Crazy bicycle cat lady

June 23, 2014 § 15 Comments

I was on my way to the Michael Jackson flash mob in Santa Monica (please shut up) and came up to the stoplight. There was a lot of traffic, and because it was Santa Monica, and because it was sunny, and because it was past the noon wake-up hour, the crazy people were out in force.

There was the toothless white man singing Swahili war songs. There was the shopping cart lady with four bags of empty plastic bottles slung over her shoulder. There was the toothless couple in their 70’s, he in a thong, she in a bikini (what is it about Santa Monica and bad teeth?). There was the fat shirtless dude shirt salmoning up the sidewalk with big steel hoops pierced through his nipples. There were the holistic women toting cloth shopping bags overflowing with kale, flanking a shaman who had a giant bone tied in his beard.

There were rich people trying to look poor. There were poor people trying to look rich. There was a dude carrying a surfboard wearing a wetsuit nowhere near the ocean. There was a dog adoption place. There was a farmers market filled with faux farmers.

The light turned green and a lady whizzed past me on her mountain bike. She was wearing black yoga pants that came down mid-calf, paired with a sleeveless white top, pink sneakers, flat pedals, and a white baseball cap. As she blitzed through the intersection she stuck her left hand directly out in front of her and shouted “Straight!”

Then a parked car on the right turned on its engine and the brake lights flashed. “Watch it!” she screamed. The car hadn’t even moved. A trash truck was doing its thing and blocking the bike lane, so she swerved like a pro slalom skier out into traffic, and screamed some more. “Everybody take cover!” she hollered. That, I had to admit, was a new on-the-bike warning.

I could see this was going to be good, so I picked up speed and started tailing her. She was in pretty good shape and ripped along in the bike lane, unevenly and unable to hold a line. The cars were barely going the speed of our bikes, and a convertible with four young women slowly passed us. “What are you looking at?” she roared. “Pay attention to the road!” Then she swerved in front of them, causing the driver to lock it up. “Goddamn you!” the crazy lady shouted. “God damn you to hell and back!”

At that split second another parked car started to open its door. She was no where near the door zone, but she let the poor guy have it, uttering a mighty shriek. “Watch your door! Watch your door! Watch your FUCKING DOOR!”

The guy jerked his door shut but hadn’t pulled his leg back in. It smacked his shin with a huge crunch. I heard him moan and curse as I cruised by.

Now crazy bicycle cat lady had a big old head of steam going. She was shoveling coal through the Ashland and Main intersection, and since there weren’t any cars to shout at, she abused a lady pushing a stroller. “Stay on the damned curb! How hard is it, fer Chrissake!” The lady hadn’t even started to move.

The faster she went, the more she shouted, and pointed, and cursed, and swerved. She finally caught the light at Ocean Park and let loose with a torrent of invective. “How fucking hard is it, morons?” she shouted. “HOW FUCKING HARD?” Watching the cross traffic lights change, she jumped the gun and rushed out into the intersection just as the light turned green. A guy coming the other way was trying to beat the yellow, and he braked hard, missing her by a couple of feet.

She never slowed down, but she roared and cursed and swerved and pointed and shook her fist. I was humping it to keep up with her, when I noticed something odd.

The long line of traffic was terrified. The entire stream of Sunday cars rolling down Main Street had one concern and one only: don’t hit the cat lady. The ones she made eye contact with got a fist shake and a curse. The ones who she passed, drivers who were minding their own business, got yelled at so loudly that you could see them start.

By the time we got to the Santa Monica Courthouse, she had whipped the whole lot of them. Straight-arming the traffic through Pico and rushing full bore towards the t-intersection, I marveled at her. This wasn’t lane control. It was lane domination. She was the spike-heeled, leather clad, whip-wielding dominatrix of the Santa Monica Sunday rush hour, and the more she cursed and yelled and abused the hapless drivers, the more they got the hell out of her way. She wasn’t even wearing a helmet.

We parted company on 2nd Street. I eased out into the lane as a bunch of cars started backing up behind me. I could feel what they were thinking, and I knew that all it would take to get them off my back was a good dose of crazy bicycle cat lady abuse. I turned around and looked at the angry driver, hunched over his steering wheel, pissed at having to troll for parking, pissed at being in his cage on such a pretty day, and most of all pissed at having to crawl along at 15 mph behind some dude riding around in his underwear. He shot me the scowl of a gun nut listening to a lecture about gun control.

I smiled and waved.

He relaxed and smiled back.

Then I mouthed the word “Thanks,” turned back around, and kept pedaling.



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After the loving

June 21, 2014 § 19 Comments

I’ve begun seeing bicycle racer posts requesting money to “help me get to nationals” or to “fund my attempt to race the Tour de Beerfart.” That’s okay, I suppose; begging has always come naturally to me (have you subscribed to this blog yet? It costs $2.99 per month, which is less than you spend on rim cement and marginally more entertaining).

I suppose it’s also okay for people to chase their dreams, even when their dreams are beyond their means and require angel investors to pick up the tab for gas. We run a permanent welfare state for corporations and the rich, so why not a little extra charity for deadbeat bike racers?

But then I think back to January, when the lovemaking was so intense, when the professions of adoration and loyalty were on everyone’s lips. I think about the fresh, taut pull of the new kits, the luxurious taste of the new recovery drink formulas, the screaming sleekness of the new aero bike frames, the sensuous fit of the carbon-soled racing shoes, the gladiator masks of the new shades. I think about the protestations of love and about how each sponsored masters racer preened in front of the mirror, danced on the pedals during team training camps, and proudly strutted in front of the weekend group rides.

And, like the Led Zeppelin song said, “It makes me wonder.” It makes me wonder what you sorry ass take-the-swag-and-run deadbeats have been doing to pimp the brands since then?

Where are the social media posts? The tweets? The blogs? Where is the shameless self-promotion, the periodic reminder to all and sundry that the only reason you’re wearing this trick shit is because YOU PROMISED TO PIMP IT.

Do you know what happens to a whore who doesn’t strut her stuff in order to make money for her pimp? He dumps her quicker than a colon dealing with a bad street burrito. However, in amateur cycling, this hardly happens because hardly anyone really expects that the athletes will do anything more than give the most perfunctory praise for the stuff they get for free, even though it’s stuff without which they probably couldn’t race their stupid bikes.

Of course in between uploading data to Strava, counting calories, analyzing the results of all twelve categorized races in last weeks crits, cruising FB for photos of yourself that you can steal from the photographers and make your new profile pic, it’s sometimes difficult to remember the names of your sponsors, much less reasons to say good things about them. And anyway, it’s time for dinner.

Because bike racers are thoughtless, selfish, inconsiderate turds and because they aren’t always the most adept at creative writing, I have put  together some stock sponsor promotional language that you can use on FB, Twitter, the Honey-Do list on the fridge, etc. to show how much you’re doing to really earn those thousands of dollars in swag that really ARE a smart investment by your sponsors (hee, hee).

  1. Bike. “My Chinarello is the lightest, fastest, stiffest, most responsive bike I have ever not had to pay for. It handles better than a porn star. I would never have podiumed at the Beerfart Crit on any bike but this one.”
  2. Recovery/precovery/postcovery Drink Mix. “Thanks to Amalgamated Steroid Labs’ specialized prostate enhancer, I am able to train 20% longer, go 34.3% harder, and recover 12.98% better than when I was using Ol’ Buzzardpuke Lipid Replacement Drink and Plumbing Unguent. I take Amalgamated products before, during, and after sex. You should, too.”
  3. Clothing. “Last season I kept getting dropped because the paper-thin, sandpaper chamois on my old team kits would wedge up my (buttcrack/vaginal crease) and cause horrific irritations, lesions, and antibiotic resistant nodules. Now, with my ultra aero kits by Fluffer Racing, the pad is big enough to spread out and have a picnic on (after you scrape off the skid marks). I’ve never been more comfortable.”
  4. Sunglasses. “We used to ride Dokely Eyewear because our team manager thought it was kind of cool to look like your face had been sheathed in a motorcycle fairing with mud flaps on the bottom and side. We crashed a lot, though. Now we only wear EAVESDROP Optic products with their patented Beer Goggle Technology so that everyone looks beautiful even when you’re not drunk. Talk about happy!”
  5. Wheelsets. “Our old Creekncrack Wheels were round, but our new Zippy Wheels are even more round. Studies show that Zippy’s patented More Round Technology translates into more roundness. And round is good.”
  6. Helmets. “Time was, I was afraid to go down in a bunch sprint at forty and crack my head on the pavement. But now that I’m riding the new Styro-gira I crash all the time on my head and feel fine. It comes with fourteen layers of styrofoam infused with chitinous crab shell bits. Fifty-three major blows to the head so far this year and I’ve never felt better!”

Okay, athletes. Now you know what to say … so get out there and say it!



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10 reasons the World Cup is better than the Tour de France

June 20, 2014 § 26 Comments

Now is the summer frenzy held once every four years when British people remind us that it’s called “football,” when British people remind us that they invented the world’s most popular sport, and when British people quietly make their traditional early exit from the World Cup tournament grumbling “Wait ’til next time.”

Still, despite their national love affair with a sport they’re not very good at (something the French share with regard to cycling), after catching a few games on TV I’m convinced that World Cup soccer is way better than the Tour de France. Here’s why.

  1. To compete as a masters racer in cycling you need tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. To play World Cup soccer you need a pair of legs. And a ball.
  2. The winner of the World Cup is never determined two weeks before the tournament ends.
  3. The same team doesn’t win the World Cup seven times in a row and then have its victories nullified because of cheating.
  4. Chris Froome.
  5. The Tour may be the hardest sporting event in the world, but World Cup soccer displays the most athleticism — running, jumping, kicking, twisting, tackling, throwing up your arms in shock that you’ve been penalized for chopping an opposing player in the throat, and of course flopping.
  6. When you fly halfway around the world to watch a World Cup soccer match, you get to watch it live for more than 2 or 3 seconds.
  7. Soccer may not be as exciting as, say, snake tossing, but nothing is as boring as watching skinny people in their underwear pedaling bikes. Nothing.
  8. “Teamwork” never means “Everyone sacrifice everything for that one dude who is the only official winner.”
  9. You can start an argument, brawl, or minor riot in any bar in any country on earth by discussing the World Cup.
  10. When you talk about the World Cup winner, no one ever says “Who?”



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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 § 128 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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