Mini sausage

June 19, 2014 § 16 Comments

Cycling has lots of bad news. People get killed. People get terribly injured. People have to pay late entry fees. People become triathletes. Etc.

But there is good news, too. One of the happiest bits of recent news involved Sausage, a legendary, relative newcomer to the world of South Bay cycling who has made the world a better place.

Sausage has produced hundreds of NPR videos, each one showcasing a different angle on 80+ idiots sitting in for four laps and then sprunting for the win. Sausage has himself won the NPR in impressive fashion. Sausage has been instrumental in funding Wonton Heavy Industries, Inc., a multinational conglomerate that produces what is indisputably the finest long distance bike ride concluding with greasy Chinese food snacks and beer farts.

But most amazing of all, Sausage has given birth to a daughter. Okay, his wife gave birth, but Sausage is the one who, through his job as head of M&A for the world’s largest lawyer firm, has impoverished millions and ensured the dominance of corporations over the lives of ordinary people. And for that we salute him.

It is therefore with great happiness that we congratulate Sausage for his functioning penis and we welcome Mini Sausage into the world! Yet, there are hiccoughs in paradise. The time-worn trajectory of 40-something masters racers who suddenly have children is inevitable: they go from catting up to catting into oblivion. The heroes of the tarmac who once could suck wheel for days only to come around you in the end wind up the victims of kiddie soccer games, swimming lessons, and PTA conferences. With this trajectory in mind, Cycling in the South Bay has decided to assist Sausage in the difficult parenting choices he must soon make.

The Roolz

  1. Responsible fathers take care of their newborn children. With the new changes in Sausage’s life, the pressures of adding a child into his family, and the need to ensure that Mrs. Sausage is adequately cared for, it is understood that Sausage will need to take an extended leave of absence from the NPR and associated cycling activities. Only by setting aside the trivialities of cycling and focusing on building a life for his new family will Sausage be able to fulfill his duties as a father and husband. This means that he will not return to the NPR until next Tuesday.
  2. Calculus. Many new fathers erroneously enroll their youngsters in kiddie soccer, t-ball, swimming lessons, and other activities that completely eviscerate the golden hours of Saturday and Sunday from 6 – 5. In order to ensure that you will still be able to waste your life riding your bicycle, you, Sausage, must make sure that Mini Sausage signs up for zero sports and enrolls in at least a dozen pre-calculus and SAT-prep courses. These all take place at night, when you’re swilling recovery beer and snoring on the couch. Plus, she will get into a good college, which is more than any amateur cyclist on Planet Earth can say, or has ever said.
  3.  Leave it to Mrs. Tiger Mom. We all know that racial stereotypes are terrible things. However, Asian wives kick ass on the litt’luns’ GPA. Try this out after a few beers: “Hey, Honey, I had a terrible dream last night that Mini Sausage got a B+ in calculus.” Watch while Mrs. Sausage, although maintaining a cool pretense of calm at the suggestion that her child would ever get an “Asian F” in math, immediately downloads three new books from Amazon on “Advanced Mathematics for Newborns.” See? You don’t have to do squat, Sausage, as long as you remember this Japanese saying: “The perfect husband is healthy, absent from home, and gainfully employed.”
  4. Money can buy happiness. In the same way that your $10k TT bike (used three times), your $7k ‘cross bike (used once), and your SOTA, wind tunnel-tested skin suit can get you first to the line on the NPR or 3rd on the podium in the Cat 5’s, that same, single-minded focus on spending money can ensure that Mini Sausage goes to Harvard. With her mom’s brains, her mom’s looks, and her dad’s 1040, this kid is poised to go all the way. Don’t screw it up by spending too much time around her.
  5. Cycling isn’t a pastime, it’s a disease. Take a moment to scroll through your FB feed and you’ll find countless examples of utter wankers (Padraig of RKP comes to mind) who think that their 2-year-old is going to be the next TdF contender. Reality check: cycling is French for “unemployed.” Get Mini Sausage a trike, show her how to ride it around the block, and then hustle her back into those calculus tutoring sessions. As much fun as it is to drop Cobley, Sam Warford, and Jay LaPlante going up Topanga, it’s more fun to mathematically prove that the universe originated from a giant beer fart. Why? Because the Nobel Prize in physics pays a shit-ton more than a Chris Lotts crit prime.
  6. Charity begins with me. In order to make room for Mini, you’ll need to clear out two of the three bedrooms filled with bicycle stuff. You ride a 58 cm. I ride a 58 cm. Your stuff is all brand new and uber trick. My stuff is all brand old and unter trick. Connect the dots, bro.
  7. We aren’t your friends, but we miss you anyway. Cyclists are like piranhas. We devour everything and forget about our compadres as soon as they’re dead. But still, Sausage, guys like you make the rides fun and make us feel like we’re successful even though we aren’t. We need you, pal. So throw yourself into fatherhood, be the man that your daughter needs, and once you’re finished come back to us ASAP. That means Tuesday.

With love,


Tour de stumbling around

June 17, 2014 § 11 Comments

When Tumbleweed made his move, it was decisive. Doubling his speed to 8 mph he launched up the sidewalk. The rest of the beeroton watched in awe as he approached a driveway and three empty trash cans. Just when he least expected it, one of the trash cans leaped up and took out his front wheel, which sent Tumbleweed sprawling onto the lawn.

Fortunately, this occurred across the street from a large Mexican family that was celebrating Father’s Day with a giant barbecue. They hooted and hollered as Tumbleweed staggered to his feet. “Are you okay, man?” one of the partiers shouted.

“No!” we hollered back. “He’s drunk!”

More laughter ensued, Tumbleweed checked the scrape on his knee, and the beeroton charged on towards its fourth and final stop, despite obvious confusion about which side of the road to ride on and what, exactly, one was supposed to do on “red.”

We put the “beer” back in Father’s Day

Today was the long-awaited Father’s Day Tour de Stumbling Around Stage Race. We had begun with a prologue TT through the line at 5 Guys Burgers in Torrance. Although Hoof Fixerman garnered the time that stood the longest, Bahati started last and tore up the previous times as he raged through a double cheeseburger and garlic fries four minutes faster than anyone else. This looked like a formidable lead that would be hard to overcome.

After the prologue, we mounted our bikes and raced to the start of Stage One, a challenging 45-minute romp through the menu board of Strand Brewing Co. In addition to a twisting, narrow path through ales and porters, the chief difficulty of the day would involve surmounting the White Sands Double IPA concocted by brewmaster Joel Elliott. Boasting a 9.5% alcohol content, this would give the climbers a chance to take back some of the time they had lost to the cheeseburger sprinters.

Of course, getting to Strand proved a mission of its own. Canyon Bob was riding a rather antique-ish mountain bike that had no air in its rear tire. “Why should I put in a new tube?” he asked. “I won’t ride it again for another four years.”

Erik the Red showed off some impressive MTB skills by half-hopping a curb and ripping out a few spokes, then riding for a long stretch on his front wheel. He was voted “Most Likely to Die” by a wide margin.

The winner of the first stage appeared to be Manslaughter, who started off with a weaker ale but finished with the double IPA. Just as it looked like no one could match his final glass, Fireman showed up with two small children, drank two double IPA’s and drained several half-empty mugs lying on the bar.

In addition to taking the points competition and the win for the first stage, Fireman was also poised to win the “Father of the Year Award” for taking his small sobbing children with him on an all-day bicycle tour of the South Bay’s best breweries.

“To hell with breakfast in bed,” he said. “More like beer on a bike.”

Back on the chain gang

Stage Two would be even harder — a 5-mile slog to the start line at Monkish Brewing. Since everyone was on a clunker or a cruiser except Bahati, who was riding his 10 year-old daughter’s baby bike, what should normally have been a quick five-mile jaunt turned into a test of endurance.

Then, somewhere in Old Torrance, New Girl got her underwear caught in her bicycle chain, resulting in the day’s first mechanical. Fortunately, we had two mechanics with us, so they were able to get her underpants safely off.

The combination of beer and sun and pedaling began to take its toll, but soon we reached the start of Stage Two. Here we were met by Derek and Mrs. The Destroyer, Nick “I useta race” Pollack, Marc M., Jens the Teutonic Wanker, and the lovely Julie B. Jens was riding Julie’s daughter’s bike and they had started out from Venice, which meant he already had, like, 50 miles on a child’s bike.

The parcours was smoother than Strand, as Monkish features only Belgian-style beers and even goes so far as to have an “IPA” sign with a red slash through it just in case you’re inclined to order one anyway.

There was a crash in the early part of the stage as riders got their beer mugs tangled up, but no one was hurt and the drinking continued apace. Towards the end, the early beer sprint and cheeseburger efforts were taking their toll in the form of crossed eyes, slurred speech, and the inevitable casting away of inhibitions.

Frenchy, Leatherpants, and Sparkles surged to the front at the end of the stage, making short work of the Saison beers, but Bahati remained 30 seconds in the lead even though he had ditched the kiddie bike and was now driving behind the group to provide neutral beer support.

The distance to Smog City Brewery, the third stage in the tour, was only a couple of minutes. No one fell over, but no one rode in a straight line, either. Boozy and Emily appeared to get lost, but somehow caught back on. Once the third stage began, it was clear that some riders would pull away from the rest, as we were back in West Coast style IPA-land. Big beers, big mugs, and very few people able to stand.

This is when Elron and Kelly showed up, mistakenly thinking it was a beer Madison race and they would be able to tag-team. Few concrete memories remain after Smog City, but Fireman appeared to have easily pushed aside Manslaughter’s early challenge, and was now atop the standings. The final stage was at Absolution Brewing, which is located somewhere and serves something.

Next came a long blank space, and then a soft green lawn, and then me using Mrs. Hoof Fixerman’s toilet, and then an ambulance, and then someone saying something about “next of kin.” But I woke up and felt fine, fine being, of course, a relative term.

It seems that someone was crowned champion, and some other people were not, however, everyone got home, or at least close to it.



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Hard as a ham sandwich

June 14, 2014 § 17 Comments

Derek the Destroyer looked at me and began speaking. His speech was slow and syrupy, disembodied almost from the movement of his mouth. Through his sunglasses I could see his listless, dying eyes.

“Wanky,” he said as we coasted down the Latigo bump on PCH towards the filling station. “I wonder if they have any ham sandwiches there?”

We were 130 miles in. We’d climbed Yerba Buena, Decker, the endless undulations of PCH, and the backdoor bonus climb at Zuma Beach. Derek had gone from bonk to the far-away stare of death, and his brain had regressed to its most infantile state, the state where, as you ponder hunger and starvation and the slowly decelerating circles of your legs, the part of your brain responsible for mental pictures of food (the subcutaneous trochanter) begins flashing images that contain the food requirements necessary to keep you alive.

For Derek, it was a ham sandwich.

“Dude,” I answered. “The only thing that gas station has are candy bars and diseases on the toilet seats. There ain’t no ham sandwiches there. There ain’t no ham sandwiches for another ten miles. Maybe the ‘Bucks at Malibu.”

He nodded dumbly. He’d known the answer before I gave it. “But don’t worry,” I encouraged him. “We only have thirty miles left to ride today.”

Surfer Dan and Manslaughter churned away on the front until we reached Malibu. We stopped at the coffee shop. Derek bought a ham sandwich and a single chocolate-covered graham cracker. He chewed slowly, his eyes staring emptily at the bricks on the sidewalk. “1, 2, 3 … ” he counted to himself.

“What’s he doing?” asked Surfer.

“He’s counting the bricks,” I said.

“I, 2, 3 … ” Derek repeated.

“He can’t seem to get past three,” Surfer noted.

“He’ll feel better soon,” I said. “Tomorrow.”

If you Facebook it, they will come

I had innocently invited the general public to join me on a mid-week jaunt up PCH after tackling the morning New Pier Ride hammerfest. This nasty 160-mile, 8,000-feet, all-day butchering attracted a solid contingent of about fifteen riders, all of whom thought that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

At the top of Yerba Buena, a godforsaken, crack-filled, pothole-scarred, 8-mile climb, we were only at the 85-mile mark. One by one we stragglers reached the summit that the Wily Greek, Surfer, and Derek had arrived at several hours before, and we were all thinking the same thing: “There’s no fuggin’ way I’m going up Decker after this.”

Decker is a beast in its own right, a 4-mile, 8% climb with a couple of super steep sections coming at the very beginning of the climb. In our case, it came at the 97-mile mark, and no wanted to climb it. The easy choice was simply to continue home along PCH. Decker would have been easy to avoid. All we had to do was pedal by it and say nothing. No one would have complained or jeered until we had gotten back to Manhattan Beach, after we were tucked safely into our bar stools.

Sadly, as we sat atop Yerba Buena and tried to collect our wits, Derek broke The Rule and voiced our fears. “Uh, dude,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do Decker.”

“Well, fugg those fuggers,” I said. “‘Cause I’m fuggin’ doin’ Decker.”

“Looks like you’ll be doing it alone,” he said.

“No,” said Manslaughter. “He won’t.”

The taste of one’s own words, chewed slowly

As we approached the left turn onto Decker, the Wily Greek slinked to the back and denied that he was really a Cat 1. Sammy claimed that today was a “rest day.” SB Baby Seal, who had manfully ridden me off his wheel on Yerba Buena, stared at his Garmin and tried not to look embarrassed. Toronto shook his head like a whipped mule that wasn’t going to walk one more step. Tumbleweed dug out and flashed his AARP card, and even the ever-resilient Frenchy made it clear that she had to get home in time to watch the paint dry. Boozy and Wheezy shook their heads.

Hoof Fixerman was blunt and unapologetic. “Time you wankers get home I’ll be on my fifth Racer 5.”

So Surfer, Manslaughter, Derek, and I pedaled off to our doom up Decker, which was a thousand times worse than we thought it would be. Like a bad kidney stone, however, it too passed, and once Derek had overcome his ham sandwich attack we pointed our noses home and flew down PCH with a whipping tailwind.

Back at the bar, Surfer ordered four plates of nachos, three pizzas, and a meat pie. The rest of us had a triple-beef bacon burger with bacon sauce and bacon dressing, topped off with bacon-flavored french fries with bacon bits. Manslaughter and I selected our favorite IPA in handy 32-oz mugs, and Derek ordered an 8-oz Michelob Weenielite, which doesn’t taste great and isn’t particularly filling, either.

The ride, which was only 155 miles but had swelled to 180 by the time Mrs. Wankmeister came to pick me up, had already become a legend in our own minds, a legend that could only be confirmed with another large mug and a visit to the ice cream shop next door. Everyone agreed that although it had been an epic unforgettable day, and although it had been worth it to see Derek exhibit for the first time the human trait of frailty, it was a complete waste of time, it had ruined whatever race fitness any of us pretended to have, and it was certainly the stupidest thing we’d ever done with the exception (perhaps) of getting into cycling in the first place.

So of course we’re doing it again next Thursday. See you there.

Going down the road feeling bad

June 12, 2014 § 132 Comments

I belong to a listserv called “CABO,” the California Association of Bicycling Organizations. It is an amazing place, where traffic engineers argue with one another about whether bikes should be in the road or shunted off to the side in bike lanes, cycle tracks, hamster wheels, etc.

It was from CABO that I first learned about riding in the middle of the lane. I tried it out on Del Amo eastbound between Prospect and Hawthorne one day and it scared the crap out of me. However, it scared the crap out of me less than being shoved up against the nonexistent shoulder and having close-passing pickups shave me by inches.

The thing I learned is that no matter how pissed off my presence made the cagers who had to slow down behind me, they always changed lanes and passed. I’ve never been hit from behind or even had brakes squeal from a rear-approaching vehicle.

Eventually I tried it on Hawthorne. Same thing. The occasional honk or middle finger, lots of (presumably) pissed off people slowing down, changing lanes and then passing, but that’s pretty much it. Riding my bike and hogging the lane was better than scrunching up against the edge and having people pass me within a few feet or a few inches.

Taking it to the next level

After getting comfortable with riding in the lane on local streets I took this method to PCH. I did it with a group of 8 or 10 riders, and I have done it several times since then. The results were unsurprising (to me). We got a few honks but people slowed, passed in the other lane, and left us alone.

I have used these experiences as the basis for encouraging people to get out in the lane on PCH.

Then yesterday I found myself in a new situation. I was on PCH with just one other person, Jay. I suggested we ride in the lane and he looked at me like I was crazy. “Okay,” he said. “But I’m fine in the gutter.”

And he is. As one of the most skilled off-road and on-road bike handlers I know, he’s not the least bit fazed by rocks, glass, chugholes, car doors, trash cans, the ends of surfboards, Cher, etc.

What I found during this little experiment was amazing, and a lot of it was bad. Whereas a medium-to-large sized group attracts little motorist hostility, two riders taking up the lane evokes the Wrath of the Cagers. We rode from Temescal Canyon to Decker Lane, averaging 15 or 16 mph, and we were met with an endless stream of honks, shouts, middle fingers, and plain old-fashioned road rage.

I was tenser after the first five minutes than I’ve ever been in any bike race. This was as to nothing when we hit Pepperdine Hill after Cross Creek. Still taking the lane, we climbed at a very slow speed, perhaps 10 mph or less. With 30 or 40 drivers backed up behind us, I fully expected to be run over.

Cars came raging by us in the next lane after having had to slow to a crawl on the hill, and they revved their engines, honked, flipped us off, screamed, and were livid. Of course the point is that they all slowed and passed, but the other point is this: how much fun is a bike ride when you feel like everyone wants to kill you?

Answer: no fun at all.

When the weird turn pro

On the return ride it was pretty much the same until we reached Cross Creek. I told Jay that I was done, I couldn’t take any more of the honking and screaming, so we rode for about two miles in the gutter up against the long line of cars parked at Malibu. What’s weird is that as awful as the lane had been, the gutter was now worse by orders of magnitude.

Despite the cager rage, I have become so accustomed to the smooth, wonderful riding surface of the lane, where you have better visibility, no obstacles, and lots of room to maneuver, that getting back in the gutter is intensely stressful. The other amazing thing about riding in the lane is that you ride side by side and get to talk. So we got back in the lane and started to take advantage of a good tailwind and flat road. Averaging 22 or 23, with sustained segments of 25-27 mph seemed to result in much less cager rage and not a single honk.

And here is where the CABO advocates have their work cut out for them: if it’s this hairball for a pair of riders who can carry a steady speed over the course of a 100-mile ride, what would the experience be like for an elderly traffic engineer pedaling up Pepperdine Hill at 4 or 5 mph? I’m not easily cowed or intimidated, but the unending torrent of honks and curses was unnerving, to put it mildly, and it didn’t seem like the rage abated until we were cruising in the mid-20’s and up.

In other words, it’s really easy to advocate lane control and vehicular cycling on PCH, but after my experience there’s no way I’d recommend that the average cyclist take the lane on PCH solo. Unless of course you want to!

How educational was it?

For the drivers, I’m convinced it was very educational, although also rage-inducing. One woman roared by us honking and flipping us off, then pulled over about 1/4 mile ahead to talk on the phone. We passed her, and after she finished talking she came by again.

This second time she didn’t honk or rev her engine. She expected us to be there and acted accordingly. I think she was educated by our behavior.

Another educational encounter was less prosaic. At the light past Latigo a sow in an SUV put down her window. “Why don’t you get out of the road?” she asked.

“Because we have the legal right to be here,” I answered.

“Yeah, but it’s really dangerous.”

“Only if you don’t know how to use your brakes and change lanes,” I said.

“It’s DANGEROUS!!!” she screamed, roaring off at the green light. There were several cars backed up behind us and behind her. Several of them honked and gave the middle finger salute.

Still, the implication is that only by getting more and more people in the lane will PCH drivers come to expect us to be there and make accommodations, maybe even to the sluggard dragging ass up Pepperdine Hill at 4 mph. There’s no way to know for sure, but I think a lot of the anger was because people simply didn’t expect us to be there.

What this means in practical terms is that if vehicular cycling advocates really want to make a difference, at least on PCH, they need to get off their keyboards and out in the traffic, preferably in ones or twos. It is hairy and will scare the crapcakes out of you but there’s no other way to acclimate cagers to the presence of single riders in the lane on PCH.

We’ll be out there again this morning, although with a larger group. My sphincter’s already clenched.



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Flash mob

June 11, 2014 § 38 Comments

The Donut Ride began with the fakeness of every group ride. People who would, in minutes, be stomping each others’ testicles with mindless fury, instead slapped backs, smiled, and asked the eternally meaningless question asked on every group slugfest ever, shortly before the slugging began. “How ya doing, Bill?”

Bill, his sphincter puckered so tight you couldn’t prize it open with a stick of lit dynamite, lied as sincerely as he could. “Doing great. You?”

Neither was doing great, and if they were, that was about to change. Eighty idiots had coalesced for the weekly Saturday romp along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and like any good flash mob, they all knew the routine.

  1. Crush (or)
  2. Be crushed
  3. Repeat until you end at #2

This week also promised big fireworks, as a Facebag tempest had raised the question of bragging rights as to “best climber in the South Bay.” After an intense battle of adjectives, supporting oaths sworn to by paid surrogates, and references to various Strava KOM’s, near-KOM’s, and teammate assisted/wind assisted/motor assisted/drug assisted KOM’s, the protagonists in the “Battle for the Hill” had decided to duke it out like men, or at least like skinny little fellows with eating disorders on plastic bicycles in their underwear.

The champ

Most observers concurred that the King of the Hill was Surfer Dan, and not because he was the fastest one up the hill. Rather, Surfer was the acknowledged champ because of his surfing ability, his hairy legs, and his infinite good humor. Even though the Wily Greek had faster climbing times, Wily was notorious for attacking, sneaking in front of oncoming traffic, and driving wheel suckers over onto the left-hand side of the road to certain death. Worst of all, Wily was guilty of youth.

Surfer on the other hand was no longer a pup and instead a sort of eminence blonde-turning-grise, a mentor of upcoming wankers, and most importantly a rider who never shirked his turn on the front, except for those times that he did.

The challenger

The tempest-in-a-Facebag challenger was little known to newcomers, but well known by the old guard. “Analytics” MacGruder believed that excellence in cycling was a function of numerical analysis. No one had bothered to point out that “excellence in cycling” was an impossible quality right up there with “military intelligence,” “military music,” and “Republican family values.”

Analytics, or “Anal” for short, had crunched every number, reviewed every Strava/WKO+ data point, and calculated every VAM, WHAM, and BAM (excluding only, perhaps, the “Thank you, Ma’am”) and concluded that if Surfer Dan were the best climber on the Hill, then he was numerically better. And numbers don’t lie.

The day of reckoning

This Donut Ride began with a ferocity not seen since the days of the Donut of Yore, when the course was shorter, had fewer climbs, and could be ridden hard from start to finish. The modern Donut with Nail and Glass Sprinkles admitted of no such riding. Any rider who hit the gas hard early would be gaffed and gutted on the first climb up the Switchbacks.

Much early wheelsucking was observed as Surfer, Anal, Wily, and the Destroyer hid artfully behind the efforts of Pistol Pete, Wankmeister, Erik the Red, and Wee Willy Winkums. Winkums stormed up from Malaga Cove, and each time that Wanky came around Winky, Winky would take a breath and wank back around Wanky. It was Wanky, then Winky, then Wanky, then Winky! The excitement was palpable!

On Paseo del Mar, Erik the Red pushed the pace of the early break up to a modest 40 mph, causing so much damage in the flailing chase group that by the bump in Lunada Bay fully half of the field had already declared victory, turned around, and prepared a lengthy description for their wives to suffer through over a hero’s breakfast of pancakes and beer.

Pistol Pete kept the Donut Testicle Vise clamped down hard on the survivors as the reconstituted group sped through Lunada Bay. With the other protagonists still seeking shameful shelter while Old Leathery Balls Wankmeister and Wee Willy Winkums pounded at the front, one thing became clear: when the remnants of the field hit the legendary Switchbacks, at least two riders would be toast.

The art of addition

Unhappily, when the field hit the Switchbacks, there was only one piece of toast rather than two, as Wee Willy Winkums, clad in his superman USC cycling outfit, took a brief breath and fully recovered in a few pedal strokes as Wankmeister detonated into small fragments of ego and self-pity, not to be seen again for a while.

The field was now reduced to about fifteen corpses, and Surfer Dan rowed to the front, beating the wheel suckers over the head and shoulders with his mighty, hairy oars. Anal cowered and hid in the rear, as one after another the group was reduced to the Stupendous Six: Surfer, Anal, Wily, the Destroyer, Winky, and Pistol Pete.

After a sustained effort, Surfer swung over, his leg hairs covered in lactic acid, his day done. But at least, he said to himself, Anal had been wiped.

To his chagrin, Anal was clinging tenaciously like the experienced dingleberry he was, and Surfer saw that he was going to be the victim of his own heroics. Wiping the lactic acid off his leg hairs and flashing his new tooth at the crowds linking the road, he surged back onto the tail end of the break and caught his breath just as the riders approached the Final Ascent to the Domes of Death.

Slaughterhouse Six

Anal, unable to handle the short kicker that began the final climb, performed a series of statistical analyses and computed the height-weight-airflow coefficient of his current power output. The conclusion was that the only way he could reduce the burning pain in his lungs and the unendurable agony in his legs and the swimming, watery, barely focused field of vision dancing before his eyes was to give up.

So he did, and the Stupendous Six became the Fabulous Five.

Next to come unhitched was Surfer, although it was in another zip code from Anal. Wee Willy Winkums was pounding the snot out of the Destroyer, and even though the Destroyer kept reminding him “Have respect for your elders!” and “I’m old enough to be your grandmother’s grandfather!” Winky kept dousing the followers with repeated ladles-full of pain broth.

Surfer spiraled out of control.

Wily then launched another of his infamous attacks and only Pistol Pete could follow. It is unclear who actually got to the top first, but it doesn’t really matter because the real battle had been between Surfer and Anal, and Surfer had kicked Anal’s butt.

Moral: Numbers may not lie, but they are often misunderstood, especially by cyclists.



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Out in the open

June 9, 2014 § 15 Comments

When I was nineteen, my father was the faculty sponsor for the Gay and Lesbian Students’ Association at Rice University in Houston. They had to have a faculty sponsor in order to be recognized by the university, but no one would sponsor them. My dad was glad to do it. In the first year of the association, the students took their group yearbook photo with bags over their heads. They were afraid their parents, or worse, potential employers, would find out.

We were driving along I-45 one afternoon. I was home from college for the summer and dad was telling me about the group. “I don’t have anything against gay people,” I said, “but I sure wouldn’t want one teaching any kid of mine.”

There was a pause. “Why not?”

“It’s just weird,” I said. “I wouldn’t want them, you know, teaching gay values to my son.”

“What are gay values?”

“You know, men having sex with other men. I’m not good with that.”

“How are people’s private sex lives ‘values’?” he asked. “And how does one teach sexual preference? Is that what your heterosexual teachers taught you?”

I remember getting really angry. “Look, dad, I’m glad you’re sticking up for these kids, but I don’t want them teaching my kids, all right? I just don’t!”

I have thought about that conversation for a long time, and about all the bigotry and prejudice it contained. Why such an emotional reaction? And why was the first objection I raised related to my own children, children I didn’t even have and in fact never even planned to have?

For years, long after my opinion on the subject changed, I chalked it down to homophobia. I had been raised in the racist and bigoted hell hole of the deep South, and had absorbed some of its worst prejudices while thankfully not absorbing others.

Then someone made the comment that there really isn’t such a thing as homophobia. People who perpetrate violence and intolerance against gays aren’t in truth afraid of homosexuals, they are afraid of the homosexuality impulse within themselves and the terrible emotional dissonance — not to mention religious, familial, and personal repercussions — that could result from openly expressing that impulse.

It is a common joke among cyclists that, for men at least, the hobby is a kind of apotheosis of gay behavior. We shave our legs, dress up in our skin-tight underwear, endlessly obsess about kit colors and designs, and spend 15, 20, or 30 hours a week nuzzled up against the sweaty asses of other men. With the exception of football, soccer, basketball, hockey, swimming, accounting, church, Islam, corporate boardrooms, courts of law, prison, and life, nothing could possibly be gayer.

It is also common knowledge that some of us are gay or lesbian, and the only distinction seems to be that some are open and down with it, and some are not. And of course there are many in our ranks who have gay or lesbian kids. It is in this context that a cyclist friend made the announcement on Facebook a couple of days ago that her child was transgender.

“Announcement” is the wrong word, of course. It is a cold, authoritarian, imperial word, warmer than “edict,” but not by much. What those parents did was not announce, but embrace. For an old person, for a young person, for any person to be denied the love and acceptance of a parent as a result of simply being who they were made to be is as terrible a thing as its opposite is wonderful and beautiful: being given the unconditional love of a parent regardless of the emotions and attractions that swirl around inside you.

These parents, people who are high profile in the admittedly minor world of cycling, publicly celebrated their child with the kind of acceptance and love that we unfortunately still desperately need in a world where non-heterosexuality still finds itself the object of bigotry and hatred. And in that public celebration, they gave their child the ultimate gift.

What was even more astonishing about these parents and their public embrace was the effect that it had on me. I thought keenly about that conversation with my own father more than thirty years ago, and about how his acceptance of his students was also an acceptance of me, regardless of the form of my sexuality. Even though I am married to a woman and am a lover of women, my father’s attitude let me know that if within myself, attraction to men was also part of me then it would be accepted without questioning or judgment or anything else.

And when you think about it, how else can you describe the camaraderie and masculine pleasure that a man gets from cycling other than as “attraction to men”? And why should I be ashamed of it? As the two parents mentioned above reminded me, and as my own father obliquely suggested so many years ago, I shouldn’t.

And I hope you aren’t, either.



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Under the nails

June 7, 2014 § 10 Comments

A lot of people hate air travel. They complain about being cramped in little chairs and about sitting next to unpleasant people who have bad breath and who fart. They fondly remember the days when airlines served terrible food that left you angry, your stomach full, and your psyche filled with self-loathing at having stooped to chewing on the miserable rubbery salted chicken parts. You knew the food was putrid but you were too weak to refuse it.

People complain about everything, but long before Louis CK talked about the marvels of sitting in a chair and flying in the air, I had made peace with the vagaries of planes and airports. It was simple. Would you rather cross the continent for five months in a covered wagon? Would you rather do it in a steam-powered train? Or a stagecoach? No? Then shut the fuck up. The worst thing that you can possibly encounter is no more than a mild inconvenience.

I was recently able to get in a flying chair and go to Houston, ride my bike with some pals, and take the flying chair back to Los Angeles, all in the space of five days.

On the return flight, a lady got on the plane who was more than a mild inconvenience, but the key thing is that she wasn’t my inconvenience. She was seated two rows back on the opposite aisle. She got on late, you know, that tense moment when the plane is almost completely full and all that’s left are three middle seats in the rear of the plane.

The people next to the open middle seats were clenching the seat rests and trying to look unfriendly or fartacious or ill, but the stewardess had said that it was a full flight so now it was down to roulette. Would she take it or keep moving?

“Is this seat taken?” the giant woman asked, and you could see that both guys wanted to say “No, but please don’t sit here, for dog’s sake keep moving,” but they made that fake smile, a grimace actually, as the end guy got up to let her in, but not before she took a massive rollaboard and smashed and mashed and crushed it into the small remaining space in the overhead bin. You could hear the Ming vases and the sand dollar collections already carefully stored in the bin disintegrating into dust as she gruntingly shoved the oversized suitcase into the clotted shelf.

The guy next to me, who was fairly slim and very conscientious about not taking too much armrest space, exchanged glances with me. “Sucks to be them,” we telepathed to one another.

The plane took off and the big lady fell asleep. She didn’t have a cozy little neck sleeper thingy because there was so much back fat on her neck and shoulders that her head had plenty of support to keep it from lolling. Unfortunately, she had sleep apnea. After fifteen minutes of huge snores, snores that reverberated throughout the cabin, snores as awful as that deathlike sucking sound of a flushing airline lavatory, snores that began somewhere down in her bowels and shook the airframe of the plane itself, she woke up. Sitting in a cabin with a sleep apnea gag-and-snore person is like watching a stranger take a dump. It defiles everyone.

She tried to stay awake but couldn’t, and the cycle repeated itself. I buried my head in my book, repeating the mantra: “This is better than a Conestoga wagon. This is better than a Conestoga wagon.”

I glanced at my neighbor, who was reading a book called “Negotiating with Giants.” I saw he was on Chapter 3: Filthy Rich Asians. Then I noticed he was cleaning out his fingernails with the exceedingly long middle fingernail on his other hand, which appeared to have been groomed for just this purpose. He collected a fair amount of grime, then sniffed it, then ate it. He thought I was not looking.

“Dude,” I said. “Did you just eat the smeg from underneath your fingernails?”

“What are you talking about?” He pretended to be offended. The first rule of airplane etiquette is to pretend that whatever disgusting thing is happening isn’t really happening. This is the only way people survive trans-Pacific flights with poopy babies, malodorous neighbors, and that awful backdraft smell of shit and chemicals that hits you every time someone opens the toilet door.

“You just scraped the muck out from under your nails and ate it. I saw you.”

“What if I did?”

“That’s nasty.”

“You know what’s nasty?”

“What?” I asked.

“That stewardess. She’s nasty.”

“What are you talking about?”

“She’s a sexual pervert. When I got on the plane she waited until I passed and then she pressed her butt up against mine. She sexually assaulted me.”

I moved as far away from him as I could. “You’re nuts.”

“I can prove it. Watch.”

He got up from his seat. The flight attendant was standing halfway up the aisle. As he passed her, he drew in his butt to make as much space as possible. Sure enough, she stuck out her rear and rubbed his bottom as he passed. He went to the lavatory and then returned with a triumphant grin. “See? She’s a pervert.”

“She is not. She was leaning over two seats to hand someone a coffee. You’re the whack job.” The sleep apnea lady began to gag and blow giant spit bubbles. Somewhere in the cabin a digestive system cried silently for help in the form of pungent methane.

I tried to focus on my book, but couldn’t shake this thought: “If only I were in a Conestoga wagon.”



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