Bro deal? No thanks!

June 27, 2017 § 35 Comments

I recently had a couple of people provide me with some amazing services, both bicycle related. In each instance they went out of their way to accommodate me and did what I can only describe as top-notch professional work.

Then it came time to pay the bill.

One of the people, who had given up a Friday morning to help me out, said “No charge. It’s okay. You do a lot for the community and send a lot of business my way. I can’t take your money.” It took two days of negotiations to get her to accept full payment for her services, and the only way it happened was by flatly saying, “Hey, if you won’t take payment then I won’t be asking for your help again. If you want to give someone a break, give it to someone who needs it badly and really is broke, as opposed to me, who is just cheap.”

The other person gave me a “bill,” to which I said, “Come on, dude. Are you making any money on that?”

“No,” he laughed. “But you’re my friend and plus you gave me some cool bar tape and socks. No worries.”

“No worries? Worries! How much do I have to add so that you make money on this deal? Real money, not fifty cents.” He hemmed and hawed and then coughed up a number that actually made sense and I paid it.

There are countless other examples, like the person who refused to take payment for promoting my law firm at his event, as if by working for free he was doing me a favor. And in reality this is the tip of the iceberg–people accepting in-kind payment, businesses offering unsustainable discounts, and sole proprietors carving up their retail offerings so that after all the carving’s done there’s nothing left but gristle and bone.

These people perplex me. They perplex me because I want them to succeed, and they can’t succeed in the “bro deal” world of the fake bicycle “industry” where everyone wants a discount or wants to trade in-kind like we’re at some bazaar in 13th Century Baghdad where I give you a pregnant camel in exchange for three bushels of dates, a slave, and your youngest daughter.

Giving friends a deep discount is a terrible idea. To the contrary, they are the ones who should be paying full freight or close to it. Doctors and lawyers don’t generally give people bro deals. Car mechanics don’t. Wal-Mart doesn’t. Established, successful businesses charge what they charge in order to turn this thing called a “profit,” and only in extenuating circumstances do they do things at a loss–and doing it “for cost” is doing it at a loss, especially in retail.

To put it in perspective, as a bike injury lawyer I have never — NEVER — had anyone ask me to represent them for free, or even for a significant fee reduction. That’s not to say I haven’t done both of those things; I have. But it’s hardly a feature of my business that people expect me to work my butt off and not pay me for it. I think the word is “professionalization,” and the fake bike industry needs a good dose of it.

There’s a bike shop in the South Bay that is very successful. It’s fuggin’ expensive and it refuses to sponsor bike clubs and especially abhors bike racers. The owner, a former racer, knows that these “friends” will drive you out of business. He focuses on and fights hard to retain customers who pay the asking price and don’t look for a “deal.” You know why?

Because the “deal” is having a top-notch bike shop in your own backyard with real mechanics and knowledgeable salespeople and quality products that a real person stands behind. The “deal” is that some dude is making a profit and paying employees a living wage and acting as an anchor in the community fabric. The “deal” is that he pays taxes, buys a home, and works hard to make sure his kids get educated.

The “deal” isn’t you saving a sorry $30 because he’s your “pal” and “is doing it for cost” in order to “cut you a deal.”

Of course in 35 years people have cut me lots of deals and on a few occasions I’ve even asked for them. Over the decades I’ve had friends hook me up with wheels, helmets, bikes, chain lube, food, clothing, repairs, bike rentals, travel, lodging, and every kind of bike-related thing. I’ve benefited from team discounts, seasonal sales, or a shop manager who really wants to move a particular product — it was Jay Aust’s desire to get that ancient Masi off the rack in 1998 that caused it to wind up in my clutches for a paltry $800.

My bad; color me “hypocrite.”

But for the most part, and that’s 99% of the time, I pay the asking price. If the item is being sold at a discount, or my club affiliation entitles me to a price break, great. I’ll take it. But when it’s a sole proprietor, or a business just starting out, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I wink-wink-nudge-nudge condition my purchase on the bro deal. I want my friends to succeed, to make money, and to be around the next time I need the product or service that they provide.

END

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Rejected by the Uber lady

June 26, 2017 § 55 Comments

“What the fuck do you mean, this is your first ever dirt ride?”

“Yeah,” SOS said, shifting uncomfortably. “Me and Imprint just got new bikes and wanted to practice some.”

I wasn’t smiling. “This is a terrible place to do your first dirt ride. There’s no dishonor in going home now. You have to go to work on Monday. You guys have families. This ride is no joke. People have finished this thing up in the ICU. Do you really want a catheter up your wee-wee because your spine has been broken in four places?”

SOS and Imprint smiled nervously, unsure whether or not I was serious. “It’s only seventy miles. How hard can it be?”

Jay-Z, whose arm was in a cast, shook her head. “How hard? Look, SOS. It’s going to be the hardest fucking anything you’ve ever done in your life. That’s how hard.”

“Guys,” I said, “you gotta understand. This is no place to do your first ever dirt ride. You can pull the plug now.”

“Why should we?” asked SOS.

“I’ll tell you why,” I said. “Because when you get halfway out and have a bad crash or run out of steam or get a bad case of diaper rash or die, no one fucking cares. Everyone’s just trying to survive. No one fucking cares. Get it? No one. Fucking. Cares. And you will be on your own.”

SOS shrugged. “I’m not scared,” he said.

About that time the motel room door popped open and in came Duct Tape, wheeling her bike into the room. “Hi, everyone!” she said. “Tomorrow’s going to be fun!”

“What the fuck is that?” I asked.

“It’s my bike, silly,” she said. “I haven’t ridden it in nine months, though.”

“And was that last time through a rust pit? What’s that shit on the spoke?”

“Duct tape.”

“Duct tape? On a spoke?”

“Oh, it’s on good, though. I daubed some Gorilla Glue around the spoke holder thingy.”

I looked at her bike, a rusted out $350 Specialized commuter bike with a velcro water bottle cage. “Did any of you people talk to anyone before you decided to come out here?” They shook their heads. “Do you know what the Belgian Waffle Ride is?” I asked.

They shook their heads.

“Do you have prepaid funeral plots?” I asked.

They shook their heads.

I got a splitting migraine. “Okay,” I said. “You’re all going to die.”

“But you’re not hammering tomorrow, right?” asked Duct Tape. “If you’re not hammering I’ll ride with you the whole way.”

“No,” I said, wearily. “I’m not hammering.”

I climbed into the bed, which I was sharing with SOS. “I brought some earplugs,” SOS volunteered. “Do any of you guys snore?”

We all lied and said no and went to sleep. “Me, either,” said SOS. “I lost my septum back in the 90’s.”

Within minutes SOS was snoring like he had a small family of bullfrogs lodged in his chest. Then his alarm went off at 3:30 so I was able to stay up until mine went off at five. Before we left for the ride Jay-Z came into our room. “What time did you guys get up?” she asked.

“3:30,” I said. “SOS’s alarm went off at 3:30.”

“I always get up to go the gym at 4:00,” he said.

Jay-Z looked at him. “You work out?” she asked.

About 120 idiots had shown up to do Joann’s Wafer Re-Do Ride, hosted by Michael Marckx in honor of Jay-Z’s selfless assistance to her teammate who got t-boned by another teammate and wound up in the ICU. However, two weeks before the re-do ride came to pass, Jay-Z shattered her wrist. But of course the show had to go on, and if she couldn’t go as a rider she and Michelle planned to go as sag specialists.

Michael assembled the riders and, posing in front of everyone, surreptitiously ordered that someone “take a picture of my butt.” Then he gave a grand speech. “We’re going to try to keep things together today,” he lied. “Those of you who are more confident and know the course can go on ahead, but the purpose of today’s ride is to stay together as much as possible and get to hang out with our friends.”

This monstrosity of a bold-faced fraudulent utterance went unheeded by the assembled victims, all of whom knew they were dealing with a pathological liar who could no more “stay together” with weaker riders than the sun can orbit around the earth. A few miles into the ride Michael unleashed a vicious attack, splintering the group, which was filled with the weak and infirm, and dashed on to a glorious victory, finishing so far ahead that he was able to shower, shave, and coif before the next finisher even arrived.

It’s thankless work crushing your own re-do training practice friendship ride in honor of a good Samaritan, but someone has to do it.

In addition to winning his training thank-you ride, MMX also arranged for the casual ride to be fully supported in the finest BWR style. Bad Sea Coffee had amazing coffee, hot and cold, throughout the ride, with mobile repairs provided by Velofix, drinks by GQ6, a start-finish venue by the Lost Abbey Brewery, and several sag stations to provide sustenance to the riders.

But back to our story. As Imprint, SOS, and Duct Tape started the first descent, which plunged down a twisting series of soft, awful, suicidal dirt hairpins that had sheer drops on one side and a cliff wall on the other, Jay-Z and Michelle drove up behind them and screamed, “Slow down! You’re going too fast! You’ll kill yourself, you idiots!”

Imprint shrugged and shouted back. “I got disc brakes! I’m good!”

At that moment he lost control and slammed into the cliff wall, which was made of brush and soft dirt, leaving a Wile E. Coyote imprint in the cliff. “Oh my dog!” the sag drivers screamed, as SOS and Duct Tape stopped to see how badly he’d been killed and whether or not they could wrest the gold band off his ring finger before he regained consciousness.

Imprint staggered to his feet and waved his friends on, who were in fact, like all cyclist friends, no friends at all. “I’m fine, he mumbled,” as large brain clots formed inside his skull.

“Maybe,” said Jay-Z, “but your tire’s flat. Get in the car. You’re done for the day.”

“No!” he resisted. “I gotta keep going!”

“Okay, well change the flat then.”

Imprint sighed. “I don’t know how to take the wheel off.”

“How can you not know how to take the wheel off your own fucking bike?”

“It’s new,” Implant said, “and I don’t know how to take off the disc brake axle and thing.”

Jay-Z, who was wearing her best 5-inch platform heels, floppy summer hat, and stripper’s negligee, got out in the knee-high sand and pulled the through-axle, changed the flat, aired it up with the floor pump, then cleaned the rubble out of the disc before pushing him back on his way, all with a shattered wrist in a cast. Having left the starting gate promptly at 7:30 AM, Imprint would not be seen again until almost eleven hours later.

In the meantime, Duct Tape began what would be a series of bicycle-falling-off incidents, some related to the wheel that wouldn’t go around in circles, others to the massive rocks and obstacles in her path, and her final, game-ending crash the result of plain old gravity. She finally gave up and lay on the road side with her hands above her head, in a sort of horizontal victory pose if you will, where the podium is the ground. Jay-Z and Michelle scooped her up and deposited her back at the brewery as they got yet another call, this time from SOS.

“Who is it now?” asked Jay-Z as Michelle’s phone lit up.

“It’s SOS,” she said.

“What does he want?”

“All he texted is a map and the words ‘SOS.’ For reals.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

They raced to the pindropped location, where SOS was seated at the roadside, bonked, sunstroked, and mumbling incoherently. “Uber lady,” he said. “That fucking Uber lady.”

“What Uber lady?” asked Jay-Z.

“You know how Wanky told me to pull the plug last night if things got gnarly?”

“Yes?”

“Well, I had an emergency.”

“Oh, no. What happened?”

“I got a cramp.”

Jay-Z and Michelle looked at each other. “So?”

“It was a cramp,” he said. “And it really hurt. And that motherfucker Wanky and Patrick and that German girl, when I shouted out ‘Cramp!’ you know what they did?”

“What?”

“They just kept riding away. They rode away, those fuckers!”

“Wait a minute,” said Jay-Z. “Wanky told you about this last night. I was there. What part of ‘No one gives a fuck about you’ did you not understand?”

“But I thought he was kidding. And then that Uber lady.”

“What Uber lady?”

“So I pulled the plug after I cramped like Wanky said to do and I called Uber XL and the lady came, this black lady in a really nice brand new sedan with leather seats, it was perfect for me and my bike.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, and she took one look at me and she was like, ‘Hell no, I ain’t putting your nasty ass in my car, hell no,’ and then she fucking drove off. That bitch!”

Jay-Z looked at SOS. “Well, you’re covered in white salt that looks like jizz stains and you’re as filthy as if you’d been riding for fifty miles in a sewer, and your bike is covered from stem to stern with grease and dirt, who the fuck would want to put you in their nice car? Except me, of course.”

SOS saw the logic, loaded his bike on the rack, and crawled into the car. “I can’t believe that sonofabitch Wanky left me for dead. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he mumbled.

“Yeah,” Jay-Z said. “Until next year.”

END

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Pre-ride

June 25, 2017 § 18 Comments

Out of town: Wake in strange bed shower shave brush teeth put on bibs armwarmers jersey socks put credit card and cash in ziplock strap on wristwatch fill water bottles with WATER grab two of Yasuko’s granola bars attach front light rear light jersey light air up tars affix helmet shoes gloves put in glasses stick phone in pocket pedal over to Sckubrats coffee oatmeal and ride.

e-Tap and Wanky Tech Review

June 24, 2017 § 24 Comments

In the overall scheme of things, “scheme” being “since time began,” I haven’t seen all that much. In cycling I have seen exactly three technical changes since 1982 that were really significant, things that changed cycling a lot for the better. I’m sure you will disagree with my Big Three, but here they are:

CLIPLESS PEDALS

What they replaced: Toe cages, toe straps, and heavy alloy pedals.

How they made cycling better: They got rid of purple toes and dead toenails and hotspots a mile wide unless you happen to wear Bonts, in which case you pay extra for those things. Instead of falling over at lights because you couldn’t reach down and undo the strap in time, now you fall over because you can’t twist out in time. They eliminated the constant repurchase of worn out Alfredo Binda straps ($25/each), and now require the replacement of worn out cleats ($35/each), and highly specialized and technical shoes ($435/pair). But seriously, clipless pedals made pedaling easier, less painful, and more efficient. Game changer.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing, except not having old straps lying around to strap stuff under my seat with, and being able to buy a pair of Dettos for $39.

INDEX SHIFTING

What it replaced: Friction shifting.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated wing-and-a-prayer shifting. It eliminated the 12-year apprenticeship required to learn how to find the right cog. It led to handlebar shift levers, which made shifting faster, safer, and more efficient, especially since the number of cogs climbed in a few short years from six to eleven. Now it goes to eleven.

What I miss about the old stuff: Simplex friction shifters were silent and perfect once you learned how to use them. Index shifting killed downtube shifting, which was good, but at the expense of heavier, clunkier hoods and bars. That’s pretty much it.

ELECTRONIC/WIRELESS SHIFTING

What it replaced: Mechanical shifting done with wires.

How it made cycling better: It eliminated the “shifting penalty” that kept you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. Before wireless shifting you had to always consider the effort it was going to take to shift plus the fact that you might put it in the wrong gear, mistakenly thinking, for example, that you needed to be in the 11 rather than the 28. With the mechanical stuff, when you shifted into an inappropriate gear, you then had to shift again to get into the right one, which meant at least one wasted shift effort, more if you were a complete goober. Since all cyclists are lazy, even when it comes to something as effortless as modern mechanical index shifting, which basically requires the effort of pushing around a warm stick of butter, most cyclists would rather pedal along in a gear that’s slightly too hard or slightly too easy than shift twice, or, dog forbid, go up and down several cogs to find the right gear. This inherent laziness caused by the effort required to mechanically shift is the “shifting penalty” that keeps you in the wrong gear a lot of the time. However, with e-Tap and its ilk you just clickety-clickety-click and it doesn’t fuggin’ matter how wrong your gear selection is. You can mis-shift entering a turn and be in the right gear before you’re even through it. You can mis-shift on a climb when someone is attacking and be in the right gear even after being in a couple of wrong ones.

What I miss about the old stuff: Nothing. I hated those fat hoods with a passion, to say nothing of the droopy tentacle-design favored by Shimano’s earlier versions, where the wires came out of bar tape like bug guts.

Of course, along with the three best improvements ever, there are also the three worst things ever to happen to cycling. In order of repulsiveness:

TT BIKES AND EQUIPMENT

What they replaced: Regular bikes, good looks, common sense.

How they made cycling worse: You look like an idiot on one; they make really slow people think they are fast; they discourage thousands and thousands of people from ever getting into TTs; they are twitchy and crash easier than drunk unicyclists; they add exponentially to the cost of what is already a fake sport even on a good day; they make terrible clothes hangers, which is what they end up as. Or the world’s ugliest wall art and/or garage filler. Also, an old TT bike ages about as well as an old ass tattoo.

What I miss about the old stuff: Everything. One bike no matter what kind of race; affordability of one bike versus two; knowing that apples were being compared to apples; sharing the lineage of Eddy.

ONBOARD COMPUTERS AND POWER METERS

What they replaced: Brains. Fun.

How they made cycling worse: No one knows anything anymore. People just read and memorize data. Cyclists, who are already the world’s most boring people, when armed with ride data become duller than a year-old razor blade.

What I miss about the old stuff: I liked my brain a lot. It was soft in spots but worked pretty well in others.

STRAVA, PHONES, AND ANYTHING CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET

What they replaced: Freedom.

How they made cycling worse: You have no more excuses for escaping from the drudgery of work, family, or life. Cycling, especially when combined with “data” items above, becomes just more drudgery.

What I miss about the old stuff: Freedom. Duh.

END

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And then some

June 23, 2017 § 39 Comments

For years and years if you showed up to ride at the Manhattan Beach Pier any time after about 7:00 AM, you’d see Joe Charles working his boot camp.

The MB moms, dads, youngsters, and adepts of all ages would be spread out on the sand grunting and groaning as G.I. Joe put them through the wringer. His voice was unmistakable, deep, resonant, authoritative, encouraging, challenging, always friendly.

Sometimes, if you were there early for the Wednesday ride, he’d be taking a break and would always chat you up. “Why don’t you come on down and take my push-up challenge?” he’d ask with a grin.

“It looks too hard,” you’d say.

“It is hard,” he’d shoot back. “And then some!”

“Not today, Joe,” you’d say.

“All right, then, what about tomorrow?”

“I don’t know, Joe, looks like a pretty tough boot camp down there.”

“It is,” he’d say. “And then some!”

G.I. Joe wasn’t a fixture, he was an installation. Never missed a day, and never anything but a kind word and a handshake or a fist bump.

Joe wasn’t tall, but he wasn’t short, either. He was a little on the heavy side with a bald head, a broad chest, powerful legs, and massive forearms capped by thick, muscled hands. “See ya, Joe,” I’d say as I rolled off down the bike path.

“Yes, sir!” he’d say with a big yell and a wave. He probably never knew who I was; we club cyclists all looked alike with the helmets and glasses and orange clown suits.

Then one day Joe was gone. I figured he’d moved or was doing something else. People come and go, after all.

A long while later I saw him again. He was leaning on a cane over by the railing and a woman was helping him try to walk. He could barely put one foot in front of the other and the entire right side of his body looked like it wasn’t connected to anything at all.

I rolled over. “Hey, Joe,” I said. “What happened to you?”

He looked at me, confused, and tried to talk, a task made more difficult because he had never really known me to start off with. The massive stroke had pulverized everything.

“I’m hurt,” he finally said.

With my one foot on the ground and the other clipped in, I didn’t know what to say. “Heal up, man,” I said, or something stupid like that. I was stricken as we looked at each other for a few moments, him trying to figure out who I was and me disbelieving. I rode off.

Another long time went by.

Then yesterday I was drinking a cup of coffee and I heard Joe’s voice behind me. He was by himself, picking up a burrito.

“Hey, Joe,” I said. “How are you doing?”

He walked over to my table, slowly, trying to figure out who I was. “I’m doing good, man, trying hard every day, every day.”

“Sit down if you have a minute,” I said. He did. “How have you been?” I asked.

“Every day I gotta try,” he said. “I had to let the lady go,” he said.

“The lady who was helping you?”

“Yes,” he said. “She didn’t want me doing things by myself. Kept telling me I can’t do this I can’t do that, don’t go here, don’t go there. I kept telling her I gotta do it myself. I gotta do it myself. I can’t have her be doing it for me. I was too much for her.”

“You look so much better, Joe,” I said. “You’re walking, man, no cane or anything.”

His eyes flickered for a minute. “Yes, every day I’m doing it,” he said. “I’ve got a lot going on, getting my boot camp going again, walking every day, I’m doing it. I have to do it myself. I’m going down to the pier right now.”

“Can I go with you?”

“Sure,” he said.

We walked slowly, so slowly, and as we passed the shops he’d wave and shout hello to all the people he knew, which, it seemed, was everyone. “I do this four times a day when I can,” he said, “try to walk up to Valley and back.”

We were at the bottom of the hill and were both sweating. “That’s some hard walking, Joe.”

He nodded his agreement, his brow wrinkled. He looked at me and it went deep. “Yes, it is hard. And then some.”

1

END

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Leadout

June 21, 2017 § 28 Comments

I’m a simple person.

I like cream in my coffee.

I like toast for breakfast with butter and jam.

And I want to win Telo.

I’ve come to terms that #3 is never going to happen, but every week rebel mightily against reality. I have it in my head and there are 24 or 25 chances a year to win and this is the week.

When I say win I don’t mean set a new PR or make the breakaway. I mean cross the finish line first.

It’s a very simple concept, except that after innumerable starts, it’s never happened, and as I get older and slower and apparently a bunch dumber, the chance of winning, which was always infinitesimal, keeps getting smaller.

As Derek the Destroyer says, “Your race results are largely decided by who shows up,” and at Telo there are always at least four people who can sprint faster than I can, if not forty.

Yesterday, there were seven.

Before the fake race started, Derek, explained the race strategy, which went like this:

  • Frexit wasn’t there.
  • Smasher wasn’t there.
  • EA Sports, Inc. wasn’t there.
  • Hair wasn’t there.
  • [Complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel.”

The analysis part actually meant something, but for me, once the race started I knew I would forget everything. But I remembered “follow my wheel.”

At the last moment Alx Bns showed up, along with the Hun, and then at the very last minute Surfer Dan, and of course Heavy D., none of whom I was ever going to beat in anything, much less a sprunt. However, with [complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel,” there was a chance that something good might happen.

Until Ronnie showed up. Ronnie is the current Pro/Cat 1 leader in the CBR Sprint Cup standings. He’s about 25 years younger than I am, and about 30 times faster. We started the one-hour beatdown at 6:00 PM pointy-sharp and everything was fine until it wasn’t.

Somewhere between 6:NOAir and 6:VOMIT I looked up and there were only eight riders left. Ronnie and Derek had methodically attacked until there was nothing left, and each time they got pulled back someone else would counter.

With three laps to go Derek said something to me that I couldn’t hear so I nodded as if I did. The entire race I had followed Rule 1 of Steve Tilford’s Bike Racing Ten Commandments, which was “stay off the front.”

With one lap to go everyone slowed down and got ready for the sprunt. Patrick Barrett slotted in behind Derek but I somehow got back on the wheel after Turn 2, into the headwind. Derek motioned for me to stay there, as if anything other than a punch to the face could have dislodged me. We entered and exited the chicane and everyone bunched up on the right.

At just the right moment, Derek jumped to the left, into the wind. Miraculously, I was in a small enough gear to accelerate with him. Miraculously, I was able to follow. Not so miraculously, he then began pulling away. Miraculously, I realized that if I didn’t get on his wheel at that very second I would be finishing eighth out of eight. Not so miraculously, waves of doubt and pain overwhelmed me. Miraculously, my legs kept pushing. Not so miraculously, I wanted to cry. Miraculously, I didn’t crash into his back wheel as he whipped through Turn 3. Not so miraculously, I couldn’t see or breathe or think and then boom Derek went wide, leadout finished with one turn and 400 yards to go and the last words I heard were “At least you got second, Seth!” and I had no idea what that meant because there were eight of us and I could see Ronnie’s shadow on my wheel and I whipped through the last turn and it was weird because Derek’s leadout had been so vicious and fast that even though I was gassed just by turning the pedals the momentum kept me going and as I waited for the swarm to pass me it didn’t and only Ronnie was left who easily kicked by for the win without much effort and in that split fraction of a second I was about as happy as I know how to be and parenthetically as I write this several hours later I still am.

END

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The death of first

June 20, 2017 § 25 Comments

My dinner table can be a pretty unforgiving yet hilarious place, especially when all the kids, spouses, and my grandson are gathered around. No matter how witty your repartee, it’s hard to keep a straight face when at least one of the dinnertime combatants is eating rice with his fist.

There’s a great deal of story one-upsmanship, with each person trying to tell a funnier tale than the one before, and at times you have to put down your fork, forget about chewing, and laugh for a while at the ridiculousness of people, like the angry constituent who called to complain about Obamacare. My youngest, who was interning at a congressman’s office, took the call.

“I don’t eat at McDonald’s! How come I have to pay for all those fat people with crappy diets?” the caller demanded.

“Well, sir, do you have a pre-existing condition?”

“Yes. I’m diabetic.”

“Obamacare forbids your insurer from canceling your insurance due to that. Without Obamacare, it will be much easier to drop sick people from health insurance, which sort of defeats the purpose of having it.”

“Really?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, all those fat people should shop at farmer’s markets,” the caller said before slamming down the phone.

As the comments ricocheted around the table, my son, who took countless of these calls over the last few months, shrugged. “It’s post-modernism. Facts are negotiable. They aren’t even facts anymore.”

Which got me to thinking about bike racing and USAC. I had spent a while earlier in the day talking with an SCNCA board member about the challenges facing sanctioned bike racing. My point, unbeknownst to me, had been very post-modern. I’d opined that there was no such thing anymore as winning; there were only different metrics for success.

This, more than anything else, is why sanctioned bike racing will only decline, even as ridership mushrooms.

Time was, when you wanted to respond to the gnawing insecurity troll that lived in your head who was constantly asking, “How fast are you?” the only way to answer was to race yer fuggin’ bike.

Every bike race had a winner, and except for one-off events like Madison or the TTT, “winner” was singular. Everyone else lost the race and would try again next week, where they would almost certainly lose again. All outcomes were binary.

And not only did every race answer the question “How fast are you?” but it answered simply: Your speed was determined by how long it took you to cross the finish line as compared to everyone else who started with you.

The nature of bike racing therefore meant that you didn’t win very much, if ever. But you were guaranteed a clear answer to the question. That’s what you were purchasing. An answer.

In our post-modern world, we are ruled by quantum physics. Things are this, unless they are that, and of course sometimes they are both at the same time, and by the way, you can never know how fast you are going unless you’re willing to not know your position, and conversely, we can tell you where you are but not simultaneously your speed.

The quantum physics, post-factual nature of the universe has crushed a lot of things, bike racing included. You can be a winner without ever doing a race — on Strava. You can beat a world-class field in a major Euro stage race without ever leaving your garage — on Zwift. You can drug dope and you can data dope. You can adjust your speed and placing by weight, gender, age, location, and year of competition to twist the outcome as surely as you can sniff an inhaler, inject EPO, or take testosterone to be faster than you would have been without it.

And there’s no winner-loser in a grand fondue, which is a race that isn’t even a race that qualifies for a world championship masters title that itself is a race … except when it’s not.

Your variable metric for success can be applied to gravel racing, to century rides, to group rides, or to personal races run on power meters, heart rate monitors, and Garmin head units. You had the biggest left-leg power output of that Strava segment ever. Or among 50-55 men who weigh between 200 and 210 pounds. Statistics may be worse than damned lies, but they are infinitely comforting because they will whisper back to you whatever you want them to say. OTB in a hilly road race or 47th in the sprunt won’t whisper anything back except “You suck.”

If you did a ride and didn’t win SOMETHING that is quantifiable, demonstrable to others in the form of an e-trinket or data point, you are clearly doing it wrong. All wrong.

The anachronistic search for a winner offered up by USAC-sanctioned events is as vain a search as trying to explain the perihelion shift of Mercury using Newtonian physics. The theory won’t fit the observable phenomena because no one wins anything anymore, except at the temporary slot in spacetime where they choose to set the goal posts.

Thanks to this post-modern acceptance of #altfacts and #quantumphysics, more people seem to be riding bicycles as a result, and enjoying them.

I’m good with that, except of course when I’m simultaneously not.

END

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