August 24, 2014 § 14 Comments
I got invited to hear a band play on Friday. They started at 3:00 PM, which is a perfect time for replacement hip-sters like me. The days when I could sit around until ten o’clock waiting for Foghat to come on and get home at one in the morning? Those days are long gone. What really works now is for the music to start in the afternoon so that I’m in bed by nine.
To make matters better (worse if you’re under 50), the band was a biker band. Not the leather-clad, knife-toting Hell’s Angels type biker band, but rather a mostly clean and wholesome lycra-clad bicyclist band. When I saw Foghat in 1978 at the Houston Coliseum with Marcello, I was in 8th Grade. Marcello was in 8th Grade, too, but not by choice. For some reason the school system thought that the best way to handle a very tough guy and first-class drug dealer was to hold him back year after year so that he wound up in classes with small, hairless, easily frightened kids much younger than him.
Marcello had a deep voice, he shaved, and from the locker room I had visual confirmation that he was what we all aspired to be: A man. I had gotten tickets to the Foghat concert from my brother, who had been grounded for selling drugs, or for stealing the car late one night, or for getting straight “F’s” on his lack-of-progress report.
Marcello would have never gone to the concert with me were it not for the free tickets. I remember my dad dropping us off out front as the long-hairs, freaks, and dope merchants streamed in.
“What kind of band is this, anyway?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I lied.
“Well, have a good time. When should I pick you boys up?”
“Midnight?” I said, praying it didn’t sound like a question.
“That’s pretty late.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m with Marcello.” Marcello nodded and smiled politely.
We got out and he drove off.
The concert, which started at eight, started at nine when Judas Priest came onstage. By then we’d had a solid hour to smoke Marcello’s concert goodies and the haze was so thick we could barely see the stage. Foghat followed and played until midnight. I don’t remember anything about it except that when we got to the car Marcello said, “Snap, man!” and jabbed me in the ribcage when my dad pulled up. Somehow, I snapped.
How times have changed. As I entered the Stag & Lion in the middle of the afternoon, the crowd thickened. My biker pals on stage were completely sober, and the cyclists packed into the bar were sipping at the one beer they would be drinking all day. No one was smoking, of course, as it was a no-smoking establishment and a bar, an impossibility back in the 70’s on a par with squaring the circle.
At three o’clock sharp they started to play, and at five o’clock sharp they stopped. The music was phenomenal, the band was tight, and on top of that the songs were original. In fact, the music was better than any concert I had ever attended during the heyday of 70’s rock and roll — ZZ Topp, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty, the Stones, even Foghat. Then I remembered that I’d never actually heard any of the music at any of those concerts, or if I’d heard it, it had been through the 100-yard concrete brain filter that comes from being inside the THC equivalent of an oxygen tent.
“Wow,” I said to Mrs. WM. “Music sounds so great when you can hear it!”
She gave me a funny look and kept sipping her margarita.
My buddy’s biker band laid it down for two solid hours and not a single song was off the “B” side. Afterwards we went out and had dinner. One of our group, Surfer Dan, had ridden down to San Diego from LA, a solid little 100-miler so that he’d be sure to get his ride in before the festivities.
At dinner it was a typical bike racer dinner. Calories were counted, low-cal menu options were selected, and everyone finished in time to hurry home, put on the leg compression devices, and rest up for the big Saturday ride.
The band’s name? HTFU, of course.
I told you they were cyclists.
August 22, 2014 § 30 Comments
Bicycling in Southern California is not always fraught with racial issues. They exist, but cyclists from different backgrounds spend most of their time talking about bikes rather than race.
But even though this topic isn’t addressed much while riding, it sometimes makes its way into the cycling community via current events, which are then “discussed” on fora like Facebag. The discussions follow a familiar pattern. Someone remarks that an action (shooting an unarmed kid in the head) is racist. Then someone says it isn’t. And things go sideways from there.
No resolution is ever reached, it seems. The black person remains convinced that the event in question was racist, and the comments of the white person usually end up coming across as racist as well. The white person denies being racist and gets furious at being called one, even as he suggests reasons why black people are “the way they are” or why they are in “the situation they are in.” For good measure he might say “you people.”
This hurts our cycling community, some of whose most successful and illustrious riders are black, and injects doubt and suspicion into relationships.
I don’t think it has to be this way.
Part of the reason we have such a hard time resolving racial issues is because we — and I mean we white people — are not very good at talking about race. Most white people, whether they believe we live in a racist society or a fair society, when they talk about race they talk about black people. They analyze black communities, they criticize, the explain, they give advice, they compare statistics of blacks versus whites, they talk about black culture, and they may even talk about black history. The worst ones will quote Martin Luther King to try and prove some essentially racist point.
This to me is bizarre for two reasons. First, white people really don’t have anything to contribute to the analysis or understanding of blacks. Whether you think racism is rampant or whether you think this is the most equal country on earth, as a white person you don’t have anything to add about what it means to be black. So when you talk about black behavior, you’re already losing the battle of discussing race. You’re talking about something you’re unqualified to speak on, and you’re talking in way that is offensive to the very people you’re supposedly trying to convince.
As a white person, the thing you should have expertise about is being white. But white people are strangely unable to articulate how their race affects their life. Unlike blacks, who seem keenly aware and articulate when it comes to talking about their black experience, I’ve never heard a white person talk about what it’s like to be white.
So the conversation is terribly one-sided, with blacks talking about their racial experiences, and whites talking about blacks’ racial experiences. It’s ineffective and it’s insulting.
How can you start to understand race as a white person? It’s pretty simple. Ask yourself what kinds of things happen to you because you’re white. Everyone’s experience is different, but here a few that apply to me.
- Because I’m white, I’m not afraid of the police if I’m not breaking the law.
- Because I’m white, people assume I’m a law-abiding citizen.
- Because I’m white, people assume I’m hard-working and smart until I demonstrate otherwise.
- Because I’m white, I can buy or rent a home in almost any place that I can afford one.
- Because I’m white, potential clients trust me.
- Because I’m white, when I lived in Asia I was treated well.
- Because I’m white, when I travel in most of Europe I blend in until I open my mouth.
- Because I’m white, none of my forebears in this country were slaves.
- Because I’m white, my great-great-grandfather was a slaveholder.
- Because I’m white, I’ve always been free to vote and encouraged to do so.
- Because I’m white, no one ever called me a racial epithet.
- Because I’m white, I graduated from a good college and a very good law school.
- Because I’m white, I live in a neighborhood with lots of other whites.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Those things didn’t happen to you just because you’re white. They happened to you for other reasons as well. You worked hard, your parents helped you, you’re financially responsible, etc.”
And you’re right. There are lots of factors that have made my life the way it is, dumb luck being the biggest. But we’re not talking about those things, remember? We’re talking about race, and we’re trying to understand its importance for ourselves. How has it helped us? How has it hurt us? Has it hurt us? How has our racial identity been used to hurt others? Would our daily experience be the same if we weren’t white?
The best explanation of white racial identity I’ve ever seen was the satirical blog, “Stuff White People Like.” It was good because it talked about race from the standpoint of white culture — making fun of it, to be sure, but couching the discussion in terms of what white people think, how they are treated, how they behave. Although much of it was silly, all of it was racial without pretending to talk about what black people like, or how black people are, or worse, how black people should be.
It viewed the world from the satirical perspective of how being white shapes our lives. It was wildly successful because of its rarity. Thinking about our advantages and disadvantages from the lens of being white was out of the box.
Unfortunately, most white people take their race for granted because it’s rarely an issue. Instead, they use “race” to mean “other people’s race.” And when terrible things like Ferguson or Trayvon Martin happen, what’s needed is for all of us to try and understand how our ethnicity plays a role.
Rodney King asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Apparently not. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
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August 19, 2014 § 11 Comments
People are so darned lonely, and it’s not hard to see why. They fart. They smell bad in the morning. They leave skid marks in their shorts and whiskers in the sink, and they forget to flush and to put the cap back on the toothpaste. And then of course they have their bad habits, too.
I have noticed many unhappy and lonely bicycle riders, and in order to help fix them up I have developed a new web site that uses the patented Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™, or “WACT,” pronounced “whacked.” You can find it at www.wact.com.
The web site uses a sophisticated logarithm (that’s a really thick algorithm for all you non-math majors) to match bicycling personalities so that they can find the perfect person with whom they can enjoy a happy-go-lucky coffee, casual conversation, and boning.
First, answer these questions:
- I like cycling because:
- Tight shorts
- After riding with my friends I enjoy:
- Sitting at CotKU, sipping coffee, and chatting about the ride
- Going home and reading the product write-ups on CompetitiveCyclist.com
- Comparing my Strava stats with those of my pals
- Zooming in on the FB photos of women’s crotches standing on the podium
- Cycling and craft beer go together because:
- They are both healthy and natural
- Strong beer gives you a good buzz after a hard workout
- You can enjoy local, hand-crafted beer while riding a local, handmade frame and saving the environment plus smugness
- Biker chicks at brew pubs get sloppy drunk after two DIPA’s and start rubbing their breasts against you
If you answered “E” to all of the above, or if you answered A – D while secretly thinking about E, then you should consider signing up for the Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™ dating site. Here’s how it works:
You input a link to your favorite Strava segment and the time that you will be on it. Then you check one of the following boxes next to your segment:
Sitting on his/her/its wheel and ogling
If another cyclists “likes” your segment and the time you’ve designated, he/she/it (usually “it”) then selects a radio button. However, he/she/it can’t see which button you’ve selected. If he/she/it/Stathis selects the same button you selected, you’ve got a “Wanky Match.” Your cell phone will then emit a high-pitched, ear-piercing sound reminiscent of someone whose toe got caught in a meat grinder, and the contact information of your “Wanky Match” will flash across the screen.
You then swipe the app and it takes you to “Steamy Wanky Revelation” where you will see all the of the juicy details about your Wanky Match, such as:
- Bathes weekly
- 110 watts FTP
- Favorite pastime: WKO+ Training Peaks
- Divorced (5 times)
- Employed (once, in 1987)
- Loves romantic evenings with that special someone in an oxygen tent
- Favorite place: Mom’s basement
[Note: These are merely sample personal details of your Wanky Match. Actual personal characteristics and hygiene will be gnarlier.]
Unlike other dating sites, with Wanky Automated Compatibility Testing ™, you only pay when you get on your partner’s “leader board.” If you help your member reach the summit in record time, he/she/it/Stathis will award you a KOM which then goes in your Wanky Match profile. The more KOM’s, the more confidence you have that your Wanky Match knows how to pound out the watts.
Due to the early developmental phase of the project, interested participants are asked to send an email to the project director, Mr. Divad Zerep, email@example.com. Please include a valid credit card number with expiration date and CVV, as well as your Social Security Number, DOB, and a house key.
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August 18, 2014 § 22 Comments
The most important part of your season comes now: After your season.
If you have been following the Wanky Training Plan ™ since January, you will have a solid season of results to carefully review. Your performance in each race will provide key insights into aspects of your racing that need improvement, as well as those aspects in which you have excelled, and will therefore seek to replicate next year.
The most crucial aspect of the Wanky Training Plan ™, and the one that has likely been hardest for you to implement, has of course been the high cadence pedaling style. If you stuck with it, you have likely seen a revolution in your performance as you have metamorphosed from a plodding clogstacle into a graceful, speedy, gazelle.
To help you properly review your season, I’ve selected some of my best results from 2014 so that you can see how a proper evaluation will lead to analysis of strengths and weaknesses for 2015.
Boulevard Road Race: The season began with a powerful and impressive DNF, in which all of the successful strength and high rpm-training exercises in the off season came to fruition. Although I did not actually finish the race, I got to test several electrolyte replacement fluids for ease of digestion and ease of puking them back out on the climb.
Red Trolley Crit: My first crit of the year featured a strong moral victory in which I went to the front and spun very hard. Although I did not actually finish the race, the key objective of not falling off my bicycle was achieved 100%.
UCLA Road Race: This was a super hard race and marked the first time in 2014 that I finished a race, so it was actually considered a first-place finish (by me) even though the technical placing was 29th. Out of 30. By spinning very quickly I was able to not over-tire myself, meeting another key objective, i.e. looking good on the finish line.
CBR Race #2: In my second crit of 2014, I achieved an impressive finish by finishing. Spinning played a key role in my ability to achieve 26th place out of 37 racers, a massive improvement of three placing from the week before. Simple math showed that in a mere eight more races I would mathematically be guaranteed to finish in first place.
Chuck Pontius Road Race: This was a blustery and challenging race where all aspects of the Wanky Training Plan ™ were utilized, including the refusal to cry. It also showed how continual spinning and recovery can lead to amazing results. I earned an impressive top ten finish, finishing 10th place out of ten finishes and 13 starters. Good things were clearly just around the bend as I was now peaking.
San Dimas Stage Race: Putting together all the pieces of a complex, 3-day stage race, I spun my way to 31st in the time trial, 39th in the road race, and 37th in the crit for an overall GC of 38th. This devastated the two racers who came in 39th and 40th, respectively, and showed that high cadence racing allows you to conserve until the end.
It was at this point in the season that things really came together — 22nd in the LA Circuit Race, 28th at the District Championships (29th place is still sobbing over his bitter defeat), and 146th at the Belgian Waffle Ride made this unquestionably the strongest spring campaign I’ve had in 30+ years of bike racing. But the best was yet to come.
Although I did not finish either Saturday or Sunday of the 805 Crit Series, we successfully rented a motor home and did not drive it off a cliff or get arrested. Thanks, Wanky Training Plan ™!
August 14, 2014 § 28 Comments
I had been faithful to her for years. There have been other girls who I’ve looked at, sure, but she was the one to whom I remained true.
Then a couple of years ago Sausage whispered to me that there was a smoking hot babe over on his side of town, told me she was “really special” and that she would “really get your pulse up.” I didn’t pay much attention at first, but over time I couldn’t resist the temptation. After all, one woman, no matter how wonderful, can’t satisfy you all the time. It’s natural to want variety, to do things a little differently, to feel the touch of someone different and new.
Sure, I knew it was wrong. But today I snapped. I felt terrible as I sneaked out of the house extra early this morning. My wife must have known something was up, because she said, “Isn’t it too early for the NPR?”
I mumbled something, got dressed, and switched off the light as I made my guilty escape. After a frenzied ride up the bike path, I met her. There on 26th and San Vicente, the morning not yet fully broken, there she was, ready for the taking if only I was man enough to handle her.
Sausage was in the middle of the group that whizzed by. He winked. “Finally came to get some, eh?” he said.
I nodded, no longer guilty, no longer afraid of the treachery I was about to commit. To the contrary, I was burning, on fire, the blood pounding through my veins as we met for the first time. The way she roared downhill on San Vicente, so smooth, so fast, so racy, it was a dream.
Then it all changed in an instant. Suddenly she was going up, up, up, with Manzila blasting at the front, shattering the group as it launched up her curving, sloping surface. I was panting from the exertion, exploring her, feeling her out, looking for that rhythm that comes when two bodies, in synch, pulsate with the pounding.
The first time it was awkward, I’ll admit it. I’d been so accustomed to my lover of all those Tuesday and Thursday mornings that I had a hard time adjusting to her raw, jagged uphill contours. I’m embarrassed to say that I was so excited that I finished too quickly the first time, giving out before I should have, with a dozen or so riders ahead of me. I knew she was unsatisfied.
We sat on the corner at Sunset and regrouped. I looked at Gareth, still out of breath. “What’s her name?” I asked.
“Amalfi,” he said. “Her name is Amalfi.”
“What a beautiful name,” I thought to myself, but before I could repeat it we were off again. This second time around, a group of three wankers launched on San Vincente. I followed. This time I wasn’t going to finish early; no, I’d hold it strong and steady and even, driving her and driving her until she was satisfied, too.
We hit Chainbreaker Corner and I pounded with a frenzy. My breakaway companions sagged and heaved their shoulders. Their wad was shot. Alone I soldiered on until Gareth caught me, then dropped me. I struggled back on, grinding away, not done yet. Then Manzilla came by. I latched onto him and he dragged us to the final hundred meters, when a gaggle of four or five riders swarmed by us at the end.
I was wasted, wrecked, spent, and she was, too. I know she liked it, but as we waited again at Sunset to regroup I could tell she wanted it one more time. And I promised that I’d give it to her.
Again on San Vicente I launched with three others, except this time Gareth went with us. By Chainbreaker it was “just the two of us,” and it was this final effort that was most exhausting, most painful, yet most beautiful and satisfying of all.
“Oh, Amalfi,” I said, as I pounded and pushed and thrashed, sweat pouring off my face, grunting and gasping and moaning, amazed that I had this third effort in me, amazed that Gareth hadn’t spit me out the back and left me for dead, amazed at Amalfi’s grace.
And that was the end, just Gareth and I sweating and heaving atop her.
On the way home I was flooded with guilt, but also with a sense of love and, yes, conquest. I would never abandon my dear old lover NPR; Tuesday mornings at 6:40 were still for her and her alone. But now that I had tasted the forbidden fruit of the Amalfi Ride, now that I had buried myself in the triple climax of her six minutes and thirty seconds of pure ecstasy, I knew I would be back for more.
Would NPR understand? I hope she will. I’m only human.
July 29, 2014 § 15 Comments
When the hardest group ride in America starts out at 30 mph on the neutral section, you know you’re in for a beating, an “in the wrong neighborhood” beating, a Muhammad Ali beating, a mad charwoman with a steel bat-on-a-carpet beating, an adult video + tissue box beating, a John Bonham intro to “Rock and Roll” beating, or you just recognize the facts: You’re on the North County San Diego Swami’s Ride and it’s not going to be pretty.
After the warmup had slimmed the group of 50 down by a rider or two, we roared up Levant. Rather, Phil Tinstman roared. Everyone else cowered, grit their teeth, and cursed whatever draft they had for not being draft enough.
The group slimmed a bit more.
The previous night I had ended up in a bar slurping Hangar 24 DIPA’s. Now, dangling by a wheel, they were starting to slurp back. It was a briny, acidic, poisonous taste, kind of like drinking from a port-o-potty.
Thankfully, as in “Oh my dog thank you baby Jeebus,” the light at Rancho Santa Fe was red, which meant that those who made it could catch their breath, and those who straggled up just as the light turned green would meet their doom shortly up the road. The climb up Rancho Santa Fe shed a few more pounds, and the climb up to Elfin Forest blew the stragglers and strugglers out the back like a snot rocket.
A breakaway formed with Phil, Brian Stack, Chris Johnson, and about ten others. Those of us in the shelled group would have been done for the day had we not been joined by Karl Bordine. Karl rides like a wood chipper. He grinds everyone up into little organic bits that are useless for anything except mixing with cow shit and spreading as fertilizer.
Karl brought the break back, and broke the back of many in the group, which further slimmed. The peloton was now a walking ad for SlenderBolic. Phil won the sprunt to the church. There were perhaps 15 or 20 riders out of the starting gaggle of 50. I got off my bike and lay in the grass, cursing the beer and the speed and the hills and bicycles and Newt Gingrich.
“It was fast today,” said one of the Fast Men.
“Yeah, it was,” said another one of the Fast Men.
“Blecccch,” I said.
The second half wasn’t as torrid, since several of the fastest riders continued on for a longer ride. But coming into the final rolling section, Tater attacked, Stack followed, and I got dragged along. He broke the group into pieces, towed me up over the last hill, took a deep breath and towed me all the way to the imaginary sprint finish, which I apparently won. Brian is sixteen.
After the ride Mrs. WM and I decided to go the pool. The Econolodge’s bathing facility was a 10′ x 10′ kiddie pool surrounded by a steel fence. “This thing look like its onna jail,” she said.
“Yeah, but we can drink all the beer we want and not have to worry about lifeguards.”
“I ain’t wearin’ onna my bikini here.”
“Itsa pool lookin’ out onna highway. Itsa creepers driven’ slow googling on my panty bottoms.”
So we called up a pal who was staying at the La Costa Rich People’s Hotel and Snoboretum. “Yo, Toronto,” I said. “Can we come hang at your hotel pool?”
“Sure!” he said.
“We got beer and chips and salsa and pork rinds and dried octopus legs with kimchi.”
Pretty soon we were at the Snoboretum. We had to give our name and driver license to the security guard, put a placard that said “Visitors/Too Cheap To Afford A Room” on the dashboard, park in a rock garden, and walk three miles over to the area where the real guests were.
But it was a bitching pool, and my appearance wearing bright red shorts, a bright red t-shirt, and hiking boots made quite a splash. Fortunately I had “SPY” plastered everywhere, making a good showing for my sponsor. The only down side was that the pool had a bar and restaurant in the pool area, so when we staggered in carrying six plastic bags that said “Safeway” which were filled with chips, beer, and dried octopus parts, the pool staff, who were wearing outfits modeled on “The Love Boat,” told us we weren’t allowed to bring in outside food or drink.
“Thatsa okay,” said Mrs. WM. “We don’t eat no outside food. Alla this food is inside food.”
By the time they had brought in an interpreter, who ended up tearing out his hair and ripping off his Love Boat insignia in despair, I was already a full six-pack in and didn’t care when security confiscated our salsa. Surprisingly, they left the octopus parts.
Shortly after we were escorted out, we ended up at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. It was a sold out event, and the main attraction wasn’t the Pine Mountain Logs, whose name reminds me of something left behind in a public bathroom, but the jazzy rock band, or the rocky jazz band Horn if You’re Honky.
The drummer for HiyH, my good friend Michael Marckx, was celebrating his 50th birthday, and it was an awesome performance. Many songs were sung, melodies were horned, rhythms were banged, bass lines were thumped, and keyboard accompaniments were hammered. I was amazed at the athleticism of the percussion, or maybe I was just having a hard time not falling out of my chair after swilling too much beer. Who knows?
It was an electric performance.
Towards the end of the set I mingled with the crowd and marveled at its energy, as well as at the fact that no one seemed to be getting high. So many friends and teammates from the cycling community were there that I half expected someone to announce that we would be rolling out in ten minutes. Instead, we grooved on the amazing HiyH set and huddled around our tequila shot glasses, trying to discern whether we were holding up the bar or vice versa. I think it was vice versa.
At the end of the evening, Mrs. WM gave me a small baggie filled with a sopping wet sports bra and workout panty that she had borrowed earlier in the day for a yoga workout. I toiled through the crowd until I saw Alan. “Yo, dude, here’s some wet women’s underwear. Can you give it to Mrs. xxx? We gotta hit the road.”
Alan, ever the good sport, said “Sure!” and immediately posted it for sale on eBay via his iPhone.
We sailed home through the deserted SoCal freeway until we hit the not-so-deserted freeway shutdown at Westminster, where a 5-mile detour took two hours to navigate. Home at 2:30 AM, we may not have horned, but we sure did honky.
July 24, 2014 § 40 Comments
A new bobble has been added to the weekly Donut Ride, and I contemplated it as the wankers of the South Bay chewed me up and spit me out. It’s a short, steep, nasty little alleyway that comes after a long uphill slog followed by a fast downhill followed by a gradual climb followed by a very short wall.
The point behind the alley is to crush the spirits and impoverish the souls of those who, even at the outset of the group ride, are already broken.
The Donut Ride has evolved into an almost perfect group ride. It is so hard that to properly complete it you must cheat, cut the course, suck wheel, sneak ahead while everyone is regrouping, or all of the above. The climbs are so vicious that hordes of South Bay bicycle owners refuse to even show up. It drops people while they are still in bed.
In common with all great group rides, it crowns a winner who everyone can dispute, but not actually beat. “Wily Greek is a wheelsucker,” we mutter each time he deftly sprints away at the bottom of the Switchbacks. And like all group rides, great or not, you get to declare yourself the winner of something. “I was the first one to the Domes out of the fastest people who got dropped in the alley.” “I was the fastest climber out of the non-climbing sprinters who live in Long Beach.” Etc. It’s almost as good as Strava.
The Donut Ride also contains the race-within-the-race element that so many of us live for: the OTB flailer who nonetheless fights tooth and toenail to finish ahead of the other OTB flailer who said something rude to him on Facebook. Best of all, like all group rides it’s free, starts close to home, doesn’t require an entry fee or a license, and when done properly will effectively wreck any legitimate training plan or racing goal.
The ideal group ride, which the Donut is, will be intense enough to destroy your legs but not make you faster. It will be long enough to exhaust you but not long enough to build your endurance. It will force you to ride either too slow to build your engine, or so fast that you’ll need an entire week in order to recuperate. It will expose all of your weaknesses and develop none of your strengths. Best of all, if you are a Donut vainquer, your victories will translate into little more than DNF’s and barely-finished’s at legitimate stage races.
It is a cul-de-sac for performance, and crystal meth for the legs. Plus, it finishes near several brewpubs which open about the time the ride finishes.
But the hardest group ride in America … Where is it?
My default vote goes to my own backyard; yours probably does, too. After all, no kid is smarter or better looking than your own. The Donut Ride is about 50 miles long and boasts about 5,000 feet of climbing. It goes off every Saturday, with anywhere from 80 to 100 idiots lining up at the start in Redondo Beach in the summer … and less than a dozen making it to base of the Switchbacks-to-Crest climb thirty minutes later, after which the smashing begins in earnest.
But is it the hardest?
The Swami’s ride in Encinitas is horrifically hard and staffed with twisted mutants like Tinstman, Bordine, Marckx, and Thurlow, but it’s shorter (about 30 miles) and “only” has 3,500 feet of climbing. Then there’s the SPY Holiday Ride, a beatdown so vicious that if I make it up the first climb without getting shelled I consider it a total victory: 60 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing, and a 100+ field that is always stacked with state champions, national champions, and group ride champions who live just to dish it out on gang slugfests like this one. The ugliness is sharpened by competition for KOM and sprint awards given out post-ride in the form of BWR Ale brewed by the Lost Abbey.
But is it the hardest?
I don’t know. America is filled with group rides that go off every Saturday, Sunday, holiday, Tuesday, Thursday, and every other day that ends in “-day.”
How do you evaluate their difficulty? The following criteria, for sure …
- Length. Should be more than 40 miles, less than 70. It has to be long enough not to simulate any race you’d actually do, but short enough that it can be completed before your wife goes completely apeshit at another wasted weekend on the bike. Also, it must be long enough so that you perform all chores and kid-activities with a glum face and lagging step.
- Elevation. Enough to make it hard, but not so much that the only champions weigh less than 130-lbs. Ideally, the elevation is spread throughout the ride rather than dumped at the end like the LA Holiday Ride, which is a joke. Having at least one 20-minute climb to obliterate the chubmeisters, the old people, the “just getting into the sport-ers,” and juniors is ideal.
- Number of riders. 30, minimum. Having somewhere to hide and suck wheel is crucial for a group ride. Too few people forces everyone to work, which reduces or eliminates the ability to name-call and point the finger after you get shelled.
- Wind. The more, the better. Wind is the great unequalizer, because it strips the skinny climbers of their watts/kg advantage and grinds them up into little rat pellets. Wind, preferably cold (although frying-pan hot furnace blasts are good, too), increases the chances of crashing and quitting.
- Elements. Freezing rain/brain-scalding heat/crushing humidity are always a plus. Especially in SoCal, where eternal sunshine cultivates softness, a good dose of terrible weather does wonders for separating the wheat from the cadavers.
- Pavement. Shitty road surfaces, hairball descents, off-camber paving, unannounced changes from tarmac to gravel … anything that will cause a flat or a crash or potentially crack your frame gets extra points.
- Quality of field. This is hard to evaluate, but generally, if the average age is “gets an annual prostate check,” then you’re playing with a worn out deck of cards. One good way to evaluate the field is financial stability. The more people living with girlfriends, out of cardboard boxes, sleeping on couches, the faster and more brutal the ride.
I’ve heard lots of stories about “our local group ride is the toughest,” and would like nothing better than to find out for myself. Is the real badass group ride yours? Post the info in a comment or shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, with a link to the Strava segment if there is one. Extra points if the ride is so badass that it’s not even on Strava. It certainly won’t be any fun to go check it out in person, but it might assuage those late-night worries, i.e. “What am I going to write about tomorrow?”