October 23, 2016 § 2 Comments
The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards wrapped up with hardly any controversy! There are too many people to list for their wonderful contributions. No, wait, that’s not true. This is the Internet and there is absolutely no limit. So here goes!
First off is Diego Binatena, from Base Cartel. Why Diego? Because I fucking forgot to thank him last night, out of all the people who deserved mention. Bottom line? Buy his shit. It’s awesome and he’s a good dude.
This year the event hit the medium-time thanks to the Southern California and Nevada Cycling Association. They kicked in a ton of money and funded the toilets, the lights, the sound, the stage, free food, chairs, tables, pro photography services, and half the beer. In short, they made the event! My only question is this: Where were all the SCNCA award recipients? Jeez! What is it about “free food, free beer, and cash prizes” that you bike racers don’t understand?
The plus side was that there were plenty of SCNCA recipients to come collect their trophies and cash, and no group better represented the spirit of the night than the crew from SC Velo. What fantastic bunch of kids. I think they may have even learned new cuss word or two. I always take pride in mentoring the youth.
Anyway, on to the thanks!
Jan Luke, SCNCA President. Made shit happen. Made this partnership happen. Lugged in the trophies. Lugged out the trophies. Was awesome in every way!
Chris Black, SCNCA Vice President.
David Huntsman, SCNCA Secretary. Lawyer, advocate, friend, guy who has done so much to breathe new life into SCNCA.
Armin Rahm, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, dad, promoter, businessman, friend. Showed up to show the Amis how a Bavarian drinks beer.
Justin Williams, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, cool guy, friend. Ready with a quip and encouragement, hell of a bike racer.
Suzanne Sonye, SCNCA Board Member. Legend, legend, legend. Oh, and legend.
Matt Wikstrom, SCNCA Board Member. Mr. Git R Done. Handed out checks, coordinated everything for two months before the shit show, brought more goodwill, enthusiasm, and execution to the event than anyone since Dan Martin and Marc Spivey. Plus kicked the shit out of everyone on the Donut. Except those two pesky juniors.
Sean Wilson, SCNCA Board Member.
Omar Lozano, SCNCA Board Member. Promoter, dad, husband, and part of the “new face” of bike racing promotion in SoCal. Enthusiastic hard working dude who supports juniors, local, and binational racing.
Dan Munson: Simply the best. Pro photographer. Even as I write this he’s putting together a folio of the amazing evening. Prepare to be blown away.
StageOne: Designed everything. Logo, t-shirts, patches, bar tape, banners, posters, and virtually every kit worth looking at in the South Bay.
South Bay Wheelmen: Local bike club that kicked in hard cash to buy flowers for the lovely deserving recipients.
Wend Wax: Chain wax. Look. This shit works. So go get some. Ryan Dahl generously donated 20 sets of Wend Wax, a billion dollar retail value, for the award winners’ swag kits. So frigging cool.
JoJe Bars: Energy bars. John Abate and Jessica Cera’s amazing energy bars that are organic, wholesome, taste great, and give you an amazing kick in the shorts when you need a boost on the bike or off.
Beachbody Performance: Everything you need to win, to finish, or to prop your legs up on the couch and watch the Cubs win instead of riding your bike. Beachbody has been the number one step up and deliver new sponsor for cycling in 2016.
Dan Martin: Wanky Committee member who made the awards and handled logistics for toilets, chairs, stage, setup, everything. The awards are artwork. If you get one, treasure it. The time, effort, love, and care he put into every award is just unbelievable. There’s only one Dan, and we’ve got it.
Marc Spivey: Wanky Committee member who filled the venue with the right sound at the exact right time. Marc’s lifetime in the music and entertainment industry, and his passion for music has meant that every single year we’ve had sound that matches or exceeds the most famous award ceremonies anywhere.
Derek Brauch: With the help of Jami, put together the most awesome Wanky Swag Bags™ ever. Provided us with meeting space for our numerous and redundant meetings, the best analytical mind around to improve, question, improve, question, and improve until we were even better than the year before.
Trey Smith: The ghost in the machine. Every year Trey provides us with incredible sound that makes the whole thing happen.
Keedar Whittle: Fantastic comedian who kept people in stitches, hit the great stuff, didn’t shy away from politics, race, and biking, and left us all happy and glad he came.
Michelle Landes: Arranged flowers, total selflessness, and was there with a smile, encouragement, and assistance every step of the way.
Chris Gregory: Truly the Spirt of the Wankies. Whether it was ordering the Hall of Fame figurines, designing and making, the necklaces, choosing and assembling the invitations, recording and double-checking RSVPs, taking photos at the event, making elegant podium presentations, keeping things running smoothly, and always helping me just when the confusion was at its max, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to do it.
Lisa Conrad, Sherri Foxworthy, Stephanie Lin, Chris Gregroy: These four amazing women have been with the event since its inception, if “inception” is what you call a bunch of drunks in a dive bar trying to give away awards to passers-by. From the minute we said “Wankies” they donned their evening finest and showed up with shimmering with beauty, poised, happy, funny, gentle, and they’ve been here every year since. Truly, no matter how rough and sort-of-ready the biker gang crowd is, they give us all the class you can’t get all sweated up on a bike.
Jami Brauch: Jami artfully designed and stocked the swag bags despite having a newborn to care for–the bags were so great this year that people simply couldn’t resist stealing them. Can’t wait for next year!
Kristie Fox: She helped with the swag bags, she set up and managed the sales table (books, socks, bar tape, patches, t-shirts), and she singlehandedly ordered and delivered the most massive and awesome cake in the history of the awards. And cupcakes! And done with a smile and ruthless efficiency.
Strand Brewing Co.: No mere words can thank Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello for this amazing venue, for their support of grass roots cycling, and for providing the infrastructure and support to pull of this best-ever event. Oh, minor detail! FREE take-home growlers of White Sands DIPA, their top-shelf, brew, to every adult who showed up.
Tony Manzella and Echelon Color: Printed and delivered the amazing award ceremony posters. Ansel Adams said it: “The negative is the score, but the print is the performance.” And what a performance by Echelon Color it was!
Tara Unversagt: Tara worked to get SBW sponsorship involved, helped with swag bag materials, and did the ultimate job of Cub Scout Den Mother by keeping me organized and on track throughout the event. So much fantasticness in one person!
Phil Gaimon: Best UCI US pro road racer, attended our event, made us look semi-sort of legit, and promoted what is the best Grand Fondue on the calendar: Phil’s Malibu Cookie Dough Gran Fondo. Register here, register now. Phil drove straight from Clovis, NM, to make the event. How awesome is that? Very awesome!
Daniel Holloway: As if Phil Gaimon weren’t enough, reigning US road/crit champ Daniel Holloway brought the star power and picked up right where he left off. Being a part of the South Bay community. Thank you so much for sharing.
The 2016 South Bay Cycling Awards award winners were:
- 2016 Greatest Advocate: Sarah Barraclough for BMUFL/Master Safety Plan advocates
- 2016 Best Bike Shop: Performance Bicycle
- 2016Best Young Rider: Ivy Koester
- 2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
- 2016 Most Improved: David Holland
- 2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
- 2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
- 2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
- 2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
- 2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
- 2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody Performance
- 2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
- 2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
- 2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
- 2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
- 2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
- 2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
- 2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
- 2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
- 2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella
Until next year, thank you!!!
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October 21, 2016 § 38 Comments
I first met Dan Chapman about a year and a half ago. He had been riding since 1996 and was a well-known cyclist on the West Side of LA, most especially as a climber who knew every bend, turn, crack, pebble, and fence post in the Santa Monica Mountains. Somehow, we never crossed paths, which is shorthand for “He was a lot faster than me.”
By the time we met, Dan no longer rode. He had been hit by a truck and the resulting injuries to his neck and spine prevented him from ever riding again. Dan never volunteered any details about his collision and I never asked. He occasionally made oblique references to it, but still, I never asked.
Then, about a year ago, I suggested that he write something and I’d publish it. Here it is, breathtaking, powerful, gripping, horrific, and humbling, a year in the writing but a lifetime in the making.
Before and After
By Dan Chapman
When you ride, you don’t think about after. You just ride, have fun and don’t think a lot about dying. I had been riding on PCH since the early 80’s and it gradually became a place where I felt at ease, even though the cars were buzzing by just beyond my elbow. I usually left early to avoid traffic and went as fast as possible in certain areas to avoid the cars and also to trash my friends. I’ve done a lot of solo rides up and down PCH with both road and TT bike. My wheels touched every climb from Santa Monica to Oxnard many times. PCH and that endless ocean felt like home.
Here began the after as well. I awoke in the hospital two and a half weeks after being run over by a pickup truck I think near the base of Pepperdine Hill. The driver was speeding and lost control. Where the hell am I? I tried to lift my left arm but it wouldn’t move and I thought something was wrong with it. I looked over to see what was wrong and saw multiple tubes plugged into the back of my hand and realized somehow that I was in a hospital. I wasn’t capable of thinking much about anything and looked up in the cool dim dawn and saw a row of doctors looking at me. It seemed absurd but I could not muster even a tiny joke. I can clearly remember leaving my house and then waking up that morning, but in between is blank. It’s very strange to loose time. It took a month and a half to understand what had happened to me and my body.
A year after the incident, I talked my wife and son into driving to the fire station in Malibu. They helped me after the incident and transported me to the hospital. I usually visit them once a year on the anniversary to give thanks. I knocked on the door of the station and a fireman opened the door and invited us in. I told him my story so he checked on who was on duty that day so I could thank them personally. He found that he was the one who had responded. I gave him a hug and we gave them some cookies. On the drive back home, I cried.
I found participating in cycling exhilarating. At a certain point, it seemed to become less painful and more fun where I could ride and train for pleasure. I had spent a lot of time in the hills and had developed a crazy climb heavy program that enabled me to semi-comfortably enjoy the long weekend rides, (or so I imagined). I particularly enjoyed the Nichols ride, with its long casual cruise up and eventual explosion on the hill then holding with the front pack on Mulholland. It’s nice to be strong and comfortable. It’s even harder to leave it behind.
To be able to ride at a high level isn’t just being able to place well, but as we all know, it’s more about the people and landscape. Cycling is a way to visit a road, a place, the sky, the fog, and the environment. It’s difficult to lose this because these places, like Fernwood and Tuna, were like friends. I’ve driven up and down some of my old haunts a few times but it’s not the same. It never will be.
Almost four years later, I’m finally starting to visit where I rode. It was hard initially as the injuries were severe and I had trouble walking for almost a year. I also had trouble with my stamina as I was forced to do nothing, on doctors’ orders for seven months. All of the fine tuned muscles vanished. The place where I noticed the most was in my lungs. My whole style was about breathing in rhythm to the cadence and it, like my mountain bike, wheelsets, trainer and rollers soon vanished as I sold or gave them away. It was also very emotional and this was hard to overcome, particularly when I realized that I would have to retract from almost everything to heal. Not only did I have to heal, but I had to heal from healing.
But really, it was too emotional. I thought I would break down again if I went to one of my former rides. I couldn’t handle it because what really bothered me was the sound. I had cried so many times, not from pain, but the anguish of losing so many things that I could no longer do – basically anything athletic. My family heard me cry, the nurses, and probably the mailman. I’m making myself cry now just thinking about my crying.
Actually, riding is to be in a cocoon of noise, spinning sprockets, gears, wheels and the occasional unbelievable squeak. “I’m sorry, but did you ever think of oiling that black mess in the back of your bike”? The sound says so many things and I can identify what and who is where. Then there is the yelling at dunderheads, who like Pavlov’s Dog, continue to do the same stupid thing every week. I have no bike sound anymore. There is no one to yell at now. It’s too quiet. Then there is the silent noise, a look in the eyes and nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder as you pass an old friend, or a fist bump after a nice sprint. No one is there anymore to fist bump at thirty miles per hour.
The thing I went for a ride on that fateful day was a new pair of shoes. My wife gave me a bag after I returned from the hospital with my bloody cut up kit and at the bottom, my new shoes, perfectly unblemished. They still looked brand new and lasted exactly one half of a ride. They looked so good. I put them on and wiggled my toes. I laughed at the irony of it. I finally get a new pair of shoes and am almost killed trying them out. I had imagined myself showing up at a ride and handing out some punishment like it was easy. I would ride off the front and hear wheezing and choking sounds plus loud curses. “Do you ever fucking slow down”. However, I had no choice but to sell them. A club member responded and he came over. I showed him the shoes and then he talked me down in price. When the buyer left, it seemed many old dreams walked out with him.
It was the first week of January when I finally met the surgeon, Dr. Anthony Virella. Two things he said will stick with me forever. The first was that I was extraordinarily lucky to be alive. My face went white and I wanted desperately to go out to the hallway and stare out the window. The only problem is I could barely walk and I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the door. The second was that I could never ride a bike again. Ever.
Goodbye Golf Course (there are several), Marina, Mandeville, Three Bitches, Nichols, Amalfi, Donut, Simi, Latigo, Circle X, San Vincente, Piuma, Stunt, Mulholland, Cold Canyon, Fernwood, Tuna, Vista del Mar, NPR, Mandeville, Working Man’s Ride, Chainbreak, The Wall (again several), Topanga, Old Topanga, New Topanga, TOPS, Mulholland, Twisties, Switchbacks, Rock Store, Lake Malibou and that blazing hot day when I felt like a million dollars on Stunt, popped over the top then in to the glorious bosom of Tuna, sweating through every pore in my body. God that ocean breeze felt good. I can still feel it.
The deep well I was trapped in to recover from was also accompanied by a vicious concussion. I can’t really describe what I am inside but I was unprepared for the headaches and sleepiness that accompanied it. Three naps a day where I fell into a deep sleep and awoke to resume work became a habit. I was given medication that caused me to be confused, which cured the headaches but left me dependent on Liz to remember my tasks. It was frightening and disorienting. I was weaned off the medication and, yet again, struggled to recover myself again. My psyche is a giant wad of tissue paper that I slowly strip off to reveal yet another layer. There is no reward in the middle, just more paper. The headaches are still there on occasion and just as confounding.
We went to see the surgeon again in February 2013. He said I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the hardware in your lower back is fine. The bad news is that the hardware in your neck has failed. We need to get you into the hospital as soon as possible to fix this. Come to the hospital tonight and we will prepare you for surgery. He said that there was nothing holding up my neck and that if I fell, I could become permanently paralyzed. Liz and I looked at each other, scared to death.
That night we returned to the hospital and after 24 sleepless hours, I was in the operating room again. I toured the room and asked a few questions about the procedure them laid down on the operating table and counted, one, two, three…
I awoke and found a bigger, tighter neck brace on. Instead of four screws, there were now twelve and two pieces of hardware, one in front and one in back of the cervical spinal column. They had to move the entire throat out of the way to get to the spine then delicately place it back. How did they do that? On the back of my head was a giant scar and the entire area was now numb. Now, when I get a haircut, I can’t feel the blades moving over this area.
This time, to make sure the fragile smashed bones would heal, I would not be able to do any exercise or lift more than ten pounds for four months. This was after going through the prior three months with the same precautions. Liz licked her chops at being able to yell at me some more. Oh boy, more atrophy. This time it was serious. Time and memory became fuzzy again as I clearly struggled to maintain my equilibrium. I had a much bigger neck brace on this time that caused people to stare at me, raking their eyes up an down on me like laser beams. My biggest accomplishment was making it to Trader Joes to go shopping. Liz led me around tenderly, making sure I didn’t fall or trip. Like the route of the Marina ride, I knew every pothole in the aisles, the angle to make the turn-around at the milk station and how to smoothly brake when you get in line.
I only had one dark moment, but it scared me. I can still feel it and I carry it with me everyday. I thought I wouldn’t be able to be there for Tab, that I would have to ask friends to help me raise him, to help him become an Eagle Scout and to finish high school. I could not do it, I thought, I was incapable of doing anything. I could not even care for myself. I was so frozen by fear in my hospital bed that I thought about if I had died. It’s not like Ghost, where there is a big white staircase and a bunch of cool people who really want to help you. No, it’s just dark, cold and colorless. I could feel my soul, aching. I can see it with my eyes wide open, in the early dawn, when my mind is still saying to me, better get up and get ready for the ride. And that’s what saved me.
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October 20, 2016 § 26 Comments
I had a great ride last night. It was the “Bro Ride,” a group that meets up in Hermosa Beach at 5:45 PM on Wednesdays and does a 35-mile pedal through the city during rush hour. You would think that’s dicey but you’d be wrong. Thanks Matt Miller for keeping things safe and fun.
In addition to the obligatory flat tire change we also did some paceline practice on Westchester Parkway. Joann Z., Kevin S., Tom D., Joey C., Geoff L., and Matt were all amenable to receiving some screamed instructions by a rabid Wanky, and four of the riders did their first paceline ever, acquitting themselves quite well.
You take it for granted that everybody’s done a rotating paceline before but that’s not the case. We did a little seminar at the curbside before starting, and I told everyone not to worry. “I’ll be screaming like a batshit crazy drill sergeant. You’ll never be in doubt as to what you should be doing.”
Funny thing is, it took very little instruction other than yelling “Pull off!” “Pull through!” and “Quit surging for fuck’s sake!” at the right time. Before long people really got the hang of it and commented on how much fun it was. Riding a paceline takes huge concentration, not to mention trusting the wheel in front of you. In LA, where group rides are more akin to mobs, and where there aren’t many unbroken stretches of road where you can rotate, the Parkway proved perfect.
Basic riding skills can be taught quickly, you just have to stop what you’re doing at the time, divest yourself from the moment of “being in the ride,” and take a minute to talk, practice, and learn. Good stuff.
October 19, 2016 § 7 Comments
Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Bradley Wiggins to discuss his use of performance enhancing drugs prior to his 2012 Tour de France win.
CitSB: So you got a TUE for steroids to treat your asthma right before the Tour?
CitSB: And you went on to win?
CitSB: Your asthma must have been really bad.
BW: Bad? Mate, it was killing me. It was so bad I had these little coughs in bed at night. Me throat got a little raw even. It was the most terrible pain I’ve ever felt.
CitSB: And as a result you took a year-long prescription for steroids?
BW: Oh, yeah. Them things work, mate.
CitSB: And you don’t consider that cheating?
CitSB: Why not?
BW: I had to level the playing field, mate.
CitSB: Could you elaborate?
BW: The playing field was all tilted and crooked and whomperjawed. Because of me asthma and I couldn’t breathe so we had to put a jack under the edge of the playing field and level it out.
CitSB: So you think that all racers should be equal?
BW: Oh, sure, mate. Gotta be fair and square or it’s not racing, it’s rigged like the US elections. It’s letting one guy beat another guy because of unfair advantages. That’s why we have the TUE system, mate. Man gets a bit of a breathing problem and he’s suddenly got the table tilted against him, then he takes a bit of the good stuff and *bam* he’s back equal with the other blokes.
CitSB: What are some of the other unfair advantages that a rider would need to use a TUE to “level out the playing field”?
BW: Oh, all kinds of shit, mate. All kinds of shit.
CitSB: Like what?
BW: VO2 max, mate. There’s guys out there with super high VO2 max and some other bloke only has, like, you know, maybe a 45. That’s bone idle wanker unfair.
CitSB: What else?
BW: List is endless, mate. Some guy’s been training extra hard, for example, while another bloke’s been drinking beer and boinking his GF. Super un-level playing field. Or diet. Dieting really tilts the hell out of the playing field.
BW: Is there an echo in here? Yeah, mate. One guy eats really good and stays lean and comes into the Tour at race weight, and the other bloke is 25 pounds overweight, butt cheeks sagging over the saddle wings.
CitSB: You mean Cavendish?
BW: Don’t wanna name names, mate, but you get me drift. Them’s unfair advantages. That’s why we have the TUE system.
CitSB: Some have said that if you have chronic breathing problems so severe that they require regular steroid prescriptions, maybe you shouldn’t be in an elite endurance sport.
BW: Yeah, well you know what? Sick people should get a shot at the yellow jersey same as healthy ones. That’s discrimination, mate. Pure and simple discrimination.
CitSB: Can you tell us about the secret package delivery just before the Tour?
BW: Oh, sure. That was nothing, mate.
CitSB: What was in the package?
BW: Just some orange juice and a couple of aspirin.
CitSB: Why was it shipped in from Italy by private courier?
BW: Italian oranges, mate, them’s the best.
CitSB: I see. Any suggestions for how the TUE system might be reformed?
BW: Yeah. I have this genetic low red blood cell count problem. I’m hoping to get a TUE to reform that. You know, to raise it up a bit. Untilt the playing field, so to speak.
CitSB: So to speak.
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October 17, 2016 § 12 Comments
If you haven’t noticed, you will soon: The iconic grass roots race series affectionately known as “CBR” or “California Bicycle Racing” or “Pain in USA Cycling’s Ass” is being run by Jeff Prinz.
That’s right, and you heard it here second if you already noticed Jeff’s name on the latest CBR race flyers. Chris Lotts is no longer the promoter for CBR.
When you look up the word “controversial” in the dictionary, there’s a long entry, about twenty lines long, and at the end it says, “for a complete and thorough definition of the word in all its permutations, see ‘Christopher Lotts.'”
Some of Chris’s dust-ups were epic beyond epic, like the time he took on the entirety of women’s racing, or the time he got into a years-long battle with the Schroeder Iron/BBI riders, or the civil war that erupted when he lost control of the Tuesday racing in Eldorado Park. If you wanted to get into hand-to-hand combat, all you had to do was send him an email or, better yet, a Facebook message giving him advice about how to run his races. Add in a dash of complaining about prize money or the start time for your event and you would quickly upgrade from civil war to nuclear.
But Chris’s most epic act was the slow, drawn-out, 20-year consistent promotion of local bike races right here in our backyard. Like him or hate him, and I always liked him, Chris could be counted on to deliver what he promised, when he promised it, at the agreed-upon price. And to do that he had to fight USA Cycling, the local SCNCA organization supposedly dedicated to helping promoters, the disarray of local bike clubs, the petty bullshit of butt-hurt racers, the risk of bad weather wiping out an entire day’s event, and That Which Defines Every Bike Racer Who Has Ever Lived, i.e. “Gimme Something For Nothing.”
Chris could have made things easier, and he could have made his races more successful, but then he would have had to have been a different person, and a different person wouldn’t have persevered through thick and thin for the better part of twenty years to put on hundreds of fast, fun, local races. As people quickly found when dealing with Chris, save your advice for when you’re the one whose ass is on the line.
Whatever else Chris was, he wasn’t a philanthropist. His races had to turn a buck, and this past year not only revealed the writing on the wall, it was revealed in ten-foot, blood-red letters: Road racing in Southern California is on life support and the ICU nurses are out doing shots and meth in the alley behind the hospital.
SCNCA had a 30 percent drop in race entries for 2016. For any legitimate business, you’d fire the CEO and everyone else, you’d board up the storefront, sell the inventory, and get into a new line of work. It’s easy to point the finger, but it proves what Chris has said for decades. Our organizing body is killing the sport, and the people in charge of developing new racers and helping promoters have failed, because in tandem with the death-spiral of race entries we are also losing races on the calendar.
And what promoter would want to continue in this environment?
Answer: An experienced optimist with a new plan. Folks, I give you Jeff Prinz. He has his work cut out for him, but if yesterday’s CBR Upgrade Races are any indication, there’s life in the ol’ gal yet. He drew 200 entrants and has plans for two more races before year’s end. Not having any of Chris’s baggage, and being open to new approaches, being a proven relationship builder and an experienced bike racer who understands what cyclists want out of an event, Jeff is taking on a huge task but he’s taking it on with the tools to succeed.
I for one plan to support him 100% in his efforts with time, resources, and cash on the barrelhead. I hope you will make the “effort” to make sure he succeeds, if only because, you know, if you’re going to call yourself a bike racer, you really do have to actually race your bike.
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October 16, 2016 § 67 Comments
Friend, icon, writer, advocate for clean sport, and all-around great guy Steve Tilford had a brutal fall this past Friday on a training ride and suffered severe head injuries. Steve was riding without a helmet. The obvious conclusion for many people is, “Wear a helmet.”
I didn’t wear one outside of races until 2005, and that was simply from peer pressure. I had shown up on some First Colony rides outside of Houston without a helmet and people cursed me. This encouraged me to ride with a helmet even less, but each ride I was showered with insults. In part this was because the First Colony riders were jerks, in part it was because they hated getting schooled by an old helmetless dude on a steel bike, and in part it was because of the brutal conformity enforced by road cyclists.
Zero of it had to do with any personal concern for my well being, as the same chumps who derided me for riding without a helmet were the same ones who chopped my wheel, rode erratically, refused to learn basic courtesy or bike handling, and created a road hazard every time they pushed their bike out of the garage.
Eventually, though, I caved, and then it became habit, and the one or two times since then I’ve ridden helmetless it has felt weird and risky and vaguely unsafe.
That’s odd because the data doesn’t clearly show that helmets make cycling any safer or that they reduce injury. I won’t try to engage in the debate (much), but what seems clear is that any safety benefit from wearing helmets is offset by the fact that it discourages riding, which is then associated with a whole host of risks resulting from a sedentary, cager-based lifestyle. I’ll also add that after ten days in Vienna, I saw thousands and thousands of cyclists and hardly any helmets except on the heads of the one or two sport riders I saw buzzing through the city’s streets.
Which brings me to my point, and it’s one I reached while sitting on a bench overlooking the bike path in Redondo Beach one day. While looking at the surfers fall off their boards and, in between sets, the cyclists pedal by, I noticed something. Most cyclists go really slowly. They go so slowly that with few exceptions their heads are going to be plenty fine if they whack the pavement. They’re also going so slowly that the chance of falling is greatly, greatly reduced. And of course there’s good research that shows most helmets do nothing to protect against slow, twisting falls that aren’t strong enough to break your skull but will give you a concussion or closed head injury.
But then there is a much smaller group of riders who are really hauling ass. The speed differentials between the slow riders and the fast ones, when observed from above and several hundred feet away, was amazing. The faster riders, people going over 20 mph, were clearly going to get badly fucked up if their heads came to an immediate stop against the concrete.
Moreover, I thought about how the improvements in equipment have generated a few extra miles per hour for virtually every sport/fitness cyclist, regardless of ability. Standard steel bike speeds of 17-18 mph are now easily eclipsed such that people commonly ride in the low to mid 20’s, and much faster when traveling with a group. This doesn’t even get into the issue of e-bikes, which make it possible to go at speeds that were unthinkable for all but the most elite.
Of course those few extra miles per hour create exponentially greater force on impact, and the low skill sets of the average wanker blasting along the bike path at 24 make collisions inevitable.
While watching the speed differentials of the cyclists I thought about group riding, where the speeds are often so fast, and I have never second-guessed riding with a helmet since. In Steve’s case, he absolutely knew what he was doing. He’s one of the best racers in U.S. history, is experienced, old, and has fallen down more than enough times to know the risks. For whatever reason, he chose to ride without a helmet, as he’s done a billion times before, and this time he got badly, badly hurt.
Heal up, Steve.
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October 14, 2016 § 34 Comments
I know it’s not nice to label an entire community “Dick City.” I know there are plenty of people there who aren’t dicks. I know that there are exceptions to every rule.
But when a vocal minority of residents aggressively advocates against protecting those who are most vulnerable, and instead blames the vulnerable and targets them, and when that position is endorsed by the city council, you are officially a city of dicks.
Of course the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and the NIMBY Snowflakes on the Hill will deny that they are dicks. Instead, they will say, “Wow, you’re such a dick for calling us dicks, you dick.”
And the namecalling will get intense.
However, when I use the word “dick” I mean it in a very technical, specific sense. I’m referring to behavior that advocates, encourages, condones violence against the vulnerable for no reason other than hatred of outsiders. So let me give you some examples of dicks.
Exhibit 1: Shannon Zaragoza (Part One). Shannon is a complete dick. In addition to vociferously opposing BMFUL signage at city council meetings that would protect innocent, tweezly, happy bicyclists who legally use the public roads, she follows them in her 5,000-lb. SUV, taking pictures while she drives and intimidating them as they pedal. This particular cyclist who she has in her crosshairs is a neighbor, someone who has aggressively advocated for the BMUFL signage that was shot down at the last city council meeting. Shannon’s super smart comment is that the cyclist has the right to use the lane but should, you know, stay to the right, yeah, right in the fucking door zone up against that parked car she can’t see because she’s using her phone while driving. You, Shannon, are a dick.
Exhibit 2: Shannon Zaragoza (Part Two). Shannon is a really whiny NIMBY Snowflake on the Hill dick. Why? Read this post and laugh, or cry, or snarl, or barf into your oatmeal. It’s amazing that people think this way. What’s more incredible is that they commit it to print. “Peach and tranquil.” Hahaha! And “HORRORS!” This dick isn’t afraid for the safety of cyclists, she’s afraid her property values might drop down to the wretched gutter of Rolling Hills, a true slum of millionaires if ever there was one, and all because of an increase in vulnerable road users, i.e. bicyclists. You, ma’am, are a dick.
Exhibit 3: Super Roid in RB. This Redondo Beach asshat is the self-proclaimed defender of Dick City from the riff-raff, a/k/a the illegal bicycle gang led by Seth Davidson, the huge gangsta, killa, and intimidating 155-lb. dude. Read Roidster’s marginally literate rant below and ask yourself, “Is this guy a dick?” I think you will have a hard time not concluding that he is. This guy is in fact the absolute definition of a dick: Someone who misrepresents the law and encourages the harassment of vulnerable road users, er, sorry, “Biker Gangs.” You will especially love his appeal to PVE residents to call the cops every time they see a lawbreaker cyclist. Dick!
Exhibit 5: Actual gang members who beat minorities with a baseball bat in a hate crime to commemorate 9/11. Yes, while Roid Rager is pointing the finger at “Biker Gangs” who “cycle illegally,” the honest denizens of Dick City are beating Muslims with baseball bats. This pretty much transcends “dick” and goes deep into “cock” territory.
Exhibit 6: Surfer gang that for decades has terrorize non-residents, erected illegal structures, refused to comply with the California Coastal Commission’s laws regarding access and infrastructure, and that is now the subject of a class action lawsuit. Dicks, dicks, dicks. Little dicks, but dicks nonetheless.
Exhibit 7: Cartoonist Gary Johnson, who twists legal signage into a joke about hitting cyclists. What could be clearer? We will use legal signage that states the law to threaten, harass, and harm you. Plus, hitting people with cars is funny. Super dick.
Now before you send me a nasty comment that winds up in the spam filter unread, let me address your concerns, because I know that you have them.
#1: You, Seth, are the dick.
No. I do not advocate or condone harming vulnerable road users. I don’t advocate or condone harming anybody.
#2. You, Seth, are rude and mean.
No. I am blunt and it hurts your feelings when I identify your despicable behavior for what it is, and do so in unflattering terms. When you advocate or condone violence, distort the law, refuse to take steps to protect the vulnerable, victim-blame, and deny your obligation to take cyclist safety into account when there have been three deaths on the hill since March, you are the one who is rude, mean, and cruel–no matter the “polite” words you use to defend your defenseless behavior.
#3. You are antagonizing our community.
Three people have died. Dick City has refused to implement the basic BMUFL safety signage recommended by their traffic safety committee, outside consultant, and traffic engineer. Back channel “working groups” have failed. I have no obligation to mouth pretty talk while Dick City, led by Super Roids in RB and his shadow Svengali, try to strip us of our rights to legally use the public roadways.
#4. Many residents would support you if you weren’t so aggressive and belligerent.
Ah, so a lone blogger who decries three senseless deaths is the reason that the good citizens of PVE won’t step forward and defend our right to safely use the public roads in Dick City? PVE has a fifty-year history of violence towards non-residents, flaunting state law, and doing everything in its power to keep people out. If residents want to support doing the right thing, they can show up at the city council meetings and voice support for BMUFL signage and sharrows.
#5. I’m afraid of cyclists. You guys are scary.
You are a whiny, cowardly fool who is playing the victim. We are the ones who are terrified, terrified of your cars, terrified of you tailgating us while you text and drive, terrified by the deaths in our midst, terrified by your baseball bats, terrified by your blithe unconcern with anything except your fucking property values, and terrified by your anonymous nutjob behind the PVE hate website, which has now transferred its ire from the city council to vulnerable road users. No cyclist has ever physically threatened any of you, nor would we. We have simply insisted on engaging in the democratic process, and that makes you so mad you can’t see straight.
#6. We’re not putting in the BMUFL signs or sharrows. Please go away.
We’ll continue to use the democratic process to make our demands heard. I hope that you like to sit down for long periods of time and that your blood pressure doesn’t spike when confronted with facts, law, reason, and ethics. We have something called the Brown Act on our side, and we intend to use it.
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