Sexing up the Wanky blog

December 11, 2017 Comments Off on Sexing up the Wanky blog

For a long time now I have been the target of well-intentioned criticism, which, may I remind you, is an oxymoron. “Yo, the blog layout sucks.”

“Hey, have you, um, considered you know, uh, getting away from, well, you know, straight text?”

“There are so many awesome templates out there. Reasonably priced!”

“You know your blog layout is canned, and used by about 500,000 other bloggers, right?”

“Content may be king, but appearance is the hottie sitting alone at the bar.”

And of course my responses have always been consistent:

  1. This is a word blog. People come here for words and the way they are arranged.
  2. “Update” is a synonym for “spend.”
  3. If I wanted to look cool I wouldn’t dress in spandex underwear and ride around on a plastic toy. I’d also get a couple of muscles.
  4. Have you subscribed yet?

All to no avail, of course, because my buddy Fukdude runs a website development company and my trusty shop assistant has insisted that with pictures and a pretty layout I could have my subscribers and eat them, too, and they eventually wore me down. Developing a web site with Fukdude is no easy task, might I add, because in order to make it happen you have to be able to work around his “schedule.” I put “schedule” in quotes because it’s as close as I can come to describing Fukdude’s workday, which is problematic because wherever he happens to be, work is somewhere else. For example, on the big day when I went over to see the final draft of the new and improved blog (with 8 essential banned substances and iron), it was tough to get focused.

“Hey, dude,” he said. “How’re the legs?”

“Same as always. Weak and hairy. Let’s see the final version of the redesign.”

“Fuck, dude, sure. Here it is. Hey, check out this video. It’s sick.”

We looked at a sick video for a few minutes. “So, let’s see the blog.”

“Here it is.” Fukdude clicked on some more things and I noticed that he had a bunch of programming books stacked up next to his computer. My favorite was “C+ Programmer’s Guide, 2003.”

“Hasn’t anything changed since 2003?” I asked, pointing at the book.

“Oh, that? Fuck, yeah. It’s fukkin’ ancient as fuck. Makes a legit paperweight. Hey, what size shoe you wear?”

“45.5. Why?”

“Check out these Bonts. Totally rad, custom fit to my foot, weigh 200g each. Fukkin’ rad, huh?”

“Yeah. But how about my blog?”

“They don’t fit right. I need to get another custom pair. Yeah, hang on. Here it is.”

My new blog flashed briefly across the screen. “Wow, that’s awesome. How do I update it?”

“Piece of cake. I’ll show you later. Hey, come check out my fukkin’ new camper trailer.”

We walked out to the driveway. “Come on in, man. It’s fukkin’ rad.” We climbed in and sat down. I’ve never sat in someone’s mini-camper trailer in their driveway. It was oddly quieting and peaceful. “Fukkin’ rad, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s awesome.”

“Fuck, dude, I don’t even have to go anywhere. Me and the wife come back here and I crack a few beers and watch TV. Fukkin’ rad.” He reached into the fridge and cracked two beers. “Want a beer?”

“No, thanks. I quit drinking a few years ago.”

“Fuck, dude, I know. Just testing you. This is some good shit. Double hopped. Bitter as fuck, but gets you fukkin’ drunk quick.”

“That’s important.”

“Yeah. As long as you’re not coding. Fucks up your coding.”

“Did you code the new blog?”

“Me? Fuck, no. I just pulled a canned one off the Internet. It’s kind of expensive but you can afford it.”

“How much?”

“$39.99. Don’t worry, it will pay for itself.”

“Okay,” I said. “So when are we going to go over the updating and get a good look at it? I only saw it for a few seconds.”

“Fuck, dude, I’ll send you some links and shit. You can check it out while you’re watching porn.”

“Uh, okay. Is it ready to go?”

“No, there’s still a bunch of shit I have to do. But I’ll get right on it later. Hey, this camper is fukkin’ rad, huh?”

“It’s totally rad.”

“Want a beer?”

“Maybe later.”

“Yeah, I’ve got a whole fridge full. Check out this shower.” He opened the door. “Thing’s fukkin’ tiny and the toilet is right there under the nozzle so you can shower while you’re takin’ a shit. Fukkin’ rad, huh?”

“I dunno. I’ve never done that before.”

“Me, either. But you can. Won’t have to wash your hands afterwards, either. Pretty rad, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“But I won’t let anyone shit in here. It’s way gnarly, dude. This thing is so fukkin’ tiny. Kill your vibe, dude, you’re fukkin’ sittin’ here drinking a brewski and somebody’s crumping a hairy beet in there, fukkin’ gnar, dude.”

“I bet.”

“I mean, I don’t give a fuck about the smell, but you have to fukkin’ clean out the shit, dude. You ever clean shit out of a camper toilet?”

“Can’t say I have.”

“Fukkin’ gnarly, dude. Stinks like shit.”

“I bet it does.”

“Dude, I fukkin’ have nightmares about the fukkin’ turd tank in this thing, like one of my kids might have come out here and took a dump and I didn’t know about it and then fukkin’ six months later it’s some fukkin’ toxic waste dump and I gotta clean it out, man. You don’t think my fukkin’ kids or wife are gonna touch that shit, do you?”

“I guess not.”

“Fuck no, dude. Anyway, if you have to take a dump you can go in the house. You need to take a dump?”

“I’m good.”

“Cool. Want a beer?”

“Nah, not just now.”

“Cool. Well I’ll send you the links. Blog is fukkin’ rad, dude. You’re gonna fukkin’ love it.”

“Thanks, man. Will we need to have another meeting?”

“Let me check my schedule.”

I never heard back.

END

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Where has all the subcutaneous fat gone?

December 8, 2017 Comments Off on Where has all the subcutaneous fat gone?

I was riding with a friend the other day and we had started going up a hill. I got out of the saddle. “Hey!” said the friend. “You have a little vein there poking up in the bottom of your calf!”

I got really excited because my legs have the muscularity and vascularity of Velveeta. “Just one?” I asked.

The friend paused as I pushed down extra hard. “No, there may be a second tiny one next to it. Or maybe it’s a hair.”

Which kind of sums up what biking legs used to look like. Do you remember, like thirty or so years ago, when pretty much all the local people who were any good all looked the same? They were:

  • Skinny
  • Had little muscles
  • Had definition but nothing crazy
  • Didn’t have veiny legs that looked like Tokyo road maps

Other things about most good bike racers back then:

  • Pretty small upper bodies
  • Pencil-type necks
  • Looked like they might break if you dropped them

Of course there were always exceptions; people who had really crazy-cut legs and maybe the occasional rider who was veiny as all get-out, pros of course and of course some sprinters, and some track racers, and chunky riders who were simply tough and good, but basically bike racers weren’t very muscular or even athletic looking. Greg LeMond’s early racing photos looked like he was auditioning for the Reduced Lunch Program.

What happened?

You go to a race now and lots of guys look like body builders, with razor-cut necks and forearms and biceps, and crazy-defined calves and thighs that look like they’re going to break out from under what appears to be translucent paper-thin skin, there’s so little fat underneath it. What’s weirder is that this phenomenon is most pronounced in masters races, the exact time of life when your body has less muscle mass and more fat, and where developing and keeping on big chunks of lean meat flies in the face of everything we know about biology.

I suppose the human body has evolved since 1984. Yeah, that’s it.

DSC_3865

Photo of blobby calf © 2017 by Jay Yoshizumi, used with permission.

END

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Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

December 7, 2017 Comments Off on Buy a lottery ticket, PLEASE!

I am an expert conversation killer, having the ability to bring the liveliest discussions to a screeching halt with a few ill-chosen words, or well-chosen ones, such that you could even consider me a mass murderer of happy dialogue, a Ted Bundy in the world of social gatherings. One of the main reasons that conversations in my presence wilt like delicate orchids in a blast furnace has to do with the topics I introduce.

The topics themselves are harmless, just like guns, because after all, topics don’t kill conversations, people kill conversations. For example, it’s conceivable that there are many social groupings that would relish a conversation about learning Chinese, or about medieval European cities, or about the relationship between Croatian and Bosnian and the degree of mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovakian, but that’s like saying there are many foods that go well with Bearnaise sauce … and not knowing that chocolate ice cream isn’t one of them.

Even good friends who like to read and who enjoy a robust chat never take the bait, so what I usually do is end up listening, adding a comment every now and then, and keeping most of my thoughts to myself. This, in fact, is the only reason I’m able to hang onto the admittedly few friends I have; I have the hard-earned wisdom to know when to be silent, and its corollary, the knowledge of when to shut up.

Still, even my mustard gas convo weaponry can’t account for the fact that the moment I mention the word “insurance” a pall goes over the crowd. And I talk about insurance a lot.

It’s not because I sell insurance, but because my job puts me into contact with insurance policies all the time, every day, and what’s worse, it puts me into contact with no insurance policies where there by all rights should have been one. I’ve written about the importance of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and how it can protect you when you are on a bike and you get hit by a car. If you’re unfamiliar with this crucial topic, please read this.

But recently in L.A. I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend: Cyclists who get hit by cars and who themselves have no UM/UIM coverage under their own auto policy because they don’t own a car. More and more people are simply going bipedal or bicycle-only and stepping off the one-man-one-car, an-auto-in-every-pot mentality that made America mildly great and obese and prematurely dead.

For these cyclists and pedestrians, who have no auto insurance and therefore no UM/UIM coverage to protect them when they are victimized by a hit-and-run or uninsured driver, there is actually a very practical solution. But before I get to it, I have to conquer the conversation-slaughtering effect of the word “insurance.”

Why do people hate the word so much that the moment you say it they stop listening, reading, thinking? Why so much odium surrounding a word that’s ostensibly there to protect you? I’ll tell you why: Because insurance is one of those things in life that signifies a negative obligation with no payoff. Sure, if you need it it pays off, it’s insurance, but the connotation is “pay something and get nothing.” So, like trying to sell people a “living will” or “probate services,” you’re pretty much fucked the minute you mention it.

So I figured out a way around it. All along we’ve been calling it the wrong thing. Instead of saying “insurance,” we should be calling it by its real name, which is “lottery ticket.” Now that will get anyone’s attention! Hey, can I sell you a lottery ticket?

Even if you don’t want one, at least you’re listening. And everyone has an opinion on lotteries, and deep down everyone wants a winning ticket. NO ONE WANTS A WINNING INSURANCE POLICY BECAUSE YOU GENERALLY HAVE TO GET MAIMED OR DIE. But everyone wants a lottery ticket because you might get money!!!!!

Therefore, today’s blog post is about getting a Non-Operator Lottery Ticket. These lottery tickets can be purchased even if you don’t own or drive a car or even have a driving license. The way they work is this: You go to a Lottery Ticket Sales Company (formerly known as an insurance company), and tell them you want one of these non-operator lottery tickets. They will sell you tickets which, if you win, will pay up to $500,000 if the driver who hits you is uninsured or underinsured. These lottery tickets are affordable and a must-have if you ride a bicycle and don’t own a car.

Before you go out and purchase a new speedsuit or a pair of rad cycling glasses or some more carbon to go with your 100% carbon that is all carbon, please get yourself one of these non-operator lottery tickets. Because unfortunately, if you ride enough on the streets of Los Angeles, there’s a real good chance you’re going to win.

END

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Why you can’t train

December 6, 2017 Comments Off on Why you can’t train

Lots of people call the Wanky Hotline™ to get help with their bicycling problems. Below are the top five issues for which our offices receive requests:

  1. Where’s that creak/squeak/clank coming from?
  2. Is the higher number the faster gear?
  3. Is a kilometer longer than a mile?
  4. What is the best bike for me?
  5. Why can’t I train?

The answers to 1-4 are easy: 1) Your bottom bracket. 2) That depends. 3) Only in the Northern Hemisphere. 4) The one you can’t afford.

No. 5 is much more difficult. Rather, it’s easy to answer but lengthy to explain. The reason you can’t train is because you are not in control of your time. This very different from time management, a complex topic for which business gurus charge a lot of money to help you with, $3.00/mo. and up. It is also something I know little about.

Basically, time management is how you divvy up time according to fantasy-based work productivity applications like Outlook. For example, Outlook’s calendar allows you to organize your workday into important tasks, meetings, research, client calls, and etc., all of which you ignore until about 3:30 because you’re checking emails, texts, watching cat videos and arguing on Facebag with crazy people about various constitutional provisions that neither of you has ever actually read, much less understood.

Time control is a wholly different beast. Time control is where you grab time by the scrotum and make it your slave. Time control is predicate to time management. For example, let’s say you were a lion tamer for a circus and you wanted to manage the lion for the show (time management). It would be a terrible idea to simply scoop a lion off the jungle street and try to manage him, as he would claw your face off and eat you. First you would need to subdue the creature and stuff him into the parameters of the little cage. This is time control, taming the lion before teaching him to stand on a stool and roar.

For the time-crunched cyclist who has already been duped by Chris Carmichael and other time management gurus, you need to examine the three key battles to winning the time control war.

  1. The Pillow Battle.
  2. The Me-Time Battle.

Okay, that’s only two, but if you win these you’ve pretty much won the war.

The Pillow Battle begins when your alarm goes off and ends in a complete rout after you’ve hit snooze four times and then rush madly into the bathroom to get ready for work in such a way that it doesn’t look like you shaved with a bread knife or put on your makeup with a paint gun. Most people lose the Pillow Battle the first seventy years of their life until they are too old to sleep more than four hours at a time, by which time it is too late, literally and figuratively.

However, only by winning the Pillow Battle can you control the day. And worse, you pretty much have to pop out of bed no later than about 5:00 AM. Since you need seven hours of sleep, complex math indicates that you must be in bed no later than 10:00 PM, which is related to the Me-Time Battle, which I’ll explain later.

Anyway, there is no easy way to get up by five, so I can’t help you there. You just have to do it. I know it’s hard, but look at it like this: Once you’re dead you’ll never have to get up again, even on Mondays. And scientists believe that since the universe is at least 30 billion years old, the actual time you are going to be alive and struggling to get out of bed, assuming you live to be 80, is only .000000266666667 percent of the time your molecules will be around, so it’s really not all that much.

The Me-Time Battle is the other half of the war. You get home after a long day of Facebagging and checking emails (but not answering them), eat dinner, and then it’s eight or nine o’clock and you think, “This is me time, time for me. Time to relax and recover from all that hard Facebagging.”

So what do you do? Instead of getting ready for bed, which really consists of nothing more than feeling guilty about not brushing your teeth and putting on an old t-shirt, you prop up in front of the Tee Vee and pretty soon it’s 1:00 AM and you’re deep into the bowels of the Mesothelioma Lawyer Ad Campaign time slots. You crawl into bed and ain’t no fuggin’ way you’re getting out of bed at five.

The solution to the Me-Time Battle is to give up on the concept that some special part of the evening is “time for you.” That’s b.s.; evening time is bedtime, so put on that t-shirt, don’t brush your teeth, and go to bed. Now. If you do, you’ll be up at five, doing hill repeats or some other such nonsense by five-thirty, and slobbering asleep in your cubicle by ten.

END

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Marriageville

December 5, 2017 Comments Off on Marriageville

There comes a time, usually around the 30-year-mark or so, that every marriage is plunged into crisis. The partners wake up, stare at the ceiling, scrape some gunk out from under their toenails and wonder “Is this all there is?”

The answer of course is “Yes. If you’re lucky.”

No matter how many decades, how many children, how many hardships, or how much the couple has endured together, they often simply cannot go on. They sadly shake hands, or perhaps engage in a perfunctory embrace, shed a few tears, and walk away, sorrowfully yet briskly to a good lawyer who can help them take the other person to the cleaners.

However, some couples choose to make things worse, much worse, by getting into cycling. Per the old tandem adage, “Wherever your relationship is going, a tandem will get you there faster.” Mrs. WM and I decided that rather than trotting off to counseling she would start riding a bike.

As someone with a lot of experience in making cycling absolutely unbearable for beginners, this was right down my alley. “Now honey, don’t worry if it feels uncomfortable at first. We will take an easy route. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.”

Mrs. WM had ridden with me once before, back in April of 1987, when, after describing to her the glories and joys of pedaling a bike, and getting her all enthused, I took her for a little 60-mile jaunt across a modestly sized mountain range, me on my Tommasini racing bike, she on her single-speed Japanese high school commuter bike, or mama-chari. Thereafter we never rode together again, which was weird.

This time was going to be different. I had taken my daughter’s road bike, which had gears, and put flat pedals on it, and was all prepared to make it a fun and easy experience. We would start off on Hawthorne, go downhill gently to Crest, go up a small hill, then turn left up another small hill called Whitley-Collins. I figured it would be about twenty minutes, and the 16 percent grade up Whitley-Collins should be fine.

We did the ride and I was surprised at how well she did. True, there was a bit of huffing and puffing, but no walking. “How are you doing?” I asked fakishly.

She looked over. “I’m fine. Just a little slow.”

“You’re doing great,” I said, worried that she was a lot fitter than I had thought and that if she kept riding she would eventually be able to drop me. At the top of the hill we paused. “Well, that was fun. Good job. Time to go home,” I said.

“Is that all? I wanted to ride longer. This is great!”

My plans weren’t working out too well, so I sighed, knowing that it was going to take a little bit more effort to convince her that cycling really wasn’t her thing. “Let’s keep going, then,” I fake smiled.

We descended Via del Monte, climbed Via la Selva, popped out on PV Drive North, and headed for Silver Spur. I kept glancing back, but she seemed to be enjoying it despite my best efforts. Then we hit Silver Spur, which is a long, steep grind. At the hardest point I veered right and did my best Scott Dickson. “There’s a little shortcut over here.”

She followed, and soon we were at the base of Basswood, another little 14 percenter that goes on for a ways. “Are we riding up that?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “Unless you’re too tired.”

“What if I’m too tired?”

“It only take a few minutes longer to walk.”

“I’m not walking,” she said, and charged ahead. She got off after a little while. “This is too steep for me.”

I looked at her for a minute. She was pouring sweat and breathing hard, but she wasn’t mad or unhappy. “Just catch your breath. You’ll be fine,” I said.

She caught it, and was. “Now what?” she asked as we crested the hill.

The next obstacle was Shorewood, another beastly steep hump between us and home. Or, we could go straight and do the easy way. We went straight, and ended up at the coffee shop. “Was it fun?” I asked.

“It was great! I loved it! And I think I need some shorts. I’m really sore. And a jersey. This t-shirt gets soaked too quickly. When can we ride again?”

“Soon,” I said. “Soon.”

END

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“Common” sense

December 4, 2017 Comments Off on “Common” sense

We held the final stage in our club’s first ever Galactic Championship bicycle racing series on Saturday. The results were impressive: 52 out of 267 club members signed up to race. There were also a fair number of members racing cyclocross who couldn’t attend, so the total number of Big Orange Cycling members who pinned on a number was probably around 62 riders, a record in absolute numbers and in percentages (23%).

Below are the stage results and the overall:

 

Careful analysis indicates that I got my butt kicked. Hmmmm.

But there were some other things that, if you have any involvement with a bike racing club, might be useful lessons. Here were the main ones:

  1. The best way to get people to race is to provide your club members with intra-club races where they can experience racing in a safe, supportive, fun, educational, social atmosphere.
  2. Creating these racing opportunities is the only way to combat the divisiveness of “racer” and “non-racer” factions within a club.
  3. When the board supports and participates in this kind of event, most especially by board members themselves racing, members who have never raced will show up and try out racing. Nothing speaks to credibility in bike racing like racing your fuggin’ bike.
  4. Everyone loves it. First-time riders gain massive confidence, experienced riders have a blast and mentor others, and your club can have a series of social events organized around your club’s mission: bike racing.
  5. Many members in Big Orange don’t understand that we are a racing club; they think we are a social club that has racers rather than a racing club whose social events are organized around racing. This doesn’t mean everyone races or has to race. But it means that clubs continually reinforce their racing mission by giving people the opportunity to race. Whether they take the opportunity is their choice.
  6. Many members can be encouraged to race by having club races and by giving members the opportunity to first volunteer and “check it out.” I spoke with one member who was unaware that in a time trial riders went off one by one. I spoke with another new member, whose wife DID NOT KNOW that we are a racing club, and he wasn’t entirely sure about what that meant, either, other than he “didn’t want to do crits.”
  7. Shoot for at least one series a year, two if you can swing it.
  8. Have a format that lets people showcase very different skills. We did: 1k TT, hillclimb, 10-mile TT.
  9. Use formats that exceptionally safe, like TTs and hillclimbs.
  10. Don’t allow aero equipment! It will let everyone feel like they had a level playing and not that they were the losers in an arms race.
  11. Tell your new members explicitly that you are a racing club and that you will be encouraging them to race. Not hassling or pressuring, but encouraging through role modeling, education, and annual intra-club series opportunities.
  12. Most racing clubs have no problem recruiting non-racers. But your mission should be to give them the opportunity to race.
  13. I met so many people!!!!!
  14. Sponsors should be urged to show up and help out at club races. They will get to meet their customers, learn about bike racing, take pictures, and understand the value of their sponsorship.
  15. Set a number or percentage for members in 2018 to pin on a number. You’ll never hit a target you don’t aim for.
  16. Don’t be surprised if your event turns out to be the best bike racing you’ve ever done in your life.

Our event went off because board members Greg Leibert, Grey Seyranian, Don Wolfe, Michael Barraclough, and Geoff Loui signed off on it and raced. Patrick Noll did the timing and all of the organization. Kristie Fox brought food, put up tents and chairs, arranged catering, and helped with all aspects of organization. My wife Yasuko, and Jay Yoshizumi, took tons of great photos. Chris Gregory made killer winner necklace awards. Delia Park, Jodi, Jason, Lauri Barraclough, Stephanie Nowak, Mark Maxson, Kevin Salk, Andrew Nuckles, Tom Duong, One Stop Windows and Doors who donated their parking lot for the race, Greg Leibert, Connie Perez, and many people who controlled traffic at the chicane. And of course the wonderful party that Geoff Loui again hosted at his beautiful home put an amazing cap on a great race series.

Check out these these 200+ photos courtesy of Yasuko Davidson!

END

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Feeeeelings!

December 2, 2017 Comments Off on Feeeeelings!

Many years ago, when this blog got underway, a true friend said this: “It’s good because it has a point of view. That’s what sets it apart.” He used to be the editor-in-chief of a major surfing magazine, and he knew about writing.

What he didn’t add was that “When you have a point of view, people will get their feelings hurt.” He needn’t have. I’ve been hurting feelings since I was old enough to talk.

When I blogged yesterday about what a bike racer is, and what a bike racer isn’t, it was like applying sandpaper to a sore rectum, and one of my subscribers made what he thought was the ultimate statement of disapproval by canceling his $2.99 monthly subscription. There’s a lot wrapped up in the idea that someone you’ve known for years can be so violently in disagreement that, unable to speak or write, the only way he can voice his anger is by withholding $2.99. Setting aside for a moment that people who use withholding money as a substitute for talking, especially when it concerns someone you know, the sad fact is that this person is one who loved hearing the truth until he felt like it concerned him personally. At that point he preferred something a bit less truthy.

“Satire is a mirror in which the reader sees every face but his own,” said Jonathan Swift, to which I’d add, “And when he does, he cancels his blog subscription.”

So I did what I always do. I emailed him a thank-you note for his long support and told him I was sorry to see him go. But what I didn’t tell him is that his petulance helped me a lot. It took me back to why I started writing this blog in the first place: To express my point of view. Not his, not hers, and not yours. Mine.

And as I considered that nugget and the friend who had encouraged it many years ago, I thought about what that point of view actually was. What is this blog really about?

The short answer is that it’s about cycling in the South Bay, but the add-on is this: And a lot of bike racing. This got me to wondering why the simple post of trying to define what a bike racer is pissed this poor guy off so utterly. The answer is a little bit complex.

A couple of months ago, before I walked away from #socmed, I noticed that my bike racing club didn’t have very many bike racers as compared to total club membership. I thought that was weird. Why would you join a club whose non-profit status is dependent on the mission of promoting and educating people about amateur bike racing, if you didn’t race, or want to race, or want to help other people race? What in the world about it could possibly be appealing?

So I looked around and noticed that my bike racing club was like almost every other bike racing club in Southern California. Lots of emphasis on “club,” not much emphasis on “racing.” And our club had more race entries than any other club in the state for the last two years running … and provides full, 100% race reimbursement no questions asked … and has a weekly racing newsletter … and mind-blowing discounts on clothes and equipment and bikes … and has a major physical presence at almost every race … and legendary weekly team training rides … and detailed race training plans … yet for all that, the actual number of people who pin on a number and go race is a minority of the membership.

Why?

The short answer is that even though bike racers look ridiculous and act ridiculous and are ridiculous, once you start riding a bike you realize that as ridiculous as they are, they are often the fastest people on the training ride. Or the group ride. Or the grand fondue. Or the local training crit. Or the fun ride. Or the coffee ride. Or wherever. And so you want to be like them, with this exception: You don’t want to actually race.

You want to wear racing clothes. Ride a racing bike. Do the faux group ride “races” and “race” on Strava. Memorize the “Velominati.” But that thing where you pin on a fuggin’ number and throw yourself into the middle of a bunch of aggro, fast-moving, win-at-all-cost nutjobs, risking death and catastrophic injury for the fantastic reward of 25th place or DNF or DFL? Uh, no thanks.

And just to be clear, that’s fine with me. There are as many ways to bike happiness as there are people on bikes. Bike racing isn’t for everyone, and these days it hardly seems to be for anyone. But regardless, a small cadre of people still do it, and another cadre of people still bust their butts to make the races happen. It’s a community and it includes lots of colorful characters, but the single most basic unit, the one that’s irreplaceable, is the nutjob willing to pin on the fuggin’ number, a/k/a the bike racer.

And just to be even more clear, I am glad when non-racers join our club. One day they may get inspired. One day they may help out at a race. Whatever they do, they’re often nice people, a little quirky, and fun to be around. The big tent is and should be open for everyone.

But it bothered me that relatively few people, people who seemed interested in racing, and people who posed and posted with all the accoutrements of bike racing, never raced. Were they anti-racing, or simply lacking a safe and encouraging environment in which to give it a shot? So, ripping off the very successful idea of our soul-sister-cum-competitor Velo Club La Grange, we did our own intraclub race series, and you know what? All hell broke loose, and it broke both ways.

The first wave of hell that shocked and stunned me was the extraordinary number of members who had never raced who, when given a free and safe and convenient and supportive venue, came out and raced their fuggin’ bikes. Most of them beat me like a rugbeater on a dusty carpet. All of them enjoyed the pre-race anxiety, the racing adrenaline, and the satisfaction of having done a real bike race. And the ones who didn’t race worked as volunteers, helping make the actual event happen. It’s amazing to think that members of a bike racing club would enjoy a bike race; almost as amazing as the thought that a bike racing club would actually put one on.

And let there be no bones about it, it was a club decision from the top down. Every single board member raced … how about that? And there were people who didn’t race, who didn’t want to race, but who showed up to help, because that’s the mission of the club: to promote bicycle racing. What could possibly make more sense and be less controversial than members of a bike racing club participating in, promoting, and assisting with an actual bike race?

Apparently, though, it rubbed at least one subscriber the wrong way. I’m not sure why; not being on #socmed anymore I’ve been spared all the details and have sniffed only the distant stench of the dust-em-up. But the bottom line is that somehow, by having your bike racing club put on a bike race and encouraging all bike race club members to race their bikes or help out, something elitist and exclusionary happened. Half of that I’ll agree with. If you didn’t want to help or enter or watch the bike race, you were pretty much excluded from it (by choice). But elitist? A free event open to everyone regardless of category, and a prohibition on all forms of high tech, expensive aero equipment? That’s elitist?

No, it’s not. It’s a bike racing club getting back to its roots at a time when this kind of thing couldn’t be more crucial if we are to survive. Because here’s the deal: If you don’t pin on a fuggin’ number and participate in an organized bike race, you ain’t a bike racer. You can wear the shit, ride the shit, and talk the shit, but you are not a bike racer, and you may be able to fool everyone at work and at home, but you ain’t fooling me.

Because words matter. The outside world may think we’re dopey, and you may think we’re dopey, but when Daniel Holloway drops in to ride with the locals, it’s awesome and you know it. When Fabian Cancellara shows up at Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica it’s a mob scene, and you know who’s taking all the selfies? The non-racers, that’s who! The ones who think racing is dumb, risky, a waste of time, and a waste of money swarm ol’ Fabian like flies on a big, stinking pile of, uh, honey.

So I thought about all this and decided to help people get their heads on straight about who was a bike racer and who wasn’t by writing yesterday’s post. It’s important because if you get to bask in the reflected glow of Holloway and Cancellara, if you get to “wink wink nod nod” imply that you’re a bike racer because you’re the group ride horseman, or because you just bought the coolest wheels ever, then you are ripping off everyone, especially yourself. What you’re also doing is missing a great opportunity. As our club races series showed, anyone can do a bike race. Bike racing isn’t complicated if you don’t want it to be. It can be safe and fun and done with zero fitness. If you think Fabian is cool enough for you to drool over, then trust me, you will get ten times more pleasure pinning on a number.

No one judges you because you don’t race. Every bike racer judges you for pretending to, but not.

Of course if it was just fakery and pretense I’d be down with it. This is SoCal, after all. But every person who pretends to be a bike racer and basks in the fake glory of looking and acting like one discourages other people from racing. If the payoff (and for some people, sadly, it is) is getting to preen and strut, but all you have to do is shop aggressively to earn the cred, then why bother to race?

Answer: People don’t.

The trend has become a toilet drain spiral, where there are actual groupings now called “concept” teams, where the sole purpose is to, for example, sell bicycle clothing. No need to race. No need to have a license. No need to do anything to be on a “concept racing team” other than buy into its “concept.” If you look the part, you’re in. But if you’re fat, slow, a little intimidated, but down inside really want to try out racing, well, tough. Because the concept team don’t need no racers, and it sure don’t need no fatties.

This is totally different from actual bike racing, which thrives on fatties, and is in fact filled with people who had significant weight problems but overcame them through training, diet, preparation, and a goal–the goal of racing. I could go through the list of current competitors who used to be morbidly obese who are now trim and fit and hard-charging bike racers. None of them would ever have made the “concept team.” So for each person who pretends or implies or suggests that they race because they, you know, associate with bike racers, there’s a counterpart who says “I’d like to race but why should I? These concept folks are way more popular and good looking and none of them seem to know anything about racing anyway.”

The fashionista elitism of non-racers is helping suck the life out of racing. Is the end of bike racing a bad thing? Of course not. Bike racing is as dumb today as it was when I started racing in 1984. If it’s going to die, let it. But don’t let it die because people who might otherwise have discovered its excitement and beauty were discouraged by the concept teamsters. Don’t let it die because 501(c)3 non-profit corporations dedicated to bike racing were too chicken-ass to encourage people to race. Don’t let it die because those who were engaged got subverted by those who couldn’t get out of bed early enough to train. And for fuck’s sake, don’t let it die because of Facebag and Strava.

What our club race series has shown (52 sign-ups for the 10-mile TT tomorrow, by the way) is that a whole bunch of people who belong to a bike racing club really do want to race their bikes, and that a whole bunch of non-bike racers are happy to come out and volunteer time and energy to make the racing happen. Give the bike racing people what they want, and let that dude who doesn’t care about this amazing sport cancel his $2.99 subscription, and kiss my ass goodbye.

END

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