She wasn’t a cyclist. She was a person.

May 21, 2012 § 41 Comments

Suzanne Rivera is dead. Contrary to comments posted in various news articles, she didn’t die doing what she loved. She died trying to avoid a race support van that had parked in the middle of a fast, blind, downhill curve, obstructing part of the lane for no good reason at all.

Presumably, her last thoughts were “Oh my God, I’m going to hit the back of that van!” Presumably, she was frightened. I’d go so far as to say she was terrified beyond belief, like every other cyclist in the history of two wheels who, in that split second between realization and impact, knows that this may well be the last thing she ever sees.

No, she didn’t die doing what she loved. And no, it wasn’t unavoidable. And no, the fact that she was a brand new racer with brand new racer bike handling skills can’t be ruled out as a factor in her death.

Amazingly, I’m not blaming anybody

I am, however, pointing out the horror and revulsion and senselessness and loss we feel when someone dies or suffers a catastrophic injury riding a bike. We feel it because it feels an awful lot like us. Whether Jorge Alvarado on a training ride, Robert Hyndman on a challenging descent, or Suzanne Rivera in a twisty road race, these deaths shake us to our core.

The dead are young men with their entire lives ahead of them. They are mothers acting as role models for their young children by practicing fitness and engaging in healthy activity. They are retirees finding pastimes that are social and fun. They are us, and their deaths remind us that when you roll out the door, happy and excited and anticipating the fun that awaits, there is a reasonable chance that you might not return. Ever.

In Suzanne’s case, though, the horror and tragedy are compounded by something else: The unspoken rule of the road. Coming hard on the heels of a hospital visit last week, where I saw a cyclist and wonderful friend in the earliest stages of recovery from a broken neck, it has occurred to me that we must not let the secret go unspoken any longer.

We have a duty to remind people of it, especially the beginners, and even more especially the beginners who decide to pin on a number and lock horns. We have a duty to tell this secret, because it is a dirty one, a painful one, and also a universal truth.

If you’re going to ride fast, you are going to crash.

And the rule has a corollary, almost as terrible as the secret itself: You will crash not once, but many times. And the final part of the secret? The chances are fair that at least one of your crashes will leave you with a broken bone or an injury to your head or spine.

Would you still ride if you knew?

If, before purchasing that brand new bike, you were to read a list of the injured and their injuries just from the people who regularly do the local Donut Ride, would you still decide that this is the sport for you? Some would.

If, before entering your first mass start event, you were to read a list of the people who’d been hospitalized after going down in a bike race in the last twelve months, would you still pin on the number? Some people would.

Why?

Because the life they’re in pursuit of isn’t a life of comfort and safety and freedom from risk.

A beautiful life

After reading the news accounts, statements by her friends and teammates, and her obituary, one thing is clear. Suzanne Rivera lived a beautiful life. Surely she fully appreciated the risks of racing a bike. The waiver says you can get seriously injured or killed. Everyone reads it. Everyone thinks about it, however briefly, before deciding that it probably won’t happen to them. Everyone signs it.

Yet even more surely, she appreciated the feelings of power and strength and competition that are unique to bike racing.

Her life seemed to be about her husband, her children, and taking the challenging path rather than the safe one. When the gauntlet was thrown down, she picked it up at an age when most people are trying to find the easy groove, not test themselves against the relentlessness of the road.

Those of us who continue to push hard, knowing what’s likely to follow, are following in her footsteps.

Why?

For me, and probably for you, it’s because we know no other path.

With the hardness of marathons in her legs and the steel bit of the bike between her teeth, it was the only path that Suzanne knew, too. May her newfound serenity be a worthy end to such a long, hard, beautiful road.

The advice sausage

May 20, 2012 § 9 Comments

There’s something about a girl on a bike, especially a new girl on a bike, and especially especially a new young girl on a bike, that makes crusty old curmudgeons want to teach ‘em how to ride.

I call these dudes advice sausages.

They are rarely if ever actively competing in bike races. They were never any good, even though they’ll talk your ear off about how racing was “back in the day.” They’ve certainly never successfully coached or mentored a younger rider, and most telling, when the pace picks up on the local sausagefest they’re the very first wankers to fry in the pan and pop off the back.

But boy can they tell them new gals how to ride.

She’s young enough to be your granddaughter. Oh, never mind. That’s a plus for you, right?

As everyone knows, unsolicited advice goes in one ear and out the other. But unsolicited corrective advice engenders anger. As one rider told me, “I just have to ignore what these old guys tell me. There are one or two who make any sense at all. The rest are morons.”

I think she was exaggerating. I’ve yet to find even two who make any sense; Dog knows I don’t. But her point is a good one, if only because it illustrates the annoying uselessness of Ol’ Backintheday and his prattling advice about shit he knows nothing about.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t even teach ride around and bother people.

Use a bigger gear! Spin more! Sit when you climb! Get out of the saddle on the ascents!

The thing that really cracks me up about the advice sausages who share their wisdom with this one particular chick is that she’s a former national caliber, NCAA Division I athlete. So while I can understand, while condemning, Ol’ Backintheday’s lame advice to some struggling wankette who’s barely able to ride a straight line, it boggles the mind that a sag-bellied doofus would try to advise a former elite distance runner about training methods…or anything, for that matter.

What was funniest about today was that the runner biker chick led out the climb up the reservoir for the first mile and dropped all but three or four guys. Advice sausage was farther back than the last century.

Advice sausages, though, don’t care if they’ve been dropped or if the object of their advice is an accomplished athlete. They equate “new” with “stupid,” “chick” with “helpless,” and “decrepit old gummer” with “Dog’s gift to the ladies.”

Of course, the true advice sausages are equal opportunity idiots. They’ll share their stupitude with anyone. If you let them.

The heavy responsibility of advice

It strikes me as odd that people aren’t more careful with their advice, especially us old sausages. The older I get, the more I realize what a complete dumbfuck I am. Three years ago I couldn’t speak a complete sentence without throwing in a reference to “power-based training” or “WKO+” or “functional threshold power.”

Today, being just as slow as I was then, if not slower, I’ve jettisoned everything, including the damned Garmin.

And I’m gonna pretend to lecture someone about how to train better? Ride faster? Win races?

As an old sausage myself, I can sometimes hardly help myself, like at TELO last week when New Girl was losing ten bike lengths every time she went around a turn. As I passed her, I said, “PEDAL through the turns!”

I had enough confidence to at least say that, although in retrospect, when someone is gassed and pounding to catch back up and the line is turning into a nasty, narrow, single-file, yelling advice at them is pretty stupid.

New Girl, though, thanked me later.

Hmmm…next time I see that other chick, maybe I’ll tell her what I think about her Q factor.

Whose tweaker is this?

May 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Wankmeister opened his eyes. The naked Asian chick lying on the filthy carpet was not his. “Where the fuck am I?” he wondered. As he tried to remember this and other clues that would explain why he was cold, unclad, and seemingly unable to move, a nasty and inconsiderate and screaming headache continually blocked the attempts to jump start his brain.

He looked again at the chick. There was crusty white around the corners of her mouth. Was it dried saliva? Or had Wankmeister gotten blown by a spitter? Who the hell was she? Where the hell were they? The raging headache pulsed through his skull again in a tsunami of pain.

Wankmeister put his face close up to the sleeping chick and sniffed at her mouth. Massive stench of alcohol, mixing and fermenting with something loathesome down in her stomach. She had to still be drunk. Maybe Wankmeister could escape and get back to his platoon before she awoke and demanded child support.

Or maybe that was just more wishful thinking, just like the wishful thinking that had caused him to separate from his merry friends after the seventeenth round of shots at the Teddy Bear’s and leave with that white waitress. But this was a drunk skinny Asian chick whose teeth had rotted away from meth mouth.

During the lull between headache sets, Wankmeister became aware of another sharp pain. This was in his foot. He looked down and saw that his entire left foot was caked in dried blood. “Fuck, what the fuck?”

He examined what appeared to be a large gash on the sole of his foot that had plainly sprung a terrible leak. Wankmeister sat up and looked around the room. It was a smallish den with a stinking, shit-brown shag carpet. A bad painting of some mallards coming in for a landing on a pristine pond, presumably so some Bubba could jump up and blow them away, hung over the couch. A trail of blood went all the way across the room.

Now at least Wankmeister had a plan. He could follow the trail to find out what had happened. He could reconstruct the events of the night before. But first he had to vomit.

Glass, glass everywhere

The trail of blood led back to the kitchen. There on the small, round kitchen table was a colander half-filled with what looked like some really choice dope. Bong next to colander. Three empty wine bottles with screw caps. An empty bottle of Don Cheapo tequila. Meth pipe.

Now it all made sense. Wankmeister was an alcoholic and drug addict. Of course.

Wanky next looked at the terminus of the trail of blood. A shattered shot glass lay in pieces on the floor, with a big pool of dried blood around the biggest shard. Obviously, Wanky and the tweaker had gotten into a drunken brawl.

He sat down in a chair and tried to puke, but the only thing that came out was a whitish, yellowish gooey film with a faint trace of blood. The long, stringy line dangled down from his lower lip and reached all the way to his foot before it snapped. Plop. As the wet, warm, rubbery glop spread down the edge of his foot, vague memories of the night before began to dance around the periphery of his badly damaged brain. He winced, hoping that the furrows on his forehead would bring them into sharper focus. They gradually became clearer until, in one giant dam break, the entirety of the previous evening came flooding back.

“Triple fuck,” Wankmeister said. If even half of it was true, it was worser than worst.

Wanky goes undercover for the Lance Jockstrap Foundation

Two weeks ago Wankmeister had gotten a call from Lance Jockstrap, eight-time winner of the Turdy France, curer of cancer, and dude who was the most tested athlete in the history of athletes, and who beat all of the other most tested athletes, all of whom tested positive, without ever testing positive himself.

“Wanky?”

“Yeah?”

“Jockstrap here. Lance Jockstrap. I need some help.”

“What’s up, buddy?”

“Well, I never found OJ’s killer. Or the dude who offed Tupac. Or the smoking gun that shows Obama isn’t a citizen. But I’ve got a new mission.”

“Shoot.”

“I think that most of peloton at the Amgen Tour of California is doping.”

“Whaaaaaat?”

“Yeah. Incredible, I know. But I want proof. And I need someone to go undercover. Deep undercover. Find out the whos. The whats. The wheres. I want proof. Indisputable proof. This doping shit has tainted my past achievements. Word on the street is that when it comes to deep undercover, you’re the guy.”

“What’s the plan?”

“I’m going to arrange an invite for you to the Palmdale-Big Bear stage. It’ll be with a major bike frame manufacturer. You’ll be hanging with them, allegedly to review their latest performance rims on a test ride along portions of the course. But your real mission will be to uncover proof that the peloton’s doped. No one must know why you’re really there. And no one, I repeat no one, must have any idea that I’m behind this. Got it?”

“Mum’s the word, Lance.”

Actually, the word was “Teddy Bear.” Which is more like two words.

Things went off the rails almost immediately. Wanky got the invite and showed up on Thursday night to meet with the luminaries, heroes, chief executives, and other invitees of the VIP Ride and General Tour of California Hoedown. Like any other small mountain resort in between seasons, Big Bear had that feeling of “hope my fucking stash lasts until ski season starts up again.”

The shops were all closed. The restaurants were all closed. The town was all closed. Never mind that a massive bike race was rolling into town in a few hours–the place was empty. The dinner options at 9:30 PM had dwindled from practically nothing and Denny’s to plain old Denny’s.

At the last minute, a waitress leaving one of the joints that had just closed said these fateful words: “Teddy Bear’s is still open. But they only take cash.”

“Teddy Bear’s? What kind of place is that?”

“Oh,” said the waitress with a saucy grin, “they make good burgers.”

A few moments later the group reached Teddy Bear’s Titty Bar and Family Restaurant. A dude who looked an awful lot like Paul Sherwen was leaving, but Wankmeister was certain it wasn’t him. Two hours later, after the fifteen pitchers of beer and the burgers and the three bottles of Don Cheapo tequila and unloading all their dollar bills into the saggy bikini bottom of the one very tired and unenthusiastic very mature mother of five stripper whose main job was driving a bread delivery truck between Yucaipa and Big Bear, the group got ready to leave. That’s when all heck broke loose.

Heck is often much worse than hell

Wankmeister had ducked briefly into the men’s room to vomit. Expecting to just do the usual heave and rally, he was surprised to feel this particular wave of antiperistalsis begin somewhere around his knees. The convulsion rippled upwards into his groin, through his liver and bowels, up into his small intestine, and exploded into his stomach which, in addition to the Teddy Bear Burger (a unique culinary delight consisting of jalapenos, gizzards, mushrooms, pimiento cheese, sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and two beef patties) also contained three slices of boysenberry pie a la mode and a large platter of spicy carrot fries that had been cooked three days ago and left under a heat lamp or beneath a stack of dirty fermenting underwear to keep warm.

The blast poured forth from Wankmeister’s throat and generally in the vicinity of the urinal, but mostly all over his shoes, the wall, the mirror, the toilet, the wastebasket, and the floor. Wankmeister marveled at the variety of color in nature! The bright purple of the boysenberries! The yellow and red of the cheese and ketchup! The chunky brown of the hamburger! The bluish chunks of his lung! The deep reddish streaks of his stomach lining! If only he had been a painter with a palette!

When Wankmeister came to, the chubby waitress was wiping him off with paper towels and hustling him out the door. Wankmeister was unsure about the horns growing out of her head or the way her mouth kept changing from a Toyota Corolla to a trash incinerator. He was also confused as to why she kept switching between English and Aramaic.

She accompanied him halfway down the street. “Wait here,” she said. “I get off in half an hour. You’re in bad shape, buddy.”

The things you can find underneath a mailbox

Wankmeister watched his saviorette return to Teddy Bear’s, and carefully propped himself against the US Mailbox. Then he fell down. Then he tried to crawl underneath the mailbox, but there wasn’t enough space. Maybe if he just pulled his legs in more the space aliens wouldn’t catch him. “Here comes one now!” he shrieked.

“Are you okay?” a kindly yet cruel and paranoid voice asked.

Wankmeister was not so easily fooled. “You’re a space alien, aren’t you?”

“What?”

“If you’re a space alien, I’m inedible. All the edible ones are over there. At Teddy Bear’s.”

“That mailbox is too small for you to hide under. Are you sure you’re okay? You’re a cop, aren’t you?”

Wankmeister removed his head from under the mailbox. He couldn’t see anything except a kindly, plainly insane, Asian-looking face that kept changing into Winnie-the-Pooh and then back again. Her eyes were twitching like crazy, and she kept fidgeting. “Yeah. I’m fine,” Wanky said.

“You don’t have any spare change, do you?”

Wankmeister perked up. A panhandling space alien. The best kind. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of bucks.”

The Asian space alien paranoid tweaker smiled, and in the dim light of the streetlamps Wanky could see giant bloody fangs when she spoke. They were either giant space alien fangs or the rotted out, blackened stumps of severely advanced meth mouth. “Cool!” she said.

In a flash, Wankmeister realized that he’d hit the mother lode. This was no ordinary tweaker space alien trying to panhandle a couple of bucks. This was what Lance Jockstrap had sent him to find! The source of all the drugs that had infiltrated the Tour of California! Wankmeister fished into his pocket, thinking furiously. “Hey,” he said. “All I’ve got is my ATM card. Let’s go to a machine. I can get you more than a couple of bucks.”

Tweaker + Wankmeister = Mother of All Delusions

The tweaker, whose name was Chie, had been up for the last thirteen days. So deeply lost was she in the tunnel of meth paranoia that the only thing tethering her to reality, even the slightest, tiniest bit, was her need for more meth. “You’ve got to be careful at the ATM’s,” she said. “They’re all staked out by the police, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, and the CIA. And Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. They’ve been watching me since last Thursday.”

Wankmeister nodded. This tweaker was fucked up and batshit crazy, but she understood that the aliens were out to get both of them. That explained the Men in Black. “All’s I’ve got is a Bank of America card.”

The tweaker had been talking incessantly. “Oh, that’s no problem. They only stake out Wells-Fargo. Bank of America does those seance rituals to ward off the bad spirits.”

They got into Chie’s car, a 1975 lime-green AMC Gremlin whose rear windshield was broken out. “This car is alien-proof and FBI-proof,” she said. “But they’re trying to get it anyway. They know that if they get my car, they’ll get me, too.”

Wankmeister nodded. They got to the ATM, and he was momentarily concerned that the $1,500 withdrawal he was about to make would cause the rent check to bounce. He felt the slightest of pangs guilt at the thought of his wife and children being evicted, but deep down he knew it was worth it plus the tweaker would probably give him a blow job.

The tweaker couldn’t believe her luck. “Wow!” she said. “I know what we can do with that!” In less than an hour the money was gone and Wanky and Chie were loaded up with meth for her, pot for her, and tequila for them both. She apparently had been running a big deficit with the meth dealer, a guy named Axhead whose face and arms were covered in prison tatts.

“I’m keeping the rest of this fucking money,” he dared them. “You fucking owe me twice this.”

“Okay!” Chie said happily, clutching her drugs.

Wankmeister was torn between beating this thug to within an inch of his life, and just playing along as it might lead to even more doping revelations and perhaps to the secret hiding place of the space aliens. At that moment, Axhead turned into a three-headed worm. They ran back out to the Gremlin and drove to Chie’s.

Pump and hiss

Wankmeister rubbed his forehead again recalling the sordid late-night hours he had spent with the paranoid tweaker. She had kept promising to slit his throat as soon as he fell asleep, but the threat of death hadn’t been strong enough to overcome the sight of her panties flying across the room.

Now that his foot was clearly injured, and the tweaker could awake any moment and try to kill him, Wankmeister decided to escape. Scooping up as much of the pot as he could and stuffing it into his pockets, he wrapped up his wounded foot with paper towels, put on his sneakers, and sneaked out the door.

Thankfully, Big Bear was a small place. Even more thankfully, the tweaker’s hovel was only a few blocks away from the condo of the sponsors who had invited Wankmeister to ride part of the stage and then enjoy snacks and booze in the VIP tent. Wanky reached the luxo condo just as the group was starting to stir.

“What the fuck happened to you?” asked Captain Quiche, who had already been up for a couple of hours shampooing, conditioning, and styling his luxurious locks in order to look his very best.

“I got adopted,” Wankmeister said. “But it didn’t work out. So she took me back for a refund.”

One by one the rest of the group awoke, chugged coffee, pulled on their biking outfits, and asked the universal pre-ride question among people who have gone out of town to ride their bikes: “Did anyone bring a floor pump?”

No one had, of course, because prior to leaving each rider had thought the following: “Should I bring my floor pump? Nah, pain in the ass. Someone else will have one.”

And as is always the case, someone does indeed have one. The someone is always a dude whose pump is thirty years old and the rubber seal has completely rotted away, so when you put the head on the valve all the air hisses out. Then, when you push down on the pump you have to use one hand to hold the head against the valve. It makes a hissing sound, as half the air usually escapes, so you have to pump really quick, which is hard to do with one hand, especially as the pressure increases.

Wankmeister and everyone else took turns deflating their tires with the fucked up pump, then madly trying to pump them back up to at least half the pressure they’d been at before they let out all the air. Many curses later, it was time to roll out.

Riding like the pros ride

The intrepid crew included Wankmeister, CEO Dude, Marshal Dude, Bikeshop Dude, Worldchamp, Helen of Troy, Mighty Mouse, G$, Howard Hughes of the South Bay, Captain Quiche, Tony Pizza, BBQ Raul, and Hottie.

They cruised through Big Bear and then turned along the north side of the lake. Marshal Dude flatted, and the group left him. When they turned right onto SH 18, Bikeshop Dude turned back, as he and Marshal Dude were manning one of the exhibitor booths. Worldchamp took a long, nasty pull up the first part of the long climb leaving Big Bear. Helen of Troy followed with another barn burner, toasting Mighty Mouse and G$ off the back.

Mighty Mouse had run eleven miles the day before, chopped a cord of wood, walked 13 miles in the snow to school, wrestled a bear, and built a small log cabin, so she was simply too tired to hang. G$ was suffering from the 7,000 feet of elevation, and he did the fall-away-from-the-main-rocket-body atmospheric re-entry with Mighty Mouse.

Once over the top of the worst part of the climb, Tony took a brief pull, quit, and turned around. The remainder of the ride was spent haranguing Howard Hughes and Captain Quiche to take a pull. The Cap’n took exactly three, and although Howard was too out of breath to make even a token effort, he had plenty of lungs to shout his excuses from the rear.

“I’m a fred! I’ve got hairy legs! I wouldn’t know what to do up there!” etc.

On one of the rollers leading into Arrowhead, Helen of Troy accelerated, followed by CEO Dude, leaving the Cap’n and Howard Hughes to finish the ride by themselves. Hottie and BBQ Raul were similarly jettisoned, though they rejoined on the return leg.

Back at the finish line

After the ride, the entourage and Wankmeister sequestered themselves in the Robberbank VIP tent, scarfing little cheesy tortellini thinglets along with fistfuls of tiny cheesecakelets, and gulletsful of wine, coffee, and beer. The race was being played on LD TV, and former world champion Hennie Kuiper worked the crowd, signing autographs and encouraging people to visit his website. He never explained why people should visit his web site when he was standing right fucking there, but Wanky didn’t ask, face full as it was with cheesecakes and coffee and beer.

Pro cycling proved once again that it is the world’s worst spectator sport. The spectators watched nothing happen for hours on TV and then got a two-second glimpse of the streaking, clumped up, finishing pack. Pro cycling also proved that everything becomes a great spectator sport with enough beer and enough hours in which to drink shitloads of it.

When Sylvain Georges came flying through the finish for the win, people screamed and yelled and thumped the barricades and rang the cowbells and waved the orange Robberbank towels as if they’d been waiting all day for it, which they had, and as if they had a fucking clue as to who Georges or Ag2r Mondiale was, which they hadn’t. The remnants of the peloton, hard on Georges’s wheel, was a slurred and exhausted clump of charred cremains…and it wasn’t hard to understand why, as they’d covered 115 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing. They’d also had to go through Palmdale, which was like having PTSD or PMS, only worse.

But whodunnit?

Unfortunately, in the excitement of the ride and the cheese tortellini thinglets and the cheesecakelets and the prodigious quantities of beer, Wankmeister had forgotten all about Chie the tweaker, who he was convinced held the secret to doping in the pro peloton.

Sure, she was a paranoiac space alien. Sure, her connection Axhead was a three-headed worm when he wasn’t serving time in prison. Sure, Wanky had given her his rent money and would have to explain that plus the lesions on his penis to Mrs. WM when he got home.

But none of those obstacles challenged his basic conclusion: he’d found the source that was besmirching the good name of Lance Jockstrap, and he wouldn’t rest until the entire sordid underworld network was exposed.

It would take lots of Don Cheapo. It would take repeated forays to the meth labs of Palmdale, Riverside, and San Bernardino. It would take a deeper, more penetrating delving into the lifestyle of the tweaker. Wankmeister, for one, was equal to the task.

Your bike outfit looks like dogshit. Other than that, it’s fine.

May 17, 2012 § 13 Comments

Okay, so when people want to know what to wear, Wankmeister isn’t on speed dial. I get that. But I do know a thing or two about fashion. Just because I always wear that black t-shirt, ratty jeans, and those Vans with the holes in the back doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what.

What’s What

For example there’s a difference between chick fashion and dude fashion. Chick fashion follows “TPO,” which means “Take my Panties Off.” Dude fashion follows “FOMI,” or “Focus On My Income.”

In other words, chick fashion is sexy, whereas dude fashion is all about brand recognition and money. Cycling fashion, however, is a unique blend. Tight, slinky, revealing stuff that is also designed to make you remember names and buy shit while hopefully not drawing too much attention that your junk is really tiny. Cycling clothes were gay before gay was the new straight.

Got that? Good.

A brief history of cycling fashion

A long time ago, cycling fashionistas wore wool shorts with real leather pads that scrunched up around your groin and acted as involuntary butt wiping rash inducers. You’d pull off the shorts along with a pound or two of brown crud. Yeccch.

Shorts were black. Shoes were black. Socks were white. Jerseys had a couple of sponsors’ names in big letters. Primary colors all the way, except for the occasional gay Italian ice cream sponsor who liked lime green and purple.

And that was pretty much fuckin’ it.

Modern cycling fashion

Then someone realized that plastic fabric was better than wool. It tore up easier. It was less comfortable. It didn’t breathe at all. And the synthetic chamois was originally a variant of sandpaper. But unlike wool, when you sweated it didn’t smell like an old tampon. So it prevailed.

The other thing that happened with cycling fashion is Adobe Illustrator. Every moron with a computer now had a 56-million color palette and the template for a bike outfit. At about the same time, local clubs realized that they could defray some of their beer money by selling ad space on their kits.

Real estate became scarce. Good taste became scarcer. Legit fashion and design skills became extinct. Pro and amateur teams alike wore whatever vomit some junior high school pre-accounting major with a laptop threw together. Design wasn’t an afterthought. It was an afterbirth.

Rewarding ugliness

Bicycling magazine recently posted a list of the best cycling kit designs in the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a shame that so little thought went into the piece, which could have shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the grotesquely ugly kits that generally blotify the pro and amateur pelotons, not to mention the “ride jerseys” and club outfits that litter our beautiful California landscape.

As a public service announcement, I’ve decided to review their list and comment on it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can sum it up thus: Get Joe Yule and StageOne to design your stuff. It’s really that simple.

1. Black proves you can’t design

“These lads know how to dress. Black jersey, black shorts, and stealthy black bikes—it’s all so punk-rock.” Uh, are you fucking kidding me? Black is the ultimate non-test of design. ANYTHING looks good in black. It’s the default color for slimming a double-wide butt, for repositioning curves that are in the wrong places, and for lifting saggy belly lumps that belong above the belt line…Black is such an addicting and easy color to design and dress with that once you get used to it, it’s hard to wear anything else, kind of like a vampire. But the problem isn’t that it’s “punk rock,” it’s psychotically depressing. It’s what people wear to funerals. It’s the color of religious clothing, judges’ robes, executioners’ masks, Ozzie Osbourne. Worst of all, it demonstrates zero design skill, because it goes with anything. Black bike. Black helmet. Black jersey. Black tires. Black deep dish rims. An occasional red highlight if you like the police car look, or a yellow one if you fancy bumblebees. Boom. You’re done. For cycling, as a design motif black sucks because it’s a slow and boring color. That’s bad, because for spectators, cycling is already a slow and boring sport. You want excitement on two wheels? Watch a fucking formula motorcycle race or some dirt bike action. Manorexic weenies with spindly arms who are clad head to toe in slow black women’s clothing? I’d almost take NASCAR. Almost.

2. If you’re even thinking about Orange, you’d better be nicknamed “G$”

“Those orange stripes! So swoopy! Swoopy is good, in case you were wondering. An orange and black pairing often evokes thoughts of Halloween, but on these Optum Orbeas, orange and black mean fast and stylish” Wow. Someone really wrote that, someone who supposedly wasn’t smoking a crack pipe. Her name is Jen See. Jen, the orange stripes aren’t “swoopy, swoopy.” They’re buttlicking ugly, especially with the lightened orange squares and slashes blended in with the regular orange. The other problem with this nasty looking kit is that you can hardly read the sponsors’ names even in a still photo. Are we really supposed to tell what this says at 35mph? Which brings us to the “money and brand” part of the design package. On a pro bike kit, you sure as shit better be able to read the sponsors’ names. And what brand of LSD was it that suggested the black/white/orange combo would look good with…green lettering…yellow shoes…bright red bottle? Kill the mutant now, doctor, before it spreads.

3. Everything looks good on a winner, right? Wrong.

“Does it matter what color a four-time Paris-Roubaix winner wears? The sea-foam and white jerseys are paired with black shorts—never a bad choice.” Actually, Jen, sea-foam is always a bad choice, unless you’re in a Jello marketing focus group or unless you happen to actually be an ocean. This color is so fucking ugly that it wasn’t even popular during the 70’s disco boom. The idea that winning makes everything pretty is doubtlessly true if your objective is to give Tornado Tom a fangirl fucking, but all the pave trophies piled up in a heap don’t make sea-foam green anything other than fugly. The epaulettes, arguably the most valuable real estate on the kit, have a tiny-ish red “S” for Specialized and a completely illegible scrawl for “innergetic,” along with some squiggly shit on the world champion sleeve striping. Poisonest of all, the sea-foam is really similar to the Astana “Blood Doping Blue” made famous by Vino, Tainted Meat, and a whole host of crooked drug cheats. When all you’ve got is a nasty coke habit like Tom, you don’t want to wear colors associated with dopers.

4. Garmacuda was styling when Jen See was still calling pale orange “swoopy”

“But with this year’s kit, the Garmin-Barracuda boys have hopped on the style train.” Jen has dealt out a true left-handed compliment, but at least she gets that the Garmacuda kit designed by Joe Yule is badass. In fact, Garmacuda has been on the “style train” from its inception. The last two years in particular have seen forceful, noticeable color combinations that do an extraordinary job of highlighting sponsors’ names and looking fantastic. This is shit you’d wear to a job interview. To a first date with a rich girl. To your fucking wedding. And it’s not “swoopy.” It’s “leg rip-offy,” Jen.

5. Your kit is boring and blah, but I love your Pinarello.

“How did Bissell get on the most stylish list? Two words, my friends: Pinarello and Campagnolo.” At first I thought, “Shit, this girl is funny.” Then I realized she was serious. Yep. Your kit is stylish because of your bike frame and your Campy gruppo. So, like, you could just ride naked. Jen, honey, your LinkedIn profile says you fucking went to Claremont College, Georgetown University, UCSB, you have a Ph.D., you speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch…and your critical analysis calls the Bissell kit stylish because of the BIKE FRAME? Our country is so fucking doomed it’s not even funny. Note to the computer programmer who designed the Bissell kit: That red and white swooshy thing on the ass that looks like a tuning fork or a toothless barracuda’s jaws…drop me a line when you finally figure out what the fuck it’s supposed to be. Thanks.

6. Just because it’s a color doesn’t mean it looks good

“Quite simply, this team oozes style from head to toe…Liquigas is all about color, lime green to be exact. The color isn’t for everyone, but the men of Liquigas totally own it.” No, Jen. The men of Liquigas don’t “own it.” They are contractually obligated to wear it. There’s a difference. You are sort of right when you say lime green isn’t for everyone, but to get it exactly right you should probably say “lime green isn’t for anyone.” For starters, it’s a total JOC, or “junk outline color” as we say in the trade. This means that it totally highlights each dip and curve of your package. For bike racers, who are scrawny little fellows with scrawny little toolboxes, that’s bad. Lime green doesn’t go with anything, but it especially doesn’t go with blue. Now I know what you’d say, Jen: “Does it matter what a four-consecutive-stage winner of the ATOC wears?” And again, we’d say, uh, yeah, it matters. Like, it really matters. And if you don’t believe me, try googling images for something called “Mapei.”

And when you get around to looking at the rest of the peloton, check out Spider-Tech. Shoulda been number two, after Garmacuda. Ciao, baby.

Amgen Tour of California Cat 3 Road Race

May 16, 2012 § 5 Comments

I recently upgraded to Cat 3 and am pretty fucking proud of that. Participation in all those races was hard. So I showed up at the start in Santa Rosa for a same-day race reg, and guess what? Douchebaguettes wouldn’t let me enter. “No registration on race day,” or some bullshit. There wasn’t even a sign-in table for pre-regs.

Like I said, douchebaguettes.

But I didn’t go down without a fight. I got hold of the race director dude. “Yo, race director dude. How come there’s no race-day sign ups? This is bullshit.”

“Sorry. It’s a UCI invitation-only race. But there is an event for cyclo-dorks like you to ride around the course and feel like you’re racing.”

“Fuck that shit. I came to race. This is the fucking perfect Cat 3 race for me. A couple of these races have my fucking name engraved on them. I could upgrade to Cat 2.”

“Uh, this is a UCI pro race. Ever heard of Tom Boonen? Levi Leipheimer? Chris Horner? Peter Sagan?”

“Yeah. So?”

“They’re doing this race. It’s not a Cat 3 race.”

“First off, you’re a liar. Carl Sagan is dead. And he’s an astronomer.”

“Peter Sagan! The pro!”

“Peter, Paul, Mary, Carl, who gives a rat’s ass? It’s a fucking Cat 3 race and I want in.”

Security tries to stifle my First Amendment rights

“Security! Security!”

Anyway, they didn’t let me register. Since getting released from the facility, though, I’ve been following the race real closely. And let me tell you, it’s a fucking Cat 3 bike race if there ever was one.

First off, the same wanker has won every stage. Ever see that in a good Cat 2 race? Nope. So it’s a Cat 3 race from that standpoint.

Next, it’s total Cat 3 road racing. Ride flat for a hundred miles. Go over two hard hills. Everybody sprunt together. Now sure, most Cat 3 road races aren’t a hundred miles long, but they always stay together and end in a big ol’ sprunt. If it was even a half-assed 45+ RR, fuckin’ G$ or DQ Louie or THOG or DJ or Roadchamp would be cracking ass and spitting the wankers out on the first climb.

Next next, it’s total Cat 3 faux stage racing. Cat 3 stage races have a crit, a TT, and a RR. The winner of the TT wins the whole thing. Okay, you’re gonna be like “This is EIGHT stages!” and “There aren’t any CRITS!” Awright, douchebaguette, so instead of a crit it’s got seven “road” races. But just because you add a fake pair of tits and butt implants don’t make you a chick. This Cat 3 ATOC deal is gonna come down to the TT. You watch.

Lookit this fuckin thing. Three stages over all these supposedly hilly routes that are supposedly gonna bust up the whole race and supposedly make it a thriller and there are still like 400 dudes contending for the win ’cause they’re only 30 seconds back. I’m telling you this is Cat 3 shit.

Now, next next next, it’s fucking Cat 3 from top to bottom because if there’s one thing you know about Cat 3 racing it’s fucking sandbagging. There was never a sandbagger who sandbagged like a Cat 3 wanker. And what do you have here? Dudes who fucking won P-R, and all kinds of badass Euro shit, instead of manning up and riding the Giro which is a real fucking race, they’re douchebagging it in Cali, tweedling through the fucking desert and along the coast and up the anus of the Central Valley and through the rectum of Palmdale, getting their nutsacks licked at night by the fangirls and getting their nuthairs combed by the fanboy bloggers and charity riders I mean if you wanna talk sandbagging douchebaggery these dudes are Cat 3 all the way.

I’m gonna be there on Friday and Saturday, though. If it’s anything like a Cat 3 CBR crit, after they have a few off-the-backers and no-show-losers and got-a-booboo-on-my-elbow quitters, they’ll see me flash my $35 and I’ll have a number pinned to my ass quicker than you can say “Bag of pistachios to the winner of the next lap!”

Don’t look for me at the front, though. I’ll be sitting in for the sprunt. Cat 3 all the way, baby.

Wankmeister cycling clinic #10: Upgrades

May 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

After a very successful 7-year career as a Cat 3, I was recently force-upgraded after getting 2nd at the Long Beach crit, even though I only had 4,598,209 upgrade points. Some of the other sore loser types complained to the officials. I told them that it’s only my 75th top three placing of the year. I told them that I started out this year with the GOAL of winning the SoCal Cup as a Cat 3, and that I always reach my goals. This is a kind of robbery, having my Cat 3 taken away. What am I supposed to do now? Race the Cat 2’s? Race the 35+? That’s cray-cray.

Outragedly,
Zerep Divad

Dear Zerep:

It’s a hard lot in life when USCF officials will no longer tolerate cheating, and I sympathize with you. It’s only fair that you should be able to break the upgrade rules so that you can win money and prizes that would otherwise go to someone else. I for one am in solidarity with you.

It is even more terrible that you must now race with the Cat 2’s. What do they think you are? A full time pro? Jeez, you’ve got a wife, kids, job, mortgage. How are you going to up your miles from the current 500 per week to 650? Can’t be done. Those fuckers. And 35+? Are they joking? Like, how are you gonna beat Charon and deMarchi and Paolinetti? You couldn’t carry those guys’ jocks with a forklift. Crap. On the plus side, you can now flail around with Wankmeister and beat up on cyclotourists, triathletes, and joggers. So there’s that.

Commiseratingly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’ve been a Cat 3 for two months now, and just got upgraded. I’m totally psyched. I hated flogging with all those wankers. It was dangerous, and frankly, not much sense of achievement to win, especially when you’re beating career hackers who are too chicken to race the hard races. I actually did a 35+ race the same day I upgraded and got fourth. It was fast and hard and I didn’t have any teammates, but I used my head, rode smart, and got a decent result. I’m looking forward to improving as a cyclist by racing with guys who are faster and better than I am. That’s the only way to improve. At anything.

Happily,
Nosredna Cire

Dear Nosredna:

This is a sad commentary on the state of cycling, when a guy can just win a few races and upgrade rather than sandbagging for years, collecting prize money, hamming it in front of the cameras, and perfecting the art of “sit & sprint.” I hope you know that you have single-handedly brought our sport into disrepute. How will we attract new riders? How will we coerce our wives and kids to come watch? You think Mrs. WM is gonna sit out in the 300-degree heat to watch Wanky get 55th in a crit? You think Wanky Jr. is gonna hang around to watch Pops get dropped on the first lap of Pukebowl? ‘Course not!

My advice to you, young man, is to forget the crazytalk. Do a couple of P/1/2 races. Maybe even crash once or twice. Then lay low for a year or two and come back as a Cat 4. Move up gradually. If you play your cards right you can get a good 5 or 6-year run of pistachio primes and prize money before they bump you up. Trust me on this one.

Conspiratorially,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m a sandbagger. I admit it. I’m proud of it. Although I could easily upgrade to Cat 3, I like it here in the 4’s. I only race a few times a year anyway and don’t give a rat’s ass about results. My goal is to be one of the cool dudes on the South Bay rides. I want to put the screws to DJ. Make Roadchamp suffer. Drop King Harold on the flats. Heck, I already put a bunch of dudes to the sword on Saturday’s ride out to Decker Lake, including YOU. Then I made fun of Triple for getting dropped after I crashed out Polly. So why should I upgrade? I want the “cool” you can’t get in school.

Setting my sights,
Checkerbutt

Dear Checkerbutt:

Oh, boy. You are 25 years old. DJ is, like, a hundred. He’s old enough to be your grandfather’s father. Beating him, or Roadchamp, or King Harold, is like bragging about having sex with your wife. You’re SUPPOSED to, for Dog’s sake. When these guys were 25, they didn’t have their sights set on smacking down some shriveled up old weekend hobby biker. They were Cat 1 or Cat 2 or national caliber athletes racing against their peers. You can never be South Bay cool on the strength of your old geezer beatdown resume.

On the other hand, for them to ever whip up on you reduces you to ignominy. They’re NOT SUPPOSED to be able to stomp your dick in the dirt. So when they do, you lose all kind of style and respect points. And don’t ever think, even for a millisecond, that old farts don’t keep score. They’re still laughing about your epic meltdown on Fernwood and your colossal collapse on the Rock Store climb, and chasing down Wankmeister at Telo after being admonished not to by King Harold is like marrying your cousin, only worse.

However, all is not lost. It is possible to endear yourself to the South Bay royalty. Follow the easy steps below:

  1. Race. This means real races. With numbers, entry fees, officials, crashes, etc.
  2. Upgrade. This means winning, placing, or participating. Show that you hate being a Cat 4 wanker and are desperate to get out and become a Cat 3 wanker.
  3. Do the South Bay royalty rides in the off season, and obey proper SBRR etiquette as further described below. Remember at all times that as you shamelessly angle for an invitation to the FTR, you must ingratiate, fawn, flatter, and suck knob to a fare thee well in order to earn the approval of FTR DS Jaeger.
  4. Keep your mouth shut unless you’re about to do some serious knob polishing. Don’t remind Triple he just got shelled like a bad pecan. He knows it; he’s the one that had to wipe the four pounds of sheet snot off his face. Plus, he’s so old that by the time you’re his age he will have been drawing Social Security for 15 fucking years.
  5. Don’t crash out Polly by being a fred. South Bay royalty all have families, jobs, and shorter lifespans than you. Don’t move up the date any quicker than necessary.
  6. After beating the living shit out of Wankmeister, dropping him like a stone on the climbs, railing his innards into mush on PCH, and flogging him like a dead skunk all the way back up to his apartment, don’t “evaluate” his ride for him by saying, “You did pretty good today. Not too bad on the climb; good effort there. Good job on PCH, you hung in fine and were even able to do a little work, too. Boy, you sure were breathing hard when we were going up Pepperdine and you couldn’t pull through! Are you going slow now because you’re tired?”

Anyway, I hope this helps. You’re a good kid who has potential, but then again, so did most of the other convicts on death row.

Prosecutorially,
Wankmeister

What I saw on your face when you thought no one was looking

May 14, 2012 § 8 Comments

There’s a gentle beauty that pours forth from your face when you’re turning the pedals,

A happiness that is so warm and engulfing that it beckons us all, smilingly,

To throw off the leaden suits and ties and business blouses of our daily grind,

A happiness accompanied by a vaguely risqué nod that telegraphs an invitation to skinny-dip

In the alluring, sometimes cool, sometimes fiery hot, always rewarding pool of lycra and rubber

And carbon and shiny mirrored lenses hiding laughter and truth not even for a second,

Of flexing thighs and straining calves and beautiful sweating muscles that are driving us onward to the summit,

Or plunging us with our hearts in our throats at a million miles an hour through woods and rocks and ravines and ocean overlooks,

Or just easily rolling through the wind, the sun, and the hurting blue sky or the gently bucking pavement of the Parkway,

Knotted to one another and to the surging throng of bodies

As each of us shares and explores and pushes that invisible envelope binding us together,

Even as we strain with bursting chests to bend beyond the speeding world’s edge

And fly, faster, alone.

Where Am I?

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