Homage to Taiwan

August 10, 2014 § 56 Comments

I have always felt guilty about riding high-end carbon bikes. That’s because I rode handmade steel ones from 1982 until mid-2009, and the mystique of a lugged frame has never gone away. There is something mythical and appealing about the lone frame builder dedicated to his craft, perfecting his technique over decades as he builds each frame by hand.

One. By. One.

It’s this imagery that comports so well with cycling, which is essentially a solo experience. Moreover, the craft bike revival of the past decade has proven that you can race on a modern steel bike and the only limiter will be your legs and your smarts.

And for non-racing applications? A steel bike brings to the table durability and comfort that very few high-end carbon bikes have achieved.

Still, I ride a nice carbon bike, a Giant TCR in fact. It handles better and is stiffer than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and it is without question as comfortable — more comfortable? — than any of the lugged bikes I used to own. So why the guilt?

As with most things, it has to do with stereotypes, in this case the old canard about Asian mass manufacturing and how Asians, whatever their skill at making things in large numbers, could never equal the quality of the European or American craftsman.

I remember as a young kid in Houston how Toyotas and Hondas were derided as “rice rockets,” among other much nastier epithets. The Japanese might be able to make a cheap car, but they’d never make one as good as a Chrysler.

Same thing for cameras. Sure, Canon and Nikon were cheaper than Leica, but we all knew which one was the real camera: it was the one made by white people.

Much of that racial baggage has adhered naturally to carbon frames made in China and Taiwan. “They’re mass produced in China,” the purists have always sneered, as if that combination — mass production and China — by itself defined the thing as flimsy and inferior. We’ll forget for the moment all of those iPhones made in China, which are somehow different. They’re made in China but their “heart and soul” is American, made by a great American, Steve Jobs, who was actually of Syrian extraction. But that’s a different story.

More to the point, mega-bike companies like Cannondale and Specialized go out of their way to obfuscate that their bikes are mass produced in Asia and that the Toray carbon fiber used for every single one of their high-end bikes is produced in Japan.

No bike marketing campaign I’m aware of has ever put, front and center, HANDMADE IN TAIWAN BY TAIWANESE ASSEMBLY LINE WORKERS. Why not? Because the image of inferiority is overwhelming. MADE IN ITALY BY ITALIAN CRAFTSMEN? I’ll take a dozen please.

The closest to being open about its Asian roots is perhaps Giant. Unlike Specialized and Cannondale, American companies who used to make bikes in the USA, only later outsourcing their manufacturing to Asia, Giant is and has always been a Taiwanese company. And although Specialized and Cannondale hammer away at the European and American imagery of their company even though the product is almost 100% made in Asia, Giant has recently placed more emphasis on its Asian provenance.

Still, the bad rap lingers in the air, and it is infectious. You could have a really nice handmade American bike, or you could get one of those mass-produced Asian carbon things. If you’re like me, you will probably still get the Asian rig, but if you started riding bikes “back in the day,” in your heart of hearts you’d probably rather ride a lugged Gianni Motta, a Bottecchia, a Masi, an Eddy Merckx.

One day I was sitting on the bricks at the Center of the Known Universe and a nice fellow came up to me with a clipboard. He was doing a survey for the government of Taiwan, and did I have a few minutes?

“Minutes,” I said, “are all I do have.”

We started on the survey. Was I aware of any Taiwanese products? Did I own any? What did I think of them? What was the image I had of thingS that are made in Taiwan? How did I feel when I saw the phrase “Made in Taiwan”? If I had a positive experience with Taiwanese products, why did I think that “Made in Taiwan” wasn’t prominently displayed or used as a marketing tool in the same way that “Made in Germany” often is? Etc.

After thinking about it for a few days, I concluded that a lot of the problem, aside from the racial assumptions that Chinese/Taiwanese were people who only made cheap crap, I honed in on the phrase “mass produced.”

There’s something about “mass produced” that doesn’t feel as homey and quality as that imagery of the lone craftsman in his workshop, patiently lugging a steel frame amidst a shower of sparks and fire.

So I wondered why it was that Giant’s TCR frame was equal to those crafted bikes in some ways and superior to them in others. What was it about mass production that was superior to what we all know to be true — that when it comes to bike frames, no assembly line can replicate the experience and skill of someone who has become a master frame builder.

The answer lay with Giant. I was surprised to learn that they never describe their high end road bikes as mass produced, and it’s not for marketing purposes. The bikes are simply not mass produced, nor are they produced on an assembly line, if your idea of an assembly line is one where most of the work is done by machines, and the people only stand there to make small adjustments/additions, or to perform minute actions that machines can’t (yet) replicate. (Think Willy Wonka’s father’s job screwing on toothpaste caps.)

The Giant TCR is made on an assembly in this key respect, however: the bike is made in stages and moves along, not a line, but a production facility. What’s special about the bike is that almost all of it is made by hand. The handwork is broken down into components, but by the time a TCR is completed it has been touched by no less than 48 pairs of hands.

These hands aren’t screwing on toothpaste caps, either. They are highly technical craftsmen and craftswomen who are expert at conforming a hard-to-work material to complex and challenging designs. It’s different from the lone frame builder concept of handmade, but it’s handmade through and through, and it’s done by people who have to constantly exercise skill, judgment, and experience as they construct the frame.

In other words, they aren’t widgets.

When I learned about the way my high-end bike was built, it made me feel better about owning it, and it made me admire and respect the skill that went into its construction. It also helped explain why the thing was so damned good: It was the product of numerous craftsmen and craftswomen bringing to bear their lifetime of experience in making the bike. Would I still like to own a lugged steel bike?

Of course. Who wouldn’t?

Why “cyclists” make the worst advocates

August 8, 2014 § 20 Comments

Have you ever noticed that for the most part, good bicycling advocates are hardly ever “cyclists”? By “cyclist” I mean:

  • Wannabe racer
  • Racer
  • Anyone who owns more than $5k worth of bike

The people who show up at town hall meetings, city council meetings, and transportation committee meetings are almost always slow, hairy-legged, wall-eyed bicycle riders who stumble up to the lectern with one pant leg still rolled up.

They are so uncool.

The cool people “ain’t got time for that.” They race. They train. They sprunt. They fall of their bicycles and file police reports. They send in entry fee reimbursement requests to their team boss, the timely receipt of which will determine whether they can pay the rent. But they sure as hell don’t drag ass downtown to make a 7:00 PM meeting so they can add their comments to Subsection 2-15(a) of the amendment of the municipal city plan that addresses bicycle infrastructure.

Nope. The people who take the time and make the effort are the one-leg-rolled-up wankers who get shelled on the first lap of the Tuesday Night World Championships. Worse, they’re often technical people, like engineers, who actually study traffic patterns, who have experience in roadway design, and (the real whackos) who spend their free time analyzing detailed planning reports.

And of course, it’s thanks to them that the rules get changed, that laws get passed, that the rights of bicyclists are addressed by our non-cycling elected officials.

It would be a cliché if it didn’t hurt so bad: The most numerous people who show up at public planning meetings are the rabid, SUV-driving, bike-hating crazies who shout the loudest, while the isolated bike advocate, smelling of a long commute, stares down the mindless cager mob with facts, statistics, and the bloody, penetrating lance of reason.

Fortunately, the Bike Plan Team in charge of the Regional Bicycle Master Plan for the Las Virgenes-Malibu regions has set up the equivalent of a cyclist roach motel in order to snare the wary and cunning “cyclists” into doing something positive for the greater riding community. The Bike Plan Team will be hanging out this coming Sunday at Malibu Country Mart from 8:30 AM to 12:00 noon. They’ll be there so that all of the “cyclists” rolling up and down PCH can engage in the equivalent of Internet activism. All you have to do when you roll through Malibu is stop for a minute and give your thoughts about making the Las Virgenes-Malibu region safer and more comfortable for bicycling.

When you stop by the Bike Plan tent to speak with team members you can complete a short bicycle survey and grab free bicycle-related swag. This approach recognizes that cyclists just want to ride, and generally don’t want to attend evening meetings (except for Brad House and David Kramer). It also lets you (yes, YOU) add your voice to a plan whose goal is to make the PCH corridor and region a more enjoyable and safer place to bike. Hint: Advocate for our and YOUR right to control the full right-hand lane on PCH.

Another thing you can do when you roll through is to tell them that you want — NOW — sharrow lane markings and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs on Pacific Coast Highway.

Of course, many “cyclists” are too busy to even do that because, Strava. There are KOM’s to chase, pace lines to keep up with, and training databases to populate with VAM’s, w/kg’s, and what you had for breakfast. But the Bike Plan Team is ready for you. You don’t even have to stop; you can fill out an online survey to help create a plan that reflects your needs, wishes, and dystopian fantasies, most of which likely involve Cher on a 400-mile gravel grinder somewhere east of Bakersfield. Take the survey by going to this page and clicking on the survey link. No matter how lazy you are, and if you’re a bike racer you’re plenty lazy, you can’t possibly be too lazy to do this.

I would absolutely be there in person for the event except, you know, I have to race on Sunday.

END

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The end is here

August 6, 2014 § 56 Comments

I deal with so many batshit crazy ideas, behaviors, and occurrences on a daily basis that it’s refreshing when I run across one that isn’t mine.

This little tempest-in-a-chamois was unearthed on Facebook, and it involved a recently upgraded Cat 3 who allegedly got his wheel chopped in a 55+ old fellows’ race. After the chopping, he did what lots of shitty bike racers before him have done, and what many more after him will do. He fell off his bicycle.

Then, the allegation goes, the outraged Cat 3 Older Fellow complained to the chief ref. So far, so good. Complaining to chief refs is standard fare when you fall off your bicycle after running into someone ahead of you because they made you not protect your front wheel. From that point on, the accusation gets murkier. Some say that the racer filed a criminal complaint with the police. Some say that the USA official told the racer that they would file a complaint with the police and that he would have to make a statement. Still others say that anyone who has read this far about an alleged kerfluffle between old fellows with leaky prostates riding bicycles in their underwear needs to invest his energy more wisely.

I reached out to the racer and asked, incredulously, whether he had actually made a statement to the cops about his bicycle-falling-off incident. He neither admitted it nor denied it, and when I asked him again he told me to go away and leave him alone.

I checked with the police department, but they won’t release or even acknowledge the filing of a complaint unless it is acted on or unless you’re the person who filed it. So as far as I’m concerned, there’s no actual proof that any of this happened, and he’s innocent of being a Delta Bravo until proven guilty. However, for the sake of cycling drama, let’s assume it did.

I’d like to assume this because when I emailed, asking him if he had filed a statement with the police regarding his crash, he came back with this gem: “If your child was hit by a stranger with a baseball bat would you make a complaint to the police?”

That’s a funny way to twist things. If someone walked up out of the blue and hit my child with a bat, I would almost certainly complain to the police. But when my youngest son played Little League, he was in fact hit with a bat by a member of the opposing team — a stranger — when the batter slung the bat. And instead of suing the child and his parents or filing a complaint with the police, I chalked it up to the risk of playing baseball.

Amazing concept, huh? Play baseball and you might get hit with a bat. Hey, this might even be a concept for cycling: If you race your bicycle you might fall off of it.

For some people, however, this is a false construct. When you fall off your bicycle in an Old Fellows Crit, the best course of action is to tell your mommy, or her surrogate, the police.

Imagine the precedent! Every time someone falls off his or her bicycle in a race, it’s potentially a criminal offense. Anything you do in the race can be trundled over to the cops by some crybaby loser and turned into a misdemeanor, or better yet a felony. Wonder how long we’ll have bike races of any kind if this approach becomes the norm?

Fortunately, there are a couple of things that stand in the way of sanctioned bicycle racing ever rising to the level of a crime, or at least to something more than a crime of bad taste, since the average masters racer looks like an overstuffed sausage in an undersized one-size-doesn’t-fit-you piece of stretch undies.

One of the things that protects our sacred sport of underwear riding is called the district attorney. They are able to look at this kind of silly shit, roll their eyes, and place your bicycle-falling-off incident in the “Billy Got Butthurt” file. The other protection is what’s called a jury. Imagine some rich-kid, whiny-ass, take-my-ball-and-go-home crybaby sitting in front of twelve normal people and explaining that even though he signed a waiver and had a rich history of falling off his bike, he nonetheless wanted an assault or battery conviction against someone because he, crybaby, ran into the person in front of him.

You know, like in a car, when the person who slams into the person ahead of him is always in the right. Oh, it’s not like that? Really? You mean in bicycle-underwear racing the person who gets smashed into is the one at fault? I see …

The jury would roll its eyes and send the crybaby home in the Whaaaambulance, albeit not before he had clogged the criminal docket with a silly case and had taken valuable resources away from prosecuting real offenses.

But even if this kind of crybaby were right, and someone intentionally crashed him out, it wouldn’t solve the problem for USA Cycling, for race promoters and sponsors, or even for the crybaby. Why? First, because he still signed a waiver. Now I know what all you legal yahoos are going to say, so let me say it for you: “That waiver doesn’t protect other racers who commit intentional crimes of assault and/or battery.”

That’s true. But in proving the offense, you still end up having to get by the prosecutor and his Butthurt File, and you still have to convince a jury — and convince them with a straight face, no less — that you’re not some whingeing wanker who can’t win on the field and is assuaging his sore rectum in a court of law. People with jobs who sit on juries may be unfamiliar and unsympathetic with underwear-clad older fellows who think that riding around in a parking lot on a bicycle and falling off of it is a noble activity worthy of vigorous law enforcement.

The other reason that crying to the police doesn’t work is because if every intentional wheel chop is a criminal act, then every bike race in the United States becomes a festival of handcuffs and Miranda warnings. Put it this way: Have you ever been in a crit and NOT had your wheel chopped? Chopping is to crit racing what tackling is to football, what flopping is to soccer, what DNF’ing is to Andy Schleck. Some of it may be intentional, but most of it is just wankers like me hitting the brakes in a turn because we aren’t very good, or wankers like Frankendave coming up hot and inside at 5 mph faster through an off-camber, wet turn because he enjoys time spent in the dentist’s chair.

Are assassins lurking out there, doing everything in their power to ensure that instead of getting 29th you get 46th in the 55+ race?

Newsflash: No. They are not. If the riders in the 55+ race are in a hurry at all, it’s to get to the bathroom to relieve their aching prostates.

Moreover, think of what an encouraging promotional tool this would create for those seeking to put on bike races. I can see the pitch to the city council now: “It’s a great way to get people to our town, have them enjoy the local flavor, and have them file criminal complaints!”

When some egregious act of bad bicycling occurs, isn’t there a procedure at every bicycle race for dealing with it? Isn’t that why we have officials? Isn’t that the purpose of lodging a formal complaint with the chief referee? And if the evidence is indisputable, isn’t the offending rider disqualified and suspended? And if the other rider does get suspended, isn’t that enough? Does every cyclist now have to worry about replacing some crybaby’s rich-kid rig and facing jail every time he races?

It’s hard enough explaining the underwear and shaved legs to your grown children. Imagine how much worse it will be having to explain this: “What happened, Dad?”

“I made a guy stop protecting his front wheel and run into me and he got a raspberry on his po-po.”

“And?”

“And now I’m going to Corcoran State Prison for five years.”

The ugly fact of bicycle crit racing is that on the last lap, when riders are trying to move up, they often dive into corners, bang bars, and try to force the weak, the infirm, the unskilled, and those with poopy shorts into inferior positions. This is the way that bike races are won, and if you don’t like it, perhaps you should blame it on the officiating that allows this type of riding, or limit racing to spin classes, or take up modern dance. Crit racing isn’t pretty and except for the winner no one else is ever happy, but is it criminal?

Add to this tasteless mix of Silly Stew a few other ingredients: Anyone who would go complain to the cops is probably someone who just wants to pin the tail on another rider rather than on the jackass to whom it belongs. It would also call for appointment of citizen-deputized Bicycle Race Rangers. I can see it now. One of our fellow cyclists wearing a leather vest, ten-gallon hat, spurs, and a badge and pedaling with a megaphone:

“Excuse me, you on the blue Colnago. Please pull over.”

Then the deputy could explain the basis of the charge (felonious wheelchopping with aggravated road rash), make the citizen’s arrest, and lead the perpetrator away in handcuffs and ankle chains.

However, in order to make sure that the criminal wheelchoppper was able to ride in the next race, we would also need a Bail Bonds tent as well as a tent for a defense attorney. “Snakey McGraw, your one-stop shop for DUI and bicycle-underwear criminal defense.”

In a bike racing environment where officials turn a blind eye to sketchy riding, where the riders have done enough racing to know what happens on the bell lap, and where you are always the one responsible for your own front wheel, filing a criminal complaint sounds like the poster child for what masters bike racing may well become: A playground for sore losers who think they can win with tearful complaints rather than with their legs.

This would set the stage for every spoiled little rich kid to run the bare-bones, broke-ass world of local bike racing out of business (not that it’s actually a business). Fall off your bike, drum up a statement to the fuggin’ police, and voila — you’ve singlehandedly “won” because in the next race other riders will fear you and give you a wide berth, not because you’re any good, but because you might call the cops and have them tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.

If this ever came to pass, I wouldn’t be surprised to see racers balance the risks and rewards, and decide to stay home. Everyone except the crybabies, of course. Their mommies would be proud.

END

In memoriam: Telo Training Crit

August 4, 2014 § 34 Comments

Born to Sam and Josephine Wannamaker sometime in the late 1980’s, and affectionately known as that “ass-pasting sorryfuk headwind beatdown in an office park,” Telo passed away peacefully on July 29, 2014 in Torrance, California at 6:00 PM when, for the first time in over 30 years, no one showed up.

Not even Brad “Elbows” House.

Telo was an incredible father to his several thousand lycra-clad children, all of whom showed up with dreams of victory and, for the most part, went home beaten and defeated. The unluckier ones went home with road rash and several thousand dollars worth of equipment damage.

Telo worked in the Tuesday Night Training Crit industry for over 30 years. He was truly a bike racer’s bike race, and left many an aspiring rider choking on his own puke, particularly after getting into an ill-advised break with Hair or Rudy. However, true to his training crit roots, Telo punished wheelsuckers just as much as those who braved the front. Every week for over thirty years countless wankers sat in the back “waiting for someone to bring back the break” only to find themselves part of a three-man flailaway, deserted by all and forced to quit early and take the shortcut home.

Telo’s greatest love was spending time with his family and friends, stomping on their genitals, and offering up a fun and rollicking 30-mph headwind on the backstretch. Telo loved nothing more than to watch a group of riders drill it on the tailwind, fantasizing that they were monsters, only to roll over and die when they hit the wall of wind half a lap later. Telo lived life to the fullest and he was always laughing and smiling at the misery of others.

Telo began to have health problems three years ago, when the already anemic South Bay racing community simply couldn’t “get it up” to go pound their brains out on Tuesday nights. Some pointed the finger at Telo’s nemesis known as NPR, a younger, more handsome and sexy group ride that took place on Tuesday mornings and seldom left any but the toughest with enough energy for Telo.

Still others claimed that Telo’s decline was the result of the Major Motion Tuesday Ride on the Parkway, which attracted bigger crowds, was slower, had lots of stop lights, and in which those who were shelled could sneak across the road and hop back in.

As Telo’s health declined, by 2014 the only people still showing up were Hair, Marco, Brad House, and one or two others. Telo leaves behind a void in our hearts that can never be filled, but he leaves us with his zest for life, spunky spirit and the ability to live life to the fullest.

Telo is survived by countless riders throughout California who left a little piece of their self-respect on Telo’s hallowed tarmac. A celebration of Telo’s life will be held wherever wankers are found and cold beer is served.

Win a chance to see Brooke Shields

August 1, 2014 § 26 Comments

This will only excite men over fifty, but last year Brooke made an appearance at the Brentwood Grand Prix. She walked around and chatted with folks, and even took in some of the racing.

This year, the race offers something even more exciting than the chance to mingle with former child stars: the Expo Ride. Roaring into the 19th Century full speed ahead, the Los Angeles metro is expanding its train stops so that you will one day be able to go up and down the west side without having to sit on the freeway or ride a bus. It’s a revolutionary and radical concept, and one day other major cities such as New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and Beijing may one day follow suit. Visionaries even predict that one day the train will go from downtown to the airport.

While we’re waiting for those backwater capital cities get with the program, however, Los Angeles will be building ten new rail stops on the west side of the city, and you can sign up for the August 3 Expo Ride to take a bike tour of the planned train route. The 11-mile, leisurely paced tour starts at 9:30 AM and will show you how the new stops can be integrated with bike travel to make your west side transportation seamless and coordinated with your bicycle.

I often cringe at encouraging people to enter bike races, any bike race. This isn’t because I dislike races, it’s because sending someone off to a bike race feels like sending them off to the Battle of the Somme. But … if you’re going to do a bike race … and dog knows why you would want to … Brentwood Grand Prix is a good one.

It’s well organized, it has great prize money that most of us will never win, it’s in a fantastic location, it’s on a challenging course, and this year it’s also raising money for the Melanoma Research Alliance and for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition through the Expo Ride.

There are a couple of simple reasons to support these two organizations. The first is that MRA actually raises and donates money to research on melanoma. This is the disease that sneaked up on and almost killed west side legend Stuart Press. In a perfect world, the government would spend our tax dollars on melanoma research instead of spending $1 trillion on military aircraft that don’t work, but that’s a different rant.

LA County Bicycle Coalition is the strongest, most committed bike advocacy group in our area, and one of the best in the nation. It helps pass legislation. It helps get infrastructure implemented. It defends the legal right of cyclists to ride in the lane. It has educational programs for law enforcement and for schools. And it works to solve problems through dialogue and mediation rather than ideological broadsides. Plus, Eric Bruins is my good friend.

Some things are worth doing. The Expo Ride at Brentwood Grand Prix is one of them.

A stand-up cop

July 31, 2014 § 40 Comments

When Laura Weintraub posted her inane video, insinuating that hitting cyclists in your car was not only good, but something that everyone secretly wants to do, the shit hit the Internet. She is now in hiding, having received death threats and having been told that she would be decapitated. She has also been booted off the Santa Paula police force, where she served for three years in the records department as a reserve officer.

She will never work in law enforcement again.

Moral of the story: The Internet’s a bitch, yo.

But as with every story, there’s a back story as well. When Chief Steve McLean offered to talk with anyone who had concerns about Ms. Weintraub’s “embarrassing” video, I took him up on the offer. Expecting voicemail, I was surprised to speak with the chief himself. “You pick the day and time, and I’ll clear my calendar for you,” he said.

So last Friday, Eric Bruins of LA County Bicycle Coalition, Nina Moskol of the Santa Clarita Valley Bicycle Coalition, Randi Zabriskie of Yield to Life, her husband David, and I met with Chief McLean in Santa Paula to figure out what had happened and how we could make some lemonade. Quickly.

What became clear after only a few minutes is the following:

  1. Chief McLean took responsibility for his employee, even though Ms. Weintraub made it off the clock, as a civilian, in a different city, in a different county, and never affiliated herself or the video with the police department.
  2. Administrative action was immediately taken against Ms. Weintraub. She was put on leave, then terminated from the force. This all happened in less than 72 hours.
  3. Despite the fact that none of Ms. Weintraub’s actions had any affiliation with the department, the city and the police department felt the full wrath of the bicycling community.

Many people might be fine with that last part. I’m not, because it turns out that Santa Paula is hardly the bike-hating, cyclist-murdering place that Ms. Weintraub’s actions have wrongly made it out to be. The city has hosted the Amgen Tour of California three times. The city has implemented a $4.2 million bike trail, part of a rails-to-trails project that will ultimately connect Piru to Fillmore to Santa Paula to Ventura to the sea. Santa Paula is the first city in the project to complete its segment of the trail.

Santa Paula has recently completed the design phase for a Class II bike lane from Harvard Boulevard to Santa Paula Street. This $650,000, grant-funded project soon moves into the implementation phase. Additional planned projects will connect the bike lane to the rails-to-trails corridor.

The city is more than committed to the recreational and transportation side of cycling. It has three full-time bike officers, an impressive number for a city that only has 28 police officers total. An annual bike fair and bike rodeo have taken place in the city for years, and, what’s a revealing statistic for cyclists accustomed to getting harassed by law enforcement, there hasn’t been a single traffic citation written for a cyclist in the past year.

Tack on the fact that Santa Paula is a key part of the popular cycling corridor that goes to Ojai and Lake Casitas, and it’s no exaggeration to say that with regard to Ms. Weintraub’s actions, the city and its police department have gotten a bum rap. Unlike Calabasas, the city where Ms. Weintraub lives and shot the video, a city that is one of the wealthiest enclaves in California and the home to numerous celebrities and movie stars, Santa Paula is a gritty small town with significant social problems.

The biggest one is crime. The city has suffered from a plague of violent crime — nine murders last year alone — after the city council reduced the size of the police force. As LA-area gangs and drug runners have moved in, the city hired Chief McLean to deal with the problem. He reduced violent crime by 40% in his first year alone, this in a city where many of the families have one parent in jail, and where many others are headed by a single parent or by two parents who both work full time. With a shoestring budget, the police department and the community have done much in terms of outreach to bicycle riders.

Nonetheless, every city can improve when it comes to bike-car-community relations. Chief McLean took the meeting by the horns and worked with us to develop the following three proposals:

  1. Bring in a bicycle education course from LA County Bicycle Coalition, to be delivered to the city’s bicycle cops.
  2. Use the bicycle officers to perform outreach and education to the broader community at the annual bike expo and other venues.
  3. Designate two school resource officers to teach bicycle safety at the elementary and middle school level in Santa Paula.

We also discussed a wide-ranging series of possibilities for furthering bike-community-motorist awareness, not limited to an education and registration program modeled after the LA Sheriff’s Department program that Chief McLean spearheaded when he was captain at the Alta Dena Substation. What was clear was that increased coordination and cooperation with Santa Clarita Valley BC, LA County BC, and Yield to Life were all things that the department was more than willing to commit to.

What was also clear is that Chief McLean and his department deserve praise for the way they handled an incredibly tough situation. They’re ready to move ahead. Let’s judge them not by the mistakes made by a rogue employee, but by their efforts to make Santa Paula a better place to ride … and to live.

END

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If you like Chief McLean’s attitude and approach, drop him a line on Facebook, Santa Paula Police Department, to voice your support.

Horn if you’re honky

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.”

“How come?”

“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.”

“Ah, okay.”

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.

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