Leaving House and home
December 2, 2014 § 30 Comments
When I saw the big yellow Penske moving van with the tan pickup hitched up behind it, I almost shed a tear. After two years of threats, Brad House has moved to Texas. Do the poor Texans have any idea what they’re in for? Do they remember Radical Reconstruction?
Few people have made a bigger impact on cycling in the South Bay than Brad. Whether it was the bright orange catmuffs he began wearing a couple of years ago, items that make an already ridiculous looking sport even sillier, whether it was his cycling shorts whose rear panels had expired in 2002, whether it was his “all the guns, all the time” right wing views that made the NRA look soft on the 2nd Amendment, or whether it was his random habit of opening his mouth and jamming it full with both feet, Brad was a force that none could ignore.
In addition to his uncanny ability to say the exactly wrong thing at the perfectly wrong time, though, Brad has made the South Bay an exponentially better place to ride for hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists. Foremost among his contributions was his advocacy. Cyclists, as everyone knows, are whiny little bitches. They will complain about their two free team kits, their 25% shop discount, and their “free but turn in at the end of the season” team bike for hours upon endless hours. Just try getting your average wanker to show up at a city council meeting and advocate for something cycling related, though. Ain’t ever gonna happen.
Unless your name is Brad House.
The same energy with which Brad broadcasts batshit crazy political views that will make Texas seem like a moderate-liberal enclave is the same energy he brought to council meetings in the South Bay. Brad always found time, always made time, to advocate for cyclists’ rights. And he invariably articulated his position thoughtfully, persuasively, and intelligently — so much so that the suit-and-ties on the city council had no clue they were dealing with a cannonball that was looser than a $5 hooker.
Brad is the first cyclist I ever met who refused to back down to bullying cagers. He didn’t simply control the lane, he controlled the very oxygen in the street. He was the first person I ever rode with who took his rightful place smack in the middle of the lane and refused to be bullied out of it. One time on the Donut a cager with a latte honked at him to get out of the way at a stop light. She is probably still getting the dents out of her hood.
In contrast to his aggressive defense of his right to ride in the road, I never heard Brad talk shit about anyone, ever, and it’s not only because he loved to talk about himself. It’s also because, beneath all the flibber-flabber and blibber-blabber, he saw himself as a kind of Pied Piper for new cyclists. Although they’re ashamed to admit it now because their mentor wears those orange catmuffs, hundreds of people in the South Bay got hooked on cycling, and improved as cyclists thanks to the friendship and encouragement of Brad House.
Nor were Brad’s contributions limited to advocacy and raunchy tales in mixed company that would make a porn star blush. Every race promoter in Southern California owes a debt to Brad, who promoted races here for decades. Whether it was the San Pedro Grand Prix, one of the best and most challenging race courses ever, the annual drag race held out at LAX on Westchester Parkway, the countless hill climbs in PV, or cyclocross races, Brad invested the time and passion and legendary cheapness that is required to put on a bike race.
Yet for all his cheapness, he was a generous guy. I remember five years ago at Woodland Hills I was bonking before a race. “Brad,” I said, “got any food?”
“I think I got a candy bar somewhere,” he said. We went back to his pickup and he rummaged around on the floor in the back seat for a few minutes, stirring up more dust and trash and filth than you would think could be contained in such a small vehicle. “Here!” he triumphantly called, holding up an opened package with a half-eaten Clif Bar in it. The expiration date said something on it about the Jurassic.
But no candy bar ever tasted better, and on the fuel generously supplied by Brad I went on to finish 72nd and didn’t fall off my bike.
Despite his welcoming mien to beginners and his extremely sketchy bike skills and his wildly flapping elbows and his crazyman catmuffs, Brad was also a successful bike racer, and he never tired of reminding people that he had more California State Champion jerseys than anyone in history. Whether that’s true or not, he certainly had no shortage of them, and along with his expired rear short panels and unblinking brown eye, those flashy jerseys were a sight to behold.
More than his racing exploits, his kindness to others, his advocacy, his passion as a promoter, and, when he worked at the bike shop in San Pedro, his ability to take a perfectly functioning bike with a minor problem and turn it into a rolling catastrophe, Brad will be remembered by most as a friend — someone who was there when you needed him, often there when you didn’t, too kind to hold a grudge, and always looking forward with enthusiasm and passion to the next ride.
I’ll miss you Brad, sort of.
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