Primal scream therapy

May 17, 2013 § 10 Comments

Nature is beautiful. The tiny chicks hatch, featherless, and are carefully tended by momma bird until they fledge. As they get too big for the nest, the timid fledglings are gently nudged out onto the limb. Anxiously, their loving mother sits by their side, gently chirping and encouraging them as they prepare to take their first flutter into the air.

It is a scary moment in a little bird’s life, but made tolerable by the constant cooing of momma bird as she helps the little chickie take its first tentative flaps before leaping off the branch. Momma bird watches nervously and immediately flies to baby bird’s new perch, praising and cooing and urging him to take another tentative flight.

Love, support, encouragement, and the watchful eye of mommy all lead to success. Baby bird quickly gets his “flight wings” and by day’s end is proudly flitting from tree to tree, but never too far from his warm little nest where momma bird can praise him and yes, even reward him with a moist, plump earthworm or two. Baby bird snuggles against momma’s cozy feathered breast and enjoys his yummy snack, proud of his accomplishments on his big day and looking forward to more in the days to come.

The North County Puke & Gulp isn’t quite as tender

When we rolled out from the Starbucks at La Costa and El Camino Real, an entire flock of baby birds was nervously perched on the corner. But rather than being protected by anxious and encouraging momma bird, they were eyed hungrily by  ravenous, toothy wolves with names like Full-Gas Phil, Battering Ram Abate, Red Light Davis, Bad Magic Johnson, and MMX.

The baby birds chirped nervously as Full-Gas tossed it into the big ring and simultaneously swallowed a fistful of fledglings — feathers, feet, beaks and all. He spit out the beaks.

When the peloton hit PCH, Bad Magic opened the throttle and, with stomps of his hob-nailed, steel-toed boots, he mercilessly ground up another handful of baby chicks into pink slime, ready-prepped for the McNuggets factory. Battering Ram  barreled to the fore, knocking an entire row of terrified fledglings off the branch and into the blood-stained maw of MMX, who chewed off their heads and spit the mangled carcasses onto the bowed shoulders of those who cowered at the back.

I had made the mistake of stirring the North County pot, and on this morning the testosterone stew bubbled and boiled and gurgled and roiled with the intensity of a steel smelter. The first crew of forty-eight was, by ride’s end, reduced to less than a dozen. None was wearing Swami’s blue.

How DO they ride down in San Diego County?

I’ve ridden enough in North County to know that they love welcoming newcomers with a fistful of nails and broken glass rammed down your throat. If you want an extra helping of hard, they always seem eager to serve seconds, then thirds. Moreover, a handful of North County natives have been kind enough to come up to Los Angeles and do our New Pier Ride, so I wanted to return the favor and sample their wares — but not before taunting them as weaklings and slackers. [Note to self: Do not send out boastful emails prior to showing up for a North County ride.]

No matter what anyone says, it’s fun to have visitors on your local ride. The North County Tuesday/Thursday ride I especially wanted to do because one of the people who’s been instrumental in ramping up its popularity and difficulty — my buddy MMX — never fails to pop in on the NPR when he’s in town and ladle out an extra scoop of misery.

If you’re in town on a Tue/Thu, I recommend this ride. It’s exceedingly hard and challenging, but as with any ride it has its drawbacks. Before I extol the virtues, here are the blemishes:

  1. It’s too short. The whole thing is well under an hour.
  2. Although there’s some good pre-ride congregating, as soon as the ride finishes everyone hurries off to work or to complete a longer ride. There doesn’t seem to be a permanently unemployed or underemployed leisure class who can sit around post-ride and burn up the rest of the morning quaffing coffee in the sun.
  3. They don’t have anyone remotely close to Prez. They don’t even have anyone who wears neon yellow shoe covers with bright pink gloves.
  4. It is a relentless beatdown with nowhere to  hide. This is good if you want to leave 90% of the participants inert and blown out the back, but the death knell if you want to have a 100+ wankoton on sunny days, where baby seals and fledglings can leech off the strong while doing little or no work at the back.
  5. No warm-up. You get on your bike and you’re doing 30.

But then there are the pluses…and are they ever pluses.

The course, the characters

I call this ride the North County Puke & Gulp. It started so hard and fast that I tasted breakfast multiple times on the ride, and especially in the first ten minutes. Tinstman, Bad Magic, et al. set out at a wicked pace on La Costa, and after a couple of miles we hit the coast highway. The leaders sprinted up to speed, a solid 35 or faster, and a handful of riders churned the front with brief, intense pulls.

“Full-Gas” Phil Tinstman made the pace so hard that no one could pull for more than a few seconds. The vast majority of the 48 riders got nowhere near the front, but unlike NPR, where there’s safety at the back, the tiniest of gaps sent riders rocketing backwards, alone, shelled, before the ride had barely begun. Battering Ram, Red Light, Mike Williams, Bad Magic, and MMX busted more freeloaders off the back and put them out to pasture.

There is a small hill going up to Palomar Road but people were already so fagged with the speed that it was devoid of the crazy attacks I’d been assured would be on offer. By now pages of Strava KOM’s had been rewritten, if you’re into that kind of thing, and everyone in North County apparently is, as the short 20-mile ride has been broken down into fourteen thousand segments.

The ride reaches its first neutral zone in downtown Carlsbad, a picturesque little seaside town that would be even more picturesque without the snot and spit and bloody stool that people were leaving on the road. The group had thinned considerably; perhaps a third of the fledglings had already been rolled in batter and dipped in the fryalator.

This first section, the “Front Half,” was the easy part, though I was barely able to hang on. Several riders came up and told me to “be ready” for the “hard part.” I don’t know how you get ready for something that you’re too weak to do, especially when the moment of truth is five minutes away or less. Once on the Back Half, the relative flat of the coast gave way to the punishing rollers for which North County is infamous. It is here that the ride completely and forever leaves aside all comparisons with the NPR.

Unlike our L.A. ride, where a bit of tenacious wheelsucking will get almost anyone through the hard bits, once you hit the rollers on the back side you either have the go-legs or you have a lot of time alone with yourself. MMX drove it to the top of El Camino Real and separated the group for what I was sure was for good. I blew apart halfway up, and the leaders made it easily through the light. My chase group hit the light on dead red, and we were all eternally grateful for the chance to stop, catch our breath, and blame the breakaway on the traffic signal rather than our weak legs and puny lungs.

To shout or not to shout? Primal scream therapy or gentle remonstrance?

There are two schools of thought on shouting at people who screw up on the bike. One school holds that shouting is rude, counterproductive, frightening, and that it ruins budding friendships. The other school holds that if you ride like a dumbshit you deserve to be yelled at, since studies show that dumbshits learn best after a good solid hollering.

In our case, the chase group was populated with adherents to the second school, and when two riders blew through the dead-red light that had traffic stacked up at opposing ends of the intersection, there was more yelling and screaming and cussing than a Westboro Baptist funeral protest.

One wanker turned around mid-intersection; the other sped up the road to join the disappearing leaders. It was impressive to see how the entire group reamed this poor dude out; almost as impressive as watching him humbly accept the tongue lashing and then apologize. Wanker #2 got yelled at later in the ride, yelled at on Facebook, and privately reprimanded by MMX. Like an adult, he accepted responsibility, proffered no lame excuses, and apologized.

This, more than anything else, impressed me. Whereas our ride shout-outs result in lifelong enmity, or in riders pouting for months on end, these guys were able to be dressed down by their good friends and cursed at like sailors, apologize, and have their apology accepted. Cool stuff.

Key ride facts

The beatdown delivered by SPY, Full-Gas Tinstman, and Battering Ram Abate left everyone else hanging on for dear life. It was a record day on Strava in case anyone doubted the intensity; MMX got 9 KOMs on a course he has ridden twice a week for the last two years. Everyone who finished the ride chalked up PR’s, top 10’s, and many set course records for various segments.

The finishing group would have been truly microscopic in size had we chasers not reattached with the leaders who got stopped at the world’s longest light.

Unquestionably, Full-Gas was the single biggest factor in keeping such a torrid pace. If one other thing contributed to the intensity, it was likely the desire of the local crew to show that whatever kind of ride we have in L.A., they’ve got that and then some in North County.

They are, however, now running short on baby birds.

Why Los Angeles is way better than San Diego

May 11, 2013 § 27 Comments

It’s really simple: We have the best early morning weekday rides. San Diego doesn’t.

What is a “best” early morning weekday ride? It’s one that begins around 6:30 AM, has a huge regular turnout, and rips your legs off.

“Oh, no!” I can hear you wailing. “We have the awesome Tuesday-Thursday ride! It’s hilly and it shreds the field!”

First of all, our ride is better because yours doesn’t even have a cool name. That’s because you’re too dumb to think one up. All that supposed surfer-cyclist-artiste creativity in North County and the best you can do is two names of the week? Sad.

Second, our ride is better because your ride has such a tiny turnout. Five semi-fast guys showing up with a hangover and pulling out each others’ teeth with rusty pliers does not a legendary bike ride make. Maybe it’s the early hour and you wike your wittle warm bwankie. Maybe it’s the lack of a swollen pack of baby seals among which the weak can cower and hide ’til the moment of reckoning. Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists in North County ride Trek. But most likely, it’s the fact that your riders just aren’t that good.

Third, our ride is better because we have Rahsaan Bahati, Suze Sonye, Greg “32” Leibert, Eric Anderson, and Cory Williams as regulars. Who do you have? That dude with the full purple bodysuit and the bad smell, that’s who.

Fourth, our ride is better simply because of the riders that you have and we don’t. Leaving aside for the moment that none of your guys have even halfway decent nicknames, let me list a few rotten limbs in the pile of  deadwood that makes up your “ride”:

Stefanovich–Comes north to do our NPR, returns home a shell of his former self, which was a shell to begin with.
Crazy Legs–The name kind of says it all, eh? Along with him, “Sketch,” “Skitters,” “Twitch,” and “Jerky”…
Andy McClooney–The best rider to never come north and get his serving of NPR humble pie.
Number 2–Pyeeeeeewwwwh!
Celo Pacific Wheelsuckers–This is a club developed around the riding “strategy” of “do nothing until the end, then do even less.”
Los Ranchos Suckeros–Every yummy pie has filler, but these sandbaggers don’t even taste good when you chew them up and spit them out.
Velo (barely) Hangers-on–Close relatives of NPR baby seals who think “towards the front” is synonymous with “at the front.” It isn’t.
Swami’s B, C, and D Riders–It’s the alphabet soup of lowly categorized wankers. Their best ones make the first ejecta from the first acceleration on the Saturday ride. Their worst ones don’t even have bicycles.
Nytro trigeeks–They don’t always look and ride like idiots, but the 99.9% of the time when they do, they’re so far behind that no one knows or cares.
The Wolf Pack Up-and-Leavers–Last to the fight, first to the feast.

Fifth, our ride is better because we brag about  it. If it weren’t for my amazing powers of investigative journalism, I wouldn’t even know your ride existed. If you don’t brag about it, it must not be any good.

Sixth, our ride is better because we have a cool FB page. Do you? Of course not. Without a cool FB page your ride can never be more than sucky. Sorry.

Seventh, our ride is waaaaay better because Robert Efthimos and Cory Williams video everything and then post cool movies of wankers like Jay “Manslaughter” LaPlante trying to murder his buddies. Then we get to spend the entire workday on FB chatting about it. What do you poor slobs do? You go to work and work, that’s what.

Eighth, our ride is better because we actively make fun of people who wear Oakley. SPY is how we roll, yo.

Ninth, our ride is better because we have that cute Asian chick who’s always jogging down the alley as we roll out. Who do you have? That furry dude who lives in the shopping cart behind the Starbucks.

Tenth, our ride is better because we have a ride kit. That’s right. Our ride is so pimpin’ that we have a kit with our cool ride’s name on it and lots of clever “in” jokes emblazoned on it by Joe Yule. Our ride is beautifully tanned Argentine leather. Yours is naugahyde.

Eleventh, we have Joe Yule. You have that dude who lives in his mom’s garage and builds web sites with Dreamweaver.

Twelfth, we have CotKU. You probably don’t even know what that is. Sad.

Finally, after our awesome ride, which is always awesome and so much better than yours, we get to sit around at CotKU, drink coffee, and watch Dave Perez do interesting things dressed up in purple and yellow. What do you have? A bunch of really serious MRI dudes dressed up in electric green  baby dwarf artichoke outfits. Hint: You can’t be serious if you are a dude in a baby dwarf artichoke suit. A clown, perhaps, but not a serious dude.

The day of reckoning

Although I’ve already reached my conclusions, invented my facts, and printed my story, I thought I would at least do you the favor of coming down to the next Tuesday ride to confirm that your ride is a complete sham and pose fest. I have no doubt about what I’ll find: A handful of scraggly, half-shaved riders, tummies hanging out of their undersized stretch pants while they suck down a gallon of pre-ride sugar goop pretending that their “ride” is a ride.

Please also be advised that I will be showing up fully primed and prepared to teach each of you the meaning of the word “beatdown.” Although I don’t expect to break a sweat, you should expect to suffer a calamitous clubbing. This is what LA is all about: Schooling the noobs in the south about how to ride their bicycles. After that I will give the survivors a surfing lesson, beginning with “How not to purl every time” and then followed by a video showing you the difference between a rideable wave, a closeout, and whitewash. Not that it will help.

See you soon, and bring your moped. You’re gonna need it.

Celebrating the end of 2012 with a stomping

January 1, 2013 § 14 Comments

Tink’s mom looked at my car and wasn’t much reassured by the dented fender and legion of scrapes. “Where’s his bike rack?” she asked.

“Pretty sure he doesn’t have one.”

“How is he going to get both of your bikes down to North County?”

“I don’t know.”

They sat there and waited for me in the pitch dark. “I hope he has some way to carry your bike.”

“He said it would be no problem.”

“I really don’t want to drive you down to San Diego this morning for that bicycle ride.”

“He said there was room.”

Oh, ye of little faith

I appeared out of the 5:30 AM darkness. Tink had already unloaded her bike from her mom’s SUV. I laid my bike in the trunk, knocked down the back seats, threw down some towels, and laid Tink’s bike, wheelless, atop mine. Her bike was so small we could have tossed in a barbecue grill and still had room for the wheels.

Then we were off.

Tink has been in winter build and Strava stealth mode. Unlike the rest of the year, when it’s one epic crushing after another, she’s been quiet for months. This New Year’s Eve, SPY Optic and RIDE Cyclery were putting on an event to celebrate all the good things that had happened in 2012. Unlike the typical North County ride menu, this one was billed as “no hammering,” “anything but a race,” “good times for all” and encouraging “riders of all abilities.

What could possibly go wrong? I was already tired and needed an easy pedal to finish out my year.

What could possibly go wrong

The wise Marvin Campbell had tried to dissuade those lulled into a false sense of security by posting on FB these immortal words: “It’s a trap.”

The victim of several sorties down south, Marvin knew an ambush when he saw one. I, however, actually believed MMX. Again.

As we rolled out, there were all sorts of red flags waving–blowing–whipping–in the early morning chill. The red flags went by the names of Thurlow a/k/a The Hand of God, Tintsman, Hamasaki, Dahl, Gonyer, Johnson, Quick, Day, Pomerantz, and Shannon. In addition to these evil omens, there were another twenty to forty lean, sculpted pairs of legs that looked anything but “encouraging” or in the least bit interested in “good times.”

“Is this really going to be an easy ride?” Tink asked. She’d never ridden down south and was looking forward to a social pedal during which time she could meet this new cast of characters.

“Oh, yes,” I assured her. “MMX would never bill something as an easy ride, attract a ton of riders, and then tear their legs off. He’s just not cruel like that.”

I looked around at the estimated two hundred riders that were now swarming along the coast road and hoped I was right.

Hidden Valley, where all is revealed

At some point in the ride the throng had been reduced by half. One of the reductees was Paige DeVilbiss, who had hurried down from Fullerton, missed the pre-ride coffee chat, gotten shelled at mile four, chased back on, and then gotten kicked out the back for good at  mile eight. This was a classic North County welcome: “So glad you’re here, hope you enjoy this kick in the face and the solitary ride back to your car and the even more solitary ride back to your home.”

By the time we hit the bottom of the Hidden Valley climb, thanks to the “conversational pace” and “happy times,” Tink was the only woman left. If there were any conversations that took place the entire day, they turned out to be monosyllabic grunts and nods of the head interspersed with the random moan and plea for mercy.

Unaware of what lay ahead, Tink took an inopportune moment to start in on a candy bar just as the group hit the first climb. Her mouth full to prevent breathing and one-handed to prevent effective climbing, the road kicked up. Tink struggled at quarter power to get up the nasty climb. She wasn’t about to spit out and lose her precious riding fuel.

Those who were behind her, and there were many, were disturbed to see her easily power up the climb one-handed while chewing a mouthful of food.

A small contingent of nine riders crested the climb. I struggled over in tenth place many bike lengths between me and the leaders. After a few twists and turns, we regrouped, hit the short dirt section made famous by last year’s BWR, and climbed the back side of Summit.

This time I stayed on the wheel of The Hand of God, who cracked jokes all the way up the climb. “My coach told me not go any harder than I’m going now,” he said with laugh. Everyone else gasped and struggled and grunted.

Tink was just behind us, never in any trouble at all, easily pedaling among the leading ten or fifteen men. With the exception of me and MMX, none of the other riders knew her or had any inkling of what they were dealing with, and over the course of the morning her presence began to stand out more and more.

It slowly dawned on them. Tink wasn’t just the only woman left. She was out-riding most of the men who remained, and the men who remained were the good ones.

Going out in style

A solid 60 miles into the 67-mile ride, there were less than forty riders left. After a gradual uphill punctuated by a roller where MMX smashed the group, we got back together in time for a screaming flat, tailwind run-in to something. Not knowing the course, the only thing evident was that everyone knew what was going on except me.

The friendly “Sure, take that wheel, mate” instantly transformed into “That’s my wheel, fucker, and I’ll kill you if you try to get it.”

The survivors stretched out into one long, unbroken line of pain until whatever it was we were so desperately eager to get to was gotten to. Everyone sat up and stared at the road ahead. The back side of San Elijo marched off into the sky.

I looked at Tink. “We’re going up that bastard. Get on MMX’s wheel. Now.”

“I can’t hold his wheel!” she protested.

“Get the hell up there,” I grumbled. And she did.

Three quarters of the way up this miserable, endless, soul-crushing climb, the 40-strong pack was mostly together. MMX and The Hand of God rode tempo on the front, having commanded that “None shall pass, and neutral shall this climb remain.”

I swung over to the right-hand gutter and pushed through the front, sailing by The Hand of God and MMX.

Note to self: Never, ever, ever, simulate an acceleration or an attack in the presence of THOG.

See that slumbering bear? Why don’t you poke its eye with a stick?

The other wheelsuckers, seeing my effrontery, responded in kind. The peloton detonated and I was soon swarmed, and shortly thereafter dropped. As the heaving, gasping, grunting, groaning cadavers spiraled off the rear like a spent roman candle, one rider was having no difficulties at all.

It was Tink.

She shed the group and raced ahead to the leaders, who were being slowly roasted, then cannibalized, then dropped, by The Hand of God. As she passed me she rubbed salt in the wound by smiling. Then she rubbed arsenic into the salt by speaking. She said something that sounded like “Atalzchstsaek talk?”

But all I could respond with, and it was only in my head, was “How the fuck do you have breath to waste on talking?”

She sailed by MMX, sailed by the remaining human shrapnel, and easily crested the peak. Only a handful of the best riders in the state, and one of the greatest American bike racers of all time, were ahead of her.

That was the last climb of the day. I was toasted. She was warmed up and smiling.

“What a great climb! Are you okay?” she asked, unused as she was to seeing my bloodless lips and eyes hanging 3/4 out of the sockets.

“Tink,” I muttered, “if I keep riding with you in 2013…”

“Yes?”

“It’s going to be one long, miserable year.”

In their own words (sort of)

August 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

This morning’s New Pier Ride was a wankfest deluxe, replete with a dozen different flats, a founding NPR wanker who tumped over on his side at 2mph and trashed his frame, a cement mixer swooping by at warp speed, four hundred thousand medium-sized rocks scattered along the 2.5 mile western leg on the Parkway, bar-bumping, shoulder-rubbing, hollering, hiding, sprunting, attacking, crumpling, wheelsucking, and of course Going to the Front.

The clarion sounded last night, announcing on the Internets that MMX would be coming up from North County to work off his hangover; that Fukdude would be gracing us with his national champion presence; that Prez would be there in a new lime green kit; that Erik the Red would be on a scalp-collecting mission, and that every newbie, oldbie, dumby, and Gumbie would be flailing and flogging in a mad attempt to not get kicked out the back on the first lap.

The wankers answered the call in force. Promises of an audience with the Godfather, promises of sunny weather, and promises of a merciless beatdown resulted in seventy wankers rolling out from the Pier, with an additional 30-40 getting picked up along Pershing.

How was it, then…?

“Today was a dynamic one for me, filled with highs and some lows. I slept three hours and rolled up to the Pier still drunk. I was pumped at the prospect of an exciting, solid ride.”

“I got there early and rode up the bike path. There were lots of people. and they kept coming and coming, like roaches to a pile of fresh puke.”

“Wow, a big ride for Marc’s birthday. Not that anyone knew.”

“WM has cultivated an impressive ride. Blew me away how it kept growing and swelling all the way to Pershing and then along the Parkway.”

“It was cool to see people I haven’t seen in a while.”

“This ride and Wankmeister’s crazy blog got me back into cycling. I’ve been doing this ride for two months and it just gets harder even though I’m getting fitter. Today was the fastest ever.”

“From Pershing I left the wankoton and moved to the front of the class. Got in a nice hard slap at the front after the overpass.”

“Had Wankmeister on my wheel for a long stretch, pulling into the wind. At the front I felt fantastic and never anaerobic, I could have danced all night.”

“I kept waiting for the pace to quicken, but it never did.”

“Did a few rotations and drifted back five or ten wheels, then repeat.”

“Seemed like the first first real acceleration was the second lap, when one or twenty numb nuts let Eric and a couple others go down the road. I had to chase like a motherfucker.”

“Is this ride always this hard? I used to be a bowler. Bowling’s just not this hard.”

“King Harold did a wonderful flat back pull up toward the u-turn, start of Lap 3. I was third wheel. Harold flicked an elbow and the second wheel sat up and moved right, like a total fucking wanker, leaving me to bridge that little gap and then pull all the way up to the turn. Fucking wankers. Don’t they read your blog? Go to the fucking front.”

“Finishing up the 3rd lap I hit a huge rock no one pointed out and nearly lost control. Pinch flatted, which took me out toward the start of the last lap. Major bummer; I was so primed and ready turn on the jets. I think there were twelve flats today.”

“Is there a slower B ride?”

“I kept trying to Go to the Front, but just ended up Going out the Back.”

“Strava flail. How hard was this ride, anyway?”

“The New Pier Ride is incredible. Props to Douggie, Trey, and the other wankers who thought this up. Never seen a regular ride like it, or even heard of one. Fantastic stuff.”

“This ride is a fredfest. Saw two fucking freds almost murder each other and take me out.”

“Won’t be doing this again. Fast enough to tire you out, but not fast enough to make you faster. Fucking trucks and rocks and lights and traffic and crazy people on their first bike ride. This NPR shit blows.”

“People of all stripes come from all over. Its amazing. Really inclusive, which is unusual for road cycling.”

“I didn’t get my coffee this morning because we had a power outage at my apartment. Needless to say, OTB.”

“There were the usual fast guys and lots of new guys who think they are fast until they get near the front and melt like ice cream in a reactor core. I watched a number of guys near me who never took a pull. Now, granted, some of these guys are the guys who were waiting for the sprint (as though this was a race)–we know who they are. But there were others who never got to the front but would linger near it, kind of like a dude with a naked chick who sticks his face down near her crotch and sniffs but won’t drop trou and start humping. I don’t like these people. Hump or go home.”

“I noticed you on the front numerous times, Wankmeister, but I think your legs were zapped. Good posing, though, even though you slowed us down every time you pulled through, you wanker.”

“I saw Eric on the front a few times, including that attack I had to chase down. He’s a badass.”

“The guy in the SBW was awesome. Is that the Dennis Herrera dude you were telling me about? Driving the front. I loved riding with him.”

“Awesome all the other girls out. Makes me feel good to have other girls riding nearby. And they’re strong and getting stronger.”

“Bull would pull but he would get so gassed he’d let gaps open up after, only to come back to the front for another pull. Relentless = awesome.”

“Returning to the South Bay, you had the typical wankers hitting the gas, even though they had all been wearing invisibility cloaks on the Parkway. WTF?”

“Fucking endless list of riders who never pulled, not even once. That Pischon dude took a monster hit westbound on Lap One. Beastly. Prez got the bit between his teeth once, too.”

“Fast guys are fast: Lonergan, Hair, Davy, Eric, Big Steve.”

“So many people do this ride, get dropped and jump back in make it scary. I especially don’t like the guys who get dropped and then when the lead group catches them they feel compelled to jump towards, but never on, the front. Scary bunch of wankers.”

“Ride is awesome because when you get shelled you can hop back in. I’ve gotten hella stronger in six months and can almost finish the ride.”

“Post ride festivities indicate there is a real community feel that has developed from this ride. Kudos.”

“People taking care of each other is a good sign. The camaraderie is apparent and it’s contagious. This is beautiful. Saw people always stopping to help with mechanicals and flats. Just don’t see that much.”

“I wish I could do NPR more often!”

“Thanks to all the SB wankers for creating such a great ride and for making me feel a part of it.”

“Is this a regular ride? What time does it start?”

“Can you dig all the westsiders who come down for this? Legit.”

“Huge turnout, largest I’ve ever seen. Wanker to hammer ratio was decent.”

“Lots of fresh faced wankers I don’t know. Not so fresh faced at the end, just rent with shrapnel and had the look of the black plague about ‘em. They’ll toughen up.”

“Does this ride always have all these rocks? I fricking flatted. Yo, wankers, point shit out and help thy fellow rider, that is if you’re not riding over your head and can remove your hands from the bars without crashing out thirty people.”

“Great pace, not too fast, not too slow.”

“Fireman brought it home over Hair in a nail biter.”

“Great to see MMX out and briefly catch up. Dude’s riding strong.”

“Fuck that was a giant group festering at the pier before ride. The last time I saw that many idiots in one place was when I watched a joint session of Congress.”

“Every lap I poked my nose in the wind and soon thereafter thought I would be dropped.”

“The ride was incredibly hard. However I noticed several dingleberries at the ass end who were neither poo nor hair  yet were stubbornly there. Someone oughta shake them loose.”

“Post ride coffee looked like a class reunion. I almost got a phone number. These biker chicks are smokin’ hot.”

“Dave Perez likes having his picture taken. And why was he lying on the ground at Fukdude’s feet?”

“My favorite part of the ride:  Some wanker shouting ‘Stop riding on the rocks,’ as if those little pebbles were a problem. Pussy needs to ride a few miles in rural Madison County. He’d be praying for rocks. Our roads are paved with possum teeth, the bones of Republicans, and small bore bullets.”

“This Cancellara looking dude I’ve never seen in my life goes, ‘Hey is this the last lap?’ and I go ‘Yeah,’ and he goes ‘Then you lead it out, I’ll jump on your wheel and take the vee, ok?’ Uh yeah, sure, and you wanna pork me in the ass afterwards as well?”

“It was the fastest NPR to date, 24mph + average speed, not counting the boulders flying everywhere, fucking pachinko cycling at its finest as Trey flailed in the corner and broke his bike. Not that he cares, ’cause now he has an excuse to get a new one.”

“My legs are still sore in weird places from racing San Marcos with my fit all fucked up!”

“Can you introduce me to that cute chick I was riding behind? She is so hot.”

“I came to ‘sit-in on a social ride,’ because ya, SPY MMX is here, let’s be social because they are the BEST!”

“Ride started out super chill…seemed extra slow to the base of Pershing. Then people started flying and others started gasping, I was like, wow, do these hackers have medical clearance to be out here?”

“Can you introduce me to MMX after the ride? I’ve always wanted to meet him.”

“I set a PR on the whole ramp section meaning it was the fastest in a long time.”

“This just wasn’t even a social ride, I mean nobody really seemed to be in social mode unless that meant look to the person behind you and give them the ‘Noooo, you go!’ look or look ahead at where you can go to make everyone else have to go faster.”

“What’s wrong with people? Might as well attempt to take a pull, why not?”

“Surfer Dan told me to go to the front today and tell people he told me to. Of course he wasn’t there. Surfing.”

“I took a short pull that clearly seemed slow to everyone else because someone quickly came by me. Thanks.”

“Everyone seemed to be hurting a lot after about Lap 1. Wankers!”

“I went to the front when I could. Problem was that I kept jumping on wheels of people that liked to act like they were going to the front and then slow down like five wheels before it. Guyyyysss, that’s not the front!”

“After four laps we had completed what Strava records as the fastest total time for the four laps I have ever done with two laps being the fastest ever. So it was a damn fast four laps. Anybody who thinks it wasn’t hard was in the caboose.”

“I actually wanted to sprint, but I had never heard so much yelling, cursing, and wheels going squiggly! But, I was close enough to the front to see the people that were legitimately sprinting and I must say it was damn impressive!”

“When we turned off the Parkway a SPY guy, Perez, and a couple others went back to hammering. I followed. Another PR.”

“Ramp…fastest ever. Four laps…fastest ever. Return to Imperial…fastest ever. There was no fucking break.”

“They should call this the Lots of Rocks, Flats, Yelling, and Gasping Ride.”

“It was a huge ride that became much smaller once the gas got turned on. Props to everyone who kept getting back in the mix!”

“I felt like my head was a giant pimple that was about to burst!”

“What a bunch of whiners! Why would you come on a ride that is supposed to be a total beatdown and then complain when you get an awesome workout?”

“I say thank you to people after they get me through a workout that I never could have done alone. You just got stronger without asking for it!”

“Wanker crashed out turning onto Imperial on the way back. It looked like he pulled a Tink and just fell over. Hope he was okay.”

“NPR as of late and especially today: more LADIES, and all the ones that have been coming regularly are getting stronger and stronger!”

“The Pier almost sank from the weight…of bodies, not bikes.”

“NPR participants will lobby Manhattan Beach planning committee to widen the alley.”

“More horsepower today than the Arkansas Tractor Pull Championships. But not as many IQ points.”

“Big names, astonishing jerseys, 110 wankers. Doesn’t get much better than this!”

“Can your Tuesday AM ride do this?”

“Burlap Jack, Mountain Mouse, Pippy Aus-Stocking, the SPYfia family shooting the place up, guns blazing, bodies everywhere, blood gushing from new orifices, but afterwards everybody friendly as hell. Even Daniel.”

“In order to make the World Way overpass in the top 10 required having the tip of the saddle touching the lower intestine. Fuck that hurt.”

“Getting back to Westchester, the tip of the saddle was now rubbing the pancreas.”

“First lap was like a fuck’n MMA cage fight, with 20 dudes in the cage at once who only knew how to groin kick and eye stab. Nasty shit.”

“Second lap, beside the white boulders… there were flashes of white light…and fifty wankers pedaling triangles in the gutter as their heads spun around like Linda Blair. Hope they got their demons outed.”

“The so-called sprint was more like Custer’s Last Stand, minus the surprise. All the wankers knew the killing was going to happen. Scary shit.”

“Wankmeister, you’ve taught a lot of people that beatdowns are to be valued. Now could you teach them to Go to the Front?”

I know I really shouldn’t, but…(Part 2)

July 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

Spivey and I got the morning started off in his garage taking turns ripping our thumbs out of our palms. He had over-tightened the quick release on his front wheel, and by the fifth try we had wrapped a towel around our bleeding hands and were inventing new combinations of “motherfucker” and “shitfuck” and “goddamned cocksucker,” etc. This was the high point of our day.

We arrived in Encinitas and the SPY/Swamis participants on the Godfather’s 48th birthday celebration ride trickled in. They all had that gnarly, unpleasant, “Where’s my fucking coffee?” look that augurs ill for any bike ride.

MMX gave his customary speech, thanking everyone for coming and expressing his pleasure at the day’s route. We would do the Swamis ride through Elfin Forest to the church, then meander out up Summit to Bandy Canyon, back through Rancho, around by the lake and then home. It would be an “enjoyable” ride, according to the Godfather.

Those who knew him, which was most everyone, realized that it would be a crushing beatdown from hell. What better way to celebrate inching closer to death than with a punishing assault up and down the roads of North County?

The boys in yellow

In addition to the fifty-five riders from North County and environs, Alan Flores had made the drive down from Newport, Bill Holford from Long Beach, and Francois, Maxime, and Brieuc had rolled over from Annecy, France. They were part of the wheel engineering and marketing team for Mavic, who has just released the new C982X14.219 integrated hub-spoke-wheel-tire system. They’d come to California for the product roll-out, and also to kiss the signet ring of the Godfather. You can read about the whole thing here.

The Mavic wheel was fucking rad. The tubular and rim are seamless, so that when you rub your hand (or penis) along the rim up and over the tire there is literally no change in surface curve from the rim to the tire. It’s as if the tire and rim and molded in one piece. This reduces drag coefficient by 78.82 Å, but raises the drat coefficient by 17.8 Mofos, as changing the integrated tubular looks about as complicated as one of those charts that shows all the different parts of a woman’s reproductive organs.

When I asked Francois about changing the tire, he laughed. “It is so simple, in fact. We radio the neutral car and they simply come and replace the entire wheel.”

Of course. I’d forgotten that when you’re in charge of support for the Tour, mechanical problems are a cinch. We all got inordinate pleasure later on when Maxime needed to adjust his seat but didn’t have a wrench. I got to go around to everyone and say, “Hey, the Mavic neutral support guys need a hex wrench, 4mm. Anybody got one?” It was even more awesome when one of the guys did.

What was super cool about the Mavic guys was the way they “represented.” More than just engineers or marketing shills, these guys could ride. They took everything that the North County riders and roads could throw at them, and acquitted themselves more than honorably. It was cool to watch how smooth they were on the bike and how easily they fit into the peloton. I often got the feeling that they were taking it easy on us, in that golf-game kind of courtesy where it’s uncool to stomp the living shit out of the people you’re hoping to do business with.

Rolling with the rollers

Each time I’ve gone to North County for a ride, I’ve been crushed. The crushing hasn’t been administered solely by the heads of state, either. Chubby dudes on fixies. Girls on ‘cross bikes. Elderly gentlemen learning how to ride again after their triple bypass. No genera of rider has been unrepresented in the classification of “Stomping Wankmeister’s dick in North County.”

I’ve tried to figure out why that is, and after reviewing my past power files and carefully analyzing the Strava data, it’s pretty clear: I suck worse than they do. What else could explain getting dropped on Rancho by everyone, including that nice lady in the Seven jersey who just got into cycling in February? What else could explain having to lean up against Spivey’s car after the ride to keep from falling over after getting off my bike? What else could explain having the whole group wait half an hour for me to catch up?

Well, actually, there is a factor above and beyond my suckage. It’s the fault of the North County roads.

Unlike the South Bay, where you are either riding flat, doing huge climbs in the Santa Monica mountains, or doing steep medium-length climbs in PV, North County San Diego is just rolling. All routes. All the time.

When you roll out of Encinitas and start the Swamis loop it’s a series of short rollers. They’re hard because of the pace, but not steep. You can find a wheel and hunker down. Same for Elfin Forest–there are plenty of short zingers, but nothing to kick you out the back per se.

The problems start to accrue after about forty miles, when the incessant rollers have, like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water, gradually brought your muscles to a boil. You stand out of the saddle–perhaps on Summit, or perhaps on Bandy Canyon–and you realize that there’s nothing left. By the time the pack rolled away from me and Spivey on Rancho, even though we’d had a 20-minute break and a coke, we were at whatever level of flaildom comes after “Code 6 Wanker.”

The bikers who live and train in this shit all the time–the MMX’s, the David Andersons, the Victor Sheldons, the Erik Johnsons, the Ryan Dahls, the Stefanoviches, and all the other “gimme my fuckin’ coffee” wankers and wankettes–have no problem. For them it’s another easy or semi-challenging sixty miles in the saddle. For the Wankmeisters, Spiveys, and other poor bastards whose strength lies chiefly in their ability to imagine how great they are, it’s a total fucking beatdown.

How much of a beatdown? At the hip little breakfast joint afterwards, Spivey and I were so fucked up we couldn’t even mutter phrases of obscene admiration at the luscious cuties who brought us our oatmeal and burritos. Yep, that much of a beatdown.

Comparing apples to apples

Inquiring minds likely want to know how the North County Swamis-type ride stacks up against the local South Bay institution, the Donut Ride. Well, it doesn’t. Unlike the Donut, which lollygags all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks unless there’s a Sergio or a Rudy or some other legit rider with a bug up his ass, our route started hard, was hard in the middle, and finished hard. On the other hand, North County visitors such as MMX and Stefanovich have showed up on the NPR and after a few hard efforts quickly realized the importance of having a large group within which to find shelter and relief. The key point is that although those guys can come up to LA and hang with our rides, I certainly can’t go down south and hang with theirs.

Maybe with a bit of practice that will change. Or not. Unfortunately, as soon as I hear the phrase “Let’s go down south to ride with the SPY guys!” that old desire to join the ride wells up again, just like my third grade desire to talk out of turn. Wish I could repress it, ’cause I know it’s gonna end badly.

I know I really shouldn’t, but… (Part 1)

July 24, 2012 § 6 Comments

Remember how when you were a kid there were things that you knew were going to get you in trouble, and the trouble was totally going to outweigh the fun, but you did it anyway?

No?

Well, I probably didn’t hang around kids like you, or rather, your parents wouldn’t let you hang around kids like me.

My bane was talking in class. There was no surer way to get in trouble than to repeatedly talk in class. Mrs. Opal Smith, my third grade teacher who I was secretly in love with, tried to shush me by giving me the nickname “Mouth.” Since I loved her though, I loved the nickname, too. It was kind of her pet little lovey name for me, I thought.

Then she got to sending me to the principal, Mrs. Riley, which was a tad harder to square with my secret love theory. Mrs. Riley was a tall kind of linebackerish woman who wore pretty pink dresses and necklaces and could beat the living fuck out of your ass with a wooden paddle. I didn’t love her quite as much as I loved Mrs. Smith, but after she got good and warmed up and started huffing, what with me caterwauling and the paddle thwacking and her grunting it was okay for me, and seeing as how often we did it together I kind of think it was okay for her, too.

After a while Mrs. Smith started getting interference from Mrs. Riley. It was that “Can’t you control your own classroom?” kind of blowback, so Mrs. Smith took matters into her own hands by moving my desk into the very back of the room (mistake) next to the windows (another mistake) and then building a giant cardboard and pegboard wall around my desk so that I was in my own isolation unit (potential career-ending mistake).

The isolation wall was higher than my head, but if I raised my hand to be called on, my hand would poke out above the top and Mrs. Smith could say, “Yes, Mouth?” and I’d answer “12!” or “Four pumpkins!” or would slowly spell out the test word. My classmates thought it was hilarious, and I had the best ol’ time tucked back against the windows where I could watch the butterflies or wave at Mr. Vallieres, the janitor with the giant riding lawnmower who would always talk with me back in his workroom and tell me funny jokes and give me a piece of licorice now and again to and from my whippings with Mrs. Riley.

Isolation from the rest of the class made me even more aggressive in my talking, so pretty soon I quit raising my hand and just talked away. The other kids would catch snatches and bits and start laughing and it drove Mrs. Smith crazy.

When the new gun came to town

Mrs. Riley retired in the middle of the school year and she was replaced by Mr. Bradford, an ex-high school basketball coach who was about 6 feet and twelve thousand inches tall. He had a bald head and a booming deep voice and was the kindest, nicest guy you’d ever want to meet unless you got sent to his office for discipline.

One day Mrs. Smith, like Mr. Gorbachev many years later, “tore that wall down” after a particularly bad spate of unlicensed talking, and sent me to Mr. Bradford for some disciplining. “Well, hello, Seth!” he said with a smile, reading the little white discipline card that Mrs. Smith had filled out. “I see you have a problem knowing when to keep your mouth shut.”

Showing a deft defense, I didn’t say a word.

“Seems all cleared up now, though,” he mused.

I shut up some more.

“Tell you what. I’m going to give you something to talk about. And I’m going to give you all the time you want to discuss it. You can talk about it as loud as you please, in fact. Sound good?”

I shook my head.

“Well you see, Seth, Mrs. Smith says you’re the most talkative student she’s ever had. I don’t know whether to believe her or not.”

Sweat poured off my forehead.

“Before we get to discussing, I want to show you something.” Mr. Bradford opened his desk drawer and pulled out the biggest wooden paddle I’d ever seen. It looked longer than my leg and thicker than my head. It made Mrs. Riley’s paddle look like the backboard for a midget’s hairbrush. “Let’s get started, okay?”

I was frozen to the couch.

“I want you to get up, turn around, and grab onto the edge of that couch. But do me a favor, will you? Hold on tight. Because if you don’t you might go straight through that wall. Which is made out of brick. And you might die.”

I instantly calculated death v. ass whipping, and assumed the position. As the paddle came down it whistled through the air, shrieking like an artillery shell. The sound was so massive and loud and accompanied by such force that my feet lifted off the ground. In the milliseconds it took for the pressure to scream “PAIN” to my brain, I remember thinking, “That was so hard it didn’t even hurt!”

Seconds later I couldn’t breathe, and the next whack lifted me so high up into the air that I lost my grip on the couch and hit the brick wall with my forehead. Mr. Bradford went back to his desk and started working on some papers. I collapsed on the couch, sobbing. He’d occasionally look up and smile. “I’m here to talk if you want to, sonny.”

I’d sob a little more and shake my head and he’d go back to work. Once I calmed down and had wiped away all the tears, he put his papers down. “Why don’t you go back to class now? If you feel like you need to talk some more, just tell Mrs. Smith and have her fill out one of these cards and we’ll have another little chat. Okay?”

I nodded and went back to class. Nothing is worse than walking back to class with raging sore ass, and as Mr. Vallieres saw me go by he hollered. “Hey, little buddy. How about some licorice?”

I went into his workroom, breathed in the smell of gasoline and grease, and took the proffered candy. He pulled his red bandana out of his pocket, ran it under the tap and wiped my face. “You get back in there and keep grinning, buddy. Ain’t nobody gotta know but you and me. Don’t let ‘em see they got to you. Don’t never give ‘em that satisfaction.”

Mr. Vallieres, raised the son of a cotton sharecropper in Louisiana, taught me more than any teacher ever did.

The trout and the mouth

Some fish scientists once did a study with wild river trout. They put them into a tank with solid sides so the fish couldn’t see out, and placed the tank outside in a yard. Most of the fish would just swim around in the tank and eventually starve to death.

But a tiny percentage of the trout would jump out of the tank, where of course they would die on the lawn. The trout knew there was a small chance that they’d be jumping from the tank into an adjacent pool of water or perhaps a stream, and they’d have beaten the odds. So they took the chance and jumped, and died. I don’t know what the scientists proved, except that scientists are a bunch of sadistic fucks. But I know what the trout proved. They proved that there are only two kinds of wild trout: jumpers and starvers.

As soon as I got back to class everyone stared at me. They knew what crying eyes looked like, and most of all they could see my whipped and chastened appearance as I went back to my desk with that big old “I ain’t hurt” fake grin plastered on my face. I sat. Painfully. Proudly. Silently. For about ten minutes.

Because no sooner did Mrs. Smith start talking, than my brain started turning again. There was my favorite pretty teacher saying things, and asking questions, and telling other kids “Good answer!” and teaching up a storm, and before I knew it I had lots to say and contribute even though I didn’t understand the subject and dogged if I was going to sit there like a trout in a tank.

I was a jumper.

Without thinking or even raising my hand I said “It’s a verb!” even though she was asking a math question, and the class started laughing and she looked needles and hand grenades my direction and there I was…I knew I had to shut up…but there was so much to say…and that whipping hurt so bad…but the talking felt so good…but the whipping felt worse than the talking felt good…

The one thing that was going to get me into the worst trouble was the one thing I wanted most to do. Dog have mercy on the souls of those teachers.

Southbound

When someone mentions “riding in San Diego” I get that same bubbling-up happy feeling that I used to get sitting in my isolation unit in third grade when I’d vaguely hear Mrs. Smith say something and have the irrepressible urge to answer.

“Hey, let’s go do the Swamis ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, come on down to North County and let’s do a BWR training ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, come on down to North County again and let’s do another BWR training ride!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

“Hey, let’s do the BWR!”

[Bubbly happiness and enthusiasm.] “Okay!” [Followed by ass kicking beatdown.]

The reality of going to San Diego and getting thrashed is always a thousand times more horrific than the fun-ness (funnity?) of bundling up the bikes with Spivey and rolling south at 5:00 AM.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from “Pace Protection” Miller: “Hey, come on down to North County to celebrate MMX’s birthday with a Sunday ride! We’ll even do part of the BWR course! It’ll be fun!”

And me? What did I do?

I said, “Okay!”

Where Am I?

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