March 7, 2014 § 29 Comments
Wankmeister’s ass hurt, the kind of butthurt that felt like his saddle had been forcefully wedged somewhere between L1 and T9 for an hour or so. Even though he was curled up in bed, coughing chunks of dark green phlegm, his legs still ached the deep ache of “you are too old and weak to exert yourself in this fashion and expect anything other than collapse.” The roots of his teeth hurt, always a bad sign. Most worrisome, his headache had sunk down below his brain and had morphed into a deep throbbing at the back of his eyeballs.
Wanky wondered if he’d ever had sore eyeballs before from a bike ride. He hadn’t.
Don’t roll NPR when you’re droopypants
The morning had begun with the most ill of omens, an incredulous interrogation by Mrs. WM. “You not goin onna NPR?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“You crazy? You been droopy alla week with cold and coughin and fluin and spittin onna washbasin and onna toilet seat. Why you goin onna ride so soon after bein droopypants?”
“I’m better now. I need to ride.”
“You ain’t better now you still all sick and still coughin because you woke me up alla night spittin, you was spittin an chokin like a cat spittin four hairballs outta his butt.”
“That would be shitting, then, not spitting.”
“You was doin that too and you wasn’t turnin on the high fan because it stinked up alla hallway and even inna kitchen.”
“Honey, I’ve been off the bike for a week. I’m losing fitness.”
“What you’re losin, you’re losin onna your mind. An you’re gonna come back home even bigger droopypants you watch, an askin onna “hot tea” this anna “leg rubbin'” that but I ain’t doin it.”
Etymology of the South Bay seal hunt
Few know that the concept of baby seal clubbing on the New Pier Ride was invented by Bull Seivert, also known as “KitchenAid” for his thrashing, mashing, mixing, heaving, whaling, pig-fucking-a-greased-football pedaling style that, when observed up close, makes you wonder whether the bike wouldn’t go faster if he flipped over on his back and rowed the thing in the air with his giant hams. Bull is known far and wide for his fearless, senseless, single-minded charges to the front, charges so filled with fury and strength that he typically explodes halfway through the ride like a giant blood sausage overstuffed with snot, sweat, and sputum.
However, by the time that KitchenAid rolls over like a great, bleeding, wheezing harpooned whale, the hangers-on, suckers-of-wheels, waiters-for-the-sprunt, and all other manner of lower life forms have been beaten into a lumpy pulp of quivering flesh and bone. It was after one particularly memorable thrashing that Bull compared the pack fodder to a raft of baby harp seals, innocent, bleating, helpless, chubby, doe-eyed and defenseless in the face of the murderous, blood covered drunks swinging their hooked clubs, matted as they were with the blood, gore, and fleshy pieces of their victims.
The baby seal analogy stuck, and the truism of the analogy was such that entire contingents of NPR riders began referring to themselves as “baby seals.” Like their namesakes, they relived the brutal clubbing of their furry friends each and every Tuesday. Only a few of the most daring pinnipeds, creatures with names like Sausage and Poopsie, ever raised their flippers in victory at the NPR. The passion play remained forever writ in stone: The giants clubbed and the baby seals rolled over in a bloody trough of shame, pain, and defeat.
Carrying the hunter’s club to the seal’s own demise
Winter before last, on a cold and rainy morning that had less than twenty riders on the NPR, Wanky had stopped at the alleyway exit to take off his rain jacket. The pack kept going but one baby seal stopped. It was a weak and barely developed juvenile seal, Phoque de Paris, who was in his second season of riding. Phoque accepted his place in the clubbing hierarchy so completely that he had purchased a baby stuffed seal and strapped it beneath his saddle, just in case there were ever any doubt. There wasn’t.
Wanky fumbled with his jacket, got it stuffed in his jersey, and the pair, hunter and prey, set off in chase of the peloton. Wankmeister wasn’t feeling great, and his less-than-great sensations were enhanced by Phoque’s madman time-trial mode along Vista del Mar, battering into a nasty, miserably cold crosswind. “What the Phoque?” he wondered at this sudden display of speed and power by a heretofore undistinguished baby seal.
Phoque never swung over, and barreled for several miles until the pack was in sight. With one huge final effort he got to within a couple of hundred yards. By now Wankmeister was quite warmed up and he noted Phoque’s shoulders as they swayed and sagged, his head beginning to evince the tell-tale “cranial droop” of a tired rider. Thankful and profoundly appreciative for Phoque’s selfless effort, Wanky took out his club, inspected the shiny, sparkling, unblooded tip, and jumped as hard as he could around Phoque to close the gap. Unable to follow the sudden burst, the hapless baby seal, after doing all that hard word for a friend, found himself alone, shelled, and hopelessly dropped as the pack rode away.
Wankmeister wiped off his club and went on to a glorious NPR victory that day, which he dedicated to “that little phoquer who waited for me.”
When the club swings full circle
Now, many moons later, Wanky reached the Center of the Known Universe and greeted his fellow riders. The chief talk that morning was whether or not the angry psychotic homeless person would be waiting to ambush them in the alley, and what the best response would be if he challenged the group again with his fists. Most agreed that the bragging rights attached to 60 healthy grown athletic men beating the snot out of an insane poor person were minimal, and although a certain “fun” quotient was mentioned by one or two, the consensus was to take evasive action if he appeared.
Wankmeister’s cold/flu/bronchial infection/ovarian cyst reminded him how bad he felt, how right his wife had been, and how he should have stayed in bed. When the group turned onto Vista del Mar, he realized that in his current condition the only sane thing to do would be, of course, to attack. So he did.
Unbeknownst to our hero, however, there is a sacred rule espoused by those who are famed for never attacking anywhere, ever: “Thou shalt not attack on Vista del Mar.” In retrospect, when he was curled up in bed, Wanky wished that he had known about the rule if only so that he could have enjoyed breaking it. By the time he passed Imperial, a nascent break had formed including Bull, Phoque, Lamchops, Brewmaster, and Ronan the Mini-Barbarian. The first time that Phoque pulled through, Wankmeister noticed something that surprised him. Beneath Phoque’s saddle there no longer dangled a stuffed baby seal.
After a few rotations Lamchop had been seasoned, fried in the pan, and served up with a sprig of parsley. Mini-Barbarian decided to go back to the pack and get civilized. Brewmaster’s yeast infection had gummed up his pedalworks, and there were soon only three riders left. After one rotation KitchenAid began to suck and heave, and each time Phoque swung over for Wanky to pull through, he couldn’t. “Hey, fucker!” yelled Wanky. “I can’t pull through if you don’t slow down!” Shrugging, Phoque kept the gas on.
Dragging the corpse
They raced up the small hill on Pershing, with Bull still hanging on for dear life, unable to take a pull. In his pain-besotted misery, Wankmeister cursed his friend and teammate. “Pull through you sorry fucker, I don’t care how much you’re hurting,” he muttered to himself between mighty exhalations of snot that were immediately absorbed by his dripping mustache, then drooled into his mouth or into his beard.
By the time they hit the Parkway, KitchenAid’s beaters had been reattached and he started to pull through. The peloton was a distant memory as Poopsie, Sausage, Hallpass, and Finnhead bitterly complained and gnashed their teeth about the early attack while they had been discussing gear-inches, motorcycle protective clothing, and drag coefficients. They angrily made plans to impugn the integrity of the breakaways, people who had none, on Facebook. “Just remember,” Finnhead said to Poopsie, “it’s easier to complain about a breakaway on FB than it is to chase it down in real life.” Then they all went to the back and Instagrammed each other’s kits.
The three-man breakaway, however, was completely unconcerned with Finnhead’s gnashing teeth or with the long, detailed complaint that Sausage and Poopsie would draft and mail to the New Pier Ride Advisory Board and its director, “Toofs” Prettytree, one of the staunchest advocates for fair, honest, riding on the NPR and dental work and wheelsucking. The breakaway was concerned with something much more important: Not becoming a one-man breakaway, as Phoque was drilling and grilling like an insane combination of dentist-turned-Texas-BBQ-chef.
Phoque kept the torrid pace up for minutes at a time, pausing only to catch his breath while Wanky leaked tears and prostate juice all over his bike and while KitchenAid kept staring mindlessly at his Garmin, hoping that it would say something other than YOU ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED NOW. It didn’t, but deep in the throes of cranial droop KitchenAid slammed into Phoque’s rear wheel, creating a nice brown stain in Wanky’s shorts that would take several hours of hard scrubbing to remove. “Keep your fucking head up and quit looking at your fucking computer!” Wanky roared, but it wasn’t a roar, it was more of a whimper, as Phoque was driving the pace into the wind again and the two cabooses needed every bit of oxygen to pedal.
Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud. Swing. Thud.
If you’ve ever been in a break on the NPR with four laps to go, you know the meaning of hell. 99 times out of 100, you’re going to get caught and when you do, you will be wrecked. However, Phoque didn’t appear to care, and he swung his club at Wanky and Bull with abandon. The blood flowed.
“So,” squealed Bull. “This is how it feels.”
“Ouchies,” whined Wankmeister. “My prostate juice is sopping my shorts.”
“Oh, did that hurt?” Phoque asked solicitously. “Let me give you another one.” And he’d pound away. Occasionally the chasing peloton would come into view, with Sausage and Finnhead and Toofs seated comfortably at the back, adding new points and sub-points to their detailed legal polemic that would be posted after the ride. Poopsie tried to drive the pace, but as an inveterate baby seal his efforts were for naught, and anyway, while the chasers got hung up at the occasional red light Phoque & Co. had full advantage of the NPR’s Three Breakaway Rules, which are as follows:
- Never stop.
- Do not stop.
- Stopping is prohibited.
Finnhead and Toofs made note of this and added it to the long list of infractions being compiled, to wit: “Faux breakaway cheaters and early attackers in neutral zone furthermore didn’t stop but we had to stop at all the lights so there.”
“Be sure to add that we almost caught them anyway,” said Finnhead, comfortably sitting in the very back as the break continued to put huge amounts of time on the pack.
It pays to have friends in high places
Even with their gargantuan lead, the breakaway would have succumbed had Wankmeister’s SPY teammates not sat at the back of the peloton and refused to assist with Poopsie’s doomed chase. Before long even Poopsie, he of the detailed report to be submitted to the Rules Committee, threw in the towel. Finnhead, realizing that his usual zero probability of winning had been reduced to negative numbers, focused instead on the 38 mph max speed that he would reach by sitting on others’ wheels, and chalked it up as a win. Sausage planned to purchase the Parkway in his next M&A acquisition and jail all future rule breakers.
As they sped up towards the bridge on the finishing lap, Phoque finally swung over. He was starting to look winded and well-tenderized for a late attack, the kind that would be quick and hard enough for him not to respond to, and the kind that would leave him gasping for air as Wankmeister claimed another glorious victory. It would be a nice “don’t forget your elders” touch to pay Phoque back for the relentless clubbing he’d administered the entire morning.
“Hey, man,” Wanky said as he passed.
“You ever won the NPR?”
Phoque shook his head. “No.”
“Well, wanker, you will today.”
And he did.
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November 22, 2013 § 9 Comments
It was 2:30 AM on the morning of the mythical running of the baby seals. The rain was lashing the roof as a chill wind blustered and blew. I lay in bed, knowing what awaited.
When my alarm went off at five, a text message from Bull popped up. “Wetsy Betsy,” it said. “I’m sleeping in.” This was in contrast to the bravado of last night’s email exchange, in which he had exhorted Skeletor to join him for a “warm-up” climb prior to the ritual running and clubbing of the baby seals.
I rolled down the hill and reached the Center of the Known Universe thoroughly wet. The first selection occurred at 6:40, as only a small group of riders had shown up. When we hit the bottom of Pershing, Skeletor broke apart the small group of about twenty, most of whom would never recover from this initial vicious clubbing. At the top of Pershing, where the Lazybones & Neverpulls typically wait to hop in with the fast-moving group, further avoiding any chance of having to do any work, we were surprised to see no one there.
The combination of rain, mud, filth, chill, and the two beasts of prey from North County had shriveled the already smallish dicks of the usual pack fodder, and they had rightly concluded that the proper place for them was, like Bull, snuggled up at home with their Teddy Bear.
Nasty beginning, nasty ending
Every time prior to leaving North County at 4:00 AM to collect a brace of seal pelts, Stefanovich had been bravely told by various would-be San Diego clubbers, “I want to go down there with you to see what that NPR is all about.”
But come four o’clock on Thursday morning, as usual, the only thing in the passenger seat was Stefanovich’s helmet and shoes.
The blows were swift and the carnage was immediate. The final selection consisted of Hair, Sausage, Skeletor, Fireman, Stefanovich, Boozy, and me, with Hair claiming muddy victory after a one-mile lead out by Skeletor. Video of the silliness is posted here.
Junkyard found himself spit mercilessly out the back, his legs throbbing and his his lungs rasping, cursing like a crazy homeless person as he pointlessly screamed for a light to change. In sum, this was no spiffy little Rapha, suit and tie ride for gentlemen, it was a filthy, ugly shit-covered club-fest where the only tie was a noose.
Toronto, who was clubbed and tossed almost immediately, later shook his bedraggled, scum-covered head at the coffee shop. “I thought that maybe because of the rain, you know, it would be easy.”
What started out as a clump of seal ground beef collected more maimed baby pinnipeds, each one vainly trying to swim its way back up to the disappearing break of blood-stained clubbers. As Junkyard later explained in the coffee shop, body dripping with grime and face aglow with the happiness of having gotten his dick stomped and head staved in, “We were like a clump of defective sperm swimming, hopelessly, for the fast-retreating egg.”
Movember chimed in. “Yeah, some had a tail that was too short, others a tail that was too weak to paddle, whereas others had no tails at all and were just floundering in the sperm-goo, never to reach the egg.”
“It was Darwinian,” agreed Skeletor in the coffee shop, his fangs dripping gore and the head of his club matted with the bone, gristle, tendon, and brain spatter of the hapless seals. “If you believe in that evolution stuff.”
Junkyard nodded. “It was Darwinian, but there was an element of religion in it, believe me. I was seeing the face of Dog on Toronto’s ass.”
Movember shook his head. “We were like a bunch of metal shavings on a weak magnet, some would stand up and tip over, others would hang on, others would fall off … reminded me of an 8th Grade science experiment gone bad.”
Junkyard thought for a moment. “Yeah, it was kind of like a failed science experiment, like where they try to attach a cat’s head to an elephant. Or, I suppose it might have also looked like an Aztec temple, with all those heads rolling down, and everything covered in blood and body parts, and people wailing and gnashing their teeth and shitting their shorts.”
Toronto rued this miserable day, on which he’d opened up more gaps than a broken down picket fence. “I must have swallowed three pounds of grit,” he said, spitting out a four-pound blob grime. “I think I chewed so much of that stuff it’s gotten underneath my fillings.”
“Sand is good for your gizzard,” Junkyard opined. “Helps you digest food, just like a chicken.”
“Then my gizzard is full to busting,” chimed in Erik the Red, who was sitting in a pool of his own sweat, dirty water, and mud. Everyone looked at the gooey seat and thought the same thing: “Hope the next customer isn’t wearing white pants.”
“All I can say,” said Junkyard, “is that was some Class A sphincter snapping.”
Because it was.
November 15, 2013 § 45 Comments
One of the basic rules of engagement is “Know your enemy.”
The asshat who has been regularly buzzing our New Pier Ride group on Tuesdays and Thursdays assumed that we were just a bunch of defenseless schmos. He assumed wrongly, at least about the “defenseless” part.
Once our New Pier Ride page on FB lit up with the video of his dangerous antics and the history of his harassing behavior, a few things happened. One of those things was that folks within the peloton made certain calls to certain people. Another of those things was this: At least one NPR rider who occasionally shows up is, shall we say, very highly placed, very anonymous … and very much the worst possible person you could want to fuck with.
The combination of phone calls to the police complaining of asshat, and of engaging Worst Possible Person You Could Want To Fuck With resulted in this on today’s edition of the NPR: Cops on motorcycles. Cops in unmarked cars. Cops hidden behind the bushes running radar.
Cops who knew exactly what they were looking for.
When asshat got ready to do his morning troll, he got a very nasty surprise. Before he could even get started, he’d been identified and pulled over. I don’t know exactly what the message was, but it went something like this: “We’re watching you and we know who you are. You’d better drive more carefully.”
Strange to say, but today we didn’t get buzzed.
Now, I’m not a betting man, but here’s a wager I’ll make. Asshat’s buzzing days are over.
October 23, 2013 § 71 Comments
So, yesterday morning I wrote about the dangers of cycling, and a few hours after posting I went out and joined up with the NPR for our twice-weekly beatdown. With a thousand yards to go, a wanker who had sucked wheel and flailed for the entire ride dashed up to the front, grabbed the wheel of the leadout train, touched a wheel, slid out, and knocked down ten other riders.
My head hit the asphalt at 37.4 mph, according to Strava, leaving my helmet structurally disintegrated, but firmly attached to my head. Aside from skinned knuckles, a touch of road rash, a very sore hip, and a blinding headache, I was good enough to saddle up and ride back to CotKU, where Em and Jake bought me a latte. From there I pedaled in to work.
Others were less fortunate. Shattered frames were everywhere. Shredded uniforms. Road rash galore. Stitched up knees. Broken collarbone. Broken wrist. Trashed wheels. I still can’t believe that no one was catastrophically injured. “What,” I wondered, “was it all for? What in the world were we doing?”
Foremost, we were dressing up in clown suits, riding clown bicycles, and trying to go as fast as we could without crashing. We failed. The queue of motorists could have only thought one thing: “What a bunch of fucking idiots.”
So, there’s the inevitable post-mortem. Choose the one(s) you like best.
1. The Dominic Felde Theory: Everyone who hasn’t raced in Belgium and had 30 years experience racing at the highest levels is a fucking kook. Kick them out of the ride or avoid them by doing your own ride or scream at them until they slink away.
2. The Rahsaah Bahati Theory: This was a teachable moment. We should be patient educators with people who dash up to the end of the lead-out train at the end of the ride and then take out ten people and cause $25,000 in damage because they overlapped a wheel.
3. The Seth Davidson Theory: Bicycling is dangerous. You will eventually fall and get hurt. No exceptions.
4. The Pablo Maida Theory: After a huge crash like that, the one thing we’ve learned is that it’s important to finish the pedal home by strapping your helmet onto your handlebars and ride with the wind in your hair, carefree.
5. The Joe Yule Theory: I have catastrophic crashes all the time, and it’s because of those damned kooks.
6. The Pokey-Kneed Dude’s Theory: Did I do something wrong?
7. The Chris Gregory Theory: What in the world was I doing up there?
8. The David Jaeger Theory: When you are in a group ride winding up to a sprint and you neither know nor trust most of the riders around you, swing over, head to the back, and let someone else take the glory or the road rash, as the case may be.
9. The Peyton Cooke Theory: Make sure you’re going fast enough so that the crash happens behind you.
10. The Eric Anderson Theory: I won. Again.
11. The Marc Spivey Theory: Never go anywhere without your camera and the ability to quickly upload to Facebook.
12. The Damian Stevens Theory: Find the escape chute and let the other wankers hit the deck.
13. The Suze Sonye Theory: Next time I see someone riding like a jackass, I’m chewing his ass. Oh, wait, I already did!
14. The Elijah Shabazz Theory: I was the fastest dude there, except for the dudes ahead of me.
15. The FB Commenters’ Theory: What the fugg were you wankers doing going that hard in October?
16. The Baby Seals’ Theory: Is the ride still on for Thursday?
As a participant to the crash, the only one of the above theories that I can discuss with any intelligence is #16. And the answer is “Yes.”
October 9, 2013 § 32 Comments
Several baby seals, confused by the vicious clubbing and strewing of brain matter about the Parkway, have sent me emails requesting to know the “rules” by which the NPR is organized. Although the typical answer to such inquiries is a vicious blow to the head and skinning, I’ve decided to answer. Here they are.
- There are no rules.
- There is no off season.
- If you didn’t go to the front repeatedly until you aspirated your own shit, you didn’t do the NPR.
- First wanker to cross the plane of the starting point of the third island on the fourth lap wins.
- The group must obey all traffic laws.
- The break must break all traffic laws.
- If you are repeatedly towards the front but rarely on it, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you are towards the front and don’t pull through, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you won the sprunt and didn’t take at least five shit-aspirating pulls, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- Do not let your head droop, lest you become a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- NPR is terrible training, therefore you must do it to win or to aspirate your own shit.
- One point for the win; most points by the annual South Bay Cycling Awards is crowned Champion of the NPR.
- The noblest NPR win is solo.
- The second noblest win is out of a break.
- The third noblest win is by beating another team’s leadout train.
- The most ignoble win is by following wheels.
- All wins are equal.
- On the NPR, Strava is for shit.
- Better to dig, blow, and get shelled than to follow and finish with the group.
- Everyone knows the wheelsucks.
- One all-out effort at the front equals an entire year of FB wheelsuckery.
- The nastier the weather, the greater the cred.
- The highest form of NPR-ism is pushing the weak when you’re gassed.
- Advice is better spoken than screamed with flecks of spit and snot dribbling around your mouth.
- No one forgets.
- NPR-ists always forgive.
- Thou shalt never brag about taking a pull. Those who matter saw it. Those who didn’t, think you’re a lying sack of shit.
- The only thing lower than a baby seal is a shrimpdick who chops a chick’s wheel.
- If you “join the group” after the bump up Pershing, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you reach World Way Ramp without having aspirated your own shit, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- When in doubt, go to the front.
That is all.
August 24, 2013 § 28 Comments
When you bike, you meet people you otherwise would never meet. It’s enriching.
Hoofixerman appeared on the South Bay scene a year or so ago, riding an ancient “state of the art” aluminum frame with first generation handlebar shifters. He’s one of those dudes who used to ride a lot and then got married and had kids and gave birth to a mortgage and spent his spare time on his first love, some Italian chick named Ducati.
Then the kids got older, the mortgage shrank a bit, and the Italian chick started hinting that she was really into more kinky, dangerous stuff, and Hoofixerman gravitated back to the bicycle. It’s an old story: Formerly fit dude gets back into cycling and after a bit he picks up where he left off, kicking ass and taking names.
Cycling being cycling, and the arms race being the arms race, after a year or so he made a stealth upgrade, and one day Hoofixerman appeared on the New Pier Ride pedaling an all-black, all-carbon Giant TCR with deep dish wheels. A month or so into the new bike and he was sticking his nose out into the wind, testing his legs with a few attacks, seeing how far off the leash he could go on those 52-year-old pegs with a swarm of hungry, pounding punks hot on his heels. Answer: Not very far.
The bike wants to live, too
One day Hoofixerman, who’s a blacksmith and shoes the horses of the rich and famous for a living, joined me for a trip up to north L.A. for a bike ride. Being old and afraid of death our conversation turned, of course, to the dangers of cycling. We talked about that ridiculous old notion of “calculated risk,” a comforting nostrum invented by people aware of the deadly potency of the bike + car traffic combination who want to stay immersed in the toxic stew but also have a clever explanation for why it “makes sense.”
Hoofixerman talked about motorcycles and about unlearning common sense when you’re moving fast on a motorbike, about unlearning the instinct to hit the brakes in a turn, about unlearning the fear reflex, and most of all about letting the physics of the two twirling gyroscopes do their thing — knowing when to inject yourself into the dance, and when not to interfere.
“Ya gotta remember,” he said, so casually that it was an iron fact, “the bike wants to live, too.”
My mind exploded with the concept. The bike is a living thing and it wants to make the turn just as badly as you do. It’s got the full panoply of physics at its disposal, and all you have to do is ride it and guide it without asking the iron horse to buck the laws of physics.
It may be an iron horse, but it’s still a horse, and the horse wants to live, too.
There was an elegance in Hoofixerman’s idea that made me happy every time I thought about it, turned it over, examined it. From every angle, it was pretty and smart and sound.
Last Tuesday we hit the last stoplight on the last lap of the NPR before the turnaround. After the turnaround there are approximately three minutes and twenty seconds of hell that finish in a sprint.
Hoofixerman hit the gas when the light turned green, and the hundred-strong pack watched him roll away.
“He’s too old.”
“He’ll never make it.”
“Who’s he kidding? Does he think the new bike makes him younger?”
“He’s wearing the same funny helmet as Cobra Penis. No way.”
We got to the turnaround and, for the first time since the New Pier Ride was created, the entire pack was held up for thirty seconds by an endless stream of cars. Still, no problem. With enough horsepower to reel him in, the engines went to the front and started drilling it.
Everyone knew the rules. The NPR is governed by traffic and stoplights, and you have to take that into account when attacking or following an attack. If you escape and the chasers get hung up at the red lights, that’s their penalty for not risking all with the break. If your breakaway gets stuck at a light or by traffic, and you get brought back as a result … that’s the risk of taking a flyer.
The one thing you can never say on the NPR is this: “Yeah, I would have [ fill in awesome result here] if it hadn’t been for that light.”
We buried ourselves to bring him back, until there, a few hundred yards before the finish, he was, going full gas with only a few yards left to the end. We had him. His bid would end vainly, full of vanity, in vain.
And then he dug once more, hard and deep, with everything he had. The carbon frame and carbon wheels kicked ahead, leaping like a horse catching the bite of the spurs, and somehow, in front of the fastest finishers in LA County, he crossed the line first. He was so gassed he couldn’t even raise an arm. Everything left there on the road, he was the oldest guy to ever win the NPR. It was incomprehensible to everyone else, but not to me.
Because you know, the bike, it wanted to win, too.
May 4, 2013 § 33 Comments
I hate to be the one to break your Strava bubble, but “PR” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a “personal record,” any more than there’s a “personal Super Bowl victory” or a “personal presidential election.”
A record is a mark set by someone that at least two people have done. You know Chris Horner’s time up Mt. Palomar? That is a record. Eleven hundred people have done it and his time is the fastest. It’s a record time.
Even though when you climbed it on Tuesday two and a half hours slower than Chris and it was the fastest of your 67 attempts, it’s still not a personal record. It’s two and a half hours slower than the record. You can call it your personal best. You can call it your fastest time up Mt. Palomar. You can call it proof that your $2,000 power meter and $15,000 bike and $950/month personal coaching regimen are making you faster…but it still pegs you in about one thousandth place relative to the RECORD.
Nothing personal about it.
All cycling metrics point to one conclusion: You suck
Strava’s business model is simple: Provide data to wankers that shows they’re getting better. Since none of us is getting better, and in fact all of us are getting older and therefore worse, and since those of us who are improving quickly reach a plateau, there has to be a way to snake-oil us into thinking that we’re improving.
So Strava sells you a premium membership where you can join a smaller subset of records (65+ men with an inseam of less than 25″ who sleep on the left side of the bed), and thereby convert some of your meaningless “personal records” into something more meaningful: A higher spot on the age adjusted, inseam-length adjusted, side-of-the-bed adjusted leaderboard.
Unfortunately, even after adjusting yourself into 75th place, which is a huge jump from 1,000th, physics still mercilessly claws its way to the front. Your “progress” plateaus, and your ability to climb the flailerboard grinds to a halt. So it’s back to personal records, and chasing the illusion of improvement even though all the data point, or rather, scream deafeningly, to a wholly opposite conclusion: You not only suck, you suck more than you did on this segment last year. Introspective riders feel the icy hand of death tightening its grip around their throat if they look at the data too closely past about age forty.
Note to the Stravati: There’s a reason you prefer Strava to bike racing
I don’t vomit often, but when I do it’s usually after someone takes one of my KOM’s. I’ve only got seventeen of them left, and there’s not a single one that couldn’t be handily snapped up by any number of Stravati who live for that kind of thing.
It’s no defense, but I never tried to set a single one of those KOM’s, which is probably the reason they fall so easily. The handful of times I’ve gone out and tried to grab a KOM, I’ve failed, usually miserably. I use Strava for the same reason that I wear pants. It’s a social convention the lack of which would earn too much opprobrium. I also use it as a handy calorie counter. And finally, I use it for you. Just when you’re starting to think your performance is dropping, or you’re really not very good, you can click on my most recent ride and feel relief: There’s someone in your neighborhood who’s slower and an even bigger bicycle kook than you.
This, I believe, is a powerful source of inspiration for flailers and wankers throughout the South Bay. Through Strava, I keep them riding. It’s a social service, and you can thank me via PayPal.
What you can’t do is get away with the pleasant little self-deception that your KOM is as good as a bike race. You can’t even get away with the delusion that it’s as good as an old-fashioned group beatdown on the NPR.
You know why that is? Because it isn’t. Masturbating your way to the top of a leaderboard on Strava, when unaccompanied by ball-busting accomplishments on group rides or in real mass start races in which you have to actually pay an entry fee and pin on a number, are just that: Digital auto-titillation.
Believe it or don’t, I’m fine with that. Riding a bicycle is like consensual sex between adults: I not only approve of it, I’m wholly uninterested in your particular activities. I’m not a libertarian, I’m a “don’t give a fucktarian.” If you’re out pedaling your bicycle, in my book you’re winning.
If your riding is confined to setting Strava records without racing or group riding, though, you are wanking. Can we be clear about that? Good. Because last Thursday a new South bay cycling record was set. Not on Strava, where anonymous, zipless riders virtually compete using all manner of tricks, traps, aids, pacers, run-ups, and “special assists” to set the record.
No, this Thursday record was set the old-fashioned way. Clubbers clubbed. Baby seals got their heads staved in. Pain was ladled out in buckets. And only the strong, the ornery, the mutton-headed, and the relentless survived.
One thing that’s never happened on the New Pier Ride
…is a successful four-lap breakaway. Dan Seivert and I once, on a cold, rainy, windy winter day in 2012 attacked on Vista del Mar and stayed away for four laps, but it wasn’t a real breakaway. We sneaked off three or four miles before the real ride began, there was zero horsepower in the field, and no one even knew we had attacked. Although we hurt like dogs and congratulated ourselves for the heroic effort, it was more a flailaway than a breakaway. Plus, no one cared. To the contrary, they tortured us with the worst torture known to a group ride breakaway: “You were off the front? If I’d known that I’d have chased.”
Last week, though, word went out that MMX was coming to town to do the NPR. This meant one thing: Merciless beatdown in the offing.
There were at least ten thousand baby seals at the Manhattan Beach Pier when the ride left at 6:40 AM. We hit the bottom of Pershing and it immediately strung out into the gutter and then snapped. The Westside seals were all lounging on the roadside atop the bump, because they’ve learned from repeated beatdowns that it’s better to jump in after the first hard effort than to try and jump in as the group comes by at the bottom of the little hill. Just as they were finishing their first bucket of raw mackerel, we came by like a whirlwind.
As we passed the parkway, Josh Alverson drilled it.
Then Peyton Cooke drilled it.
Then Johnny Walsh drilled it.
MMX, who had started at the back and worked his way up to the point, later noted that from the bottom of Pershing it was pure mayhem. Many of the baby seals were killed with that first single devastating blow to the head. Others, un-hit, were so stunned by the acceleration that they simply pulled over, unclipped, and skinned themselves.
Robert Efthimos reported that Thursday was his 128th time up World Way ramp, and it turned out to be his single highest average wattage ever for a lap on the NPR. He churned out those numbers stuck at the back of the herd after the break left.
After the ramp, Greg Leibert blasted away, stringing it out into a line of about 15 riders, with a small clump forming at about 16th wheel and turning into an amorphous lump into which 80 or 90 baby seals still cowered. After Greg swung over, MMX opened the throttle, dissolved the clump and turned the entire peloton into a single line with countless little blubbering seals who began snapping and popping like plastic rivets on a space shuttle.
We turned onto the parkway in full flight, with Johnny Walsh, Marco Cubillos, Josh, and “26” pounding the pedals. This is the point where after the initial surge, the front riders usually slowed down, or the neverpulls in back made their first and only real effort of the day to chase down the nascent break. Marco, John, Josh, and 26 kept going, and were soon joined by Greg, Jeff Bryant, Jay LaPlante, some dude from La Grange who was incinerated shortly thereafter, and one of the South Bay’s legendary purple card-carrying, neverpulling, wheelsuckers extraordinaire whose name shall not be mentioned.
MMX looked ahead from the pack as the break gained ground, surged, and bridged. Then he closed the door and threw away the key.
No break has ever stayed away on the NPR for all four laps. The course won’t allow it due to stoplights, the high tailwind speeds of the chasing field, and the relatively flat nature of the course.
We made the first turn and had a gap. Atop the bridge Jeff Bryant unleashed a monster pull, but then, over his head by the extreme effort, he and Greg were unable to latch onto the break as it accelerated at the next turnaround. Accounts differ, with some claiming a car pinched them, and others claiming they were too gassed to catch, but in any event the break didn’t feel like waiting, as there were already too many orange kits in the group. This meant the Greg/Jeff duo had to chase.
The pack was in a different time zone, which meant nothing as we’d just completed one lap and there was plenty of time for them to organize and chase in earnest. What we didn’t know is that they were already chasing in earnest, and the stoplight gods were smiling on us.
Having taken the initiative in trying to fend off the entire baby seal population of the South Bay, we were being rewarded with a string of green lights even as the baby seals were being punished with reds. Naturally, post-ride the baby seals that survived chalked everything up to the traffic signals rather than the sheet-snot that covered our faces and the haggard, beaten look of those who rode the break for the entire four laps.
Greg and Jeff, unable to reattach, finally hopped across the road and jumped in as we whizzed by. Greg then attacked us balls-out the remaining lap and a half. Ouch. Every time we brought him back another of our matchboxes was incinerated.
On the final stretch, after berating Sir Neverpull for never coming through, MMX unleashed the leadout from Klubtown. Sir Neverpull, suddenly discovering that with the end in sight he wasn’t quite that tired after all, leaped just in time for his engine to blow and his legs to detach from his torso. Jay LaPlante sprunted around the MMX lead-out with Josh fixed on his wheel. Going too far out and in too small a gear, Jay settled for second after a doing yeoman’s work in the break.
We celebrated this, the first ever four-lap breakaway on the NPR, with coffee and sunshine.
And yes, it was a record.