Who killed Robert Hyndman? We did.

November 9, 2011 § 62 Comments

Robert Eugene Hyndman left this world on the morning of Saturday, November 5, 2011 courtesy of a powerful blow to the head. The slight rubber strips, only a few millimeters wide, that anchored his bike to the surface of the road and that anchored him to the world of the living, lost traction with the pavement. He was flung headlong into a metal guardwire, airlifted to the hospital, and died of his injuries.

Just.

Like.

That.

Everyone familiar with the treacherous, technical, terrifying descent that is Las Flores Canyon thought the same thing, and we thought it in unison: “Could have been me.”

But you know what? It wasn’t.

Why?

Hearsay comes first

If the life and death of Robert Hyndman holds any interest for you, take a moment to read the following links to news reports and cycling blogs. They’re instructive. They’re moving. And they form the basis for what I’m about to write, which may not be comforting if the rough, rusty edge of reality frightens you as it does me.

The Orange County Register reported on Robert’s death here.

The BikingLA blog reports on his death and runs a letter from his younger brother, who was on the ride, here.

The bike apparel company that promoted the ride explains what the Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride is all about here.

The SoCal cycling blog that supports local bike shops mentions the accident here.

The man who’s been riding these canyons for the better part of 30 years, and who speaks what he sees, writes his opinion here.

The bike forum that picks up the thread and critiques it here.

The man who organized the actual ride and who chose the route expresses his profound grief, regret, and sense of responsibility here.

The SoCal cycling blog that tries to put risk v. danger in perspective here.

After you’ve read all this, and if you’ve been able to digest it, it may be enough. In a lot of ways, there’s nothing more to add. In another way, though, some of the most important things have barely even been suggested, much less said. I’m going to try to say them. Don’t be surprised if I fail.

What about the facts?

None of the news reports or blog reports discusses the thing that every cyclist wants to know when they hear of a fatality: How did it happen? Hyndman’s accident is variously reported as “veering onto the wrong side of the road,” “losing control,” and “hitting a guardrail.” We know that’s bullshit because it explains nothing. Riders don’t veer onto the wrong side of the road unless something goes wrong. Cyclists don’t lose control unless some unexpected, external event disrupts them. What happened?

No one apparently saw the crash in enough detail to explain what happened, although one rider was behind him when he went down. In a conversation with one of the people who was on the ride, the closest I got to an explanation of what happened was this: Hyndman had gone into a previous turn too hot, and was cautioned by his brother, who has been cycling for thirty years. Although he wasn’t going particularly fast, as he rounded the next turn he locked the brakes and shot straight into the guardwire. He struck head first. There was, according to another person with whom I spoke, no equipment failure. Just a fast moving bike, a turn, and a guardrail.

The fact that there are no facts is instructive, because without them all we’re really doing is opining. But if the above account really is what happened, then we’ve got a scenario, and the unpleasant job of filling in that scenario with people, decisions, and consequences.

What is a Rapha “Gentlemen’s Ride”?

We’re told on their web site that a Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride is “…a ride that involves a little bit of bragging rights but it’s more about storytelling and local folklore. It’s competition but not to the exclusion of camaraderie and experience. The reality of course is that gentlemen’s riding is racing in a group. In fact, gentlemen’s riding should really be called what it is – gentlemen’s racing. Whatever the distance, whatever the route, a Gentlemen’s Ride is anything that isn’t a sanctioned race. It’s a way, in the middle of your Tuesday afternoon ride, to win a cyclo sportive, a brevet or town limit sign, even your local KOM. At the top of a climb, the group will reorganize, for on a Gentlemen’s Ride the group ends as it began, together. But along the way, when the ride is at its most challenging, the headwind at its most unobliging, all bets are off. That’s when the order of things remains to be decided. Again and again.”

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the word “gentlemen” I think of sleazy guys getting drunk, eating greasy snacks, and watching a stripper on a pole. When I hear the word “racing” I think of full-on, full-throttle, full-testosterone, full-bore risk taking. Crazy, batshit whacko crazy, nutfuck over-the-top risks that include death and horrific injury for the potential reward of a few dollars, maybe some category upgrade points, bragging rights, and the thrill of performing under intense pressure and fear.

The Rapha blurb confirms all of this, and does so proudly. “All bets are off.” “Anything that isn’t a sanctioned race.” Most telling of all? “That’s when the order of things remains to be decided.” Ah, of course. The pecking order. The holy and beloved ranking of dicks.

I’ve been on zillions of rides like these. They are fuck-the-loser, die-for-the-sprint-sign, last-one-down’s-a-fred, let-God-sort-‘em-out killfests. The only thing they are missing are an entry fee, a waiver, race insurance, enforced safety by licensed officials, field limits, on-hand emergency medical care, and, most importantly, riders roughly sorted by ability and experience.

As crazy at it sounds, certain aspects of these rides typify the best and most appealing side of competitive cycling. They are fun. They are challenging. They test your physical and mental limits. And since the competition is all in your head, everyone’s a winner, whether your goal is finishing, hanging, or taking the city limit sign. Everybody gets a ribbon, a pecker check, and a rehash at Peet’s. Other aspects? Not so much.

So what was the ride really like?

Steve, the co-owner of BikeEffect and organizer of the ride, started a ride several years ago when he worked at Cynergy. As a boy with four sisters, he was always sensitive to women customers who would come in, buy a bike, and leave the shop with that “Now what?” look. So he began a ride that focused on skills. No hammering, no one gets dropped, everyone learns how to call out objects in the road, basic group etiquette, look out for each other and don’t go beyond your abilities.

On the morning of the ride, Steve went over with the group that everyone had to obey the rules of the road. The ethos of the ride was that “Gentlemen know when to go hard and when to go easy. You don’t need to go off the front and pull crazy hard all the time. Mellow and easy are okay; know when to go.”

The group stayed together and was mellow all the way to Topanga. Up Topanga it broke up due to the varying ability levels, but not balls out, and the same measured pace happened up Old Topanga. On the backside of Old Topanga a La Grange rider fell on what no one would call anything other than an easy and non-technical descent. She’s an experienced rider and racer but nonetheless hit the pavement, ending up with a solid hip bruise but otherwise okay.

The ride went up Mulholland and Stunt, got stretched out, and regrouped at the top of Stunt. The group was looking out for each other and at the top of Stunt it was confirmed that everyone knew the route. Some riders chose Fernwood, perhaps because Las Flores was too hairy. Yet the point also has to be made that once you’re at Stunt, unless you have a helicopter or a car, your choices back down to PCH are limited to Las Flores, Tuna, Fernwood, and Malibu Canyon. Las Flores and Tuna are tough. Fernwood is easier, but with more traffic. Malibu Canyon has lots of high speed traffic and the tunnel.

In any event, this ride wasn’t a hammerfest, and although there wasn’t a detailed description of the descent, it provided more support than the average group ride.

Who chose the course?

We learn that Steve, the co-owner of Bike Effect, chose the course. But we learn more than that. We learn that according to him, in hindsight it was a poor choice. Most importantly, we learn that Steve holds himself accountable for this choice and will carry the guilt of that with him for the rest of his days. A stream of friends, of fellow cyclists, and of the victim’s own brother seek to divest Steve of this responsibility. Robert died doing what he loved. Shit happens. Don’t blame yourself. The route wasn’t a problem. It’s senseless. You can’t carry this awesome burden. And of course, “Be careful out there.”

Far from trying to relieve Steve from responsibility, I applaud him for taking it. By holding himself accountable, by taking responsibility, he has shown the mettle of a man and of a leader. By placing the blame on his own shoulders, he has given others traumatized by this horrible accident a focal point, and by taking on the burden he has lessened the burden of others. He has also put to rest, as the man who organized the ride, the suggestion that it was a good course or a suitable one. It wasn’t. Why? Because someone died on it. End of analysis.

This of course is what leaders do, and it separates them from sheep. People who organize bike rides, who sell and promote the healthful and happy benefits of cycling, must, if they are to be people of integrity, acknowledge the other side of cycling as well. It’s the side of cycling that we have uppermost in our minds when we ride, but we shunt off into a corner of our brain and pray it never happens. The collisions, the spills, the catastrophic encounters with cars–these things are just as real, and just as likely to happen, as the camaraderie, strength, and wellness that comes from pushing the pedals. If you cycle, you are going to crash. No exceptions.

I for one am impressed and humbled at Steve’s leadership. It was his ride. His shop. His course. His buddies. He was going to own it if the ride ended as planned, and he manned up and owned it when it claimed a life. Those who would cheapen his courage by deflecting the mantle he’s elected to wear do no favors to him, to those who are grieving, or to the memory of the dead.

What were the mechanics of the accident?

If our scenario is accurate, Robert crashed because he went too fast around a turn and didn’t know how to correct without locking up his brakes. Never locked it up in a turn? Then you’ve never spent any time at all going downhill.

Robert’s brother Carl says that he had only been cycling for a couple of years, although he describes him as a licensed USCF racer. Carl also mentions that Robert had ridden many roads that are harder and more difficult than Las Flores. Patrick Brady says that Robert had “considerable skill,” but in the same breath admits he never knew or rode with him. Patrick is a friend, but I’ve never heard him praise the skills of a novice cyclist he’s never ridden with. To the contrary: Patrick is well known for keeping his distance, particularly on descents, from people in whom he doesn’t have complete confidence. He’s not necessarily a snob, he’s just been in too many situations where the less skilled make life dangerous for the skilled.

I checked USA Cycling’s web site and found no results for Robert. And although I’ll get to the difficulty of Las Flores later, for the moment let’s assume that Robert really was an avid and experienced cyclist with 2-3 years under his belt, including a lot of challenging terrain. Let’s also assume that he did have considerable skills, but with the caveat that there are only so many descending skills that a man in his late 40’s can pick up in his first three years of cycling.

We all know that descending is a skill that takes years and years of practice to become good at. Many cyclists never become comfortable going downhill, even after decades of practice. We also know that at age 51, Robert had only been learning to descend for three years at the most. Like so many other skills, the reactions and coordination required to descend are harder to learn the older you get. Even in the best case scenario, we have a talented novice making a run down a steep and twisty course.

According to his brother Carl, Robert was an enthusiastic yet cautious rider. Putting all these anecdotes together, it seems to me that he was a solid rider but perhaps much less than an expert descender. This photo of Robert that indicates, simply from the setup of his frame, that the chance is quite low that he was an expert or even a very skilled downhiller. This bike is set up with a spaced, high handlebar, and is not optimally set up for a tricky descent. Indeed, it suggests that he may have had back pain or that there is something about the lower, more tucked position of a racing/descending profile that was either uncomfortable, unnatural, or simply unappealing to him. His weight would have been on his rear wheel, and his raised shoulders would have further pushed his weight on the back, rather than distributing his weight evenly along the line from seat to bars. The even distribution is crucial in tough descents, because it allows you to make minute corrections as the road changes simply by slightly moving. When the weigh is poorly distributed, corrections require bigger, more radical movements. His center of gravity would have been high as well. This photo and a WAG from one of the people on the ride put him as perhaps six feet tall and about 170 pounds.

Anybody out there know what happens when a larger guy raises his center of gravity and also shifts his weight onto his back wheel when doing a steep descent? Exactly. You lock the rear wheel when you try to correct after hitting a turn too hot. This sounds like what happened to Robert, and it suggests that he wasn’t prepared for the descent, even though he looks slim and fit in this undated photo.

This is hardly a swipe at Robert. Expert descending is almost always the result of a witches’ brew of skill and brains and balls and falls and reactions and lots and lots of miles and racing and testing and practicing and training and group rides and comparing notes and pushing envelopes and course memory and tires and ambient humidity and road temperature and frame setup and instinct and the ability to see, just a tiny bit, around blind corners, which is another way of saying “luck.”

The chances are good that Robert was out of his league in the sense that at the time he crashed he didn’t know the road, that the bike got going too fast, that he didn’t have the skills or experience or setup to bring it back under control, and that his difficulties happened in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.

How tough is the Las Flores descent?

I have to take issue with the description of this road given by Robert’s brother. He says “The terrain wasn’t unusual, too risky or unfamiliar. We had ridden this kind of terrain and far harder many times before.” Yet we know this was Robert’s first time down Las Flores, therefore it was, by definition, completely unfamiliar. More than simply unfamiliar, for a first-timer, regardless of skill, Las Flores is an alien deathscape laden with traps and tricks. Even the statement that they had ridden “this kind of terrain and far harder many times before” speaks volumes about their skills. Every descent is different, and no skilled descender assumes that a downhill even one road away is similar to the current one.

In my experience there’s no such thing as “far harder” than Las Flores. I’ve ridden in Colorado, in Europe, and throughout the mountains of Japan, and after thirty years of going up and going down, I’ve run across a handful of descents as beastly as this one. There are descents that are harder in that they are longer, or they have tighter turns, or they are on narrower roads, or because it’s your first time down. But “far harder” than Las Flores? It is a white-knuckle descent no matter how many times you go down it, and it demands all your ability every single time. No exceptions.

Various people have posted or blogged that Las Flores is pretty ordinary for a descent, or that they go down it all the time and it’s NBD, or have suggested that there was nothing questionable or unsuitable about this downhill. That’s crazy.

My best descent on Las Flores is 29.6 mph, good enough for 11th place on Strava, and I can tell you that even at much slower speeds it’s always dicey. The first hard right turn before you drop off into the trees is off camber, incredibly tight, and comes after a series of gentler turns with a short, straight drop that instantly ramps up your speed. It’s a shocker and a hard corner to handle every single time.

The twists en route to Hume are treacherous because the road is spiked with debris, with steep ramps, more off camber turns, insufficient room for oncoming traffic, narrow lanes, and speed, speed, speed. When you get to PCH and touch your rims after a Las Flores descent they are so hot they burn your fingers. I’ve seen good riders who know the descent intimately spill it on this downhill.

Patrick Brady’s blog describes it as “a challenging descent.” He also points out that the previous ride descended Tuna, an even harder descent, without incident. Patrick is one of the best descenders in the Santa Monica Mountains. He knows every inch of the pavement of every single descent. He gives descending lessons at local bike shops. It took me three years of assiduous practice just to get where I could keep him in sight on descents like Las Flores.

If it’s “challenging” for Patrick, that means one thing and one thing only to novices, or first-timers: It’s dangerous as hell.

So I don’t believe that Robert was in his element. To the contrary, I believe that he was out of it. All of us have been there before, and will be there again. It’s no disgrace and no dishonor to be sliding sideways on Las Flores Canyon Road. But is that really all it was? Tough road, inexperienced rider, and some bad luck?

Risk v. Danger, or bad judgment?

The most cogent apology put forth for what happened is this: First, by calling the ride “too dangerous” we dishonor a skilled cyclist. Second, we denigrate a spectacular land formation and discourage people from enjoying what it has to offer.

The first apology I’ve tried to deal with above. Robert wasn’t skilled enough to handle this tricky descent, and it’s no dishonor to point out that he got in over his head, even though eyewitness accounts have him descending with caution, and even though he’s described as a careful guy. That’s of little consequence, though, because we’ve all gotten in trouble going downhill at one time or another. The second apology doesn’t work, either. No one is suggesting that Las Flores be off limits, or that novice riders shouldn’t have a go. My suggestion is something different, and not dissimilar to the Speedbloggen post: before we rope new riders into new and challenging terrain on big group rides where they are left to sink or swim, we have an obligation to educate, hand hold, and care for them. Who among us does that? Who among us did that for Robert?

And even if Robert was warned, and knew what he was doing, and was just a victim of bad luck, the fact that he’s dead means that we need to look at the bigger picture, i.e., what happens when someone new shows up on YOUR ride?

The old ways no longer work

In 1982, when I joined my first group ride, I was the new face. Singular. The Freewheeling group rides in Austin on Saturday and Sunday had a new rider every year or so, maybe two in a big year. Everyone else was a veteran. There was no shortage of advice. I was treated like a newbie wanker, but I was also educated. Cycling was a fringe activity and it grew slowly. New faces were easily spotted and dealt with and absorbed. People took the time to tell me what was coming up and what to expect, which was generally an ass beating.

Those days are dead and gone. Most big rides have numerous riders with three years’ experience or less. There’s no trail boss. There’s no cadre of surly, weathered, hardened, experienced bastards who’ll shout instructions or pull you over. To the contrary: the old hands either split the field and ride off on their own, or they hide from the new crowds. The old guard rides form in the wee hours, the riders trade emails among themselves, and they avoid the big groups like the plague because so few of the new cyclists know anything about cycling. It’s elitist and snobbery, but if you like riding with people whose abilities you know and trust, there’s little other choice.

And on their precious Saturdays and Sundays, the old school doesn’t particularly want to spend its time giving riding lessons. They want to ride, talk, and enjoy themselves.

With the swell of interest in the sport, it’s utterly common to see beginners in LA County with $8,000 rigs. They have the accoutrements of speed but they don’t have the intimate knowledge of the route or the skills to match the rig. And there will be thousands and thousands more of them before there are less. We can’t expect them to learn by assimilation or by trial-and-error, unless we’re comfortable with an ongoing roll call of the dead and catastrophically injured.

How we all failed Robert Hyndman

As the Speedbloggen post points out, riding is fun, but at its core it’s pretty serious business. It’s serious because the potential for injury and death is great when things go wrong. Even as we try to get more people involved in this thing that consumes so many of our waking hours, we forget that the responsibility for bringing people into the circle is an awesome one. In this sense, Steve is a man among men for being the grown-up in the room when we reflect on what happened.

In another sense, though, Steve’s got no responsibility for what happened. Nor does Robert, his brother, Rapha, or Las Flores Canyon Road. We cyclists have created and encouraged a group ride culture of speed and competition without first doing the basics: checking with the new faces, explaining to first-timers the details of the ride, posting information ahead of time so that people know what to expect, and most of all, letting everyone know that it’s okay to be the last one down the hill.

We get so caught up in the unsanctioned racing of the group ride that we leave newcomers to figure it out the way we did: by getting shelled, by sliding out in the corner, or by hanging on through God’s grace and the sheer luck of the dumb. With so many people on the road, and so many cars, and so many new faces, this approach no longer works. The old hands and the good descenders know that the most dangerous place on a hairy descent is proximity to a poor descender–we shoot off ahead and leave them to their own devices. Several of my friends who were on that ride admit to doing just that.

Each one of us can honor Robert by taking note of the guy or the gal we’ve not seen before and sharing what we know with them. Whether they’re new to the sport or just new to the neighborhood, it’s time we did what others did for us back in the day: reach out, share, include. Knowledge in this case isn’t power. It’s the difference between life and death.

My heart goes out to Robert’s family, to his friends, to those who were with him on the ride, and to Steve. Nothing will change what happened or really make sense of it, but thanks to Robert Hyndman, maybe we can be better riders, and much more importantly, be better people as well.

Tagged: , ,

§ 62 Responses to Who killed Robert Hyndman? We did.

  • Toronto says:

    Exhaustively comprehensive and compelling. The curiosity factor on the details of this accident was palpable. It could’ve been you and it could’ve been me. And the future potential for a similar event remains ever constant regardless of experience or skill set. Forces beyond our understanding ultimately control our destiny regardless of whether or not we choose to accept this truth. Live awakened in the moment. It could be your last. I have outlived him by one year, so far……

  • Jason says:

    The description of the Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride is incorrect. The description that you provided was of the Rapha Gentlemen’s races which are held in various locations consisting of experienced teams that are invite only. The event on Saturday was a Gentlemen’s Ride and was just that. I was on the ride both last year and this year. The pace remained civilized at all times. I am not a strong climber but was able to stay in the middle of the group at the finishes of all of the climbs. Most group rides with climbing, this is not the case. I was on the scene of Robert’s crash probably 30 to 60 seconds after it occurred. He was being tended to by his brother and couple of others. What I can say is that nearly the entirety of the group stopped out of concern. This event will probably disturb me for years to come but there is no blame to be provided. There is a legal theory that applies to various activities known as “Assumption of the Risk.” We all know that the second we get on a bike on public roads on 15 pound carbon bicycles with 23mm tires, there are literally millions of things that can go wrong. A confluence of events lead to the untimely demise of Robert.

    • Donut says:

      You’re mistaken, Jason. I posted the description from the Rapha Gentlemen’s Ride. You can find it right here. You’re referring to Rapha Gentlemen’s Races, which are posted on their web site here. I wrote a long description of the Saturday ride as explained to me by the person who organized it. I’ve acknowledged the accommodating, friendly, non-competitive nature of the ride in detail, and pointed out that it was more supportive than most group rides. This has nothing to do with assumption of risk, which is a legal defense used in personal injury lawsuits when the defendant seeks dismissal of the claim due to the participant’s knowing participation in a dangerous or risky event. No one has suggested that Robert was unaware of the risks, or that there is any legal liability for anyone in this tragedy. What’s important is that we analyze the “confluence of events” to which you refer, because “confluence of events” explains nothing. What events? Events set in motion by what? By whom? How? For what purpose? Nor are there millions of things that can go wrong in a descent. The list is quite finite, and the vast majority fall into the categories of too much speed in a turn, hitting an object in the road, hitting a hole or deformity in the road surface, hitting another rider, hitting oncoming traffic, slipping due to a wet road surface, tire failure, puncture, or blowout, rolling a tire, rim failure, spoke failure, or other equipment failure. My point was not that someone is to blame, but that the accident happened for a reason, and much of that reason might be explained by the dynamics of group riding combined with a treacherous downhill and a rider who got in over his head. I’m terribly, terribly sorry for you and for the other people who experienced this, and continue to experience the fallout from this horrific accident. How can we use it to make cycling better and safer? That’s a legacy worthy of this profound loss.

      • hat says:

        Donut,

        With all due respect, you were not on this particular ride. But I was, and Jason’s description of the ride matches my memory far better than what you wrote. You also either deliberately or accidentally failed to mention that the pre-ride brief encouraged riders to ride “a notch more conservatively than you would if you were just going with your buddies.” That quote is verbatim from the Rapha rep.

        -Hat

      • Donut says:

        No, I wasn’t. And after talking to people who were and receiving comments from participants, I still haven’t heard the same story twice. Why not look at the big picture? Hairy descent. Guy died. Guy was a first-timer on the descent. Guy was a relatively new cyclist. Guy was a new face to the group that day. We can all do a better job when we see new faces on our rides. The consequences of taking extra time to meet, greet, and thoroughly brief on the ride can be really big. And no “due respect” required. Taking the time to comment is respect enough.

  • XuHue says:

    Perhaps this is what you do for your job…but I still want you to know that I greatly appreciate your article. I was a fearless, stupid descender 4 months ago until I had my first big crash on Fernwood…and until I lost a fellow VeloViet member about 4 weeks ago on a descent in Laguna.

    You’re absolutely correct about our responsibility as a community to warn and guide newcomers. I was stuck at work last Saturday morning, but I left my meeting early to join the second climb of Rapha ride, because I was worried about my Veloviet brothers, who joined the ride without knowing anything about Las Flores. And until today, I’m so glad I followed my instinct…I warned them over and over again at the top of Stunt…I even told them that I’d be the last one, and please don’t try to impress anyone…I know how Vietnamese guys are…they would not want to be slower than a girl…(perhaps most guys are…) On that Saturday, we had one very close crash in our group….and oh boy, he said he was “lucky” and promised God that he’d slow down next time. Anyway, my point is…if I didn’t leave my meeting early and if one of my VV brothers got injured on that day…I’m not sure if I’d be able to ride again for a while…

    I agree that “we” as a community must learn to give back and guide the newbies or newcomers. I hope that we can even be more specific:

    1. Organized ride that’s open to the public must explain in details–technicality, road conditions (loose gravel, horizontal cracks, etc…), grade, etc…and perhaps give people options to descend or climb an easier road if available. If we wait until the start of the ride to warn people, it’s too late! Some drove an hour or two, so they won’t go home…plus the shame and pressure from friends…(ugghhhh…that’s another topic).

    2. It’s ok to tell people that certain rides are not for beginners! And if a newbie or newcomer wants to join, it’s his/her responsibility to contact the organizer directly…perhaps he/she can be paired with a more experienced rider on that day.

    Our community as a whole can certainly learn from your article. However, each individual, whether new or experienced riders…it’s each individual’s responsibility to learn our limits, study/research the routes in advance, and to speak up and reach out for help, “Hey, I’m new here…tell me what I need to look out for…” It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!!!

    It’s not easy to change the new culture or the new trend…but it can certainly be improved…and it must start with each of us–did we fulfill our responsibility as a rider? If we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves, we cannot help others.

    • Donut says:

      It’s not my job–it’s my passion. Thanks for the praise and for your awesome, awesome comments. I agree completely and could not have said it better.

  • onelife says:

    I don’t usually post but I must say this article is well written and obviously shows the writer’s passion for the sport. As a rider who has raced professionally in Europe and has ridden the Santa Monica mountains for over ten years now, I completely agree with the author in his description of the Las Flores descent. I heard about this unfortunate accident via an email group. The Las Flores descent is not an ordinary descent by any stretch of the imagination. Like the author of this article, I’ve ridden around the world and raced up and down mountains at speeds I would never attempt in training; the risks taken in competition go up dramatically, especially when it’s your job and winning is on the line. I continue to ride for fun and fitness and love of the sport. Of course, riding on PCH with all the cars is a roll-of-the-dice every time and we all cross our fingers each time we embark on a ride on that beautiful coastal highway. However, as I’ve emphasized to each of my cycling buddies, I think descending Las Flores is ridiculously risky and after descending it probably only a half-dozen times or so in ten years, I avoid it at all costs. I see no reason to go down that road and any cyclist, professional or beginner, should be given a serious warning if they don’t know what that road is like; and they should check their brakes and tires before they decide to go down. I wouldn’t say this about any other decent in all my years of riding and racing, but, again, Las Flores is not an ordinary descent. No one should be blamed for this accident it appears, but hopefully any other accident like this can be avoided by avoiding Las Flores. Risks go up dramatically on this road and why make them that much higher when they are high enough riding in LA to begin with. As cyclists, we all watch out for each other, let’s humbly warn others of Las Flores if they are unaware of the risks. In my opinion, the author of this article has described the entire situation very well.

  • Wow – great analysis of a terrible accident, and I couldn’t agree more. Reading this brought back memories of a long-ago scary incident I had in my first year of racing, which was only my 2nd year of road cycling. As part of a collegiate team, I enthusiastically joined pretty much every ride that the “big guns” on our team would organize, because (as we all know), you only get better by riding with better riders. While the guys and gals on my team were generally helpful and instructive on the more challenging rides (on those same Malibu canyon roads), there was also that familiar “sink-or-swim” mentality applied to the long uphill climbs and scary descents. On this occasion, I joined a small group excursion up Mt. Wilson, and was bombing the first section of the descent on one of my more experienced teammate’s wheel (with another teammate on my wheel). In a similar incident, I overcooked one of those sharp S-turns near the top, and my inexperience led me to lock up the brakes to try and pull myself back to my line. In the milliseconds that ensued, I vividly recall the both the shout of exclamation from my teammate behind me (who later told me that he seriously thought I was going to die), and my utter panic as my bike was hurtling straight for a stone barrier over a steep cliff. Perhaps miraculously, I somehow managed to let off the brakes, pull out the turn, and continue (with heart racing) through the balance of the descent. I thought a lot about that incident, and how close I came to serious harm or death, and still have no idea of the thought process that led to my recovery in that turn.

    Bottom line is that I probably should not have been there, descending at that speed, that day, but I also doubt that I would have responded positively to a teammate suggesting I “sit this one out.” I was young and ballsy, and probably would have shown up to ride regardless. It’s a tough position, but I know that I would never want to be in the position of questioning whether I could have done more to prevent a fellow rider from serious harm. We’re all adults, so the best we can do is offer our firm guidance and informed opinion when confronted with “novice behavior”, and leave it to that individual to decide the best course to take.

  • GRJim says:

    This adds tremendously to the discussion; hopefully the selling point of “epic” will be tamed enough so that the finer details will be emphasized.

    Great piece.

    • Donut says:

      Thanks. There’s a big picture out there, hard to see when you’re caught up in the moment. I’m as guilty as anyone, if not more so.

      • GRJim says:

        From what I gather you are a skilled rider and the perfect demographic for these. When I see pictures of the real deal Euro GFs the riders look lean and fit, like they’d been climbing and descending all their lives.

        Anyone reading this who doesn’t already do so, please practice conscious riding and think ahead.

  • Noel says:

    Thanks Seth. Coffee on me next time.

  • SwamiG says:

    “before we rope new riders into new and challenging terrain on big group rides where they are left to sink or swim, we have an obligation to educate, hand hold, and care for them. Who among us does that? Who among us did that for Robert?”

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I’m the assistant coach of a collegiate cycling team in southern california and tomorrow is our first day of team training camp. First on the agenda is basic bike handling drills and group etiquette. I was very fortunate to come from a collegiate team that was very vocal about safety and group etiquette, and I really wish that everyone had that introduction to cycling culture. Thank you for saying what many do not: those of us who are more experienced have an OBLIGATION to pass on that road safety to others. Sometimes that means coming off as a dick. So be it. It’s their safety and their lives. And ours.

  • Peter Schindler says:

    When I started riding with La Grange in 1974 it was a small racer’s club. Although new members were welcomed, there was a much to be learned before you were allowed to move to the front of the pack. First you had to prove you were a competent bike handler. That meant you had to ride a straight line, straight all the time, drinking water, looking back, taking off arm warmers, eating, no hands, all done without wavering from the straight and narrow. Next the riders had to trust that you were watching the road and pointing out obstacles. Lastly once allowed at the front, you had to maintain the current pace, no slowing down or surging. There was a pecking order, the older more experienced riders were the leaders and those new to cycling were novices. In fact there was no cat 4 or 5, those categories were called Novice for a good reason. Just because someone buys a racing bike and lycra with writing on it doesn’t make them a cyclist. Only time on the bike riding with experienced riders, learning from them will make one a cyclist. Real cycling, not just bicycle riding but cycling is an art. It cannot be explained, it has to be learned through the teaching of those who understand the etiquette and the demands of cycling.

    In the Seventies on Sunday mornings there was a ride that left the Santa Monica Sears parking lot. It was called the Death Ride because once past Sunset it got going very fast. But is was a controlled speed. It was usually led by the legend, Barry Wolfe. We rode two by two and if you couldn’t get back on after your turn at the front you were dropped. I guess that gave those riders motivation to train and try harder for the next ride. And during these rides if someone commented on your riding or gave you a suggestion you either nodded or said thank you.

    Sadly today I have found this not to be the case. Many beginning riders already think they know it all and act with distain when offered a suggestion or correction. They confuse strength and youth with knowledge and wisdom. They think older riders are just older guys riding bikes and do not respect the thousands of miles we have logged training and racing. I remember telling one rider whose knees were pointing toward the side of the road that he would be more efficient if he kept his knees parallel to the top tube. His response, “I am not working on form today,” Funny, I work on form every time I ride. Recently Greg St. Johns noticed I was not carrying momentum over the crest of the hills. I was grateful he pointed that out and I worked on correcting this flaw.

    Seth, thank for having the courage to say what needed to be said. I hope that Robert’s death will lead to better and safer rides.

    • Donut says:

      Peter, we need guys like you to teach and share. There are only so many people like Johnny Walsh who have the experience, credibility, and willingness to crack the whip and make people better riders. We don’t have all the answers, and are in constant need of improvement ourselves, but in so many cases we know more than the rider who’s been in the sport for only a couple of years. Of course there are those of us who’ve been doing it for 30 years, but doing it wrong–that’s part of the mixed bag, though. We have to be willing to offend people and tell them what they don’t want to hear. When I moved to CA, after 24 years of cycling, Walsh dressed me down constantly. It was bitter and hard to take, but everything he ever said was true. “Don’t be so choppy. Smooth out your motions on the bike. Don’t surge. Don’t be an idiot.” People like St. Johns are icons because they not only know how to ride, they’re not afraid to tell you how to ride.And when you do something stupid, they call it what it is: “stupid.” If you don’t like it, tough shit. It’s not just the beginners who think they know it all, but one of the reasons it’s hard to improve is because it’s embarrassing to admit that after thirty years I’ve still got problems and questions. It’s easier to pretend and screen out the people who really do know what they’re talking about. For newer cyclists, it’s sometimes easier because they don’t have an attitude. Several riders in our group come to mind who are eager and willing and happy to learn. Others come to mind who’ve only been riding for a few years but are already incredibly skilled. There’s no template for developing good riding, but, like porn, we all know it when we see it. There’s a culture of pride and unwillingness to accept criticism and take leadership that is literally killing people. As distasteful as it is to correct someone and have them take it poorly, or to receive an insultingly reply, it’s worth doing because even if it only gets through to one person, it’s worthwhile. Like that great line from the Karate Kid, “The young man is quick. But the old man is wise.” The sooner we get more quick, wise young riders, the better. Thanks for posting.

  • virag says:

    this was a great post on this unfortunate subject; a subject which brought out some of the usually simply-embarrassing kool-kidz nonsense that burbles through the on-line cycling world.

    coupla things. first, you are spot-on regarding the cycling culture in the long long ago when serious cycling was the opposite of mainstream. those guys were literally hands-on teachers, and if you couldn’t handle that style of direct intervention, you probably didn’t stick with it. i came into serious cycling right as this culture was fading, and you already heard the grumblings about lots of newbie riders without skills popping up everywhere.

    also, as has been said before, everyone makes mistakes, and all the skill and all the luck sometimes doesn’t save you, no matter how cool and smooth you think you are. there are risks. we understand them; we take them. obviously, the folks on the road and in the woods think the reward is worth it.

    thanks for the excellent, thought-provoking article. stay safe.

    • Donut says:

      Wow. Nice comment. We’re a victim of our own success. By popularizing cycling over the last thirty years, we’ve gotten more people on the road, which is great because they’ve become advocates for the sport and for the lifestyle. The new folks who jump in on all fours with expensive equipment grow the industry and help our local and online retailers. They increase interest in pro racing, and heighten interest in amateur events. Since they’re eager they often reach more people than those of us who’ve been doing it forever and who know that if we open our mouths about cycling at work one more time we’ll be fired. But there aren’t enough grumpy old-timers to ride roughshod and make sure people get up to speed without getting hurt or killed. Also, too many newcomers get their first taste of group rides on a hammerfest. They either get dropped and slink away, or they stick with it and think that the free-for-all and all the shenanigans on these types of rides are what constitute good riding. We’ll always have these rides, and they can be fun, and they serve a purpose, but don’t we need more of the other kind of rides? Disciplined, skills-oriented, emphasis on safety?

      • jimmythefly says:

        Where does mountain biking and goofing around on a bmx bike in our youth work in to this? That’s where I feel I gained real skill. I rode with a roadie buddy who had just gotten in to mountain biking, and he could kill me on the ascents, but I couldn’t believe how much trouble he had everywhere else. This great set of lungs and legs, stymied by a 4″ log across the trail.

        Same thing happens to me on the CX course. I am slow, overweight, out of shape. But I pass people all day in the corners and over the barriers. They re-pass me on the flats, of course.

      • Donut says:

        Best bike handlers always come from BMX, off-road, CX, and motocross backgrounds. They’re crazy good, and they don’t need “lessons” or instruction–they pick it up the old-fashioned way: by falling off an getting back on. Not an option for most folks who start out in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Those are the lightning fast reflex motor skills that you develop when you’re young or not at all.

      • jimmythefly – yes, the mountain, CX and bmx riders are generally good at bike handling skills, but your comment reveals exactly the reason for why so many people choose to hammer on technical descents, while putting themselves, and often others in danger.

        As one gets better and better at descending and cornering, there is a point where speed going downhill is more about how many risks one is willing to take and less about the skills. There is a tendency of some riders on group rides to take all kinds of risks on the downhill to show off or even pay back for time lost on ascents. It is easiest to take the time on technical and fast (=dangerous) downhills. When other, less experienced riders are present in the bunch and try to keep up while taking similar risks without much fast descending experience in a group, this is precisely when the troubles start.

        Perhaps if we keep our testosterone/adrenaline in check and ALL backed off a bit and agreed to maintain a reasonable, safe speed while descending – no downhill sprints or getaways, the group rides would be a lot safer for everyone involved. Yes, maybe you can drop your “roadie” friend on the downhill by 10 or 20 seconds, to pay him back for a minute that he can make up on your in a 10-minute ascent – may be he is not as skillful a descender, or maybe he just doesn’t want to take as many risks on the descent, but it is clear he is in better aerobic shape if he can outclimb you.

      • Donut says:

        I like this better the more I read it. Keep testosterone/adrenaline in check. Back off a bit. Maintain a reasonable, safe speed while descending. Those are words, quite literally, to live by. Great comment.

  • jimmythefly says:

    Well said, thanks for posting this.

  • GRJim says:

    Thanks for keeping your comments open and responding to them.
    Feel free to delete this if you’re not cool with it, but there’s a discussion on descending at the Salon in case anyone is interested: http://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum/f2/descending-tips-24334.html

    • Donut says:

      Well, on previous posts where people have commented that I’m an idiot, I’ve always approved them, so might as well approve them when comments are positive. I’ve kind of been hoping for just a little hate mail, though, to spice things up. Thanks for the link.

  • Mo'Nilla says:

    Jonesy and me were at that exact spot a couple of weeks ago when he overcooked a corner and swung wide. While I was busy laughing hysterically at his sketchy descending skills , my schadenfreude caused me to be surprised by a small bump in the middle of one of the nastier right turns before Hume. I was able to recover, but not before descending further than I would have liked on my front wheel only. I’m pretty sure that had I been down that road a few less times I would have lost it at that spot. There’s no doubt Las Flores is treacherous. When you least expect it…expect it.

  • Michael says:

    Article certainly thorough. But painfully mistaken in one crucial aspect. Donut writes:

    “He has also put to rest, as the man who organized the ride, the suggestion that it was a good course or a suitable one. It wasn’t. Why? Because someone died on it. End of analysis.”

    Then a scant paragraph later writes:

    “The collisions, the spills, the catastrophic encounters with cars–these things are just as real, and just as likely to happen, as the camaraderie, strength, and wellness that comes from pushing the pedals. If you cycle, you are going to crash. No exceptions.”

    Sorry, Donut, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t imply that a good course is one where people don’t die and then turn right around and state “If you cycle, you are going to crash. No exceptions.” According to your dizzying logic, if Steve had chosen an easier descent and someone had died, he would’ve been equally to blame. But how does it make any sense to base the responsibility of someone’s decision on an outcome that was not necessary? This is rhetoric 101, with all due respect. Shame on you for foisting on to Steve what Steve should never be burdened with in this case: the responsibility of someone else’s death. Fact is, Steve was right to take responsibility for the decisions he made ~ clearly not the best given the parameters, but his decision isn’t what killed Robert Hyndman. That’s why they’re called “accidents.”

    • Donut says:

      Nice job cobbling together things that were said to conclude something that wasn’t. I also like the way you chalk it up to “accident,” without feeling any obligation to fill in the facts of the crash, i.e. to actually explain what happened. Steve not only read the first draft of this post, but offered insightful comments that were used to revise it. A follow up email from him after it was published was laudatory. So shame on you for being wrong, and for foisting off your dizzyingly stupid analysis on the people who read this blog. Rhetoric 101? I’m waiting for your analysis of what part of Aristotle’s structural and conceptual rules of public argument I violated. Jesus.

  • Kuba says:

    This post started as a nice article, but I failed to read it to the end as I found analysis of Robert bike and his position on it based on some random picture flawed. I have been on this ride and have arrived to the place where he crashed by the time he has been taken by ambulance. I also saw his bike, very different from the picture you posted – it was red Wilier. Unfortunately, I have not counted number of spacers or calculated where is the center of mass, so I can’t tell how well was this bike suited for the descent. All I can tell, if you want to write an objective opinion, it is better to not to write about something you have no idea or something you did not verify before. You will loose all the credibility very quickly.

    • Donut says:

      Lose credibility? This is a fucking cycling blog. Cycling blogs are to literary/journalistic credibility what hanging out at the public toilets is to dating. And the only less credible way to express an opinion than putting it in a cycling blog it is by posting anonymous comments to a cycling blog. However, you make an excellent point about the bike. I wasn’t aware of that and appreciate your bringing it to my attention. You then vitiate it by admitting that you don’t know how well it was suited to the descent–that’s the whole point of discussing his bike. The guy’s bike was, I believe, not well suited to the descent. Riders tend to set up their bikes similarly, and the only photo I’ve got supports my opinion of the set up and how it would have behaved on Las Flores. If you have information or evidence that the Williers was set up differently, I’ll toss out that one part of my theory, but it still leaves the rest–road, experience, and what other participants say of what was actually happening as he descended. That, combined with the treacherous roadway, his unfamiliarity with the road, his short riding history, the fact that he overcooked the previous turn, and my own experiences on Las Flores indicate to me that these are the factors that led to his death. The big picture, of course, is suggested in the title of the post. You would have gotten that had you, uh, read it to the end.

  • Based on very little information, and never having met the man (let alone ridden with him), the author concludes that Robert was an inexperienced-and-therefore-poor rider:

    “The chances are good that Robert was out of his league in the sense that at the time he crashed he didn’t know the road, that the bike got going too fast, that he didn’t have the skills or experience or setup to bring it back under control.”

    Incredibly, a few paragraphs later the author admits that, among other dangers on this road, it is “spiked with debris.”

    And yet, the author never seems to consider the possibility that Robert maybe, just maybe, came around a hot corner and hit some of that debris: perhaps a pine cone, a rodent carcass, a discarded avacado pit or a small rock, hidden in shade, or located in a wet swale.

    How about the possibility of a catastrophic mechanical failure: chain skip, broken spoke, a blown tire. . . ANY mechanical failure is probably catastrophic at that speed.

    But no . . . the author concludes that Robert, an experienced cyclist known for his intelligence and caution, “wasn’t skilled enough to handle this tricky descent. . . ” even though I and many others less skilled than he have, in fact, handled that same descent successfully.

    The author is an adept writer; the verbs and adjectives are mostly in the right places. Perhaps one day he’ll find the thoughtfulness, intelligence and compassion to become a good writer – a respected writer.

    Calling someone else stupid doesn’t make you smarter. Especially when that someone else is dead.

    Duane Behrens
    Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

    • Donut says:

      We ride from Malaga tomorrow at 8. I hope you’ll join us so that I can learn more from you regarding this matter. I’ve never heard of you even though we’re apparently neighbors, and it’s a rather small cycling community here, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation for that. If tomorrow is inconvenient, with your permission I’ll add you to my ride info email list so that we can be sure to connect.

  • Petros Vasiliou says:

    Did a ‘recon’ type drive today…drove to the San Fernando Valley from Westlake Village via Mulholland, and up Stunt Road. At the top I turned right and drove down Las Flores to re-trace the downhill that claimed Robert’s life last weekend. I had not been on that road before today; driving or riding. Last night’s and this morning’s rain made it worse. Wet patches, fallen rocks of various sizes, leaves laying on the asphalt waiting to rob you of some traction…the works. I can understand the challenge to climb it from the beach. But going downhill? I’ve read a lot of blog entries about how dangerous it is…after today, I have to agree with them. I can see a top-notch racer with the descending skills and mettle of ‘Il Falco’ attempting it; maybe with the road closed and swept/cleaned, but otherwise, no, thank you…it is treacherous at best.
    I don’t know where Robert fell; there are only a few locations with a rail and a cable behind it, and each of them could easily claim an inattentive or inexperienced person (like me, for example).
    So the Las Flores descend will not make it on my ‘bucket list’ any time soon. Maybe ever.

  • Liz says:

    Sir, can you please explain why the people that may not completely agree with you are now referred to as “idiots” by you? I agree with Michael’s response but he and I are not idiots.
    The commentary you wrote was very informative but I, too, was bothered by a few things.
    I don’t believe Steve should spend his life burdened by Robert’s death. It does not truly benefit anyone. Guilt can take a huge emotional toll on people and can send people to the brink of depression and suicide.
    All parties on this ride should work to free themselves of any guilt they may have over this. It’s not productive, it serves no purpose, it’s an open wound.
    I drove to the site the other day to pay my respects. It was marked by a small cactus in bloom.
    I’ve seen worse curves on other roads and I’ve been on other roads that I consider worse. I’ve been down Las Flores a few times and twice as the captain on a tandem.
    Before you call me an idiot, keep in mind that my opinion of Las Flores is simply that, my opinion.
    Thanks for reading and thanks for writing.

    • Donut says:

      Well, you’ve not accused me of incompetence in rhetoric, or given me any left-handed compliments, and you seem like a nice person, so I won’t call you an idiot or a dumbass. The point about Steve is that he took responsibility for what happened as the organizer of the ride. That’s good. And it’s instructive that so many people reflexively jump into the “not my fault” mode. When you organize something, if you’re a leader and an adult, you feel responsibility for it. When things go well you bask in the satisfaction of a job well done. You take credit for it. When things go badly, most people run. They point the finger. They call their attorney (me). They spend lots of time and energy, like some of the people who’ve posted comments below, trying to divest themselves of the responsibility they so eagerly sought. Steve’s not one of those people. This will be with him the rest of his life. I’ve not blamed him for Robert’s death. To the contrary, I’ve tried to write something that points to a series of factors common on many, many group rides that implicate all of us in this tragedy. If we have the experience, we need to share it. If new faces show up, we need to brief them and take care of them. As for your opinion regarding Las Flores, which other roads do you consider worse? I agree that there are harder descents, and made that clear. But much harder? Please, let’s talk names of roads and locations. If you think Las Flores is a safe, easy, or run-of-the-mill descent, your opinion is wrong, and you are perpetuating an analysis that is deceptive and dangerous, like someone who casually encourages a novice surfer to paddle out at Maverick’s because “I’ve surfed bigger waves than that.” Thank you for reading and for writing and for disagreeing. The existence of heterodoxy and conflicting opinions helps winnow out the better argument.

  • Liz says:

    Hi. Thanks for not calling me an idiot. As I stated, my opinion of Las Flores was simply my opinion. Moreover, the curve where Robert died was not, in my opinion, a curve I would have thought someone could lose it on. I looked at it and wondered ‘why here’?
    I prefer not to get in to a debate over dangerous descents in the Santa Monica’s since one person may say they’d never go down the Pookiebear descent whilst another may say that’s not so bad, I wouldn’t go down the Dragonfire descent.
    As for Steve, I hope he realizes that though he may be responsible for the route, he isn’t responsible for the death.
    Especially since Roberts brother had already told him once to slow down.
    So after all is said and done, perhaps some clubs/shops could put on monthly skills clinics to help and teach newer riders some of the basics.
    Let me know if you want to go on the Pookiebear descent sometime..I’ll kick your ass on it!! LOL!!!

  • Donut: “We ride from Malaga tomorrow at 8. I hope you’ll join us so that I can learn more from you regarding this matter.”

    ME: I returned from a 40 mile loop through the local hills, capped by a quick run to Bonaparte’s for a late breakfast. Saw your message when I returned this afternoon. Hope you had fun.

    You’ll learn no more from me regarding this matter, since I know no more about it than you do. I think that was my point. Seriously – why accuse a dead man of a fatal error of which you have zero proof?

    I mean, for godssake . . . . for all you or I know, the man had a bee fly up his nose as he initiated that final turn. Or maybe a massive heart-attack. Or a blowout. Or six dozen other things.

    “Inexperienced?” “Unskilled?” Really?.

    Donut: “I’ve never heard of you even though we’re apparently neighbors, and it’s a rather small cycling community here, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation for that.”

    ME: I’ve never heard of you, either. And I guess I still don’t know your name. My real name is Duane Behrens, I own a home in Minnesota and lease a home in PV where I work and spend most of my time. And I was brought up in the belief that people who write things should sign their true names, since doing so assigns a certain amount of responsibility for the things they write.

    It was also impressed upon me quite early on that the most important gift one can give to the family of a dead man is the simple gift of respect – NOT unfounded criticism.

    The “rather small cycling community” you’re referring to is probably comprised of YOUR cycling community – not mine. For what it’s worth, and although I do ride every day, I don’t own any color-coordinated, pharmaceutical-sponsored spandex, That, and the fact that you’re clearly a better and more-skilled rider than me, means I probably wouldn’t fit in. Thanks, though. :-)

    Donut: “If tomorrow is inconvenient, with your permission I’ll add you to my ride info email list so that we can be sure to connect.

    ME: Email me, stop by and see me, or call me on the telephone. I’m in the book.

    Good luck to you, Mr. Donut. And try to be kind. It’s more fun.

    Duane Behrens

    • Donut says:

      You’d be surprised at who fits in and who doesn’t. It’s never a matter or ability, attire, or equipment, and it’s always a matter of attitude. I ran your name by the guys and girls this morning, and none of them had ever heard of you, either. I’m frankly uninterested in email battles, phone introductions, or visiting your home over tea and scones. You’re a fucking cyclist, Duane. Grow a pair of nuts and show up for the local ride in your own fucking neighborhood, where your opinions about cycling will be respectfully listened to, thoughtfully discussed, and judged by people who actually ride bikes. There’s a high probability that you’ll sound like a complete moron, and that you’ll have to defend your stupid opinions in front of other real people who take this shit rather personally. We leave every Sunday from Malaga at 8:00 a.m. There’s a longer Saturday ride at 6:00 a.m. that I can send you details about if you’re really interested. It’s an inclusive, skills-oriented, fitness-building, social ride for people of all ability levels and fashion tastes. Until then, kindly go fuck yourself.

  • Donut: “. . . . show up for the local ride in your own fucking neighborhood, where your opinions about cycling will be respectfully listened to . . . ” ” . . . then, kindly go fuck yourself.”

    ME: Wow. If I wasn’t sure before, I’m sure now. Are you the group’s spokesman? Wow. Listen – if I WERE to join your group and if I somehow fell and died during one of our rides, would you say nice things about me after I’m gone? I’m thinking not. So again, just let me respectfully decline. I’m not worthy.

    In any case, I actually DO show up for a “local ride in my own neighborhood” about 6 times a week. But it’s not your group . . . so I guess that doesn’t count?

    Anyway, we agree on one thing. I’m as uninterested in email battles as you are. So I’ll just close with a simple quote – can’t imagine why it occurred to me:

    “Those most insulting toward others are those most beset by a fully-justified sense of inferiority.”

    Take care, Mr. Donut. All the best. Try to work on that anger thing.

    • Donut says:

      Not worthy? Nice. I like the way you keep bringing up how bad you are on the bike, how you dress, you’re not worthy, etc., and then try to make it sound like I’m the one who has pointed out those things. Which ride do you do? Since you’re too fucking nutless to join my ride, which, by the way, I’m not the spokesman for, please invite me to yours. We’ll exchange opinions and you won’t feel nervous or threatened by having to ride with **gasp** color-coordinated strangers. Plus, I love making new cycling friends. You’ll love me, I promise, and so will your friends. Everyone does, in fact, except for the people who hate my guts. As an incentive, I’ll only say “fuck” three or four times, and I promise not to call you “stupid” unless you really deserve it. If you have a regular PV ride, I’m pretty sure I will know some of your riding buddies. They will either be laughing their asses off at you or telling me to buzz off, either of which I’m a big enough boy to handle. See you soon?

  • Albert says:

    His name was Roberto. FWIW, he was riding a Willier, low and long like the pros.

    I was on the ride and I’ll be brief. I think he thought he had a pro bike and was a strong rider and, you know, as a grown man, decided to bomb that descent.

  • Noel says:

    Albert…. somehow we all bomb that descent and are here to talk about. We do it in group where we tend to know each other. We’ve ridden
    together, raced together, brought new riders into the fold together….

    the whole point is that the ride has a context. This guy was killed by a context. Pretty shitty. We’re a tight knit group here (we dont all like each other but we repsect the fuck out of how everyone rides)… even if there are thousands of us. That kind of ride… an organzied ride with a big group of vastly disperate skills and knowledge need not happen on that canyon.
    The regroup at the top of the descent didn’t help the lesser experiences unless it stmualted them into pushing too hard on the way down.

    Too mahy of us thought this would happen. If it’s a predictable outcome… it’s something more than an accident. Sometimes a single event has more than one meaning. There we go at that context again.

    We are a community… and Seth is one of any number of us with a voice. Every local ride has a vetting processes. It’s life or death out there and we like life.

    • Albert says:

      Noel, we are on the same page. Also, I am one of the few, if not the only person, who was on that ride who’s gone online to offer a first hand account. You raised many valid points in your intial blog posting and I think I agreed with almost every single one. I was in the lead group on the first climb and since I trusted the wisdom of the route I fell back to ride with my buddies. When we got to Stunt and rested for a few minutes, taking in the beautiful scenery, at no point was I too far from everyone else to not hear further instructions or a basic safety session. I heard nothing. My riding partner heard nothing. We might as well have been climbing on our own, intercepting the Rapha group at the top. So, I believe that these things are about life and death and there are established safety processes and protocols. As you’ve written, those are your mountains and I defer to you. Guys who are of the opinion that Las Flores is for everyone do the rest of us no favors.

      As for Mr. Hyndman’s set up, opinions have been heated. They have also been moot points (our esteemed PV blogger will know that I’m using this term in the strictest sense) as Mr. Hyndman was not riding the bike seen in the picture above, which I believe you referred to as having too many spacers and being too upright. Again, we’re on the same page as to proper set up for a technical descent; however, a bigger issue arises when the record is set straight. In the end, the true responsibility lies with the rider. Mr. Hyndman may have realized that he was in over his head and his ego or perceived skill as a cyclist “who had descended much tougher roads” more than likely skewed the risk/reward calculus for him. I’m not one to criticize the dead, but his decisions and possibly his lack of self-knowledge could have brought down a few other cyclists, myself included. There for the grace of God…

  • Noel says:

    pardon the iphone typos.

  • Seared Tuna says:

    The language used in this blog is 100% disrespectful, immature, and completely unwarranted. It distracts from the untimely death of a fellow Cyclist, makes invalid assumptions of Cyclists in general, and doesn’t point out the real problems. The facts…Los Flores and many of the local roads are poorly maintained by the County and they are a contributing factor in numerous accidents. There is a reason the County Fire Dept has a helicopter stationed at the top of Los Flores 6 hours a day 365 days a year. I have pedaled up and down Los Flores hundreds of times since 1980 and it must always be respected no matter what experience you have or don’t have. Most Cyclists whether new or old respect the rules, some don’t. I see on a regular basis, highly experienced Cyclists blow through stop signs and red lights all over Western La County, some don’t wear helmets (insane), some insist on riding 2 and 3 abreast on busy canyon roads, etc…”We” Cyclists are our own worst enemy and the reason the public doesn’t respect us. I will agree it takes a person with high moral values and unquestionable integrity like Steve (whom I’ve known for many years) to step up to the plate and bring the Cycling community together. Those who know of Steves’ past life know why he has these values ingrained within him. Steve will always do the right thing because that was what a certain group of people taught him at a young age. If I’m rambling, accept my apologies. In closing…..I haven’t done a group ride in years because some riders consistently violate the rules of the road with their Prima Dona attitudes. You know who you are!

  • Seared Tuna says:

    Don’t know who the so called “Donut” is. Obviously an immature Cyclist with no respect for other Cyclists and their opinions. Willing to bet (not Assume) that he’s one of those Prima Dona Cyclists that violates the rules that others have mentioned. Pot…kettle.

  • […] me feel a bit uncomfortable, and it should have. The blog ‘Cycling in the South Bay’ ran this piece and one particular part hit […]

Donate a few seconds of your life that you'll never get back

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Who killed Robert Hyndman? We did. at Cycling in the South Bay.

meta

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 811 other followers

%d bloggers like this: