August 30, 2014 § 22 Comments
He was the kid your mom didn’t want you to play with, but you did.
“Dude,” I said as I rolled up to his shop, a small mountain of surfboard shavings piled in the corner. “I gotta be back by 10:30.”
“No problem,” he said. Even for him, 10:30 sounded like a reasonable time to start the day. “What’s going on?”
“I have to get a couple of documents back to clients and they need the drafts by noon.”
“What were you thinking of doing?” He had that smile, and fastened his helmet.
“Santa Monica, then Amalfi, down Sunset and over to Mandeville. That should put me back with a couple of minutes to spare.”
“No problem.” Smile.
In Santa Monica we started up Amalfi. “Hey,” said Surfer Dan. “You ever do Sullivan Ranch?”
“No,” I said.
“Wanna do it? It’s got a little stretch of pretty cool dirt.”
We were on our road bikes. “I don’t care what we do,” I said. “But I gotta be back by 10:30.”
As anyone who doesn’t know Los Angeles will tell you, it’s a concrete jungle. Surfer knows every nook and cranny of the city, and before long, high above the millionaire mansions of Brentwood, we were past a locked gate and climbing a steep dirt trail. “Glad I got these CX 2-mm’s.” I muttered a prayer of thanks to Moonshine, who had given me the tires a few weeks back. I dodged rocks and slogged uphill, barely keeping Dan’s ass in sight. We’d been climbing for miles now, ever since the base of Amalfi at sea level.
“You okay?” asked Surfer, smiling.
“Yeah,” I grunted. “Glad I got this 28-cog on the back, though.” My frame shuddered through another chughole.
A couple of mountain bikers came by, hanging on for dear life and giving us the crazy look. “You can’t do that,” their faces said. “You’re on road bikes.”
We came to another gate. Beyond it was a dirt road that went on forever.
“Wanna keep going?” Surfer ask-smiled.
“Look, man, I don’t care, but … “
“… you gotta be home by 10:30.”
“Let’s keep going, then.”
Now we were far from anything. There was only the sound of our tires crunching the dirt and our frames bouncing along the washboard and my labored breathing as we climbed, climbed, climbed, and Dan chattered on.
A long time later we reached an old deactivated Minute Man ICBM silo. We finally descended to pavement. Our bikes and we were covered from head to toe in dust, which made sense because I’d cleaned my bike that morning.
The road dumped out at Sepulveda and the 405, smack in the center of the worst traffic in America, as magical as if we’d walked through Alice’s looking-glass, from silence and endless green vistas that reached to the glittering sea to the thrum and impatience and sweating frustration of a million cagers locked in their steel coffins.
“How far are we from home?” I asked.
“Two hours if we drill it.”
It was 10:30.
“Let’s go, then.” I grinned at him and he grinned back. We put our heads down and pinned it, me and Trouble.
Of course I ended up being late, but I wasn’t, really.
June 14, 2014 § 17 Comments
Derek the Destroyer looked at me and began speaking. His speech was slow and syrupy, disembodied almost from the movement of his mouth. Through his sunglasses I could see his listless, dying eyes.
“Wanky,” he said as we coasted down the Latigo bump on PCH towards the filling station. “I wonder if they have any ham sandwiches there?”
We were 130 miles in. We’d climbed Yerba Buena, Decker, the endless undulations of PCH, and the backdoor bonus climb at Zuma Beach. Derek had gone from bonk to the far-away stare of death, and his brain had regressed to its most infantile state, the state where, as you ponder hunger and starvation and the slowly decelerating circles of your legs, the part of your brain responsible for mental pictures of food (the subcutaneous trochanter) begins flashing images that contain the food requirements necessary to keep you alive.
For Derek, it was a ham sandwich.
“Dude,” I answered. “The only thing that gas station has are candy bars and diseases on the toilet seats. There ain’t no ham sandwiches there. There ain’t no ham sandwiches for another ten miles. Maybe the ‘Bucks at Malibu.”
He nodded dumbly. He’d known the answer before I gave it. “But don’t worry,” I encouraged him. “We only have thirty miles left to ride today.”
Surfer Dan and Manslaughter churned away on the front until we reached Malibu. We stopped at the coffee shop. Derek bought a ham sandwich and a single chocolate-covered graham cracker. He chewed slowly, his eyes staring emptily at the bricks on the sidewalk. “1, 2, 3 … ” he counted to himself.
“What’s he doing?” asked Surfer.
“He’s counting the bricks,” I said.
“I, 2, 3 … ” Derek repeated.
“He can’t seem to get past three,” Surfer noted.
“He’ll feel better soon,” I said. “Tomorrow.”
If you Facebook it, they will come
I had innocently invited the general public to join me on a mid-week jaunt up PCH after tackling the morning New Pier Ride hammerfest. This nasty 160-mile, 8,000-feet, all-day butchering attracted a solid contingent of about fifteen riders, all of whom thought that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”
At the top of Yerba Buena, a godforsaken, crack-filled, pothole-scarred, 8-mile climb, we were only at the 85-mile mark. One by one we stragglers reached the summit that the Wily Greek, Surfer, and Derek had arrived at several hours before, and we were all thinking the same thing: “There’s no fuggin’ way I’m going up Decker after this.”
Decker is a beast in its own right, a 4-mile, 8% climb with a couple of super steep sections coming at the very beginning of the climb. In our case, it came at the 97-mile mark, and no wanted to climb it. The easy choice was simply to continue home along PCH. Decker would have been easy to avoid. All we had to do was pedal by it and say nothing. No one would have complained or jeered until we had gotten back to Manhattan Beach, after we were tucked safely into our bar stools.
Sadly, as we sat atop Yerba Buena and tried to collect our wits, Derek broke The Rule and voiced our fears. “Uh, dude,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do Decker.”
“Well, fugg those fuggers,” I said. “‘Cause I’m fuggin’ doin’ Decker.”
“Looks like you’ll be doing it alone,” he said.
“No,” said Manslaughter. “He won’t.”
The taste of one’s own words, chewed slowly
As we approached the left turn onto Decker, the Wily Greek slinked to the back and denied that he was really a Cat 1. Sammy claimed that today was a “rest day.” SB Baby Seal, who had manfully ridden me off his wheel on Yerba Buena, stared at his Garmin and tried not to look embarrassed. Toronto shook his head like a whipped mule that wasn’t going to walk one more step. Tumbleweed dug out and flashed his AARP card, and even the ever-resilient Frenchy made it clear that she had to get home in time to watch the paint dry. Boozy and Wheezy shook their heads.
Hoof Fixerman was blunt and unapologetic. “Time you wankers get home I’ll be on my fifth Racer 5.”
So Surfer, Manslaughter, Derek, and I pedaled off to our doom up Decker, which was a thousand times worse than we thought it would be. Like a bad kidney stone, however, it too passed, and once Derek had overcome his ham sandwich attack we pointed our noses home and flew down PCH with a whipping tailwind.
Back at the bar, Surfer ordered four plates of nachos, three pizzas, and a meat pie. The rest of us had a triple-beef bacon burger with bacon sauce and bacon dressing, topped off with bacon-flavored french fries with bacon bits. Manslaughter and I selected our favorite IPA in handy 32-oz mugs, and Derek ordered an 8-oz Michelob Weenielite, which doesn’t taste great and isn’t particularly filling, either.
The ride, which was only 155 miles but had swelled to 180 by the time Mrs. Wankmeister came to pick me up, had already become a legend in our own minds, a legend that could only be confirmed with another large mug and a visit to the ice cream shop next door. Everyone agreed that although it had been an epic unforgettable day, and although it had been worth it to see Derek exhibit for the first time the human trait of frailty, it was a complete waste of time, it had ruined whatever race fitness any of us pretended to have, and it was certainly the stupidest thing we’d ever done with the exception (perhaps) of getting into cycling in the first place.
So of course we’re doing it again next Thursday. See you there.
May 19, 2014 § 36 Comments
It started about three years ago when Surfer Dan showed up on a ride with stubble. Leg stubble. Being a hairy chap, a week later it was a solid coating of fuzz. By month’s end his legs were furry. Gorilla furry. Cavewoman furry. It was the most daring fashion statement anyone in the South Bay had ever made, and it sent shock waves through the peloton. What was worse, we all waited for the inevitable collapse in his cycling performance.
Everyone knows that hairy legs slow you down, lots. People have known this since the 1900’s, when early bike racers tested their legs in wind tunnels. With his hairy legs, it was just a matter of time before Surfer Dan would start getting dropped on group rides, dropped on the climbs, dropped in the crits he never raced, and dropped in the individual time trials.
Oddly, it never happened. Even with all that hair down there, he continued to break legs, put hard legs in the breaks, and remain the alpha Big Orange Cat 3 Who Should Be a Cat 2 Sandbagger.
It wasn’t long before Cavendish followed, and then Wiggins. Although not quite daring to go hairless down there, the British Duo began showing up at real bicyle races with facial hair, even though the old Romagna di Corleone Wind Tunnel tests from the early 1900’s showed that the only thing worse than leg hair was facial hair. (Experts will also tell you that having a smooth visage facilitates face massages, and, when you fall on your face and tear off your lips coming down Las Flores after writing a book about how to descend properly, the absence of facial hair allows the easier application of Tegaderm, etc.)
The inescapable conclusion is that it is now okay to ride your bike with hairy legs and furry face. Apparently the data from the mule-drawn wind tunnel of those early days was wrong: it is possible to ride a bicycle fast, or even fastly, certainly fast-ish, without shaving.
This presents a dilemma of sorts. If you let the hair grow out and enjoy the feeling of the breeze ruffling through the thicket in your thighs you will have to explain to everyone at work how it’s now OKAY and how it DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE A FRED and most importantly that YOU ARE STILL A FAST BICYCLE RACER. The first few weeks it will, however, be helpful to bring all your medals, ribbons, trophies, juice boxes, etc. to the office if you haven’t already just so people don’t forget that YOU ARE STILL LEGIT.
On the other hand, if you continue with your shaving ways you’ll have to continue that funny pose in the shower where you twist backwards while holding onto the soap dish while not throwing out your lower back as you try to get the little patch of incipient fuzz on those two tendon thingies behind your knee without slipping and ending up in the trauma ward.
For myself, I’m following the lead of Surfer Dan, G3, Wiggo, and the Manx Banana. Henceforth the only razor you’ll find in my medicine cabinet is Racer 5. For those who are on the fence, by going full hair you have nothing to lose but your ingrown red hair follicles about mid-thigh that get infected from sweat and bacteria and end up looking like you rubbed your crotch in an ant mound when you stand there in the mirror sucking in your gut while trying to get the abdomimals to poke out from underneath the protective layer of chub.
May 15, 2014 § 8 Comments
My alarm clock went off but I did not. So, at 7:30 I rode down to CotKU to at least say hello to the forcats du NPR, who were massed on the bricks drinking coffee, exaggerating their greatness, and minimizing the derring-do of others.
I minimized and exaggerated as best I could until Eric, Surfer Dan, Sam, Phoque de Paris, Chris, and AEPie-hole indicated it was time to ride some more. We approached the light at Beryl. “Which way?” asked Dan.
“Let’s do Gussy’s Cobbles,” I said.
“Gussy’s? You mean mine.”
“No, those cobbles were discovered by Gussy. He showed them to me about six months ago and I’ve been doing them ever since.”
Surfer Dan sighed. “Wanky, they’ve been a Strava segment called ‘Tha Surfer Dan’ for well over a year. That’s my turf.”
We flew through the stop sign at the end of North Harbor drive, dashed through the parking lot, and shunted onto the gravel-and-cobbled walkway that threaded between two concrete posts. Any error here and you were gash.
Through the posts the mini-cobbles led up a grass-stone-dirt-tree root embankment and we charged, full bore, Surfer Dan in the lead until he veered off to the right. Unbeknownst to me, “Tha Surfer Dan” Strava segment went right whereas the “normal Wanky commute” went left.
Erik, charging hard on my left, also veered right at the top of the embankment, precisely where I began to drift left. There is no better epilogue to a Strava segment charge than taking out your good friend and teammate, but unfortunately we only smashed bars and untangled at the last minute.
Everyone else laughed and cat-called as we hustled our way up to Catalina.
A happy disrespect for the usual
Ever since the first Belgian Waffle Ride in 2012, I have been impressed with the SPY Optic motto of “A happy disrespect for the usual way of doing things.” But I never really understood it until Tha Surfer Dan.
Over the last two years I have altered my perspective about road bicycling. I used to think that road bicycling meant pavement, but the BWR taught me that there are other paths you can take using the same things you have always used. New paths, different paths, exciting paths, not limited to cycling.
Tha Surfer Dan was a little mix of grass and mini-cobbles I would have never sought out before 2012. Now I went out of my way to ride it.
At the top, Surfer Dan said “Let’s do a couple of climbs. Anybody up for Dirty del Monte?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Instead of going up Via del Monte the usual way, we hop onto a dirt track next to the library, go up a wall, empty out onto the golf course, then go up another dirt track, follow an abandoned road, and come out near Paseo del Sol.”
This seemed very happy and very disrespectful to the usual way of climbing Via del Monte. “I’m in,” I said.
“There’s a chute you’ll have to walk up, though,” he said. “I’ve never made it to the top without dismounting.”
Far from the madding crowd
Riding in Palos Verdes is weird. You’re in the heart of Los Angeles but it’s mostly quiet and almost rural. There are hardly any shops or stores and almost any road takes you up to breathtaking views of the Pacific. Nothing prepared me for Dirty del Monte, though. It was like being spirited into a different world.
We blasted off the pavement and up the narrow dirt track, suddenly surrounded by trees and shade, and the noise of traffic was instantly obliterated. We beat the pedals until we mounted the wall, dumped out onto pavement, and a few moments later were again ensconced in the silence of the trees. We clawed our way up and up and up until the dirt track gave way to an abandoned and overgrown narrow strip of shattered pavement.
On every side were trees, and each sharp turn threw out another priceless view of the ocean and the bay all the way to Malibu.
It finished almost before it had begun, a 1.5-mile dirt climb straight up the face of the peninsula on road bikes and narrow tires.
No one said a word. We stopped our bikes and caught our breath. Whatever we were feeling, it wasn’t disrespect. But on the other hand, it wasn’t usual, either. Finally, I understood.
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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.
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.