September 27, 2014 § 2 Comments
Hoofixerman looked out the window at the blue and sunshiney sky. “This looks like a great day for a ride,” he said to himself as he dialed up his pal. “I’ll meet you in Redondo at 9:30, Wanky,” he said, and Wanky said “Okay.”
Hoofixerman put on his bicycling outfit and had a few minutes to spare, so he grabbed the tweezers and sat down to work some more on a splinter in the ball of his foot. He had been sitting on the back porch the day before drinking some beer when he got the urge to go tear out the floor of the bathroom that he’d been working on.
Without bothering to change, he grabbed the sledgehammer and got to work in his underwear and bare feet. Pretty soon he had torn out most of the tile floor, but in the process he’d gotten a splinter in his foot. And it hurt.
Now, Hoofixerman took out the tweezers and started digging into the flesh of his foot. But he couldn’t get the splinter. He looked at his watch and realized he was going to be late if he didn’t get going right then. Hoofixerman jumped up but the second he put pressure on the ball of his foot he almost fell over from the pain. Thanks to his Home Depot doctoring, the splinter had gone deeper and now any pressure on the foot was agonizing.
He stumbled over to the desk, got out a magnifying glass and his ultra-old-man reading glasses, and had another go at the splinter. After ten minutes of blood and skin and flesh and his teeth gritted so hard he almost cracked his molars, Hoofixerman got the splinter. It was a tiny piece of white bathroom tile perfectly shaped like an arrowhead. He slapped on a bandaid and shot off a text to Wanky. “Running late. Be there in fifteen.”
Then he hopped on his bike and blazed off towards Redondo.
However, his pal Wanky had left his phone at home. Wanky waited at the rendezvous for about ten minutes. “Where the hell is Hoofixerman? He’s never late.” Figuring something had come up and Hoofixerman had bailed on the ride, Wanky rode off.
Hoofixerman got to the rendezvous point two minutes after Wanky left. “Wank’s always on time and that fucker never waits.” Hoofixerman shot off two more unseen texts and another unanswered phone call.
“Yo, Hoofixerman! What’s up?” shouted a pal who was sipping coffee at the Starbucks.
“Hey, Freddie! Did you see an ugly looking skinny weird biker guy with a fake beard here a few minutes ago?”
“Yeah, man. He looked like he was waiting for someone, then he started cussing and rode off.”
“Thanks!” Hoofixerman yelled. Then to himself he said, “If I hammer down Catalina I can probably catch him.” Unbeknownst to Hoofixerman, this wasn’t going to happen because Wanky had taken the bike path. Hoofixerman raced off again until he thought his lungs would pop, but no Wanky, so he sat up and soft pedaled all the way to the bridge.
At the bridge some wanker coming in the other direction was looking at his Garmin. “Hey!” yelled Hoofixerman, because the guy was coming straight at him. Hoofixerman veered right and the wanker veered left. Hoofixerman turned left and the wanker turned right. Hoofixerman went straight and the wanker did too.
“Hey man, are you okay?”
Hoofixerman was looking up at the wanker in a daze from the tarmac. “Define ‘okay,’” he said.
“Hell if I know.”
“Okay,” said the wanker, who pedaled away, satisfied that Hoofixerman’s answer was good enough to avoid a lawsuit.
Everyone on the bridge, especially the old guys with the fishing poles and stinky bait, was staring at Hoofixerman. He walked his bike over to some apartments where they couldn’t see him in his shame as he checked out his bike. Blood gushed from his elbow and knee. There was another wanker with his bike turned upside down in front of the apartments trying to fix a flat.
“Hey, man, you got a spare tube?” asked the wanker, who had a pile of airless tubes nested in a pile near his feet like a bunch of dead snakes.
“Yeah, but it’s my spare. My only spare.”
“Dude, I got an appointment with my broker in PV at 1:00 and my wife isn’t home. Can I please borrow your spare?”
“Borrow? As in ‘borrow some toilet paper’?”
“It’s an 80mm stem, man, so if I get a flat there’s no way in hell anyone’s going to have another one if I flat.”
“My broker …”
“And your wife, I know.” Hoofixerman sighed and handed over the tube. “You might want to check your tire and rim more carefully if you’ve already gone through three tubes.”
The wanker ignored him and put in the new tube. Off they went, at least for about a mile. Then the wanker’s tire flatted again. “Sorry, dude,” said Hoofixerman. “But I gotta go.”
A couple of miles later, Hoofixerman, whose tires never flatted, got a flat tire. “Shitcakes,” he said, without even bothering to get off and flag down another cyclist. The blood had clotted, but his wrist was really sore, his new cycling underwear outfit was torn, and his elbow didn’t bend properly.
He rode the next ten miles home on the rim. “How was the ride?” asked his wife.
“It was okay,” he said. “But I learned a couple of things.”
“Always carry two spare tubes.”
“Don’t tear out the tile floor in your underwear.”
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August 24, 2013 § 28 Comments
When you bike, you meet people you otherwise would never meet. It’s enriching.
Hoofixerman appeared on the South Bay scene a year or so ago, riding an ancient “state of the art” aluminum frame with first generation handlebar shifters. He’s one of those dudes who used to ride a lot and then got married and had kids and gave birth to a mortgage and spent his spare time on his first love, some Italian chick named Ducati.
Then the kids got older, the mortgage shrank a bit, and the Italian chick started hinting that she was really into more kinky, dangerous stuff, and Hoofixerman gravitated back to the bicycle. It’s an old story: Formerly fit dude gets back into cycling and after a bit he picks up where he left off, kicking ass and taking names.
Cycling being cycling, and the arms race being the arms race, after a year or so he made a stealth upgrade, and one day Hoofixerman appeared on the New Pier Ride pedaling an all-black, all-carbon Giant TCR with deep dish wheels. A month or so into the new bike and he was sticking his nose out into the wind, testing his legs with a few attacks, seeing how far off the leash he could go on those 52-year-old pegs with a swarm of hungry, pounding punks hot on his heels. Answer: Not very far.
The bike wants to live, too
One day Hoofixerman, who’s a blacksmith and shoes the horses of the rich and famous for a living, joined me for a trip up to north L.A. for a bike ride. Being old and afraid of death our conversation turned, of course, to the dangers of cycling. We talked about that ridiculous old notion of “calculated risk,” a comforting nostrum invented by people aware of the deadly potency of the bike + car traffic combination who want to stay immersed in the toxic stew but also have a clever explanation for why it “makes sense.”
Hoofixerman talked about motorcycles and about unlearning common sense when you’re moving fast on a motorbike, about unlearning the instinct to hit the brakes in a turn, about unlearning the fear reflex, and most of all about letting the physics of the two twirling gyroscopes do their thing — knowing when to inject yourself into the dance, and when not to interfere.
“Ya gotta remember,” he said, so casually that it was an iron fact, “the bike wants to live, too.”
My mind exploded with the concept. The bike is a living thing and it wants to make the turn just as badly as you do. It’s got the full panoply of physics at its disposal, and all you have to do is ride it and guide it without asking the iron horse to buck the laws of physics.
It may be an iron horse, but it’s still a horse, and the horse wants to live, too.
There was an elegance in Hoofixerman’s idea that made me happy every time I thought about it, turned it over, examined it. From every angle, it was pretty and smart and sound.
Last Tuesday we hit the last stoplight on the last lap of the NPR before the turnaround. After the turnaround there are approximately three minutes and twenty seconds of hell that finish in a sprint.
Hoofixerman hit the gas when the light turned green, and the hundred-strong pack watched him roll away.
“He’s too old.”
“He’ll never make it.”
“Who’s he kidding? Does he think the new bike makes him younger?”
“He’s wearing the same funny helmet as Cobra Penis. No way.”
We got to the turnaround and, for the first time since the New Pier Ride was created, the entire pack was held up for thirty seconds by an endless stream of cars. Still, no problem. With enough horsepower to reel him in, the engines went to the front and started drilling it.
Everyone knew the rules. The NPR is governed by traffic and stoplights, and you have to take that into account when attacking or following an attack. If you escape and the chasers get hung up at the red lights, that’s their penalty for not risking all with the break. If your breakaway gets stuck at a light or by traffic, and you get brought back as a result … that’s the risk of taking a flyer.
The one thing you can never say on the NPR is this: “Yeah, I would have [ fill in awesome result here] if it hadn’t been for that light.”
We buried ourselves to bring him back, until there, a few hundred yards before the finish, he was, going full gas with only a few yards left to the end. We had him. His bid would end vainly, full of vanity, in vain.
And then he dug once more, hard and deep, with everything he had. The carbon frame and carbon wheels kicked ahead, leaping like a horse catching the bite of the spurs, and somehow, in front of the fastest finishers in LA County, he crossed the line first. He was so gassed he couldn’t even raise an arm. Everything left there on the road, he was the oldest guy to ever win the NPR. It was incomprehensible to everyone else, but not to me.
Because you know, the bike, it wanted to win, too.