August 20, 2014 § 4 Comments
For a long time I have been telling LA and Orange County wankers to get off their asses and go do the Swami’s Ride, which leaves every Saturday from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas at 8:05 AM. Finally, a whole bunch of them listened, and last Saturday night as I watched one of the fastest masters racers in America do backflips off a cliff into a swimming pool wearing a thong while a 200-lb. long-haired pig rooted around the pool area and people started taking off most of their clothes and jumping into the pool after drinking a keg of Lost Abbey BWR Ale … what was I saying?
Oh, yeah. So, there I was at Phil’s 40th birthday bash and it turned out that many of the attendees had also taken the Swami’s Challenge and done the ride. Here’s what they had to say:
“Very hard ride.”
“Hardest group ride ever.”
“Hard. That was a hard ride.”
“Man, that was hard.”
And of course, my favorite comment, “Hard.”
So now that everyone from outside North County San Diego agrees with me that yes, the Swami’s Ride is hard, it’s time for me to introduce two painful punches, an old friend and a new one.
The old friend is the SPY Holiday Ride. I blather about it all the time because it, too, is a very hard ride. That’s “hard” as in “very painful and difficult.” As in “You will get shelled.” As in “Not easy.” The next SPY Holiday Ride is on Labor Day. It leaves at 8:00 AM from RIDE Cyclery. There are lots of good reasons to do this ride, but the best one is that most of the fastest riders will be at masters nationals, which means you might not get dropped immediately.
The next-to-best reason is that this ride symbolizes grass roots riding at its best. Beer primes are given away (a case per prime), and it’s the result of a company — SPY Optic — supporting bicycle riding on a community level. You don’t have to race or have a license, just a bike, a pair of legs, and the desire to shrink your ego down a few dozen sizes.
The second punch, and by far the more painful one, is the SPYclocross Series. The series starts on September 20 and has six races. In past years, SoCal cross series races have not qualified for USA Cycling upgrade points, starting positions at nationals, or juice boxes because, money. SPY has stepped up (*note to self: let’s find a better verb. “Jumped up.” “Drunkenly staggered up.” “Raged to the fore like a crazy man with aliens in his undergarments.”) and donated the extortionate, ridiculous, bullshit fees that USAC demands in order to ensure that the grass roots are not only mown as short as possible, but dug up as well.
Whatever. Thanks to SPY the series now “counts,” which is kind of a bummer because I always used the “no staging points for nationals” as my excuse for not going.
The series has everything that the road season doesn’t. Great and exciting venues. Spectators. A minimum of shattered braincases or the likelihood thereof. And although it is not allowed and I will personally report anyone caught drinking it, beer. Fortunately, since there are no craft breweries in San Diego (the site of the first race), sobriety should not be a problem.
Cyclocross is a growing sport, in part because studies show that if you are crappy as a road racer, you will redefine suckery in ‘cross. However, it allows the purchase of new equipment, you never get pulled, it sounds vaguely hipster, and if you take it seriously and train for it you will get to say things like “Ryan Dahl only lapped me twice.”
Swami’s Ride? Holiday Ride? SPYclocross Series? Pick yer poison.
October 28, 2013 § 23 Comments
I sat in my hotel room as the warm glow of victory, or something, washed over me. I had just vanquished my foe in the longest running Facebag comment war ever. He had ignominiously ceded the field with the cowardly claim that I was a stalker, a harasser, and that he had therefore reported me to the “proper authorities.”
I couldn’t help laughing at his silly subterfuge as I savored my victory. Sure, it had lopped 27 hours off my family vacation. Sure, my wife was livid. “How come you onna Facebag alla time?”
Sure, my son who we had come to visit was disappointed that every few seconds I would blurt out “You cocksucker! Take this!” And then furiously pound the iPhone’s keyboard, cursing and spitting and rending my breast.
Sure, we got kicked out of a couple of restaurants. And three bars. And a coffee shop. But at the end of the paddle battle, only one Tweetle Beetle was the winner. Me.
The congratulatory messages poured in. “You are the best Tweetle Beetle ever.”
“You own Facebag.”
“That was such an epic paddle battle.”
“Are you off your meds?”
“We are very worried about you.”
In other words, I was really happy, until I heard the knock on my hotel door.
Two burly men in blue uniforms and badges stood there. “Yes?” I said.
“Facebag police,” said the bigger one.
“Violation of terms of service, paragraph 37, section 34(a), page 987. May we come in?”
Without waiting for an answer, they pushed by me. “What’s going on? What are you talking about?”
“You’ve been reported by a user for violating the terms of service I just cited.”
“Who’s ever read those? What did I do?”
“Don’t play stupid. You broke the rule against being mean to cyclocross race promoters from Schenectady.”
“This is a joke, right? I had no idea he was from Schenectady. I made that up!”
The nicer of the two cops sat me on the edge of the bed. “Look, we’ve read the entire thread. Just confess and we’ll put in a good word on your behalf to Mr. Zuckerberg.”
“But I didn’t do anything! He said I was a crashtacular fred and that I should take his skills classes. I called him a newt and a salamander. What’s the big deal? These little Tweetle Beetle paddle-battles happen all the time. It’s Facebag, for fugg’s sake.”
The bad cop grabbed me. “Look, asshole. That wasn’t your ordinary paddle-battle!”
“No, wise guy, it wasn’t!”
“What was it, then?”
They both shouted in unison: “It was a Tweetle Beetle paddle-battle in a muddle in a bottle!”
The room became still as death. “Oh,” I said meekly.
“See?” said the bad cop. “Shit got real enough for ya now?”
The good cop put his arm around my shoulder as I softly sobbed. “It’s okay. Just sign this confession. We’ll both tell Mark you cooperated.”
“But all I did was go over his race resume on Cycling USA and point out what a wanker he was.”
“I know,” said the good cop as he dabbed at my tears.
“And I just said that for a coach he seemed kind of thin on credentials.”
“It’s okay, pal. Sign here.”
“And he called me a fucktard and said I was whacko and called Mrs. WM a ‘mail-order bride.'”
The bad cop was reviewing the comments. “Quit trying to make yourself out as harmless. Says right here you made fun of his second place finish in a road race.”
“There were only six entries!”
“And over here you made fun of all his DNF’s.”
“But he’s a ‘cross expert. Shouldn’t he at least be able to finish?”
The nice cop looked up. “This wouldn’t have been so bad if you hadn’t involved Dr. Knoll.”
“Dr. Knoll?” asked the bad guy. “The stinky foot doctor?”
“That’s Dr. Scholl. Dr. Knoll is the shrink for cyclists. He only gets involved when it’s serious. Or when someone pays. Or when he’s really bored.”
“Look, pal,” said the bad cop. “You signing or not? We ain’t got all day.”
I sighed and took the pen. It was a short confession: “I, Wanky, do hereby admit to having made fun of a cyclocross promoter from Schenectady such that it became a Tweetle Beetle paddle-battle in a muddle in a bottle. I henceforth promise to never do this again. A second violation will result in revocation of my Facebag license and loss of all paddle-battle bottle muddle KOM’s on Strava.”
I signed, and they left. After a few minutes I checked Facebag. “Wankmeister is a douchey crashtacular fred who needs to take my skills class,” read the item in the newsfeed. The writer was a cyclocross promoter in Scranton. My pulse quickening, I opened up and began reading the terms of service.
October 22, 2013 § 16 Comments
Apparently, some people have questioned the safety of bicycling. They are, to paraphrase Cap Taintbag, “fuggin morons.”
The statistics, all of which are damned lies, were recently put forth in a New York Times blog, which is where the Times puts everything that’s too douchey to make it to the regular printed doucherag that no one subscribes to anymore. Incredibly, the article concluded that it’s hard to conclude whether cycling is really more dangerous than other sports, to which I can only say, with jaw thwapping the desk …
“ARE YOU FUGGIN KIDDING ME?”
Rehabbing the rehabbers
This past weekend I scooted up to Camarillo for Pacifica ‘Cross Fest, with Dandy Andy at the wheel. I for one could not, even for a moment, understand why a ‘cross race was being held on the grounds of a rehab center. Sure, they posted “no alcohol allowed” on the flyer, but come fuggin on! Beer is to ‘cross what venereal sores are to amateur porn: they go hand in mouth together, so to speak.
Now, in case you think bicycling is safe, you have never, ever, ever seen a ‘cross race. Or a downhill MTB race. Or a madison. Or anything modified by the phrase “Cat 5.” The whole point of ‘cross, for dog’s sake, is to fall off your bike, get injured, and finish or quit. D-Mac wrecked his spine on the barriers. China Dahl swallowed four pounds of sludge, face-first, in the wood-chip turn (and went on to place second and hold onto the overall series lead). Although T-Dub didn’t crash in the finishing straight by having a giant swatch of snow fencing come unhitched and wrap into his wheel, sending him face-first to the dirt like last week, lots of other riders sailed face-first, or spine-first, or nuts-first, or veejays-first, off their bikes and into barriers, gravel, fencing, trees, or beer.
Is bicycling dangerous? Does the pope shit in the ocean?
Why some people foolishly believe bicycling is safe
In short, there is a subset of person who believes that life itself is either safe, or can be made so. They have willfully disregarded the uniform empirical evidence which shows, without exception, that all human life ends in death, the epitome of unsafeness. However, unlike couching, or televisioning, or beering, bicycling greatly accelerates the arc towards unsafeness and death.
The fantastic ways that you can wreck yourself on a bicycle are limited only by your imagination, bad coordination, poor judgment, inattentiveness, overconfidence, misplaced trust, and lousy timing. When done improperly, which bicycle riders do all the the time, the act of pedaling can result in flipping backwards and cracking your skull on the pavement, falling over and splitting your hip, plunging forward and crushing your face (including nose, teeth, cheekbones, eyes, forehead, jaw, chin, and brain), dislocating or breaking collarbones, shoulders, arms, legs, puncturing lungs, shattering necks and spines, stripping off huge bloody swatches of skin (peeling back to reveal bones, veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, guts), permanent cognitive injury, bleeding on the brain, rupturing kidneys/livers/internal organs, and generally being forced to show up to work in a body cast and admit that you did it because you “fell off your bike.”
Contrary to the common sense that cyclists rarely have, you stand just as much risk in a selfie crash as you do from getting taken out by Mitzy and her Range Rover. Pedal, and you’re fuggin gonna fall. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “any idiot who’s ever seen the inherent instability of a bicycle understands that sooner or later you’re gonna crack your noggin, and crack it hard.”
I like my fear like I like my women: Sweaty and dirty
My big goal at Pacifica ‘Cross was to nail down seventh place. Twenty-five pedal strokes into the race, that dream was crushed like a junior high secret love note picked up by the teacher. I got a terrible start, as usual, and wound up behind Pokey Joe, a fellow who was more tentative and frightened and incompetent than even I. Worse, Pokey was stuck behind Slugsy, a chubby fellow in a kit three sizes too small whose buttcrack was so massive it hung out of the neck of his skinsuit. Slugsy, in turn, was holed up behind Toad, a gentleman who thought we were slow dancing.
In front of this elephant’s parade of losers was the race, and it tore off with the pell-mell insanity of any ‘cross race, leaving the tentative riders and the ‘fraidy cats to ponder what might have been if they weren’t so chicken at the gun. Fortunately, I’d pre-ridden the course and had mastered its sandy turns, its deep sand pit, its mulch corner, and its BMX berms so that I could take them at maximum speed.
Unfortunately, by the middle of Lap One my heart rate was pegged out at 210, I couldn’t see, I’d frozen up in clenched terror, and all of my smooth moves did what smooth moves do when you’re completely fuggin pegged out: They went to shit.
Far away on the course I could see China Dahl charging onward, face full of dirt, to his glorious second place. I could see Garnet Vertigo racing for third, as far up the road Dandy Andy flatted yet again and jogged through four miles of mud and goatheads to reach the pit. I even had the memory of Randy Tinhead and Jay LaFred taking second and first in their respective categories.
None of that helped as I tiptoed through the turns, even getting passed by some wanker on an MTB. Eventually, Chubby Dude and Pokey and Slugsy were overhauled and dropped, but I never got higher up in the field of twenty than tenth place. All along the course I could see people slipping, falling, crashing, bonking their heads, skinning their shins, tumbling over the handlebars, and diving headfirst into the free samples at the BonkBreaker tent.
Safety in bicycling? You kidding me?
Next thing you’ll be telling me about sobriety and abstinence at a ‘cross race held at a rehab center. Because the foamy, deep amber recovery drinks that filled everyone’s water bottle to go along with T-Dub’s barbecued sausage sure as hell didn’t taste like Cytomax to me.
October 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
Tomorrow, when I line up at noon for the ‘cross race in Camarillo, I’ll have my eyes set on seventh place.
Because last week, you know, I got eighth, and the week before, you know, I got ninth. So seventh is doable, within reach. If you figure that David Anderson won’t be there, and F-1 Jim won’t be there, and a couple of others from San Diego won’t be there, and you figure that the usual field of about twenty riders will only be about fifteen, maybe fewer, the math plus my fitness plus my gradually improving results plus the fact that Dandy might slide out in a corner and Randy might show up too drunk on wine to start mean that seventh place is really something I might pull off.
Why not go for the win?
I know what you’re thinking. “Fuck, dude, go for the win! Any wanker can be the sixth loser! Shoot for the moon! Gun for the top step! Nobody remembers second place, and even your wife won’t congratulate you on seventh! Visualize the vee!”
Actually, there are a lot of great reasons why I’m not “going for the win.” First is because winning is not possible, and in principle I refuse to believe in the impossible. So, like, I don’t read horoscopes, or pray to unicorns, or hope that Monsanto is not really trying to poison me to death.
And there you go again, I can hear it already. “Dude! Ya gotta beleeeeve! Winning is an attitude! Refuse to lose! All it takes is all you’ve got! Never let good enough be enough! Winning is a habit! Success is a choice! Reach for the sky or don’t even try! In it to win it!” Etc.
Problem is, this ain’t my first rodeo. Winning may be an attitude, but defeat is a fact. Think about it. When have you actually won? There’s always someone better, and he’s usually in your race. Each time you’ve reached the top step, didn’t you realize that there was another staircase so high above yours that you couldn’t even look up the skirt of the person on the bottom rung?
That’s what I’m talking about. Face reality, even when you’re play-acting bike racer, because reality may be the ugliest drunk gal at the bar, but she’s the only one that’s going home with you.
The problem with winning
I’ve tried explaining this to people who are less experienced than I am, but they rarely get it. Winning bike races is a rare thing, and in order to do it you have to be able to perform under pressure. This takes many forms.
In a road race, it means stabbing yourself in the eyes at the exact point where your internal organs have failed, your legs have swelled up with something called incessant pain, and your genitals feel like they’re being smeared across hot coals with a spatula.
In a crit, it means lunging into spaces at maximum speed while banging bars, balls, and shoulders where the chance of getting through the hole without splatting your spine on the concrete is, over time, zero.
In a time trial, it means pushing yourself to the point of self-inflicted nausea so that the act of spitting up and swallowing your own vomit, repeatedly, is the least horrible of the sensations you will experience during the ride.
In a ‘cross race, it means doing all of the above while jumping over shit, climbing up walls, skidding through dirt and mud, and pounding your joints with the ferocity of a thousand sailors on shore leave.
In each of these disciplines — if foolishness can be called a discipline — it is only after sinking deep into the trough of those “winning moves” that the real pain begins. In other words, winning bike races means burying yourself completely, then boring down to the center of the earth. Or taking a shit-ton of drugs. Or both.
The bigger problem with winning
Once you commit to winning, there is a natural progression. It begins with equipment, then training, then coaching, then nutrition, then drugs. At each stage you have to make a decision, and it’s the same decision. How much of this do I do? And when do I stop?
Committed losers, on the other hand, have no such problems. Aluminum boxed rims are fine. Why? Because I’m gonna lose anyway and I might as well spend the extra money on beer. I don’t have to train so hard this week because I’m gonna lose anyway, and I might as well have the extra energy to, you know, work or hang out with the kids or — with the wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband. Coaching? Who the hell needs someone to tell me what to do on my off time? Isn’t that why I have a job? To get told how to do things I’d rather not be doing?
Same for nutrition … whether it’s a cheeseburger or a colander of boiled kale, I’m still gonna lose, so I might as well go for what tastes good. Drugs? Who can afford that since I’m gonna lose anyway? Might as well spend the money on a new wheel set and save my liver.
Trust me on this. Seventh place, if I get it, will be more than good enough. It won’t be winning, or anywhere close to it. It won’t be a “moral victory” or evidence of my toughness and fortitude. It will be a lousy, douchey, sortaran, almost coulda, seventh fucking place.
And I’ll enjoy it every bit as much as if I’d gotten sixth.
October 16, 2013 § 24 Comments
We were warming up before the ‘cross race at Vail Lake. “Yeah,” I said. “I just told him how I felt.”
“How was that?” asked Dandy.
“I told him that he should tell them to all fuck off.”
“So what if it’s not accounting or business? Who the fuck are they to tell him what to study?”
“I guess so.”
“He was upset. All his friends were either saying ‘I admire you,’ as if he were storming the beach at Guadalcanal in the face of certain death, or ‘You’ll never get a job with that,’ or ‘What a waste of your parents’ money.'”
“I can kind of see their point.”
“Everyone can. But their point isn’t my point.”
“Which is basically, look, if you want to waste my money, the best way to do it is to study some bullshit subject you hate. You think I’m shelling out all this money so you can get a job? I’m not. I’m shelling it out because this is the one time in your life when you can discover what really lights your fire. When you can bend your mind to the greatest thinkers in the history of the world. When you can rub cerebrums with some of the smartest professors anywhere. When you can decide what goes into that malleable, sponge-like brain of yours.”
“What’d he say?”
“Not much. He just doubled down on the philosophy courses and added a German minor to his philosophy major.”
“And you’re good with that?”
“Hell, yes. Philosophy is like marathoning for the mind. And ‘foreign languages are the root of all education,’ according to Cervantes.”
“I had a similar conversation with my daughter, but it took a different tack.”
“She wants to major in English. We told her that she’s got to focus on something that’s going to make her employable. English is a dead end.”
“Every family has to figure it out, and there’s no ‘right’ answer. But weren’t you an English major? And isn’t your Ph.D. in English?”
“Sure. But you know how many English majors ever made it in tech? Like, three.”
“And you’re one of them. Brains and savvy and good people skills and expertise.”
“Yeah, but … “
“You gotta own it, pal.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Dude. My son’s a philosophy major because I was a philosophy major, except I couldn’t do symbolic logic so I switched to history. He’s a German minor because of his name — Hans — and because I studied at the University of Bonn and loved German, even though I suck at it.”
“So he’s followed in my footsteps and has chosen a better path. He is who he is because I made him that way even when I wasn’t trying to. How can I tell him not to be a philosophy major? His grandpa was a philosophy major. I was a philosophy major. It’s like syphilis, right? Passed down from father to son. You gotta own it.”
“Well, my daughter was a pretty whiz-bang English student in high school.”
“Of course she was. She was fucking awesome, and I’ve never even met her.”
“So how do you know, then?”
“Because I know you, and you’re fucking awesome. And you’re not one of those dads who tried to cram his life down his kids’ throats. You just walked. And she grew up watching your back.”
“Pretty funny you should say that. I’ll never forget when she was in high school and we discussed dark romanticism. She so totally got it; instantaneously. The other kids were clueless. Poe and the abnegation of god … she picked it up in a flash. So amazing.”
“Amazing? Hardly. She had an old man who, against his will and better judgment, transmitted that love of the written word and that passion for literature. And now you’re telling her she can’t follow the thing that defines YOU because she might not get a job?”
“She’s so much like me, man … “
“Of course she is. You made her, Dandy. Now you gotta own it. And you know what?”
“There’s a billion dads out there would give anything to have a kid pursue what they pursued. You applied just the right amount of genes and passion, minus the pressure. She flowered into this brilliant young woman who has everything you had, in spades. Own it, buddy. It’s yours.”
Dandy didn’t say anything, but when the gun went off he tore my fucking legs off. I followed him around the course for forty minutes before it became money time, and he rode me off his wheel. When I finished I was covered in filth and mud and sand and dirt and grass and sweat and snot and spit. My lungs felt like they’d been pumped full of toxic sludge.
The next day Dandy sent me a text. “Talked to my daughter last night, and said to her, ‘Do it. You’ve made me proud.'”
I got a lump in my throat, but it was probably from all that sand and muck I had to swallow sitting on his wheel. Yeah, that’s it.
October 7, 2013 § 22 Comments
Boom, there went the whistle and in two hundred yards I’m pegged my heart is ripping at the bottom of my throat and there are twelve guys ahead of me when the paving shifts to hardpack and grass and gopher holes and bumps that rattle your hair follicles so hard they scratch your brain and boom, the first wall with sand and sliding and the back gives way and I’m tangled with the tape and barely keeping the stake from driving into my face with gravity throwing me down the dip and now the leaders have gone and they ain’t coming back and my front wheel is grinding and heaving on the dirt as my back wheel skids and skitters to the tune of what the fuck am I doing here I don’t want to crash I don’t want to get hurt I don’t want to die but fuck that motherfucker two wheels ahead so dig like a welldigger until the searing burn of sand and dust and grit and shit and the hundred-degree steel smelting blast furnace smothering fire has covered you outside and inside and up around the little bend full throttle then brake and tumble off the bike in what’s supposed to be a dismount but is really just a panicked oh fuck leap for glory and don’t shatter my fucking shins on the barriers and then remount with both nuts banged hard on the saddle just as the fool with the camera in the corner catches the total flail that’ll look nice on Facebook fuck you and then full gas through more grit and grass and shit and around another turn and finally a straight where I can put some muscle into it as I hit the corner filled with Arik Jeff Brendan Matt Todd Carey Marilyne Paige Don Will and some asshole spraying cheap beer oh fuck you that’s not cheap beer that’s my top shelf IPA from my cooler you fucktard whoosh! it’s cold though so there’s that and by the end of lap one there’s nothing I’m so ground up and the wheels whine and the bike shakes and the bumps and holes shake and pound and batter and beat and now I’ve picked up two more riders and four laps in my whole body is wrecked and the dryness has sucked the wet out of my guts and eyes and throat and heart and lungs please let three things happen let it be over let me not crash and not let that motherfucker bearing down catch me before the end which is only two laps to go which might as well be a lightyear then boom I cross the line and it takes ten whole yes ten entire minutes before my eyes can even focus again drenched in a nasty sop-bath of sweat and dust and spit from head to toe my legs splayed out in the chair under the tent my hacking chest still heaving and me unsure where or what or why I am with buddies laughing and ribbing and best of all cracking the top off a cold motherfucking beer and thrusting it into my hand as the cold liquid shoots down my throat life is, of course, unquestionably, filled with self-inflicted silliness and agony and oh it is good.
September 30, 2013 § 12 Comments
At the first cyclocross race of the season in downtown LA, my friend Greg Lonergan pulled off an impressive result in his first race despite flatting and losing scads of time trying to find a spare wheel with disc brakes. His wife and kids were there spending a beautiful fall day with the family, cheering him on, proud of him for going all out.
Marilyne Fichant was there with her two kids, and her 8-year-old Cooper won his division. Mom raced, too, and the daughter took pictures, cheered everyone on, and behaved like a perfect little lady.
Carey Downs showed up with a big contingent of Big Orange family. They all raced hard. Brian Perkins, Don Wolfe, Jeff Hazeltine, and a slew of other South Bay family sat around afterwards comparing notes, mechanical failures, excuses, successes, and washing it all down with cold beer and laughs.
When I got to the parking area at 8:00 AM, job one was to haul the heavy tent and equipment up to the top of the hill. Arik Kadosh lent his strong arms, strong back, and good humor, and soon the task was done. Robert Efthimos, also of the Westside family, showed up prepared to heckle all and sundry with insults and cheap beer, then joined us on the hill after the race (he’d snapped a chain) and shared his limitless good humor while we shared our limitless beer. When the day was done, he lugged the heaviest items along with Arik back down to the van.
The SPY family raced together, relaxed together, complained about flat tires together, had a post-race beer together, registered together, and did what family always does. We joked and cussed and planned for better racing the next time around. Randy with his DNF flat, Erik with his DNF flat, me with my DNF flat, Andy with his flat-but-to-hell-with-the-DNF-I’m-finishing, Ryan with the win, David Anderson with a super second, Jim Miller, Bull, F1 Jim and the rest of the team making a great day of it.
I got home and returned a phone call from mom, who had just read “Cycling in the South Bay” and said that it made her feel like she’d just been in a bike race.
My wife served dinner.