Bloor Road to Blue Bluff TT: Back to the future

February 27, 2011 § 8 Comments

The first USCF race I ever entered was one of the very, very few USCF races I ever won. It was February, 1984. I had just gotten my Cat 4 license and joined the Violet Crown Sports Association in Austin after six or seven months doing their weekend training rides, the highlight of which were the “dirt road low water crossing sprints.” Jack and Phil and Mike knew every dirt road within a 100-mile radius of Austin, and every weekend ride featured numerous detours down roads that weren’t even on a map. Every time we’d hit a low water crossing, which was about every fifteen minutes, the peloton would slam on the brakes, throw the bikes onto the roadside, and pass around a massive joint.

I inhaled lots, not because I ever smoked but because the conflagration would send up plumes of smoke so thick that you couldn’t not partake. The group would then leap back on their bikes, and anyone who thinks pot isn’t a performance enhancing drug should have been on one of those rides. The pace would go from zero to hammer-forty in ten seconds, strung out into a line of dust eating, big ring churning, full-on pedal floggers.

No more than two or three minutes later, however, the hammer euphoria of the drug would morph into the wow, dude, mellow phase and the pace line of raw meat eating musclemen would become a slow, meandering, peaceful aggregation of happy riders. But those first two minutes…what performance!

Only the hard men need apply

In order to keep its USCF club license, the Violet Crown, snidely referred to by the envious as the “Violent Clowns” would annually throw together a “race,” usually announced a week or two in advance. In 1984 it was the Bloor Road to Blue Bluff Time Trial, in between Austin and Manor just off FM 973. Total distance was 4 miles.

I still remember the excitement, getting up at 6:00 a.m., eating a bowl of yogurt and granola, airing up the tires in my bright purple Picchio Rigida, pulling on my Detto Pietra shoes and pedaling from campus out to the course on that freezing February morning. By the time I got there I was frozen solid, and to my surprise, which should have been no surprise, Bloor Road was all dirt, and it began at the bottom of a steep hill. I wondered what would happen if there were a low water crossing.

Five other riders showed up, including Mike B., who was a junior and who had the first cyclocross bike I’d ever seen. Also present were  Jack P. and maybe Tom P. When the results were tabulated, I was the winner over Mike by a few seconds. The organizers had either found a low water crossing or temporarily dispensed with the requirement, and in between giggles I was awarded first prize: an unopened Laverne and Shirley board game, complete with the plastic wrapping. Just in case you think I’m making that last part up, you can see it by clicking this link. It still remains the most valuable thing I’ve ever won in a bike race, and it has appreciated greatly in value: a vintage game will set you back $77 on Ebay.

PV Hillclimb 2011

Fast forward 27 years. I’m still a Cat 4 for those who idiotically believe that if you persevere at cycling you’ll eventually get better. The PV Hillclimb series (is two a series?) is sponsored by local promoter Brad H., Big Orange Cycling member, bicycle activist, endurance racer, elbow flapper, and 2009 state time trial champion in the category of mixed tandem combined age 90+ (of the four teams, one was disqualified because the guy had an expired license and the gal had “no license info available”). Brad has shown his thirst for the kill on numerous occasions, most memorably when he wrecked me at last year’s Devil’s Punchbowl. I’ve mentioned this in previous blog postings, but not because it bothers me. I barely remember it, in fact. I also hardly remember him regaling Rod G. with the race outcome by saying, “I don’t know what happened to Seth. He just crumbled. So I rode away.” For the record I’m not even slightly bitter, because I’m bigger than that.

I got up excitedly at 6:00 a.m., ate a bowl of yogurt and granola, aired up the tires in my white Specialized, pulled on my Sidi shoes, and pedaled from home out to the course on what was a freezing February morning, replete with hail along PV Drive from last night’s hailstorm. I rolled along on fire as the Mad Alchemy “Madness” high heat embrocation cream had gotten smeared up high and inside the chamois, and my parts were simply smoking.

Prices have gone up since 1984, when it cost me $5 to enter the Bloor Road to Blue Bluff TT. Brad’s PV Hillclimb set me back $25, but it would prove to be worth every penny. Although there was no Laverne and Shirley board game on offer, the winner would have his name engraved in a PDF file and permanently uploaded to the World Wide Web. I shelled out my money and  continued up the hill to warm up.

Cycling on the Palos Verdes Peninsula has several iconic climbs, and this course is one of them. It’s six miles long, starts at the nature center at the bottom of the reservoir, and goes up Palos Verdes Drive to Marymount College. At the college you turn right and head up Crest to the radar domes. The total distance is six miles, with about .5 mile of downhill halfway up the climb. The first three miles are a gradual grade, no more than 4 or 5%. After the downhill the road tilts back up, and then you go right at the college where there’s a short but steep section before the road settles down into a gradual climb up to the finish. It’s easy to come out too hot on this course and run out of gas once you hit the college. It’s also easy to hold too much in reserve and finish with gas in the tank. My goal was to hold 310-315 watts for the entirety of the climb.

When the cat’s away

This weekend bragged an absence of the South Bay hammerati due to the Callville Bay Classic in Nevada and the Ontario crit. Other lightning fast climbers had gone north, where they could pedal as many long hills as they wanted without having to pay for it. The absence of a Laverne and Shirley board game, the cold weather, competing events, and common sense meant that when sign-up closed only 37 idiots had penned their names and paid their money.

Teammates Kevin, Jon, Bob, Greg, Alan H., and Alan M. toed the line and went off on schedule. Kevin won the 35+, and Jon got second. A couple of minutes into my ride I started to remember why it had been 27 years since the last uphill time trial: they really hurt. My category included 6 other riders, so it was bigger than the entire field in 1984. Moreover, one of the hungry Hard Men against whom I had to prove my mettle was Big Brad, the glare from his white state champion’s mixed tandem 90+ TT jersey blinding in its refulgence.

The sweet taste of victory

My minute man was a furry Freddie, and I overtook him with ease. My two minute man was furry Freddie’s furrier cousin, and I devoured him as well. At the finish I turned in a 22:31, which was good enough to put me atop the 45+ category, relegating the six other pretenders to the ash heap of defeat. In the course of human endeavor, has anyone ever achieved more? In the annals of cycling, has a more glorious chapter ever been written?

I stood at the roadside, sucking in the winter smog and reflecting on my accomplishment. How did this compare to Merckx’s Mexico City hour record in ’72? To his Giro TT victory in ’73? To Boardman in ’96? Surely those events, noteworthy as they were, couldn’t compare to this field of six that I had so totally dominated. Did Merckx, Moser, or Rominger ever have Brad H. snapping at their heels? Were any of those titans ever hardened by the spoils of victory in their early years by a Laverne and Shirley board game? I doubt it.

Race results here: http://www.backontrackproductions.com/2011TTClifClimb2ZLTS.htm

Race WKO+ power file here: https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0Bwllm4cLW7EBYzk0ODdlYTctNWI2YS00NGI3LWFkNmEtYWRkNjNjMTJmMTAy&sort=name&layout=list&num=50

It’s all God’s fault

February 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Some places are so pitilessly ugly that they scar you with their wretchedness. Pearblossom is one such place. Pearblossom howls with a dry desert wind that sucks the moisture from the air as it blows over the sharp, spiny, wound-inflicting desert plants that puncture the coarse sand like rusty studs on the collar of a rabid punk rock killer. Stuck in an orbit of pain and ugliness at 3,997 feet, this dustblown town has just enough of a commercial dribble to keep it from being a ghost town, but not quite enough to raise it much above the status of a graveyard.

Every time I load my car with bike, pump, wheels, and dread, I think about the bone deep ugliness of Pearblossom, gateway to the Devil’s Punchbowl, the last cobbled and cracked pavement on my own personal highway to hell. Saturday was no different. Mired in the defeat and despair of the relentless horsewhipping I’d suffered two weeks earlier as the only Ironfly 45+ at Boulevard, all I could think about on the drive to the race course was the weather forecast: rain and temperatures in the low 40’s. I’ve done Devil’s Punchbowl twice and finished near-last or DFL both times, and have done UCLA’s Punchbowl once, finishing in the last group of broken stragglers and damned proud of that.

There’s something poetic about the race being held along the San Andreas fault. According to UC geophysicist Yuri Fialko, “The information available suggests that the fault is ready for the next big earthquake but exactly when the triggering will happen and when the earthquake will occur we cannot tell. It could be tomorrow or it could be 10 years or more from now,” he concluded in September 2005. Devastating, catastrophic, unexpected, pain, suffering, misery, loss of life…great place for a bike race.

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone

Saturday, I could feel deep down that the only recompense I’d have for spending the day in the vicinity of a town that looks like it has been shot with a shit cannon would be another painful beating at the hands of my betters. Turning off onto Pearblossom Highway I noted the wind turbine that was spinning crazily from the 30-mph wind and gyrating in tandem with the billows of dirty diapers, styrofoam cups, and fast food wrappers that blew across the roadway. The wearying ugliness of the place was heightened by the hand-lettered roadside cardboard placards that advertised “Coffee and Gas” and “Chorizo Viern/Sab/Dom,” scratched in black magic marker and nailed to a post. A junked car lot had a rusted out VW microbus that some redneck had painted camo and welded onto a set of tank tracks.

The only bright spot was the bright blue sky, the brilliantly shining sun, and the knowledge that however awful the day’s drubbing was going to be, it wouldn’t be meted out in the rain. When I pulled up to the sign-in booth I spotted my good buddy Kwan Luu. He had been there since 5:00 a.m., and although the day was still cold, the dreaded rain never materialized. Shortly after signing in, a huge gust blew through, picked up both sign-in tents, and carried them away like the giant sails they were. Volunteers scrambled pell-mell into the cactus-filled desert scrub, trying to wrestle down the wayward tents, which blew farther and farther away with each fresh gust as the angry desert plants shredded the volunteers’ legs into bloody, pulpy wounds. The tents came to rest several hundred yards off, heavy steel legs tangled up in the cactus. “This,” I thought,”is the perfect metaphor for this race: sturdy legs caught unawares and blown to hell into a cactus field of pain.”

An earth-shattering event

I tested the air temperature against my bare legs and chatted with racers who had just finished. “Arm warmers and you’ll be fine,” one idiot said. “I took my gloves off after the first lap.”

The air was still biting cold, but the sun was bright and we didn’t go off until 1 o’clock. “Perfect time to slather on the Mad Alchemy,” I thought. Fortunately, I’d brought the Uber Madness tub of gel, which warms down to 0 degrees and in a pinch can be used to smelt ore. I rubbed on gob after gob and then got out to warm up. To offset my thin gloves I smeared a thick layer on my hands. Despite the sun it was cold, mid-40’s or so. I’d been off the bike all week and felt even slower than usual.

Port-a-Potty navigation

This isn’t a Boy Scout merit badge yet, but it should be, because navigating your way through a pre-race port-a-potty is more technical and has more horrific repercussions when done badly than any accident on the bike. I entered the cubicle of brown death to empty my bladder one last time, carefully placing my cleats so that they were on either side of the brown lumps on the floor that might have been mud. Or that might not.

I took off my right glove and held it with my teeth as I reached down to grip. Just as I made contact I cursed to myself. “Goddammit!!” I said, realizing that I hadn’t wiped the fiery hot leg embrocation off my fingers prior to reaching down. As I cursed, my glove slipped out from between my teeth and into the urinal. I swatted to catch it with my left hand, lost my balance, and both cleated feet slipped squarely into the big brown patch that I’d now concluded most definitely wasn’t mud.

Glove covered in piss, cleats clotted with manure, and the inside of my shorts now burning with the heat of a thousand forest fires, I hurried to the line just in time.

Lambs to the slaughter

The dire weather predictions had thinned the 45+ and 35+ fields to such a tiny contingent of idiots that the officials decided to combine us into one race of about thirty. As we sat astride our bikes waiting for the official to wave us off, a giant storm cloud that had been hovering above the peaks began to sweep down. The hillsides were covered with snow, but until that moment the bright blue sky and the warming sun, especially while sitting in the car with the windows rolled up (an especially accurate way to approximate what it’s going to feel like out on the course), had obscured harsh reality: we were starting at over 4,000 feet and climbing another thousand or so each of the four laps that would make up the 50-mile race.We rolled out into the 20mph+ uphill headwind at a pace that was simply a crawl. “This is awesome,” I thought. “I’ve never gone out this slowly. I may actually do well today. Plus, these 35+ guys don’t look that tough. All the guys who race 45+ say that it’s much harder than the 35’s.”

A few hundred yards later it began snowing. “Snow!” someone yelled.

“It’s not snow,” an idiot responded. “It’s a flurry.”

“A flurry of what, you dumbass? Charcoal?” someone shot back who sounded a lot like me.

Tucked in towards the rear of the group I sidled up next to Leibert. He looked at me and smiled. “Lambs to the slaughter,” he said.

“Yeah,” I chuckled, but then stopped as I choked back a bleat, realizing who he meant.

By the time we got to the right hand turn the early flurry had petered out. I was impressed at how un-tough the 35+ guys were. In the middle of that reverie, my legs awakened to the sharp pain of an even sharper acceleration. Within seconds we were strung out in a line, with the gutless and weak 35+ girly men smashing the pack into pieces. Dave W., Mike H., and another Big Orange rider made the split. The rest of us were pulverized into easily digested baby food and barfed out the back. I knew it was bad because one of the guys who missed the split was Leibert. It’s a rare sight indeed, but not an altogether unpleasant one, when you get to see the executioner with the blade against his throat for a change.

“If a man hates at all, he will hate his neighbor.” Samuel Johnson

We flew down the back side of the big hill in a mixed group of about twelve riders. When we turned right at the bottom of the screaming descent, the lead group was less than 30 seconds ahead of us. They had slowed as the gradual rise braked their speed.

A Barry Lasko rider accelerated to try and close the gap. Leibert answered with a swift counter. Bill Ralph and I took this as the perfect strategic moment to crack. With us was a rider from the 35+ gaggle, No. 104, I think, wearing a red-white-and-blue kit. I would come to hate him with all my heart over the next hour of my life.

Bill put his head down and began to pull. All I could do was come through with short, weak efforts, trying to spell him as he did the lion’s share of the work. To my amazement, up came Hotten from behind. Hotten, Bill, and I (well, not so much I) took turns as #104 sat on the back. Of course there was no reason for him to help, and by the looks of it, he was completely shellacked, but nonetheless out of my own misery a deep and lifelong hatred began to well up. I cursed that guys’ stupid Felt bike, I cursed his stupid jersey, I cursed his squeaky clean freewheel, I cursed his goofy pedal stroke, I cursed his parents, his siblings, his life story, his family tree, I even cursed his legwarmers, which looked really warm. Of course I did all of this manly cursing to myself, mostly because he looked big enough to twist me into a pretzel.

As we struggled through the finish area, world’s best Maggie, Angel to the Freds, called out encouragement and offered me water. Her smiling face got me through the second lap…not sure if I should be grateful or not. After getting halfway up the big hill the second time we were joined by another 45-er, “Scott,” who I will never forget as long as I live. He had closed the gap to our foursome and when he overhauled us he was gasping and wheezing and gagging with such ferocity that it sounded like he was being strangled.

That was fine and normal. What was unforgettable was the 12-inch dangle of near-frozen snot that had dripped from his nose, over his mouth, and was now swaying in the wind as it hung off his chin like a living, breathing stalactite. I wanted to offer him my piss glove and turd shoe to make the ensemble complete, but didn’t.

When the going gets tough, I head for the car

On our third time up the big hill, the P-1-2 group overtook us. Bill rolled towards the front of their group. “These punks aren’t so tough,” I snarled to myself. We turned right to attack the stairsteps, the not-so-tough punks hit the gas, and I hit the skids along with snotnose, wanker, and Hotten. Bill surged with the others and was gone.

Snotty and wanker then accelerated, leaving Mike and I alone. My piss glove was now iced piss. No feeling remained in my hands. The Mad Alchemy embro had mixed in with the dirt, mud, and sand and had ceased to heat. My feet were frozen. I couldn’t feel my lips or my face. My glasses were covered with ice as we hit the 50mph downhill. The wind cut through my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers like a bandsaw through a drunk millworker’s wrist.

Hotten looked back, let me attach to his wheel, and drilled the downhill as if there were actually something to drill about. We hit the bottom, where the snow had turned to freezing rain. “Got another lap in you?” he asked.

“Bleat, bleat, bleat,” I answered.

Crossing through the finish area for the third time, I saw Maggie. “Can I quit now?” I bleated.

“Of course you can, honey! Get off that stupid bike and get to the car before you freeze to death!”

It’s a known fact that the only two people you can’t disobey at a race are the official and Maggie. Bill had disobeyed the official a few minutes earlier by crossing the center line and getting DQ’ed. I wasn’t about to get DQ’d by disobeying Maggie, so instead I quit the race and staggered over to the car. Hotten roared on up the climb and finished like the iron man he is.

Winning isn’t everything (but it’s better than being a quitter wimp)

I wish I knew how the race unfolded, but since I don’t, I’ll have to speculate: Dave Worthington, Mike Haluza, and Jon Flagg rode everyone off their wheel to finish 1-2-3. This seems confirmed by the photo I stood around to snap at the finish. Greg got 4th, grinding it out for 50 miserable miles and never losing more than a minute or so on the leaders.

Haluza, judging from the absence of shoe covers, absence of leg warmers, and arm warmer pulled halfway down, wasn’t even cold. I’m not sure he knew it was snowing. Of course you’re wondering how they decided who got the win. It may have gone like this:

Dave: “Okay, guys, I’m winning today.”

Guys: “FU. You always win.”

Dave: “That’s right.”

Haluza: “I’m 6’4″ and could squash your entire body with my left foot.”

Dave: “I’m 5’8″ and can sprint faster than your Moto Guzzi.”

Haluza: “Okay. Take it.”

Jon: “Well, I get second then.”

Haluza: “Okay, but I get to punch you once as hard as I want after the race.”

Jon: “Ah, er, third place and that bag of pistachios sounds pretty good to me.”

Haluza: “Damn right.”

If you missed this epic slugfest on the San Andreas Fault and had to vicariously enjoy the UCLA Punchbowl race results on this blog, don’t worry! There’s another Punchbowl race coming up in April that will be longer, but every bit as fun.

Here’s the link to my WKO+ power file for the race, just click here.

South Bay form report for 2/8/2011: Angel to the Freds

February 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Who’s “hot” in the South Bay isn’t going to cut it this time–more like who’s on fire? That, of course, would be the guy with the burning orange head, the blazing orange glasses, the incendiary orange socks, the flaming orange team, the guy you may know as Greg Leibert but who the rest of us on the South Bay wanker brigade politely address as “Sir.”

Greg’s on-fire status as leader of the Big Orange cycling team was confirmed by his solo 20-mile breakaway win in the state’s toughest road competition, the 2011 edition of the Boulevard Road Race. He won it by crushing the competition and by riding on the back of a coordinated and committed team.

After you’ve had your head staved in by Sir Orange you tend to sit around post-race talking with other abused and broken wankers, and the conversation is always the same.

“How’s that bastard do that?”

“Iunno. Iuz feeling great and then bam shit. Man I’m trashed.”

“Un. Gotny food?”

“Un. You?”

“Un. Later.”

Then everybody gets back into their cars and drives home, hoping that Sir Orange sits out the next weekend or that maybe he decides to sell his bike and learn to crochet.

How he does it: Cycling secrets of Greg Leibert revealed

Many point to his ideal size, long legs, background as a competitive NCAA Division I runner at KU, tremendous aerobic capacity, ability to suffer, attacking style of riding, effective use of team tactics, dedication to training, years of experience racing in Southern California, intense will to win, terror of full-time employment, and love of the sport as the key factors in his success.

I’m not buying any of it.

All you have to do to understand his path to greatness is hang around his car before the race. Suddenly, about fifteen minutes before the start, shitfaced looking, cockroach-scuttling, smelly little cyclists wearing various team jerseys begin to congregate around the open hatchback. They’re all holding seven or eight water bottles, and the conversation goes like this:

“Hey, Maggs. How’s it going?”

“Fine, Freddy, honey, how’ve you been?” Maggie the Fred Angel is always sweet no matter how loathsome the roachbag.

“Good, good, hey, can you give me some handups in the race?”

“Sure, sweetie, you got it!”

“Now this blue one is glucosamine with ginkgo extract. I need it halfway through the first lap at about mile 11.2. This other blue one, you can tell it has the amino acids because it’s not as deep blue, here, just hold it up to the light like so. I need this midway through the second lap, but not too far after the second hill. This third one, kind of with the aquamarine tint, this is the stuff I need most of all, third lap, okay? It’s got the beetle urine extract and powder of tiger penis.”

Maggie smiles kindly through the speech. “Could you do me a favor, sweetie?”

“Oh yeah, sure, anything for you, Maggs. You’re the best!”

“Why don’t you put your name on the bottles? See these other 413 just like yours? It’s sometimes hard to tell them apart with you guys coming through in a 200-man pack at 25mph.”

“Oh, yeah, ‘course, anything for you, Maggs.” Roachbag then skulks away to his team car, pleased to have helped out Maggie by putting his name on the bottle. Fortunately, Maggie will have zero problem with his hand-up because unlike Greg, we of the wanker brigade will be coming through at 12 mph in ones and twos–an easy strike for a pro like Maggie.

And of course roachbag helps Maggie out after the race, too. “Hey Maggs, got my bottles?”

“Sure thing, Hon, right here!” She hands him his nasty, smelly bottles that he’s tossed aside at the feed zone and dotted with specks of dried spit, and he gives her the one thing that she’s just dying for above all else: a big, fat, 15-second hug from a snot-encrusted, salt covered, unshaven, shit stinking roachbag biker. You’ll have to look quick–it’s the only time you’ll ever see anything on her face other than a smile.

The Fred Angel who does it all

While the rest of the wanker brigade is trying to figure out which days Sir Orange rests on, what his FTP is (he doesn’t know himself), his training schedule and diet, they are missing out on what truly sets him above mere mortals: it’s Maggie.

Without her, he’d never have won a race simply because he’d never have gotten to the line on time. Last year at Boulevard he was getting dressed in the washateria, and would still have been wrestling with his package when the race went off had Maggie not dragged him out, stuffed him on his bike, and made him get to the line. Without her, he’d never have a full water bottle, never reach the destination city, never get registered, and if, by some miracle he were able to do all those things by himself, he’d be DQ’d for racing without his number pinned on.

And it’s more than the mechanics of navigating, organizing, feeding, and otherwise guiding this Giant of the Peloverse so that he shows up ready to rage and destroy. Most of us with a significant other learned long ago to say quietly, and only at 11:00 p.m. the night before the race when she’s either asleep or almost asleep, “I’m going to the race tomorrow.” Then we hightail it out of the house at 6:00 a.m. and pray we get out before anyone wakes up.

And although wives rightly despise the activity, what they really can’t stand is having a marital social life that revolves around other cyclists. It’s bad enough that they have to hear a replay of each pedal stroke from the four-hour training ride as told by the deadweight they married in a fit of desperation, misplaced hope, or while in a drug coma, but having to “socialize” with people who rehash the rehash goes far beyond what most women can endure. Throw into the mix the gossiping, guttersniping, blogging, and preening in front of the mirror with $700 in new lycra, and it’s enough to wreck any marriage.

Not so with Maggie. No matter how lowly, depraved, misbegotten, deluded, or downright maggoty the cyclist, Maggie the Fred Angel always has a smile and a good word to spare. The toxic environment of the bike world seems not to bother her in the least, creating a perfectly acclimatized bubble in which Sir Orange can reach his maximum potential.

So the next time you wonder why he’s beaten you senseless, just take a look over at Maggie. And if you’re one of the roachbags with a water bottle, here’s a hint: See’s Chocolates takes orders online.

It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that bling): Boulevard Road Race results 2011

February 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Or: Lame post-race excuses for getting your head staved in

[Boulevard Road Race Results 2011 and Boulevard Road Race recap]

I like to get places early. In fact, there’s not really any such thing in my book as “too early.” This includes getting to bike races. However, like sharing a motel room, when you take up someone’s offer of a carpool, you have to go with the flow. And when the person offering the carpool is Jeff K., you can forget toodling up to the event two hours beforehand in a compact and fuel efficient Prius.

You’ll be arriving in the Bling Machine

The full-size 2010 Cadillac Escalade comes with diamond-encrusted, 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension with electronically controlled shock absorbers that hold your balls when you drive, xenon headlamps, an auto-dimming driver-side mirror, a power liftgate for your 350-lb. spouse, rear parking sensors that make a cute “splat” noise when you flatten whatever’s behind you, a  triple-zone automatic climate control that lets you be freezing cold, steel smelting hot, and perfectly cozy all at the same time, leather upholstery that’s nicer than your living room couch, heated 14-way power front seats that are hot enough to blow dry your hair, heated second-row captain’s chairs and a crisp set of officer’s whites, power-adjustable pedals, remote start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone connectivity so that you can drive without having to put your hands on the annoying steering wheel, OnStar to track your spouse’s trysts, a Bose surround-sound audio system with a six-disc CD/DVD changer so that you’ll finally have a use for that $15,000 collection of OBSOLETE compact discs, and a navigation system with real-time traffic updates so that you’ll know–surprise–that the 405 is at a standstill, and a built-in rear view camera for close-ups of the outraged drivers you chop in traffic.

This is all standard, along with the recessed hidden pockets for caching dime bags and related paraphernalia.

Butt Jeff K. doesn’t do “standard”

Why? Because “standard” is another word for “sucker.” Step up to the luxury model and you get hardware upgrades including 22-inch chrome alloy wheels which are bigger and therefore better, a more sophisticated adaptive suspension (Magnetic Ride Control) so that you can sleep even more comfortably when you fall asleep at the wheel, auto-dimming, high-beam headlights that can illuminate the high school football field in a pinch, and a sunroof, or rather a moonroof for when you cruise the ‘hood making sure your girls are working. Inside you’ll find heated and ventilated front seats for ultra fast fart dispersion, directional fans that let you point the flatulence over to whichever passenger has earned your ire, a heated steering wheel that forever renders obsolete the need to warm your hands by sitting on them, a power-release feature for the second-row seats that doubles as an eject button, and a blind-spot warning system for hitting blind people in just the right spot. The premium trim level adds power-retractable running boards for gang-banging on the fly and a rear-seat DVD video entertainment system with a ceiling-mounted screen so that your kids can watch the latest porn while you take them to their pole dancing lessons. Top-of-the-line Platinum versions of this growling beast throw in all the bells and whistles including LED headlights, heated and cooled cupholders, and a DVD entertainment system with dual screens mounted in the front seat headrests.

People who, after deciding on the luxury model, still feel skimped, can pick from options that include different styles of 22-inch alloy wheels–square and triangular–and a 60/40 split-folding second-row bench seat that lets a passenger bend over while maintaining the maximal degree of pelvic arch.

These, of course, are simply the creature comforts to make sure you hit the line well rested and spitting bling. For all the dopes shuttling their bike crap to the race in rusted out turdboxes that cost less than a good set of racing rims, eat your hearts out because there’s one honking badass car bolted underneath this moving luxury hotel room.

The SUV that gives Hummer fuel economy a good name

The obscene 6.2-liter V8 that puts out a sick 403 horsepower and 417 pound-feet of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission and a manual-shift feature will ensure that you’ll never get anywhere without gas stations evenly spaced at 300-yard intervals. The only downside to the power train is that the all-wheel-drive system lacks a low-range transfer case and features a default 40/60 front-to-rear power split that’s mainly intended to provide added peace of mind when road conditions turn ugly. “Ugly” in this case doesn’t mean four-wheeling like some low-rent plumber in a 4×4. It means “ugly” as in having to run over smaller vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and anything else cluttering up your pavement. When trying to outrun the cops on a crack run, this baby will take a mere 7.5 seconds to go from zero to 60 mph, a relatively impressive number for a vehicle this size and for a car that, once it reaches 60 mph, can neither be steered without a rudder nor stopped without a concrete blast wall.

New cylinder-deactivation technology that seamlessly shuts down and restarts half the engine’s cylinders to save fuel is now standard, even though Escalade engineers snickered throughout the entire design process, as EPA estimates stand at 14 mpg city/20 highway for the 2WD Escalade. This is a number which, if believed, makes you a potential investor in a Madoff fund which guarantees annual returns of at least 25%. Properly equipped, two-wheel-drive versions can tow a healthy 8,300 pounds or your mother-in-law, but not both.

Did these poor bastards take their Geritol?

We got to the race and it was pretty pathetic. Since I’ve revolutionized my training with the use of a power meter, doing build weeks that focus on intervals and endurance, and including the appropriate amount of rest, it was pretty much foreordained that I was going to destroy the field. I felt sorry for the sods pedaling around the campground in a futile attempt to warm up.

In fact, I considered ditching the 45+ race completely and just doing the pro-1-2 race. What kind of satisfaction would I get out of smacking the crap out of these old farts? There was poor old Roger W., looking older and slower and weaker than a homeless man after a Chicago ice storm. There was pathetic old Haluza, at 6’4″ and 185 way too big for a hard man’s climbing race like Boulevard. Who was he kidding?

And of course I’d ridden up with Jeff K., who, although admittedly on form, was going to get a big slice of manure pie shoved down his throat when I opened up the jets. Tired, sick, and mentally defeated Dave J. had emailed at the last minute to say he was going to race, so we’d gracefully allowed him to tag along. I spent my warm-up time trying to pick just the right speech to deliver from atop the podium.

I was having difficulty deciding to begin with “And thou, vanquished warriors” or “Good try, pathetic losers.”

At the sign-in I calmly unrolled my training log and power meter data and showed it to the guy handing out numbers. “See this, Freddie? You can just give me my medal and my money now and save these other bastards the misery of having to get spit out the back.”

He looked at me funny. “Who are you?”

“Davidson. Cat 4, 45+. You’ll know my name after today, pal.”

He rolled his eyes and gave me my number.

Lap One: victory in the making

I made sure to start on the very front row. Long experience had taught me that starting on the front intimidates everyone else, as there’s nothing more demoralizing than seeing someone courageous and fit enough to elbow his way to the head of the field before the race even starts. I felt their mutterings of fear.

We rolled out and hit the first little wall. This was the place last year that had caused me so much difficulty a mere two minutes into the race. Today it was effortless, as if a pair of bionic bolt-on legs had been attached at the hip. We crested the bump and began the long rolling downhill that takes about 25 minutes before you hit the first real climb of the day. Staying towards the front but cannily out of the wind, I watched three no-hopers leap off the front. “Fodder for us hardmen who’ll sweep them up like broken teeth after $1 shots in a Texas bar with fifty roughnecks and only one hooker,” I thought.

Before long we crossed the railroad tracks and began the first climb. It took 5:25 and required 322w, and I made it over in fine form. After a brief respite we started the second section. The pace on this climb alone shelled twenty or more of the 65-man field, with Hector Saldana driving the pace like a madman.

The second section of the climb took 6:47, killed off another clump of the feeble and the lame, and required 233w. However, halfway through the second section I noticed with some alarm an unpleasant burning sensation in both legs, a feeling that is often followed by getting dropped. Shortly after the feeling stabbed all the way into my lungs, I found myself in a single file, desperately trying to hold on. Still confident of the win, I nonetheless had to acknowledge that this degree of pain so early in the race was troubling, particularly since the rest of the field was chatting and stretching and eating and finally putting away the morning paper.

At 41 minutes into the race we turned onto the big hill, a steep, jagged 5.2 mile climb that rears up out of the earth like a tooth from the lower jaw of Charlie Sheen. At this moment Mike Haluzka attacked, smashing the group, shelling remnants out the back and forcing the remainder into a bitter single file. It took 706w to follow the attack, and 302w to make it to the top of the climb, although halfway up I got puked out the back with ten or fifteen others. Haluzka’s pace was so bitter, however, that at the slight declivity midway through the climb the leaders sat up, frightened at what they’d unleashed. I and my group struggled back onto the lead pack, where I took a few moments to re-evaluate my victory speech. “It is with great honor that I accept these spoils of victory” or “I can’t believe I beat you guys after that thrashing on the first lap”…either one would be appropriate.

Lap Two: it’s not an endurance event until 90 minutes have elapsed

Everyone knows that my forte is endurance. This is really where I shine. So it was only a minor inconvenience that I got dropped and had to time-trail back onto the leading group. Once back with the peloton I could re-evaluate my competition. There was Meeker, looking older than a bristlecone pine and clearly not up to the task at hand. There was Haluzka, plainly cracked and hanging on for dear life after that pointless beating he administered on the big climb. There was Jaeger, surviving, but just barely. There was JK, looking good but only because I had yet to unleash my Attack of Black Death.

Over on the side was Worthington 1, wondering how he was going to hang with the big boys. Over on the other side was Worthington 2, uncomfortable and out of his element. Pomeranz was swerving and wheel chopping, stuck in last year’s glory of his states victory. Hotten obviously didn’t have the legs, and Leibert glanced over at me with what can only be described as the “glance begging for mercy where none will be shown.” No, there was only one rider in the field who was up to the task at hand, and that was me, because it’s not an endurance event until you hit the 90-minute mark. This must have been how Ghengis Khan felt when looked down onto some modest city filled with plump victims and soft defenders who’d never faced the horse and the cruel edge of steel.

At 1:22 there was a 721w surge as we hit the bottom of the climb. I laughed to myself and found a good wheel. The next time I checked my clock it read 1:30. “There it is,” I said to myself with glee. “Get ready to hurt, suckas!”

We were 869 feet from the summit of the climb, my GPS has informed me after the fact. JK had been drilling it full bore for the last 3:27. I looked down to check my wattage, when suddenly it broke. The “it” unfortunately was not the display or the power meter, but me. In a few short seconds the pack had left me behind without even pausing to appreciate the intensity and fury of the Attack of Black Death I was preparing to unleash. “Ungrateful bastards!” I cursed.

55 seconds later I crested the hill, put my head down, and time trailed again back up to the pack. This time there would truly be no mercy as I shot to the front and put down the most fearsome and searing attack of the day. 1:19 later the entire field was gasping in fear and exhaustion and pain, strung out in a wide group 4 abreast, sipping water and looking at their watches. I relented, satisfied that I’d made my point. Worthington 1 rolled by. “Good pull,” he said, trying to hide his fear with a friendly smile.

When we turned for the second time up the big hill, I decided that they’d had enough. “Why punish these idiots any further?” I said to myself. “I’m going to have to see them again next week, so no need to rub their noses in it.”

With that, I let them ride away, this time for good. I re-evaluated my podium speech for a third time. “I dedicate this DFL to my mother, my wife, and my children.” Sounded pretty good to me.

The lead group became a tiny dot. Once they were out of sight, I heard a noise like a sonic boom, later to learn that it was Leibert who had attacked from the rear, catching the competition with their pants down, and flying the coop for good. I was proud of him, as that was exactly what I had planned to do, only harder and faster. He time trialed the entire third lap, winning the race by more than two minutes. Jeff K. and the rest of the Orangemen shut down the chase attempts by Meeker and Worthington 1, though JK could have easily bridged.

At the finish, Meeker threaded a line between a hapless clump of 35+ers who had arrived at the same time, to take 2nd. JK got 3rd, Roger W. got 4th, Haluzka got 5th, Pomeranz 6th, and Dave W. 7th. Jaeger, who had ridden the entire race on twelve minutes of sleep and a bottle of Nyquil, got 15th, and continued his streak of never entering a race with me and finishing less than 30 minutes ahead.

Lap Three: this is how puppies feel when you rub their nose in it

Once I had magnanimously decided to let the others fight it out for the win–who cares about a stupid bike race anyway–the rest of the race was a blur. I ended up in a four-man wanker brigade: Scott from Coates Cyclery, who looked like he was a hundred but rode like a man twice his age; Steve from BL Bicycles, whose redeeming quality of being willing to pull endlessly was offset by his 4’11” frame that provided zero draft; and Dean from Bike Religion, who had found God and was force-feeding him to my soul via my aching, screaming, bleeding thighs. We traded pulls, battering miserably, senselessly, stupidly, and hopelessly until we crossed the tracks and began the final climb. We were broken old men, clawing our way through the desert for the grand prize of not being DFL. And it would be a fight to the death.

My temporary teammates left me in the dust after the tracks and I dragged on, broken and alone, one mile from the Mexican border and ready to take the next left and try my luck with coyotes and drug smugglers rather than finish the race DFL. On the bright side, when you’re shelled and cracked and straggling alone uphill to the finish line, you get to take note of the countryside and scenery. That’s normally my favorite part of getting dropped, but this part of California is barren and ugly and studded with shrubby, spiny, desert vegetation. It’s as if God leveled His cannon and shot the whole landscape with a shit pistol. The sun beats down hot and dry unless the wind happens to be blowing at 30 below. I noted that the road had gone from black to vomit green, and pondered the road crew that had paved California’s only green highway.

“Say, Bill, pour me some more of that asphalt, willya?”

“Aw shit, Terrence we’re damn shore all outta asphalt.”

“Well hell we gotta pave it with something.”

“My old lady’s still sick in the back of the pickup from last night at the Golden Acorn.”

“Let’s just scoop up them puke baggies and dump it into the hot mix. Nobody’ll ever know.”

Midway through this reverie I passed a poor sap from the 35+ race who had started long ahead of us. He was cramped and unable to pedal. There is nothing that gets me more motivated than someone going more slowly than I am, unless it’s someone who’s hurting and wrecked and from another race. “You okay?” I pretended to care.

“All cramped up,” he moaned.

“You’ll make it,” I soothed him. “The finish is just another 15 miles away, uphill with a headwind. But at least it’s not raining like last year.” He moaned some more and made as if to unclip and go lie on a cactus.

“Take one of these,” I said, and handed him a Hammer anti-cramp capsule that had been given to me before the race by a buddy. Just as he reached over, it slipped from my hand, and I’ve never seen a cyclist intentionally lunge harder or faster for the pavement. He scooped it up and washed it down.

“You do massages?” he shouted as I dwindled in the distance.

Going for the glory

Imagine my shock when, a couple of miles from the line, I was overtaken by a group of 10 or 15 wankers from the 45+ field who were apparently even bigger wankers than I. In addition to ensuring that, with a little strategy, I wouldn’t be DFL, I immediately saw that I could make an impressive showing in the final run to the line.

There is an unwritten rule in cycling that at the end of a race in which you are wanking pack fodder, it is unseemly to sprint. Of course there’s an even bigger rule which is that rules exist to be broken.

Team Wanker rolled by me, blathering loudly about their heroics during the first part of the race. They included three of the guys who had been in the no-hope breakaway that stayed out for well over a lap before splatting on the windshield of the hostile field. As we approached the line, one of them turned to me, seeing me start to shift. “No, you don’t,” he warned.

A second wanker wheeled alongside. “We’re not going to sprint for 30th are we? You’re kidding me, right?”

All he got in response was my steely-eyed glint. Poor bastard didn’t even know we were actually sprinting for 27th.

Easy as taking raw meat from the jaws of a pitbull I unleashed the Sprint of Black Death and cruised over the line with bike lengths to spare. The spectators watched, slack-jawed that a racer with such speed and power was not racing with a squad from the Pro Tour. I heard them whisper as I roared by, “That’s his first 27th placing of the year!”

My mission accomplished, I reviewed the day’s successes:

1. The only people who beat me were the ones who were faster, stronger, shrewder, and better at bike racing.
2. My name was on everyone’s lips, pretty much.
3. I got to save my victory address for next week.
4. [Best of all] Jeff K. and Jaeger were still in the parking lot when I finished so I didn’t have to walk the 180 miles back home.

Best of all, I confirmed that with proper training, smart nutrition, and the use of a power meter, I can spend more time and money and do even worse than I used to do with a steel bike and wool jersey.

Just wait til next year.

Pre-race lame excuses: I think I left it in the bag in my closet

February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Many people love cycling for its glorious, rich and complex history. Millions of others appreciate the limitless opportunities it offers for critique, insight, and clever snobbery. Yet others find irresistible its technological, engineering, and mathematical qualities, not to mention the medical and physiological aspects of human performance.

These people are, to a man, douchebags swimming in a delusional ocean of Massengill.Cycling doesn’t have a “glorious history.” It developed because a bunch of dirt poor European peasants figured out that it was easier to race their bikes on bad roads while loaded on strychnine and heroin than it was to sniff mule farts behind a plow all day and still starve to death. Cycling snobbery? Your stupid plastic bike and ugly jersey costs less than the transmission on a nice luxury sedan. Have you never heard of a Boesendorfer, a Lamborghini, a Piaget, or a Van Gogh? As for engineering, I don’t read the mainstream news much, but haven’t yet heard about the first bike on the moon. Human performance and cycling? It’s called “cheating and doping, and doping and cheating.”

The truth about bike racing

Competitive cycling exists purely as a vector to the gradual build-up, followed by the explosive brutalization, of the human spirit. That’s all it is. Build up, tear down, repeat, until finally there’s no build up left. Who hasn’t bought new equipment, trained hard for a target race, blathered about it to friends and family, only to be crushingly defeated, in public, on race day?

And who with a USCF license hasn’t had the following conversation, or a variant thereof?

Friend you’ve been bragging to at work for the last six months: “How’d the big race go?”

Shitfaced You: “Oh, it went okay.”

Friend: “Did you win?”

Shitfaced You: “Uh, no. But I achieved my goal.”

Friend: “What’s the fucking goal if not to win?”

Shitfaced you (spoken with embarrassment masked by condescension): “My goal was to [select one or more: prepare for the REAL race on my calendar next month/cat up to a 4/improve my personal best/block for my teammate/lead out the sprint from the back/improve my results from last year/beat my girlfriend's time/finish ahead of all the non-dopers/beat the hairy wanker who got 42nd].”

Friend: “What place did you get?”

Shitfaced You: “43rd. But it was an unbelievably hard race. You have no idea how tough bike racing is.”

Friend: “I guess not.” [Friend's actual thought: "What a loser."]

Humiliation through bike racing, fortunately, isn’t limited to actually getting destroyed in the race. The shame, defeat, and debasement of one’s sense of self occurs, for many, long before the race even begins. It is this gift of crushing defeat that can be enjoyed by your friends and fellow racers like the finest and rarest of delicacies, and is the true spirit of the sport.

Which whine would you like with your meal?

Imagine my delight when a very good buddy emailed me the news that he almost certainly wouldn’t be at the Boulevard road race tomorrow. This was great news because I’ve never beaten him in a race. In fact, I’ve never finished a race within ten minutes of him. Ergo, there was no way he was going to beat me tomorrow.

Better yet was the cowering nature of his announcement, as if he’d dug through his mostly empty bag of excuses and been forced to come up with the most tattered, unconvincing, pathetic ones left at the bottom of the sack.

“Been getting by on less than six hours sleep,” was topped by the Old Faithful of “feeling sick and under the weather with a sore throat,” topped, incredibly, by this hoary old chestnut: “Work’s been crazy.” I looked in vain for a reference to “family time” or maybe even an impending pregnancy, although at 49 he’s pretty well past his childbearing years.

The beauty of these excuses is not simply that he put them in writing for quick and easy forwarding to thousands of people he doesn’t even know, but that these same excuses are being repeated by countless other wankers around the state who, on the eve of their certain destruction at Boulevard, are casting about for useful lines to throw to the water cooler sharks on Monday morning. The defeat and humiliation for these sad sacks is complete without even having had to pay the entry fee and roll up to the start line.

Line by line

A quick analysis of my buddy’s craven excuses and why they are so beautiful:

1. I can’t race because I’ve had less than six hours of sleep: Implication–all you other guys sleep 9 hours every night and how could I possibly keep up if I’m sweepy weepy? Fact–you sleep as much or as little as everyone else, and your failure to show up makes you a loser and a coward. No one cares why.

2. I’ve got a sore throat and may be coming down with something: Implication–all you other guys are healthy. Fact–Glass Hip Worthington is only one of many contenders who will be showing up cobbled together with baling wire, coffee, Advil, antibiotics, and nothing to get them through the race except a colossal dump in the port-o-potty, meanness, a will to win, and hand-ups by Maggie. You may be coming down with something, but that’s why you should have worn a condom.

3. Work’s crazy: Implication–all you other deadbeats are for all practical purposes unemployed. Fact–all the other deadbeats have, for all practical purposes, always been unemployed. That’s why they live in their sister’s basement and work part time at a bike shop. So what’s new here? They’re bike racers, aren’t they?

“Rich and complex history” my ass. Let the beatdown begin.

South Bay mayhem report: Good man down and CYA

February 3, 2011 § 4 Comments

One of our tried and true South Bay cycling veterans got hit by a car yesterday in Santa Monica. Our guy had stopped at the red light, put his foot down, and waited for green. He got the signal and began making a left hand turn. Idiot motorist apparently blew through a red light and hit him head on. Our guy has a fractured C5, lacerations and stitches on his leg, a bike in ten thousand pieces, and a long, brutal road to recovery ahead.

Idiot motorist probably has a few scratches on the hood of his wagon and perhaps some pangs of guilt. But the real question is, does he have insurance? Our guy is going to have a mountain of medical bills and lots of missed work.

This accident brings onto the stage a grisly drum I’ve been beating for the last year now. Below is a reprint from a short article I posted on the Big Orange Cycling Yahoo newsgroup. Please read it and take action. The ass you save is going to be your own.

How to save your ass when the motorist who runs you over is also an uninsured or underinsured deadbeat shitforbrains

At my office we’ve taken in a number of bike-car accidents in the last year, everything from trashed bikes to people who are never going to walk properly again to people whose last action on this earth was pedaling a bicycle. What follows is some advice that I hope you’ll heed.

Most people think that if they’re in a bike-car collision, they’ll be able to recover money from the driver as long as the driver is insured. What you may not know is that in California, the minimal insurance coverage for accident liability is $15,000. What you also may not know is that 85% of the drivers on the road have this minimal coverage. This means that their insurance company is on the hook for $15k, and that’s it.

To put it in perspective, the money you can recoup from the careless idiot who took you out while sexting his girlfriend a “Brett Favre” evaporated on the life flight trip to the hospital, and once your expenses exceed the $15k that most drivers carry, you’re done. That’s the bad news, and it’s very, very real. Imagine how hard it is as a lawyer to tell someone who’s been trashed for life that their recovery won’t pay for their first day of medical care…then imagine how hard it is for the victim who has to actually live through it.

There is, however, a very cheap and very effective way to protect yourself and your family. It’s called uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage, and it comes standard with almost every auto insurance policy. Many cyclists are unaware that this coverage on their own auto liability policy even exists, and many more are unaware that it covers them in a bike-car collision when they’re not even in the car.

This means that when idiot’s policy tops out at $15k, you have the legal right to turn to your own insurance company for the remainder. So far, so good, but there’s a catch: most UM coverage is also minimal, often only $15 or $25k, which is hardly enough to make you whole when you suffer significant injuries.

Unlike most insurance stories, though, this one has a very, very happy ending if you’re proactive about it, because you can increase your UM coverage to very high levels for only a tiny increase in your monthly premium. Although your UM coverage is generally barred from exceeding your liability coverage, if you have $500k worth of liability you can bump up your UM from $25k to $500k for only a few bucks.

For the sake of yourself and your family, take a minute to look at the face page of your insurance policy, check the UM coverage, and then call your agent to ratchet that sucker up to the max. With the spate of deaths and serious injuries occurring in our midst this past year, this is something you can’t afford to put off.

The other benefit to turning to your UM coverage in the event of an accident is that if you’re forced to use it you actually wind up with a larger recovery than you would if you were making a claim against a driver with adequate coverage.

Ride safe!

Batshit crazy product testing: Mad Alchemy medium embrocation

February 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

People who’ve done the Boulevard road race have varying memories of it. Mine, aside from crushing defeat, ignominious defeat, and humiliating defeat, are mostly centered on having been frozen to the core. Last year the race began in a freezing rain. The year before it snowed. This year the forecast is for sunshine, but if you check the course elevation–5,000 feet, same as Denver, Colorado–you’ll know that the forecast can change quickly. My expectation is that it will be very cold or at least very chilly, maybe even batshit miserable.

The whole idea behind embrocation is to heat your legs without covering them in lots of restrictive clothing. The other point is to augment your training/racing without having to say “I use Ben-Gay.” The biggest benefit of an embrocation is that it sounds very pro and very Euro, more so if you just say “embro.” Finally, of course, it has the talisman effect of cream in a jar, stored in a small bag, and rubbed on like a magic elixir prior to going forth to do battle. Davis Phinney used to achieve the same effect with his “lucky shorts.” After a few grand tours that must have been lots gnarlier than this stinky gel in a jar.

Mad Alchemy appeals to the most base bike racing instincts: its name admits mental instability and suggests a thoroughly discredited scientific theory. False advertising lawsuits need not apply.

How much to use?

If you’re cycling on the Palos Verdes peninsula, the pre-dawn temperatures can vary from the high 30’s to the low 50’s this time of year. Getting the type of embrocation right, and then smearing on the proper quantity, involve lots of trial and error. I bought a jar of Mad Alchemy Cold Weather Medium, recommended for temperatures from 30-60F, and a jar of Mad Alchemy Cold Weather Madness, recommended for putting on your shelf as a reminder that if you need this stuff it’s too damned cold to be outdoors on a bike.

Last Friday it was in the high 40’s and I put some medium cream on my legs, not very much, in fact, and I paid scrupulous attention to putting my shorts on first, rolling up the legs, and only then applying. If you put it on nude and then pull up your shorts, you will get hot dick and frypan balls, as described in a previous post. If you’re a woman I shudder to think what the phenomenon would be called. After a few minutes the Mad Alchemy warmed up my legs so that no leg warmers were needed at all. However, I didn’t put enough embrocation on so that after two hours my legs were cold.

On Saturday it was in the low 40’s and I put on medium cream, this time slathering it on pretty heavily. It worked wonders, especially since the temperature got up into the 60’s after a couple of hours. The heat remained on my legs for five or six hours, and it was exacerbated by sunshine. I also stuck a finger in my eye almost eight hours after using the cream, and it burned like hell for about thirty minutes. Lesson: wash your hands, dumbshit.

On Tuesday it was in the high 40’s and, like Friday, I used the medium cream. My legs were warm but my hands and feet, which were protected only with thin gloves and sock material booties, were really cold. I decided that today I would lather up my feet and hands as well as my legs and see how that worked. One side effect after yesterday morning’s ride was that after showering (hot water makes your legs really burn) and getting dressed for work, my legs pulsed heat for another couple of hours in the office. People were actually huddling around my thighs for warmth. That’s what they said.

This morning I put on what I thought was a lot, and rubbed it between my toes, all over the tops and soles of my feet, and on the back of my hands. I considered putting a pinch between my cheek and gum, but didn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the temperature until I rolled out. It was in the mid-30’s, and even though my legs, hands, and feet were toasty warm, the rest of me froze to hell. Lesson: make sure you’re bundled up, up top. The medium embrocation was at its limit, and I probably could have used the extra hot cold weather Madness. If it’s cold enough tomorrow, I will give it a try.

The best thing about this product is that it’s really expensive. At $20 a jar, you can spend several hundred dollars a year just on your pro “embro.” Studies have shown a correlation between the amount of money you spend and the amount of pro-ness you feel on the bike, and if nothing else it will give your wife another item on the monthly credit card bill to nitpick and criticize. Not that it happens in my family. Right, honey?

Buy or not to buy?

Definitely buy. It’s a good product and it works.  You’ll pedal faster and stronger in cold weather without all the lycra on your legs. Not sure if rapeseed oil, the active ingredient, is on the UCI list of banned substances, but it’s definitely in the California Penal Code. Use with caution.

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