Awesome [censored] party!

July 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Huge props to BJ Hale and the whole SoCal cycling family for bringing everyone together last Thursday night to Surf City Cyclery in Costa Mesa, where CyclingIllustrated.com lifted off, officially, into outer space.

Like any good family party it had the usual cast of characters: Crazy Uncle Hank who sits out on the porch all day drinking warm beer and shooting BB’s at stray cats; Cousin Slinky whose clothes are two sizes too small and whose [censored] keep almost bursting to freedom; Grandpa Dinkums who’ll pull you over and talk for an hour about how in his day they raced on square bicycle wheels; Brother Slick who makes a mysterious living selling a mysterious product that always keeps him in Porsches and Armanis; Brother Goat who can’t do anything right and who could [censored] up a [censored]; and most of all Daddy Warbucks, the hard-driving head of the family who makes it all happen.

We had all come together to celebrate the launch of CyclingIllustrated.com, but before we celebrated we got to eat free Mexican food, drink free tequila, and scoop up awesome gift bags loaded with quality swag.

So what the [censored] IS CyclingIllustrated.com?

In a word, it’s “the passion of cycling.” Okay, make that four words. Unlike the antiseptic voices of CyclingNews and Velonews and Bicycling, deadly dull publications written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters, CyclingIllustrated is a new, vibrant, exciting voice written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters who actually race, along with the voices of men and women who make up the very top of the cycling elite.

CyclingIllustrated.com’s goal is to let top racers in all age groups and cycling disciplines share their insights with us, in their own words. In fact, after a quick analysis of the last 4,982 first-person accounts of elite cyclists, a recent study concluded that every successful cyclist has the same ten insights, which I’ve reproduced for you below.

  1. “Hard race.”
  2. “Attacked and got away.”
  3. “Sketchy sprint.”
  4. “No legs.”
  5. “Not my course.”
  6. “Good legs.”
  7. “Great teammates.”
  8. “That’s bike racing.”
  9. “Bah.” (Plus shrug.)
  10. “Mechanical.”

In fact, the video interviews and columns that CyclingIllustrated.com features on its web site offer a new and interesting take on the sport, because we get to hear the strategies, plans, successes, and failures from the very people we see every weekend. Their words help break down the intricacies of a race that might have seemed like one fluid blur. Their approach to a race shows the constantly shifting nature of fortune within each race, and how the slightest vagaries of wind, distance, speed, elevation, and composition of a break can completely alter the outcome of a race. Unless Richard Meeker’s in it, in which case there’s no [censored] way you have a [censored] chance in [censored] [censored] of winning.

The power of synergy

BJ Hale’s dream of a new cycling publication that draws on the very best writing and photography is an awesome one, not least of all because one of the key movers is Danny Munson. The cycling world is filled with photographers. It has a smaller but distinguished number of fine photographers. Danny is neither. He’s an artist, and he gives color, expression, depth, and resolution to the incredible moments in each race he shoots, whether it’s a CBR crit or the pandemonium of Tulsa Tough.

What was most incredible about the launch party, though, was that it showcased how many people and entities have come together to make this project a success. Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. The success of CyclingIllustrated, though, is more like a group [censored] where everyone keeps diving in for more.

So, without more fanfare, here are the people and entities that made it happen. Props to you all, in no particular order. If I’ve left out a name, let me know. This ain’t my day job.

Shimano: Galaxy’s most awesome creator of bike chain shifter thingies so that we don’t have to shift on the down tube anymore or pedal our [censored] bikes up Alpe d’Huez on a fixed gear.

Spy Optic: Galaxy’s most awesome supporter of grass roots cycling and maker of the best eyewear anywhere. From highest quality performance wear to Rx glasses that will get you [censored] in any club on earth, SPY is the best.

IRT:  Googled “IRT” and came up with “Indiana Repertory Theatre,” “International Raquetball Tour,” and “IRT Deadliest Roads Video.” Nope, none of those. It’s Inertia Racing Technology, which is a fancy [censored] way of saying “badass cyclocross wheels that can take anything you got and more.”

Mercury Wheels: Look, I don’t know squat about wheels. I still ride 32-hole aluminum rim clinchers, for Dog’s sake. But these things look freaking awesome. Slap a couple of these onto your ride and you might finish in Jamie or Charon’s zip code. Slap them on Charon’s ride and his wheels will cross the line before he does.

SDG Saddles: Some people say the most important part of the bike is where the rubber meets the road. I say it’s where your [censored] meets the saddle. SDG saddles make sure you go your fastest without rubbing your parts into a gooey mess.

Now Energy Bars: You know how sometimes you’ll be out there hammering and suddenly you just crater? It’s usually because you’re weak and undertrained, and so you’re hosed. But occasionally you’re bonking, and the Now Energy bar, made from healthy stuff, will bring you right back to the razor’s edge.

PROLAB: This arsenal of products “delays muscle fatigue” for both weightlifters and endurance athletes. I sure could have used a case of that [censored] at the San Marcos circuit race yesterday.

H2O: Now someone’s gotta help me out with this one. Water is our sponsor? That’s rad, don’t get me wrong…

Cytomax: “Ctyo” comes from the Greek root for “wanker.” “Max” means “the most.” Cytomax will help you get the most out of your wankerish attempts on the bike, with a balanced blend of electrolytes and other stuff your body need when you feel like your [censored] lungs are about to explode out your ears.

Jenson USA: If you want to buy bike stuff and are too lazy to go to the bike shop, or you live in LA and you don’t have ten hours to spend in traffic, or you’re too pooped from your epic 5-hour training ride, you can pretty much buy it here. Online. From the comfort of your own Big Mac and large fries. It’s okay. We won’t tell.

GU Energy: This stuff isn’t, thankfully, anything like it sounds. Rather, it’s the choice of champions. Squirt a little goo down your craw and you’ll come pounding back like a jackhammer.

Axiss Sports: I Googled this baby to a fare thee well. Crickets.

CalBikeLaw.com: When you get mowed down by some [censored] idiot who’s too busy texting or drinking or snorting coke, who you gonna call? CalBikelaw.com, that’s who! Headed up by two of the best personal injury attorneys in California, Gerry Agnew and Bruce Brusavich have been representing seriously injured Californians for over 38 years.

Skull Candy: Sometimes you need the right sound to crank out that extra ten watts. Skull Candy can deliver the tunes right where you want ‘em, when you want ‘em.

Caliente Southwest Grill: These folks MADE the launch party a party, because without great food it’s just a bunch of people in a bad mood looking at each other and ready to brawl at the drop of a hat. Their food is delicious! Wankmeister certified guaranteed!

Kenda: Awesome bike tires. Slap a pair of these on and motor down the road! If you’re looking for something to go cheap on, don’t pinch pennies on your chamois or your tires. And please don’t whine to me about the high cost of race tires. If you were on a motorcycle you’d spend $600 per pair per race. Feel better, wanker?

Bahati Foundation: Supports inner city youth by providing educational, musical, and athletic equipment. Motivational outreach and giving back is the hallmark of the foundation. Oh, and it also happens to be run by one of the best road sprinters this country has ever seen!

Europa Sports Products: All kinds of rad supplements to help you bike faster, pedal longer, [censored] harder, and achieve the athletic results to which you’ve set your mind!

Surf City Cyclery: This is like the giant granddaddy of all Specialized bike stores anywhere. If you can’t find it here, you’re probably looking for goat cheese or for a rebuilt alternator. This shop is [censored] awesome, with helpful staff, bottomless inventory, and customers who include some of the best racers in SoCal.

In conclusion…

It was a wonderful evening of fun, food, bike tire changing contests, and trying to figure out why everyone acts so different in mufti from when they’re cloaked in their superman get-up, helmet, and black reflective glasses. Like, that dude who you’re scared to even say hi to on the bike is just meekly standing over in the corner looking like he’s gonna cry because no one’s talking to him. That bruiser sprinter dude who can crack your scapula with one shoulder bump is as quiet as a toad in a hole. Of course I did leave before they drained the tequila keg…

In keeping with CyclingIllustrated.com’s tradition, they did an interview of one of the greats: Kenny Fuller, world champion. And in keeping with the Crazy Uncle thing, one dude came up and started badgering BJ, “So what is this, anyway? And why are you doing it? And what makes you think anyone is interested?”

We dragged him out into the alley and poured [censored] down his throat, but not before we explained that we think people are interested because of the 200 guests, the outpouring of support for the project, and the forty billion web visits that BJ gets every ten seconds.

So there.

Next time there’s a party…hope to see you there!

Ronde van Torrance

April 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

Sometimes even an important cycling blog like this doesn’t have anything interesting to say. So I will be concise and do this like rabbit droppings, you know, a little poop nugget here, a little poop nugget there.

Poop nugget one: Major Bob was a beast on Thursday’s NPR. He towed me all the way to the line in our trademark last-lap suicidal breakaway of death but I blew up, got caught by the pack, and finished behind the fat walrus guy with the backpack. Prez sank back to his usual wheelsuck and win-the-sprint M.O., but don’t laugh, as practice makes perfect and he won Sunday’s San Diego Cat 3 crit to ensure that he will remain aloft in the SoCal Sandbagger of the Year Competition.

Poop nugget two: Jack from Illinois( not his real name) joined Howard Hughes of the South Bay and me and the Chief, former master of all he surveyed, now confined to the miserable reservation of Saturday kiddie soccer games and delayed Sunday pedals so that his significant other gets in her Lululemon workout first, for a glorious coffee cruise. Chief began his comeback in earnest, which included pedaling the entire 250 yards from his house to CotKU, drinking a cup of coffee, and pedaling all the way back.

Poop nugget three: Friday night the world was in an addled state of consti-ticipation as each of the 125 million ticket holders gloriously made plans for spending his/her/its share of the Mega-Millions pot of gold.

“I’ll help ol’ Aunt Sukey by getting her a new house and a car and a 24-hour assisted care home nurse to pay her back for all those times she kept me out of juvenile prison.”

“I’ll start a foundation to provide a home for all the cats!”

“I’ll live quietly and modestly, keeping my wealth secret, while anonymously becoming an incredible donor to worthy causes everywhere!”

“I’ll fund a multi-million dollar ‘cross series to make it the biggest sport in America!!!”

“I’ll create trust funds for all of my cousins and nieces and nephews but set it up so that even though they’re rich they won’t be spoiled.”

“I’ll buy more hookers and blow than there are ‘fuggs’ in a captaintbag blog post.”

Frenziedly huddled around the computer screen, those same people who fall into the category of “voluntary taxpayers who don’t understand statistics or probability” looked grimly at the first few digits in the winning number, quickly scanning through each combination on their 73 separate tickets, numbly and dumbly acknowledging, gradually, that it really was true: Let’s say you know a Canadian. Then the names of every Canadian in Canada are put into a hat. You draw the name of the one person you know. There. Those were your odds of winning the lottery.

As the cold, hard numericity of statisticality and probabilityness sunk through the hardened outer core of almost impenetrable delusion, depression was quickly followed by beer, then tequila, then hatred for both Kentucky and Louisville, with the odd curse heaped on the heads of Tim Tebow and Kyle Busch. “Fucking stupid ass bullshit lottery fuckshit waste of money bullcrap shit. At least I’m still going riding tomorrow.”

Poop nugget four: “Tomorrow’s ride” was a semi-planned pedal arranged by Clodhopper, and joined in by Iron Mike, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), Howard Hughes of the South Bay (first group ride since 2006), New Girl, Pilot, Fussy, Hockeystick, Nancy, Guns, Knoll, Trixie, Junkyard, Tri-Dork, Toronto, Tumbleweed, Arkansas Traveler, Abercrombie & Fritch, and a bunch of other people who quit early because the day was a cold, rainy, miserable, nasty, cloudy, shitsoaked perfectly typical cycling day in Northern California, except we were in paradisiacal Southern California, where everyone is weak, spoiled, “soft around the edges and in the center,” and smart enough to choose hot coffee and a morning throw with the S.O. rather than six hours of slogging through shit on a bike.

By the time we reached Cross Creek all the riders with IQ’s higher than the ambient air temperature had packed it in, and our small cadre of idiots soldiered on towards Latigo. Nancy had kept going when we stopped at the Union 76 in order to get a head start on the inevitable droppage that awaited, and sure enough, even though I plowed so slowly up the infinite hell that is Latigo Canyon Rd., so slow in fact that Arkansas Traveler easily kept the pace and told me all the details of hairdressing in Appalachia during the days that it was still a hanging offense for men to be engaged in such occupations, we nevertheless caught and dropped Nancy as he crawled up the endless grade.

Upon arriving at the summit, we abandoned our “all for one, one for all” motto in favor of “all for one, one for all, except Nancy,” and bolted back home down Kanan Dume, a road favored by Junkyard so that he could get into a descender’s tuck and bomb the downhill in blinding rain and fog at 50 mph. I got home with 95 miles, more or less, and no Strava upload or WKO+ analysis to stand between me, the hot shower, the mountain of flapjacks, and bed.

Poop nugget five: While @mmaiko swooned over Fabs Cancellara and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the most amazing Twitter twaddle ever, and while thousands more cycle fans followed the whole sorry mess of racing over the cobbled climbs of Flanders, MMX, Stormin Norman, I, and a small cadre of idiots joined up at CotKU for the Sunday Kettle ride. It was uneventful except for the brutal beatdown along PCH, and we returned to Catalina Coffee in Redondo Beach for a hearty breakfast. Fireman was lounging in one of the chairs and we all sat around and made fun of people who have turtle tattoos on their legs, generally agreeing that if you’re going to tattoo your legs it should be with a death’s head or a giant cock or lightning bolts or a spread-eagled nude…anything but a turtle.

Poop nugget six: With 80 solid miles of hard riding on our legs we pedaled over to the Torrance Crit, where I raced the 45+ in the team SPY colors, proving myself a douchebag traitor to the noble Ironfly brigade with whom I’d raced all year. As we rolled out, Johnny and Alan gave me my instructions, which went something like this: “Look, you suck and are a traitorous vermin and are of no benefit to anyone plus we don’t like you. However, if, at the end of the race, there’s a chance to sneak up the road, do that hopeless crazyfuck suicide move you always do that fails and make the pack chase. We’ll chill if you’ve got the legs to hold out for the vee, which no one in their right mind believes you do, and if they pull you back, which is a mathematical certainty, we’ll be fresh for the finish.” With three laps to go I hit the gas, flogged like a harpooned goat for what seemed like forever, got reeled in with half a lap to go, and watched as teammate Jimmy M. skidded across the asphalt on the next-to-last-turn, grating off more butt flesh than an angry dominatrix in a spanking video. Not that I’ve ever watched one of those. Johnny got third, T. Rex got fifth, and Alan got seventh.

Then, the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me in over 30 years of cycling happened: T. Rex came over and stuck a $20 bill in my jersey. “That’s your share, dude. Good work.” I fainted, of course, and when I came to, numerous people patted my hand and explained that, yes, it did happen that even worthless wankers received a part of the take in a well-run team combine. “Holy fuck,” I yelled. “If you subtract that from the $50 entry fee, I only lost thirty U.S. dollah!!!” Then I fainted again.

It doesn’t smell exactly like teen spirit

September 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

Standing next in line for the Starbucks crapper on a sunny Friday morning is always an anxious thing. You’re there fidgeting because the bran muffin and strong coffee have stomped on the sensors hidden deep in your bowels, and the only real question is whether the person currently in the lockbox is there for a li’l freshen-up or for a seat-clenching full body purge. In my case, the door opened and a plump, middle-aged lady exited. That’s usually a good sign, because for some reason Manhattan Beach women seem embarrassed by leaving major detonation fumes when there’s a line. Perhaps it’s because there’s something that conceptually clashes with a $400 pair of yoga pants and a corn-studded, 14-karat bowl buster, or perhaps it’s because when they open the door everyone goes, “Eeeeeewwww” and looks them over with what is quite literally the stinkeye. Or perhaps it’s just that everyone knows that fully accessorized women don’t shit boxcars in public.

I stepped into the toilet and immediately realized that the ol’ gal before me had dispensed with embarrassment and answered with a hearty “Amen” what must have been a mighty loud call of nature. “Fuck you,” I thought, “game fucking on.” Yes, it would be a battle of the toilet gases, and no chick in a pink leotard was going to overwhelm the mighty issue of my crack if I had any say in the matter. Plus, everyone thinks their own shit smells good, so the sooner I let loose the sooner my vent would overpower hers, or at least neutralize it.

The cranking and rumbling and grumbling that ensued must have struck terror into those waiting outside. Combined with not one, not two, but three industrial flushes that shook the door on its hinges, the poor bastards outside were being put on notice that the next person inside the closet of doom would likely suffer permanent brain damage. With the bran muffin leading the charge, I fired off a reverse burping growl and plunk that sounded like a logging truck had dumped its cargo off a 40-foot cliff into a very deep lake. The folks in line were bathed in a cold sweat. When I finished, I boldly threw open the door just as a kindly old fellow looked up with a stir stick in his mocha latte. The eyes of everyone in line were glued to my hands, hoping and praying that I’d washed them before touching the handle (I hadn’t). The elderly fellow dropped his stir stick as the fumes triggered long repressed memories of mustard gas in the trenches at Passchendaele. I strode proudly out into the sunlight, a spring in my step, five pounds lighter and ready for the day.

Genius where you least expect it

Much as I had been surprised to see that sweet lady in the pink leotard unabashedly doing what she had to do, living in the South Bay cycling scene is likewise a life of continuous surprises. Sometimes it’s the surprise, shock, and awe at the sheer genius that resides in our midst. Over the last few years a seed has germinated here, grown into a mature plant, and spread its seeds quite literally across the globe. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the look of cycling has changed, and continues to change, and to change for the better, thanks in large part to Joe Yule.

Joe’s work is glaring for its simplicity and elegance. Although since the 80’s, cycling attire has been synonymous with “ugly,” for decades before that the cycling jersey motif was classy and attractive. Think Faema, Molteni, Peugeot…designs that were used when a team only had one sponsor and the real estate of the jersey didn’t have to be shared with fifteen other logos. In the hyper-modern world of cycling where everyone can have a team kit, where everyone can have his logo on the team kit, and where everyone can have input into how the kit should look, it’s no surprise that designing an attractive kit is hard to do.

Through his design and production company, StageOne Sports, Joe has done the impossible: he has made cycling clothing look good again, reconciled the noisiness of multiple sponsor logos, and effectively muzzled well-intentioned would-be contributors who are nonetheless fashion idiots. Would you let the cleaning guy advise your surgeon about which clamp to use? Joe’s genius is that he can accept your input and not make you feel bad that your idea is stupid and ugly and that he’s not going to use it. His work is a triumph of art, of will, and of gentle, skilled diplomacy.

You can see the effect that Joe has had on cycling’s new look by watching the various clothing iterations of the Garmin team. Although the Red Bull-crazed designers at RadioShack and BMC have still not grasped the Universal Law of Fashion, “Red Only in Small Amounts, Especially in the Crotch Area,” they have clearly adopted some of Joe’s theories of simplicity. Leopard-Trek’s designers might have done an internship with him. HTC-Highroad, unfortunately, is still using the teenage kid who’s a “whiz” with PhotoShop and who does those great montages where he can put a shark’s head on a cricket’s ass.

The effect of Joe’s genius is more glaring on local rides, however. Leaving aside that most new club kits coming out of the LA area are designed by him, the people who are still “rolling their own” have taken a cue from his lines, his simplicity, and his powerful use of understated color. The effect is that summertime airborne visual pollution is way down, and that fewer children wind up in the emergency room needing their stomachs pumped after accidentally ingesting the view of a passing peloton. One of my favorite companies on Planet Earth, Spy Optics, has rolled out its 2012 team kit designed by StageOne that is–to use the proper artistic term–motherfucking unbelievably fucking awesome. And you can quote me on that.

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