Is Strava killing bike racing?

May 24, 2014 § 69 Comments

I’ll be the first to admit that the patient was never particularly robust, but in 2014 there has been a noticeable decrease in the number of racers who line up on the weekend. At one of the best and toughest road races all year, Vlees Huis in Bakersfield, there was an incredibly tiny lineup despite this being one of the best organized, safest, and most challenging races on the calendar.

Plus they fuggin’ had beer. Now, when bike racers won’t show up to a bike race where it’s hotter than Beyonce doing the nasty with Heidi Klum and you get to slake your post-race heat prostration with cold, locally brewed beer, the Dogs have gone crazy.

We will leave aside for a moment the obvious: if Fields had ever heard you weren’t going to race your bike because it was “too hot” or “too cold” or “too rainy” or “too dangerous,” he would have kicked you off the team, repo’d your kit, and made you give back all the beer you had drunk. We will also leave aside for a moment that the “weather” in SoCal is the most wussified, gentle, bike-friendly weather in the continental United States.

Many factors may be at play besides the general cowardice, tenderness, and babyfication of modern SoCal bike racers, but there are only so many absentees you can blame on an angry spouse, the cost of entry fees, the fear of quadriplegia, and the general wussdom of all the riders who said they couldn’t do Vlees Huis because it was “too far to drive.” [Check the mileage sometime when you live in Houston and have signed up for the Fort Davis Stage Race for a bit of perspective on "too far to drive."]

Flapping of the gums

The other day I got into an argument about whether some guy was the best climber in the South Bay. Back in the day this would have been a relatively easy argument to resolve. The guy who had won more hilly road races, or the guy who was always at the front on the long climbs would be crowned the champ, even more beer would be drunk, and we’d find something else to argue about.

But this time my adversary pulled out a shocking counter-argument: his Strava KOM’s. A guy who’s done a handful of hilly road races and has consistently gotten shelled on the tough climbs — or who hasn’t even showed up — maintained that his sexy Strava performance on segments as short as 200 meters meant that he was somehow a really good climber.

What the hell is going on here?

It used to be that the best riders were the ones who won bike races. Rahsaan Bahati, I thought, was the best bike racer around because he’s won the most races. Charon Smith, Phil Tinstman, Thurlow Rogers, Mark Noble, and guys like them, I thought, were the best old guy bike racers around because they’ve won the most races.

It would never have occurred to me that a person might consider himself excellent in some aspect or other of competitive cycling based on his Strava KOM’s.

But you know what? Lots of riders do.

They choose three or four carefully selected races each year, they do a weekly group ride, and they do the vast bulk of their “head-to-head” competition on Strava. Will someone please tell them that if it’s on Strava and you’re by yourself, it’s not head-to-head? No matter how many times you self-dial, you’re still just doing yourself.

The race of truth

Every bike race is a race of truth because the fastest rider always wins. For many, that’s a downer because there’s only one winner. You can’t go home and tell yourself that you’re at the top of the leader board of 50+ troglodytes with a BMI of 200. Worse, when you lose a bike race you don’t get any trophies or crowns on your iPhone.

Strava perfectly satisfies the urge to achieve what I call DIP — distinction, improvement, praise — it’s an urge that resides in all of us, particularly, it seems, those of us who cycle. Bike races don’t provide much DIP for most participants, even with the dozens of age/gender categories per event. Instead, they provide proof of what we all instinctively know about ourselves but wish wasn’t true: MOP — mediocre, overweight, pudknocker.

In any contest between DIP and MOP, DIP will always win out. Ride your bike and get a trinket every time beats ride your bike and get your spirit shattered every time, especially when the shattering may also include collarbones and carbon fiber.

Don’t be a DIP-shit

This Monday Chris Lotts will put on his Memorial Day Crit in Dominguez Hills. The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix, Death Valley Stage Race, and State ITT Championships will also happen this weekend.

If you’re in SoCal, I hope you’ll make an effort to attend at least one of these races. If you’re in L.A., I really hope you’ll at least make it to the Memorial Day Crit. If you can spare 50 minutes to analyze all your weekly rides on WKO and Strava, you can lug your ass out for a one-hour race at Dominguez.

Guys like Chris promote races year in and year out. It’s a gratifying job for them in that they play an integral role in the sport that they love, and it’s a blast getting to deal with overfull port-a-potties at the end of the day. But it’s a huge amount of work and expense, and when “racers” who live in the area choose to spend their time on Strava digitally satisfying themselves rather than competing in organized events, it eventually kills off the event. The margin on bike races is tiny, to put it mildly.

Maybe as a Stravasturbator you think that’s fine, and I suppose if your idea of being an accomplished racer is 0′s and 1′s endlessly strung together to make an image on a computer that makes you look tougher than Eddy Merckx, that’s okay. I suppose if it’s more fun to wear $500 worth of kit riding $7000 worth of bike to compete against your “friends” on Strava than it is to ride against your mortal enemies in a real bike race, hey, to each his own.

But let’s not confuse sitting at your stupid computer and clicking “kudo” with racing your fuggin’ bike.

 

Flying the friendly skies

May 23, 2014 § 26 Comments

As we waited to board I looked at the 300-lb. hippo sucking on a 32-oz. Coke and stuffing the extra large fries and Big Mac down his throat and I knew that on this full flight to Philly I would be seated next to him. How did I know? This was my fate. He would require three seatbelt extenders and would piss into his barf bag. He would sweat on me and fart in my general direction. My only consolations were that I was on an airplane rather than a Conestoga wagon and that I wouldn’t be murdered by Indians.

They were small consolations.

Mrs. WM and I got separated as we boarded. It was Southwest’s free-for-all. She got a choice seat, somehow. I waded to the back, the last of the C-boarders, knowing that the only slot remaining would be next to the Human Big Mac.

Towards the tail I saw the last open seat. I hung my head in defeat, knowing what awaited, when what to my eyes should appear but a vacant middle seat next to a smoking hot, 20-something woman. I eased in. To the seat.

The plane took off. I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye. She had already glanced at me, and accurately sized me up: Old. Bearded. Skinny. Wrinkly. Likely to embark on a tale about “When I was a young man.” She pointedly looked out the window.

Once we were at cruising altitude and the captain had told us to take off our pants I removed the Southwest in-flight magazine. I flipped through it. It was stupid and filled with restaurants I’d never visit and casinos I was too broke to become even more broke at. Then I saw him. The man. The myth. The 35+ Masters studmuffins.

I saw Charon Smith.

There he was in a full-color ad, staring out at me from the page of a magazine that had more readers in a month than the New York Times. I don’t remember what he was hawking, some recovery juice or another, but there he was, massive arms flexed, Surf City team kit perfectly reproduced in a full-color ad, handsome face hidden behind the (lame) Oakley shades, and legs cut up better than a slice of tuna at a sushi shop.

I nudged Miss Hotness next to me. “See this guy?” I said, pointing at the ad.

“Yeah?”

“I know that dude.”

She perked up, taking in Charon’s studly arms and studly legs. “Really? How?”

It all happened so quickly! Here’s what I wanted to say:

Charon isn’t the team captain, he’s the general of the peloton. He has class, he’s humble in victory and congratulatory in defeat, he races clean, he trains hard, and every year he gets better and better and better. He’s admired by many, respected by all, and mentors new riders whether they’re on his team or not. He gives you a push when you’re gassed even if you’re on the other team, and he beats you fair and square. If everyone in the world were like Charon, the world would be a better place.

But instead, I said “I’m his coach.”

Now Miss Hotnesss was really interested. “Really? You’re a cycling coach?”

“Yeah. This guy is Charon Smith. He’s one of the top pros in Europe. It’s like being an F-1 driver, only cooler.”

Miss Hotness was really interested as she checked out Charon’s hunky arms and legs. “Wow. And you’re his coach?”

“Oh, sure. I discovered him when he was a teenager. He was a skinny little punk trying to gain weight in a gym. I used to be a bodybuilder.”

She looked at my narrow arms and narrower neck. “Really? You don’t look like one.”

“I lost all that weight. But I met Charon and taught him how to lift, how to put on muscle, and most importantly how to race his bike. He’s the fastest sprinter in Europe and the US. Hits 60 miles per hour. On his bike.”

Miss Hotpants was really ogling the photo. “That’s incredible.”

“Yep,” I said. “Taught him everything he knows.”

“I like to ride my bicycle,” she said shyly.

“Really? You live in Philly?”

“No, I live in LA. I’m just going to Philly to visit my parents.”

“Well, as a professional cycling coach I’d be glad to help you get to the next level. I’m not bragging, but Charon is going to be riding the Tour de France this year thanks to my coaching, and I’d be happy to, you know, show you a few tricks.”

“That would be awesome!” She was looking at me with a mixture of admiration and respect and trembling fear.

“Oh, it’s no big deal.”

“What’s your name?” she asked, almost timidly.

“David,” I said. “David Perez.”

“How can I get hold of you?”

“Friend me on Facebook. I’m the only David Perez in San Pedro.”

“Okay,” she said, glowing. “I will.”

 

Greek sandwich

May 22, 2014 § 27 Comments

It was a sunny, perfect day for the legendary South Bay Donut Ride. The fast riders preened and flexed, the somewhat aged fellows clenched their bowels and prayed for a miracle, and the no-hopers stood on the periphery like dorky kids in junior high school, hoping to be noticed but then again hoping not to be, either.

The Wily Greek surveyed the pitiful gaggle of third-class citizens. He’d had to make a tough choice. Go to Bakersfield and race against his peers in the tough, dreaded Vlees Huis Road Race, or stay close to home, wake up late, beat off and beat up on the pudgy geriatrics with leaky prostates? It was an easy choice.

The pack rolled out and the Wily Greek paid no attention to the surges, the glory pulls, and the half-legged efforts up Malaga Cove. As the pace quickened in earnest after exiting Lunada Bay, he deigned to take a leisurely pull. No matter. With a condescending glance he noted that many of the baby seals were already spilling blood and gray matter from their bludgeoned braincases. The gasping, wheezing, emphysema-like gurgles uttered by the old farts were almost amusing.

Almost.

The Wily Greek was still breathing through his nose, except for the occasional yawn.

By the time the peloton hit the punchy rollers of Portuguese Bend, many had already called it a day and were hurrying home to check Strava and lie to their wives about flatting. By the time they hit the bottom of the dreaded Switchbacks there remained but a small group of twenty survivors carved out of the 100-plus dreamers who had started out in Redondo Beach.

The Wily Greek loved this part of the ride. He started at the back and casually took in the grimaces of the sufferers. Some displayed heaving, dipping shoulders. Others, hunched over the bars like a dog mounting a cat, shivered and shook as oxygen debt demanded a repayment that they couldn’t afford. The leaky prostate riders who had hung on to that point began to drip, drizzle, and pop like the fasteners on their loaded diapers.

Of all the beautiful things about cycling, the Wily Greek appreciated this aspect the most: watching the lame, weak, sick, old, deluded, and infirm crate, crack, and give up. It was better than playing tackle football against kindergartners. It was better than winning a chess game in five moves. It was better than being the house in Vegas.

For the remainder of the ride, the Wily Greek toyed with his victims like a tomcat toys with a maimed mouse. Like a wife toys with a husband who has forgotten her birthday. Like a mortuary salesman toys with a bereaved family. It was a beautiful thing, voluptuous in its crass exercise of power by the strong over the weak.

As the Donut Ride regrouped for the final run-in to the Hawthorne sprunt and the Via Zumaya climb, the Wily Greek preened a bit more. It was so much fun watching the little guillotine addicts come pedaling up for another session under the blade.

The reconstituted group had about forty riders in it, including a large contingent of leaky prostates. Since the downhill section was so fast, the Greek couldn’t lose anyone. To the contrary, even some of the slowest and flabbiest were able to hang on to the speeding group.

This disgusted and offended him.

Sitting at the back he prepared the launch that would eat their lunch, an acceleration so rapid that he would rocket by and finish alone. At that very moment he heard a rumbling. With a quick look over his shoulder he saw the huge, lumbering truck, and just as quickly he violated the Rule of Rules: Thou shalt not draft a garbage truck.

The leaky prostates watched in amazement as the truck flew past with the Wily Greek tucked into its massive draft. As it shot past, however, the older, weaker, leakier, but still somewhat wiser old ones heard the terrible sloshing sound of hundreds of gallons of liquified, putrefied smegma that had been smushed by the compactor’s giant ram and then collected in the floor of the compactor.

The seeping, liquified filth that is squeezed from the compacted garbage load normally collects toward the front by virtue of a slanted floor, which prevents the goo from sloshing back out the hopper into which the trash is first collected for compacting. (I learned all this from Google).

Unhappily for the Wily Greek, when the truck went up the final, very steep little kicker in Portuguese Bend, the liquified ass-drippings drained back into the hopper and then, when the truck hit a bump, sloshed out in a giant wave onto his front wheel, legs, shorts, and chest.

As Al Jaffee would have said, “Yecccccchhh!”

The horror and shock that the Wily Greek felt, suddenly covered as he was in rotting slime, was nothing as compared to the hilarity and laughter that erupted from the wankoton. In a fury, the Wily Greek accelerated over the bump, intent on chasing down the garbage truck and giving them a tongue lashing for their errant smegma sloshing.

However, the truck was driven by garbagemen, union garbagemen at that, men who spent the day hoisting 200-lb., fully loaded trash cans up over their heads. They were men with tattoos, not cute dolphins surreptitiously marked on their calf where they couldn’t be seen by fellow lawyers and dentists, but big, nasty tattoos with pictures of female genitalia, dragons snorting fire, knives through skulls, and slogans like “Kill to Live” emblazoned on their arms, legs, chests, necks, and backs.

These were men with bad teeth.

And in short, they were not to be frightened by a slim, veiny waif riding a bicycle in his underwear.

At Abalone Cove, precisely at the point where the Wily Greek overtook the garbage truck, it slammed on the brakes and veered hard left. The fetid goop in the hopper sloshed again, but this time it poured out in a giant projectile vomit-arc directly into the Wily Greek’s face.

At that same precise moment the wankoton came by. Face dripping in shit, the Wily Greek did what any person would have done. He tossed his Barbie food. He tossed his electrolytes. He tossed his whey protein breakfast. He tossed his gluten-free, all natural, 250 kcal breakfast. He tossed everything down to the lining of his stomach.

Several riders thought briefly about stopping to render aid, but only briefly.

There are so many morals to this story. Take your pick.

 

 

Everywhere is local

May 21, 2014 § 17 Comments

A couple of days ago I traveled to Philadelphia for my eldest son’s college graduation. It felt good to be away from the bike, not overtrained or undertrained, just mediocritrained. Sometimes it’s nice to leave your bike behind.

On Saturday I posted a photo on Facebag and immediately got a message from Skip. I met him last year when he was in Los Angeles. He’s a national masters champion and rides for the Time Factory Team out of Pasadena, even though he lives in Boston. He showed up for a couple of NPR sessions, handily outsprinting everyone, and hung around afterwards to trade lies and drink coffee on the bricks at the Center of the Known Universe.

Skip was in Philly on business this past weekend and was just around the corner from Franklin Field, where graduation ceremonies were taking place. We swapped a couple of messages and agreed to meet up at Monk’s Cafe that evening. If you’re looking for the inside track on the best beer joint I’ve yet to find in Philadelphia, Monk’s is the place. They don’t have a beer menu, they have a beer telephone book. Bring your reading glasses.

Fortunately I didn’t have to read much farther than on the first page where it listed “Lost Abbey Devotion” as one of the beers on tap. I couldn’t make up my mind whether it was nicer to meet a familiar face or a familiar beer in this faraway city, so I compromised and agreed with myself that it was great to meet both.

The night went on and the empties kept piling up and everything got foggy and all the women started looking beautiful and the proprietors of Monk’s Cafe began to shake the entire place so that the floor and table swayed in the oddest way, but I endeavored to persevere. Back in the hotel it occurred to me that Skip had never shown up, which was weird. I checked my Facebag messages and saw that many hours ago he had taken a picture at the cafe, surrounded by food and drink, wondering where the hell I was.

“That’s a great question,” I said to myself. “Where the hell am I?”

The next morning Skip and I exchanged messages. “Sorry, dude,” I said. “I never saw you.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “I was at the bar right next to the door the whole night.”

“How much longer are you in Philly?”

“Leaving later today.”

“Want to grab a beer after I’m done with the commencement exercises?”

There was a pause in messages, as if he were trying to work out how someone who couldn’t find someone else in a small bar was going to make contact in a big city like Philadelphia. “Sure,” he wrote.

One thing led to another and that afternoon we were seated at the City Tap House. Now here’s the weird thing. When you don’t know someone all that well but you’ve ridden with them, it takes about five seconds before you are talking like old friends. You know lots of the same people, you’ve done lots of the same races, you’re both suffering from the same mid-life cycling delusionary syndrome … you hit it off.

I’m not sure if it’s like that for golfers or soccer players or bass fishermen, but my bike follows me everywhere, even when I leave it at home. And that’s the way I like it.

Burn your bra

May 19, 2014 § 36 Comments

It started about three years ago when Surfer Dan showed up on a ride with stubble. Leg stubble. Being a hairy chap, a week later it was a solid coating of fuzz. By month’s end his legs were furry. Gorilla furry. Cavewoman furry. It was the most daring fashion statement anyone in the South Bay had ever made, and it sent shock waves through the peloton. What was worse, we all waited for the inevitable collapse in his cycling performance.

Everyone knows that hairy legs slow you down, lots. People have known this since the 1900′s, when early bike racers tested their legs in wind tunnels. With his hairy legs, it was just a matter of time before Surfer Dan would start getting dropped on group rides, dropped on the climbs, dropped in the crits he never raced, and dropped in the individual time trials.

Oddly, it never happened. Even with all that hair down there, he continued to break legs, put hard legs in the breaks, and remain the alpha Big Orange Cat 3 Who Should Be a Cat 2 Sandbagger.

It wasn’t long before Cavendish followed, and then Wiggins. Although not quite daring to go hairless down there, the British Duo began showing up at real bicyle races with facial hair, even though the old Romagna di Corleone Wind Tunnel tests from the early 1900′s showed that the only thing worse than leg hair was facial hair. (Experts will also tell you that having a smooth visage facilitates face massages, and, when you fall on your face and tear off your lips coming down Las Flores after writing a book about how to descend properly, the absence of facial hair allows the easier application of Tegaderm, etc.)

The inescapable conclusion is that it is now okay to ride your bike with hairy legs and furry face. Apparently the data from the mule-drawn wind tunnel of those early days was wrong: it is possible to ride a bicycle fast, or even fastly, certainly fast-ish, without shaving.

This presents a dilemma of sorts. If you let the hair grow out and enjoy the feeling of the breeze ruffling through the thicket in your thighs you will have to explain to everyone at work how it’s now OKAY and how it DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE A FRED and most importantly that YOU ARE STILL A FAST BICYCLE RACER. The first few weeks it will, however, be helpful to bring all your medals, ribbons, trophies, juice boxes, etc. to the office if you haven’t already just so people don’t forget that YOU ARE STILL LEGIT.

On the other hand, if you continue with your shaving ways you’ll have to continue that funny pose in the shower where you twist backwards while holding onto the soap dish while not throwing out your lower back as you try to get the little patch of incipient fuzz on those two tendon thingies behind your knee without slipping and ending up in the trauma ward.

For myself, I’m following the lead of Surfer Dan, G3, Wiggo, and the Manx Banana. Henceforth the only razor you’ll find in my medicine cabinet is Racer 5. For those who are on the fence, by going full hair you have nothing to lose but your ingrown red hair follicles about mid-thigh that get infected from sweat and bacteria and end up looking like you rubbed your crotch in an ant mound when you stand there in the mirror sucking in your gut while trying to get the abdomimals to poke out from underneath the protective layer of chub.

Hair on!

Sometimes, nice guys don’t even finish

May 16, 2014 § 41 Comments

There is a rancid piece of burnt meat that bicycle “advocates” regularly wrap in a burrito and try shove down the throat of everyone else. It goes like this: Cars hate us because we’re not nice. Until we are nice, we will never get the treatment we deserve. The latest purveyor of this bankrupt, blame-the-victim, “Can’t we all just get along?” vacuousness is someone named Richard Fries. You can read his thoughts here.

Or not.

The problem isn’t, and has never been, that “we are our own worst enemy.” It is something much simpler. Road cycling is a negotiation for space. For the car, more space means quicker travel, if even a mere second faster. For a bike, more space means reducing the chance of hitting something or getting hit.

That’s all there is to it. If you’re going to use the roadway, you will have to negotiate your place on it every pedal stroke of every single ride, and it’s a zero-sum game. The more space for you, the less for the car. You win, they lose, and no none likes to lose.

Negotiation theory

Of all the losing strategies in a negotiation, none fails as quickly or completely as “being nice.” People win tough negotiations by being tough, by being firm, by being consistent, and by understanding the strengths, weaknesses, psyche, and intentions of the other party.

There are two scenarios in which bikes have to negotiate with cagers. The first is the group ride. In this scenario, the bikes are in a strong position. They occupy the entire roadway. The cager, if he’s going to pass, has to be ultra-cautious in order to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic if it’s a two-lane road. If it’s a four-lane road, he has to be careful not to hit anyone in the group — not because he cares about them, but because doing so will expose him to liability due to the large number of witnesses.

In the group ride scenario, being nice adds nothing to the negotiation. Unless the driver is severely impaired or intent on killing you, in which case your demeanor means nothing anyway, you’re going to win the fight for road space. The cager will give you and your pals a wide berth. He may honk, he may flip you off, he may scream obscenities, but you will certainly win the negotiation for space on the roadway.

“But if you’re a jackass then he’ll hate all cyclists!” the Friesians claim.

Maybe he will, but so what? There’s no evidence that being a “nice” group rider, whatever that is, will cause him to treat a single cyclist any differently. It’s like saying that because he got beat by someone with a full house, he is going to go easy next time on someone with a pair of two’s. The group ride is the strongest hand you have. If it makes you feel good to wave and smile at cars, do so, but it isn’t affecting your negotiation at all. You’ve won, the driver has lost. Sucks to be him.

The single cyclist scenario

The other scenario is when the cyclist is alone. In this negotiation, the rider’s mere presence will not force the driver to cede ground if the rider is up against the shoulder. The cager need not slow down, and need not particularly fear hitting the rider, especially if the driver is confident in his driving skills.

Ever meet someone who admitted to being a shitty driver? Me, either.

In this negotiation, the cager has (for him) a small risk of getting hit since he needn’t change lanes or cross the yellow line, although a miscalculation could scratch his clearcoat or get some of your internal organs on his door handle. He also has much more size and speed relative to the single rider. Against a group of 20, the car’s mass is much less intimidating, and the driver has to psychologically contend with the multitude of riders who might, quite reasonably, come to the defense of anyone who was hit.

The single cyclist is in the weakest of all positions. He’s against the shoulder, so he’s at the mercy of whatever detritus the road offers up. He’s alone, so there’s no one to back him up. He’s fighting for a narrow sliver on the edge that doesn’t put the cager in much, if any risk. Even if the rider wins this negotiation, the cager loses nothing and the rider’s risk increases exponentially.

Make no mistake, the driver calculates all of these risks, summed up as “Am I gonna hit him?” and almost every time the car will make minimal adjustments in speed and position for the single rider who’s playing gutter bunny. The only thing the single rider can do to put the cager at risk is to occupy the full lane and force him to increase his risk by making bigger adjustments.

Now the cager has to make some hard choices. “Kill the cyclist and fuck up my hood and possibly have him come through the windshield and knock out my implants?”

“Run over the cyclist and deal with insurance, ambulance, wrecker, and possibly the police?”

“Curse the bastard, slow down, change lanes, and honk?”

Very few cagers make the conscious decision to kill or intentionally hit. Rather, they make the obnoxious adjustment of braking and changing lanes or worse, waiting as their blood pressure mounts and you gaily pedal on to work with that smug satisfaction of knowing that you’re not only saving the environment but you’re driving someone insane in the process.

What’s nice got to do with it?

What’s most important is that none of the cager’s choices depends on the cyclist’s demeanor. Whether you’re Miss Manners or a fire-spitting demon’s rectum, the driver is going to make his decision based on where you are in the lane and how much risk you pose to him and his cage. The more risk he faces, the more he will compromise.

The only time that nice would be a factor is if you somehow were able to divine the driver’s demeanor, and something in it told you that smiling or waving would get you more roadway than, say, implacably taking the center of the lane.

Ask yourself when the last time was that being nice got you a good result in a conflict. Without exception, it’s when you had zero leverage, the other person had all of it, and your only avenue was to smile. Think getting pulled over by a cop. Forgetting your wedding anniversary. Trying to get a credit card company to take off a late fee.

Nice is the last ploy before you get your head staved in.

In scenarios where you have leverage, the best results are always obtained by maximizing the leverage such that it increases the other wanker’s risk. Ever won a chess game by being nice? Ever won a bike race being nice? Of course not.

It’s the same when you’re alone on your bike. You can depend on niceness if you want, but the best way to get your piece of turf is by playing the hand you’ve got and playing it to the hilt. Take the lane and hold it against all comers. Make them consciously choose to kill you — there will be infinitely fewer who make that choice than those who clip you by mistake as they veer too closely while you’re sucking gutter.

And if for some reason you’d rather be the sniveling, smiling simp begging for mercy, I guess that’s okay. Just don’t demand that I do it, too.

 

END

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Hideaway

May 15, 2014 § 8 Comments

My alarm clock went off but I did not. So, at 7:30 I rode down to CotKU to at least say hello to the forcats du NPR, who were massed on the bricks drinking coffee, exaggerating their greatness, and minimizing the derring-do of others.

I minimized and exaggerated as best I could until Eric, Surfer Dan, Sam, Phoque de Paris, Chris, and AEPie-hole indicated it was time to ride some more. We approached the light at Beryl. “Which way?” asked Dan.

“Let’s do Gussy’s Cobbles,” I said.

“Gussy’s? You mean mine.”

“No, those cobbles were discovered by Gussy. He showed them to me about six months ago and I’ve been doing them ever since.”

Surfer Dan sighed. “Wanky, they’ve been a Strava segment called ‘Tha Surfer Dan’ for well over a year. That’s my turf.”

We flew through the stop sign at the end of North Harbor drive, dashed through the parking lot, and shunted onto the gravel-and-cobbled walkway that threaded between two concrete posts. Any error here and you were gash.

Through the posts the mini-cobbles led up a grass-stone-dirt-tree root embankment and we charged, full bore, Surfer Dan in the lead until he veered off to the right. Unbeknownst to me, “Tha Surfer Dan” Strava segment went right whereas the “normal Wanky commute” went left.

Erik, charging hard on my left, also veered right at the top of the embankment, precisely where I began to drift left. There is no better epilogue to a Strava segment charge than taking out your good friend and teammate, but unfortunately we only smashed bars and untangled at the last minute.

Everyone else laughed and cat-called as we hustled our way up to Catalina.

A happy disrespect for the usual

Ever since the first Belgian Waffle Ride in 2012, I have been impressed with the SPY Optic motto of “A happy disrespect for the usual way of doing things.” But I never really understood it until Tha Surfer Dan.

Over the last two years I have altered my perspective about road bicycling. I used to think that road bicycling meant pavement, but the BWR taught me that there are other paths you can take using the same things you have always used. New paths, different paths, exciting paths, not limited to cycling.

Tha Surfer Dan was a little mix of grass and mini-cobbles I would have never sought out before 2012. Now I went out of my way to ride it.

At the top, Surfer Dan said “Let’s do a couple of climbs. Anybody up for Dirty del Monte?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Instead of going up Via del Monte the usual way, we hop onto a dirt track next to the library, go up a wall, empty out onto the golf course, then go up another dirt track, follow an abandoned road, and come out near Paseo del Sol.”

This seemed very happy and very disrespectful to the usual way of climbing Via del Monte. “I’m in,” I said.

“There’s a chute you’ll have to walk up, though,” he said. “I’ve never made it to the top without dismounting.”

Far from the madding crowd

Riding in Palos Verdes is weird. You’re in the heart of Los Angeles but it’s mostly quiet and almost rural. There are hardly any shops or stores and almost any road takes you up to breathtaking views of the Pacific. Nothing prepared me for Dirty del Monte, though. It was like being spirited into a different world.

We blasted off the pavement and up the narrow dirt track, suddenly surrounded by trees and shade, and the noise of traffic was instantly obliterated. We beat the pedals until we mounted the wall, dumped out onto pavement, and a few moments later were again ensconced in the silence of the trees. We clawed our way up and up and up until the dirt track gave way to an abandoned and overgrown narrow strip of shattered pavement.

On every side were trees, and each sharp turn threw out another priceless view of the ocean and the bay all the way to Malibu.

It finished almost before it had begun, a 1.5-mile dirt climb straight up the face of the peninsula on road bikes and narrow tires.

No one said a word. We stopped our bikes and caught our breath. Whatever we were feeling, it wasn’t disrespect. But on the other hand, it wasn’t usual, either. Finally, I understood.

END

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