October 24, 2013 § 44 Comments
There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned, head-first collision with the pavement in excess of 37 mph to make you think about your helmet. Mine was a Specialized Fancyass Racer, a couple of years old, doing replacement duty for a newer Giro Superfancyass Racer that I retired when I backflipped my bike doing a wheelie and cracked my skull and helmet.
The moment when your head hits the pavement that hard, shit gets real, or, as they say, “Nothing ever happens until it happens to you.” The blow was so solid, so strong, so sure, so confident, so unforgiving, that in the microsecond before I went into shock I recall thinking, “Wonder if I’m a quad now?”
When you hit the deck your body goes into self-test mode. Start with the extremities. Toes and fingers work? Check. Then you move the head a little. Neck work? Check. Then a few seconds as you wait for the pain waves to wash over, then subside, and in between sets you check other body parts.
“Arms? Fine. Left leg? Check. Right leg? Oh, fuck. That hurts.” Then having identified the first most acute pain, you zero in for further diagnosis. A little or a lot of movement tells you that it’s broken or it’s not, and all the while your friends are staring at you anxiously telling you “Don’t move,” and “The ambulance is coming,” and of course, “Your bike’s fine, dude.”
It’s not until you find out the condition of the bike that you can relax and submit yourself to fate. Of course.
It was luck and it was physics
I’ve often thought that bike helmets were made to protect you in low speed crashes rather than high speed ones. Apparently, it’s just the opposite. Helmets are designed to withstand straight-on, high impact blows that are powerful enough to break apart the styrofoam and absorb the energy, deflecting it from your skull and brain. Lower speed, twisting hits may not be helped by helmets at all, as the force isn’t enough to cause the styrene to absorb the blow, which is instead transmitted directly to the skull and brain.
Bad shit happens after that, and to really understand the science you need to know about rotational acceleration and stuff. But if you don’t really want to understand it just imagine a block of tofu that gets shaken until cracks develop. Oh … the tofu is your brain, and the cracks are your new friend, Mr. Concussion.
If you really want to know more about your brain and its interaction with massive impact, read this excellent article here.
My own helmet was crushed. The exterior still hung together on my head, but the styrofoam was crisscrossed with cracks. Who would have thought that the best way to use a helmet was by smacking your head at huge speed directly on the tarmac? Since the blow, although direct, was slightly off to the left side of my crown, and since I hit at a slight angle, the force went from my head to my shoulders and finally the right side of my body, terminating in my right hip, upon which I came to rest.
I still can’t believe I’m alive, or not in the ICU, or not dealing with (even more) brain damage. But as that clever little FB posty thingy says, “Everything happens for a reason, and the reason is usually physics.” I hit hard enough to break the polystyrene. I hit it straight on as I rolled into a tuck. My shoulder and side absorbed the blow rather than my thin and fragile neck. Despite putting on a great show for my pals, I eventually got back on the bike and rode off to the coffee shop. The day ended with some careful medical treatment by Dr. IPA.
The great anti-helmet revolutionary
I started riding with a hardshell helmet in 2005. Before that I rode with my hair. For a season or two, in 84 and 85, I rode with a hairnet. Then, when the USCF required hardshell helmets for 1986, I rebelled. I wrote several letters to the USCF, which have hopefully been destroyed, in which I argued like a crazy person against hardshell helmets. I can’t remember what silly things I said, but I do remember using the example of not having to use a helmet on a motorcycle. Compellingly stupid stuff …
On my own I refused to wear a helmet, and laughed at all the chicken-littles who were so diffident towards their own cycling skills that they couldn’t stay out of trouble and instead had to depend on a silly helmet. In 2005, when I began riding in West Houston, my appearance on the rides in wool clothes, a steel bike, and no helmet engendered so much anger and hostility that I finally caved in. The helmet became a habit, and with a few notable exceptions (forgetting to put it on one morning before the Donut Ride), I don’t ride without it.
Thanks to yesterday’s massive blow to the head, my tofu may have actually solidified. There’s no universe I can imagine in which I’m on a bike and not wearing headgear. But in the back of my mind, I know it wasn’t all just about physics. It was also about dumb, uncaring, random luck.
October 23, 2013 § 71 Comments
So, yesterday morning I wrote about the dangers of cycling, and a few hours after posting I went out and joined up with the NPR for our twice-weekly beatdown. With a thousand yards to go, a wanker who had sucked wheel and flailed for the entire ride dashed up to the front, grabbed the wheel of the leadout train, touched a wheel, slid out, and knocked down ten other riders.
My head hit the asphalt at 37.4 mph, according to Strava, leaving my helmet structurally disintegrated, but firmly attached to my head. Aside from skinned knuckles, a touch of road rash, a very sore hip, and a blinding headache, I was good enough to saddle up and ride back to CotKU, where Em and Jake bought me a latte. From there I pedaled in to work.
Others were less fortunate. Shattered frames were everywhere. Shredded uniforms. Road rash galore. Stitched up knees. Broken collarbone. Broken wrist. Trashed wheels. I still can’t believe that no one was catastrophically injured. “What,” I wondered, “was it all for? What in the world were we doing?”
Foremost, we were dressing up in clown suits, riding clown bicycles, and trying to go as fast as we could without crashing. We failed. The queue of motorists could have only thought one thing: “What a bunch of fucking idiots.”
So, there’s the inevitable post-mortem. Choose the one(s) you like best.
1. The Dominic Felde Theory: Everyone who hasn’t raced in Belgium and had 30 years experience racing at the highest levels is a fucking kook. Kick them out of the ride or avoid them by doing your own ride or scream at them until they slink away.
2. The Rahsaah Bahati Theory: This was a teachable moment. We should be patient educators with people who dash up to the end of the lead-out train at the end of the ride and then take out ten people and cause $25,000 in damage because they overlapped a wheel.
3. The Seth Davidson Theory: Bicycling is dangerous. You will eventually fall and get hurt. No exceptions.
4. The Pablo Maida Theory: After a huge crash like that, the one thing we’ve learned is that it’s important to finish the pedal home by strapping your helmet onto your handlebars and ride with the wind in your hair, carefree.
5. The Joe Yule Theory: I have catastrophic crashes all the time, and it’s because of those damned kooks.
6. The Pokey-Kneed Dude’s Theory: Did I do something wrong?
7. The Chris Gregory Theory: What in the world was I doing up there?
8. The David Jaeger Theory: When you are in a group ride winding up to a sprint and you neither know nor trust most of the riders around you, swing over, head to the back, and let someone else take the glory or the road rash, as the case may be.
9. The Peyton Cooke Theory: Make sure you’re going fast enough so that the crash happens behind you.
10. The Eric Anderson Theory: I won. Again.
11. The Marc Spivey Theory: Never go anywhere without your camera and the ability to quickly upload to Facebook.
12. The Damian Stevens Theory: Find the escape chute and let the other wankers hit the deck.
13. The Suze Sonye Theory: Next time I see someone riding like a jackass, I’m chewing his ass. Oh, wait, I already did!
14. The Elijah Shabazz Theory: I was the fastest dude there, except for the dudes ahead of me.
15. The FB Commenters’ Theory: What the fugg were you wankers doing going that hard in October?
16. The Baby Seals’ Theory: Is the ride still on for Thursday?
As a participant to the crash, the only one of the above theories that I can discuss with any intelligence is #16. And the answer is “Yes.”
October 22, 2013 § 16 Comments
Apparently, some people have questioned the safety of bicycling. They are, to paraphrase Cap Taintbag, “fuggin morons.”
The statistics, all of which are damned lies, were recently put forth in a New York Times blog, which is where the Times puts everything that’s too douchey to make it to the regular printed doucherag that no one subscribes to anymore. Incredibly, the article concluded that it’s hard to conclude whether cycling is really more dangerous than other sports, to which I can only say, with jaw thwapping the desk …
“ARE YOU FUGGIN KIDDING ME?”
Rehabbing the rehabbers
This past weekend I scooted up to Camarillo for Pacifica ‘Cross Fest, with Dandy Andy at the wheel. I for one could not, even for a moment, understand why a ‘cross race was being held on the grounds of a rehab center. Sure, they posted “no alcohol allowed” on the flyer, but come fuggin on! Beer is to ‘cross what venereal sores are to amateur porn: they go hand in mouth together, so to speak.
Now, in case you think bicycling is safe, you have never, ever, ever seen a ‘cross race. Or a downhill MTB race. Or a madison. Or anything modified by the phrase “Cat 5.” The whole point of ‘cross, for dog’s sake, is to fall off your bike, get injured, and finish or quit. D-Mac wrecked his spine on the barriers. China Dahl swallowed four pounds of sludge, face-first, in the wood-chip turn (and went on to place second and hold onto the overall series lead). Although T-Dub didn’t crash in the finishing straight by having a giant swatch of snow fencing come unhitched and wrap into his wheel, sending him face-first to the dirt like last week, lots of other riders sailed face-first, or spine-first, or nuts-first, or veejays-first, off their bikes and into barriers, gravel, fencing, trees, or beer.
Is bicycling dangerous? Does the pope shit in the ocean?
Why some people foolishly believe bicycling is safe
In short, there is a subset of person who believes that life itself is either safe, or can be made so. They have willfully disregarded the uniform empirical evidence which shows, without exception, that all human life ends in death, the epitome of unsafeness. However, unlike couching, or televisioning, or beering, bicycling greatly accelerates the arc towards unsafeness and death.
The fantastic ways that you can wreck yourself on a bicycle are limited only by your imagination, bad coordination, poor judgment, inattentiveness, overconfidence, misplaced trust, and lousy timing. When done improperly, which bicycle riders do all the the time, the act of pedaling can result in flipping backwards and cracking your skull on the pavement, falling over and splitting your hip, plunging forward and crushing your face (including nose, teeth, cheekbones, eyes, forehead, jaw, chin, and brain), dislocating or breaking collarbones, shoulders, arms, legs, puncturing lungs, shattering necks and spines, stripping off huge bloody swatches of skin (peeling back to reveal bones, veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, guts), permanent cognitive injury, bleeding on the brain, rupturing kidneys/livers/internal organs, and generally being forced to show up to work in a body cast and admit that you did it because you “fell off your bike.”
Contrary to the common sense that cyclists rarely have, you stand just as much risk in a selfie crash as you do from getting taken out by Mitzy and her Range Rover. Pedal, and you’re fuggin gonna fall. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “any idiot who’s ever seen the inherent instability of a bicycle understands that sooner or later you’re gonna crack your noggin, and crack it hard.”
I like my fear like I like my women: Sweaty and dirty
My big goal at Pacifica ‘Cross was to nail down seventh place. Twenty-five pedal strokes into the race, that dream was crushed like a junior high secret love note picked up by the teacher. I got a terrible start, as usual, and wound up behind Pokey Joe, a fellow who was more tentative and frightened and incompetent than even I. Worse, Pokey was stuck behind Slugsy, a chubby fellow in a kit three sizes too small whose buttcrack was so massive it hung out of the neck of his skinsuit. Slugsy, in turn, was holed up behind Toad, a gentleman who thought we were slow dancing.
In front of this elephant’s parade of losers was the race, and it tore off with the pell-mell insanity of any ‘cross race, leaving the tentative riders and the ‘fraidy cats to ponder what might have been if they weren’t so chicken at the gun. Fortunately, I’d pre-ridden the course and had mastered its sandy turns, its deep sand pit, its mulch corner, and its BMX berms so that I could take them at maximum speed.
Unfortunately, by the middle of Lap One my heart rate was pegged out at 210, I couldn’t see, I’d frozen up in clenched terror, and all of my smooth moves did what smooth moves do when you’re completely fuggin pegged out: They went to shit.
Far away on the course I could see China Dahl charging onward, face full of dirt, to his glorious second place. I could see Garnet Vertigo racing for third, as far up the road Dandy Andy flatted yet again and jogged through four miles of mud and goatheads to reach the pit. I even had the memory of Randy Tinhead and Jay LaFred taking second and first in their respective categories.
None of that helped as I tiptoed through the turns, even getting passed by some wanker on an MTB. Eventually, Chubby Dude and Pokey and Slugsy were overhauled and dropped, but I never got higher up in the field of twenty than tenth place. All along the course I could see people slipping, falling, crashing, bonking their heads, skinning their shins, tumbling over the handlebars, and diving headfirst into the free samples at the BonkBreaker tent.
Safety in bicycling? You kidding me?
Next thing you’ll be telling me about sobriety and abstinence at a ‘cross race held at a rehab center. Because the foamy, deep amber recovery drinks that filled everyone’s water bottle to go along with T-Dub’s barbecued sausage sure as hell didn’t taste like Cytomax to me.
October 21, 2013 § 47 Comments
I just finished reading “Tour de Lance” by Bill Strickland and “Breaking the Chain” by Willy Voet. Voet was the soigneur/drug dealer who was busted by French customs officials as he crossed over from Belgium into France with a load of goodies destined for the Festina team a few days prior to the 1998 Tour. The bust and its payload of EPO, among other things, resulted in the exposure of French star Richard Virenque as a doper, and got Festina booted from the Tour.
Strickland is one of the worst hacks in the world of faux cycling journalism, and his hagiography of Armstrong is fully revealed in the title. “Tour de Lance” is one fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy as he follows the team bus and watches Armstrong try, and fail, to win his eighth Tour. For Strickland, the project was a win-win. Either Armstrong stood atop the podium and the book could conclude “greatest athlete ever,” or Armstrong didn’t win, and Strickland could piously intone that Lance was now “more human. More like us.”
Either way, there would be a mountain of used Kleenex to get rid of.
Justice for Lance
With each disgraced doper retiring into comfortable fame, the accusation of Armstrong as “the most evil person to ever live including Hitler and Stalin” becomes sillier to read and more ridiculous to maintain. When Michael Barry begins publishing soporific, sappy little magazine tidbits that exhort us to “never forget the fun of cycling,” I have to choke back down my breakfast. This is the same Michael Barry who doped throughout his career, and we’re now supposed to take anything seriously that he has to say about what’s important in cycling?
Of course the most egregious offenders are George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer, who run successful businesses and ragingly popular Gran Fondos that are successful due to the fame they achieved as cheats, liars, dopers, and sporting frauds. And when Christian Vandevelde or Dave Zabriskie hang up their cleats, their cheating legacies are mere asterisks, nothing more.
But Lance, of course, is different because he exterminated the hopes of countless 12k dreamers. He personally directed the deaths of millions as a leader in the Khmer Rouge and as a henchman to Idi Amin. Plus, he was really mean to Betsy, so we should pursue him forever, no matter what. If Lance hadn’t lied about drugs, I’d have won the Tour, I know that in my heart.
The real culprits
We all know who the real culprits in the doping saga are. They are the athletes who cheat. They are spectators who uncritically adulate. And they are the media who refuse to act like journalists and instead act like PR shills.
“Breaking the Chain,” written shortly after the Festina scandal, is a short, punchy, brutal look at the rich history of drugs in cycling. When Laurent Fignon piously intoned in his autobiography that in his day doping methods were minuscule, he is contradicted by Voet’s detailed description of the methods, means, and effects that had been around for decades — including the years in which Fignon raced (busted for doping twice, in ’87 and ’89).
Although it only plays a vaguely minor scale to the tune of “Poor, poor, pitiful me,” Voet’s book reveals an old truth. The mules and drug dealers and soigneurs will get hung out to dry long before the stars. At worst, Voet was a bottom feeder and a drug addict himself who worked assiduously to master the black art of obtaining and administering drugs to racers. At best he was a tiny cog in a nasty, evil machine, culpable perhaps, but nothing on the level of the real villains.
And such a real villain is Bill Strickland
If you can get through “Tour de Lance” without alternating bouts of rage, incredulity, revulsion, and despair, you are made of pretty stern stuff. Here’s a guy who writes for Bicycling magazine as its editor at large, writing nine years after the publication of “Breaking the Chain,” and who can’t do anything other than hang around the Trek team bus and insinuate himself into the good graces of the mechanics and Bruyneel and Lance himself in order to uncritically accept every spoon-fed lie that is doled out.
The book isn’t even about Lance, it’s about Strickland and his fanboy fantasy as he revels in being on the inside even at a time when no critical writer could have accepted the plethora of lying denials regarding Armstrong’s doping. To make it even more sick, there is a post-script that mentions Landis’s confessions and accusations regarding drugs on Armstrong’s US Postal team, but even with that Strickland can’t bring himself to do anything more journalistic than jerk himself off one last time as he slobbers about how much more human Lance has become in his failed comeback bid.
And Strickland’s motivations for refusing to acknowledge the truth are just as base as his motivations for writing the fanbook in the first place: He’s simultaneously working on another lickspittle book that hoists up Johan Bruyneel as the greatest race director of all time — “We Might as Well Win,” and it simply wouldn’t do to take the wind out of that sail. After all, we’re talking money here. Bill’s money.
As we all found out, the people who threw Lance under the Postal bus the quickest were the very media whores and corporate rapists who had deflected all criticism and refused to investigate even his most incredible lies. Strickland is now back to his old business, writing puff pieces about the joys of bicycling even as Lance pays for his sins — and pays, and pays, and pays, and even as Lance’s former cronies continue to profit from their ill-gotten gains, gains made possible by people like Strickland.
The juxtaposition of “Breaking the Chain” and “Tour de Lance,” especially when read in sequence, tells you everything you really need to know about how it all happened, why it all happened, and whether it’s happening still. And no matter what the fanboys say, it is.
October 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
Tomorrow, when I line up at noon for the ‘cross race in Camarillo, I’ll have my eyes set on seventh place.
Because last week, you know, I got eighth, and the week before, you know, I got ninth. So seventh is doable, within reach. If you figure that David Anderson won’t be there, and F-1 Jim won’t be there, and a couple of others from San Diego won’t be there, and you figure that the usual field of about twenty riders will only be about fifteen, maybe fewer, the math plus my fitness plus my gradually improving results plus the fact that Dandy might slide out in a corner and Randy might show up too drunk on wine to start mean that seventh place is really something I might pull off.
Why not go for the win?
I know what you’re thinking. “Fuck, dude, go for the win! Any wanker can be the sixth loser! Shoot for the moon! Gun for the top step! Nobody remembers second place, and even your wife won’t congratulate you on seventh! Visualize the vee!”
Actually, there are a lot of great reasons why I’m not “going for the win.” First is because winning is not possible, and in principle I refuse to believe in the impossible. So, like, I don’t read horoscopes, or pray to unicorns, or hope that Monsanto is not really trying to poison me to death.
And there you go again, I can hear it already. “Dude! Ya gotta beleeeeve! Winning is an attitude! Refuse to lose! All it takes is all you’ve got! Never let good enough be enough! Winning is a habit! Success is a choice! Reach for the sky or don’t even try! In it to win it!” Etc.
Problem is, this ain’t my first rodeo. Winning may be an attitude, but defeat is a fact. Think about it. When have you actually won? There’s always someone better, and he’s usually in your race. Each time you’ve reached the top step, didn’t you realize that there was another staircase so high above yours that you couldn’t even look up the skirt of the person on the bottom rung?
That’s what I’m talking about. Face reality, even when you’re play-acting bike racer, because reality may be the ugliest drunk gal at the bar, but she’s the only one that’s going home with you.
The problem with winning
I’ve tried explaining this to people who are less experienced than I am, but they rarely get it. Winning bike races is a rare thing, and in order to do it you have to be able to perform under pressure. This takes many forms.
In a road race, it means stabbing yourself in the eyes at the exact point where your internal organs have failed, your legs have swelled up with something called incessant pain, and your genitals feel like they’re being smeared across hot coals with a spatula.
In a crit, it means lunging into spaces at maximum speed while banging bars, balls, and shoulders where the chance of getting through the hole without splatting your spine on the concrete is, over time, zero.
In a time trial, it means pushing yourself to the point of self-inflicted nausea so that the act of spitting up and swallowing your own vomit, repeatedly, is the least horrible of the sensations you will experience during the ride.
In a ‘cross race, it means doing all of the above while jumping over shit, climbing up walls, skidding through dirt and mud, and pounding your joints with the ferocity of a thousand sailors on shore leave.
In each of these disciplines — if foolishness can be called a discipline — it is only after sinking deep into the trough of those “winning moves” that the real pain begins. In other words, winning bike races means burying yourself completely, then boring down to the center of the earth. Or taking a shit-ton of drugs. Or both.
The bigger problem with winning
Once you commit to winning, there is a natural progression. It begins with equipment, then training, then coaching, then nutrition, then drugs. At each stage you have to make a decision, and it’s the same decision. How much of this do I do? And when do I stop?
Committed losers, on the other hand, have no such problems. Aluminum boxed rims are fine. Why? Because I’m gonna lose anyway and I might as well spend the extra money on beer. I don’t have to train so hard this week because I’m gonna lose anyway, and I might as well have the extra energy to, you know, work or hang out with the kids or — with the wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband. Coaching? Who the hell needs someone to tell me what to do on my off time? Isn’t that why I have a job? To get told how to do things I’d rather not be doing?
Same for nutrition … whether it’s a cheeseburger or a colander of boiled kale, I’m still gonna lose, so I might as well go for what tastes good. Drugs? Who can afford that since I’m gonna lose anyway? Might as well spend the money on a new wheel set and save my liver.
Trust me on this. Seventh place, if I get it, will be more than good enough. It won’t be winning, or anywhere close to it. It won’t be a “moral victory” or evidence of my toughness and fortitude. It will be a lousy, douchey, sortaran, almost coulda, seventh fucking place.
And I’ll enjoy it every bit as much as if I’d gotten sixth.
October 17, 2013 § 39 Comments
I get angry often, despite the beer, but then I remember: Every person has to learn all of human history anew. So, here is an explanation of that most complicated, subtle, and elusive act of cycling, the pull. Commit this shit to memory, yo.
The pull is the essence of cycling. It reveals your character. It defines your ride. It makes you a person or a non-entity. It defines you. So here is what you need to know about the pull. What is it? When to do it? How to do it? Would you like fries with that?
- The Tri-Dork Pull: The Tri-Dork Pull is done at 35 mph until everyone on your wheel melts into a puddle of goo. To paraphrase Yoda, “There is no ‘why.’” There is no reason or rhyme to this pull; Tri-Dork pulls at the front, forever, because he can. Tactics don’t matter. Races don’t matter. Physics don’t matter. You sure as fug don’t matter. Whether it’s five miles or five days, the Tri-Dork Pull is the immaculate conception of pulling. It happens, purely, because it can. It is the Sir Edmund Hillary of pulls: “Because it is there. And because those behind you will quit.” The Tri-Dork Pull plots a declining IQ to infinity on the x-axis, and time on the front on the y-axis. Current practitioner: There is only one Tri-Dork.
- The Thurlow Pull: This pull is done to split the field, to crack the will of the feeble, to demonstrate physical and mental superiority over the herd. It is repeated and relentless. In the words of the Black Knight, “None shall pass.” And none ever do. This pull is only done by the truly cruel. It is knowing, conscious, and designed to ruin. Most often, it is employed on rides like the NPR and Swami’s in order to crush the barking seals and watch them choke on fresh sardines as the split rides away on Lap One. Current practitioners: Rudy, MMX, Ryan Dahl, Brian Zink, Phil Tinstman.
- The Racer Pull: This is calculated time on the front, just enough to make the wanker on your wheel spit up a lung, but not so hard that you can’t catch back on. Do this pull when you’ve been ordered to the front to keep the enemy’s balls in a vise, or when you’re in a break and trying to stay away, or when you’re on the NPR and you’ve been ordered to club a brace of seals before the World Way Ramp. Current practitioners: Josh Alverson, Eric Anderson, Dave Jaeger.
- The Fireman Pull: This is the most noble and complex and difficult pull of all, because it combines ability to go fast with ability to hurt with loyalty to the team in the face of certain extermination. This is the pull that drags a teammate across the infinite empty space to the break, and, once accomplished, you fall to the wayside like the spent undercarriage of a three-stage rocket. This pull is pain with a purpose, perfectly executed. The executioner is held in eternal awe by all who sit on his wheel. Current practitioners: John Wike, Greg Lonergan, Harry Martinez.
- The Self-Immolation Pull: This is the top o’ the heap in the world of wanker pulls. The self-immolator knows not why he pulls and blows, and cares not. He only grits his teeth into the wind, the rain, the muck, or the hopelessness of defeat, and makes those behind him wish they were having their livers gnawed out by cannibals. The self-immolator’s single goal is that someone out there hurt as badly as he hurts. Current practitioners: Bull Seivert, Dave Miller, James Cowan, Sven that Dude from Norway Who Has Thankfully Gone Home.
- The Faux Pull: This pathetic effort is barely worthy of mention, except that its practitioners are far better than those human dregs who never even reach the front. The faux pull is a cheap, weak, worthless, infinitely fake “effort” at the front designed only to act as a placeholder while earning some kind of equally faux respect from those who actually pull the train. It is typically done 2-3 mph slower than the rider who swings over. Usually only happens after you’ve been shouted at, cursed, or repeatedly yelled at for doing #8 below. Current masters of the genre: Spivey, Wankmeister.
- The Glory Pull: This piece of shit effort only occurs when there’s a camera, video, or finish line somewhere in the offing. It consists of a feeble, fake, weak, worthless half-second at the front that is designed to garner a few clicks of the camera shutter and perhaps a photo by Danny Munson or Phil Beckman or Kristy Morrow. Current master practitioner: Brad House.
- The Gap Pull: This is possibly the lamest pull of all time. To do it properly you rotate up to the guy who is on the point, then, when he swings over, YOU swing over. This pusillanimous, sniveling, shitass pull puts the person behind you in the hellish position of having to pass two wankers to get to the point, weakens him, and costs you nothing other than the pride you were obviously never born with. You’d be ashamed, but you’re shameless. The only possible redeeming aspect of this awful pull is that, sitting second wheel on a fast ride, you’re at least doing more work than the wankers behind you. Current practitioners: Hockeystick, others.
- The Top 10 Pull: Now we’re getting down into the real shit-pit of wankerdom, and you know who you are. The Top 10 Pull is where you keep yourself in the top ten, usually ninth or tenth, and never move up in the rotation, constantly gapping out, swinging over to catch the wheel rotating back after a real rider has done a hard hit, then sneaking back up again. The benefit to this is that it keeps you out of the Freddy scrum, where tires rub, shoulders and bars bump, and clogstacles tump over at turnarounds and stop lights. It also gives you a pretty sweet draft and, depending on the ride, allows you to pedal with the good riders. The down side is that, done repeatedly, this tags you as one of the worst riders in the group — happy to live off the efforts of others, never willing to contribute, yet refusing to make room for those who are actually trying to move up in the line. Current practitioners: Multiple.
- The Glance Pull: Although this is usually a function of weakness, and therefore not worthy of much scorn, the glance pull is effected by swinging over to the edge of the pack (you’re in the middle), and glancing up the road to see who’s up front. You should be so far back that you can’t see, and this distance justifies your decision to slink back into the scrum, as it would be altogether too much work to pedal all the way up to the point and actually do some work. Current practitioners: Lots and lots.
- The Neverpull: The neverpull is practiced so much by so many that it requires little elaboration. What’s interesting is that people go for years and years never taking a pull. These welfare leeches are often the same folks who vote Republican and who can’t stand it when people in the real world get something for nothing. Yet they hide in the group, day in and day out, refusing to even try to share the work. They always have an excuse for shirking, but no one cares what it is. Current practitioners: Zillions.
- The FB Pull: If there’s anything lamer than the neverpull, and trust me, there isn’t, it’s the Facebag Pull. You execute this move when you’ve been caught out on video or when someone complains about your wheelsuckery on social media. Simply go to your keyboard and tell people how hard you pulled that one time on Lap Three.
Okay, kids, any questions? No? Good. Class dismissed.
October 16, 2013 § 24 Comments
We were warming up before the ‘cross race at Vail Lake. “Yeah,” I said. “I just told him how I felt.”
“How was that?” asked Dandy.
“I told him that he should tell them to all fuck off.”
“So what if it’s not accounting or business? Who the fuck are they to tell him what to study?”
“I guess so.”
“He was upset. All his friends were either saying ‘I admire you,’ as if he were storming the beach at Guadalcanal in the face of certain death, or ‘You’ll never get a job with that,’ or ‘What a waste of your parents’ money.’”
“I can kind of see their point.”
“Everyone can. But their point isn’t my point.”
“Which is basically, look, if you want to waste my money, the best way to do it is to study some bullshit subject you hate. You think I’m shelling out all this money so you can get a job? I’m not. I’m shelling it out because this is the one time in your life when you can discover what really lights your fire. When you can bend your mind to the greatest thinkers in the history of the world. When you can rub cerebrums with some of the smartest professors anywhere. When you can decide what goes into that malleable, sponge-like brain of yours.”
“What’d he say?”
“Not much. He just doubled down on the philosophy courses and added a German minor to his philosophy major.”
“And you’re good with that?”
“Hell, yes. Philosophy is like marathoning for the mind. And ‘foreign languages are the root of all education,’ according to Cervantes.”
“I had a similar conversation with my daughter, but it took a different tack.”
“She wants to major in English. We told her that she’s got to focus on something that’s going to make her employable. English is a dead end.”
“Every family has to figure it out, and there’s no ‘right’ answer. But weren’t you an English major? And isn’t your Ph.D. in English?”
“Sure. But you know how many English majors ever made it in tech? Like, three.”
“And you’re one of them. Brains and savvy and good people skills and expertise.”
“Yeah, but … “
“You gotta own it, pal.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Dude. My son’s a philosophy major because I was a philosophy major, except I couldn’t do symbolic logic so I switched to history. He’s a German minor because of his name — Hans — and because I studied at the University of Bonn and loved German, even though I suck at it.”
“So he’s followed in my footsteps and has chosen a better path. He is who he is because I made him that way even when I wasn’t trying to. How can I tell him not to be a philosophy major? His grandpa was a philosophy major. I was a philosophy major. It’s like syphilis, right? Passed down from father to son. You gotta own it.”
“Well, my daughter was a pretty whiz-bang English student in high school.”
“Of course she was. She was fucking awesome, and I’ve never even met her.”
“So how do you know, then?”
“Because I know you, and you’re fucking awesome. And you’re not one of those dads who tried to cram his life down his kids’ throats. You just walked. And she grew up watching your back.”
“Pretty funny you should say that. I’ll never forget when she was in high school and we discussed dark romanticism. She so totally got it; instantaneously. The other kids were clueless. Poe and the abnegation of god … she picked it up in a flash. So amazing.”
“Amazing? Hardly. She had an old man who, against his will and better judgment, transmitted that love of the written word and that passion for literature. And now you’re telling her she can’t follow the thing that defines YOU because she might not get a job?”
“She’s so much like me, man … “
“Of course she is. You made her, Dandy. Now you gotta own it. And you know what?”
“There’s a billion dads out there would give anything to have a kid pursue what they pursued. You applied just the right amount of genes and passion, minus the pressure. She flowered into this brilliant young woman who has everything you had, in spades. Own it, buddy. It’s yours.”
Dandy didn’t say anything, but when the gun went off he tore my fucking legs off. I followed him around the course for forty minutes before it became money time, and he rode me off his wheel. When I finished I was covered in filth and mud and sand and dirt and grass and sweat and snot and spit. My lungs felt like they’d been pumped full of toxic sludge.
The next day Dandy sent me a text. “Talked to my daughter last night, and said to her, ‘Do it. You’ve made me proud.’”
I got a lump in my throat, but it was probably from all that sand and muck I had to swallow sitting on his wheel. Yeah, that’s it.