Sometimes a thread is all it takes

January 6, 2014 § 43 Comments

Whether you admit it or not, we’re hanging on by a very fine thread.

There’s a regular descent I take to get to work or, actually, to get anywhere, because I live near the tip-top of a big hill. One morning my buddy G$ was coming down the lower section of this descent on a street called Via del Monte. It was just past the stop sign past the 180-degree hook past the sweeping left-hander. There was a car parked on the opposite side of the road, which is narrow and demarcated with a do-not-pass solid line down the middle.

In order to legally turn around go the other direction, the car would have had to continue up the hill and add another minute or two onto his drive, or make a left-hand turn into a driveway on the opposite side of the street, then back out of the driveway and head back down the hill. That maneuver might have cost him an extra fifteen or maybe even, dog forbid, twenty seconds.

But this dude was in a hurry, too much of a hurry to use his blinker even, so he just whipped a curb-to-curb u-turn, and he did it without checking oncoming traffic. The “oncoming traffic” happened to be my buddy, sailing down the hill at a solid 25 mph. It may not seem fast to you, and I suppose it’s not, unless you have to decelerate from 25 to 0, with your terminal velocity terminating in the side of a steel car door. G$ survived the crash with “only” some broken ribs, a totaled bike, a concussion, and a broken collarbone. The driver had some terrible scratches and even a dent on his car door.

And as every cyclist says, lying in the ER with tubes coming out of his chest and dick, “How’s my bike?” followed by “It could have been worse.”

Yes. It could have.

It could also have been better

This morning I was coming down that same stretch of road and thinking, like I always do, “This is not far from the place where G$ almost bought the farm.” Why do I think that every time I go down the hill? Because the injury and near-death of friends is almost as traumatic to me as it is to them.

A big, fat, black Jag had pulled out just past the stop sign and I was about two car lengths back. I love it when I have a big, fat, expensive German or British millionairemobile in front of me, because they clear the road better than a snowplow. On the hill hardly anyone is afraid of hurting or killing cyclists, but everyone is afraid of scratching a 500-series krautmobile.

As the Jag flew past the exact point where G$ went down, an incredible thing happened. One of the women who cleans floors, toilets, shitty diapers, and dog poop for the rich white folks in PVE pulled the exact same curb-to-curb maneuver that had taken out G$. She never even looked.

But I did.

And what I saw was the side of a Honda Civic a few feet from the front wheel of my bike. So, like the pro I am, I did what I always do when confronted with catastrophe on my bike. I screamed.

It’s a scream that people who ride with me have heard before. It’s a throaty, roaring, “Heyaaarrrghhhhaaaaeeehayyyy!” and it’s amazingly loud for such a skinny guy with a big stomach. At the same time I screamed, I leaned the bike over into the oncoming traffic lane in which, thankfully, there was none.

My front wheel and the bumper of her car avoided contact by a foot. She stared at me, gape-mouthed. “Where did that bicycle come from? Gosh, how scary. Gee, he could have damaged my car.” I know that’s what she was thinking.

When I got to the office, my chamois was a tad browner than usual. The thread, however, was intact.

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Paddle in

January 5, 2014 § 7 Comments

Sometimes riding a bike isn’t really about bicycles. I was in the office the other day when the phone rang. It was G-JiT, a/k/a Geriatric Jedi in Training. “Hey, are you busy?” he asked.

“Not really,” I admitted, looking guiltily at the FB news feed.

“Can I treat you to a burger and beer?”

“Is that even a question?”

He laughed and a few minutes later we were enjoying the sunshine while awaiting a cyclist-friendly-healthy double char burger with cheese, avocado, caramelized onions and all the trimmings, washed down with an IPA. G-JiT showed his calorie consciousness by going without the bun.

We got to talking about family and kids because, well, we’re dads. “Man,” I said, “those photos you’ve been posting of your son Nic on Facebook are something else.”

“You like them?”

“They’re fantastic. As one of the worst people to ever paddle a surfboard, I’m in awe of people like him. How long has be been a pro?”

“Oh, he just got sponsored, actually.”

“Really? How old is he? I thought he was in his mid-to-late-20′s.”

“No, he’s only twenty-one.”

“Damn.” I mused for a minute. “That’s a tough world to make it in.”

G-JiT and I sat there in silence for a minute, thinking “dad” thoughts, the ones shared by every man who’s ever had a son. It’s an ancient thought, and it goes like this: I want my son to have a good life, and in order to have a good life he has to succeed at something, and in order to succeed he has to have passion, and in order to have passion he has to take risks, and in order to take risks he has to fail, so in order for him to have a good life and find success he must also fail. This thought was followed by the other “dad” thought: I hope my son doesn’t fail.

“It’s his passion,” mused J-GiT. “But pro surfing and pro cycling, you know, everyone wants to be the next Slater or Merckx.”

I am of course nothing if not filled with stereotypes and prejudices. “Well, it’s sure going to be hard for him to go college if this doesn’t work out. It only gets harder as you get older.”

G-JiT nodded. “He was at San Diego State University.”

“At least he took a couple of semesters before he dropped out?” I asked hopefully, knowing that it’s still brutally hard to go back and get your degree once you’ve quit.

“He never dropped out.”

I must have looked amazed. “Really?”

“Oh, far from it. He graduated with honors in business management in three years and walked into a fantastic job offer from Morgan Stanley.”

I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I’d had too much too drink and had lost the train of the conversation, hoping that by nodding politely G-JiT would say something to cue me back to the actual topic. “Wow,” I said, as he kept looking at me as if I had understood.

“Yeah, he had a few weeks in between graduation and the start of his job, so he took a surf trip down to Puerto Escondido. That’s where all those Facebook photos were shot. Then some guy came up to him on his last day there, it had been, you know, three weeks of non-stop monster surf at the Mexican Pipeline, and this guy who’s a lifeguard, one of the old school, he said, ‘Hey kid, what’s your name? I been on this beach for twenty years and I’ve seen it all, the pros, the wannabes, the broken necks and broken backs, and I’ve never seen anyone charge it like you’ve been doing, day in and day out.’”

“Damn,” I said.

“So Nic came home and he was really up front and said ‘This is my passion and I want to pursue it so I won’t ever have to look back and say “what if?”‘ He wasn’t asking our permission, but he was asking for our blessing.”

I took another sip of beer and the “dad” thought continued. You know the one, right? The one that says “Good lord, that’s such a risk, the risk of failure is so high, couldn’t your passion be for computer science, or for electrical engineering?”

I thought about all the fathers in the world who have told their sons to dream big dreams and reach for the sky, only to bring them down hard when they do. I thought about the words of another friend, who always says “Don’t go for what’s likely, go for what’s possible.”

“What did you tell him?”

“We talked it over, my wife and I, then we told him that now was his time. And we were in his corner all the way.”

I got goosebumps. A little later we started talking about cycling again, which, it turned out, we’d been talking about all along.

Does he even know who I am?

January 4, 2014 § 35 Comments

We rolled out from CotKU and this fucktard, from the very beginning, sneaked to the back. You know the type. Everyone takes a turn at the front but fucktard never gets anywhere near it because, you  know, it’s our job to drag his sorry ass around all day.

When we hit PCH and the light at Topanga, the deck reshuffled again and he opened up a gap next to Bull and started slinking to the back.

“Hey, fucktard,” I said in a jovial way. “Get your sorry fucking ass back in the line and take a fucking pull.”

He hesitated and gave me a nasty look. Polly and Roadchamp were on the point, Bull was behind Roadchamp, and Fucktard had opened a space next to Bull, obviously waiting for someone else to fill it as he slinked to the back. “What?” he said, surprised.

“Get your worthless fucking ass back in the line and take a fucking pull when it’s your turn.”

He gave me the Look of Hurt Feelings. “But you guys are all stronger than me,” he whined.

“You think you’re gonna get stronger sucking wheel on the back while we drag your double wide ass up the coast? Get the fuck in line and take a fucking pull.”

“You guys are all younger than me!” he whined some more.

“Like that’s my problem? You don’t like our group go fucking ride somewhere else. This isn’t a welfare state. If you’re gonna stick your face in the hog trough, then you better take a fucking pull.”

What is it with people?

Fucktard reluctantly sidled up to Bull and sat behind Konsmo and Polly for six or seven long miles. When it came time to take a pull he went to the front and took one. We weren’t going fast and we weren’t going hard. It was totally doable and, surprise, he did it. All the while he was chatting, with great animation, to Bull.

After  less than a mile the dude next to me flatted. We stopped and Fucktard helped with a snappy tire change. I went behind a fence and urinated on the fender of a very expensive Ferrari. When I came back, he stuck out his hand and aggressively introduced himself. I smiled and responded in kind. Then we hit Cross Creek and he turned around.

“Hey,” said Bull. “That guy didn’t like you very much.”

“Him and 6.5 billion others,” I said.

“What did you say to him?”

“I told him to take a fucking pull and quit slinking to the back like a wanker.”

“He was pretty upset.”

“So what? At least he took a pull. What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Does that guy know who I am? He can’t talk to me like that!’”

“Who was he?”

“Some crit racer from the 80′s.”

“Ohhhhh … then it’s okay. He raced bikes in a hairnet so he should be allowed to sit in and have us tow him around all day.”

Bull laughed. “Something like that.”

Some rules of the road

Here’s the deal with group riding, especially in a small group. No one gets to sit in. If you’re too old, too weak, too overweight, too undertrained, too inexperienced, too nervous, or too lazy to take a pull, then go away. No one wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Wow, I’d like to tow someone around all day, especially someone I don’t know and have never ridden with.”

Think about it like this: If someone has more money than you, do you go up to them and demand they subsidize your rent? Okay, bad example. We’re talking about bike racers after all.

The thing about taking a pull is that it ennobles you, even if you crack, crumble, and get shelled. Everyone respects someone who tries. No one respects someone who, without asking, sucks wheel and never takes a pull. Taking a pull isn’t just a thing you should do on bike rides, it’s a metaphor for life. There’s a kid on the NPR named Ronan who, at age 13, has more guts and courage and personal responsibility than guys who’ve been doing that ride for decades. He can’t wait to charge to the front, take a hard pull, and stick his nose in the wind. He doesn’t care if he gets shelled, he just wants to taste the front and test his legs AND DO HIS SHARE.

So when some dude “from the 80′s” refuses to do anything other than glom onto the back and refuse to do even a fraction of his share … he’s going to get a talking to.

As Garrett, one of the witnesses to the whole affair said, “Well, that was another motivational talk from the Wankmeister. Spreading the love.”

You’re goddamned fucking right.

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Wankmeister cycling clinic #21: bike hating S/O’s

January 3, 2014 § 12 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

My wife hates cycling, and cyclists, and cycles. I get up and train at 4:00 AM so I can be be home at six, before she wakes up. She makes me feel so ashamed of my cycling, like when I masturbate under the sheets after she’s gone to sleep. What’s the solution?

In deepest shame,
Onan Ism

Dear Onan:

Masturbate on top of the sheets, while she’s awake.

One-handedly,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

My husband despises cycling and is terribly jealous of my bikie friends. He tongue lashes me when I get up early to ride, stalks my FB page, and makes nasty, snide comments about my bike buddies. If he’d only try it, he’d see how much fun it is! How can I convert him?

Sadly,
Mary Merry

Dear Mary:

He’s jealous because all he has is golf. You need to increase his jealousy to a fever pitch. Show him pictures of your bike buddies in their tight shorts with cruel outlines of their massive timber. Then show him fiery hot photos of your cycling girlfriends with their sexy butts and impressive cleavage. If this doesn’t work, dump him.

Catholically,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

My girlfriend is very unreasonable. Just because I race every weekend and train all the time doesn’t mean I don’t love her. She demands ridiculous shit, like, that we do a “date night” every Friday and stuff. How can I explain to her that “date night” is my recovery night so I can be ready for the big Saturday ride?

Frustratedly,
Pigsy Poppins

Dear Pigsy:

Wow! What a pushy bitch! Have you showed her GoPro videos of the ride? Does she understand that this is where reputations are made? FUCK HER! If you give in on this one, she’ll be asking you to take her out for her birthday, anniversary, etc. Madness. Time to move on.

Factually,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

Now that I’m happily married and my wife is pregnant, I’m starting to think about how to reorganize my life so that I give priority to my kid and family. I love cycling, but it seems more important that I invest my energies in my family. Plus, I can always come back to cycling later. What’s the right amount of riding for a new dad?

Responsibly,
Pater Familias

Dear Pater:

The most impressionable time of a child’s life is the first two years. So, you should be absent as much as possible to prevent the li’l booger from adopting your bad riding habits. Now is the time for big miles. Also, even though your wife will be upset at having to stay home and change poopy diapers while you’re quaffing lattes on the bricks and setting new Strava PR’s, it will make her stronger. Also, if you quit cycling now, thinking you’ll pick it up later, all of your competitors will gain valuable mileage and race experience. Think about it like this: Would you rather have children who say, “My dad was always there for me,” or kids who say, “My dad once podiumed in a 45+ crit.” Right?

Truthfully,
Wankmeister

2014 in review

January 2, 2014 § 19 Comments

My goal for 2014 was the same for 2013: don’t get shelled on the SPY Holiday Ride.

2013 was therefore a colossal failure. 2014? A complete success. I’m looking forward to 264 days of happy reflection on yesterday’s signal accomplishment, and am already thinking about a goal for 2015, something like “clean my chain.”

What is the SPY Holiday Ride? Despite the misleading title, it is not a holiday of a bike ride. It is, rather, a miserable, awful, pain-filled shitcake of a beatdown held throughout the year on national federal holidays. The ride began as a way for folks to enjoy their national holiday through the fun and camaraderie of a ride through North County San Diego, with a little competitive fun thrown in along the way. What it quickly became is a shark tank filled with the gnarliest, toughest, fastest, most ruthless riders in Southern California. The only people who show up on this thing are the ones who want to hurt or be hurt.

Surfer Dan and I left the South Bay at 5:15 AM. We reached Encinitas way ahead of schedule, which was awesome because Brent Garrigus at Ride Cyclery was just putting out the hot coffee, bagels, and schmeer. It was freezing cold. “How you feeling?” Brent asked.

“Great. I just have one goal.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t get dropped.”

Everyone has one

Unless you’re one of a handful of freaks — or David LeDuc — everyone has a ride, or a portion of a ride, that they fantasize about not getting dropped on. Maybe it’s the local Saturday hammerfest, or maybe it’s the local big climb, or maybe it’s the training crit with the “fast riders.” Sometimes, it’s just keeping up with Ol’ Rickety, the nemesis who somehow always manages to crack you at just the last minute.

For me, the monument has been the SPY Holiday Ride. Each time the pattern has been the same: Get up awfully early. Make the drive down to North County. Roll out at 8:00 AM. Get dropped 20 minutes into the ride when we hit the Dieguinos climb. Regroup a couple of miles later, where the real athletes are all waiting, bored and filled with contempt at those of us drizzling snot from our upper lip into our mouths. Ride together with the reduced group, then get dropped on Del Dios Highway. Join the re-group, which is now only 40 or 50 out of the original two hundred or more riders. Get horribly dropped coming back up the Three Witches. Hop in with a flailpetto and get dropped again doing the reverse side of Dieguinos. Catch on the downhill and struggle in on the flats.

Then, stop at the Bier Garden, drown my woes in alcohol, and have a designated driver ferry me home, where I sink into a deep and profound depression combined with a throbbing ache in my legs that doesn’t go away until about four days later.

Droppage analysis

If you think about it, it’s pretty easy to figure out why you suck at the one ride you want to excel at. For me, the SPY Holiday Ride breaks down like this:

  1. The good riders are faster than I am.
  2. When the axe comes down and it’s butchering time, I prefer to play with my Barbie & Ken kitchen set.
  3. Thurlow, Tinstman, Stinger, Zink, Fiedler, MMX, Pomeranz, Boy Brian, etc.

However, these past several months I’ve been perfecting my SPY Holiday Ride strategy. First, I’ve been eating lots of fresh, home-baked bread and slathering it with butter. Second, I’ve upped my beer game considerably. In addition to the case of beer provided by G-JiT, the case of beer from Gussy, the two four-packs from Kenny, the monthly beer subscription from MMX, the six-packs from Little Miss Pottymouth a/k/a Foxy Moxie, and the low, low price of $3.99 per whangus-sized bottle of Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA sold around the corner at Von’s, I’ve been assiduously practicing my beer technique.

Just as importantly, I’ve been resting, yes, resting. That, plus a bike fit and lots of emphasis on getting my cadence up from the high 70′s to 110 – 120 has meant that I’m able to spin out most of the hangover juice by mid-day, leaving plenty of capacity for more bread/butter/beer (the three B’s of cycling fitness) when it’s time for dinner.

I’ve had inklings that this rest + spin + beer combo is working much better than 2013′s infamous kimchi fart diet. For example, on the Thanksgiving holiday ride, I almost didn’t get dropped several times. “Almost didn’t get dropped” may not sound like much, but when you’re old, droopy, and slow, you measure success in micro-intervals. For example, “almost didn’t get dropped” means that with more fitness and speed I would have hung on, as opposed to “shat out the back,” which means that the only way I would have hung on was with a third leg, an extra lung, and a two-stroke. Prior SPY holiday rides were always in the “shat out the back” category.

How the war was won

Having firmly visualized success, set my goal in a loud Facebook posting, and guzzled a couple of pitchers of fromargs made from cheapest tequila on New Year’s Eve, I was pleasantly surprised on the Dieguinos climb to find that after depilating my beard and retching out the remains of the fromargs, I had not been dropped. It was later pointed out to me that this was one of the slowest holiday rides ever. This did not diminish by even an iota the pleasure I got from being a waiter instead of a waitee, and looking snobbishly at the poor schmoes who came up gasping and gagging and looking just like I had a few minutes before … only they hadn’t seen me!

On the climb to Lake Hodges I continued not to be dropped. On the return up Del Dios I didn’t get dropped some more. When we made the turn up Fairbanks Ranch I kept not getting dropped, which is more than all but about fifteen other riders could say, including certain South Bay riders who had made the drive south to show their stuff. Tri-Dork’s remains littered the roadside, along with the Wily Greek and Peyton, who was poured into a plastic sack and brought home in a hearse.

On the final of the Three Witches I came brutally unhitched, but just as the dwindling group of eleven riders was set to pedal away, Zink also came unhitched. I glommed onto the Cadillac Draft, he caught his breath and towed me back up. Then, as we pounded up the back-ass of San Dieguinos, I came unhitched again. Just as Thurlow, Tinstman, Cobley, Sam, Pomeranz, and Boy Brian seemed set to leave for good, the Three Musketeers of Stinger, Zink, and Fiedler came roaring by. I struggled on, and they madly hit the descent to close the 100-yard gap. At just the wrong moment, Thurlow’s front wheel blew out, and how Tinstman and Sam, who were on his wheel, didn’t go down I will never know.

Thurlow managed to keep the bike upright until he slowed it from 40+ to about 20 while railing down the twenty percent grade. The tire then came off the rim and got caught in the brakes, throwing him over the bars. He was skinned and bloody, but nothing was broken. It was such a horrifically fast and crazy and scary fall that we stood around in shock, amazed that the only casualty had been Thurlow, whose kit looked like it had been washed with an industrial shredder filled with blood. A sag call was made and shortly thereafter we finished the ride.

Back at the shop Zink, who had won the Del Dios KOM and gotten a case of Lost Abbey BWR Ale as his prime, gave a bottle each to me and Dan for our solid riding. I thanked him and quickly stuffed the bottles into my duffle. Maybe one day he’ll find out that Surfer Dan doesn’t drink.

2013 Year in Preview

December 30, 2013 § 13 Comments

Looking ahead to 2013, I foresee a lot of really cool stuff, and today I’m going to make some bold predictions, all of which are guaranteed to come true.

  1. I will start drinking beer again. Specifically, this will happen at the conclusion of the Belgian Waffle Ride, where I predict that I will be ground up like mashed potatos.
  2. Chris Froome will win the Tour de France.
  3. Chris Horner will win the Vuelta a Aburrido, and become the oldest mutant to ever win a grand tour.
  4. I will publish a book about cycling in the South Bay.
  5. Tim Roach will coach Tara Unversagt to multiple world masters titles on the track.
  6. Julie Cutts will win world masters titles in the time trial and on the road.
  7. Robert Efthimos will become an expectant father.
  8. SBBaby Seal and Manslaughter will give me a birthday gift card for the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and it will actually have money left on it.
  9. Charon Smith will end the year with 1,582 Facebook friends, only 1,580 of whom are insanely jealous of his success.
  10. Sherri Foxworthy will teach me some very cool new expressions, none of which use the word “fuck.”
  11. Chris Lotts will put on a bunch of good bike races and only anger half the participants with his pre-race announcements.
  12. Mike Hecker will put on a lights-out race series in Santa Barbara County.
  13. Neil Shirley will win the BWR.
  14. SPY Optic will enjoy another year of uninterrupted growth, and CEO Michael Marckx will get promoted to the board of directors.
  15. While American debates Duck Dynasty, Congress will fast-track legislation that further curtails freedom and fundamental human rights.
  16. Kevin Phillips will set an hour record.
  17. I will crash and hit my head at 40 mph and walk away from it with only moderate brain damage, which will be undetectable from my previous state.
  18. The kimchi South Bay Biker Diet will come to an ignominious end and all the lost weight will be rediscovered.
  19. I will ride more than 14,000 miles on my bike.
  20. It will be a wonderful year.

Raymond Fouquet Memorial & other rides …

December 28, 2013 § 5 Comments

December 29: On what would have been Raymond’s 93rd birthday, Velo Club La Grange invites everyone to join them on a memorial pedal along the famous Nichols Canyon route. This is one of the iconic rides in Southern California, and was started by Fouquet, a French immigrant, waiter, restaurateur, and passionate cyclist. Riders meet at the traditional meeting place on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and La Grange Avenue. Please meet by 7:45 AM.  The ride will be a “No Drop” pace led by Marco Fantone. VCLG asks that you obey traffic laws and be courteous to motorists, even the ones who are obviously trying to kill you. The ride is about 30 miles long and ends at Peet’s Coffee in Brentwood, so you can also park there, as it is about three miles to the start in Westwood. Estimated end time is 10:00 AM. All La Grange members are encouraged to wear their current kits in honor of Raymond’s memory, and other area riders are also encouraged to wear their club colors, as Raymond’s life was all about supporting Southern California amateur bicycle racing.

December 29: Tour of Palos Verdes. This will be a moderately paced wankalong leaving the Malaga Cove fountains at 7:30 AM sharp for a more easily paced loop around the PV Peninsula. Everyone is invited, and like all good rides this one ends at a coffee shop, also in Malaga Cove. There’s plenty of parking if you’re driving. The route will follow the Donut Ride, but at a pace where you’re not hocking up a lung.

Jan 1: South Bay Holiday Ride. This ride goes off at promptly at 7:59:18 from the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a CotKU, a/k/a Manhattan Beach Starbucks by the pier. It is a complete fredfest, and when the weather is good, which it will likely be on Wednesday, the ride can attract well over 200 alleged cyclists, all of whom will be surging and charging to get to the front so that they can promptly slow down. The festivities start on Mandeville Canyon Road, where the massive gaggle, which will have already shed a hundred riders up San Vicente, will lose another 175 or so riders as the pace hits warp speed up this 6-mile climb. So, if you’re reading this carefully, yes, you got it right. It’s an all-day pedal (70+ from PV) so that you can do an 18-minute effort with some very fast riders. The rest of the time you’ll be terrified for your life trying to avoid the tandems, in-line skaters, racquetball players, and freddies who are trying out their $15k Christmas rig for the very first time.

Jan. 1: North County Holiday Ride. This ride goes off not-so-promptly at 8:00 AM or 8:05 AM, leaving from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas. What began as a friendly, welcoming way to get people to enjoy a holiday pedal together — modeled after the South Bay ride of the same name — has become  a kind of low-watermark in vicious brutality. The ride eases along for about 20 minutes, and can have pretty big numbers depending on the weather, but as soon as the group hits the San Dieguitos climb, well, the effluent meets the rotating blades. This ride is not for the meek, the weak, or the fragile of ego, because your legs will get torn off and your sense of self-worth will be completely destroyed. Expect to spend a lot of time by yourself, wondering why you drove 100 miles at 5:00 AM to pedal, lost and broken, amidst the endless rollers of North County hell. The ride climbs up Lake Hodges, which invariably reduces the already reduced gathering into a final selection of ten or fifteen of the true strongmen and strong women of SoCal cycling. Make it to the top of this bad boy with the leaders and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with Tinstman, Rogers, Dahl, MMX, and a handful of other bloodthirsty warriors. The ride is quick and short; 60 miles finished by a graveside service.

Jan 1: Long Beach NYD Ride. If you’ve never ridden with 10,000 other freddies, this is your chance. A wilder, crazier, more reckless, bizarre, dangerous, flailing group of whackadoodles hasn’t gathered in one place since the last full session of Congress. It’s a hundred miles and the pace starts hot, shedding the freddies, until only the strong freddies are left. The ride goes south from Long Beach; check the ride route here. The ride finishes in San Diego, so you should be prepared to either ride 100 miles back, or have someone waiting to pick you up, or have money for a motel room, or belly up to the bar and start drinking. Enjoy, and stay alive, or at least in one piece.

2014 Desolutions

December 27, 2013 § 14 Comments

The New Year is right around the corner, and  there’s no way you’re thinking about 2014 resolutions while you’re still in the middle of that terrible sugar coma combined with the ill effects of too much beer, too much tequila, too many carbs topped with sugar and butter, not enough sleep, zero exercise except for that little wrist flex that lets you run your credit card, and cheating on your wife.

The bad news is that, after reviewing your life history, we’ve concluded that resolutions are hopeless. You will remain the same slug-like entity you have always been, only you’ll be older, uglier, slower, more stupid, and irrevocably closer to death. The good news is that instead of burdening you with resolutions to bring out the “New You,” a you who, by the way, has zero chance of ever happening, we’re introducing Wanky’s New Year’s Desolutions ™ that are designed  to enhance those qualities that make you the wanker you already are.

Top 10 Desolutions for 2014

  1. Wanky Gruntervals ™ : No intervals to make you faster in 2014! Instead, we’re prescribing a series of Wanky Gruntervals ™ that won’t make you one whit faster but, on the other hand, won’t cause you any discomfort, either. Grunterval workout: Do this once a month or less, depending on how many you can squeeze in as you shuttle between your home and your mistress. 2 x 2 minutes at 3% of your FTP, or less. Do these until you are completely bored. Quitting early is fine. If you reach a point where you have to push through the slowness, you’re trying too hard. Back off and give up.
  2. Three B’s Wanky Diet Plan ™ : Thinking about going gluten free? Well, those little gluten fuckers will stay in prison under Wanky’s Three B’s Diet Plan ™. Heard great things about the Paleo Diet? Don’t be a Homo habilis. The Three B’s are simple — beer, butter, and bread. You can throw in “boinking” for extra credit if you’re feeling energetic. The Mon – Sun meal plan looks like this: Shit ton of beer, fresh home-baked bread slathered with another shit-ton of butter, and lots of sleep. “But!” you protest. “That will make me enormous!” Yes, I believe the phrase is “fat and happy.” And for 2014, the goal is happy.
  3. Wanky’s Biker Budget Plan ™ : When you review your finances from 2013 it will be clear that you are flat ass broker than a street bum after cashing in his $20 scratch ‘n sniff lottery ticket. You pissed away what little excess you had on bike crap and beer. Yours was the only charge card that Target decided not to leak. The Wanky Biker Budget Plan ™ will allow you to get back to financial stability by instituting 100% austerity measures that include never paying your child support or alimony, filing bankruptcy to discharge all your bad debt, defaulting on your mortgage, and stealing someone else’s identity so that you can start fresh, i.e. “get a cool new bike and some wheels.”
  4. Wanky’s Family Plan ™ : You know how you were planning on getting to know your kids better? Spend more time with your loved ones? Well, fuck that shit. The Wanky Family Plan ™ includes an exhaustive list of excuses that you can text your family members explaining why you have to ride, or keep riding, or drive two days to get to that three-day race, or (most importantly) why you’re too tired after doing all those things to do anything except sleep. And get me a goddamned sandwich and a beer, okay?
  5. Wanky’s Race Resume Builder ™ : Let’s face it, you’re never going to get on a good old farts’ race team, you know, one that gives you cool swag and beer money. Why? Because you suck and you’re an asshole. So rather than hitting up “friends” for space on that team you’ll never get on, the Wanky Race Resume Builder ™ recognizes your utter hopelessness and lets you target teams that would be glad to have you. List includes: Bozo’s Baby Fatback Ribs and Pork Bellies Race Team; Edgar’s Vaginal Inserts Race Team; Snuffy’s Penis Lengtheners Road Warriors; West Bay Rehab Clinics Wheelpeople; and Old Fatty Rouleurs.
  6. The Wanky Kool Century ™ : So each year you swear you’re going to do a full century but you always bail at the last minute, right? The Wanky Kool Century ™ is only four miles long, starts at a hamburger shop and ends at a beer joint. You get a t-shirt with registration (only size available is the only one you’ll need, XXXXL) and a commemorative Wanky Drinkypants Beer Stein ™. The t-shirt tells the world that you were a “Top 10 Finisher” in a 100-mile bike ride and also says “State Champion” with a bear insignia. Done.
  7. Wanky’s Job Advancement Planner ™ : You’ve been mired in a dead-end job for twenty years for a reason, and that reason is spelled “bicycling.” As long as you only talk about bikes, you will never get promoted ahead of that eager-beaver, bright-eyed, conquer-the-world shithead who gets there early, stays late, never complains, and struts all over the office with the boss’s dick in his mouth. The Job Advancement Planner ™ is a taped set you can listen to on morning rides that lets you answer questions such as “How’s the project going, Bill?” and “Have you completed the reports yet, Sandy?” in a professional way. Sample answers include “It’s right on time,” and “It’ll be done by the end of the day,” instead of your standard responses, i.e. “Project? Fuck that. I have 41 pages of KOM’s on Strava now, dude,” and “I’ll get that report done after training camp.”

Okay, folks, you’re ready to rock it in 2014. And you know who to thank, preferably in cash as explained in the note below.

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Note to reader: Did you know that you can now subscribe to Cycling in the South Bay in order to keep this invaluable stream of time-wasting nonsense coming on a daily basis? For a mere $2.99 per month you can pay money for something that you could otherwise have for free. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner … and thanks!

Merry Cooperative Christmas!

December 25, 2013 § 22 Comments

I wish you a merry Christmas! That’s what atheists do. We’re merry that way.

The second part of that greeting, you know, wishing you much success in the new year? I was going to wish you that, but now I’m not. Instead I wish you much cooperation. Whether you succeed at anything or not next year, and whether or not Santa brings you what you want, 2014 will be a beautiful year for you if you only cooperate.

I came to this realization at the late age of 49. I’d driven down to Carlsbad on a Friday afternoon to judge at a high school debate tournament. Taken the day off, filled up the car, you know, doing my duty to occasionally participate in one of my kid’s school events, when “Brinnnnnng!” my cell phone rang. It was some kid from the tournament. “Hi, Mr. Davidson.”

“Hi.”

“We don’t need you today.”

“Who is this?”

“Billy, from the debate tournament.”

“Well, thanks for letting me know.”

“Yes, sir. Now you can enjoy your day.”

It was really thoughtful of young Billy, letting me know that I was superfluous just as I pulled into the school parking lot after making the two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Then my phone rang again. “Brinnnnnng!”

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s Michael. What are you doing?”

“Just hanging out in North County San Diego.”

“Have you started drinking yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Swing by the office at three. We’re having Friday happy hour.”

The spirit of Christmas

I got to the SPY corporate headquarters and was ushered in. A keg of Lost Abbey ale had been tapped, and the staff was slowly filtering into the warehouse, where chairs had been set up in front of a screen. Everyone was relaxed and happy, and who wouldn’t be on a lovely Friday afternoon with work ending a couple of hours early, punctuated by beer and a movie?

Michael gave a brief talk. Well, brief for him. He talked about competition versus cooperation. It struck me as strange that a company whose existence is predicated on successful competition would be limning the contrast of survival of the fittest with survival of the most cooperative. Then the video began.

Are humans innately competitors, or are they cooperators? Are we alpha organisms who dominate and lead a herd, or are we cooperative creatures ruled by the desire to share and the desire to help each other reach a common goal?

The video was striking in the way it made its case. Some of the points were derived from pseudo-scientific flummery, but many were core truths: Society depends on cooperation. We feel best when we do things in tandem with others. Lonely achievements are empty. Our mirror reflex, or our human instinct to recoil at the pain of others and to smile at the happiness of strangers, is an innate expression of our desire to do good things together. This was Michael’s message about the the approach of his company, and a broader suggestion about the approach of life as well.

If you believe that competition is where it’s at, and that you’ve only succeeded when you’ve reached the pinnacle, crushed your rivals, and amassed the biggest amount of the pie for yourself, this video won’t change your mind. But if you’re gliding into the holiday season like most of us, vaguely aware that more presents don’t equal happiness, conscious that winning isn’t the key to satisfaction, and alert to the chord in your soul that resonates when you hear of good deeds, then this message of cooperation versus competition is the right one at the right time of year.

The cooperative bicyclist

Bicyclists are an extremely cooperative bunch, even when they’re doping at 60+ masters races, crashing their enemies into the curb, and bunny-hopping two-by-fours rather than calling them out for the poor guy behind who hits it at full speed. Riding in any kind of group requires cooperation on so many levels. Despite the log head who refuses to call shit out, most of us do. Taking turns at the front, riding steadily enough so that the person behind you and the people beside you can predict your path, even the simple act of agreeing on a start time and a route are all fundamentally cooperative acts that make the group ride or the bike race possible.

The essence of cooperation is distinct from giving or charity, where you part with something you’d rather keep simply in order to help someone else. Cooperation means parting with something you’d rather keep so that other people will part with something they’d rather keep so that you as a group can get something that none of you can achieve by yourselves. Even the hyper-competitive moment when some wanker dusts you in the sprunt quickly dissolves into a loosely formed, panting group, with kudos and back slaps and the occasional curse about “Why’d you chase me down, you fucker?”

I see a lot of bloody-fanged competition in bicycling, but I see a lot more cooperation. The microcosm of racing is dwarfed by the fred rides of friends and strangers rolling up and down the coast, sometimes in masses, sometimes in twos and threes. People sharing the work, and being there for the other fred when he flats, crashes, gets taken out by a car, or needs to stop and have another frozen pizza, are the ways that we build something a lot more real and a lot more human than spots on a Strava leaderboard.

As an atheist I’m pretty sure that St. Nick doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether you were naughty or nice. But whether or not you’re a believer or an infidel, a merry cooperative Christmas will do more to fill your stocking than all the sales at Wal-Mart and Target put together. Cheers!

Ride better

December 24, 2013 § 42 Comments

Every year I adopt numerous new techniques that are designed to make me faster. Nose breathing … THOG pedaling … power meter … interval training … kimchi diet … etc.

The one thing that all these approaches have in common is that, by the end of December, I finally understand that THIS IS THE YEAR it has finally all come together. This [fill in the blank with name of new technique here] was the missing link between me and greatness, the secret which, now unlocked, will propel me to incredible feats of bicycling amazingness.

The other thing these innovations have in common is this: Sometime in February, or more precisely, halfway through Boulevard Road Race, the hopes and dreams of December will dissolve into the bitter tonic of “You will never be any better than you ever were, which was not very.”

Still, Imma teach you how to ride better

Notice I didn’t say “faster,” or “stronger,” or “more wattagey,” and especially I didn’t say “better in races.” Because I can’t show you how to do any of those things. If I could, I would do them myself and jealously hide the secret, or make you pay a lot of money for it.

The following advice only applies to a small group of people. Which people? Take the following screening quiz:

  1. I race. [yes/no]
  2. I am old. [yes/no]
  3. I am tired. [yes/no]

If you answered  “yes” to all three, then the new 2014 training program may work for you.

The problem with your training, whatever it is, is that it tires you out. This is because you are old and weak and slow. You think you’re young and strong but in fact you are not. If you toss up that old canard, “I fell better than I did when I was 25,” all I can say is that you must have felt like shit when you were twenty-five.

Nothing you have at fifty works as well as it did when you were young, especially your innards and your muscles. So when you ride your bike a bunch and follow one of those “3-week training blocks of hard efforts” it’s effectively smushing into a gooey pulp the tiny dab of strength and resilience you have left. In short, the solution to your training problems is one word — “rest.”

I don’t mean that kind of rest

“Rest” for a competitive cyclist (come on, admit it) means “not hammering as hard as I usually hammer.” You wouldn’t know rest from an uptempo jazz beat in 8/16. Your idea of taking it easy is an “easy” 115 miles up Mt. Wilson and back.

What I’m getting at is this: Your legs always feel heavy and tired because you don’t know how to rest. You know who you are.

Without getting into the physiological aspects of it, mostly because I know squat about physiology, here’s the deal. As you get older, you get weaker, uglier, and more stupid, and eventually you die. This means that the training load you could sustain in your 20′s (but that you didn’t because instead of getting up early and working out you were sleeping off a nasty hangover, doing the walk of shame, etc.), you cannot sustain now. Those training plans that work wonders for young bucks and buckettes in their 20′s won’t work for you. All they’ll do is snuff your spark.

How to properly rest

Rest is like enjoyment of natto. It is an acquired taste. Here’s how to do it so that you become refreshed, which is good, rather than more tired, which is bad.

  1. Don’t do any training plan that requires more than one “hard” week. You are too weak and feeble to sustain back-to-back weeks of big efforts.
  2. Your hard week should have no more than five hard days — Tue/Wed/Thu/Sat/Sun.
  3. Your easy week should begin with the three “B’s”, beer, butter and bread. Actually, so should your hard week.
  4. The key to rejuvenating your tired and worn out old legs is high rpm’s in a tiny gear. 110-120 rpm in your 39 x 28 is highly recommended. I know, you’re going to complain “But I’ll be spinning like a kook and only going 12 miles per hour!” Right. That’s because you are a kook. If you weren’t a kook you’d have a pro contract and race in Europe. But you don’t and you don’t. So shut up and spin.
  5. You’ll know whether it’s working because after your workout you’ll get home and will hardly feel like you’ve been on your bike, even if you’ve been riding for two hours.
  6. Since your easy week goes from Monday-Monday, you’ll have eight days of super spinny, super tweezly, non-stress riding. Your muscles will be continually soaked in a bath of oxygen-rich blood. When Tuesday rolls around, rather than dreading it and feeling like you’ve been ordered to go “over the top” at the Battle of Passchendaele, you’ll be so champing at the bit, so raring to go, so hot to trot that your significant other will stare at you in awe. You’ll also be ready to ride your bike hard.

There. That’s all I know. Take it, it’s yours.

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