June 16, 2013 § 21 Comments
Fukdude woke up one day with a completely crazed obsession, which was completely different from the completely crazed obsession he’d had the previous year, or the year before, or the year before.
“I gotta fukkin do the hour record,” he said to himself.
So he went down to the velodrome, hopped on his bike and did a practice hour record ride. He missed setting a new mark by 300m.
With zero preparation, coming so close to the mark on a test ride would give mere mortals cause for celebration. All it gave Fukdude was a case of raw sack.
“My fukkin left nut was out of position, pushed up against a nest of hairs on the inside of my thigh.” (FD is extremely analytical.) “Those three or four hairs rubbed up against the sack nonstop for one fukkin hour. Like scraping your balls with a wire brush. Fukkin saddle sore on my nut was the size of a small fukkin Frisbee. Couldn’t wear underwear for two weeks and had to soak my balls in an avocado-linseed oil poultice. Shit fukkin hurt.”
Why are bicycle riders insane?
This is what I was asking myself, having swung by FD’s place to pick up a copy of “The Hour” by Michael Hutchinson, an insane British bicycle rider who had misguidedly taken aim at the most holy record in sports, and predictably failed.
“You gotta fukkin read this book if you’re gonna blog about my attempt,” he said. “Then I can tell you about bearing friction and chain drag coefficients and tire thread counts and crr and Cda. Pretty cool shit, actually.”
“It is?” I asked.
“Fuk yeah, dude.” Then FD reached down onto a shelf and pulled out a bag with a chain in it. “Imported from Japan, dude,” he said with pride.
“Like my wife?”
“No, dude, this is special. Bro deal.”
I nodded. “Any other special stuff?”
“Fuk yeah. Check this shit out.” FD reached into another shelf and pulled out a box, in which was a bag, in which was a cloth sack, in which was a plastic covering, in which was a monstrous 55-tooth chainring that looked bigger than the reported Frisbee on his nutsack.
“Wow,” I said.
“Fukkin Japanese dude makes these things. Imported from Japan. Japanese. Fukkin rad shit, huh? $200 bucks, dude.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s some coin.”
“No big deal. We just dial back the hot water, gas, and electricity for six weeks, slash the food budget and drink more water. It’s healthier, actually. Good for your fukkin hour record diet too, dude.”
When the fad is bad
This whole hour record thing got started in SoCal by Keith Ketterer, otherwise known as “KK,” “Superman,” or just plain “Sir.” A quiet, unassuming guy, KK did his preparation and set the hour record in two separate age divisions.
His successful assaults were the picture of suffering, and when he finished his second record ride he was pulled off the bike looking like a corpse that was way past its expiration date. The epic nature of his ride and the unspeakable nature of what he endured lit the fire of emulation under many who saw him.
Fortunately, most of the emulators did a few trial laps at speed around the velodrome and instantly realized the folly of their fantasy, and more importantly, the unspeakable pain of riding so fast even for a lap. So they quit and went back to the events that required something less, like ice hockey, drinking beer, and of course the most popular cycling event, Talking About Cycling And Spending Money On Bike Crap.
Not Fukdude. For him, the pain and the flogging and the obsessive attention to every possible detail made the fire burn brighter. It didn’t hurt that he has long been one of the best amateur bike racers in the state, and owns a pair of national titles on the track.
I found out about it through a Facebook invitation to the event that FD had sent out.
“It’s gonna be fukkin boring beyond belief,” he enthusiastically assured me. “Some dork riding in circles for fifty minutes, dude, people will be looking at each other going ‘This is some boring shit.’”
“Yes,” I tentatively agreed.
“It’s not ’til the last ten minutes if you’re on track that the misery and agony and suffering and flogging and hell sets in. That shit’s fun to watch. Dork goes from ‘I’m kicking ass’ to ‘I’m about to get totally fukkin humiliated in front of my family and friends plus waste all that money on tires and chains and shit from Japan,’ and then he fukkin goes balls out and flogs himself and you can see the fukkin fear of failure scratched all over his face like a bad tattoo. That’s when it’s fun to watch.”
“Oh,” I said.
“I mean, bike racing is a fukkin niche sport no bigger than a termite’s ass. And track racing is a fukkin tiny crevasse in the crack of the termite’s ass, right? And the fukkin hour record is a fissure in the crack of the termite’s ass’s microniche. Like, who fukkin cares?”
“So why are you doing it?”
“I’m obsessed, dude. If I don’t have a fukkin goal I’ll be eating a dozen baked chocolate donuts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and drinking beer by the keg. Gotta have goals in life, right, dude?”
Preparing for the flogging
If I had done a practice run and only missed the new record by 300m and some raw skin, I would focus my training exclusively on proper nut positioning and maybe do a couple of intervals to sharpen up for the real day of reckoning.
He assembled a team to conquer that last 300 meters that was truly incredible. Roger Young, former Olympian and curmudgeonly genius track coach feared by all, but who is really quite talkative on Thursdays between the hours of 3:00 and 3:15 AM. Philip Goglia and his eating program in Santa Monica, who is The Man for pasty, skinny dudes like FD who want to look even sicklier without losing leg power. Thanks to Phil, FD was able to develop entire new vein displays on his abdomen and thigh.
Roger put together a training plan that included things like eight 10-minute threshold sessions with 3-minute rests between intervals; three 40-minute threshold sessions (done three times a week); two 30-minute climbing intervals on a 9% grade at 350 watts…etc. Experts agree that if simply reading through the workouts doesn’t physically exhaust you or make you sob uncontrollably, you have what it takes to attempt the record.
Phil put together an eating plan that was based on the concept of gaining strength and power while losing weight and eating everything out of a Tupperware box. No more baked choco donuts. No more entire loaves of French bread. No more buckets of ice cream. No more Five Guys. In short, no more fun.
FD, however, was quick to point out that this had nothing to do with fun. “Fukkin starving yourself on lettuce and spending the best part of your adult life on an indoor trainer, dude, that’s fucked up. Which is why we do it. Right?”
“Uh, right,” I agreed, secretly planning to swing by the donut shop on the way home.
“Okay, cool dude. Nice talkin but I have to get back on the fukkin trainer. See you next week?”
“Wouldn’t miss if for the world. Hey, one question — “
“What happens if you do the hour record in, say, 59 minutes?”
*NOTE TO READER (singular): FD attempts the hour record in the 40-44 year-old age category at the VeloCenter in Carson, CA, on June 23 at 4:00 PM, immediately after which we will celebrate his NEW hour record with lots of fermented liquid electrolytes, chocolate donuts, more fermented electrolytes and awesome tales of how awesome he is. Which, in fact, he is.
June 14, 2013 § 18 Comments
I’ve been racing dirty.
There. I said it.
The signs have been out there for a while, but I thought people wouldn’t connect the dots, especially since I’ve been such a vocal advocate for clean cycling. But the thing that pushed me to confess, aside from my conscience, was an email from a friend. “It doesn’t add up, dude. Why don’t you come clean?”
The “it” he was referring to was a series of eyebrow-raising results, starting with a CBR crit at the end of last year where I got tenth out of a break that included some pretty phenomenal competition.
Then, this year I finished Boulevard with the group. Typically I get dropped on the first lap. Next was a third place crit finish, 50+ CBR. Icing on the cake was third place last week, where I overplayed my hand by riding in every break and collecting three primes.
Now that I’ve confessed, I’m going to do what others who’ve been caught most often refuse to do: I’m going to explain how an older masters racer goes from racing clean to racing dirty. It’s not a pretty story.
The problem is, of course, rooted in my childhood
When I was a little kid, I hated taking baths. Getting me wet and soaped down was always what my mom called a “production.” After cajoling, threatening, chasing, and finally manhandling me into the tub, a process that took a solid hour and was utterly exhausting to a woman with already frayed nerves, once I was in, I was equally hard to get out.
My brother and I would have water wars, spill most of the tub water out onto the mildewy tile, and leave the large white porcelain claw-footed bath with a thick black grease ring that took a can of Ajax and a bad case of elbow tendinitis to remove. If she could get me bathed twice a month it was a good month. In the summertime the success rate was even lower.
Why was I such a filthy, dirty little kid? Because I was from Texas, because we didn’t have a TV, because I was always outside, because I was always barefoot, and because of Fletcher.
When there’s a funny smell…blame it on the dog
Fletcher was our mixed German Shepherd – Airedale – Snipsnsnails mutt who rescued us when we went to the La Marque ASPCA to get adopted by a pet. Fletcher grew up into a rather large mammal, and like every dog in Texas from his generation, that meant he had an even larger contingent of fleas.
Dogs, yes, used to have fleas. There were no magical flea collars, or special flea-icide that you rubbed into their coat, and there sure as hell weren’t any mobile on-demand mutt washers painted pink with cute names like “Poochy Pedicures” or “Scrub-a-Dub Doggie.”
In those days, the only way to kill the fleas was with a garden hose and a box of flea powder made by DuPont or Dow, a chemical so strong it would make your fingers rot off, or dissolve the enamel on your teeth when you added it to the bathub gin, but that never, ever, ever killed one single solitary flea.
Instead, the lethal flea powder made the fleas stronger, bigger, jumpier, and supercharged their flea libidos such that after the flea bath Fletcher would, within days, have twice as many as he did before the rubdown. Since Fletcher slept in my bed and on the couch, and since I laid and played with him on the floor, and in the grass, and in the mud, I, too, was covered in fleas.
Many was the lazy summer afternoon when my brother and I would sit on the white couch and catch fleas, expertly laying them on their side, up against the hard edge of our fingernails as we popped them in half for having the audacity to bite us. In sum, Fletcher was a filthy, dirty dog, and not just because of fleas.
He was also especially nasty because he was constantly licking his balls. Nowadays the first matter of business when you get a dog is to whack off his gonads, but not in 1968. Dogs in those days had balls, and big dogs had big ones. Dogs grew to maturity with their nuts intact. Fletcher’s balls were big and purple and of all his body parts, they were the one that never got bitten by a flea. He licked and slurped and kept those things scrupulously clean, and woe betide the flea who tried to suck the blood out of either of those big doggie nuts. Whatever else you could have said about Fletcher, you couldn’t question his priorities.
Of course, in addition to constantly licking his balls, Fletcher would often lick us boys as well, on the hands if we were eating something, on the face if he saw a bit of peanut butter that hadn’t made it down the gullet, or on the legs if he just needed some salt. So I grew up, I suppose, in addition to having fleas, with a protective layer of dirty dog slime that covered me from head to toe.
As a side note, and in confirmation of what recent studies suggest, suffice it to say that I never got sick.
When the boy becomes a man
I cruised through elementary school a dirty and greasy little urchin and never thought much about it. Then, in seventh grade, we were sitting in the cafeteria at Jane Long Junior High, and the guys started talking. It was 1978, and boys had long hair.
First was Danny Martin, who had long, black, shimmering, beautiful hair. “When do you shower?” he asked Steve Wilson, who had long, shiny bronze hair.
“Before school, for sure.”
“Me, too,” said Danny.
Bill White, who had long, silky, blonde hair, piped up. “I shower at night, too. But I only shampoo in the morning.”
Everybody looked at me, including Glynis Wilson, the lovely girl with the gorgeous long hair. I stammered. “Uh, only in the, uh, morning,” I said.
A fiery curtain of red started at my neck and enveloped my entire head as I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d bathed. In my entire life I’d never showered. That was for girls. Then I looked at Glynis and a light went on. Maybe girls weren’t so bad…
If I could have covered my head in a bag the rest of the day, I would have. I rushed home and ran to the bathroom. There, staring out at me from the mirror was an oily face topped with a rat’s nest of long, thick, matted, greasy hair. I jumped into the shower. I washed my hair. And I never intentionally missed a morning shower for the next thirty-six years.
When I started racing my bicycle in 1984, I raced clean, and I believe that most of the peloton did, too. There was always the dirty racer here and there, but for most of us there were too many compelling practical reasons to stay clean.
First and foremost were the shorts. Word was that if you wore the same shorts for even two days running, you’d end up with butt boils and ass chancres and festering saddle sores the size of a fried egg. That scared us. So we washed ourselves, and we washed our shorts.
Second of all was the stink thing. We were young men, and we smelled rather badly rather quickly. Unlike the halcyon years of little boydom, when I could go unbathed for weeks and never smell much worse than a mild case of mildew, all that changed with puberty.
Any mom who’s opened the closed door of a teenage son’s room knows this smell. It’s the dank, rank, febrile, fertile smell of boymones, those chemicals that lace everything they touch with the strong smell of reproduction. Stick a young man on a bike, make him pedal around in the hot Texas sun for a few hours, and you’ll wind up with a case of the Serious Stanks, the noxious B.O. that screams “I’m in France!” or “Next we invade Rome!”
Yeah. That smell.
So between the stink and the sores, it just didn’t make sense to race dirty. And I didn’t. For over thirty years I rode clean.
When the levee breaks
I have to admit, though, that it was frustrating, especially as I got older, slower, weaker, and more stupid. People who had once begged for mercy on my mighty wheel now came around me barely cracking a sweat. Was I that slow? Had my decline in my 40′s been that rapid? Was that massive sucking sound at the end of every chain gang me?
I tried everything. Diets. Power meters. I once spoke with a coach. I even talked to a guy who knew someone who had been properly fitted on a bike. I traded in my steel for carbon. Wool for lycra. I buried myself in the physics and metrics of performance, with the singular goal of cycling success. But the only compromise I refused to make was riding dirty. I’d win clean or I’d not win at all.
But then I’d look around and see some dude who wasn’t nearly as experienced, who didn’t train nearly as hard, and he’d spank me without even trying. I knew those guys were dirty, and I finally decided, if just to prove it to myself, that if I were as dirty as they, then I could win, too.
The long descent into corruption
The first thing I learned about racing dirty is that you don’t get fried egg-sized saddle sores. That’s just a fairy tale they use to scare away the goody two-shoes and keep them from going to the dark side. I found that you could wear the same pair of shorts three, four, five times (six if you were Brad House), with no ill effects.
Riding dirty wasn’t so bad, and the money you saved on laundry could go straight to gas money and entry fees. That’s how the system works. Sad, but true.
The other big fear riders have about riding dirty is that they’ll smell bad. This is true for the young dudes, but old fellows lose that stink of youth starting about age 40, and by 45 the testosterone odor has been completely replaced by Ben Gay. You can sweat for days on end and go to bed with a salt crust encasing your entire skin and it will only barely out-duel the smell of those joint creams and diaper balms.
In short, I got on the dirty racing program, and it worked. Even though you don’t smell that bad, it’s bad enough for guys not to want to draft off you, or at least not to draft too closely. And once I knew the secret, I could immediately tell who else was riding dirty, and who was riding clean. That’s how it is when you’re on the program. And it would shock you to hear some of the names.
Anyway, I’ve tried it and I’ve had enough. It’s time for Mrs. WM to let me move back in from the porch. From now on I’m going back to riding clean. But if there’s real money or prestige on the line, you just never know…
June 13, 2013 § 25 Comments
You, dude, are a clogstacle.
Look it up, Merriam-Webster’s New Dictionary of American Cycling: “Clogstacle: A bicycle racer who clogs the lane in a finishing sprint, then rapidly decelerates so as to become a deadly obstacle to the real sprinters who are still accelerating to reach maximum speed.”
I can hear it already. “Me? A clogstacle? No way! I’m a sprinter!”
Uh, no, dude, you’re not. Take this handy-dandy (not to be confused with Dandy Andy) quiz and you’ll see what I mean.
YANAS: You Are Not A Sprinter
YAS: You A Sprinter
YUNT: You A Sprunter
YANK: You A Wanker
Step 1: Sprinting Self-Evaluation Quiz
1. You are sitting on Jon Davy’s wheel at 35 mph with the finishing line in sight. You say to yourself:
a. “What am I doing here?” = YANAS
b. “There’s no way I can come around.” = YUNT
c. “Faster, motherfucker!” = YAS
2. You come through the final turn with 500m to go. John Wike is on Ivan Dominguez’s wheel. You want the wheel, so you muscle over onto John. Wike hooks his left elbow under your arm as you lean against him, and says to you in a voice as cold and steely as a sharp knife shoved into a warm belly, “You move one more millimeter and we’re both going down, buddy.” You say –
a. ”Sorry, dude.” = YUNT
b. “Eek!” = YANK
c. “See you in hell.” = YAS
3. In a race there is first place and ______.
a. A participation ribbon = YANK
b. A hot contest for 57th = YANAS
c. Nothing else = YAS
4. The crazier the finish, _______.
a. The happier I am to make it home alive = YANAS
b. The more I prefer giving a good lead out = YUNT
c. The better = YAS
5. You’re in a two-up break. The other rider turns to you and says, “How much do you want? My wife and kids are here, this is my biggest race of the season, and I’ve never won before.” You say –
a. “And you won’t today, either, motherfucker.” = YAS
b. “$500, but we’ll have to make it look close.” = YANAS
c. “$5,000, ’cause I haven’t, either.” = YANK
6. You’re in a two-up break. You turn to the other rider and say, “How much do you want? My wife and kids and grandparents and boss are here, this is the biggest race of my life, and I’ve never won before.”
YOU ARE NOT A SPRINTER, PERIOD.
7. You’ve had closed-head and spinal injuries in previous sprint crashes. You’re the sole breadwinner and have five young children. You speed through the final, twisting turn when suddenly Twitchy MacGruder goes sideways and the domino effect starts, with the sprint train on the left starting to brake and rub tires and scream and curse. You can brake and stay upright and still get second place and $500 bucks or you can gun it through a rapidly closing, impossibly tiny window of daylight which, if it slams shut, will send you headfirst into the pavement at 40 mph. The last thing that flashes through your mind is –
a. “Nuh-uh.” = YANAS
b. “My family is too important for this nonsense.” = YANK
c. “I’ve GOT this.” = YAS
8. It’s the bell lap, there’s been a pile-up in front of you, and you’re now 75th wheel with three turns to go. A superhuman effort with balls-out risks will net you a top-ten finish, so you –
a. Give it all you’ve got because it’s a great workout. = YANK
b. Give it all you’ve got because it’s gas money to get home. = YUNT
c. Get off your bike and throw it into a pond. = YAS
9. When someone slams you hard in the middle of a full-on sprint, you –
a. Steady yourself to keep from crashing. = YANAS
b. Slam them back. = YUNT
c. No one ever fucking gets anywhere near you in a sprint and lives to tell about it. = YAS
10. The key to winning sprints is –
a. Core strength and workouts in the gym. = YANAS
b. Having a good lead out train. = YUNT
c. Being crazier than a shithouse rat. = YAS
Step 2: Textbook racing advice for clogstacles
If you took the above quiz and selected any answer other than one that led to “YAS,” you are by definition a clogstacle. And although you will never win a sprint, all is not lost for your cycling career, although, frankly, it pretty much is. Below are some rules for what to do and what not to do now that you know your chance of ever winning a sprint is zero or much less.
Cat 5 Clogstacle Tactics and Strategy
As a Cat 5, every pedalstroke of every turn of every race is fraught with potential carnage. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you do. Bull your way to the front, or hang onto the tail of the whip, the risk factor is the same. So, on the bell lap, you should go all out no matter where you are in the field. The worst that can happen is permanent debilitating injury or death.
Cat 4-3-2 / Masters Clogstacle Strategy
Now that you’ve left the 5′s, it’s evident that you will never be a sprinter. This means that on the last couple of laps of every crit, your goal is the same: Get home alive, get out of the way, and leave the bike racing to the bike racers. This means you should ease off on the pedaling, drift to the back, and put as much space as possible between yourself and the field. Quitting is fine, too. Below is a list of things you should not do under any circumstances:
1. “Lead out” your teammate. If you’re not good enough to sprint, your pathetic lead-out attempt will get you far enough forward to really gas you, make your head droop, and smash into the curb, endangering everyone else as well as yourself.
2. Go for a podium spot. This is madness. Those spots were reserved long ago by people with last names like Williams, Smith, Bahati, Wike, etc. Go to the back of the bus. Now.
3. Take a flyer. If you were too weak to ride off the front with Tinstman and DeMarchi, why would you suddenly be strong enough to hold off a field charging at 35 with Danny Kam, Tomo Hamasaki, John Slover, and Kenny Rogers driving the train? Answer: You won’t be. What will happen is you’ll get out there, blow, and then become a wobbling, weaving, rapidly decelerating lump that everyone else has to swerve around in the finishing turns.
4. Follow the wheel of anyone named “Charon” with five laps to go. Dude! 85 guys want that wheel, and sixty of them are ex-pros. What are you thinking? Aaron Wimberley will bust you off that wheel with two to go easier than taking a wallet from a corpse.
5. Join a gym. You are wasting money, son. It’s not about the strength in the core, it’s about the craziness in the head. You ever see Johnny Walsh or Aron Gadhia hanging out at a stupid gym? ‘Course not.
6. Ask Bahati for “sprinting tips.” He will tell you everything about sprinting, but you will still suck. When it’s showtime, go to the back and stay there. He’ll respect you for that lots more than crashing out thirty people in a mid-field sprunt where everyone else has sat up and you’re still charging for the line like a bull with his balls in a vise.
Any questions? Good. Now get out of my way. I’m going to win me a sprint on Sunday.
June 12, 2013 § 44 Comments
“Oh Dog,” I kept reminding myself as idiot after idiot took the mike. “These are the ones who bothered to show up. These are the smart ones.”
Sitting at the San Pedro town hall meeting at Peck Park a few minutes ago reinforced the truth: The wheels of democracy are turned by those who show up.
It was supposed to be a big showdown between the Pedro Troglodytes Who Hate Bike Lanes and the South Bay Enlightened Bicycle Riding Community, but only half the fight card showed up. As usual, the bicycle riders were too tired from the NPR, or from commuting, or from relaxing at home post-ride with a beer and a bong and a steroid cream rubdown to show up and advocate for something as pedestrian as bike lanes.
Despite the LA County Bike Coalition and lots of other do-gooders’ attempts to rally the troops, the troops sunk deeper into the La-Z-Boy and ceded the field to the true crazies. I mean, hey, why show up to a real meeting with real people when you can post meeting notices on Facebook and show your activism by sharing Jon Stewart takedowns of Dorothy Rabinowitz?
I showed up on my ‘cross bike with a helmet, jeans (pant leg rolled up), Krypto lock and shoulder bag. There were a few other bicycle riders interspersed among the frothing Pedro bike haters, and they all looked as frightened as I felt.
The Pedro outrage at the All Powerful Bicycle Lobby Enterprise
Los Angeles has one of the nation’s most anemic, lame-ass bike plans for a city of its size, but it’s a lot better than nothing and in its own fumbling way the city is trying to expand the plan. So what if implementation won’t finish for another thirty years? 79 will be a great age for me to enjoy a semi-connecting series of bike lanes. Part of the city’s plan involved striping some bike lanes on a couple of streets in San Pedro, a sop to the numerous cyclists and bike commuters who have to daily navigate that city’s bad roads and toxic atmospheric soup.
At the meeting it became clear that, as is almost always the case, the bike lane on Westmont wasn’t actually put there for bicyclists. It was installed as a “traffic calming measure,” which is engineer speak for “getting the lazyfuks in their gas guzzlers to drive 30 mph over the school zone speed limit rather than 50.”
Apparently, the bike lanes on Westmont had their intended effect, which was to slow down morning traffic by the school and also give bicycle riders a short lane in which to feel free and protected before being tossed out again into the sharkpit of Pedro’s bike-hostile streets. However, the sag-ass, droopy-bosom contingent was not amused and they had demanded a public meeting at which they could show they were stupid AND out of shape.
Until this meeting, I thought that all the congenital idiots on the Palos Verdes Peninsula lived in PV Estates and RH Estates, as I’ve attended bike meetings in both city council chambers and been impressed with the general cluelessness, rabid prejudice, and willful ignorance openly showcased by morons in both cities. However, the Pedroites in opposition to the bike lanes showed themselves every bit the match of their richer neighbors when it came to pigheadedness, sloth, and hatred of bicycles.
One fat slob with ankles that were bigger around than my neck kept interrupting the city engineers with catcalls, scornful “harrumphs,” and the kind of drunken public behavior that you expect at Godmother’s but not at a public meeting. Another turdblossom was panting and out of breath simply from the exertion of sitting down. Both took the mike and scored points for the large segment of the population that doesn’t just want to be fat and ill, but that wants you to be that way, too.
The real problem with bike lanes
The Pedroites made clear what the problem with bike lanes was: Bicycles get in their way. The dialogue went like this:
City Engineer: “Bike lanes slow traffic and decrease death and injury.”
Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”
City Planner: “Bike lanes increase bicycling which decreases traffic congestion.”
Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”
LA County Bike Coalition: “Decreased carbon emissions are part of a state and federal mandate to combat global warming; bicycle riding decreases those emissions.”
Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”
Traffic Engineer: “Bike lanes increase ridership which improves air quality and helps meet state and federal clean air requirements.”
Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”
Unfortunately, the bike coalition people, traffic engineers, and city staff attempted to accommodate and conciliate with the rabid, stupid Pedroites who hadn’t bothered to read the Bicycle Master Plan but felt qualified to criticize it anyway. As is often the case at town meetings, the desire not to antagonize the local idiots frequently runs afoul of the truth, which in this case was painfully obvious.
Painfully obvious truth: Bike lane opponents were dreadfully fat and sickeningly unfit
The great thing about America used to be that it was okay to be morbidly obese and encourage your children to adopt lifestyles that helped them get quickly on the path to Type 2 Diabetes while they were still in elementary school. I grew up in Texas, where horrible health was and is a matter of pride, and of course I’ve always supported the right of my fellow Americans to be disgustingly fat, even when it means their obesity impinges on me in the neighboring airplane seat. I’ve even supported giving free, nationalized health care to people who intentionally eat themselves into a whole medicopia of obesity-related diseases.
But just as I’ve never tried to encourage any of them to lay off the tater tots or, for Dog’s sake, go ride a bike around the block, I’ve also never supported the right of those people to force their lifestyle on me. They want to die from diabetes or heart disease after a lengthy illness and years spent in an electric cart. I want to die on the hood of a pickup. To each his own, right?
It’s too bad that our society has become, on the one hand, mean and nasty, and on the other hand, afraid to say things that are mean and nasty and true. In the case of the Pedro bike lanes, the cruel truth is that the bike lane opponents were caricatures of an anti-bicycle lobby that is fat, lazy, and hideously out of shape. Their hatred of the bike lanes was nothing more than a reaction to the fact that each bicycle rider was a reminder of their own laziness and sloth. It never dawned on any of the haters that the reason they were overweight wasn’t because of the bike lanes.
“I had to wait five extra minutes to drop off my kids!” wailed one lady whose bosom drooped around her ankles and whose ass-halves looked like they hadn’t been worked since 1982.
“We need to fix potholes, not add bike lanes!” shouted one drunken lardass, whose three chins jiggled so violently that they shook off beads of sweat that had collected in between the folds.
“Bike lanes are dangerous for drivers!” complained one dyspeptic old sow, matted white wig askew on her liver-spotted skull, three stomach folds drooping down like a series of miniblinds, and front-tummy pouch busting so hard up against the zipper on her sweatpants that the little flap of cloth stood straight out from the zipper seam.
One teletubby in front of me stood up, lost his balance, and almost tripped over his own chair because his stomach was so big that he couldn’t see the edge of the seat. “Why weren’t we told about these lanes!” he shouted, even though the engineer had just rattled off half a dozen public meetings in San Pedro at which the whole thing had been discussed and approved by the community.
In other words, the people who were most incensed about the bike lanes were the ones who felt most threatened by the idea that someone could pedal a bike up the moderately steep incline on Westmont without having heart failure. It was personal.
Helping bridge the gap
When it came my turn to speak I praised the bike lanes, praised the bike master plan, and made fun of the people who were so lazy and slothful that rather than make their kids walk or bike the .5 mile to school, they insisted on driving them in a traffic jam. In response to their wailing about the “dangerous” bike lanes, I pointed out that of all the injury cases I’ve handled, I’ve yet to have a driver come in and say, “I was severely injured by a bicyclist who ran over my Suburban.”
I reminded them that they were fat, out of shape, and that like it or not, we bicycle riders had a legal right to use the street and we weren’t going away. They booed and catcalled, and as I left one nasty, droopsy lady accosted me.
“How many kids do you have to carpool?” she shouted.
“Well, I have four!”
“You should make the little fuckers walk or bike so they won’t look like you.”
“Are you calling me fat?”
“No. I’m calling you morbidly obese and dumber than a box of hammers. Now get out of my way before your blood pressure and high cholesterol get the better of you.”
With that exchange I left, pleased to have helped more people have positive, enlightened feelings about those of us who bicycle. It’s hard to win friends and influence people, but you can do it if you try.
June 7, 2013 § 6 Comments
Pop sent me an email today titled “The Week in Crazy.” He’s at that age, 77, when dads wake up late, have a cup of coffee, read the paper, check their email, and then forward something interesting to their kids/grandkids before going down to the local junior high to troll for schoolyard trash.
Pop’s wife is a mosaic artist, and an accomplished one, and Pop isn’t, but Pop never met a project he didn’t want to help out with, so he goes down to the schoolyard every day and comes home with a bag full of junk thrown away by the kids. Pens, pencils, bottle caps, love notes, rubber bands, paper clips, and of course lots of pens, pencils, paper clips, and rubber bands. He’s become quite famous, actually, even though most of his fame, at least initially, was in the form of a “high alert” report distributed by the school’s security service.
It seems that an old fellow tromping around the schoolyard in this day and age raises questions, such as the time the football coach accosted him. “Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?”
“Me? I’m just picking up pens and trash and things. My wife is a mosaic artist, and …”
“Sir, you don’t have a permit to be on school grounds. Please leave.”
The coach was burly and quite on the turdesque side, and Pop is gentle and always smiling and about as non-confrontational as they come. “Okay,” he said, and ambled off with his little plastic bag partially filled with goodies, all of which were later deposited, discreetly, by his wife into the trash.
Next day, though, Pop was back. This time the coach was even gruffer.
“You! Sir! I told you not to come here without a permit!”
“Oh,” said Pop, a bit crestfallen, vaguely remembering the fellow from the day before. “My wife is a mosaic artist, and I’m collecting items for one of her works, and …” In mid-sentence Pop spied a broken ballpoint pen and bent over, picked it up, and carefully inspected it. Then he looked at the coach, whose fists were on his hips and whose scowl had migrated all the way down into his soul. “This is a beaut, isn’t it?” Pop asked.
Pop’s smile can melt granite, and something about the whole thing took the coach’s eye off the ball. “Yes, I suppose that is, uh, a nice one.”
“Here,” Pop said, magnanimously. “You can have it. I’ll find another one.”
Coach looked at the outstretched hand and the ancient skin and the kind smile, and took the pen. “Just don’t get close to the kids, okay? These days, you know…” he trailed off, gently, watching Pop quickly shuffle over to his latest find. Coach apparently had a dad, too.
As the months went by, Pop’s initial infamy became a kind of fame. Kids who were still on campus late would see him, run over, and give him their junk. Someone had done some background, and learned that he’d taught at a prestigious university for almost forty years. The kids all called him “Mr. Professor.” Some even added the honorary “Sir.”
“Mr. Professor Sir!” they’d call out. “Here!”
And Pop would thank them with that warm grandpa smile and happily put their trash into his little plastic bag as he moved along, patiently combing the schoolyard grounds for some unheralded treasure.
A little beer, a lot of crazy
As I sat down with a cold beer to read his email, “The Week in Crazy,” he’d notated #9 in the list. Pop’s razor-like brain isn’t the knife it used to be, but here and there it’s still plenty sharp. “I didn’t realize you were so all-powerful,” he’d written. “Congratulations!”
His irony was aimed at this blurb, which I’ll reproduce here verbatim:
Dorothy Rabinowitz [Editorial Board member of the crazy-ass, right wing Wall Street Journal] assailed the newly unveiled bike share plan being rolled out in New York City. She complained that the city’s best neighborhoods were being “begrimed” by the bikes put in place by “totalitarian” Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She also described the “bike lobby” as an “all-powerful enterprise.”
Normally, I shrug at stuff like this. In my world, the world of bicycle commuting and bicycle riding and bicycle racing, endless numbers of people hate me, and a sizable number want to kill me, judging by their driving behavior. Rather than getting angry at verbal tirades, I focus my energy on staying off the bumpers of those with a more physical bent to their anti-bicycle aggression. The hate is part of the package. If you’re going to eschew the car coffin in favor of the bicycle, you better have good life insurance and a sanguine acceptance of your own imminent mortality.
When beer meets rant meets broken ballpoint pen
Today is the day before I go up to Pasadena with Dan Martin to participate in the Chris Cono Memorial Ride. We’re going to celebrate the life of a dude neither of us knew, and we’re going to forgo a Saturday slugfest for a morning of slow pedal, easy talk, and fellowship. Chris is one of a bunch of people who’ve died riding their bicycles this year in Southern California, and as I read Blurb #9 I thought about what it really means to hate people for riding bicycles, and I wondered if people like Rabinowitz know how damaging their words are.
In our bicycle community, we have lots of people with opposing views, and we disagree pretty openly. I think James and Shon and Brad and Matt are whacko gun nuts, and they think I’m a deluded liberal, scheming to take away their contutional rats. Despite our differences, we can still have a dialogue, a dialogue that’s made possible by our shared bicycle community. The act of riding together means sharing the work and looking out for each other. Don’t ever tell them, but I’d actually support a lot of their crazy-ass notions if every gun owner were half as responsible as James and Shon and Brad and Matt.
This is another way of saying that despite “philosophical” differences, the practical community — the coming together of people who ultimately have to look out for each other — means that when push comes to shove we do what we can for those in our tribe, even though we suspect they might be one enchilada shy of a full fiesta. We accommodate them. They accommodate us. That odd two-wheeled contraption brokers a kind of peace, or at least a cease-fire.
But before I got very far with this thought, I thought about Pop out there on the schoolyard, looking the bruiser in the eye and handing him the shards of a broken pen with a smile. Your worst detractors can sometimes be turned in the most unexpected of ways. In the act of giving, a wall came down. Would it surprise you to know that it was Pop who taught me how to ride?
June 6, 2013 § 11 Comments
If your computer shook and blew a little smoke out the back this morning, there’s a reason. The record for the most iconic climb in SoCal fell, and not by a little. Josh Alverson took eleven seconds out of the fastest time up the 1.9-mile Palos Verdes Switchbacks.
This is a climb whose top times include monster riders like Kevin Phillips, Tony Restuccia, Derek Brauch, Evan Stade, Pete Smith, Jeff Konsmo, and one-off wankers like G3, Tri-Dork, and Stormin’ Norman who can pull some amazing stuff out of their shorts when they have to. Out of 15,567 efforts by 1,983 riders, Josh’s time reigns supreme. Hats off to this madcap, funny-talking moto hammerhead!
The first time I met Josh was on a Donut Ride. He was wearing a Bike Palace kit and hadn’t gotten the memo that you’re not supposed to attack out of Malaga Cove, attack onto Paseo del Mar, attack out of Lunada Bay, attack in Portuguese Bend, attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks and then drop the field. I would have personally delivered the memo had I not been languishing several miles in the rear.
Josh now rides for Spy-Giant-RIDE, and along with teammate Eric Anderson and Big Orange wanker Peyton Cooke, they made an assault on the Switchbacks after doing the NPR and Via del Monte. The arrangement was as follows: Peyton led from the bottom to the first left-hander. Eric took over from there until the steep section after Turn Four. Josh soloed to the finish.
News reports indicate that Peyton went so fast and so hard on his section that he almost fell over when he swung over. Eric, a fierce and unpleasant wheel to be on even in the best of times, buried it for the next three turns, fading just before the juncture with Ganado. Josh sprinted/sat/sprinted/sat/sprinted all the way to the finish. Strava link here.
Kudos, all three of you!
Now go get jobs.
June 4, 2013 § 27 Comments
Some things are so weird and bizarre and completely down my alley that you have to see them on video to believe them. Here’s what happens when a (presumably) Hispanic kid gets caught BWB (Biking While Brown) through an area of Brooklyn that is patrolled by an informal religious security force of Hasidim.
The title of the video and obvious nutjob religious whackadoodlism of the security force immediately promises to be a rich vein of humor overlaying an incredible travesty of assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assholicism of the first degree.
They probably don’t like us very much
Or, more succinctly put in these R-rated lyrics by Puddle of Mudd…
Ted Rogers’s most excellently adventurous bike blog ponders the question of why motorists hate bicycle riders. This video, all eight minutes of conflict and hostility and potential violence and racial edginess, shows why motorists hate bicycle riders. Let me deconstruct it for you.
- Outdated Shimano shifters. You can see as the video begins that the poor schmo on the bike is riding some ancient, non-Di2 form of what look like 9 or even 8-speed Shimano shifters. This is ghastly. What driver wouldn’t want to kill someone on that? Really.
- Creaky bottom bracket. The first and last part of the video reveal what is the creakiest bottom bracket in Brooklyn. This grated on me so horrifically in the first few seconds that I was hoping someone would take him out just to spare my ears that grinding sound. One time Rick Kent and I were on a long ride to Marble Falls and he had a creaky BB. I’ve still not forgiven him.
- Friendly greeting. Everything starts with the typical friendly Brooklyn “Howdy!” in this case when Schmo says “Fuck you, hey motherfucker!” as the minivan cuts him off. “Fuck you, hey motherfucker!” although rough on some ears, is totally normal conversation between Brooklynites meeting for the first time. It’s actually an invitation to become better acquainted, like “Can I buy you a drink, you fucking motherfucker?” or “Hey, motherfucker, get off of my fucking doorstep before I fucking blow your head off, motherfucker. Want to go bowling tonight at nine?” So far the interaction is normal, slightly weighted in favor of the minivan since Schmo is riding outdated equipment and presumably not wearing Rapha.
- Minivan aggression. Although the minivan appears to intentionally chop Schmo and drive him into a narrow crunch chute between the minivan and a line of parked cars, potentially maiming or killing him, New York Vehicle Code Sec. 2301(a)(ii) specifically allows each registered minivan one “free” bicycle chop per driving incident, so the initial aggression by the minivan doesn’t count. Schmo, who’s unaware of the vehicle code, is a bit miffed by the chop, so at the next stoplight there’s another friendly exchange of greetings. “Hey, motherfucker, what the fuck were you doing over there?” The rest of what he says is inaudible, but we can assume it’s something like “How’s the wife and kids?”
- The GoPro threat. Mr. Minivan is starting to react, and Schmo threatens him at the stoplight: “I’ve got you on camera!” he warns. Now, when you’re in a knife fight in Brooklyn, or someone’s getting ready to mow you down with a cement mixer, there is no single phrase more certain to strike fear in the heart of the aggressor than “I’ve got my GoPro, motherfucker!” You want to scare somebody? Show ‘em your GoPro. Mr. Minivan is temporarily terrified, but as his shomrim buds gather, they overcome their GoProphobia and take action to defend their streets from the invasion of this deadly Puerto Rican bicycle commuter from New Jersey.
- Second chop and less friendly greeting. At about 1:41 in the video, Mr. Minivan takes his second chop at Schmo, in clear violation of the vehicle code, which does not allow for a second free chop. Schmo, still friendly, but a bit agitated, says, “Shut the fuck up, motherfucker,” as he passes Mr. Minivan. We can sense behind his friendly words that a conflict is brewing.
- Shit finally goes down. Mr. Minivan then takes his third chop and traps Schmo in an open parking space. “Hit me, man!” says Schmo, which is odd because when Mr. Minivan gets out we see he’s actually Mr. Toomanydonuts, and something less than an imposing physical specimen. Plus, he’s wearing an old baseball referee’s uniform from the 20′s and hasn’t shaved the sides of his head in a couple of years. Mr. Toomanydonuts then approaches Schmo and we’re ready for all hell to break loose, expecting a barrage of Brooklyn admonishments like “You fucking slap my car again motherfucker and I’ll kill you and your whole fucking family and feed their fucking carcasses to my pit bulls, you understand me, you stupid little two-bit cheap ass bike riding piece of Jersey shit don’t you EVER fucking touch my car, you got that motherfucker?” after which we expect Mr. Toomanydonuts to whip out his piece and shoot the spokes out of Schmo’s wheels. Instead, Toomanydonuts advises him, rather formally, “You are not allowed to drive in the middle of the street.” This completely confuses Schmo, and us, too, because in fact Schmo IS allowed to drive in the middle of the street. Like, is Toomanydonuts that stupid? As the confrontation escalates, we realize that yes, he is.
- The Moe Moment. There is a moment in every man’s life when he realizes that The Three Stooges were based on someone in real life. This is called the “Moe Moment.” At 2:24 in the video, Mr. Toomanydonuts tells Schmo, “Don’t be a wise guy.” I don’t know about you, but having some goofball with a stupid haircut and ill-fitting referee clothes stolen from the Goodwill dumpster telling me “Don’t be a wise guy!” can only elicit one reaction, and we steel ourselves for Schmo’s hand to shoot out, palm down, flapping up in the air as Toomanydonuts follows it, terminating with an eye poke or forehead slap or ear yank. But it never happens. This is perhaps because Schmo is now surrounded by a vigilante gang of fat people in old referee outfits and bad haircuts, and he’s actually scared.
- Lecture time. Toomanydonuts next readmonishes Schmo: “You don’t drive in the middle of the street. You know what that means?” Schmo apparently doesn’t, as he’s been riding in the middle of the street all day, and presumably all year, and we don’t know what it means, either. So Schmo calls 911 and says “I’m being harassed!” to the operator. Toomanydonuts laughs and says into the phone “Liar! You’re a liar!” What happens next? Will Schmo say “Am not!” and TMD respond with “Are too!”? Will tongues be stuck out? Shins be kicked? More importantly, will the operator, who’s swamped with simultaneous incoming NYC 911 calls from people being raped, stabbed, robbed, chopped into bits, and being dick pic-ed by Anthony Weiner, give a rat’s ass that Schmo is being called “liar” by the leader of an erroneous vehicle code legal advisory team in old referee outfits and bad haircuts? At some point we presume the operator is going to say, “Hey, dumbshit, turn your bike around and salmon up the sidewalk. These fat fucks haven’t chased anything faster than a donut since they were nine.”
- “Baloney, macaroni.” It’s not often that you get to hear someone refute another person with the phrase “Baloney, macaroni.” But at 2:52 that’s exactly what Toomanydonuts says. For that alone, he wins the contest. In fact, next time I’m in court and someone argues equitable estoppel as an affirmative defense to a civil cause of action, I’m gonna look the judge straight in the eye and say, “Baloney, macaroni.” Take that, mofo.
- The real reason for the confrontation. At 3:00, Mr. Toomanydonuts shines his ample tummy at the GoPro, which is trying its hardest to burst forth from the white tablecloth underneath the referee outfit, and utters these immortal words: “Don’t block my car.” All kidding aside, there you have it — the essence of conflict between cars and bicyles. Bikes block cars. Ted Rogers, are you listening? They hate us because we block them.
- Bike harassment. As Schmo desperately tries to get the 911 operator to quit laughing by saying “He’s harassing me! He almost ran me over several times!” Toomanydonuts disagrees. “He’s harassing me!” says TMD. This actually has a grain of truth in it. Schmo has blocked the minivan by legally using the street, whacked its side panel after almost getting killed, and is now harassing Toomanydonuts by forcing him to stop the minivan, get out, and surround Schmo with his vigilante referee suit and tablecloth gang.
- Tummy rub. Although Toomanydonuts and the referees seem to have the upper hand, at 3:30 TMD realizes that over five minutes have passed since the last donut stop, and he rubs his tummy. He’s getting faint, and without a quick infusion of lard and sugar and salt, he’s going to falter. Schmo’s fitness and wrist strength from those clunky shifters are paying off.
- Rule #2: Don’t block cars with your car. Although Toomanydonuts is wrong about Schmo’s right to ride in the lane, he’s right about one thing — blocking cars in Brooklyn by parking your minivan in the middle of the street to harass a bicycle rider will immediately gain you the attention of other motorists. At 3:32 other drivers start to honk and get pissed. Toomanydonuts is either too weak from hypoglycemia or too confused by the vehicle code, so he rubs his tummy again and ponders this predicament: Donuts or more bicyclist harassment?
- Tummy tuck. At 4:04, Toomanydonuts’s hunger becomes overwhelming as he reaches into his pants and stuffs his tablecloth back down into the referee pants. We see a shiny silver belt buckle and a little holster where he keeps freeze-dried donut powder for moments like this, when his system is crashing and the nearest donut shop is in Lower Manhattan and he’s stuck in traffic because some bicycle rider is blocking his minivan. Shit’s getting real.
- Big Puerto Rican Dude, enter Stage Left. Pretty soon another minivan pulls up, this time filled with a Puerto Rican family. They ask Schmo what’s going on, and Toomanydonuts tells them to “move along” because they “don’t know what happened.” Schmo fills them in, and out from the second minivan hops Big Puerto Rican Dude with Popeye Forearms and Even Bigger Stomach than Toomanydonuts. Big Puerto Rican Dude pushes through the referee gang and easily proves himself the match for all seven referees, who realize that they’re now dealing with a legitimate Jersey Puerto Rican badass who looks like Prez after a bad hair day + 300 burritos. Dude is ready to rumble, and the referees are now wishing they’d picked on a skinny white Baptist from Kansas instead.
- Enter, then exit, the Pudknocker. Not to be outdone by Big Puerto Rican Dude, the refs bring out their enforcer, a gelatinous youth with the worst haircut in a bevy of bad haircuts, who literally tries to throw his weight around. Big Puerto Rican Dude balls his fists, shoves a few referees who clear out like ten pins hit by a 16-lb. ball, and then Pudknocker, who we expect to whip out some fancy moves or a roundhouse to the chin or a pair of nunchucks or a .38 special or an old-fashioned can of Old Testament Whoop-Ass, instead begs everyone to calm down and takes out a video camera. It’s going to be his iPhone v. Schmo’s GoPro, a true Brooklyn battle royale. Big Puerto Rican Dude still hasn’t gotten the memo that everyone’s a candyass who just wants to go home and tell the old lady how tough they were, and he’s ready to start knocking heads together. At 6:44, Pudknocker the Enforcer gets so nervous that he grabs his sideburns and gives them a hard yank. We expect Goofy to show up and say “Gawrsh!” but he doesn’t.
- Battle of the bellies. Schmo’s GoPro has stayed fixed at tummy level the entire time, and it’s clear that Big Puerto Rican Dude’s tummy will win the day. Toomanydonuts and Pudknocker have, it is true, respectable girth, but one close look at PR Dude’s spare tire and we realize it’s a Caterpillar among Michelins.
- Schmo 1, Referees 0. Big PR Dude gets tired of the crap, ascertains that there’s no damage to the minivan, and bulls a passageway for Schmo, who creaks away as quickly as he can, which, frankly, isn’t very quick. Other referees appear on the side view like cockroaches, as you belatedly realize that Schmo was surrounded by about thirty yahoos, and all it took was one pissed off Puerto Rican from New Jersey to clear the whole street.
So, how do we stop the madness? What can we do to make our streets safe places for children and for stupid religious zealots in old referee outfits and tablecloths and bad haircuts and funny hats who don’t like having their minivans blocked? What, I ask?
Finding a way out from a terrible impasse
As with most things in life, the answer is not too complex. We must get rid of all minivans. It’s a proven fact that the decline of American civilization began with the minivan.
First, the minivan replaced the van, a manly vehicle that was originally used to do manly things like carry painting or plumbing tools, or, if you’re a child of the 70′s, was an awe-inspiring vehicle lined with shag carpet, a sound system, two couches, and a giant bong. Who can ever forget our 8th Grade history teacher at Jane Long Junior High, Mr. Campbell, and his rolling palace of electric blue love?
The minivan ruined this mighty warrior of the American road, but that’s not all. The “mini” in “minivan” also ruined the Mini. I’m not talking about these faux Mini Coopers that are big enough to comfortably house an XXL driver, an XXL passenger, and still have room in back to bring home a week’s worth of frozen pizza, diet Coke, and peanut butter. I’m talking the real minis, like the one Dogbait Dickson drove to Austin from Iowa, with its 15-inch wheelbase, clearance between your head and the roof that was sufficient only if you were bald or had a crew cut, and a stick shift that reduced the leg room for the driver so much that you drove with your knees whether you wanted to or not.
The minivan killed all this, and replaced it with a flabby, flaccid, generic roustabout vehicle that was too slow to go fast, too fast to drive on a bike path, and useful only for parking at Wal-Mart or Costco. As this video shows, it’s not a problem of “us” versus “them” or “car” versus “bicycle.” It’s minivan vs. referees wearing tablecloths vs. bicycle riders vs. global warming vs. the Second Amendment.
You know where I stand.