Helping the younger generation

May 26, 2014 § 16 Comments

One of the things most important to me is helping young folks, especially young bicycle riders. Although I have never coached anyone, whenever I ride I keep an eye out for young, impressionable minds who might need a bit of help with regard to learning the ropes in this complicated and demanding sport.

We started this morning and chugged along towards the base of the reservoir climb. The Wheatgrass Ride, held every Sunday, is an amalgamation of old and slow people who either have an AARP card or soon will. One or two tough guys such as the Wily Greek regularly show up, but for the most part it’s our one chance to beat up on other old people, or to avenge the wounds suffered the day before on the Donut Ride, wounds inflicted by young, strong, fit riders who lack the chub and flab and other indicia of age and inability.

I hit the bottom of the reservoir with a vengeance. Halfway up there was a gaggle of nine or ten riders on my wheel from the original group of about thirty. I swung over and Canyon Bob charged through with a very young rider tucked in behind. A slight gap opened and I hopped in behind Young Pup.

Bob mashed and smashed, shedding a few riders, and swung over. Young Pup swung over, too.

I pulled through and pounded the few IQ points I had left in a mad surge to the top of the climb. At the top I wobbled over to the side, wasted, and Hoof Fixer Man pounded through.

I clawed onto the back and coasted the long downhill all the way to the foot of Better Homes. Hoof Fixer Man accelerated up the hill and there was only a group of five or six left.

Ugly Ankles, who never takes a pull but who is also close to 90, attacked. I strained to bridge, towing the gaggle with me. As I started to fizzle and pop, Young Pup bounded by, dropping us easily, closing the gap, and fastening onto Ugly Ankles’s wheel like a suckerfish attaching itself to a dugong.

Now the chase was in earnest. With four riders on my wheel I pushed and groaned and flailed, and after five desperate elbow flicks Chatty Cathy finally, reluctantly, barely pulled through. He was no match for Ugly Ankles, however, who easily kept the distance.

Young Pup sat tucked in behind the dugong-draft, stick-like legs merrily spinning away.

The climb flattened and then reached the base of the longer, tougher climb to the Domes. Young Pup jumped hard and dropped Ugly Ankles on the first steep ramp, dropped him like a heavy turd from a tall horse.

I jumped too, and was now chasing Young Pup alone. Except for the brief respite by Canyon Bob and Chatty Cathy, I’d been mashing for the entirety of the morning’s climbing. Young Pup couldn’t get any farther away, but I couldn’t claw him back, either. He kept looking back to make sure I was in check, and I was.

Then the Wily Greek came by. He’d spent the better part of the morning twiddling his thumbs, and he overtook the elderly fellows and the elderly me with ease, gliding by on the climb hardly breathing. As he raced up the road, Young Pup jumped on his wheel and held it for a couple of hundred yards before blowing. Still, he’d increased his distance, putting my effort further out of reach, and his insectan recovery rate meant that within a few seconds he was racing off again.

At the top of the climb Young Pup wheeled around to watch us straggle in. I was the next finisher, a long way back. I pedaled up to him.

“Can I give you some advice?”

“Sure.” He was pleased to accept whatever tidbits I had to offer, seeing as how he’d bludgeoned me into a bag of broken dicks.

“When you suck wheel on a gang of old farts, most of whom have children old enough to be your parents, and then at the very end jump by them, fresh as a daisy after they’re worn to shit … no one’s impressed.”

His face fell and his lip quivered.

“If you’re good enough to smush us like a bug — and you are — then you’re good enough to attack early, or take a fuggin’ pull, or do something classier than suck and jump. There’s no honor in strategically out-riding your granddad.”

He looked like he was going to cry, but he didn’t. He clipped in and coasted down the hill.

A buddy came up. “That was a bit harsh, don’t you think?”

“I hope it was. If they learn chickenshit riding when they’re young, they’ll ride chickenshit all their lives.”

“It was pretty good tactical riding.”

“Yeah, except this isn’t a race and there’s no one here on his level except the Wily Greek.”

“He’s just a junior.”

“I’m just an old man.”

We regrouped at the bottom of the Switchbacks and the group rolled at a stiff pace to the bottom of the Glass Church hill. Davy ramped it up the long roller with Young Pup on his wheel. Davy swung over and Young Pup charged ahead. It was a vicious, long, thoroughly nasty headwind pull that instantly put everyone into the red.

He swung over and I came through, trying to match his effort. When I finished my turn, I looked at his face as he hit the front again. His mouth was twisted open in agony. Chunks of spit caulked his cheeks and face. He was gasping as if he’d been harpooned.

Still he hit the front and, after stuffing us in the hurt locker, punted the hurt locker off the cliff.

I would have told him “good job.” But I couldn’t.

END

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Butter battle

May 25, 2014 § 10 Comments

Marriage is a war. Within that war there are countless battles for high ground, Pickett’s Charge, the bluffs at Bougainville and Okinawa, numbered hilltops around Khe Sanh, yards between trenches at the Sommes, and incremental progressions over the mines and barbed wire on the sands of Iwo Jima.

Each foot of turf in these bloodless marital battles is gained only by dint of full commitment, where both combatants give it their all to gain an inch of ground that could prove pivotal in a war that will last a lifetime.

Our most recent pitched battle was over the butter dish.

In my family, when something breaks, you are what’s known as “shit out of luck.” It will never be replaced. Part laziness, mostly cheapness, he who breaks the butter dish will for many years hence live without one.

When Mrs. WM broke the butter dish, we therefore did without one. “How come you haven’t bought another butter dish?” I asked. For me, butter is the third pillar of the three B’s which constitute a perfect man diet: beer, butter, bread.

“I was onna Bed Bath and Beyond but they ain’t havin’ a good butter dish there now.”

“What’s a ‘good butter dish’?”

“Itsa butter dish where the butter ain’t onna squeezed when the butter dish top is clankin’ down.”

“Who cares if the butter is squeezed? It’s fuggin’ butter.”

“It looks onna smushed and nasty.”

“So? All I do is smush it on my bread anyway.”

“Yada,” she said. In Japanese this means “no,” but it is final, like the “no” your wife says when you ask if you can go to a strip bar. Not that I ever have.

So we were at an uneasy detente, using a saucer for the butter, which worked fine for me, but not for her. “That’s onna nasty,” she said.

“What’s nasty about putting the butter on a saucer?”

“It gets onna dust.”

“Dust? Our whole apartment is layered in dust. Dust on the computer. Dust on the top of the fridge. Dust on the empty beer bottles. When have we ever cared about dust?” Don’t ask why I save empty beer bottles.

“Yes, dust. There’s a dust onna air and itsa floating down onna butter.” So she started putting a piece of Saran wrap over the butter on the saucer.

“Can’t we just put the saucer in the fridge?”

“Yada.”

So the butter always had this patch of Saran wrap on top of it, and every time I needed butter, which is all the time during every meal, I had to take off the wrapping, which smeared the butter. Usually, the Saran wrap would fall on the table and smear butter there, too. “Look,” I said one day, mustering my troops for the charge. “The fuggin’ butter gets smushed by the Saran wrap and makes a nasty mess. Plus, I eat the butter before the invisible dust which no one can see alights on the butter, so can we just leave off with the Saran wrap, or go ahead and get the butter dish? It won’t be any messier than this.”

“Yada.”

Then we had a heat wave and the already mushy butter turned into butter soup, sloshing over the edge of the saucer. In a premeditated act of aggression I put the butter in the fridge. Caught between my pincer movement of tossing the Saran wrap and demanding a butter dish while putting the saucer in the fridge, she was temporarily unable to repel the assault.

But not for long.

The next week I had used all the butter but there were no new butter sticks. “Where’s the butter?” I hollered.

“There ain’t no more butter.”

“Hell, I can’t eat my cereal without butter.”

“Butter is bad onna your liver. We ain’t eating any more butter.”

“My liver? It is not. The only thing it’s bad for is my heart, and maybe my arteries. It’s the beer that’s bad for my liver.”

“Plus butter is makin’ you with a big tire tummy. When you goin’ to court in your suity pants itsa so tight your pockets is pokin’ out like a rabbit ear.”

She had completely devastated my charge. My strategy was in shambles. I know I looked forlorn and beaten, bereft of butter and rounded in chub. “Don’t look onna so sad,” she said.

“I am sad,” I said. “No butter? Ever?”

“You can have some butter next two weeks,” she said. “But first you gotta get out and ride more onna bicycle for skinnying down in your suity pants.”

“Oh,” I said. “Thanks, honey!”

Neither one of us understood the other, which is the most crucial ingredient for a lasting marriage or, perhaps, for any marriage at all.

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!

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