Phone home

September 28, 2014 § 22 Comments

It had been an epic, bitter, full-gas NPR replete with unhappy blabberwankers, squealing baby seals looking for their freshly stripped pelts, fraudsters who cut the course and flipped it before the turnaround in order to catch the break, and the usual collection of complainers and whiners who missed the split, blaming their weakness on the “stoplight breakaway” and the usual complaint of non-racers who object to September beatdowns — “It’s the OFF SEASON!”

We swirled up to the Center of the Known Universe. Most ordered coffee. I leaned against the plate glass seated on the bricks, waiting for the throbbing in my legs to subside. Within minutes people were seated alongside with their phones out.

There wasn’t much conversation at first because everyone had to check email, then look at missed calls and figure out which excuse to use when they finally phoned in around ten. “I was in a meeting.” “There wasn’t any cell coverage.” “I was on the phone with a client.”

And of course Facebag had to be checked, texts had to be sent, and Strava had to be carefully reviewed. Some people kept their phones on their lap the entire time we congregated. One or two put them away. Almost everyone sporadically checked, interrupting conversations to gaze down at kudos and incoming dickpics.

Not me. I didn’t have my phone. It was sitting on the chest of drawers next to my bed. That’s where it stays nowadays when I ride.

I remember back when there were no cell phones. After a ride, or during a break, the Violet Crown guys would talk. Or smoke a big, fat joint. Usually both. Whatever the protocol, it always involved lots of gab. Sitting down after a ride meant rehashing the ride, inventing new rumors, or talking shit about a good friend who happened to be absent.

Compared to those conversations, the ones nowadays aren’t as much fun, and I think it’s because the flow of talk gets constantly broken up by constant cell phone monitoring. The fact is that no one has anything important to do on a cell phone in the morning. If they did, they wouldn’t be on a bike. And there’s something about conversation that, like a bike ride, requires a certain amount of warm-up. Then, once you’re warmed up, you sort of get going. It doesn’t work very well — like riding — when every few seconds or minutes the other person is checking his screen.

“But what do you do when you can’t get in touch with someone who you’re trying to meet for a ride?” is a common question. Back in the day we all knew where to meet, and if someone didn’t show up, you didn’t ride with him that day. It was pretty simple.

“But what do you do if you have an accident or your bike breaks or you have an emergency?” Back in the day we generally waited until someone called an ambulance, or we bled out, or we flagged down another rider for a tool or a tube. That was pretty simple, too.

“But what do you do if something happens at work or your wife needs you?” Back in the day we ignored that shit when we rode. It was one of the main reasons we cycled.

Since shedding my power meter, my Garmin, and now my iPhone, my riding is a lot more peaceful. More importantly, I’m about half a pound lighter on the bike. Now that matters.

END

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Great day for a ride

September 27, 2014 § 2 Comments

Hoofixerman looked out the window at the blue and sunshiney sky. “This looks like a great day for a ride,” he said to himself as he dialed up his pal. “I’ll meet you in Redondo at 9:30, Wanky,” he said, and Wanky said “Okay.”

Hoofixerman put on his bicycling outfit and had a few minutes to spare, so he grabbed the tweezers and sat down to work some more on a splinter in the ball of his foot. He had been sitting on the back porch the day before drinking some beer when he got the urge to go tear out the floor of the bathroom that he’d been working on.

Without bothering to change, he grabbed the sledgehammer and got to work in his underwear and bare feet. Pretty soon he had torn out most of the tile floor, but in the process he’d gotten a splinter in his foot. And it hurt.

Now, Hoofixerman took out the tweezers and started digging into the flesh of his foot. But he couldn’t get the splinter. He looked at his watch and realized he was going to be late if he didn’t get going right then. Hoofixerman jumped up but the second he put pressure on the ball of his foot he almost fell over from the pain. Thanks to his Home Depot doctoring, the splinter had gone deeper and now any pressure on the foot was agonizing.

He stumbled over to the desk, got out a magnifying glass and his ultra-old-man reading glasses, and had another go at the splinter. After ten minutes of blood and skin and flesh and his teeth gritted so hard he almost cracked his molars, Hoofixerman got the splinter. It was a tiny piece of white bathroom tile perfectly shaped like an arrowhead. He slapped on a bandaid and shot off a text to Wanky. “Running late. Be there in fifteen.”

Then he hopped on his bike and blazed off towards Redondo.

However, his pal Wanky had left his phone at home. Wanky waited at the rendezvous for about ten minutes. “Where the hell is Hoofixerman? He’s never late.” Figuring something had come up and Hoofixerman had bailed on the ride, Wanky rode off.

Hoofixerman got to the rendezvous point two minutes after Wanky left. “Wank’s always on time and that fucker never waits.” Hoofixerman shot off two more unseen texts and another unanswered phone call.

“Yo, Hoofixerman! What’s up?” shouted a pal who was sipping coffee at the Starbucks.

“Hey, Freddie! Did you see an ugly looking skinny weird biker guy with a fake beard here a few minutes ago?”

“Yeah, man. He looked like he was waiting for someone, then he started cussing and rode off.”

“Thanks!” Hoofixerman yelled. Then to himself he said, “If I hammer down Catalina I can probably catch him.” Unbeknownst to Hoofixerman, this wasn’t going to happen because Wanky had taken the bike path. Hoofixerman raced off again until he thought his lungs would pop, but no Wanky, so he sat up and soft pedaled all the way to the bridge.

At the bridge some wanker coming in the other direction was looking at his Garmin. “Hey!” yelled Hoofixerman, because the guy was coming straight at him. Hoofixerman veered right and the wanker veered left. Hoofixerman turned left and the wanker turned right. Hoofixerman went straight and the wanker did too.

“Hey man, are you okay?”

Hoofixerman was looking up at the wanker in a daze from the tarmac. “Define ‘okay,'” he said.

“Anything broken?”

“Hell if I know.”

“Okay,” said the wanker, who pedaled away, satisfied that Hoofixerman’s answer was good enough to avoid a lawsuit.

Everyone on the bridge, especially the old guys with the fishing poles and stinky bait, was staring at Hoofixerman. He walked his bike over to some apartments where they couldn’t see him in his shame as he checked out his bike. Blood gushed from his elbow and knee. There was another wanker with his bike turned upside down in front of the apartments trying to fix a flat.

“Hey, man, you got a spare tube?” asked the wanker, who had a pile of airless tubes nested in a pile near his feet like a bunch of dead snakes.

“Yeah, but it’s my spare. My only spare.”

“Dude, I got an appointment with my broker in PV at 1:00 and my wife isn’t home. Can I please borrow your spare?”

“Borrow? As in ‘borrow some toilet paper’?”

“Yeah, please?”

“It’s an 80mm stem, man, so if I get a flat there’s no way in hell anyone’s going to have another one if I flat.”

“My broker …”

“And your wife, I know.” Hoofixerman sighed and handed over the tube. “You might want to check your tire and rim more carefully if you’ve already gone through three tubes.”

The wanker ignored him and put in the new tube. Off they went, at least for about a mile. Then the wanker’s tire flatted again. “Sorry, dude,” said Hoofixerman. “But I gotta go.”

A couple of miles later, Hoofixerman, whose tires never flatted, got a flat tire. “Shitcakes,” he said, without even bothering to get off and flag down another cyclist. The blood had clotted, but his wrist was really sore, his new cycling underwear outfit was torn, and his elbow didn’t bend properly.

He rode the next ten miles home on the rim. “How was the ride?” asked his wife.

“It was okay,” he said. “But I learned a couple of things.”

“What’s that?”

“Always carry two spare tubes.”

“And?”

“Don’t tear out the tile floor in your underwear.”

END

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My droopy sack

September 26, 2014 § 45 Comments

I thought I was the only person with a droopy sack until I saw my buddy Pablo post about the same problem on Facebag. It is quite embarrassing when your bag doesn’t hang tight against your post and sort of droops and sags. Like Pablo’s, at times mine droops so low I have to reach down with both hands to haul it back up. Maybe because of age or overuse, no matter how often I grab my sack and pull it up, after a while it sags back down.

There are lots of cyclists out there with droopy sacks, and it’s a big problem. For one, your sack is where you keep your multi-tool, and it can be a big headache when you’re trying to get to your tool but your sack is just dangling around. Part of the reason my sack dangles is because it’s mostly empty. This makes it flop from side to side. Back in the day when I was young, my sack was always snug up against the post, and it was always full. I think having a full sack made it more stable.

Unfortunately, none of the things I’ve tried have worked. My first attempt involved grabbing my sack with one hand and then with the other tightening a strap around it. Too much pressure on the sack makes it bulge, though. My second attempt was to just shift it over a bit, but it seems like the sack itself is unbalanced, as one side of the sack hangs down lower than the other. I think that may be because of the contents of the sack.

Some riders have done away with their sack entirely, and they just stuff their tool in their jersey. I’ve tried it, but with your tool in your jersey pocket it sometimes pokes you in the back, which is uncomfortable. Plus, the tool itself is quite hard and can rip through the jersey fabric. Still other riders have actually replaced their sack with a smaller one. I can’t imagine jamming all that stuff into a tiny bag.

Anyway, I’ve had this sack for a long time and it has served me well. For now the best solution is simply to reach down and grab my bag when it dangles too low, shove it back up and readjust the way I’m sitting to keep my thighs from batting it to and fro. It can get whacked pretty hard if you bat your sack with your thighs by mistake, but generally this seems to work fine. If anyone out there on the Internet has any good ideas about how to handle a really droopy sack, let me know. My current sack is a medium-sized Serfas, with two zippers and a clip-on belt for a light or rear reflector, and it easily holds two tubes and cartridges, as well as my tool.

END

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If you wanna get to heaven (you gotta raise a little … )

September 25, 2014 § 14 Comments

“Manslaughter and I are going for a slow spin around the hill. Leaving in five minutes.”

I read the text and started changing. I caught them in downtown Redondo, flipped it, and we started around the peninsula. It was 9:30 AM on a Wednesday, and too early on-a-day-that’s-not-a-Friday to contemplate drinking. The chatter was the same as always. Derek talked about losing weight. Manslaughter giggled. I wondered what I was going to blog about.

Manslaughter began talking about Santa and Jesus, and how he didn’t believe in either. Then Derek turned and said, “That’s fine, being an atheist and all, but then what exactly is your plan for getting into heaven? You don’t cruise across the line into heaven in the middle of the pack, sucking wheel. Getting into heaven is a time trial, and Jesus better be in your support vehicle.”

“Not to mention your water bottle,” I added.

Manslaughter giggled and suggested taking a “dirt road.”

“What kind of dirt road?” I asked.

“A flat one,” he lied.

Derek and I agreed since we were on our road bikes and, hell, we had done the BWR, right? How bad could it be? Manslaughter turned off the pavement to the left of where Tink had once splatted and where Toronto’s daughter had hit the seam in the road and launched into the curb and where Little Sammy Snubbins had flipped into oncoming traffic at 30. Ah, memories.

The dirt was fine until it turned up, then up again, then massively up. Manslaughter, currently ranked #23 in the nation for mountain biking, and therefore a never-miss descender and climber, misjudged a turn, fell off his bicycle, and ended up looking like a pubic crab on its back wiggling a very tiny bike in the air. We laughed and passed him, trying and failing to run over his neck.

Derek slowed, having lost too much weight the night before, and I raced by. I kept him behind me by weaving all over the steep and narrow trail. I’m not sure why he kept saying “motherfucker,” but he did. After a while we caught a rider on horseback.

“That horse is pretty sketchy,” I thought. “If I sneak past it I bet it freaks and maybe kicks and kills Derek and I win to wherever the fuck this climb goes.” Manslaughter had been dropped a long way back, which was fine, except that he was the only one who knew the route.

I picked a tight passing lane and went to shoot through it. The horse sensed my presence and looked like it was going to turn away from me, which was fine, until I realized the pivot was actually an aiming maneuver. The last thing I saw was its rump rising up to make room for its rear legs to clear and then lash out.

The next thing I knew, I wasn’t on a hot dirt road in Palos Verdes anymore. It was cool out and cloudy, but I was above the clouds. I saw a big pair of gates. I could see through them. There was Prez, wearing a halo and what appeared to be a peacock suit made of lycra, winking at me and holding a pair of new Michelin tires over his head with no video camera. There was Erik the Red, waving. Those were the only two people I knew.

Then I saw Charon manning the gates. He had a big book in front of him. “Wanky! You signed up for the wrong race again! Better head on down to your proper category.”

I felt myself falling. Now it was hot again, really hot, but at least I saw more people I knew. Hell, I knew everyone. But there was a black river of steaming hot energy gel to cross in order to get to them. I climbed into the boat waiting on the shore as a hooded guy started to row me across. “Brad?” I asked. “Brad House? Is that you?”

“Naw,” said the oarsman. “He went to somewhere really hot and miserable and filled with sinners. He’s in Texas.”

I debarked and got into a long line. “Where do I sign up for the 50+?” I asked.

Lane, who happened to be standing next to me, said, “I don’t know. I’m here for the Strava competition.”

“Who the hell is in charge around here?” I demanded. Soon enough I got to the sign-in table.

A huge three-headed angry Marine wearing an FBI men-in-black suit and Blues Brothers SPY shades glowered at me. “What the fuck do you want, cupcake?”

“Chris?” I said. “Is that you?”

“Who were you expecting to meet? Mitt Romney? You just signing up for eternity? Only $10 for the second eternity.”

“There’s been some mistake,” I said. “Manslaughter’s the atheist. He’s the one who wanted to suck wheel on Jesus. I’m always at the front. How do I get back up to Prez and those tires?”

“Ha, ha, cupcake,” Chris laughed as he gave me my number. “You’ve just been entered in the BWR from Hell.”

I shuddered. There in the distance stood MMX with a whip and a giant purple card, beating a drum that was slightly out of tune. He sneered at me. “What’s wrong, Patsy? There’s only 8 billion miles of dirt through a live volcano this time.”

“No!” I screamed. “Noooooooooooooooo!”

Suddenly I was lying on my back and the horse lady was saying, “He didn’t give me three feet when he tried to pass. He’s lucky poor old Sukey didn’t kill him.”

Manslaughter and Derek were splitting a bag of sport beans waiting for me to wake up. “If you help me wipe up the blood,” I said to them, “I’ll have Mrs. Wankmeister pick up a case of Racer 5 and make us some quesadillas with mushrooms and salsa.”

It sounded like a good idea to Derek and Manslaughter. Suddenly it was okay to drink before noon on a not-Friday-day. And we did.

END

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Riders lament cancellation of Tour of Beijing after 2014

September 24, 2014 § 14 Comments

The pro peloton was rocked today with news that the beloved Tour of Beijing will likely end after 2014. “This was one of the best races on the calendar,” said Serge Dumoulin, noted domestique for Continental III-level pro team Buster’s Bunion Buster Orthotic Shoe Implants p/b Carburetor Kleen. “It was an epic race.”

Praise for the race was unanimous. In its first three years, the Tour of Beijing a/k/a Race for the Cinders, was hailed as one of the toughest and most challenging events on the pro calendar. “Sure, the stages were all pretty much short and flat,” said Pepe Contreras of Team Barnacle, “but to pedal even a hundred meters in that stinking, smog-filled shit hole of Beijing, I rate it as my greatest accomplishment ever.”

Team doctors from Trek, Cannondale, Katusha, and Tinkoff-Saxodope all agreed. “This race presented the most incredible challenges of our collective medical careers: how to inhale vast quantities of mercury, lead, cadmium, and airborne clenbuterol without either dying or testing positive. This was our greatest achievement.”

Pierre du Fromage-et-vins-du-Sucre, one of the few riders to complete all three editions, waxed nostalgic. “It’s not often you get to support, through your athletic participation, a nation that not only represses human rights but that also pollutes the globe on a massive scale. I’ll miss that. Plus all the teenagers we had sex with for, like, six bucks.”

Brian Cookson, head of the UCI and uncharacteristically sober at 9:00 AM British time, was more sanguine. “The Tour of Beijing served its purpose, to reach out to the growing population of Chinese sporting enthusiasts and expand awareness of our sport, but let’s be honest here. When has anyone ever gone to China and not gotten fucked? Making money off of the Chinese is harder than taking a full bottle of rye whiskey away from a thirsty Irishman. Not that there’s any other kind.”

Although the Tour of Beijing provided a last-stop Pro Tour race for riders still looking for a win and Andy Schleck, Cookson believes that other opportunities are in the offing. “I was recently contacted by a gentleman, Mr. Abdul Abdullah-Masoud al-Qaeda who would like to unveil a premiere stage race in the northern part of what was, formerly, I believe, known as Iraq. We are still working out the details, and would of course require that none of the riders be decapitated, and I believe they may be flexible on that point as long as everyone wears a bedsheet. With the UCI, rider safety is our paramount concern.”

END

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Facebike

September 23, 2014 § 8 Comments

One day I was pedaling home from the NPR and I saw Scrum, a buddy. “Hey, man, I tried to message you on Facebag but couldn’t find you anymore.”

“Yeah,” Scrum said. “I deleted my account.”

“How come?”

“Every time I got on there it depressed the shit out of me. Everyone has a perfect life except me, it seems.”

“Oh, that’s just PR bullshit. People only put up what they want you to see. You know, happy stuff. They still get cancer and get fired and take Prozac like everyone else.”

“At least they can fake it. Anyway, I’m a lot happier now. Back to my old self. Best thing I ever did.”

Facebag, of course, has its problems, one of which is its moniker, “social media.” When I was a kid there was one phone in the house, we got our news from newspapers, and the only way you could socialize was by being around other humans. Talking to the cat never qualified as social. Instead, it often meant having to talk to Mrs. Wint, our nosy neighbor, who would run over to the house every time someone got divorced, pregnant, busted for smoking weed, kicked out of school, or caught screwing a non-spouse.

Social, in other words, meant having to suffer through her bad breath, stupid ideas, repetitive stories, receding gums, and un-bra’ed, floppy breasts in order to get to the good stuff. It was like shelling pecans. You had to peel away the bad part with quite a bit of effort to get to the meat.

Social is the one thing that Facebag is not because you don’t have to endure the physical irritants of your “friends” that you would have to put up with if you really were face-to-face, instead of screen-to-screen. When they bore you, or share their racist rants, you simply hide their feed. Most unsocial of all, you and only you get to pick the moment of interaction. In the old days you pretty much had to deal with Mrs. Wint whenever you ran into her, which was all the time. If you were social, you stopped to talk. If not, you waved and kept going. Quickly.

How many people do you know on Facebag who, when you run into them, are completely different from their profile? The friendly Facebagger who’s an obnoxious ass. The tough-talking badass who’s a pussycat. In the old days, Mrs. Wint was always Mrs. Wint.

Like quitting big-hopped beer, I’ve never been able to stay away from Facebag. The two times I deleted my account, I returned within months. With the help of Scrum’s sage advice, though, I’ve been able to make some very positive changes. I log in when I get up and spend no more than five minutes on it. I don’t endlessly scroll through my feed. I never click “like,” and rarely comment on anything. I post occasional things about gun violence to satisfy my twin needs of tweaking my gun-nut friends and doing a bit of Internet advocacy. At the end of each month I go back and delete most of the stuff from the previous month. I subscribe to a Sunday newspaper and read books instead of cat postings and self-congratulatory photos of third place at the Olde Bumfucke Crit and Shamefest.

But most of all, I’ve tried to get out of my shell and socialize on Facebike. Facebike is that two-wheeled thing that leans up against the wall in my bedroom. It lets me get next to friends, or behind their sweaty butts, and chat with them. Yesterday Derek and Aaron and I rode out to Latigo, and a good portion of it involved an old-fashioned political argument.

Remember those? When people exchanged heated opinions in person and then somehow had to come off the passion of the moment and the differing ideas and still be friends afterwards? When you couldn’t just end an argument the Facebag way — comparing someone to Hitler and deleting all their comments? Besides, after a hundred hard miles, who wants to argue anyway? And how can you argue when you’re begging for their last gel?

Facebag is still one of the world’s greatest bulletin boards, and that’s how I use it now. But when’s the last time you called someone “social” who spends hours a day staring at a bulletin board?

END

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UCI rule changes usher in new era

September 21, 2014 § 31 Comments

With the changes to the UCI’s rules for the hour record attempt firmly in place, Jens Voigt stormed to a new mark in the legendary event, setting a fastest-ever pace in the event, a time that was faster than anyone has ever gone before in this distance, except for eight other riders, all of whom went faster, but who, under new rules are now technically slower, making Voigt the fastest ever rider not to have used certain modifications under the old rules that allowed the “superman” position. Voigt’s new status as the fastest ever rider for the hour except for the riders who have actually gone faster created a wave of happiness and hysteria at the UCI, and Cycling in the South Bay was lucky to catch this brief interview with chief Brian Cookson in between lunchtime martinis.

CitSB: You must be really happy about this.

Brian Cookson: Oh indeed, indeed. This rule change is going to see a wave of riders attempting to break the hour record.

CitSB: Can you explain it to the folks back in Peoria? It’s kind of confusing.

BC: Of course. Under the old rules, which were instituted to replaced the former rules before that, and which in turn had been liberalized over the previous rules, a rider couldn’t set an hour record unless he did it under the same technical constraints as Eddy Merckx’s 1972 ride in Mexico City.

CitSB: And why was that so hard?

BC: There just weren’t very many more pairs of wool shorts left anymore. Except for the guys over at Velominati. And reproducing the open-shit sewers of Mexico City in ’72 was a major technical hurdle, not to mention getting old-school pepper-upper combos like Deca, heroin, strychnine, and cocaine.

CitSB: So then what happened?

BC: We changed the rule so that it mirrors the existing rules for the pursuit. If you can use it in the pursuit, you can use it in the hour record.

CitSB: Even those stupid looking smooth helmets that make you look like a speeding penis?

BC: (Slams another martini, rubs self). Especially those.

CitSB: Back to Ma and Pa in Peoria. Jens Voigt has the new hour record, but there are still eight riders who have set UCI-approved hour records faster than him. How can you be the record holder in 9th place?

BC: Again, as with most things in cycling, you have to be steeped in the history and the regulations to appreciate the effort. It is true that the fastest hour records of Boardman and Rominger will never be broken, but those records were set due to technical specifications that allowed them to use bike positions that we will never allow again.

CitSB: Why is that?

BC: The hour record should be pure. It should be man against time.

CitSB: Or woman.

BC: What?

CitSB: Never mind.

END

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