wheel flutter will occur. This will happen at a definite speed. (It might be 60mph.) Drive beyond that speed and the fluttering stops, only to return again as the car slows, and the speed reaches that certain critical level, then will subside again at a lower speed.  

Most bicycles seem to shimmy coasting downhill at around 45mph. A loose pannier, or saddle bag will often cause a bike to shimmy at a lower speed. Therein lays a clue. It seems if there is something flapping around loose, it amplifies the shaking. The tighter the rider grips the handlebars, he then becomes this fluid extension of the bike.

This is especially true of motorcycles where riders have been tossed around like a rag doll. Some have even broken arms. Expert motorcycle riders have demonstrated that one can ride “No Hands,” induce a shimmy by tapping the end of the handlebars, then stop it by simply leaning forward.

Tall riders riding bicycles with large frames seem more prone to shimmy. Why? The seat tube slopes backwards usually at an angle of 73 degrees. The taller the frame the more the rider’s weight is directly over the center of the rear wheel. This provides a near vertical pivot between the rider’s weight on the saddle, and the rear wheel contacting the road. The front end of the bike can now shake about this pivot. (See above.)

If the rider is sitting fairly upright, the pressure of wind on his chest is forcing even more weight onto the rear of the bike. If the rider were to lift his weight from the saddle, that weight is now on the pedals. Lower and further forward. Get down into a low tuck position, and the weight is now towards the front of the bike. Pressing a knee or leg against the top tube will often stop a shimmy. This dampens the shaking without being actually attached to the frame thereby increasing the problem.

Go to this YouTube video for a montage of motorcycle shimmy’s where the riders quickly get out of it. In most cases it does not even seem to faze them. It is the same with bicycles, the bikes that are shimmying are the same ones that the pros use in the Grand Tours. The pros do not seem to have a problem descending mountains, reaching speeds as high as 55 -60 mph.

Finally the Fuso frames I built did not shimmy. (As a general rule, there have been rare occasions.) So what did I do different? The frames all had the stiffer Columbus SP chainstays. This gave the frames more lateral stiffness.

If a bike and its frame are anchored at the rear by the rider’s weight, and the front wheel starts to wobble, (As it seems it will at a certain critical speed.) it will only do so if it can. In order for the whole bike to shake, either the frame or the wheels are flexing. Add lateral stiffness to the frame and/or wheels and the front wheel can’t shake.

Move the rider’s weight forward and you are effectively holding the front wheel so it cannot wobble. It is okay that the wheel can move left and right about its steering axis, in order to wobble the wheel has to move in both the vertical and horizontal planes.

I was prompted to write about this subject again because I read this article. Written by a mathematician, it was a little beyond my understanding, so this is an attempt to look at the problem in simple terms. When I built frames I never had this issue, so I never addressed it. It is only in recent years I have started to study this and my views are still evolving.

I’m sure if the motorcycle manufacturers had all the answers they would fix the problem shown in the video link, but it is a complex matter. Feel free to add your views and ideas.

 

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Thursday
Nov142013

Hiccups, and mind altering drugs

Nine days ago on November 5th, I got the hiccups. I tried the usual cures like holding my breath, drinking water, then went online and found a bunch more cures like, breathing into a paper bag, pulling on my tongue. I found I could stop the hiccups but, they were back again within minutes.

After three days I went to the doctor, who prescribed some muscle relaxant. Didn’t help. I did go for a 50 mile bike ride on Sunday, and if nothing else, the hiccups seemed less noticeable when riding my bike.

On Monday, I went back to the doctor, who sent me to the local ER for a more thorough check up. They had me lay on a bed for several hours, with about a dozen electrodes attached to every part of my upper body, this in turn was hooked up to a machine to monitor all my vital functions.

My resting heart rate is 38 bpm, and just about every doctor or nurse that came into the room, remarked, “My God, is your heart rate usually that low?” And I would have to explain that it was because of all the miles ridden on my bike over the years. For most of my life it was 36 bpm but due to my age it has gone up slightly.

My heartbeat pattern was steady as a rock, and blood pressure was normal. They took a chest x-ray and my lungs looked normal. In other words they could find nothing wrong, except that I had hiccups. The doctor prescribed some medication called, Chlorpromazine.

After a trip to the pharmacy I was close to a hundred dollars poorer. On arriving home I went online to see what this drug was. I am reluctant to put anything in my body without knowing what it will do to me. Are the side effects worse than the symptom?

I found that yes it was prescribed for hiccups, but was mainly used to treat schizophrenics. No real dangerous side effects that I could see, so I took it. I soon realized why they give this stuff to schizophrenics, it has the effect of a pharmaceutical lobotomy.

It stops people thinking crazy thoughts, because it stops all thought. I sat in front of the computer screen, reading stuff, and not understanding a word of what I was reading. Writing was totally out of the question, I struggled to answer a simple email.

I had a strong memory of what this felt like from many years ago as a teenager in England during the 1950s. I was forced to go into a mental hospital as a voluntary patient. “Forced to go as a voluntary patient,” may seem like a contradiction, but I was told if I didn’t go voluntarily, all it would take was a judge and a doctor to commit me, and it would then be almost impossible to get released.

They did that shit back in the 1950s to young kids who didn’t conform to what was considered normal behavior. They did it in Britain, and also in the US. I was given Electro Convulsive Therapy. (ECT) This consists on an electrode placed on both temples, and an electric current sent through your head for a few seconds. It sends the patient into a convulsion. Hence its name. (See "One flew over the cookoos nest.")

The after effect on the patient, is one of not being able to have a single creative thought. So you don’t have crazy thoughts because you have very few thoughts at all, and you walk around like a fucking zombie. A frontal lobotomy is a more drastic and permanent step to achieve much the same ends.

This morning when I woke I didn’t take the Chlorpromazine. My hiccups still come and go, no better, but no worse either. My thoughts were, “I need to get some writing done.”  This is the first step. I will keep you posted.

 

Update 11/18/13: Friday evening the 15th November, after 10 days of almost continuous hiccups, the symptoms got so severe I could not eat, and at times had a hard time breathing. Then right before I went to bed, the hiccups quite suddenly stopped, and I felt normal. I got a really good night’s sleep and have not had hiccups since. Thank you for all the remedies, some gave me brief relief. I’m sure they will also be of help to others who come across this piece in a search.

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