April 11, 2014 § 30 Comments
If you don’t know Adam Myerson, he’s a member of the Lost Generation. These were the guys who came of age during the reign of Lance, and unlike Hincapie, Vaughters, Leipheimer, and those who have gone on to profit greatly from their misdeeds, Adam took the Nancy Reagan option. He just said “No.”
Adam and I are friends on Facebook, which is to say that since we’ve never met we’re not friends at all, at least not in the way that I grew up understanding the word. Rather, I lurk when his posts pop up on my feed and I like his approach towards cycling in particular and life in general.
Yesterday he opened up with a simple question. “Is there a medical term for the long term stress caused by being taken within an inch of your life, every day, multiple times a day, for the simple act of riding a bicycle on a public road?”
I glanced at the tail end of the comments and was surprised by the number. I was also surprised by the tenor of at least some. This was pretty much a softball question that any rider could relate to. Nothing is more ubiquitous in road riding than the constant fear of death and mutilation, and no preparation is more essential to the task of cycling than mentally girding yourself for the physical, verbal, and emotional onslaught that is the price we pay for daring to take our legal piece of the pavement.
Blame the victim
Incredibly, at least one commenter (since self-blocked and self-deleted) put the blame, or at least tried to shift it, on Adam. Surely there was something in his riding that precipitated at least some of this hostility?
All hell didn’t so much as break loose as it organized a freedom train.
And although the pro-Adamites greatly outweighed the anti-Adamites, the dialogue quickly assumed the air of a back-and-forth about who follows the rules and who’s a more law-abiding cyclist. All I could think was, “What the hell does that have to do with it?”
The price of pedaling
I know a lot of people who take great pride in their letter-perfect traffic behavior. I’m not one of them. I follow the rules when it’s to my advantage and I break them when they aren’t. I can feel the daggers when I cruise through controlled intersections, and I can hear the honks when some jackass in a giant pick-up vents at my infraction of the moment.
He can kiss my ass, because until the laws are set up to protect me, I’ll keep on surviving, thanks very much. As a reminder of how worthless you are on a bike here in SoCal, Jorge Alvarado’s killer just received the incredible sentence of 90 days in jail. We wouldn’t want to ruin that kid’s life, after all.
Nor am I on a mission to make cagers love me. The ones who accept me, accept me. The ones who hate me, hate me, and the ones who are going to mow me down because they’re texting or drunk or fiddling with the radio, well, I can’t do anything about them anyway. The only ones I care about are the crazies who want to kill me, and they’re not going to be mollified just because I put a foot down.
As Adam said, more or less, why should the price of making a mistake on a bike be death?
Post traumatic jackass syndrome
The unfortunate answer is, “Dude, that’s just how it is.”
But what’s more unfortunate is that his original question was such a good one. What do we call the mental condition of being constantly under assault or threat of assault?
I think PTJS is a good start, and although I can’t really describe its symptoms, I can describe the absence of them. Take the bike path and you’ll see what I mean. Suddenly, the cager exits your mental picture. As you pedal along the path you’re watching for peds and bikes and dogs and kids and skateboards and roller skaters and perhaps also the first thong of spring, but you’re doing it without the constant awareness of whether or not you’re about to receive a 1-ton solid steel enema.
There is a lightness to your grip on the bars and a relaxation of your shoulders and neck. You’re no longer afraid.
There. That’s the thing that riding on the road hangs around your neck no matter how good, how fast, how quick, or how experienced you are. The factor of fear, sometimes slight and sometimes screaming so loudly that you tense up enough to taste your own death, that’s the thing that you take with you when you’re wresting your legal piece of pavement from the jaws of the cagers.
The safety of the bike bath
Of course many riders eschew the beach bike bath in the South Bay because they claim it’s far more dangerous than street. They may be right.
Surfer Dan was pedaling along and prepared to pass Mitzy and Bohunk on their cruiser bikes. “On your left!” he said, loud enough for them to hear but not so close as to startle them.
Mitzy moved over, as she and Bohunk were hogging the whole path, but Bohunk didn’t budge. Dan eased over to pass. “Slow down, asshole!” snarled Bohunk.
Surfer Dan is a pleasant fellow, I suppose. But he’s also a coiled pack of solid muscle, the kind of muscle you get from a lifetime of surfing big waves, and he’s a coiled pack of mental muscle, too. You don’t earn your place in the lineup just because you surf well. You earn it because you can defend it, too.
Playfully, Dan looked at Bohunk, a giant, hairy, stupid creature who oozed ill will. “Please, don’t!” Mitzi begged. This obviously wasn’t Bohunk’s first brawl on the bike path and you could tell he relished the opportunity to beat up another wimp riding around in his underwear.
Dan grinned at Bohunk and said, softly, “Wanna go?”
Bohunk lunged for the bait. “Fuckin-A, you asshole! Let’s go!”
Dan eased his rear tire to within an inch of Bohunk, ready to whack the cretin’s front wheel out from under him in case the guy was crazy enough to try and get into a fist fight over being passed on the bike path. He had no intention of cutting his knuckles on this guy’s teeth. Bohunk reached out his left leg and aimed a mighty kick at Dan’s bike, but Dan easily moved over just as the full thrust of the extended, trunk-like leg fully extended into the open air.
Bohunk lost his balance and splatted hard on his shoulder, bouncing his concrete-like head against its brethren, the asphalt of the bike bath. With a long smearing sound of skin against pavement and sand, the aggressor then fouled the rest of himself up in the still-moving chain and rear wheel.
“Have a nice day!” Dan said, smiling as he rode off.
I’m guessing that he’s not suffering from post-traumatic jackass syndrome as a result.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident click here for legal assistance.
July 29, 2013 § 4 Comments
How did I get into this? I’m already at Part Five and haven’t even finished boring you with the group ride. It’s Sunday at 8:40 PM. I spent the entire day at the San Marcos crit getting dragged around the windy, hilly course by sadists. Now I have no idea how I will finish this stupid blog. Oh, I know! Bullets! Or better yet, finish the group ride saga with a numbered list!
- Dropped on the climb up Lake Hodges.
- Flailed with Dandy Andy and Hatchetman.
- Laughed at by Surfer Dan as we hit the sand trail because I veered off the trail a bit.
- Laughed at Surfer Dan a few miles later when he launched off the sand trail and into the bushes.
- Obliterated by Stinger, Lars, Ryan, MMX, Zink, THOG, and everyone on the rock garden trail.
- Obliterated by same up sandy wall Questhaven climb.
- Obliterated by Josh, Alan, Lars et al. on the run-in to Encinitas.
- Swore to never return to North County ever again.
Make it to the church on time
My LAX flight left at 4:30. It was a long way from San Diego County but doable unless the traffic was bad. The weekend traffic in the afternoon from San Diego to LA is always bad.
We got back to Encinitas at 12:30. My bike was covered in dirt and sand and gunk and filth. So was I. There was no time or place to bathe before I had to swap out my kit for jeans and a t-shirt so that I could go straight to boarding when I got to the airport.
I stripped on the sidewalk wrapped in a towel. I grimaced at the thought of how the sand and dirt were going to feel trapped inside my jeans on a 2-hour drive and 6-hour flight.
Then I noticed gushing rivers of sweat pouring off my body. I slipped on my underwear. I took off the towel. I used the streaming rivulets of sweat to wet the towel and scrubbed.
Sweat is a great cleaner. It kept pouring off my skin until the towel was a soaked sweat rag. Pretty soon I’d wiped off all the grime so that I was sparkly clean with a twinkly shiny layer of sparkly sweat. There was a clot of sand between my toes that I couldn’t clean with the sweat, so I worked up a good gob of spit and drooled on my foot. Then I toweled the hell out of it.
I suppose the nice families sitting outdoors at the Lofty Bean coffee shop didn’t often see a grown man standing on the sidewalk in his underwear spitting on his feet. Perhaps that is why they stared, but I left before the police arrived.
Next issue: Surfer Dan and Wankmeister swear a pact to never eat any junk food ever again, not even if they happen to pass by a 5 Guys burger joint while ravenously hungry after the hardest bike ride of their lives, and they especially swear not to do such a thing if it would make them miss a very important flight that they were already cutting way too close anyway.
July 28, 2013 § 24 Comments
The great thing about cutting your teeth with Austin’s Violet Crown Sports Association in the early 1980′s was the way you learned how to ride your bike while profoundly high. Although I never inhaled, every Sunday ride featured numerous dirt road detours. Each time a detour passed through a low water crossing — and oddly, they all did — someone would shout “Low water crossing!” and the whole crew would come skidding to a halt.
Out would come the sacred hemp, and these hardened bike racers would puff and suck hard enough to send smoke signals to Oklahoma. It was these rides that made me wonder why pot was considered a performance enhancing drug, because I noted that once everyone was completely high, they would leap on their bikes and ride with a speed and intensity that was, uh, mind blowing. Incredible feats of speed, power, jumping, sprinting, and crazy mad high-speed bike skills were displayed such as I’d never seen before or since.
Problem was that it was pot, which meant the amazing displays only lasted about three minutes and sometimes less, after which the pace would crater down to thirteen mph, lazy conversations would ensue, much commentary would be had on the beauty and unusual shapes of the clouds, and everyone would begin to think exclusively about pizza. Want to ride the Tour on ganja? Really? Go for it, dude.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it sure is fun
Sometimes we would take so many dirt roads that the seemingly inexhaustible supply of drugs would run out, which meant that instead of stopping at each low water crossing we would blast through them. They were frequently covered with water, and when roads were paved it could get tricky because the entire pavement was underwater and the edges were often covered with mud and moss and algae.
It only took a couple of falls to learn that generally the safest line through a low water crossing was the center because that’s where the water was moving fastest and the chance of hitting snot-slick mud or moss was lowest.
We were now more than an hour into the MMX Deathday Celebration. It had started horribly enough.
“Just up here there’s a climb,” MMX had said.
“Oh yeah?” I was riding next to him on the front to show everybody that I wasn’t afraid to go up where the wind was strong and the pace was bitter (it was later pointed out that I was only there for five minutes and it was the beginning of the ride when we were mostly stopped at stop lights).
“Yeah. About half the field will get dropped and quit here.”
I waited for him to say, “Except you, of course.” But he didn’t.
“So, uh, what about me?”
He stared stonily ahead.
The problem with MMX was that for all his soft and fuzzy qualities, exaggeration wasn’t one of them. To the contrary, whenever he spoke he considered his words for their precision before uttering them. The down side of this exactitude was that when he said something would be “hard” or “everyone would quit” or “many would die,” it always turned out that way. But the good side was that, well, I suppose there wasn’t a good side.
We hit the first climb and everyone except Stinger, MMX, and Olivery Stanle got shelled. I somehow chased back on even as the donuts and McBreakfast were chasing up my esophagus. I got kicked out the back on the next roller and flailed by myself for a few minutes until I reached the regroup spot.
The next thing I knew, MMX, David, and I were barreling down a narrow country lane a hundred yards or so ahead of the lynch mob. The road went through a low water crossing. MMX took the middle line at full speed, as did David and I.
Surfer Dan, back in the chase mob, had not spent enough of his early life stoned on a bicycle going full gas through muddy water crossings while choking on donuts, so he took the line along the right edge. A few pedal strokes in, he noticed that he was in the air, moving sideways, with the pavement coming up towards his face at a rather dramatic pace.
Before conking his noggin on the ground he whacked his neighbor’s thigh with his head. Filled as it was with dense and clever and high-quality brain matter, the weight of his skull thumped the neighbor’s leg with such viciousness that it knocked the neighbor’s bike out from under him as surely as a stick in the spokes.
Surfer Dan, dropping into the slime at a ridiculous angle as he set up for the bottom turn, slashed hard to the left and came up with a perfect drop wallet Larry layback. Just as his rear derailleur started to purl, he yanked on the left rail and stuck his head into the cascading wall of mud, getting totally covered for several full seconds. Unfortunately, he failed to make the full barrel as the door closed on his head, jacking his fork up under the mud lip and sending him sprawling into the foam.
Neighbor, who he’d dropped in on, tried valiantly to pigdog the vertical face but ended up, like Surfer Dan, flat on his ass and getting dragged over the reef.
We stopped to count the dead and wounded. Two riders down, one trashed wheel and one mortally wounded derailleur hanger.
Dan had landed on his hip and slid thirty feet through the slime, so naturally he was laughing. “That was fun! I toldja this was gonna be a fun ride!”
“You are clinically insane,” I advised.
Neighbor’s wheel had lost four spokes and was more out of true than a speech on the floor of the Senate. “Are you gonna continue?” MMX asked, and it wasn’t a question.
“Sure,” said Neighbor. “Worst thing that could happen is the wheel could explode and kill me.”
Everyone agreed this was a minor issue and unworthy of further discussion. “What’s the rest of the route?” asked Neighbor.
“The usual route, plus three miles of sand and five miles of off-road rock garden mud climb plus sandy wall of death up vertical face,” MMX advised him. “You’ll be fine. Or not.”
As we applied pressure to Surfer Dan’s severed iliac artery and stanched the blood with a strip of tube, a boot, and a Clif bar wrapper, the gang of jagged-toothed barracudas remounted. Now that hardly anyone was left but the certifiable crazies, the ride could begin in earnest.
July 27, 2013 § 16 Comments
Only one person gets up for me at 4:30 AM. It’s not my wife and certainly not my kids. On Sunday morning, legs still aching from the Donut thrashing the day before, I drove over to rendezvous with Surfer Dan.
He was standing on the street corner, bike and knapsack at the ready.
“You want coffee?” I asked.
“No, I’m good.”
“I’ve already eaten.”
We jammed our two bikes into the Prius and headed south. “Any predictions for MMX’s birthday ride?”
“Let’s hear ‘em.”
“Only one, actually. It’s going to hurt. A lot.”
After half an hour on the deserted freeway I noticed that Dan’s hands were shaking. “You sure you don’t want any coffee?”
“No, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“You gotta be hungry.”
“No, I’m not. What about you? If you want to stop, it’s fine with me.”
“Oh, no. I’m fine. I had coffee and yogurt and oatmeal and fruit before I left. I’m full as a tick. Couldn’t eat another bite.”
I was getting more nervous about the ride. “So how bad do you think it will be?”
Dan reflected for a moment. “I’m guessing that on a scale of one to ten, it will be on a different scale.”
No doom impends like the doom of a horrific beating on the bike. “What’s with these fucking North County rides? Why are they so hard? And why do we keep going down to them?”
One thing I liked about Dan is that he thought bike riding was fun no matter what. One thing I hated about Dan is that he thought bike riding was fun no matter what. “What’s fun about getting your head staved in?”
“Oh, it’s not just that. There’ll be a big group. The ride will start so fast that half will quit in the first hour. Then we’ll get pummeled up hill and down dale for the next three hours. It’ll be a blast.”
We drove a little longer. “You sure you don’t want any coffee or food?”
“Me, either. Plus I hate fast food. That stuff is nasty.”
“Yeah, I hate it too.”
“All those chemicals.”
“Did you know they put arsenic in McChicken?” I said, outraged.
“Can’t even believe people eat that shit. It’s so bad for you.”
“Yep. And their breakfasts are just as nasty. Stuff is made in a trash compactor, spray painted, and doused in chemical smells to make you think you’re eating real food.”
“It’s a pretty messed up society we live in, eating industrialized food like that,” Dan agreed.
We drove a little longer.
“You need to take a leak?” I asked.
“I need to take a leak. Let’s pull into this McDonald’s.”
“There’s no Mac here.”
“Sure there is. Exit Pico and it’s about a quarter mile down on the right.”
“How’d you know that?”
“I, uh, have to take a leak a lot on the way back from San Diego.” We pulled into the parking lot and went in. “Man, that sure smells good,” I said. “I mean, it smells good for nasty industrial chemical shit.”
“Does, doesn’t it?”
“Let’s get something to eat,” I said.
“Might as well. It’s gonna be a long day.”
We each ordered two sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddles (550 kcal x 2), hash browns (150 kcal), a sausage burrito (300 kcal), a small nonfat yogurt to keep it healthy, and we split a tub of cinnamon McMelts. We washed it all down with a large coffee and then ambled off to the toilets where whole sections of bathroom tile were blown off the walls.
Welcome to Leucadia Donut Shoppe
We got to Encinitas way early and had nothing to do. “You ready for some more coffee?” I asked.
“No, I’m good.”
“Me, too. Do you like donuts?” I asked.
“Love ‘em. But I’m stuffed.”
“Me, too. Leucadia has the best donuts in SoCal.”
“Really. They’re sold out by eight o’clock. But I’m stuffed.”
“Yeah, if I eat another bite I’ll bust. Where is it?” Dan was curious and we had nothing else to do.
“Just up the road. We can swing by so you’ll know it for next time.”
We drove by. The windows were down and fresh donut smells wafted into the car. “I’m fucking stuffed, Dan.”
“You should check the inside of this place out, though. It’s awesome.”
“Sure. Let’s do it.”
We went in just as the fellow who ran the place was bringing out a fresh tray of golden glazed donuts. “How may I help you?” he asked.
“One glazed for me. And one for him. And a couple of cinnamon, and two chocolate old fashioneds.”
“And an apple fritter!” Dan added, with a little fleck of drool coming out of the corner of his mouth.
“And an apple fritter.”
We sat out on the patio and ate the donuts. “I feel sick,” I said.
“Me, too,” said Dan.
“What were we thinking?”
“I’m not sure we were.”
“Looks like it’s about time to ride.”
We drove over to RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas. There were about sixty warriors milling around. They all looked ill-tempered, as if they’d been forced to get up early and the only thing that would make them feel better was to smush a pair of weak and overfed L.A. cyclists into a bloody pulp.
“Hi, guys!” I said cheerily. “Gonna be a fun day, huh?”
Everyone looked at me like I was crazy. Brent stuck his head out of the shop. “There’s bagels and cream cheese and coffee if you guys are hungry.”
I looked at Dan. Dan looked at me. “I’m fricking sick from those donuts,” I said.
“But let’s at least go in to be polite.”
Inside the shop was a big platter of poppy seed bagels and cream cheese with jam and coffee. We each had a bagel.
“All right,” we heard MMX say outside. “Time to ride.”
Things were suddenly not looking very good.