May 13, 2013 § 54 Comments
No one wants to be “that guy.” He’s the one who says to the person what other people say about that person behind the person’s back but won’t say directly to the person.
“That guy” also goes by nicknames like “ass,” “jerk,” and, yes, even “Wankmeister.”
But here’s the thing: I don’t do it because I care about you. I don’t do it because I care about safety. I certainly don’t do it to be nice.
I do it for me.
Long ago I learned that Dog created the universe and all the things in it for me. The minute I stop existing, poof! There goes the universe. So, since I’m confident my existence is getting briefer with each passing day, it’s important for me to say the things that need saying before the universe vanishes along with me.
The down side is that I’m often wrong. The down side is that I piss people off. The down side is that I ride alone more often than not.
The up side?
People sidle up to me at quiet moments and say, “Thanks for saying that. It needed to be said.”
This really, really needed to be said. So I said it.
First, about the weekly flailfest. The ride is a collection of every specimen of hobby bicyclist. We have the aspiring pro chick. We have Tweezly Smails, whose #1 goal is to pedal in a straight line. We have The Saint, who scrapes up the broken bodies and fixes flats. We have ER doctors. Mechanical engineers. Smokin’ hot babes. Portly old dudes still dragging around the spare tire they picked up at the frat house in ’69.
We got everything.
This is why it’s such a great ride. If you want to match pedal strokes with the legbreakers, Dog bless you. If you want to chase with the droppees with your tongue in the spokes, Dog bless you. If you want to lumber along with the deadwood at the back of the back of the back, Dog bless you.
There’s something for everyone, and at various points the gang regroups so you can start over again with whatever it was you started with. As The Saint said, “Get up there!”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because they’re ahead of you!”
“What happens when I get there?”
“Then you’ll have to get on up to whoever’s ahead of them.”
“There is no ‘then what.'”
No more beating around the bush
So, this dude shows up with tri bars. He’s a good dude and has never been anything but nice to me.
Problem is, there’s a basic rule when you’re a freddy riding with freddies: Leave the fucking tri bars at home. No matter how good you think you are (and trust me, you aren’t that good), the minute you go full aero in the middle of a flailing pack of wankers is the minute that our collective rectums pucker up quicker than a raisin in a blast furnace.
So I’m watching this dude as he flails up the climb. He’s so far off the back that he’s with me, and even though there are only three or four people around him, his line isn’t that good, and it’s a really narrow road, and there’s traffic whizzing by, and then, when we crest the climb, he goes full aero, reducing his already sketchy line to the razor’s edge of wobbledom.
What’s wrong with me?
This is what I was thinking: “What’s wrong with me that I care? He’s not going to crash me out because I’m going to pass by and never see him again. He’s a grown man. These other people are sort of adults. It’s their risk, let them deal with it.”
The problem is that as soon as that thought finished, it was replaced with this one: “What kind of experienced athlete rides full aero in the middle of a group that includes plainly inexperienced wankers? I know what kind: The kind of person who doesn’t give one rat’s ass about crashing you out. The kind of person whose training includes showing off his tri bar prowess among people like me who are either terrified of him or, worse, not experienced or smart enough to be terrified of him.”
This led to the next thought: “Is anyone going to say anything? Or is he just going to keep rolling along, full aero, oblivious to the fact that what he’s doing is the social equivalent of smearing your hand with feces prior to shaking hands?”
And finally, this: “Well, if no one’s going to tell him…”
So I told him
I really need to work on my delivery, because sometimes how you deliver the message is just as important as the message itself. In other words, when I yelled at him with the veins popping out of my neck and forehead, “Hey dude, you need to leave the tri bars at home because you’re a fucking health hazard and an out of control menace and don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, okay?” he got really angry. People are just so darned sensitive nowadays.
He got so angry, in fact, that he paused for a second in disbelief before shouting back these immortal words: “Do you know who you’re talking to?”
He never got around to telling me exactly who he was, but since he didn’t look like someone whose last name was Zabriskie or Cancellara or Bordine or Rogers, I kept pedaling.
Pangs of guilt
Truth is, I felt bad for ripping into the dude (a little). But then I thought about every ride I’ve been on where some idiot shows up on a TT bike to “try it out” in the middle of a densely packed sardine can of flailers. I thought about the tri-geeks with horrendous bike handling skills weaving and wobbling in and around an already sketchy peloton.
I thought about how many curses and angry tirades I’d heard my fellow bikers unleash (out of earshot, of course) on the kooks who don’t know how perilously unstable they are when going full aero even with the best of skills–and of course these jackanapes never have the best of skills. They have skills of the most marginal sort, skills which are useless when they bump or get bumped by some poor slob who’s just trying to stay upright; when they hit a nasty chughole; when their razor-thin tires pop on a nail or asphalt chunk; or when they’re goofily trying to climb or descend a steep grade.
Finally, I thought about this YouTube video, proving everything you need to know about using tri-bars in a group when you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. I call it Crash of the Titans. (Warning: Graphically stupid content.)
Okay. “That guy” is done. You can crucify me now. And the next time you show up on a ride full aero, I promise to smile and just keep pedaling. Really.
May 12, 2013 § 14 Comments
…because that’s what it’s gonna take to clean these shorts after the pre-ride this morning.
Gang Boss Buell
Saturday AM “Daddy Ride”
Meets at Kelly’s Corner, climbs up from the reservoir conversationally, climbs Better Homes conversationally, climbs the Domes conversationally, ramps it up at the Glass Church, sprunts at Hawthorne, finishes with a cup of coffee at Golden Cove Starbucks just in time to watch the Donut Ride come sailing by.
Crabs tows us up the Glass Church hill, hairy legs pounding. I take an easy pull once we’re over the top, saving my legs for the beatdown that’s up next when I join the World Famous Donut Ride. Casey drags us up the first bump past Terranea. Gang Boss takes over and accelerates on the short descent, then begins to stall as we come up the second bump right before the sprunt.
Crabs, smelling a blow-from-behind sprunt victory, comes out of the saddle and lunges down on the left pedal, all 195 pounds of butter, beef, fine wine, cheap beer, hot dogs, french fries, pecan logs, pizza, sausage, banana pie, ice cream, and peanut butter concentrating on the tiny contact point on his antique cleat. Unbeknownst to Crabs, I’ve been filing my nails and checking the want ads as he and his trusty trio have been doing all the work. Prez-like I look up, note the oncoming sprunt effort, and prepare to easily take the candy from the baby and pop it in my mouth with bike lengths to spare.
At that instant, Crabs’s left foot pops out of the pedal, and his bike crazy-dances in wild discontrol over to the left, the exact place that I’m about to come around. Time becomes extremely relative as I watch the slamming door of his rear wheel move backwards, derailleur and all, and over into my spokes. I see my face, Prez-like, splattering on the pavement. I see my brain, Prez-like, swelling up into a giant bruised grapefruit. I see my attorney drafting the lawsuit against the city of RPV for negligently paving the street in such a way as to make Crabs want to sprunt and thereby crashing me out. I definitely see Slowplay Pedals as a defendant for the negligent design of a cleat and pedal that Crabs has only been riding for fifteen years. I see the long line of speakers at my funeral, each one mumbling words of praise like, “We’re sort of going to miss that wanker, maybe.”
And then I see the impossible: Crabs follows the boneheaded move of the day with a move of parallel boneheadedness…his worn cleats and shredded Slowplay pedals pop his foot out of the right pedal as well. His butt, nuts, and pubic bone slam against the top tube and drive his bike radically to the right, away from my spokes and straight towards the curb at 35+.
This is the point in a bike crash where you and I close our eyes and await the impact. In this case it’s just past the pullout on the right, so he’s going over the bars, onto the gravel, and into the cliff wall. The collision will be severe, and you and I simply clench our teeth, mutter a few religious phrases and hope that Dog hasn’t noticed the lifetime of atheism and religion-bashing, and prepare to instantaneously meet the deductible on our health insurance policy.
Nuts crushed, gut impaled on the stem, and both gout-plagued feet sailing free in the wind, he looks away from the place he doesn’t want to go (Hades) and looks towards the place he does want to go (the road). His right foot hits the gravel and he jerks the bike away from the curb just before impact, trailing his left foot like a rudder, throwing up a shower of sand, gravel, and dirt with the right. No longer a player in the drama and merely a spectator, I watch with approval as he somehow avoids death. Gang Boss is looking over his shoulder, mouth agape, and Chatty Casey has for once stopped talking.
Crabs clips back in. Chatty regains his breath. “That was the most awesome save I’ve ever seen!”
“That was the stupidest move I’ve ever seen in my entire life since Tuesday,” I added.
“I suppose it’s time to replace the pedals,” Crabs suggested.
“Yes,” I agreed, “it is.”
May 11, 2013 § 27 Comments
It’s really simple: We have the best early morning weekday rides. San Diego doesn’t.
What is a “best” early morning weekday ride? It’s one that begins around 6:30 AM, has a huge regular turnout, and rips your legs off.
“Oh, no!” I can hear you wailing. “We have the awesome Tuesday-Thursday ride! It’s hilly and it shreds the field!”
First of all, our ride is better because yours doesn’t even have a cool name. That’s because you’re too dumb to think one up. All that supposed surfer-cyclist-artiste creativity in North County and the best you can do is two names of the week? Sad.
Second, our ride is better because your ride has such a tiny turnout. Five semi-fast guys showing up with a hangover and pulling out each others’ teeth with rusty pliers does not a legendary bike ride make. Maybe it’s the early hour and you wike your wittle warm bwankie. Maybe it’s the lack of a swollen pack of baby seals among which the weak can cower and hide ’til the moment of reckoning. Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists in North County ride Trek. But most likely, it’s the fact that your riders just aren’t that good.
Third, our ride is better because we have Rahsaan Bahati, Suze Sonye, Greg “32” Leibert, Eric Anderson, and Cory Williams as regulars. Who do you have? That dude with the full purple bodysuit and the bad smell, that’s who.
Fourth, our ride is better simply because of the riders that you have and we don’t. Leaving aside for the moment that none of your guys have even halfway decent nicknames, let me list a few rotten limbs in the pile of deadwood that makes up your “ride”:
Stefanovich–Comes north to do our NPR, returns home a shell of his former self, which was a shell to begin with.
Crazy Legs–The name kind of says it all, eh? Along with him, “Sketch,” “Skitters,” “Twitch,” and “Jerky”…
Andy McClooney–The best rider to never come north and get his serving of NPR humble pie.
Celo Pacific Wheelsuckers–This is a club developed around the riding “strategy” of “do nothing until the end, then do even less.”
Los Ranchos Suckeros–Every yummy pie has filler, but these sandbaggers don’t even taste good when you chew them up and spit them out.
Velo (barely) Hangers-on–Close relatives of NPR baby seals who think “towards the front” is synonymous with “at the front.” It isn’t.
Swami’s B, C, and D Riders–It’s the alphabet soup of lowly categorized wankers. Their best ones make the first ejecta from the first acceleration on the Saturday ride. Their worst ones don’t even have bicycles.
Nytro trigeeks–They don’t always look and ride like idiots, but the 99.9% of the time when they do, they’re so far behind that no one knows or cares.
The Wolf Pack Up-and-Leavers–Last to the fight, first to the feast.
Fifth, our ride is better because we brag about it. If it weren’t for my amazing powers of investigative journalism, I wouldn’t even know your ride existed. If you don’t brag about it, it must not be any good.
Sixth, our ride is better because we have a cool FB page. Do you? Of course not. Without a cool FB page your ride can never be more than sucky. Sorry.
Seventh, our ride is waaaaay better because Robert Efthimos and Cory Williams video everything and then post cool movies of wankers like Jay “Manslaughter” LaPlante trying to murder his buddies. Then we get to spend the entire workday on FB chatting about it. What do you poor slobs do? You go to work and work, that’s what.
Eighth, our ride is better because we actively make fun of people who wear Oakley. SPY is how we roll, yo.
Ninth, our ride is better because we have that cute Asian chick who’s always jogging down the alley as we roll out. Who do you have? That furry dude who lives in the shopping cart behind the Starbucks.
Tenth, our ride is better because we have a ride kit. That’s right. Our ride is so pimpin’ that we have a kit with our cool ride’s name on it and lots of clever “in” jokes emblazoned on it by Joe Yule. Our ride is beautifully tanned Argentine leather. Yours is naugahyde.
Eleventh, we have Joe Yule. You have that dude who lives in his mom’s garage and builds web sites with Dreamweaver.
Twelfth, we have CotKU. You probably don’t even know what that is. Sad.
Finally, after our awesome ride, which is always awesome and so much better than yours, we get to sit around at CotKU, drink coffee, and watch Dave Perez do interesting things dressed up in purple and yellow. What do you have? A bunch of really serious MRI dudes dressed up in electric green baby dwarf artichoke outfits. Hint: You can’t be serious if you are a dude in a baby dwarf artichoke suit. A clown, perhaps, but not a serious dude.
The day of reckoning
Although I’ve already reached my conclusions, invented my facts, and printed my story, I thought I would at least do you the favor of coming down to the next Tuesday ride to confirm that your ride is a complete sham and pose fest. I have no doubt about what I’ll find: A handful of scraggly, half-shaved riders, tummies hanging out of their undersized stretch pants while they suck down a gallon of pre-ride sugar goop pretending that their “ride” is a ride.
Please also be advised that I will be showing up fully primed and prepared to teach each of you the meaning of the word “beatdown.” Although I don’t expect to break a sweat, you should expect to suffer a calamitous clubbing. This is what LA is all about: Schooling the noobs in the south about how to ride their bicycles. After that I will give the survivors a surfing lesson, beginning with “How not to purl every time” and then followed by a video showing you the difference between a rideable wave, a closeout, and whitewash. Not that it will help.
See you soon, and bring your moped. You’re gonna need it.
May 7, 2013 § 27 Comments
It is part of our bicycling delusion that we are made of the qualities we reveal “on the bike.” The power meter tells you that you’re a badass (the opposite of which is what? A goodass?) Showing up for the NPR when it’s raining toxic sludge in 40-mph sideways sheets proves that you’re a tough guy, whether or not you’re even a guy. Hanging onto Rudy Napolitano’s wheel for the first 50 yards of his acceleration on the Switchbacks makes you a fighter.
That’s who you are, right? Watt pumper, road tough, and a competitor.
Bicycling may or may not reveal character, but it sure is replete with characters. And the character of those characters, in my experience, is most often revealed not on the bike, but off it.
The cast of characters
G3: I still don’t know what “G3” stands for, and I’ve been riding with this wanker for years.
Stathis the Wily Greek: Only smiles for money.
Little Sammy Snubbins: Baby seal pup who loves to ride his bike.
Stitchface: Cat 4 adventurer who’s already gotten 100 sutures in his face this year.
Anonymous Steve: Generic bicycle rider whose chief characteristic was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Cast of Dozens: Amalgamated Idiots, Inc., a/k/a Usual Donut Ride Crew.
Portuguese Bend is a hallowed part of the Donut Ride. It connects Palos Verdes Estates (a fancy enclave whose denizens’ shit doesn’t stink) with the Switchbacks, the epic 8-minute climb that punctuates this weekly beatdown.
Portuguese Bend is so geologically unstable that a permanent road crew is assigned to the 2-mile stretch of twisting roads, which shift and crack daily. The instability is such that sewer lines are placed above ground and re-paving the entire roadway is done multiple times each year. The crews make weekly repairs to gaping crevasses that open up overnight as this side of the slope slides relentlessly into the sea.
With steep ups and downs, cracks that appear suddenly, narrow lanes, speeding traffic, and a long downhill from the Switchbacks, of course it’s the perfect place for the weekly gaggle of idiots to charge through the area at speeds exceeding 40 mph.
What could possibly go wrong?
The delicately choreographed Dance of the Club-footed Oafs
Cold logic, or even cool reason, don’t live in a peloton (“peloton” is French for “speeding gaggle of imbeciles.”) When you drop off the Switchbacks it’s a straight plunge several miles long to the bottom of Portuguese Bend. You wind up tightly bent into a densely packed anthill of carbon and meat and wires and metal, crammed into a tiny bike lane with livid pickups passing on the left three inches from your bars, your nose jammed up the next rider’s rear end, your front wheel an inch out of the next rider’s spokes, the busted and uneven and pockmarked road rattling your wheels and your frame and your legs and the tiny pea inside your skull but instead of sitting up and braking and letting the crazies dash off to their doom you bury yourself into the heart of the swarming beehive where there’s no escape hatch and the slightest waver will slam you to the pavement or worse catapult you off your bike into the oncoming traffic where Suzie Q whose shit doesn’t stink will mow you down in her Range Rover while talking on her cell phone and sipping a latte, as she’s wholly untrained to avoid catapulting bicycles flying across the road onto her grill which is pretty much what happens in the next instant when Little Sammy Snubbins, tucked deep in the hive at tenth wheel, hits a crack and, because he’s Little Sammy Snubbins and still on the lower part of the learning curve is rocketing along the jarring bumpy roads with his hands loosely gripping the bars instead of clenching them like his life depends on it which in fact it does and the crack that he smacks full-on with his front wheel jolts his left hand off the bars and his right hand steers him t-bone style into the side of Stitchface who, at 40 mph, is hit by Generic Steve full force in the rear, taco-ing Stitchface’s rear wheel and tossing him into the air like a rag doll and hurling his bike and him into oncoming traffic but actually against all odds Suzie Q WAS expecting a flying bike and Raggedy Andy biker to come sailing airborne over into her lane from thirty feet away and she locks up the ABS and doesn’t squash Stitchface like a bug or even hit him but down goes Generic Steve and down goes Little Sammy Snubbins and the Dance of the Club-footed Oafs goes from being a sort of delicately clumsy waltz to a screeching, screaming, clattering, skittering, pandemonic mishmash of smoking rubber and hands filled with maximum brake and, miracle of miracles, no one else chews the asphalt and Little Sammy Snubbins only breaks his bike and Generic Steve barely gets a scratch and Stitchface peels his body off from the pavement and declares himself unhurt even after the shock wears off.
Unfortunately, someone has to be the grown-up
So for the moment the bicycling is over. Everyone stops; well, almost everyone. There are a handful for whom getting in their miles is more important than stopping to see if Stitchface has been gored to death or to find out if Little Sammy Snubbins needs mouth-to-brain resuscitation, and…
…there is no “and.”
It’s now, off the bike not on it, that character is revealed.
The character is revealed of G3 who swings back, gets the riders off the road, orders others to control the traffic, and swiftly calls the rescue wagon with Nurse Jeanette and Nurse Ava to come and haul back the broken bikes and thankfully unbroken bodies.
The character is revealed of Stathis the Wily Greek, who despite his stone-faced demeanor is one of the first to dismount and leap to the aid of the fallen, though he was on Generic Steve’s wheel and narrowly avoided catastrophe himself.
The character is revealed of numerous other riders whose first and only impulse was to stop and help.
And the character is revealed of those who couldn’t have cared less.
The little drama plays out again, reminding us that it’s not about the bike, it’s about what happens on the bike, and what happens off it. The unsophisticated and uninitiated might even go so far as to call it “life.”
May 5, 2013 § 20 Comments
I was walking down the stairs the other day. The steps are made out of some kind of rocky aggregate, and I had decided to descend barefoot in order to spare my cleats and socks.
The rough, rocky surface jabbed into my soft feet. It hurt but I couldn’t walk lightly because I had the bike over my shoulder. The staircase has two sets of ten steps, and by the end of the first set the jabbing had turned from pain into something else.
What it turned into was memories.
Do you remember running barefoot across a hot parking lot when you were a kid? Do you remember walking barefoot across rocks and gravel? Do you remember dashing across a lot or a yard and finding out that it was chock full of cockleburs?
The pressure against my feet dug deep into my memory and I thought about all those hot days in Houston and Galveston and Daingerfield when, for whatever reason, I was outdoors without any shoes on. There was a barefoot balance between the freedom of the naked foot and the punishment of the unwanted glass fragment or sharp rock.
If you took the freedom, you also took the jab, and the only reward was that those soft little feet, over the course of a few shoeless weeks, became toughened, callused, gnarly little footpads, and with the raspy skin you became unafraid one day without knowing it of the hot asphalt or sharp rocks or cockleburs or anything else. The skin turned leathery and hard and told you instinctively that it was summer.
Do kids go barefoot anymore?
The semi-annual revolution
I live in fits and starts. One day it’s a change-the-world diet, the next day it’s an assault on all human limits with a brand new power meter. Like the feet under those hard calluses, though, it’s the same old me.
One of the great things about changing myself forever until I revert to the old self in a week or two is the sensation of the new, not to mention the self-love that comes with making a virtue out of necessity. That’s what’s been so great about bicycling barefoot.
“You can’t bicycle barefoot,” you’re thinking. “Those pedals would devour your feet whole.”
That’s true, but I don’t mean bicycling without shoes. I mean it metaphorically. The shoes are the clothes and the gear. Bicycling barefoot means putting on a shoulder bag and a pair of floppy shorts and slowly pedaling in to work, then back again.
Bicycling barefoot means pushing the pedals no harder than it takes to move forward at a reasonable speed. Wind blowing hard? Don’t respond by bending down and jamming the pedals…just go slower.
Have to surmount Via Valmonte and Silver Spur? Don’t get out of the saddle and crank it, find your great-great-great granny gear and go slow.
Like walking without shoes it’s unpleasant at first, but with repetition you start to fall into the rhythm of barefoot and you start to notice all the things that you can’t normally see due to tunnel vision or the grimace of agony or being to tired to lift your head more than an inch above your stem or because you’ve got your nose shoved halfway up the butt of the rider in front of you.
Putting on my shoes again
Bicycling barefoot, more than anything else, connects you with the freedom you first felt on your first bike, that giddy, punch-drunk, stomach-full-of-butterflies feeling that told you life was never going to be the same again as you pedaled madly to keep upright and avoid the curb and go fast enough not to tump over but not so fast that you crashed.
The nicest thing about bicycling barefoot, though, is that it’s just like walking without shoes. All it takes to get back into the groove of beatdowns and baby seal clubbing is a change of clothes.
So, it’s almost summertime. Mightn’t you ought to take off those shoes and go for a walk?
May 4, 2013 § 33 Comments
I hate to be the one to break your Strava bubble, but “PR” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a “personal record,” any more than there’s a “personal Super Bowl victory” or a “personal presidential election.”
A record is a mark set by someone that at least two people have done. You know Chris Horner’s time up Mt. Palomar? That is a record. Eleven hundred people have done it and his time is the fastest. It’s a record time.
Even though when you climbed it on Tuesday two and a half hours slower than Chris and it was the fastest of your 67 attempts, it’s still not a personal record. It’s two and a half hours slower than the record. You can call it your personal best. You can call it your fastest time up Mt. Palomar. You can call it proof that your $2,000 power meter and $15,000 bike and $950/month personal coaching regimen are making you faster…but it still pegs you in about one thousandth place relative to the RECORD.
Nothing personal about it.
All cycling metrics point to one conclusion: You suck
Strava’s business model is simple: Provide data to wankers that shows they’re getting better. Since none of us is getting better, and in fact all of us are getting older and therefore worse, and since those of us who are improving quickly reach a plateau, there has to be a way to snake-oil us into thinking that we’re improving.
So Strava sells you a premium membership where you can join a smaller subset of records (65+ men with an inseam of less than 25″ who sleep on the left side of the bed), and thereby convert some of your meaningless “personal records” into something more meaningful: A higher spot on the age adjusted, inseam-length adjusted, side-of-the-bed adjusted leaderboard.
Unfortunately, even after adjusting yourself into 75th place, which is a huge jump from 1,000th, physics still mercilessly claws its way to the front. Your “progress” plateaus, and your ability to climb the flailerboard grinds to a halt. So it’s back to personal records, and chasing the illusion of improvement even though all the data point, or rather, scream deafeningly, to a wholly opposite conclusion: You not only suck, you suck more than you did on this segment last year. Introspective riders feel the icy hand of death tightening its grip around their throat if they look at the data too closely past about age forty.
Note to the Stravati: There’s a reason you prefer Strava to bike racing
I don’t vomit often, but when I do it’s usually after someone takes one of my KOM’s. I’ve only got seventeen of them left, and there’s not a single one that couldn’t be handily snapped up by any number of Stravati who live for that kind of thing.
It’s no defense, but I never tried to set a single one of those KOM’s, which is probably the reason they fall so easily. The handful of times I’ve gone out and tried to grab a KOM, I’ve failed, usually miserably. I use Strava for the same reason that I wear pants. It’s a social convention the lack of which would earn too much opprobrium. I also use it as a handy calorie counter. And finally, I use it for you. Just when you’re starting to think your performance is dropping, or you’re really not very good, you can click on my most recent ride and feel relief: There’s someone in your neighborhood who’s slower and an even bigger bicycle kook than you.
This, I believe, is a powerful source of inspiration for flailers and wankers throughout the South Bay. Through Strava, I keep them riding. It’s a social service, and you can thank me via PayPal.
What you can’t do is get away with the pleasant little self-deception that your KOM is as good as a bike race. You can’t even get away with the delusion that it’s as good as an old-fashioned group beatdown on the NPR.
You know why that is? Because it isn’t. Masturbating your way to the top of a leaderboard on Strava, when unaccompanied by ball-busting accomplishments on group rides or in real mass start races in which you have to actually pay an entry fee and pin on a number, are just that: Digital auto-titillation.
Believe it or don’t, I’m fine with that. Riding a bicycle is like consensual sex between adults: I not only approve of it, I’m wholly uninterested in your particular activities. I’m not a libertarian, I’m a “don’t give a fucktarian.” If you’re out pedaling your bicycle, in my book you’re winning.
If your riding is confined to setting Strava records without racing or group riding, though, you are wanking. Can we be clear about that? Good. Because last Thursday a new South bay cycling record was set. Not on Strava, where anonymous, zipless riders virtually compete using all manner of tricks, traps, aids, pacers, run-ups, and “special assists” to set the record.
No, this Thursday record was set the old-fashioned way. Clubbers clubbed. Baby seals got their heads staved in. Pain was ladled out in buckets. And only the strong, the ornery, the mutton-headed, and the relentless survived.
One thing that’s never happened on the New Pier Ride
…is a successful four-lap breakaway. Dan Seivert and I once, on a cold, rainy, windy winter day in 2012 attacked on Vista del Mar and stayed away for four laps, but it wasn’t a real breakaway. We sneaked off three or four miles before the real ride began, there was zero horsepower in the field, and no one even knew we had attacked. Although we hurt like dogs and congratulated ourselves for the heroic effort, it was more a flailaway than a breakaway. Plus, no one cared. To the contrary, they tortured us with the worst torture known to a group ride breakaway: “You were off the front? If I’d known that I’d have chased.”
Last week, though, word went out that MMX was coming to town to do the NPR. This meant one thing: Merciless beatdown in the offing.
There were at least ten thousand baby seals at the Manhattan Beach Pier when the ride left at 6:40 AM. We hit the bottom of Pershing and it immediately strung out into the gutter and then snapped. The Westside seals were all lounging on the roadside atop the bump, because they’ve learned from repeated beatdowns that it’s better to jump in after the first hard effort than to try and jump in as the group comes by at the bottom of the little hill. Just as they were finishing their first bucket of raw mackerel, we came by like a whirlwind.
As we passed the parkway, Josh Alverson drilled it.
Then Peyton Cooke drilled it.
Then Johnny Walsh drilled it.
MMX, who had started at the back and worked his way up to the point, later noted that from the bottom of Pershing it was pure mayhem. Many of the baby seals were killed with that first single devastating blow to the head. Others, un-hit, were so stunned by the acceleration that they simply pulled over, unclipped, and skinned themselves.
Robert Efthimos reported that Thursday was his 128th time up World Way ramp, and it turned out to be his single highest average wattage ever for a lap on the NPR. He churned out those numbers stuck at the back of the herd after the break left.
After the ramp, Greg Leibert blasted away, stringing it out into a line of about 15 riders, with a small clump forming at about 16th wheel and turning into an amorphous lump into which 80 or 90 baby seals still cowered. After Greg swung over, MMX opened the throttle, dissolved the clump and turned the entire peloton into a single line with countless little blubbering seals who began snapping and popping like plastic rivets on a space shuttle.
We turned onto the parkway in full flight, with Johnny Walsh, Marco Cubillos, Josh, and “26” pounding the pedals. This is the point where after the initial surge, the front riders usually slowed down, or the neverpulls in back made their first and only real effort of the day to chase down the nascent break. Marco, John, Josh, and 26 kept going, and were soon joined by Greg, Jeff Bryant, Jay LaPlante, some dude from La Grange who was incinerated shortly thereafter, and one of the South Bay’s legendary purple card-carrying, neverpulling, wheelsuckers extraordinaire whose name shall not be mentioned.
MMX looked ahead from the pack as the break gained ground, surged, and bridged. Then he closed the door and threw away the key.
No break has ever stayed away on the NPR for all four laps. The course won’t allow it due to stoplights, the high tailwind speeds of the chasing field, and the relatively flat nature of the course.
We made the first turn and had a gap. Atop the bridge Jeff Bryant unleashed a monster pull, but then, over his head by the extreme effort, he and Greg were unable to latch onto the break as it accelerated at the next turnaround. Accounts differ, with some claiming a car pinched them, and others claiming they were too gassed to catch, but in any event the break didn’t feel like waiting, as there were already too many orange kits in the group. This meant the Greg/Jeff duo had to chase.
The pack was in a different time zone, which meant nothing as we’d just completed one lap and there was plenty of time for them to organize and chase in earnest. What we didn’t know is that they were already chasing in earnest, and the stoplight gods were smiling on us.
Having taken the initiative in trying to fend off the entire baby seal population of the South Bay, we were being rewarded with a string of green lights even as the baby seals were being punished with reds. Naturally, post-ride the baby seals that survived chalked everything up to the traffic signals rather than the sheet-snot that covered our faces and the haggard, beaten look of those who rode the break for the entire four laps.
Greg and Jeff, unable to reattach, finally hopped across the road and jumped in as we whizzed by. Greg then attacked us balls-out the remaining lap and a half. Ouch. Every time we brought him back another of our matchboxes was incinerated.
On the final stretch, after berating Sir Neverpull for never coming through, MMX unleashed the leadout from Klubtown. Sir Neverpull, suddenly discovering that with the end in sight he wasn’t quite that tired after all, leaped just in time for his engine to blow and his legs to detach from his torso. Jay LaPlante sprunted around the MMX lead-out with Josh fixed on his wheel. Going too far out and in too small a gear, Jay settled for second after a doing yeoman’s work in the break.
We celebrated this, the first ever four-lap breakaway on the NPR, with coffee and sunshine.
And yes, it was a record.