July 6, 2013 § 8 Comments
I have been banging the drum here in L.A. for some time now regarding the great bicycle riding opportunities in North County San Diego. This is not because I want to encourage people to get to know others, have fun, and enjoy cycling. It is because I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing my friends and riding buddies suffer obliteration. Although riding in North County won’t make you faster, it will permanently devastate your self-esteem. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”
I joined my first SPY Holiday Ride yesterday. The evening before we had a team celebration at RIDE Cyclery. MMX, Slim Jim, and Brent had stocked the deck with giant coolers filled with fresh growlers of beer from Lost Abbey. None of the growlers had fancy beer names like “Working Stiff” or “Take Five” or “North County Rough Road.” No, they just had percentages of alcohol content written on the caps with a Sharpie.
This was beer for people who were serious about drinking beer. The Lost Abbey figured out how to make the beer, and apparently it was your job to figure out what to call it. The next morning I awoke with a screaming, blinding, pounding, stomach-churning hangover from hell, so in the future I will call their beer Sbpsc Hfh. Add vowels as needed.
It would be easy to blame the next day’s dismal ride performance on the hangover were it not for the fact that I have never done a hard ride in North County that didn’t either kick me out the back or reduce me to a whimpering puddle of drained legs and melted ego.
Why you should do this ride
1. There is no “B” ride. It is uncompromising. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, be kicked out the back, and forced to find your way home alone or in the company of other lost damned souls. How many things do you do in life that are uncompromising? That demand everything of you and guarantee nothing but defeat? (Don’t answer this if you’ve been married for more than five years.) That bring out the best in you even when your best is a pathetic, sniveling NOTHING? So, you should do this ride because it replicates, in the tiniest of ways, your natteringly, immeasurably insignificant place in the universe.
2. You are a chickenshit. Yes, you. You, who hide behind wheels, always take the short route home, sandbag in the easiest categories, or “compete” by “racing” exclusively against Strava and your own “personal records.” Thing is, you don’t have to just be a chickenshit. You can go on this ride and be a smashed chickenshit and earn the contempt of the august men and powerful women on the SPY Holiday Ride who will crush you like an eggshell beneath the wheel of an Antonov An-225.
3. There is order in the court. Unlike the Manhattan Beach Holiday Ride, in which 300 freds and 50 solid riders usurp the roadways of coastal L.A. in a mad, undisciplined dash to Mandeville Canyon, the SPY Holiday Ride is ordered. Yesterday about 175 riders went two-by-two for the first five miles, a sick single file for the next four, and all-hell-breaking-loose at the nine-mile mark when the peloton shattered at the base of the San Diegueno climb.
4. Prizes galore. Yesterday an entire case of The Lost Abbey’s BWR Bad-Ass Ale was awarded to the sado-masochist who spent the most time on the front. Unsurprisingly, the winner was Phil Tinstman. KOM winners got cool SPY sunglasses. OTB-wankers got as many servings of ridicule and contempt as they could swallow.
5. Natural selection. This ride rather quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, and you eventually rode with the category of your true ability. Once the pain train hit Lake Hodges, those who had pulled early, blew early. Those who had sucked wheel in hopes that a miracle would get them up the punishing rollers had to re-evaluate their faith. Those who had saved so they could punish finally “Let the Dogs Out.”
6. Variable terrain. The terrain in North County is different from much of SoCal, and punishing. It doesn’t feature many long climbs, but it continually throws rollers in your path no matter which direction you go. These variations wear you down, break your will to live, and leave you looking for a quaint coffee shop with yummy pastries, or failing that, a Starbucks, or failing that, a house with a garden hose. But there are none.
7. Heatstroke. Once you leave the coast it gets A-fucking hot. The poorly hydrated crack, crumple, and cave. The lucky ones die.
8. Benign indifference. Although close two hundred riders started, only a tiny handful finished with the lead group. The rest were ground beneath the wheel, or, as Hesse would say, “Unterm Rad.” This is of course how the universe views you: With benign indifference. Many people go to Sedona or buy crystals or use Feng Shui to align themselves with the universe’s forces when really all they need to do to discover their true quotient of universal meaninglessness is go get their balls stomped on the SPY Holiday Ride.
9. Free salt for wound-rubbing. Post-ride, one wanker said “We normally ride a bit faster going up to the first climb, but we had a pretty gentle roll over there today.” This was the section where I pulled my fucking brains out, drove the pace like a madman, then cracked and split open at the bottom of the first climb only to learn that it had been a tad on the slow side. Sorry bastard motherfuckers.
10. Lots of awesome Strava KOM’s. The SPY Holiday Ride is a great chance for you to bag some prestigious KOM’s, kind of like “The lottery is a great chance for you to get rich.” Only, the chance for you is zero.
11. Regrouping. The SPY Holiday Ride regroups a couple of times, although neither time is for your benefit. It is to allow the baby seals to rejoin so they can be re-clubbed and re-skinned. And you will be.
12. Race simulation. The pace was very much like a tough road race with a series of difficult sections, each of which caused destruction at the back of the pack. Unlike real road races, however, where you can conveniently categorize yourself according to age and gender, this ride forced you to match matches against monsters like Thurlow, Full Gas Tinstman, MMX and the SPY Train, Brett Clare, and a handful of very strong wheelsuckers who never took a pull but attacked and attacked hard.
13. Fireworks. Although illegal due to the dry conditions and high temperatures, the ride offered constant explosive detonations that occurered when riders like Zink, Hatchitt, David A., Stinger, and Tait lit the fuses of Those Who Shall Not Be Named For Now and watched as they snapped, crackled, fizzled, and popped with a whimper.
14. Del Dios KOM. This bad boy has over 6,500 riders on Strava, but yesterday Full Gas Phil whomped the snot out of the record time and set a blistering new pace of 12:38. You should do this so you can be like me, who gave it everything he had and got 98th place. 98th.
15. The 130-lb. Exemption. After the first pitch the road flattened out and this was where, if you were still there (you weren’t), various hardmen went to the front. Then some dude hit the jets, even though he had never taken one pull the whole day. His reasoning? “I don’t have to pull, dude, I’m only only 130 pounds.” So take notice: Anyone 130-lbs. or less need not bring along so much as a shred of self-respect.
16. Watch Brett sprint. On the return there was a sprint into Rancho Santa Fe. Those hoping to pass Brett, Full Gas, Thurlow, MMX, Josh, etc. brought mopeds.
17. Pity the fools. The 3 Witches ascent had the next sprint at the top, featuring three risers that topped out with a nasty sprint. For the first two witches, a couple of wankers from SDBC set tempo with Thurlow, Full Gas, and MMX sitting behind. For the third and final witch, Thurlow pulled and dropped the fools, with Full Gas Phil taking the sprint, MMX next and followed by Thurlow. Everyone else was shelled here. You were, too. Oh, wait, no you weren’t — you were shelled like an hour ago.
18. Visionary delusions. After a few more merciless beatdowns, sprunt points, and complete draining of all bodily adeonsine triphosphate, the handful of remaining riders “remarked what a great ride it had been.” Uh, sure. Whatever. Bunch of fucking liars.
19. Horrific inland heat. The weather got hotter as the ride went inland. The heat sucked the life out of the weak, the lame, and the too-many-Lost-Abbey-brews-the-night-before. I staggered into a convenience store in Del Mar and doused my head in water, then lay on the cool pavement and hoped for a gurney or for someone to run over me. No one did.
20. Making great friends. After Zink flatted I was miserably stuck on his wheel for 30 miles while he “repaid” my assistance with the tire change by dragging me up hill, down dale, periodically dropping me, sitting up and waiting, towing me for a while, dropping me again, and generally making my life a living hell while trying to help me out. Note to self: Don’t ever stop to help Zink change a flat.
– 60 miles with 3800 feet of climbing
– 4 sprint waypoints, and the KOM at Del Dios
– Held every national holiday. Next one will be on Labor day.
– Ride size: 100-200, depending on weather and time of year
November 23, 2012 § 10 Comments
Iron Mike and I knew it was going to be bad, and not just because we made our first pre-ride pee stop at the elegant planter and walkway entrance in front of the Police Department.
“Can we piss here?” I asked, incredulously.
“Sure. Do it all the time.”
“What about the cops?”
“You see any cops?”
“I see a big entrance to the police department that we’re standing in front of.”
“I asked if you see any cops,” he said, casually uncoiling the hose and helping spruce up the vegetation.
I had to admit I didn’t see any, so I followed suit.
We’d gotten to the start of the Holiday Ride early. It was chilly but the sun had already burned off the mist. It was going to be a perfect day. Every idiot in the South Bay with a bike would be there. Rather than start with the foaming crowd we kept pedaling. After about ten minutes they caught us on Vista del Mar. Rather, they rolled over us like a tsunami.
Did you say THREE HUNDRED?
Remember, this is an unorganized, unsponsored, casual ride that has been happening for years on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, July the Fourth, and Labor Day. But whatever the critical mass was, it somehow got reached. Well over three hundred turkeys strutted out of the woodwork to test their legs in the race up Mandeville Canyon.
And a test it would be. Stathis Sakellariadis, Tony Manzella, Rahsaan Bahati, Diego Binatena, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Cory Williams, Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, and a slew of Helen’s strongmen were all there spoiling for a fight.
Which was fine and as it should be.
What was not fine, and what was not as it should have been, was the outright war for position that began the moment the swollen cancer left Manhattan Beach. Going down Mt. Chevron, some idiots braked for the reflector dots and took their feet out of the clips. The idiots following too closely and watching something other than what was in front hit and went down.
No one cared, apparently because this was a race to the death.
I’m not easily frightened
Well, actually, I am. I’m a cowardly, fearful, trembling wussmaster when it comes to crashing, pain, danger, or getting hurt. And the second we were overtaken by the cancer, my terror level went through the roof.
People who don’t race, who have never raced, who have no intention of racing, and who wouldn’t know how to pin a number on a mannequin were fighting for position like pros approaching the Tranche d’Fuckenberg. Tiny little space between two bikes? The Turkey Pros shot through.
Both lanes filled, curb to center lane? A Turkey Pro would jump the yellow dots, sprint into oncoming traffic, advance ten positions, and dive back in.
Can’t move up by riding in the wrong lane? Watch the Turkey Pros hop the right-hand curb and race up the sidewalk. That nice lady pushing a pram with twins will understand later how important it was for them to be properly positioned, even though she’s drizzling terror pee now.
Only a couple of people figured out the solution, one being Miles Irish. Miles bulled to the very front and kept the gas on all the way to San Vicente while Turkey Pros crashed and burned behind him. Downside? The plumes of smoke coming out of his ears once the road tilted up. Upside? He never planned on winning on Mandeville anyway.
Towards the front, but never on it
The main ploy behind the Turkey Pros was to hop, squeeze, slide, and push their way towards the front, but to never actually get into the wind. It’s a clever tactic worthy of a protected Euro pro in a big race…but it’s a wanker move par excellence for the Holiday Ride.
When we hit the left turn on San Vicente, Hair looked over. “Why the serious face?” he laughed. Dude fucking always laughs, is fearless.
“I’m trying not to crash.”
Hair laughed. “Better spend that energy trying to hang on.”
And he had a point, because when we hit Mandeville Canyon, Josh Alverson opened up the throttle. Tree Perkins followed, with me glued to Tree’s wheel. I held the speed for thirty seconds or so, then swung over. Done.
As the wankoton blew by, I counted. For ten solid minutes riders passed me. I stopped counting at 298, and there were dozens who’d never even turned up Mandeville as well as dozens who had u-turned and gone back before passing me.
Meanwhile, back at the Center of the Known Universe
Long before I reached the summit a cadre of South Bay wankers including Joe, Gus, Marc, and Doug came blasting by. They had made the sensible choice not to wait for the endless stream struggling up the hill, and to ride back in a smaller, safer group.
For some reason, however, the closer they got to CotKU, the more ridiculous things got. Dudes who hadn’t been in the same zip code for Mandeville honors were now gunning it, devil-take-the-hindmost, to be first in line for coffee.
The only thing that got in the way of their fun was a Cadillac Escalade, and although they hit it full tilt, the 4,000-pound vehicle amazingly didn’t crumple from the impact of the flesh-and-bone-wrapped-around-some-plastic-tubes.
It did lose a tail light, whereas Carey D.’s entire frame broke. Doug busted a brake, and Marc got an ouchy on his saddle bag.
Back at CotKU they compared notes, trying to understand why their forceful bodies hadn’t been able to easily thrust aside the Escalade. No one could figure it out until King Harold, who happens to be an engineer, explained it to them.
“Mass times velocity,” he began, as the wankers’ eyes glazed over at the word “mass.”
Then he re-started. “Look here, dorks.” Everyone looked at his foot, where a doodlebug was trundling by. He lifted his foot and lowered it quickly on the hapless bug.
“You, dorks, are the bug. The Escalade is the foot. Get it?”
A light went on in the formerly befuddled and confused faces of the crash victims. “You mean…?” said one.
“That if it’s a witch…” said another.
“And it’s heavier than a duck…” said a third.
“Then we burn it?” said a fourth, as the other three nodded vigorously.
King Harold shook his head. “No, no, no,” he said. “I mean that this Holiday Ride thing we just did…”
“Yes?” they asked in a chorus.
“It’s perfect for you. Just perfect. See you on Christmas Day.”
September 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
Holiday: [From the New Intergalactic Panlinguistic Dictionary] n. “A period in which a break is taken from work for rest. Many holidays of the world tend to occur at the approximate dates of more ancient, pagan festivals.”
In the South Bay, the Holiday Ride occurs every Monday on which there is at least a 3-day weekend commemorating a national holiday. Unlike other “holiday” events, which in America generally focus on beer or working overtime at the office, the Holiday Ride, far from being a break from work, is a celebration of suffering, akin to having nails driven into your eyes, or beating your knuckles over and over with a hammer. It coincides with the ancient pagan festival of Huitzilopochtili, in which a living human heart was ripped from the ribcage of a sacrificial victim and offered to the Aztec god.
You Actually Get to Keep Your Heart. Sort of.
The Holiday Ride always begins at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and leaves from the center of the known universe in Manhattan Beach. In decent weather, such as we had today, it easily draws 150+ deluded idiots and an even smaller handful of the truly crazy. Blocking traffic and often spilling out into the opposing lane, it lazily rolls through Santa Monica and makes a right turn onto San Vicente, where infuriated motorists have alerted the Santa Monica police, who in turn lay in wait, praying that someone is foolhardy enough to run a yellow light.
This morning we moved up onto San Vicente in a giant clump, and after a few seconds the sound of a squad car’s PA spewed out over the whirr of chains, cogs, and echoing carbon rims. “Single file,” an idiot bellowed, unaware that one of the men in the group was Rahsaan Bahati, the undisputed King of the Peloton.
“Single file?” Rahsaan mused. “We can do that.” In a matter of seconds the clump turned into a single file of idiots, wankers, pretenders, dreamers, schemers, wannabes, couldabeens, shouldadones, and gonnatries. Thirty seconds into Bahati’s effort, the scab-like, globular accretion of cyclists became a tight wire line stretched to the breaking point before, of course, it broke. Egos shattered with the force of eggs on marble, dreams came crashing down onto the rusty and pointed nails of reality, and tales of Holiday Heroism, carefully rehearsed for the wife and kids, became labored, grunting, panting wheezes as each drowning rat lunged for the life-saving slipstream of whatever wheel lay immediately ahead. We hit the red light at 26th Street with five guys. The remainder of the group caught up and exhaled a collective heave, reminding everyone that the climb hadn’t even started, and that it was going to be a hard, nasty, unpleasant, ratfucking business.
“Game On.” Make that “Game Over.”
We queued at the light before Mandeville Canyon Drive, the tired and nervous group waiting for the execution. The light turned green and Noel slapped the snot out of the peloton with a hard jump. Those who were still hoping for a gradual windup were sorely disappointed, as he drilled the first mile full bore before blowing up in a shower of sparks.
Rahsaan’s subsequent acceleration at the front after he pulled off unleashed the mother of all wind-ups. More than a hundred hopeless souls were instantaneously consigned to the hellfire and damnation of an 800-watt acceleration that scorched the lungs and incinerated the spirits of all but the hardiest.
The hardiest, of course, included Devon, King Harold, DS Jaeger, Stathis the Greek, and Doug P. I brought up the rear of the group, making sure that bits of puke, lung, and blood were deposited in the appropriate places. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to sit on the wheel of a national champion or of a guy who’s won the Athens Twilight Criterium along with a slew of other major pro domestic races, all I can tell you is that I don’t really know. There’s a feeling of helplessness and pain, of defeat mixed with gagging, suffocating, despair, and of course the sensation that every elephant in India has decided to step on your legs at once…other than that…
He’s the Teacher, and You Just Got Schooled
Rahsaan towed the struggling line of hackers for most of the climb, swung off, and watched as a small group detached itself and rolled up the road. Doug P. then sat up and waved me ahead as his deuterium isotope fused with his tritium isotope, setting off one of the more memorable blow-ups I’ve yet to witness on Mandeville. Unhappily, as I sprinted through the fallout to catch Rahsaan’s wheel, the fallout from Doug’s blast contaminated my drinking water and set off a chain reaction in which my lactate ions fused with my crack-and-whimper ions, leaving me adrift between the break and the wanker brigade. Just as it appeared things couldn’t possibly get worse, Rahsaan sat up, finally spent from his superhuman effort. The break was in sight, now comprised of King Harold, Devon, and DS Jaeger. But they were gone.
It Ain’t Over ‘Til it’s Over. And it was Over.
As we hit the final 300m wall that concludes the canyon climb, I was tucked on Rahsaan’s wheel. The three leaders were wobbling and weaving with a massive gap on the chase. The Man jumped out of the saddle, and despite having towed the entire group up the entire climb, rocketed up, caught and dropped the leaders, and reached the gate first. South Bay Tom, Jay the River, and Doug P. blew by me and even took time to kick sand in my face.
On the way back we stopped at the off-center of the known universe, Peet’s Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. Shreds of self-respect were carefully scraped together as we all sat in a circle around Rahsaan, hoping that some of his greatness would rub off on us, but knowing deep down that it wouldn’t.
But that’s okay. There’s always another holiday.