The pelotonic plague

September 24, 2012 § 7 Comments

“It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a bird on a plane! No! It’s the space shuttle Endeavor on a plane! Okay! Everybody knock off work to snap photos!”

Life in LA came to a halt on Friday, which wasn’t odd, because nothing ever gets done on Friday anyway when the weather’s good and people are poring over their ride plans for the weekend. What was odd was that people were obsessing about the space shuttle, a rusted out bucket of bolts that cost an estimated $200 billion over its 30-year lifespan.

Quick: Name ONE FUCKING THING the space shuttle ever did for you. Right? Nothing. Squat. It didn’t even give us velcro or Tang.

Quicker: Name 50 THINGS you ever got from a teacher. Right? Reading. Writing. Spelling (some of you). Math (fewer, but okay, it’s still a lot).

Quickest: Explain to me again why we had $200 billion to dump on a fucking engineer’s handjob, but don’t want to pay teachers a living wage?

The flyover hangover

Facebook, Twitter, and the Interwebs overheated with all of the “Go, USA!” and “Proud to be a Merkun!” cell phone photos, as most of Los Angeles paid homage to something they never knew about, cared about, or that ever helped them in any way. I still remember driving out to Ellington AFB in Houston in 1979 with Rick Ellis and his family to look at the shuttle.

Rick’s dad was an engineer and extremely proud of all things American, especially if related to NASA. “This is American ingenuity at is finest!” he proclaimed.

“Wow,” I thought. “A plane strapped to a plane. How dumb.”

Then I remembered the Challenger tragedy. “Wow,” I thought. “What a terrible waste of life.”

Then I remembered the Columbia tragedy. “Wow,” I thought. “All this for NOTHING.”

On the plus side, initial estimates for the shuttle’s operating cost (adjusted for 2011 dollars) was only $54 million per flight, but with hard work on the part of the government and sole-source private contractors, economy-minded planners were able to raise that to $450 million per flight, ten of which would have funded the entire 2013 state educational budget for the state of Oklahoma. Which begs the question, would the nation have been better off with another ten space missions, or with the first generation of Oklahomans able to read on a third grade level?

The infection spreads

Among South Bay cyclists, the contagion of Shuttle Nostalgia began as a minor chest cold, and quickly laid low some of the Bay’s fixtures. First, New Girl was infected and forced to actually miss a group ride. Next, Junkyard himself got sick, with specialists theorizing that the vector was a nick in his titanium elbow that allowed the dreaded disease to attack.

By Friday late afternoon, Shuttle Nostalgia had ripped through the peloton, with Jay Y., Hockeystick, and countless others in full blown shuttle fever. By Sunday, the worst symptoms had dissipated, and I showed up on the Kettle Ride.

It’s been months since I last did the Kettle, and the group was full to busting. Tink was back from her muscle tear; Kimmy had been released from her 36-hour stints as a resident at the ER; Elron, G3, G$, MM, Johnny W., Nick P., Wankomodo, Major Bob, Prez, Jonathan P., Lisa C., Psycho Mike & the Bike Palace Boys, Dan-O, Pistol Pete, Shon the Bomb, Surf City Justin, Suze, Mike and Julie L., and a host of others were at CotKU, later joined by Knoll, Bucks, and a bunch of others at the Ocean Park toilets.

It’s not daaaaaangerous anymore

After a nasty dustup a few blog posts back regarding running the light at Vista del Mar and Grand, the group hauled ass through the stale yellow light with the battle cry “Rolling!” so that those of us at the back of the wankoton got to blow through a light that had been red so long it was about to turn violet.

This bothered me not at all, as it was good to see that the other idiots, when in charge of the insane asylum, were just as inept as I was.

A few hundred yards later, with the group kind of bunchy, a certain individual who will only be named if you send $5 to my PayPal account, decided that rather than going over the hole in front of him that no one had bothered to call out, he would slam on his brakes with about 20 riders immediately behind him.

Everything suddenly shifted into “Fuck, I’m going down mode,” as I too hit the brakes and swerved, with the idiot in front of me rocketing backwards into my front wheel. My back tire locked on the damp pavement and my front wheel skidded as things began to get sideways.

If music is what happens between the notes, bike accidents are what happens between the idiots, and I saw it all happen in the blink of an eye. Me, hitting Idiot. Me, flying over the bars. Me, hitting my shoulder or head or forearm or all of the above at once while the other hapless schmoes behind used my face as a braking surface for their tires or as a landing pad for their giant asses.

The hard whack of the asphalt, the grinding sound of snapping plastic, and through it all the grunts and “fucks” and yells as mayhem ensued.

There it all was, in the blink of an eye.

But it never happened.

My bike straightened, Idiot released his brake and moved just enough so that I didn’t slam into his back wheel, and the other idiots somehow straightened out the mess with no one going down. It was a ballet of club-footed imbeciles, and it was beautiful, as I was the biggest imbecile of all, having chosen to ride in the back third of the wankoton for the only reason anyone ever chooses the back third: The lovely, hunky, sexy, gorgeous, luscious draft created by sixty moving bikes in front of you.

Now, of course, I was awake. Eyes wide open. Heart pounding. Adrenaline gushing. Balls sweating. So grateful to still be upright that I didn’t even bother to curse at the idiot who slammed on his brakes. Another rider was less courteous. “Don’t slam on your brakes in the middle of the pack! Just go over the hole! It’s not that big and won’t kill you!”

Winning!

Most of the serious racers in the South Bay are done racing by the end of September. This is why I begin my build in August, so that I can peak when no one else is even going hard.

Today’s Kettle was denominated a “noodle ride,” which meant that unofficial orders had been passed out that there would be no hammering.

As soon as the light turned green at Temescal, I hammered. When you’re a wanker, the best time to be fit is when it doesn’t count. This lets you crow about how you spanked 60 of the best (“They were minutes behind! Minutes!”), and more importantly, it sets the stage for proper excusifying when racing begins in 2013.

“Fuck man, I was flying in September and October. Just missed my peak, you know, otherwise I’d be killing everyone like I was doing on the Kettle, beating those wankers by minutes. Minutes!”

Even on a noodle ride, there are always a handful of idiots who can’t resist the challenge of a throwdown, and today was no exception. Pistol Pete, Knoll, Major Bob, Rio Dan, Dan-O (for a while), Treebeard (from Colorado), Hammer Nutrition (Hammernut for short), and a gang of others joined in the stretched out line on PCH while the bulk of the wankoton shook their heads in contempt.

Before long, Pistol Pete, Knoll, Rio Dan, and Hammernut had ground everyone else up into little pieces of biker dung. Roaring into Cross Creek, Knoll jolted away, but soon exploded like a water balloon attached to a 45- jigawatt transmission line. Hammernut and Major Bob sprunted by as I wheezed and watched. Finally Pistol Pete, after having pulled for three days without rest, closed the gap with me somehow finding the energy to suck his wheel as he blew past Bob and Nut. Just as he smelled victory at the bridge, my wheelsucking ways paid the dividend of allowing me to sneakily sprunt by him at the end.

We turned around and rode back to Santa Monica Peet’s where Knoll treated us to coffee. Major Bob and I then returned to the South Bay. The plague seemed to have passed. Whew.

Whoa!

September 10, 2012 § 14 Comments

It’s not every day that you get to see Ryan O’Neal groggily collecting his morning newspaper on PCH well past noon, looking like he lost a knife fight to a gallon of cheap tequila and shouting “Whoa!” in surprise as the speeding South Bay wankoton barreled by within two feet of his chintzy velour bathrobe and plastic slippers.

But then again, it’s not every day that you get up at 5:00 AM, have your first cup of coffee, prepare for the 115-mile beatdown with a small bowl of oatmeal, and rendezvous with 38 other wankers at the Center of the Known Universe amidst gorgeous weather offset by the rich blue of the placid Pacific Ocean.

Rules is rules

There were really only a couple of rules, and they were badly needed as the group had swelled to over seventy by the time we reached PCH. Rule 1: Don’t pollute the stunning oceanside panorama of the coast highway with an ugly outfit. Rule 2: Don’t show up on the group ride with shitty tires.

The “Looks Like a Pro Transformation Prize” was instantly awarded to Arkansas Traveler, he of the baseball cap-under-a-helmet-with-bloody-ass-hanging-out-from-shredded-shorts-fame. ArkTrav had put away the gimmecap with the 7-inch bill and replaced it with a svelte and stylish and old school cycling cap.

Fashion point one, check.

Next, he had discarded the old saggsalot jersey with spare pockets ample enough for a backup radiator, and had jettisoned the Brad House “wear ‘em ’til the bunghole shows through, then wear ‘em some more” bib shorts.

Fashion point two, check.

Finally, he had kitted up in what I still maintain is the best looking, most elegant, and well fitting kit on the road anywhere: The SPY weekender kit, which is cleaner and more rad than the racing outfit. It’s no surprise that both are the creation of Joe Yule, who has done more to beautify the highways and byways of California than the entire roadside garbage pickup division of CalTrans.

Now, about that shitty tire rule

The first tire casualty of the day was Cary the Elder, who flatted near Pepperdine and would have been left for dead had the Pilot not stopped to help change the flat, but more importantly, to tow him back up to the group…38 miles later.

The second tire casualty of the day was “She’s just now got good and broke in,” otherwise known as Ol’ Wrinkles, the man famous for using equipment until it either becomes so obsolete that tools no longer exist to repair it, or until it disintegrates from overuse and age and falls from the frame in a powder of rust. Ol’ Wrinkle’s first flat came on account of a “slice in his tire.”

Close examination revealed that indeed the tire was sliced…as are most tires with over 25,000 miles of heavy road wear. Closer examination revealed that the slice was actually about fifty slices, all of varying length. Closer examination still revealed that of all the tire products available to the cycling consumer, he had opted to go with the Trojan Papershell, a tire advertised by its Indonesian manufacturer as “Smooth and Thin as Your Second Skin.”

“Damn, Wrinkles,” several people said as they watched him insert the wrong kind of tube. “What are you riding a premium crit tire for on a road like this?”

“They’re the best cornering tire made.”

“Yeah, but when’s the last time you went around a corner at anything over 5 mph?”

After successfully loading the tube, the group got together to chase the main pack for the next hundred yards or so, when the tire flatted and he replaced the wrong tube with another wrong tube. After cleaning out the grupetto of their last CO2 cartridge and last spare tube, Ol’ Wrinkles did a u-ey and headed home.

Pearls before swine

Elron is one of those dudes who knows more about bike fit than you do, and consequently he never gives advice. Pros like Matt Goss get fitted by him when they come into town, so unlike all the other advice sausages out there, he feels zero need to show off.

Once in every rare while, however, he sees something so wrong and so bad and so fucked up that he can’t help himself.

About thirty miles into the ride, he came up to me. “Dude. Your saddle’s too low.”

“Oh really? It does feel kinda low. But I like a flat stroke at the bottom.”

“You should raise it.”

“How much?”

“Start with about three inches.”

Since I never travel with a wrench, we waited until our first stop at the Rock, where Elron raised my seat. “Man,” I said, “that’s a lot.”

“You’ll get more power on the down stroke now that your knees aren’t under your chin.”

And he was right.

Put your junk into the wind

After Cross Creek, our group yo-yo’ed with the tentative uncertainty of various people on the front, none of whom understood the key point behind being on the front: If you’re comfortable, everyone behind you is expending zero energy because of the draft. This contributed to a horrible accordion effect that was also occurring because the leaders didn’t know how to pick a steady pace and maintain it.

It was more mayhem and crossed wheels and raggedy bunchedy herdball bike slop than you see when they let loose the 150 kiddies at a crit for the one-lap children’s event. To make matters worse, when we rolled through Trancas someone dived into the parking lot at the filling station, even though it wasn’t an approved stop.

Sheep being sheep, we all followed until Douggie yelled “What the fuck? This isn’t an approved stop!” So those of us who hadn’t hit the head or gone on a candybar marauding mission turned back onto PCH, effectively splitting the group and losing a handful of our most trusted leaders, which included Knoll and Pablo.

In order to steady the pace I wound up in front, this time with Junkyard at my side, plodding into a stiff 20 mph headwind. We reached the Rock in tatters, getting help from Bucks, Kramer, and Long Beach Freddy Wayne. Wayne, who was fresh as a daisy towards the end of my 20-mile headwind effort, chirpily asked, “Hey, Wankster, there’s gotta be a story behind those pink socks!”

“Ungh,” I grunted.

“Let’s hear it!” he said, chirpily.

“I’ll…tellya…another…………time,” I said.

We all dismounted at the Rock, with half the contingent dashing off to the chainlink fence to pee and the other half assaulting Legit Girl when they found out she was traveling with 25,000 calories of energy food. I crawled to her on my knees. “Got food?”

“Gosh, yes! What would you like?”

“Anything.”

“What have you had so far?”

“Water.”

“But what have you been eating?”

“Water.”

“You can’t do a 120-mile ride on water! That’s unhealthy!”

I didn’t argue, but voraciously scarfed up the two little chocolate protein ball thingies that she flung my direction.

He who is always near but never quite at the front

By the time we got back to Marina del Rey, our group was down to about a dozen riders. At first I thought I was hallucinating when on the bike path Jensie, our German transplant, got on the front. A collective gasp went up, as one of the biggest shirkers in the wankoton not only hit the front but took fifteen or twenty pedal strokes.

“Oh my Dog!” shouted one rider.

“Quick! The camera!” shouted another.

“Call NBC News!” screamed a third.

Unfortunately, this was the one day I’d decided to ride without my GoPro, and before long Jensie had melted back into the anonymity of riding behind girls and elderly fellows with helmet mirrors. Inspired by this brazen display of on-the-frontery, a mere one mile from home, and after sitting in for a hundred miles, Eric of the South Bay Wheelpersons took a pull on Vista del Mar, ramping up the speed so that it kicked a couple of struggling, bonk-addled bikers out the back.

Once we reached the safety of the Center of the Known Universe, the survivors quaffed cold espresso drinks and reflected on another day in paradise. I’m sure it could have been better…maybe if it had been Tatum in that flimsy bathrobe instead of her dad?

The wind in my hair

April 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

I got out of bed at 5:00 this morning and it hit me like a thunderbolt: “I gotta feel the wind in my hair.” Unprotected cycling, like its procreative counterpart, has fallen out of fashion in the last twenty-five years.

For good reason, as AIDS and catastrophic head injuries just aren’t that much fun.

Or for good reasons, all of which roared their loudest to drown out the perfectly on-pitch note of bad judgment urging me to ditch the lid.

Voice of prior opinions: “You’ve blogged on the wisdom and necessity of helmets, you hypocrite!”

Voice of prior criticism: “You repeatedly hassled Knoll for riding without a lid! Repeatedly!”

Voice of insurance coverage: “Comparative negligence for failure to wear a helmet will greatly reduce your recovery in litigation when you get whacked by Mr. Mom on her way to church.”

Voice of aggravation: “Where’s your fucking helmet, dude?” [Repeated by friends a thousand times.]

Voice of love: “Your family depends on you!”

Voice of vanity: “How you gonna blog with the back of your head staved in?”

Voice of experience: “Which nursing home would MMX et al. be in today without one?”

Voice of responsibility: “Think of the message you’re conveying to beginners!”

Voice of derision: “You going to¬† be the new CC, or the new Guillermo on the block? What’s next, a penis piercing and full-body tattoo?”

Voice of fear: “This is gonna be the day you go down. On your head. You dumbass.”

And of course the Voice of Fear was shrillest of all.

Did someone say "Happy face"? I think they did!

The only voice that counts

With a rapidity that only comes from practice, I ignored the cacophony of reason and sound judgment and listened only to the on-pitch note, which sounded exactly like Martin H. You see, a couple of weeks back I’d posted an old photo of myself on FB, happily zinging helmetless down a hill in 1987. Martin’s comment? “Damn I loved riding without a helmet.” Oh, siren, how you do call.

From the moment I read his comment and looked at the picture, the memory of the wind whistling through my hair grew stronger and stronger. Then, out of nowhere, came the Supreme Court’s ruling that it is reasonable to strip search and probe the anus/vagina of anyone in custody, even people in custody for terroristic crimes like walking a dog without a leash, or driving with an expired license.

The justification for dispensing with the Fourth Amendment is the same one we’ve used to jettison the right to habeas corpus and other trivial rights that have been around since the time of the Magna Carta: safety, or more properly, safety in the jails. That pesky Fourth Amendment, like riding without a helmet, makes us unsafe. And which would you rather have? Freedom or safety? Wind whistling through your hair…or safety?

One order of wind whistling through my hair, over easy, with bacon on the side, please. And kindly shove the safety up your ass. They’ll pull it out the next time you’re in custody.

This morning it was plain as day. I wanted wind through my hair. Why? Because people like Prez and Howard Hughes and Glass Hip and Leo Castillo don’t have any. They could take their helmets off all day long and never have the flow of the wind broken by anything rougher than a glass ball.

And truth be told, like most of the other fellers in the peloton, each year my acreage is getting rockier. Patches of dirt are cropping up where there once was nothing but thick vegetation. Danger and recklessness and bad morals and disapproving stares be damned, this morning I was going helmetless.

Are you really?

Someone left the apartment hallway window open last night, and a 40 mph breeze almost blew me off my feet as I waited for the elevator. So let me get this straight, Mr. Meister. You’re going out in a monsoon to participate in the South Bay’s iconic idiot parade and fredfest, i.e. the Donut Ride, and you’re doing it without a helmet? Is that right?

Yes. And I actually shook with a little bit of fear. That’s how deeply I’ve been enslimed in the protective coating of Safety At All Costs.

Once I actually began bolting downhill at 35 mph, however, I realized that the helmetless thing was totally unnecessarily, at least for today, as the wind was so strong it would have blown through my hair in a full facemask moto GP helmet.

But as the descent kept descending and the wind kept howling and my hair kept whistling and my scalp kept tingling, I knew that I’d done the right thing. There’s something about unprotected cycling…if you grew up on it, it’s still down in your bones.

Unprotected cycling is no magic talisman

The Donut was pretty small, less than 70 wankers, probably due to the incredible wind storm. When Major Bob and I caught the group, which had left while we were watching Rodley spill coffee on his crotch at the Bean & Leaf and listening to Fussy tell us about the guy with the little penis who showered five times a day and the monster Caddy that Joe B. and his Vietnamese buddy used to drive to races that had a trunk so big that they could put both bikes in it without taking off the wheels…

When we caught the group I noticed that Sergio Hernandez was with us. Sergio on ride bad. Sergio on ride much big pain. Sergio on ride you get droppy-droppy quicky-quicky, after ride no braggy-braggy, dick draggy-draggy in dirty-dirty.

Out of Malaga, Sergio heaped on the coals and towed us to Paseo del Mar. Josh from PVCC took a two-mile pull that decimated the group, as the effort was into a howling, and I mean howling, crosswind. Sergio kicked it through Lunada Bay and rode away with Josh. They got stopped at the Hawthorne light. We caught them and waited three minutes. Only then did the tattered remnants of the ride catch up.

Sergio began flogging the dog again through Terranea. I kept looking down at my legs, wondering why I was getting dropped, wondering why everyone was riding single file, wondering why there was no everyone. I kept getting almost dropped on the downhill to Portuguese Bend, and then, just as I thought I couldn’t possibly get dropped any more, Sergio took out the whip and beat us all into another single file of crackage and droppage.

Now there was hardly anybody left, and shortly past the PB Beach Club, Tom M., Marco C., and others just sat up, giving me the “Fuck this shit,” look. Major Bob and I hung onto Sergio briefly, until he dropped us, taking Josh and Backpack Eric with him. They was gone.

On the Switchbacks I chased down Kurt A., who dropped me after getting caught, and we went back and forth all the way to the top, when just after the final turn he imploded, coughed up a lung and a kidney, and went from pedaling squares to pedaling something made with a Spirograph.

My Donut was harder than yours

I know that each week the Donut is harder than the week before, with the absolutely hardest and most epic and most incomprehensibly hideous ones always being the ones I wasn’t on. So I heard that last week it was so hard that they’re thinking of accepting Strava times as substitutes for a race resume if you’re trying to get a wildcard into the TdF, and even so, this week’s was even harder.

As the shards from the group staggered in, minutes, hours, days, sidereal months later, it was clear that the main thing on everyone’s mind was “How do we make sure we don’t have to do this again with a legit UCI pro?”

Unsafe maneuver safely executed

I’m happy to report that I survived the death-defying stunt of riding without a helmet, much as I survived it for most of the years I’ve been cycling. I’m also happy to report that next time I go out, it will almost certainly be with a helmet. Almost.

Strap me to the chair, Dame Vicious von Flogg

April 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

“How was the ride today, Dad?” my youngest asked when I wheeled in the bike after 95+ miles up the coast, up Latigo, down Kanan Dume, down the coast, and back home up VdM.

“It was fine,” I said. Then I collapsed on the bed.

Mrs. WM hurried in. “Are you okay?” She was worried.

“Urgle,” I answered.

So many things happened on this glorious, sunny, 80-degree day in Southern California that I can’t begin to put them into a coherent whole, which makes sense given the fact that I was incoherent for so much of the ride. What I can tell you, though, is this: there’s something wrong with men who go in for bondage and whips and chains. The idea that some broad is going to put on a weird costume, tie you to a chair, and beat the shit out of your nether regions with a whip until you moan in pain, sob in agony, beg for mercy, and finally collapse in a wet puddle of self-loathing, blood, urine, and sweat, and that you’re going to pay her for it…that’s sick.

It’s sick because you see, if you’d just shown up on the Saturday ride this morning you could have gotten all that and more for free.

Dame Vicious von Flogg: We began a torrid pace at the bottom of Latigo. Spider accelerated up the first little climb, I hopped on his wheel and was quickly shed. Checkerbutt and Fireman followed Spider and got dropped, leaving me flailing off the back where I was quickly overhauled by Dame Vicious von Flogg.

Dame Vicious weighs about 40 pounds, and she cheerily hopped out of the saddle as she passed, tossing her rear wheel into my front fork. She’s got a bit of learning to do, but that’s the peril of being a wheelsucker–you’re at the mercy of the wheel you’re sucking. The pain was almost unendurable as she gradually reeled in Fireman, who’d been canned by Checkerbutt. “Yo, Fireman,” I said. “You’re getting caught and dropped by a chick!”

He fought viciously to get on my wheel, then took a hero’s pull in the universal manspeak of “I ain’t gettin’ dropped by no chick.” After that effort fizzled, Dame Vicious came back to the fore and laid down a relentless tattoo of kicks, punches, and blows to the groin. Before long Fireman began the Dangle of Death, opening gaps and then fighting to get back on. I was glued to Dame’s wheel, eking out every tiny bit of draft from her tiny frame.

Dame Vicious then cheerily looked back. “Goody news!!”

“Urg?” I asked.

“Yep! Daddy says I don’t have to get a job next year and can spend another year getting in shape to ride my bike!”

“That fucking sucks,” I moaned, just as Fireman hung his head, rolled his bloodshot eyes, and lolled his tongue in the Death Rattle of Drop.

Soon the road turned into only a mild incline, and Dame Vicious did the only sensible thing: pulled out her crop, shifted into the big ring, and began to whale me about the head and shoulders, all the while chattily wondering what the best way was to learn not to throw her wheel back into my spokes as she threw her wheel back into my spokes. Every few minutes she’d pause the beating to let the accumulated blood drain from my eyes, then resume it.

We passed people like we were on a motorcycle. I greeted each one the same way: “You just got dropped by a chick.”

Finally, one of the droppees said, “I am a chick!”

“That’s even worse, then,” I panted as Dame Vicious exchanged the whip for a chain studded with small sharpened spikes.

Soon we had Checkerbutt in our sights. Dame Vicious rode him down like a terrier overpowering a three-legged rat, and as we passed him I said, “You just got hunted down and dropped by a chick.”

“Well you’ve been sucking wheel the whole damned way, you wanker,” he retorted. Then he added, in the universal manspeak of wounded ego, “I was just taking it easy because I didn’t want to be alone.”

Suuuuuuuure.

Then he attacked us. I fought on, and Dame Vicious countered, gapping Checkerbutt, who recovered and attacked again. By the fourth exchange I came unhitched, kind of like when a camper comes undone midway up Loveland Pass. They exchanged blows all the way to the top, with Checkerbutt finally putting a three-second gap on…a chick…after a 40-mintue climb.

Fireman caught me and flogged me and dropped me just before the summit. Spider was at the top enjoying his new sub-40 minute conquest of Latigo. The rest of the wankers trickled in, each showcasing various stages of defeat, despair, and hopelessness.

Checkerbutt: Came up from the City of Cadmium and Mercury Poisoning to represent the Long Beach Freddies in a throwdown with the Second Tier (some would say third) of the South Bay. With the exception of the chick who rode him down and made him sing for his supper, and the caning he got from Spider on Latigo, he whipped the snot out of everyone else, ticking off a 2nd Place on Strava for the Kanan descent and giving me the leadout of all leadouts into Will Rogers. I didn’t have the heart to come around his sorry checkered ass, so I gave him a push as his innards began spilling out from his ears.

Tubetop: Sidekick to Checkerbutt, he rode the way we’re more accustomed to seeing the Long Beach Freddies ride–weakly. This was his payback for the funny email he sent after Solvang. The last I heard from him was a distress phone call from Peet’s in Santa Monica, asking Checkerbutt how to get back to the car in Manhattan Beach.

T. Rex: Blew the pack apart heading out on PCH, shredded everyone in the sprint to Cross Creek, finished the sprint on Kanan Dume at 55 mph…plus.

Cheetah: We were pleased and honored to have been joined by one of the greatest U.S. cyclists of all time, Nelson Vails. Nelson accompanied us most of the way out PCH. Talk about riding with royalty. I reminded him of the only time I’d ever met him. It was at Camp Mabry during the Tour of Texas. I rode up to him and said something and he turned around, smiled, put his hand to his mouth like he was talking into a CB, and said, “10-4 good buddy.” I was amazed he didn’t remember this incredibly precious 2-second interlude we’d shared back in 1984.

Walshie: Kept the gas on along PCH, then dropped off to ride with his friend of so many years, Nelson.

DJ: Avoided the humiliation of having Dame Vicious von Flogg grind him under her jackboot by motoring on to Camarillo and opting out of the Latigo dominatrix chair.

Sparkles: Kept the wheels turning in yet another awesome chick display of strength and fitness.

Douggie: Coming back on PCH he unleashed the crusher attack of death on the short wall just before Latigo, decimating the already toasted group. Then he dropped himself, leaving me and Fireman to flog for a while until he and Checkerbutt caught back on. Despising the safety of Malibu Colony we opted for Pepperdine Hill. Fireman crunched it and Douggie followed through with the pull of black death, Checkerbutt gasping and me doing whatever happens when you breathe more deeply than a gasp. From that point on Douggie hammered like a madman. As we climbed up onto Vista del Mar we got passed by this insane dude with one red pannier, a steel frame, and a fixie, and he went by like we were standing still. Unfortunately, that’s when Douggie could actually smell the coffee at CotKU, and he ran down Mr. Fixie, who jumped in with me and Checkerbutt only to find that 29 mph on a fixie means your fucking legs come detached from your hips. I’ve never seen anyone sustain 350 rpm for a kilometer, but when his sacrum came tearing out his ass it was all she wrote.

Knoll: Had the misfortune to popularize the ride as “mellow,” when in fact it wound up being Sledgehammer of the Broken Sacrum. Knoll utilized every trick in the book, but came up a few chapters short, at least by his usual standards, i.e. pummeling the shit out of me on long climbs.

Hockeystick: Took one brief pull on PCH, failing to alert the peloton to parked cars, overtaken Team in Training-ers, crevasses in the road, etc. However, eyeing BWR next weekend, he opted for an even longer route with more climbing after Latigo.

Major Bob: Hammer. Climb. Hammer. Seek out new climbs. Hammer.

Trixie: Rolled like a champ out on PCH, then clawed her way up Latigo with a very respectable ride, leaving certain veterans to be named later choking on her fumes. Plus, she was extra cute in her blue kit.

Betsy: Rolled with us to Latigo, then did her own ride continuing on PCH. Another hot chick biker who looks good in blue.

Jens: The man who least deserves his nickname lived up yet again to his reputation as Go to the Front Antimatter, a unique force in the cosmos that is diametrically opposed to ever taking a pull. However, he momentarily overcame this powerful negative attraction to sharing the work when he was observed engaging in a micropull on PCH for .000093 seconds, measuring a power output of 12 watts. Progress!

Arkansas Traveler: With the absence of Pinched Nerve Patrick, AT took up his rightful place at the back of the peloton ascending Latigo and successfully maintained PP +1. When I descended to see if he’d been killed and eaten by a mountain lion, I found him doing with Junkyard what he’d done the week before with me–enjoying the ride. What’s with that guy? Or should I say, “Respect.”

Junkyard: It was a painful day of death and dismemberment for our valiant hero, who, after putting his head under a concrete block and having the block broken by a Korean taekwondo blackbelt wielding a large hammer, dragged himself back to the StageOne World Headquarters to begin preparations for the Perry-Roobay celebrations scheduled tomorrow for 6:00 AM plus Zeke farts.

Big Bowles: Another masterful day of shirking by the master of shirk.

Toronto: No matter how many megadeals he crafts during the week, nothing, and I mean nothing, can ever stop Toronto from joining the mob and taking his beating like a man. Always in line to take his pull, always ready to crack and flail when the riding crop of unmercy falls about his tender parts, Toronto got his revenge on Dame Vicious von Flogg atop Latigo by unzipping his jersey and grabbing hold of his massive paunch to explain the source of his climbing unprowess. This led to a paunch-off, where each of the weak, flaccid, elderly, and thoroughly beaten old men took turns comparing the amount of flab they could grip in one fist. Dame Vicious staggered over to the side of the road and vomited, and justice was done!

Skinbag: On the way back, Skinbag advised me that although Dame Vicious had dropped every single man except for Checkerbutt and Spider, he’d put the wood to her on the Kanan descent. I corrected his deluded version of events. “Dude, she waited for half an hour at the top of Latigo for your sorry ass. If it’d been a race she’d have gotten to the bottom of Kanan with enough time for a pedicure before you showed up.” “Well, she’s riding illegally.” “Illegally?” “Yes. Those aren’t junior gears.” “Dude, she’s fucking twenty-two.” Silence…

Godfather: Met up with us in Redondo, enjoyed seeing you, buddy!

Florida Dan: Present, but ultimately unaccounted for.

Cedric le Belge: Present, filled with flail.

Pilot: Rolled out with us…went on to Trancas??

VV: Took the sane route and rode with us to PCH, then went out to Trancas.

Big O Sean: Nice riding with you, dude.

G$: Spied on the way back through Hermosa. Hi, Money!

Mighty Mouse: Spied on the way back through Hermosa. Hi, Mighty!

Suze: Spied on Vista del Mar. Hi, Suze!

G3: No-show because he couldn’t get out of bed in time for the ride. Tsk, tsk.

*Post-ride checklist for sausages with mortally wounded egos (select all that apply):
1. Dame Vicious dropped me because I wasn’t really trying.
2. Dame Vicious dropped me because I rode really hard this week and was tired.
3. Dame Vicious dropped me because she’s so light.
4. Dame Vicious didn’t drop me, I decided to let her go. [Recommended selection]
5. Dame Vicious is 30 years younger than I am.
6. Dame Vicious isn’t a very good bike handler so I let her go because I didn’t want her to crash me out.
7. Dame Vicious just doesn’t have a good enough draft. [Not recommended, as it points out the fact that you couldn’t hold her wheel.]
8. I rode the Donut and got my ass handed to me by Rudy and G$, which is acceptable because they’re two of the best MALE riders in California, whereas if I’d gone on your ride and gotten shellacked by some kid chick who’s only been cycling for a few weeks I’d have to sell my bike and become a blogger.

Wankmeister Cycling Clinic #1: Tall white socks

November 15, 2011 § 17 Comments

The ideation of the tall white sock and its awesome effect.

We’ve all been there. We buy some tall, white socks because they look so sporty and clean, and because they match any cycling outfit, even those glow-in-a-black-hole yellow shoes that Perez was wearing on Sunday. If your legs are long and bony, tall white socks close some of the gap between sock cuff and the leg of the shorts, helping you look less like an Oxfam model and more like a normal person. If your legs are chunky and short, tall white socks give the lower part of your leg that muscled, powerful accent that looks so cool when you’re standing in your underwear bent over in a cycling pose with your ass to the mirror as you try to look over your shoulder to see how you look to other people and are of course suitably mortified by what you see.

The biggest benefit to crisp, clean, tall white socks, however, is that if you always wear them, people think you’ve got a zillion pairs because everyone knows that tall white socks quickly get too nasty to wear after one or two outings. If you have a zillion pairs, it implies that you’re fabulously wealthy, or that you’re sponsored, or that your wife doesn’t have to work outside the home, or that you can afford full-time domestic help. It shows that YOU don’t have to slave away, bent double over a bleach bottle trying to scrub out the grease and grime from yesterday’s slugfest in the mud.

If you insist on wearing tall white socks even in the nastiest weather, it reinforces all of the above. ‘Wow! Muffy has so many socks (and at $16.95 that adds up quick!) that she can just wear ‘em and toss ‘em.” That’s instant respect, especially if you’re wearing premium brands like Assos (means “asshole” in Swiss-Italian), or Rapha (means “uncertain sexual orientation”) in Rafanese.

What worked for the pros can work for you

Tall white socks are also proven to improve cycling performance. If you’re an adherent of the training methodologies espoused by Chris Carmichael, Andy Coggan, Michele Ferrari, or Voluptua the Tantric Sex Coach, you already understand what it takes to squeeze the most out of your body, so to speak. But the extra “winning” ingredient is always activated by tall white socks. Experts don’t know exactly why the tall white sock improves cycling performance, and posers like you and me frankly don’t care.

Don’t believe it? Eddy Merckx set his hour record wearing tall white socks, although admittedly they sagged a bit as elastic hadn’t been invented yet. In addition to huge quantities of EPO, corticosteroids, and blood doping, Lance Armstrong’s winning edge came from…you guessed it. Tall white socks. Alberto’s rapid rise from a low-level drug addict who bought blood doping products under his dog’s name from Eufemiano Fuentes to a world class doper and Tour winner who bought his doping products from Basque cattlemen was due to…tall white socks.

In our own little corner of the cycling world, Los Angeles County has a number of proud exponents of the tall white sock, none more widely known and admired than Knoll. Although rarely seen on rides longer than 45 yards, and although he has a permanent designated spot at the Peet’s in Santa Monica, the simple act of pulling on a pair of tall white socks turns him into a terrible terror of monstrous mountaineering. The photo at the left shows him battering his mates into submission even though this is his first ride since ’02, and immediately prior to jumping on his bike he had three bacon cheeseburgers and a plate of bleu cheese.

Yuck! Next time I’m ordering black!

The dirty little secret

The reason so many cyclists begin with tall white socks but give up on them before realizing their full benefits has to do with filth. The socks get dirty rather quickly. Stuffed inside a nasty, moldy, stinky cycling shoe, or stretched up over a calf that’s been slathered in brownish/reddish embrocation, drizzled with sweat, and sprayed with an admixture of sand and sludge from the bike path will quickly scuzz out your socks. Just having to touch the nasty things after a ride is enough to make you want to throw them away. It’s like having a strip of toilet paper permanently attached to the heel of your shoe. A real buzzkill.

Tired after the Donut and desperate to eat enough food to counteract the health and weight-loss benefits of the ride, you toss the crud-covered socks into the hamper and viciously attack the peanut butter with a large wooden spoon. You leave the mouldering socks there until the next day, or perhaps the next week, giving the gunk on the socks time to fester and procreate in the steamy, fetid pile of damp undies, smelly t-shirts, yucked out yoga pants, and snot-encrusted cycling gloves. The sock scum multiplies, seeps into the merino/cotton/lycra fibers, and permanently stains the formerly proud, crisp, tall white sock.

When it’s time for laundry you toss them into the wash with a squirt of OxiClean, a dash of industrial strength detergent, a dab of Go-Jo, maybe a capful of turpentine, and a prayer. What comes out is a slightly off-color pair of socks that are no longer crisp and pretty and calling out to you, “Hey, stretch me over your well-turned ankles and supple calves,” but rather are whispering, “If you pedal quickly enough maybe no one will notice we’re not crisply white anymore.”

You wear them a few more times, including a morning or two when it’s wet or damp outside, and pretty soon they’ve turned a pale shade of gray. Before you realize it you’ve tossed them, or are using them to wipe your chain, and have replaced them with something black or navy that doesn’t show the filth. And guess what? You’ve achieved none of the fitness or envy benefits of your purchase.

As you sock, so shall you ride

After decades of having his wife scrub his tall white socks by hand, Wankmeister was recently handed a stack of papers by a process server titled, “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” Under Attachment A, which listed the causes for the petition, Wankmeister noted the following:

1. Respondent pees on the toilet rim and never wipes it off.
2. Respondent makes yogurt and fruit for dessert but never throws away the banana peel, and instead dumps it into the disposal, which clogs, and causes the apartment maintenance man to charge us $75 dollars per visit.
3. Respondent farts all the time.
4. Respondent sleeps through date night movies.
5. Respondent always forgets our anniversary, but invariably remembers his own birthday with an expensive cycling-related purchase.
6. Respondent is tired all the time, except when it’s time to cycle, talk about cycling, blog about cycling, read cycling magazines, or check out Fuckdude’s latest video post on the “Tug-Toner.” Which was disgusting, by the way.
7. Respondent’s income is a joke.
8. Respondent’s bike cost more than the resale value of both our cars.
9. Respondent always falls asleep early, if you know what I mean.
10. Respondent makes me scrub his nasty fucking tall white cycling socks.

When Wankmeister got this shocking paperwork, he realized that his marriage of 24 years was on the brink, and only by making drastic and permanent changes to every aspect of his relationship would it survive. So Wanky took the high road, bit the bullet, and rolled out Wankmeister 2.0. That’s right. He told her she no longer had to wash the socks. Sometimes you have to give in to make your marriage work. And Wanky was willing to do that.

Green Soap Bar of Death (not sold in stores)

The 12-Step Method of Tall Sock Whitification

So here are Wankmeister’s Secrets for Tall Sock Whitification. With a little study you too can wear crisp, tall white socks no matter how nasty the weather. Your packmates will envy your sock-horn of plenty and invite you to all the coolest parties and apres-Pier Ride coffee klatches.

1. Don’t ever toss the socks in the hamper after a ride. Instead, rinse them in hot tap water.
2. Take out your special Japanese Magic Green Soap Bar of Death (not sold in stores).
3. Rub the affected areas with the Soap Bar of Death. The Soap Bar of Death is gentle enough to use without a welding mask. However, welding gloves are advised.

A li’l dab’ll do ya.

4. Squirt copious amounts of OxiClean on the affected areas.
5. Gently pour small amounts of bleach directly onto the stains, which have now been assaulted by successive layers of hot water, Green Soap Bar of Death, and OxiClean.
6. Take a shower.
7. Check FB and hits on your blog, if you have one.
8. Go back to the sink and scrub your socks by hand until the stains are gone.
9. Rinse in hot water.
10. Scrub some more.

Whitens your teeth, too.

11. Rinse out the sink so that there are no grease stains or chunks of dissolved flesh from the bleach and Soap Bar of Death to infuriate your wife.
12. Toss the socks in the laundry hamper, preferably wrapped in aluminum foil so they don’t dissolve the other fabrics they might come into contact with.

Well, there you have it. See you and your whitey, tighty, crispy, tall white socks out on the road!

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