The Tiniest Sprinter

Hi, my name is Sam Nicoletti (though I believe it officially says "$AM" on my birth certificate)(I'd better ask my mom), and I love bicycles. I love to look at them and clean them and work on them and ride them and, most of all, race them, particularly when they're steel. I wear matching heart spangled spandex with all of my closest friends, Portland's Gentle Lovers, and we shred on bikes absolutely as hard as we can, or at the very least as hard as we feel like, which is usually pretty hard. As you know, almost everybody at every race does not win, but when the stars align and the barometric pressure is just right, sometimes we can switch it up. I've personally got jerseys for the state championship criterium and singlespeed cyclocross race hanging up in my closet, and my Gentle brothers and sisters have a lot more than that. It's a bio, so I'm allowed to brag on us some, right? Right! Anyway, while I'm not as OG as some of my teammates, I know that the Vanilla / Gentle Lovers relationship thingy (it's complicated) is old enough to be totally B.F. (before facebook). The history goes way back to milk money times, as I understand it, but the really important thing is that we're still tight, and I love the shop and the boys who make it what it is. I'm stoked to be writing here on Speedbloggen, and I hope I can entertain you! xoxo, The Tiniest Sprinter, a.k.a. $AM

Jul 7  |  Concerning Tiny Bikes: Part 1

Posted by , July 3rd, 2014 at 9:30AM    

[Note: I’m reposting this from a couple years ago because it’s just a great read for anyone that thinks they’ll never have a bike that fits. Sam now has two Speedvagen, road and cross, and crushes on both!]

People think I’m pretty hard.  Super tough and gritty and all that.  It’s easy to see why, especially if I have some stubble, which I totally do a lot of the time.  In fact, if a stranger had to describe my whole vibe – my thing, if you will – I’m almost positive that the word they’d use would be “street.”  Hell, if I had a half-link for every time somebody mistook me for Omar Little from The Wire, I’d probably be able to make one of those weird half-link chains by now.

the resemblance is uncanny indeed


Jan 1  |  What’s Next?!

Posted by , January 2nd, 2014 at 2:22PM    


I never know quite what I’m going to feel when cyclocross season ends here.  It seems, based on previous years, that it can go one of three ways: (more…)

Nov 11  |  Surprise Me! Legs

Posted by , November 26th, 2013 at 3:55PM    

There’s training, and then there’s training.  And then, of course, there’s not training, I suppose.  I’ve spent my share of couch time partaking in the 3rd option these last few years, but I do my damndest to avoid it, and for the most part training is a thing of my past; something I walked away from after ’bout 10 straight years of training for the 400m.  These days I just regular-ass train – ride how I want to and sometimes do hard things that sound like a good idea.  It’s really great.  My mental health flourishes and I maintain my love for the machines, and I feel that both of those would be in jeopardy if I flipped the switch over from focused exercising to training.

My chosen cycling lifestyle is not without its drawbacks, however.  For instance, I’ve lost every road race I’ve ever entered (it’s rough to think of it with that phrasing), and during and after each one it’s been impossible to not imagine different outcomes if only I was, say, willing to hook up a power meter, or ride on the rainiest days that see me instead glued to my gameboy with a spiked coffee in hand.  I had a close brush with success in the King’s Valley road race a few years back, for example, and finishing off that podium certainly made a few shitty interval sessions seem more tolerable.  Each loss very much tests my resolve to keep not working very hard.  Stay strong, Tiny.

Vanilla_Kit_11_6_13_ 0021

If the fear of unrealized potential somehow manages to challenge the benefits I find from keeping it low key, though, there’s one additional element that always tips the scales back towards the chillaxi-training approach:  Surprise Me! Legs.

I assume some of you folks out there own and thrash Speedvagens with the Surprise Me! paint schemes.  If you’re like me, the Surprise Me! isn’t appealing because you think you’ll get something extra special, or you have some special faith that the design will be perfectly spot on with your desires.  The Surprise Me! paint is intrinsically appealing  just for being a surprise.  It’s tough to beat the excitement of not knowing, but knowing you’ll know, and then finding out.  The paint could just be white.  White all over, with no details at all.  Or black.  It could look like a steel version of every carbon bike out there right now.  In either case, it wouldn’t matter, because the decision wasn’t to get a paint job, it was to get a surprise.  It’s just icing on the cake that the SM paint schemes always ball hard.


For me, it’s the same story with my legs.  With no season planning or scheduled peaks, my legs could be good or bad on just about any given day.  If they suck in a race, I figure at least it gives me something funny to talk about, and if I’m honest I probably wasn’t going to win anyway, what with almost all of the people losing almost all of the time.  If the inverse occurs, though, and I pedal off the line thinking “this feels perfect,”  then that’s a surprise plus a little sumpfin’ extra, and you can’t beat that.

At the state champs cx race a couple of weeks back, I rolled up to the front row of the singlespeed race with a big question mark hovering above my head.  I’d been riding a bit more than usual, but I’d also stopped doubling up on races once the weather got colder and wetter, so I really had no clue what my body would do for me or to me.  The question mark was the excitement.

That day the dice came up in my favor, and my body did everything I asked and more.  My foot found the pedal, so I was able to lock down the hole shot, and my lower back held out well enough for me to always ride (grind) both of the hills that walked the fine line between ride-able and not.  My feet lifted themselves high to not snag toe spikes on barriers, and my right shoulder had finally broken in enough to feel no pain from the top tube.  It was glorious.

Tiny Wins

I worry that if I trained, a day like that would be met with muted feelings of “yeah, that’s about right,” and had things gone any differently I’d have no option but to feel true disappointment.  By coming into the race reveling in the impending surprise, with little in the way of expectation, I was guaranteed a fun time, and as things played out, I stood on top of the podium with thoughts much more, well, colorful than “yeah, that’s about right.”

If you train, a large part of me is still envious of you and your dedication, but to all of those folks who merely regular-ass train, or even just go outside and ride, I highly recommend paying special attention to your Surprise Me! Legs the next time you toe the line.



Sep 9  |  Good or Grief

Posted by , September 30th, 2013 at 11:02AM    

On Thursday, September 19th, 2013, I said goodbye to a dear old friend, my turquoise CALI ’05 edition Jeep Cherokee, in exchange for $300.  I bought that Jeep as a replacement for my first Jeep, which was stolen in Tijuana back in 2005, and I’ve had it ever since.  The odometer read just over 228,000 miles when I handed the keys over that night, and during the time I was making those little numbered wheels tick ever higher, that Jeep took me along many beautiful Colorado 4×4 trails that ended high above tree line; played the role of hearse when I took the late Princess Tiffany to the Moab desert for a burial; acted as a canvas for my homemade spray paint stencils; provided sleeping quarters in, on, and underneath during cross country road trips; hauled my bikes and my hairy homie, Dr. Louis, out to OR when it was time to start my grown-up life; shuttled me reliably to and from almost every ‘cross race I’ve won (and lost)…  I’m really going to miss it.

The logical part of my brain knows I didn’t need it anymore.  It would have cost five times what it was worth to get it into daily driver shape again, and the likelihood of me ever taking the time to do it was similar to the likelihood that I’ll ever stop saying “Butt Ranger” instead of “Bontrager”.  I got a little scratch and my driveway back, some kid got a dirt cheap car with a great engine and funny things spray painted all over it; a total win for everybody.

Time will tell if my emotions agree with my calculus.

ANYWAY, the selling of my wheels got me thinking back to the bikes and bike parts that I’ve sold over the years, and if, in each instance, it was the right choice.


Sep 9  |  Finished Did Not Finishing

Posted by , September 6th, 2013 at 4:41PM    

The wall of DNFs surrounding me is beginning to crumble!



Older Posts »