Lifetime achievement and garage sale

June 21, 2018 § 11 Comments

Anyway, FOR SALE: Less than one year old Fuji SL1 frame with e-Tap and new FFWD F3 all carbon clinchers, mostly new Conti 25 mm front/rear with tubes, along with 12 size S jerseys, most of the jerseys are the last two years of Team Lizard Collectors, great condition, a couple of La Grange jerseys, 12 size M bibs (TLC/La Grange/plain black), 3 TLC skinsuits, 3 Wend Wax combo short/bib one-piece size M, 2 long-sleeve TLC jackets, 3 Pearl Izumi tights one of which is old and ratty, 1 pair Giro Empire road lace-ups (white), 1 pair Giro Empire (cross), 1 spare set of new Shimano cleats, 32 pairs of CitSB socks, 1 Giant TCX 2017 (size L) with FFWD disc wheels, SRAM Force,, 4 pairs long-fingered Giro gloves, assorted bike tools (lightly used, you can bet), assorted arm and leg warmers, 3 pairs of shoe covers, 2 rain jackets, one Stage 1 and one Specialized, two vests  (one Rapha, size S, one TLC size M), full light set including Diablo 1300-lumen headlights x 2, ApaceVision rear lights x 2, Cygolite 150 rear x 1, 2 wheel bags, 6 tubes, 6 tires (25 mm, Conti and Vredestein), 3 Wend Wax sets with wax and cleaner, Cask Proton helmet size M, G3 tripod bike stand, 1 gallon of Simple Green, 3 rolls of shop towels, 25 shop rags, 1 Lezyne steel floor pump, assorted water bottles, 5 CO2 cartridges.

Yours for one dollar.




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Hope in the time of darkness

June 20, 2018 § 14 Comments

As I have followed the meandering bicycle path these last few months leading from the Dogtown coffee shop to the Villa Aurora and its connections to Germany here in Los Angeles, I ran across an extraordinary ray of light yesterday, one which has illuminated my whole year.

When I say darkness, I mean not simply our descent into the Trumpian dystopia, but I mean the concentration camps that our nation has erected to incarcerate and torture immigrant children.

If this is not wrong, nothing is wrong.

A friend of mine who mediates complex commercial legal disputes now begins each mediation by reminding the parties that we are a nation of laws and that children are being tortured in concentration camps here, in the U.S.A., and she reminds them that no matter how deeply they care about the outcome of their commercial matter, this crime against humanity, committed on our shores under the seal of our president, matters much, much more.

She is not the only one so profoundly disturbed.

The president of Germany

I recently received an invitation to go listen to a speech by the president of Germany. I told a friend about it, and he chuckled. “I think you mean the prime minister,” he said. “Germany doesn’t have a president.”

“No,” I replied, “it does.”

Although the president has no legislative or judicial authority, he signs all legislation, accredits all diplomats, and has the limited ability to veto laws, a power rarely exercised. More importantly, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany is invested with moral powers. He is the person who speaks to the higher aspirations of the nation, who speaks on behalf of his country in times of great tragedy or crisis. Elected last year, Frank-Walter Steinmeier is serving a five-year term, and yesterday he magically appeared in Los Angeles to speak at a symposium called “The Struggle for Democracy.”

Why Los Angeles? Why democracy? And why Germany?

Thomas Mann and the authoritarian state

Thomas Mann is hardly a household name, but this Nobel prizewinning writer fled Germany in 1933 when Hitler seized power, then sought exile in the U.S. when war broke out in 1939. He agitated ceaselessly here in Los Angeles, along with other exiles such as Lion Feuchtwanger, generating propaganda, books, and radio broadcasts criticizing Hitler and the Axis.

Hailed for his work in the fight against fascism, America’s love for Mann faded in the 50’s when Joseph McCarthy falsely labeled him as a communist sympathizer and hounded him from these shores. Mann died in Switzerland in 1955, but refused to renounce his American citizenship. His belief in American democracy and American values were stronger than the lies and hatred directed against him by the very government he had so ardently defended.

Mann’s home, which is located just off Sunset Boulevard near PCH, had fallen into disrepair until it was recently purchased and restored by the German government. It was officially reopened in a private ceremony two days ago, and one of the guest speakers was Michelle Obama. The following day, yesterday, President Steinmeier came to the Getty Museum to give a speech about Mann, about America, and about democracy.

The shock of a great speech

I have to admit that the fellow who introduced President Steinmeier kind of botched it when he talked about the president’s membership in the Reichstag. I’ve come to expect a certain level of nincompoopism when Americans talk about anything related to a foreign country’s institutions, but confusing the Reichstag with the modern Bundestag was a big enough blunder that you could feel a shudder run through the numerous Germans present, quickly replaced by their generous realization that Americans are pretty dumb even on their best of days.

But what really was astounding was to sit and listen to a head of state discuss books and literature. President Steinmeier launched into a discussion of Thomas Mann’s life, and he began unflinchingly with a quote from Mann, who as a young writer had espoused monarchism and was quite contemptuous of parliamentary democracy. This ability of Germany to confront its past is not limited to literature, of course, it is part of the entire postwar mentality that has courageously dealt with its war crimes in a way that the U.S. still cannot do with respect to its history of slavery and Jim Crow segregation.

The comparison between Steinmeier and Trump couldn’t have been more brutal. Can anyone, even Trump’s most ardent brown shirts, imagine him talking about an author’s body of work, or making reference to important protagonists, as Steinmeier did when he referenced Herr Settembrini in Mann’s “The Magic Mountain”?

Can anyone imagine Trump discussing the main character in a major novel set in biblical times as being a referent for the New Deal and FDR? Anti-intellectualism has and will always be part of the American fabric, but no president until Trump has ever made willful ignorance and blind stupidity points of pride, a fact that Steinmeier highlighted without ever mentioning the word Trump, and instead quoting from Walt Whitman and Abraham Lincoln.

The moral fiber of a nation

As Steinmeier spoke, he reminded us that our nation was founded on the highest principles of democracy, and he quoted Walt Whitman saying that “America and democracy are convertible terms.” More importantly, he reminded us that our country can only develop democracy abroad when we defend it at home, and that our interests abroad lie not in strategic or economic alliances, but in alliances with nations who share our democratic ideals.

As great as America is, he reminded us, we need partners, and the implication was that we don’t need partners in crime along the lines of Kim Jong-Un, Putin, Assad, Netanyahu, and King Salman, but partners who share our commitment to a nation that is build on laws which respect the dignity and worth of every human being.

Steinmeier recounted how he had stood at Dr. Martin Luther King’s graveside with John Lewis, and asked this titan of civil rights how he found the strength to persevere in the face of all that was and all that continues to be wrong. Lewis’s answer: “I am daily driven by the words in our Constitution, ‘to form a more perfect union.'”

Our job, as Lewis said, is not perfection, but to fight for a more perfect future. We have a future, there is hope, and I’m grateful that the leader of a foreign land destroyed by fascism and rebuilt by democracy took the time to remind us of it.

Steinmeier’s speech ended in tears by many and a rousing, standing ovation by all.



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Block and tackle

June 18, 2018 § 18 Comments

I used to smile when I heard people complain about writer’s block. “What in the hell are they talking about? All you gotta do is start writing.”

I am not smiling now.

I have got the biggest, nastiest, stinkiest case of writer’s block that anyone anywhere ever had since the first Chinese dude drew signs inside a tortoise shell. I’ve tried to write today’s blog a dozen different times and each one has petered out like a Trump promise.

Here are today’s dead blogs:

  • The incredible reading experience I’m undergoing as I weed my way, slowly, through Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.”
  • The incredible eating experience of making my own sourdough bread.
  • The incredible ridiculousness of cycling as a path to longevity.
  • The incredible lameness of the four lameheads who rode a 44-minute TTT last weekend.
  • The incredible credulity of people who still don’t believe that we live in a corporatist police state built on prisons and slave labor.
  • The incredible awesomeness of my new carbon fiber wheels which are made exclusively of.
  • The incredible depressive effect that TT bikes have on bike racing.
  • What I had for breakfast.

Yet no sooner did I set down the basic first sentence than each topic withered on the vine, childless, unable to procreate little baby sentences so that it could grow up into a proper blog about bicycling and something.

The writer’s block had me by the throat as I chewed my way through dinner. Dinner tastes awful when you still have a blog to write, and the more I procrastinated the worse it got. Suds in the sink as I washed the plates, a couple of trips to the dumpster, a few dispirited checks of my phone, but the fear and loathing only increased.

You would think that after seven years of more or less daily scribblings and scrawlings I would have a pattern, a tried-and-true method, a formula into which I could dump the parts and out would come the sausage, but no, I don’t. Each day is a new Sisyphean struggle. The boulder is right back at the bottom of the dogdamned hill and the only person who’s gonna push it back up is me.

Somewhere between the forks and the broccoli bits stuck to the colander, it hit me: I would lose this round to writer’s block. For the first time since 2011 I’d sit down and will the words to come, and none would. Sure, I’ve skipped plenty of days, but never once have I tried to get something out and failed.

There’s a first time for everything. Today will have to be the first day I wanted to publish a blog and couldn’t.

Whoops! I did it again.



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Donuts are bad for your health

June 17, 2018 § 4 Comments

I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.

Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.

Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.

“I can?”

“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”

“I can’t?”

“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”

“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”

“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”

“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”

“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”

“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”

“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”

“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”

“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”

I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.

“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”

Conservation and wheelsuckery

We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.

As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.

I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.

This time would be different.

Donut attack!

As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.

“This is futile,” I told myself.

“Don’t do it,” I told myself.

“Ease off,” I told myself.

So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.

Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.

I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.

Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.

Heart palpitations

We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.

Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.

At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.

Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.

What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.



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I never read your stupid blog

June 16, 2018 § 20 Comments

There is a guy in our community who used to regularly tell me, apropos of nothing, “I don’t read your blog.”

I always applauded his discriminating literary taste, although he did strike me as a person whose lifetime exposure to long sentences and big words was a bit on the thin side, just as I was struck when he recently advised me that a particular (unread?) post here was “garbage.”

It is quite a phenomenon in the South Bay, where hardly anyone reads this lowbrow, badly written blog, yet somehow its contents are known by all as soon as I hit the “publish” button. I am researching how this occurs without resort to the technique known as “reading” and will let you know what I find when O.J. learns the identity of the real killer.

In addition to the aforementioned discriminating reader of the Great Books and Twitter, it is rumored that another presumed assiduous non-reader of this ratty publication copied and posted photos from here onto his Instabrag account. Perhaps he skipped the text and went straight to photos?

As another example of non-readership, I predict it will instantly be known and howled about when I remark on the absurdity of a four-man TTT at districts today reportedly putting about nine minutes on second place and recording the fastest time of the day among all categories by six minutes, when all of the riders on the winning team were over 50, and two were closer to 60.

One sad and plainly unfit rider averaged a measly 421 watts for 53 minutes, good for third place.

Please move along, folks. It is a scientific fact that the older you get, the faster you go. That is why 80% of the field in this year’s Giro was over the age of fifty, and a quarter of the field was over sixty-five.

Non-reading readers can always post comments anonymously, of course.



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June 15, 2018 § 2 Comments

We were all leaning on our bikes in the Flog parking lot, having just completed a breathless loop around the golf course when Goggle said, “Wanky, you’re the biggest wheelsucker in the South Bay.”

This really hurt my feelings. On Lap 1 I had only sucked wheel the whole way until I got dropped.

On Lap 2 I had only sucked the lead-out goat’s wheel, then sucked Goggle’s wheel, then sucked Medium Banana’s wheel, and just as I was about to win the sprunt Ol’ Father Time, who had been sucking my wheel the whole way, dusted me like a mop. I thought there was honor among thieves, er, wheelsucks, but I guess not.

On Lap 3 I sucked Goggle’s wheel until he faded and then sat on Medium Banana the whole way and sneaked around him for the win, only being in the wind for those last few seconds. Except for that I had hardly done any wheelsucking.

The remaining three laps I sat in a lot more and sucked Goggle’s wheel all the way to about 1/4 of the way up La Cuesta, when he shed me pretty good, like a snake leaving behind its worthless old skin. Aside from all that, I hadn’t sucked wheel at all.

Back in the day

“Before I was old I didn’t used to suck wheel hardly at all,” I told Goggle.

“Like, what mythical era was this?”

“Back when I was, you know, 50 or 51. I never sucked wheel then.”

Goggle rolled his eyes. “I rode with you then. You were an inveterate wheelsucker. Less finesse than now, but I sure never saw you from the behind. You’d be stuck to whoever was in front of you like a piece of toilet paper on a lady’s high heel walking out of the shitter.”

“Maybe I did suck wheel once or twice, but when I was in my 40’s I was always on the front.”

Goggle hadn’t started riding a bike back then because he was only four, so he didn’t say anything but he looked pretty skeptical, and with good cause. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I was a pretty awful wheelsuck, and always had been. The only times I ever found the front were either by mistake or because I made the wrong move at the wrong time or I had quit or flatted or all of the above.

Wheelsucking for fun and profit

Of course my proclivity to hide has never correlated with success, but there aren’t any riders who’ve ever done well in the sport at the elite level who haven’t mastered the art of hiding for as long as possible. The strongest rider never wins, it’s always the smartest strong rider, or the strongest smart rider, and “smart” almost always means hiding until you absolutely can’t any more.

As G3 once told me after he had dropped me going up to the Domes, “This, Wanky, is a sport of conservation.” Apparently I hadn’t properly conserved.

The more I thought about it, the really good riders suck wheel all the suckin’ time. Destroyer is a fuggin’ ninja wheelsuck, until he isn’t and you are by yourself, going backwards as he vanishes on the horizon. Strava Jr. sucks wheel like a baby on a bottle until it’s Go Time, and then he’s usually alone. Same for G$. Even Daniel Holloway generally hides and hides and hides so that you forget he’s there, then suddenly he crosses the line first. Whazzup with thaaaat?

Eddy Merckx? He had a whole team of disposables who he would burn through until the time was ripe to hit the jets. Salbutafroome? A veritable wheel leech except for those last few kilometers, which, I’m told, are when it matters. Lance Drugstrong? Never hit the wind if he didn’t have to, and he made sure he hardly ever had to.

And please don’t tell me about Jacky Durand or those other epic conquerors who soloed from Kilometer 1. They’re the exception that proves the effectiveness of good pharmaceuticals, and they are outliers. Most of the time if you want to survive among your peers you had better scurry like a rat to the fattest, widest wheel you can find.

Oh, the shame of it all

Yet, it is shameful to cower and hide, abusing the person in front of you for his or her girth and superior wattage, only to dump him later or simply to tag along like a tick stuck in a damp, awkward crack, free riding the whole dang way. There is something noble about being the dumb loser who pushes the wind endlessly only to get swarmed at the end, the tough rider who shoulders the load while others make themselves tiny at the back.

“Go to the front!” we used to say in the South Bay, something that we said a lot more often than we did, except perhaps for Head Down James.

In fact, Destroyer once told me I was ruining an entire generation of racers by telling them to go to the front. “If you want to win, pounding the front is the last place you should be,” he said. “Towards the front, for sure, but grinding on the front? Dude, that’s how you lose races.”

“Yeah,” I’d say, “but we aren’t racing.”

“Wanky,” he said with a fatherly smile even though he was ten years younger, “you race like you train.”



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How do I sprint?

June 13, 2018 § 9 Comments

At the world famous Telo training race every Tuesday night, there is huge variety with the same outcome. The variety lies in the the various breakaways that get established, the antics of the riders careening through the turns as they avoid steel plates, loose gravel, orange warning cones, oncoming traffic, and the wobbly person ahead of them, all things that seem like they might lead to a different outcome but almost never do.

The outcome is like this: Frexit, EA Sports, Inc., or Hair win the sprint.

Every blue moon or so it turns out otherwise, like last week when Medium Banana ganged up with Team Lizard Collectors and stuck it to The Man, but the exception proves the rule: You can’t sprint, you ain’t hardly ever gonna win.

That’s what happened this week, too. EA Sports, Inc. banged open the door about three or four laps in, waltzed away with Medium Banana, was joined by Surfer and Ivan the Terrible, put 40 seconds on the field, cat-and-moused towards the end, then led it out and won by a gazillion bike lengths.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Hair, who was still recovering from bubonic plague, kicked it hard from the front out of the last turn and booted Sockman out the back with the ease of a FedEx dude dumping a clunky box off at the curb. He finished so far ahead he looked like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes.

After the race one of guys who got pureed asked Hair, who should know, “How do you sprint?”

Hair shrugged. “It’s pretty simple,” he said. “Pick good parents.”



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