The old whales

August 15, 2018 § 6 Comments

The other morning I was out riding around the Hill with a bunch of people in a hurry. In the other direction came a small group of riders who didn’t look like they were in a hurry. They looked like they were out for a pleasant ride. I glanced twice and recognized most of them. They were people I used to ride with all the time.

Donut beatdown? They never missed it. Five-day smashfests from San Francisco to LA? Present and accounted for. Piuma-Stunt from PV and head north after that? Sure! NPR? Twice weekly, baby. Telo? Yaaaah. Then go long to the Rock on Sunday, dragging the peloton behind ’em for 120 miles? Uh-huh.

What happened?

Moby Dick

I only read Moby Dick a couple of times but the thing I remember most about it is that there are no women in it, anywhere. Maybe there was a woman in the church scene, or something. Other than that, it’s 400,000 pages of guys doing guy things like sailing to the South Pacific and spearing whales bare-handed.

The best part in the whole book is the description of life in the sperm whale pod. It was simply the best life ever. When I get run over by a chubby Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, I hope to be reincarnated as a sperm whale in the South Seas 10,000 years ago. Those whales had it good.

But kind of like bike racing, they only had it really good until they didn’t. And the didn’t part came when a young bull would take on the boss of the pod and run him out of office. Once you got run away from the pod and all your cows got taken away, life pretty much sucked. You swam alone by yourself, grazing on plankton or whatever sperm whales eat, and you lived forever being miserable.

The whales of the Hill

Now don’t get me wrong. These dudes aren’t sperm whales cast out from the pod. They are old whales who have their own old whale rides and they ride along at old whale speeds and chat about old whale things. It’s wholly unobjectionable.

But I wonder what it is that triggers them to turn away from the mayhem of the full-gas Saturday and decide to ride around having slowpoke fun? They used to crave the adrenaline and enjoy the beatdown. They used to turn their noses up at hobby bikers. What happens in a whale to make him say, “Done with that nonsense. I’m going to do this nonsense instead.”

Part of it is probably always getting dropped. You reach a point where you get tired of starting with the group and saying “adios” after fifteen minutes or less. What was the point of that?

Another part of it is probably exhaustion. You can’t do those big efforts and recover like you used to.

And I guess it sucks being surround by young whales who are better than you even though they don’t even train and were up until 3:00 AM drinking cigars and smoking tequila.

Risk has got to be part of the equation as well. The older you get the greedier you get for the few years that are left, even if hanging on means poking around. Better to poke on the pavement than rot under it? Is that it?

Likely, boredom is a factor. When you’ve done the Donut 500 times you know how it’s going to end. You were getting dropped in ’97, you were getting dropped in ’07, come on, already. And beatdown rides aren’t much for conversation, either, when you’re just staring at some dude’s sweaty ass and skinny tire and trying to blot out the pain, unsuccessfully.

Sad face

Whatever the reasons, and they’re all good ones I’m sure, it makes me sad. I’ll be talking to some whippersnapper and we’ll pass a whale. “See that whale?” I’ll point. “He used to wait until we got halfway up the Switchbacks, start from the rear, and ride everyone off his wheel.”

“That old fart?”

“Yep. That one.”

The whippersnapper will shake his head, not buying any of it.

I look around now and I’m not the oldest guy lining up to get his weekly dose of humiliation, but I’m close to it. I miss those old whales and wish they’d come back. Or I wish I didn’t feel compelled to go do that which I’m clearly unfit for, kind of like those geezers in the 70’s who tried to horn in on the disco craze and just looked silly, polyester shirts unbuttoned to their navels, white chest hair spilling out like somebody tumped over the can of Comet.

Maybe the whale life isn’t so bad. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe.

END

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Nice bikes are so expensive

August 14, 2018 § 23 Comments

It is crazy how expensive bikes are. When you add up all the stuff, it can set you back $5k or more just to get started. What a ripoff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Heart valve replacement: $170,000

Heart bypass surgery: $123,000

Diabetic medical care: $9,601 per year (multiply times 10, 15, or 20!)

Hypertension: $2,000 per year

Atherosclerosis treatment: $12,888 per year

Erectile dysfunction: $1,727.75 annually ($69.11 per pill x 25 sessions per year)

Drug/Alcohol rehab: $1,000 (outpatient detox), $6,000 – $60,000 (inpatient rehab), $5,000 – $10,000 (outpatient rehab), $4,700/year (medications)

Insomnia-related costs: $1,431 – $1,510 per year

Depression treatment: $8,000 per year

Sedentary lifestyle: $1,437 per year

END

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All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards 2018

August 13, 2018 § Leave a comment

Much to write about yesterday’s unforgettable event. In the meantime, below are photos taken by Aaron Chang, of the RP Foundation, one of the event’s biggest sponsors. Enjoy!!

Cookies, not donuts

August 11, 2018 § 7 Comments

Phil Gaimon showed up for the 8:05 ride at 8:04, showing knowledge of the South Bay ways, because at 8:06 you are officially chasing.

After some lighthearted smack talk with Phil, the Donut, which had swelled to well over 200 riders, hit Malaga Cove Plaza and it was game on. At some point it will be posted on Phil’s YouTube channel; check it out.

Innumerable riders were punched out the back right there, never to be seen again as they figured out ways to spin it for the mister/missus:

  1. I just wanted to say “Hi!” to my friends.
  2. Easy week.
  3. I didn’t really believe Phil would show up.
  4. I’ve been up since 4:00 and already have 50 miles and 5k feet on my legs.

I got dropped a couple hundred yards before the top but was able to suck wheel back to the peloton, where I sat and cowered until we got to the bottom of the Switchbacks.

Who came, who didn’t

Diego, the current holder of the Switchbacks-Domes KOM that Phil had come to take away, was otherwise occupied, as were numerous other South Bay hammers who suddenly had other things to do on Saturday morning.

Steadfast and tough riders like Rahsaan, Frexit, Attila the Hun, Chris Tregillis, Kevin Phillips, Ivan Fernandez, the Wiley Greek, Adam Flores, Steve Kim, Derek the Destroyer, Charon, and a handful of other South Bay regulars came to the festivities, but it had Saturday Morning Massacre written all over it from the word “go” as VC LaGrange and Subaru/Team Helen’s showed up with all guns firing, and Westsiders Rudy Napolitano, JJ, and a bunch of assassins I don’t know and never hope to meet again arrived in force.

That was tasty, may I have another?

We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and with yeoman work from Chris Tregillis and much of the Subaru team, Phil & Co. vanished.

I got dropped at the very bottom, and reminded everyone of #4 above, loudly.

Phil coasted cozily down from the Domes, having shredded 30 seconds off the former KOM with a time of 11:39.

A bunch more hard riding ensued, the herd thinning with each acceleration. At one point going to the Domes I was in solid seventh, and then got mowed down by fifteen other actual bicyclists.

I hit it hard at the Glass Church, dragged a small group over the top, then got dropped when they put away the newspaper and pedaled.

At the bottom of Zumaya I was done, with 90 miles and 9k for the day. I’m not sure if Phil got that KOM too, as it was on his menu. I’d check Strava if I were on it.

The question of donuts v. cookies was put to rest though, with an iron stake driven through the heartless hole of our beloved Donut. It’s cookies, folks.

END

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The day the Switchbacks phell?

August 10, 2018 § 4 Comments

Tomorrow’s Donut Ride pheatures cookie monster Phil Gaimon, pitting the irresistible phorce of the cookie against the immovable object of the donut.

In other words, Phantastic Phil, chieph of the  SoCal Strava scalpers, will show up in an attempt to take the Switchbacks-Domes KOM away from Diego Binatena.

Phil has his work cut out for him, and not simply because donuts have historically proved superior to cookies in just about every meaningful metric: taste, density, sugar content, phat, and of course atherosclerosis.

Will Diego be there to dephend his title? Will Phil leave the peloton in a shambles? Can a cookie-powered former Pro Tour rider leave his stamp on the pride of the South Bay, that is, a greasy, sugary lump of phried dough?

We can dephinitively say absolutely yes no maybe.

Regardless, Phil will be bringing his cookie power to demolish that climb as well as the less legendary but in some respects more diphicult Via Zumaya KOM.

No one can say how it will shake out, whether cookies are powerphul enouph to conquer The Donut. But of this much I am sure: I’ll be shed long bephore the phireworks ever begin.

END

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That Guy

August 9, 2018 § 13 Comments

What do you do when That Guy shows up to your ride? And by “your” I mean “no one’s,” because no one owns a ride.

Surely this has happened to you before. You are going along doing things the way you always do them, which is often the wrong way but it’s your way nonetheless, and That Guy magically appears out of the mist.

Sometimes he is riding a bike with giant aero fenders, sometimes he is riding an e-bike, sometimes he is riding a pogo stick, sometimes he is riding a cruiser with a 2-stroke bolted to the frame.

Regardless of what he’s riding, he’s still That Guy.

And what do you do?

Don’t go away mad, just go away

That Guy has all sorts of tools in his box to announce his arrival. Sometimes he simply does it the old-fashioned way, with a booming announcement. “Hello, everyone, my name is That Guy. I’m from Thatguyville, Thatguystate, and I’m so glad to be here and to get to meet each of you!”

That Guy is exuberant, effusive, loud, and wherever the sunbeam of attention is, That Guy will find it, strip down to his skivvies, and bathe in it for hours.

Other times, That Guy will simply approach cringing women in the peloton. “Hey, there! I’m That Guy!” he might say from a distance of six inches. “What’s your name?”

That Guy’s bag of tricks is endless. One day a Strava fan, another day a Facebag follower, yet another day an informal coach screaming at people who are already pinned, “Go harder! Dig deeper! YOU GOT THIS!” Screaming advice as he himself gets dropped, mind you.

Show up for the ride on time? Not That Guy! Look, listen, learn? Not That Guy!

When faced with That Guy’s force of will bolted to his outlandish behavior, others wilt, then they simply stop showing up.

No nerve endings here

That Guy can’t be offended. “Shut the fuck up, you jackass!” doesn’t work on That Guy; it’s simply another spotlight being shined on him, an opportunity to be the cynosure.

“Hey, relax, willya!” That Guy will answer with an impish We’re-All-Best-Buds grin. “I’m just happy to be out here on my bike!”

Don’t bother saying that thanks to him, no one else is. His perceptions of what those around him think have been cauterized.

That Guy is like a giant, 165-pound puppy that hasn’t been housebroken and is sitting on your lap. Hope you brought a shower and a change of clothes with you.

What’s a fella to do?

You can’t tell That Guy to go away. The roads are public, and who are you, anyway, owner of the ride? Rides, yo, are free.

You can’t give That Guy a list of Rules and Regulations. There aren’t any. People who ride together year in and year out develop an understanding of what’s cool and what isn’t. And with few exceptions, cycling in small groups isn’t a shoutypantsing activity anyway. When people get crosswise, they may holler every once in a rare while, but mostly they talk it over.

You can’t pull That Guy over and give him a talking to. That’s exactly the attention he craves. It’s like chumming the sharks and expecting them to go away.

If only there were a public, but sort of roundabout way, to let That Guy know he really needs to tone his act down. Something like a publication, or a newspaper, or some way that a person could spread the word so that That Guy would get the message.

If only!

END

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The cyclist superiority complex

August 8, 2018 § 28 Comments

I just finished a book called “How Cycling Can Save the World” by Peter Walker. My friend Marv gave it to me a while back and it’s been dust collecting with all my other unread books. The title wasn’t very compelling, and I figured there wasn’t going to be anything in it I didn’t already know, and if I want to read preachy incoherent ramblings by a madman I can peruse my own blog posts.

Well, I take it all back. It is a fantastic read even though it pillories a guy I highly regard, John Forester. More about all that later, as the book can’t be done justice in a single post. Instead, I want to focus on Chapter 8, “Why Cyclists Are Hated.”

Why cyclists are hated

Walker goes into a lot of detail about the ways in which cyclists are abused, but he never really comes around to explaining why. The reason is simple. We have a superiority complex and it drives cagers crazy.

“That’s not true!” you holler. “I accept all modes of transportation! I even have a car! I’m not trying to save the world! I just want to make the Flog Ride on time!”

Unfortunately, every act of cycling is a massive middle finger to every cager you encounter, whether they like you, hate you, own a bike, ride a bike, or have never sat on a bike. The reason is simple: At the moment a bike and a car interact, the bicycle is obviously the superior mode of transportation, and no matter what anyone says, roads are all about transportation.

The cyclist you encounter is by definition superior to you in your car as a means of transport: She is healthier than you, spending less money than you, getting where she wants to go more efficiently than you, avoiding the hassles of parking, never in a traffic jam, and when she’s done she gets to have a donut.

You, on the other hand, are in a car. Sorry, in a cage. At that moment in time you are sedentary, sitting on your ever-widening ass. Your blood pressure is already elevated. You have a car payment, insurance, a mostly empty gas tank, and a postcard from Martin Chevrolet telling you it’s time to get screwed in the service department again.

You are in traffic, you have to find a parking space, then pay for it directly or indirectly, and ultimately, indignity of indignities, walk anywhere from a hundred yards to a quarter mile total distance to get to your destination. As a transportation proposition, you lose and you know it. You lose and the cyclist knows it. Ergo, smug.

Rubbing salt into the wound

These facts are outrageous to cagers, but it gets worse. When you are on a bike you can’t really see anything about the driver. But when you’re in a car you get to see the entirety of the cyclist. And you know what you see? If the person is wearing lycra, you see someone with body confidence, and you compare it to yourself.

If the person is wearing jeans and a t-shirt, you see someone casual and comfortable, stretching their limbs as you are crammed inside the cockpit of your badly fitting seat. Worse if you happen to be extremely tall, extremely short, or extremely overweight … you’re in a torture chamber.

Maybe you could live with all that if it weren’t for the fact that, despite the outliers, the average person on a bicycle looks so much better than the average person sitting in traffic. Their legs are toned. Their proportions are normal. They scream “NOT LIKE YOU” as you sag deeper into your driver’s seat.

Oh, and if you’re really unlucky, they’re using lane control and are actually in front of you.

Why this matters

Of course there are advantages to driving a car, for example, you live 50 miles from work, or you don’t like to get rained and snowed on, or you are allergic to sweat, or you carry massive boxes wherever you go, or you have a phobia of being outdoors. There may be other advantages I’ve overlooked. But at the moment you see any given person on a bicycle, they are, by definition, kicking your ass in the transportation battle, and the only defense you have is physical violence.

This of course is why noxious cagers troll up next to you and advise you that “The car always wins, pal.”

Of course if the question is, “Which weapon is more deadly?” then the car certainly wins. That’s why you don’t really have a rejoinder to it. But on the roadway, the competition is to get to your destination efficiently, not to kill people. In fact, killing people in your car is highly inefficient. You have to stop. Talk to the police. Explain how you didn’t see the biker who swerved in front of you while you were texting. Sometimes you even have to pay a modest traffic fine. So even when cagers are killing cyclists, they’re still inefficient losers at the transportation game.

The car always loses, at least when it’s sharing the road with a bike, and when we’re talking about transportation.

This matters because once you realize that cars and bikes are in competition, and cars are always the loser, it explains the rage of so many cagers, a rage they sometimes enact by doing the roadway equivalent of beating you up, i.e., running you over. But just because you’re dead or maimed doesn’t mean that their car is any more efficient. It just means they have to take it to the carwash to sponge off the gore, which, sadly, is yet another inefficiency.

This also explains why so many drivers are impervious to rational explanations about how you’re not really taking away their roadway, their parking, blah blah blah. It’s a lie and they know it. You are not only beating them at the transportation game, but every victory you notch encourages someone else to try it, and pretty soon the ants have carried away the elephant.

Can bikes and cars coexist?

In the long term, I don’t see how. It’s a zero sum game, because the more bike infrastructure that gets planted, the more people ride and the less they want to drive, and they therefore want to provide less space for cars. With the exception of Australia, a nation with an explicit anti-cycling agenda, every country that has become bicycle friendly has had to build more and more bike infrastructure and make cars less and less welcome.

It’s a small step from bike lanes to segregated bike lanes to shutting off the town center to cars.

It’s not because bikes are anti-car, it’s because cars are horribly inefficient and costly and filthy compared to bikes, and when bikes are given even the slightest opening, to say nothing of a level playing field, they completely destroy the car culture. The converse is true, too. It’s no coincidence that Japan and China’s full-gas commitment to cars has exterminated a formerly vibrant and all-encompassing culture of bike transportation.

So the next time someone accuses you of being snobby and superior, the fairest thing you could do is admit they’re right. And keep pedaling.

END

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