Protest: It’s the American way

June 28, 2016 § 13 Comments

Local cyclist Michael Barraclough has had enough and he’s not going to take it anymore. This morning, Tuesday, June 28, at 5:00 PM, he will begin a ride in the city of Palos Verdes Estates to protest the city’s failure to address cyclists’ concerns about violence.

With three deaths on the peninsula since March, two of which occurred in Palos Verdes Estates, and with assaults occurring on a nearly daily basis, Barraclough has attended council meetings, written letters, and implored the city to take an aggressive approach to protecting those who cycle within the city limits.

The failure of the city to meaningfully engage has led to his call for a protest ride.

Unlike many protests, this one will be based on scrupulous adherence to the California Vehicle Code. Local motorists, many of whom complain that cyclists are scofflaws, will get to see the effects of numerous bicycles in downtown PVE as they stop at every stop sign and stay in a single file. Although single file riding is not required by law, motorists in PVE are fond of shouting “Single file!” at riders as they buzz them in their speeding steel cages.

The ride will make a series of loops through Malaga Cove. Everyone is invited to attend. Following the ride there will be a Palos Verdes Estates City Council meeting, which should be even more fun than the protest ride.

For ride details, click here.

In the words of one rider, “I’ve spent my life to this point sitting idly by while other people advocate for progressive social change. I’m proud to be involved. Every time we throw a leg over our bike, we accept the very real chance that we may not be coming home. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“As the protesters in Ferguson brought attention to the fact that it’s not okay to shoot a child, just because he dressed like a ‘thug,’ let’s let the PVE police know that it’s not acceptable for a motorist to murder a cyclist, just because he dressed like a ‘roadie.’

Three months ago, I lost my best friend Jonathan Tansavatdi because this type of advocacy was too late in coming. Don’t wait until you lose some one you love to step forward and do something about it. If you don’t show up, nothing will happen. If we work together, we can change the world”

Well, well said.



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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 18: Let’s all learn Chinese!

June 27, 2016 § 20 Comments

Old bicycle racers focus a lot on their physical fitness but don’t pay as much attention to their mental faculties, which decline even faster with consequences even more dire than losing the 55-50 KOM for 225-lb-and-over on the Garbage Can Alley .01 Mile Segment.

Here is a quick test to see if your mind is rotting due to senility:

  1. You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
  2. You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F

If you answered true, you have memory loss.

Rather than going out and doing a bunch of hill repeats, the best thing to beef up your soggy neurons are brain intervals. What is a brain interval? It is something devilishly, fiendishly difficult that will leave you gasping for air after a mere 2-4 minutes of effort.

The important thing is that you select something you used to be good at rather than something that you always wanted to try but never did. For example, when you are an old dude and you take up math, even though you were always horrible at math, you will quickly give up. So even though the fierce brain interval caused by trying to, say, add up five numbers in a column, will cause a great increase in brain sharpness, you’ll quickly give up by day three and be back to the same old, same old.

If you were one of those people who liked to study foreign languages when you were young back in the 1920’s, my advice is that you study Chinese. Now, a couple of qualifiers: If you’re already Chinese, this won’t help. Also, if you’re not already Chinese and you try to learn Chinese, you’ll sound like a complete fool no matter how many years you study it.

This is because Chinese has tones that completely change a word’s meaning. Problem is, you can’t hear the tones. Only Chinese people can. And while you’re sitting there smiling into your video cam while you do your online lesson with a cute teacher in Shanghai, and you think you’re saying, “I ate a hamburger last night,” because you got the tones all garfed up you’re actually saying, “I licked the dog’s butt last night.”

You’ll never know that, of course, because your teacher is very polite and she doesn’t give two hoots whether you ever learn Chinese or not as long as you keep paying the monthly lesson fee.

Still, even though you will never learn Chinese, it is so terribly hard that you will spend the rest of your life struggling with it and making practically zero progress, so it’s a lot like bike racing. Plus, each time you memorize a kanji (even though you forget it the next day), it will build approximate 200 new synapses. Example: Memorizing the characters 互聯網圖片is the neurological equivalent of growing three new brains.

Perhaps you don’t want to learn Chinese and figure that instead of three new brains you’d be happy learning Spanish, or Russian, or Igbo, and only getting the equivalent of one new brain’s worth of synapses. Regardless, you should visit, a language learning web site that offers instruction for pretty much any language in the world by native speakers at incredibly cheap rates. Its tag line is “Become fluent in any language!” which is of course a complete lie. You can also use the web site to do a free language exchange (these never work, by the way), where you swap a half-hour of conversation with an English learner who already speaks English better than you do, for a half-hour of murdering your target language with the fluency of a cat.

Check it out. You’ll soon be chattering away, and even though no one will understand you, you’ll be synapse-rich and doing crossword puzzles backwards while your bike racing compadres are drooling in the Alzheimer’s ward. If they aren’t already.



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World’s stupidyest McDumdum bike lane ever

June 26, 2016 § 50 Comments

Bike lanes are stupidy McDumdum. Sorry, but they are. Here’s why:

  1. They make you harder to see by shoving you over to the side of the road.
  2. They get cagers closer to you than they would be if you used the full lane.

That being said, I understand that bike lanes are a necessary part of life. They not only make incompetent bicycle people feel safe, kind of like science incompetent people think that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking it, but they also provide a reason to spend tax dollars.

Anything that comforts the stupid while simultaneously taxing them is always going to win. Think “Brexit.”

So every time I see a bike lane I accept it. It makes no sense to rage against the machine more than, say, 23 hours and 59 minutes a day, which is my self-imposed limit. However, each time I hop on my bicycle to pedal over to the NPR Sausage Fest and Profamateur Crashmonkey Course, I have to ride in the vicinity of the world’s stupidyest McDumdum bike lane ever invented.

It is mercifully short, but it packs a lot of stupid into its one mile or so of puke green asphalt. Like all bike lanes, it separates bicycles from cars, except of course like all bike lanes, it doesn’t. This bike lane has 38.98 separate driveways that open out onto it, so even though there is a concrete barrier between you and the cars going alongside, every drunk idiot (but I repeat myself) in Redondo Beach (triple redundancy) and every heffalump staggering out of the Cheesecake Factory parking lot has to drive directly across the bike lane thingy.

People get hit as a result, which is okay because:

  1. They are bicycle people.
  2. They are not smearing the actual traffic lanes with their blood and full carbon.

Having a bike lane that requires lots of bicycle people to get hit by cagers is fine; after all, that’s what bike lanes do (and please don’t send me the CalTrans engineering specs telling me that it’s not a bike lane, it’s a bike path, or a cycle track, or a heffalump breeding ground, IDGAF). So this bike lane is average in that regard.

What takes it to its own level of stupidyessnesstiondingerage are the stained, yellow Bicycle People Whackers which are installed every hundred feet or so in the middle of the bike lane. What is a Bicycle People Whacker, you ask? It is a giant yellow plastic pillar that sticks up about eight feet in the air and requires a certain percentage of drunks, children, angry parents, distracted profamateurs, and of course triathletes to whack into it.

You can tell that’s what they are for because each and every BPW is covered from tip to toe with black scuff marks, chain grease, dried blood, and Bernie Sanders bumper stickers. Imagine putting up a few hundred thousand Cager Whackers along the 405 to “slow things down” and “warn the cagers.”

If you are terribly bored and not terribly sober some sunny Saturday afternoon, go down to the bike path and watch the bicycle people run into the BPW’s. Many will fall, none will complain, and all will chalk it up to their own clumsiness.

To make the McDumdum quotient of this piece of bike “infrastructure” even higher, though, the fabulous bicycle-people-hating administrators of Hermosa Beach recently imposed a bike path speed limit of 8 mph. Have you ever gone 8 mph on a bicycle? If so, please leave this blog immediately and don’t come back until you’ve bombed the Switchbacks at 52.

Rather than take out the BPW’s, a city-installed safety hazard that daily knocks people off their bikes, the city set a “safe” bike speed limit that makes virtually everyone a violator. If you can’t make something safer, make everyone a criminal. At least it will increase your tax revenue. What’s even more awesome is that the law is illegal and unenforceable as explained by someone a lot smarter than I am:

Recently, 8 mph speed limit signs were installed on the Class I bike path adjacent to Harbor Blvd. in Redondo Beach.  I question whether that posted  limit is legal. California has three speed laws, basic, statutory, and altered. Under the Basic Speed Law, you may never drive (ride) faster than is safe for current conditions, such as heavy fog, ice on the road, etc.

Prima facie statutory limits (CVC Section 22352) apply when no other limit is posted: 15 mph at uncontrolled intersections and alleyways, and 25 mph applicable to business and residential areas without other posted speed limits, school zones, etc.

Altered speed limits are based on engineering and traffic studies. In the absence of a current E&TS, and current means “within seven years,” altered speed zones are not enforceable. This applies to enforcement using radar or lidar. If you are clocked by pacing, the speed limit may be enforceable, although it’s unlikely the police will use a cop bike to catch speeding cyclists, not least because the average bicycle cop is, uh, well, never mind.

The 85th percentile and E&TS

In California altered “speed limit determinations rely on the premise that a reasonable speed limit is one that conforms to the actual behavior of the majority of drivers; one will be able to select a speed limit that is both reasonable and effective by measuring drivers’ speeds. Speed limits set by E&TS are normally set near the 85th percentile speed. The 85th percentile speed is the speed at or below which 85 percent of the traffic is moving, and statistically represents one standard deviation above the average speed.”  Limits are by law set in 5 mph increments.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, I requested from the City Clerk a copy of the engineering and traffic study used to alter the speed limit on the bike path for the simple reason that municipalities are forbidden from preempting state law with regard to provisions of the vehicle code. To wit: “Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of the Vehicle Code preempt local ordinances on the matters covered by such Code.” See CA Vehicle Code § 21. And unfortunately for the fine folks in Redondo Beach, regulation of bicyclists on conventional roads is not in California’s Vehicle Code to local authorities.

 I was therefore not surprised to learn from the city that the new 8 mph speed limit was not based on any engineering and traffic study, and was even less surprised to learn that the “8 mph” limit was illegal both because it’s not an increment of five and because state law regarding speed limits preempt local yokel bicycle-hating ordinances.

There you have it. Bike lane that exposes bicycle riders to exponentially more deadly cross traffic. Bike lane that was built with devices intended to knock people off their bikes. Bike lane that is regulated with illegal and unenforceable ordinances.

Thank you, Redondo Beach. You really do suck.



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Pillow talk

June 25, 2016 § 10 Comments

If you want to be a successful profamateur leaky prostate bike racing dope taker, it is crucial that you get a good night’s sleep. For me, that means sleeping on Mrs. WM’s pillow. “You get offa my pillow,” she always says with a forceful kick. “You stinky head.”

Mrs. WM has the best pillow in the world. It is firm but soft, and covered with a crisp cotton pillowcase. Then, to top it off, it is wrapped in a snow-soft gentle towel that is so clean and always smells so fresh that the minute your head touches Mrs. WM’s pillow you drop off into sleepyland.

Wanky’s pillow is a different bike racing pillow altogether. First, no matter how many times you wash it, disinfect it, or plunge it into a bucket of Lime-Plus Flea, Tick & Mange Dip, it smells like an old bike racing pillow. Second, it is kind of sour smelling, like a dirty head, and it’s lumpy, too. Third, some places are soft like a rotten tomato, and others are hard like a piece of brick. No matter where you put your head on it, it’s the wrong place. You wake up in the morning from a hard night of Wanky pillow feeling like your head has been beaten with one of those giant twirling bristle things on the bottom of a street cleaner.

Mrs. WM won’t tell me where she buys her pillow and she certainly won’t buy me one. “You onna ruin it with stinky head,” she says when I beg for one. “Your head touch onna anything, stinky head. Bikin’helmet, stinky head. Bikin’ beanie head thing, stinky head. Baseball cap even though you ain’t playin’ any baseball, stinky head. So why I’m gonna buy you a nice Japanese pillow, smells all good and then stinky head?”

Since Mrs. WM has pretty sharp bedroom elbows and a solid set of 40-grit sandpaper calluses on the soles of her feet to keep away unwanted pillow snatchers, I have to get my pillow on the sly, which means during nap time. On the weekend I will wait until she’s out shopping, then sneak into bed and take a quick catnap of 2-3 hours snuggled up against her pillow. I wrap my head in a towel first to prevent anything from rubbing off and luxuriate in the deepest and best sleep known to man.

So the next time I’m standing on the podium and you wonder what my secret is … now you know.



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What gloves around, comes around

June 24, 2016 § 15 Comments

I was at the San Marcos crit several weeks ago retiring from a fabled amateur cycling career that was filled with fables. As I retired before doing the 45+ Grandpa Low T race, I ran into a gal who I will call Ms. J.

Ms. J. had begun bike racing this year and was doing really well. She had made a couple of podiums and already understood the fundamentals of bike racing, fundamentals that to me often seem like math equations that fill a chalkboard (Note: I failed Mrs. Morcom’s Algebra 1 class and had to retake it in summer school in order to graduate from Jane Long Junior High).

As we chatted about bike racing and I picked up from her what useful information I could, I noticed her hands, and how small and lovely they were. When she got to the part where she was going to tell me something that might actually help me win a race, I interrupted her. “Hey,” I said, “I hate being an advice sausage but I’m really old and I’m a grandpa and I can’t help noticing your beautiful hands and I gotta tell you something.”

She paused. “Yes?”

“You gotta wear gloves.”

“I do?”

“Yes. All the time. Long-fingered ones.”


“Because whether you have pretty hands like yours, or ugly old nasty things like mine, it’s super hard to pick your nose without any fingers. And all it takes is one good bicycle falling off incident or getting doored while training and your hands will be all garfed up for good. Ask Charon. He used to be Mr.-Tom-Boonen-Gloves-Are-For-Sissies until he slid 400 yards along the asphalt on his palms.”

She looked at her very lovely hands. “I think I’ll get some, but my race is about to start.” Off she went and got on her podium in one of the hardest races on the calendar and I didn’t see her again.

A few days later I got an email telling me about her race. “That’s great,” I said, “did you get the gloves?”

“Well … ” she replied.

So I went online and got her a pair, like the ones I use, the Giro Somethingorothers. I’ve got a couple of pair and even after years of use they are ragged but still in great condition. They are long-fingered, incredibly comfortable, warm in winter, cool in summer, stylish, and thick enough to save your hands when you need it but thin enough to give you great touch on your bars. I mailed them off, because grandpas hate it when young people dilly-dally around with important stuff like HANDS.

Then a funny thing happened.

There is this woman who rides in the South Bay named Michelle. She’s a great rider, sure, but more than that she’s a great person. Positive, earnest, fun, and always finding the bright side of things. If Michelle’s around you’re going to be in a good mood unless of course you’re Eeyore, which, sad to say, I often am.

I went out to the mailbox and there was a thick mailing envelope. I opened it and inside it was a pair of my very favorite Giro Somethingorothers, only in an even more stylish color than my tan ones. And along with the Somethingorothers, gloves that she had carefully noted on my hands and found the exact make, model, and size for, was a note. This note:




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Why you’ll probably never, ever win a bike race

June 23, 2016 § 16 Comments

It’s not because you don’t put out enough power, or don’t have a good enough bike, or don’t have the right coach, or aren’t on the right drugs.

It’s not because you have a job, because this is just a hobby, because you take your family obligations seriously, or because you can’t leave work early or start work late.

It’s not because your legs are too short, your tummy’s too round, your neck’s too stiff, or your body is better at “endurance” than “short” events.

It’s not because you drank too much beer the night before, or you had to service someone, or they served you gluten pancakes by mistake, or the ectrolytes in your bottle were frazzy raspberry instead of chunky chocolate.

It’s not because you’re mostly a climber, or mostly a rouleur, or mostly a time-trailer, or mostly a lead-out rider, or mostly a sprunter but only from 100-yards with a lead-out train.

It’s not because your FTP is low, your HR is high, your VO2 is average, or your prostate is prolapsed.

It’s none of those things.

It’s because you aren’t Aaron Fucking Wimberley. And guess what? You never will be.

Aaron is of course a metaphor, but he’s a metaphor writ large. He’s been off the bike since last summer, logs a hundred miles a week if that, works 50 hours a week, has an actual personal life, and when stuff gets busy, as it has for the last year, his bike sits in the corner and gathers dust.

But on race day, which yesterday was, when Aaron came out to the Telo crit, the famed crit that now offers a champion’s custom jersey and SEVEN WHOLE DAYS of undisputed bragging rights, when he showed up along with Jules Gilliam, Rudy Napolitano, David Wells, Josh Alverson, Jon Davy, Francis Hardiman (omit the “i” and you’ll know all you never need to know about that dude), Alex Barnes, James Doyle, Chainbreak, Casey Macguire, and an entire throng of pack fodder, with every single rider planning on getting that jersey, and Rudy launching artillery rounds every lap and Josh countering with bunker busters and Jules slashing everyone with a machete and the group gradually reducing to its barest essence like a fine French consomme, and the pace so torrid most of the time all you could do was grit your fuggin’ teeth and curse blood, and Aaron, the guy with the least miles and the least fitness, hiding, thinking, suffering, thinking, following, thinking, waiting, and thinking until all the body blows had been landed and all the howitzer shells had been spent and the machete blades had broken off and the last lap was tear-your-cheeks-off-fast and people crumpled and folded like bad origami and with a thousand long yards to go whenJules sprang free, he had it he had it he had it he had it until he didn’t, which was about the time that Aaron gave it one perfectly planned and immaculately thought out hard kick, the only kick he’d given all day because it was the only kick he had, and he’d been saving it like North Korea with its one functioning nuke, and the timing was perfect and the power was perfect and the line was perfect and the acceleration was perfect and all everyone else could do was slump and sigh and groan as their jersey dreams went up in a puff of smoke and bad bong water.

Because winning bike races takes legs, but what it really takes is brains.



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Dante’s tenth circle

June 22, 2016 § 34 Comments

I don’t believe in hell, but if I did it would look like a city council meeting. Too many of my finite life minutes have been spent watching (usually) well-intentioned officials get pounded into line by ranting, raving, howling-at-the-moon cagers who truly believe that bicycles are the new cancer.

So I glumly noted the mostly empty parking lot on Monday night, when the Rancho Palos Verdes Traffic Safety Committee held its June meeting to consider local cyclists’ requests that some affirmative action be taken to deal with the killings, the maimings, the assaults, the batteries, the recklessness, and the cager rage that are a regular part of biking here on the idyllic PV Peninsula. Empty parking lots are the sign of the Public Meeting Apocalypse, where you beg cyclists to come and show the city that your own life matters and belongs on the agenda, but at crunch time people are, you know, “busy.”

If public meetings are the tenth circle of hell, busy is the eleventh. This is the circle of hell where everyone has a fierce opinion, a violent Facegag tirade, or an opinionated Twitter feed, but they were all too busy on earth to drag themselves away from the day-after TV interviews of the people who won or lost The Game, with “The Game” being whatever crucial, historic, once-in-a-lifetime sporting event the likes of which will never been seen again until next week. And of course the plaintiff’s lawyers who feast on the riches generated by the carnage of injured and killed cyclists were nowhere to be found.

Imagine my shock when I saw that the TSC meeting chairs were half-full, and when, by the time the meeting began, they were full-full. And not just full-full, but full of cyclists, actual pedal pushers. What in the world was going on?

The meeting opened with committee member David Kramer putting on a 15-minute slide show about the legal and behavioral issues that bicyclists face riding on the hill. He concluded with a series of video clips taken from Greg Seyranian’s video camera which documented the rich variety of road rage, inattentiveness, and unconcern for human life that cagers regulary display towards bicycle people.

Following the presentation, numerous bicycle people approached the lectern and spoke. All were articulate, thoughtful, and messengers for the same idea: The City of Rancho Palos Verdes needs to do something about the violence, lawlessness, danger, and rage that runs amok on the hill.

After each speaker exhausted their three-minute allotment, the committee discussed our concerns and then did what no one expected: They voted unanimously to include the development of a bicycle plan into their 2016 plan of work.


The committee wasn’t bothered by our lack of specifics, by our inability to pin down the costs, or even by our lack of anything more concrete than urging the city to hammer out something that will–

  1. Educate and train law enforcement
  2. Educate and train cyclists
  3. Begin enforcing the law

Chairperson Jessica Vlaco had no issues with the validity of our complaints. Although not a bicycle person, she urged the TSC to move ahead with bike safety and begin the first phase of coming up with a plan. Her kindness and empathy were obvious with every word she spoke.

As the other committee members discussed, one remained silent. James Guerin, at the end, weighed in. “Why reinvent the wheel?” he said. “Let’s review the bicycle plans that have been implemented by our neighbors in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, see what we like, then see what we can implement here. Once we’ve got that underway, let’s think about how we can integrate with Palos Verdes Estates, Torrance, San Pedro, and Los Angeles. If we save one life we’ve done our job.”

The cyclists in the audience did everything but gasp, as Kramer moved that staff formulate a plan which would then be brought back to the TSC, then voted on and sent to the city council for review.

Kramer’s motion was unanimously approved, with members Henry Ott and Yi Hwa Kim joining.

A little planning and participation apparently goes a long way. Thanks to all the people who found a way to attend the meeting and who proved that democracy is run by those who bother to show up.



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