But what about me?

April 30, 2016 § 33 Comments

There was much joy and happypantsing when laist.com reported that Douchey McDouchebag a/k/a Dennis Reed finally got his comeuppance for trying to kill a pair of cyclists, then compounded murderous intent with suicidal stupidity by dancing a jig of “They punched my car first!” in front of the TV cameras and following it up with a fresh sprig of perjury by filing a false complaint with the police.

Douchey’s fancy driving video and his performance on the small screen earned him a walk down the perp carpet and a “Misdy Award” in the form of an arraignment set for May 11. The charges? Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and filing a false report. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen. My advice to Douchey is that he mortgage his apartment, return his keys to the Audi leasing office, and lawyer fucking up.

But what about you? What about me?

We get buzzed all the time. Mostly people are trying to kill us through benign neglect. They have pressing updates to like on Facegag, or they’re responding to a crucial text message about how Pooky told Dipsy that Donkey wasn’t going to be the third starting pitcher in next Saturday’s Little League game, and bam! They *accidentally* whack us and it’s an *accident* and we’re *accidentally* on life support for a year or five. Oh, well.

Other times, though, there is evil, bad, life-taking intent. You know the drivers. They target you. And they either miss, or they pull out at the last minute, or you pull off the escape of your life, or you get flat fucking lucky, and after the exchange of a few middle fingers everyone goes on with his life until the next time, when someone doesn’t. And the someone who doesn’t is always the cyclist, never the cager.

For most riders, there is a fairly good roadmap for what to do when you get hit, and by now we all know that it’s usually a very good idea to call a lawyer. Me, for example.

But what about when you don’t get hit? What about those times when the driver tries to hit you but fails? Is there anything you can do about it?

The short answer is “yes,” but it’s not easy. Sometimes you’re really angry and then the anger recedes and you feel lucky to have survived. But other times the anger doesn’t go away, or you’re reminded of the rider who took the time to file a complaint against the infamous Dr. Thompson. Dr. Thompson intentionally hit Ron Peterson while descending Mandeville, and the doc got jail time because of the prior report.

In other words, when the violation is egregious enough, it really does make sense – sometimes – to not simply roll over and get on with your life because the person who tried to kill you may well kill or injure someone else.

What follows is a rough re-wording of a very excellent email I received from a cop who’s been in law enforcement for over twenty years, and it’s well worth filing this away if you ever find yourself the victim of some jerk who thinks that your life is as disposable as a candy wrapper. As a lifelong adherent of plagiarism and stealing the good work of others, I’ve taken his email and changed it enough to avoid a cease-and-desist letter but not enough to take away from his excellent work.

“If it’s so excellent,” he even asked me, “why the hell’d you rewrite it?”

“Sorry, dude,” I told him. “If Homer sent me his final draft of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I’d rewrite that, too.”

So the first question you have to ask yourself regarding any buzzing incident is this: Was the act of “buzzing” intentional? This is key because with few exceptions only intentional acts are crimes.

If you have video or solid witness testimony that shows the driver really did intend to buzz you, then that constitutes assault with a deadly weapon, and it’s a violation of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1). In your case, the deadly weapon is the car.

Based on many descriptions of such events, not to mention my own close shaves with cager crazies, it is often clear that the answer is “yes, the action was intentional.”  But you have to be sure of that on your own, and it’s extremely beneficial to have witnesses or video. Once you’ve concluded that the driver intentionally tried to hit you, go to the police station whose jurisdiction includes the location of the incident and file a report.

  1. Do not call.
  2. Go there in person.
  3. Be prepared to wait.
  4. Be prepared for them to do everything in their power NOT to file a report.

If you’re at the station, you have decided that you want to involve the police. It’s not easy and it’s a hassle; despite constantly telling people to contact the police, few do. But ask yourself this: How are you going to feel if you read an article a week from now that a cyclist was mowed down by the same driver who buzzed you? If you believe that society is only safe when we look out for each other, then you have a duty to do this.

Once you have decided to do this, don’t waver. Do, however, be nice.  And most of all don’t try to cut any slack for this unknown driver who almost killed you. Stop feeling like a bad person because you are calling out someone else’s conduct, and don’t feel bad about the negative consequences that will occur to the driver of the car. The driver was a big enough boy or girl to try and kill you, now he or she will be big enough to deal with the fallout.

If you begin to waver, the police will immediately detect this and do everything they can to avoid taking a police report. Face them firmly, politely, and with the same calm resolution that you’d defend your spouse or child. If you have to, hum a few lines to yourself of “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty.

So now you’re in the station and you have to demand a report. Not ask for one. Not suggest they write one. Not beg for one. You have to demand it. And you have to demand it politely and without hesitation. Do not leave the station without what is called a DR number for the report. Statements by the police such as, “We will keep an eye out for the guy,” or “I will give you an incident number” are unacceptable. You’ve gone to this much trouble to get a DR number and you owe it to yourself and everyone else not to leave without one.

*Important note: The term “DR number” is a term specific to the Los Angeles Police Department. The LA Sheriff’s Department calls the same number a “URN number.” Other police agencies call them varying things. What you need to do is get assurance that the officer handling your complaint is going to provide you with a police report and you should probably get the name of a detective or detective supervisor who is going to follow up on the police report.

When you demand the DR number, it’s practically guaranteed that you will be told one of several things, all well-practiced moves by the police to send you home and keep them from having to do their job.

#1.  “Why didn’t you report the crime at the time it occurred?” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? I won’t allow you to blame me, the victim of a crime, for my conduct, when it is clear that a crime occurred.” Do not engage any further with a police officer who asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell the boss about the conduct. And remember, you’re in a police station. Any escalation of tone or hint of violence or threats on your part will wreck your endeavor.

#2.  “This is not an assault with a deadly weapon, you need to report this to the Traffic Division as it is a traffic matter.” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? You are incorrect, but I do not want to argue with you about the law.” Do not engage any further with a police officer that asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. It is also abundantly clear that he does not know the law. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell him about the conduct. Direct the watch commander to the following case: People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. If the watch commander doesn’t understand what that is, you are going to have to insist on talking with his boss.

If all of that fails and you’re here in LA, call me. I’ll go with you to the station and we can jointly explain the basics of PC245(a)(1) as interpreted by People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. We’ll get the DR number and we’ll get the wheels of justice turning.

END

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Freddies on the edge

April 27, 2016 § 47 Comments

I got a message from Scott S. the other day. He had heard about the collision from two weeks back in which South Bay cyclist Steve Shriver was run over on PCH, suffering catastrophic injuries. Coming hard on the heels of Jon Tansavadti’s death in March, as well as a rash of near misses in Long Beach, Scott was concerned.

“Anything we can learn from these tragedies?” he asked.

My answer was simple. “I don’t have the answer, Scott, but I can tell you this: What we’re doing now isn’t working.”

Then we talked about the gaping hole in our cycling experience, otherwise known as the utter lack of formal cycling education. Steve had been run over riding single file, up against the edge of a construction zone. Jon had been killed by a right-turning moving van.

We can argue all day about where they were and where they should have been, but we can’t argue about this: Neither rider had ever taken a formal bike education course–one, with more than 30 years of experience, the other, with less than twelve months.

Perhaps education isn’t the answer, but it sure seems like a great place to start. Moreover, whether education can save any one person is less important than the grim recognition that collectively the cycling community spends way more time on gear and clothing and equipment than it does on education. We encourage people to ride, help them select a fancy bike and a cool kit, and throw them to the wolves.

“Would you come ride with us next Wednesday and talk about this?” Scott asked.

“Sure,” I said. “What time?”

“We roll at 6:00 AM sharp.”

I gulped because that meant a 4:50 roll-out from PV, and there was only one other person in all of Los Angeles crazy enough to get up at 4:30 so he could meet me at 5:15 and pedal through the bowels of the nation’s biggest port at daybreak to ride with the Long Beach Freddies.

In short, this was a job for Major Bob, the grumpiest guy with the biggest heart in all of cycling. “Can you squire me to the Freddie ride on Wednesday?”

“Sure,” Bob said when I explained the misssion. He didn’t mention that on Sunday he’d be doing the 145-mile Belgian Waffle Ride, and that on Tuesday he’d knock out a cool 90 doing the NPR beatdown and a legstretcher up the 6-mile Mandeville climb.

At 5:15 sharp he was there at the corner of Vermont and Anaheim and Gaffey and PV Drive, and a happening place it was.

7-11

I was apprehensive about proposing education to the Freddies because despite their name they ride with some of the best people in cycling. Tony Cruz is one of the Freddies, as well as Olympic gold medalist Steve Hegg and Rio aspirant Nate Koch, and their fast Fridays are, well, fast. Very fast. One of the walls in cycling has always been between the fast people in lycra and the slow people with mirrors. Needless to say the one don’t always take kindly to advice from the other.

Problem is that the mirror dorks are the ones who have actually studied  riding in traffic from a perspective more sophisticated than “bunnyhop the curb, flip off the asshole driver, and keep going.” Going to the Freddies and pitching a dork session was, I feared, going to be a hard sell.

It was anything but. Unlike most clubs, which operate with multiple levels of decision making atop glacial epochs of implementation, the Freddies have a “Fuck it, let’s go,” attitude. They politely listened to my speech.

“So where should we start?” Scott asked after I finished.

“Maybe four or five of you should take the Cycling Savvy Dorkcycle and Autopsy Avoidance Course like we did at Big Orange, see if it works for you, and then think about encouraging some of the other members to do it.”

“Nah,” said Scott. “We’re in, all of us.”

I blinked. “All of you?”

Bill H., not known for his lengthy speeches, stood up. “This is important and we need to do it. We’re in.”

So as far as I know, the guys down in Long Beach are the nation’s first speed club to take formal cycling education as seriously as they take their clothing. Which is, frankly, incredible, and which, if it prevents even one collision or saves even one life is worth it a million times over.

I’m humbled and awed.

END

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Rare bird

April 15, 2016 § 27 Comments

After many a ride Filds and I would recap the myriad stupidities of the day, and he’d always conclude, “Yeah, common sense. It just ain’t that common.”

As much as it pains me to say nice things about my friends, Gary Cziko and Pete van Nuys put on a seminar last night for our club, Big Orange. They are instructors for Cycling Savvy, a bike educational program for dorks.

In this case, however, the dorks aren’t the usual objects of contempt. They aren’t the people with panniers, recumbents, floppy dickhider shorts, helmet mirrors, sandals, and fourteen daytime lights. The dorks targeted by Cycling Savvy include everyone who doesn’t understand proper lane positioning. This means you.

Most of what Cycling Savvy refers politely to as “the lycra crowd” and I impolitely refer to as “delusional underwear pedalers,” considers itself expert at cycling safety. The reasoning goes like this:

  1. I wear my underwear on my bike and pedal fast.
  2. I enter one crit a year to get free crap from my team so I can call myself a bike racer.
  3. I have twelve top-10’s on the Strava leaderboard for 45+ men over 250 lbs.
  4. My bike is expensive.
  5. I ride in big groups.
  6. I’ve never been killed.

Of course if you ride with the lycra crowd long enough you realize that in addition to being delusional, many of them are wholly incompetent at bicycle riding, even many riders who climb well, sprunt well, and time trail well. What’s worse than their incompetence is that their insistence on bad positioning is built on an amazing resistance to criticism, let alone change.

After all, they’re wearing their underwear and have never been killed plus they got 10 kudos yesterday so they know what they’re doing, right?

Cycling Savvy’s curriculum politely but firmly begins with the premise that no, just because you ride a bicycle you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing. In fact, given the ignorance of law enforcement, the prejudice of cagers, and the lack of formalized cycling instruction, the chance that you know what you’re doing is quite small, because all savvy cycling begins with lane positioning, and a casual glance at any cyclist on any road reveals that most cyclists hug the gutter or the door zone.

It was fascinating to watch the Big Orange board get educated, a board that is comprised of people who have 12 zillion miles under their belt, who are already pretty expert at lane positioning, and who have extraordinary experience navigating large groups of idiots through the congested streets of L.A. It reinforced how badly we of the Underwear Tribe are in desperate need of education.

Unfortunately, the course is three hours long, which means your ass will be bleeding by the time it wraps up, and that doesn’t include the parking lot and on-the-road components of the class. The curriculum also contains too much information for the typical bonehead who has been roped into the session hoping to get a tip or two about how not to get killed.

Yet Cziko and van Nuys did a phenomenal job of introducing us to the law, the science, the logic, and the practice of controlling the fuggin’ lane, in addition to re-emphasizing the fact that if you put twelve boxes of Cheez-its in front of five cyclists they will devour everything down to the crumbs even when they’re no longer hungry.

I just wish they’d call the course “Control the Fuggin’ Lane, Dumbass!” and I wish more people would get educated. The rear-and-fore-facing videos showing how traffic responds to proper lane control are viscerally demonstrative of Cycling Savvy’s other premise: The life you save will be YOURS. Learning all this from people who themselves have been cycling longer than most of us have been alive, and who are professional, educated, and smart, was an added bonus.

Ultimately, if you think you know how to ride on the road, the chances are good you don’t. Because common sense just ain’t that common.

END

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Call of the somewhat wild

April 12, 2016 § 24 Comments

I have been spending more time birdwatching lately. You know, getting back to my roots because I am too damned old and tired all the time to be racing every weekend. Except last weekend, and next weekend. And there are some other races coming up, too, later on.

But anyway, I love being surrounded by nature because it is very peaceful. When riding I often scream like a lunatic, curse at complete strangers, and behave like a raging steroid pumped up on bicycles.

A couple of weeks ago I went out early to Madrona Marsh, in Torrance. It is 48 acres surrounded by chain-link fence set behind the largest shopping mall in America, the Del Amo Fashion Center, where people go to purchase things that by virtue of being in a giant mall cannot possibly be fashionable. The marsh is a tiny postage stamp, all that remains of the thousands of acres of wetlands that once provided incredible habitat for wildlife in the South Bay.

After a few minutes I had drifted off into the other world of misidentifying birds and scratching my head over impossibilities. Rufous or Allen’s? Western or Cassin’s? What’s making that funny chirp?

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you’re looking at critters, exactly the opposite of how slowly time goes by when you’re on the fucking rivet going up the Switchbacks and some young punk is plucking the skin off your balls with a ball-peen hammer.

Anyway, it was really quiet except for the bird racket. Then across the slough I saw this dude dressed up like he was heading out on an expedition up the Congo. No joke, he was wearing full green camo, heavy utility vest, giant floppy adventurer camo hat, hip waders, and was carrying a giant pole that he stuck down in front as he walked as if he were navigating a giant crevasse field at Base Camp 12 of Chomulungma.

Keep in mind that the slough that feeds the pond is about ten feet wide and the water is about a foot deep, with lots of tall grass along the edge which is perfect dragonfly habitat; the bugs crawl up out of the water and onto the grass to shed their skin and spread their wings.

So I watched Dora the Explorer walk off the path and into the slough. I was about a hundred feet away. “Hey!” I yelled. He looked up quizzically, his massive waders crushing entire sections of fragile grass. “Yeah, you, you dumb bastard!” I shouted.

“Me?” he asked.

I walked over to the edge of the path. “What the fuck are you doing out there in the slough?”

“I’m, uh, researching,” he said.

I looked at his Amazonian explorer get-up and noted that he had a cheapo pair of $50 non-carbon field glasses dangling from his neck, binoculars that you couldn’t have examined your own navel with, much less a bird or a butterfly. “Like fuck you are,” I said. “Get your sorry fucking ass out of the slough, for fuck’s sake.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why? You’re CRUSHING THE FUCKING DRAGONFLY HABITAT, you stupid sonofabitch. Does the slough look like a fucking walkway?”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said, backtracking.

“You’re damned straight I’m right. Stay on the fucking path. If every jackanape in a clown suit who came here tromped through the fucking slough with those rubber snowshoes the whole damned place would be mashed flatter than a fucking pancake!”

Dora walked off, rather briskly.

I sank back into my quiet reverie, happy to have finally found such a peaceful activity devoid of all conflict and anger.

END

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Urinating on the gift

April 6, 2016 § 41 Comments

I paid little attention to the faux exploits of Dan Bilzerian as he pedaled his way to a cool million or so in a bet about whether or not he could ride from Las Vegas to Hollywood in 48 hours. But I did pay attention to the controversy it generated in my little corner of the universe, because shortly after winning the bet Bilzerian posted a Facegag video with this charming bit of literature:

bilzerian

Two things stand out:

  1. Hates gays.
  2. Hates cycling.

So he’s probably not going to be someone I invite to my next Gay Men’s Fitness Ride. But what bothered me wasn’t this painfully short dude trying to make up for it with daddy’s money and a bushy beard, but it was that people in my cycling community got their teeth caught in their zippers over it.

Bilzerian allegedly spent upwards of $60k at local bike shop Helen’s in Santa Monica and another bundle on the coaching services of Nate Loyal. Then, after the ride he stuck a fork in their eyes by laughing at our “fake” sport, pocketing a ton of money, and merrily skipping back to his stock-in-trade of misogyny, small penis machismo, and Instagram blather.

This pissed off some other Westsiders, one of whom is named Tony. He was not, shall we say, amused, and a host of other cyclists were enraged at the insults that Shorty sprayed on our sport like a fire extinguisher filled with shit. Bilzerian had succeeded in doing what he apparently does best: Playing to his audience (non-cycling misogynistic gay-hating couch potatoes) and showing the middle finger to everyone else. Oh, and picking up a cool million.

So first things first, and you’re not gonna like it. This was an impressive athletic accomplishment. I don’t care if he drafted. I don’t care if he had 7-time-Tour-de-Doper Lance Armstrong offering coaching advice. I don’t care if he rode a recumbent.

What matters is that an avowed non-cyclist pedaled from Vegas to Hollywood in 48 hours. It’s a long ass way and most Americans, let alone the congenital sloths who make up Bilzerian’s fan base, couldn’t do it if their clogged arteries depended on it.

But it gets better. The dude proved that you don’t have to be very fit or very athletic or very ANYTHING to ride your bike hundreds of miles. If you have the desire, motivation, and money, you can do it, and better yet, you don’t even need the money. Anyone mildly desirous of getting in shape and having fun can, with a bit of preparation and commitment, ride a bike incredible lengths and achieve amazing stuff.

For that Bilzerian deserves credit. He’s the ultimate Fred and he did it his way. What’s not to like?

Now that you mention it, a couple of things, for example, he’s a homophobic misogynist who beat self-important cyclists at their own game.

Can I back up a sec?

Bilzerian didn’t beat anyone except another gambler. He didn’t win a bike race. He didn’t pin on a number. He didn’t contest an event with multiple entrants under a set of rules. He sure as fuck didn’t line up at San Dimas. He bet some other dude some money and won and claimed to have mastered the sport of cycling, which according to him isn’t even a real sport. I won a game of flag football against some little kids, proving that the NFL is a joke.

Right.

And the people who helped him on his way? Well, they got paid for it, and apparently they were paid pretty well. If Bilzerian had come to me after getting run over by a truck I wouldn’t have turned down his case just because he’s a douchebag.

The only thing this guy did that bothers me at all is this: He created a division among good people where none needs to be. Tony was right to take a stand and criticize the guy’s misogyny and hatred of gays and he was right to scorn Bilzerian’s claim that he has somehow exposed cycling as a non-sport. But Helen’s and Nate were also right to take the money and do the job. If every bike fitter and bike shop had to police the politics of their customers before providing their service, there would be few bike shops and even fewer bike fitters. In fact, providing services based on the customer’s sexual orientation is exactly what the states of North Carolina and Mississippi have just done, and it’s not turning out well for anyone.

The wasted part is that Bilzerian was introduced to the nicest bunch of people and invited to be part of a global fraternity. We are men, women, and children of every persuasion, ethnicity, nationality, and political belief. We ride for fun, for work, and for transportation. And for the most part we prefer riding to not, and are happy to see new people share in our passion.

Small Dan Bilzerian couldn’t see, or wasn’t interested in the gift. And instead of politely handing it back with a “No, thanks,” he urinated on it, then dumped it on the dinner table.

That’s too bad, but not for us. The gift is eternal and easily washed off, re-wrapped, and passed back on to your friend, your spouse, your child, your grandchild, or the neighborhood kid.

And if he ever gets tired of being a professional douche, he’ll find that the gift is all cleaned up, ready, and waiting for Dan Bilzerian, too.

END

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Sex, lies, and handlebar tape

March 29, 2016 § 34 Comments

That’s the name of a biography about Jacques Anquetil. It’s also a fitting title for the thread that went sideways on my personal Facegag page when I posted this photo and this comment:

Another example of how Specialized doesn’t get it. Women are cyclists and customers, not sex objects. Of course tucked away at a trade show in Berlin, maybe Specialized thought they could do their thing under the radar. Talk about a company that represents the worst in cycling. I guess if you can’t sell your bikes because they’re good, rip a page from Budweiser and sell it because you think your customers might be dumb enough to think that buying one will get you laid. By a Playboy Bunny. Right.

What I thought was a goodnight kiss to my echo chamber turned out to be anything but. One poster defended the two models by saying that it was the German subsidiary who made the decision, implying that Specialized’s HQ in the liberal, equal-rights supporting Republic of NorCal would never have done such a thing. The same person also pooh-poohed the problem by saying that other companies in the same situation have done worse, then threw down the old Litmus Test for Social Commentary: If you’ve ever [—–] before, you have no right to comment on [—–].

His defensive reaction was not out of place. One person happily commented on how he loves “tits,” another about how he loves gazing at attractive women, one about “Uptight Yanks” (he’s an American), and the old standby whenever we’re criticizing Specialized, “Cannondale does it, too.”

The women who joined the conversation mostly had in depth, thoughtful, and strong opinions on the matter, like this one, but who cares about them? I got some mansplainin’ to do, so STFU.

And my mansplanation begins with this: I’ve done and said sexist things before, I’ve purchased products from sexist companies with sexist marketing campaigns, and if I had to make a list of times that my dick has overridden my brain it would be a very long one. So you can call me a failed feminist or a hypocrite or a bored late-night blogger or whatever else makes it easy for you to discount my criticism of Specialized. But even though (you think) that chops off my credibility at the knees when it comes to making this argument, it doesn’t take away the argument itself, which is this:

Whether it’s Peter Sagan groping the woman on the podium, whether it’s the practice of having women on the podium, whether it’s unequal prize lists, whether it’s events of unequal duration, whether it’s advertising that shows sexy women on bikes who are obviously not bike racers versus men on bikes who obviously are, whether it’s Specialized’s sexist product marketing and sales, whether it’s unequal team sponsorship, whether it’s unequal junior rider development, and whether it’s unequal support at the local, state, and national level, cycling is doing a poor job of providing equal opportunity and equal respect for women.

I’ve had people tell me that women only race bikes because they’re “looking for a guy.” I’ve been criticized for offering equal prize money when I’ve put up cash primes because “women’s fields are smaller.” I’ve seen guys on group rides aggressively push women who “dared” to contest the sprunt. And I’ve heard every possible criticism of women as participants, from casual riding to big-day racing.

With an environment this gnarly, it’s unfair to pretend that Specialized’s sexism stands out. If anything, their sexism is pretty ordinary. If you want to find a company that really doubles down on sexist marketing and the objectification of women you need to look at the company founded by Anthony Sinyard, the son of Mike Sinyard, who is the founder and owner of Specialized.

Anthony, in his 30’s and not what we’d call a super successful dude, has invested in a venture called Supacaz. Supacaz makes handlebar tape, and has taken Specialized’s sex-symbol sales approach and doubled down, then tripled down.

Check this promotional video.

Then check this link for Google images associated with ol’ Supacaz.

The apple didn’t simply fail to fall far from the tree, it never even hit the ground.

Of course none of this is really surprising, as noted by another poster on my thread, a woman who wasn’t shy about slapping down the justifications offered up for Specialized’s playboy bunnies as a “mistake of the German subsidiary.”

Studies have shown that sex doesn’t sell. Many, many, many studies. What selling sex does, however, is allow the dumbasses in marketing to go home at 5pm and stop thinking about how to market a shitty product with very little appeal. And THAT is why people use sex to sell. They use sex to sell objects because they’re lazy motherfuckers with no big-picture thought patterns, no understanding of sport sustainability and zero respect for the gender they’re so apathetically objectifying and dehumanizing. Marketing departments use sex to sell stuff because they have little respect for themselves and absolutely no respect for their audience; there is no art, no creativity, no meaningful engagement. And why should there be? When so much of their audience stands up and defends such useless existence, that means that Specialized (and Maxxis and 661 and Colnago and Sidi) don’t have to. They have mindless consumer drones who will do the PR for them.

Of course, when you get right down to it, I blame Lance. Because at the very moment in time that Amgen is offering better and longer women’s events, at the very time that European classics are offering more comparable women’s races with rumblings of equal prize money, at the very time that women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of cycling and its fastest growing segment, Ol’ Yeller teams up with a sexist blowhard gambler to time-trial from Vegas to Hollywood. That what cycling’s biggest story is for the non-cycling public.

Specialized, it looks like you’re going to have to up your game, by which I don’t mean succumb to more of the sex-sells-bikes myth. People who own Specialized bikes, and companies who compete against them, recognize that Specialized makes good bikes. It beggars belief that anyone who’s making a purchasing decision says to herself, “Hmmmm, Tarmac or EVO Super Six? I guess I’ll go with the Tarmac because, bunnies.”

Nor do I believe that Specialized’s focus groups show a customer base longing for “more images of scantily clad women to go with my bike.” What they want on the road is a better product, and if they also want something better in bed, well, they’re not going to get it from a full carbon frame, even if it’s 100% full carbon.

END

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Let ’em eat licenses

March 14, 2016 § 69 Comments

The recent death of Jonathan Tansavatdi, a local South Bay cyclist and member of my club, Big Orange, has again brutally emphasized the vulnerability of cyclists. Although the cause and mechanics of the collision that took his life remain unknown at this point, it got me to thinking about our collective responsibility as a cycling club.

In other words, what is the obligation of every cycling club with regard to teaching bike safety?

This seems like it has an easy answer. Clubs encourage people to ride. They encourage people to join. And at least our club really encourages people to race their bikes. In addition to that encouragement, any club worthy of the name provides structure to make all those things happen.

Our club provides group ride activities throughout the week, and we have the best grass roots club racing program in America, a program that focuses on getting members to sign up as Cat 5 men and Cat 4 women and race their bikes.

So the question remains. What are we as racing clubs doing with regard to teaching bike safety? As with most cycling clubs, only a minority of our members actually race. Even big profamateur masters squads like Surf City and Monster Media have more actual riders than they do members who show up and race every weekend.

With the exception of on-the-job safety training, where ride leaders and allegedly experienced riders give out tips to the newcomers, I’ve yet to hear of a club that has formalized program to teach rider safety in conjunction with a requirement that all riders complete a safety course before they are allowed to join.

This is weird because:

  1. Most cyclists suck at safety.
  2. Although cycling is safe, when shit goes sideways you can die or be catastrophically injured.
  3. There is already a fantastic educational course called Cycling Savvy that every single bike club in America can afford to have conduct classes.

The reticence to teaching cycling safety, at least among racing clubs, is that the Cycling Savvy teachers are complete dorks. They are the guys with helmet mirrors, flappy arm sleeves, uncool bikes, hairy legs and teeth, and of course none of them race. So there is a huge bias on the part of the cool kids (think junior high insecurity and vanity without the excuse of youth) against sitting down and getting schooled by people whose business it is to stay alive in traffic. It’s crazy to think that one group of dorks riding around in their underwear look down at another group of dorks riding around in their underwear, but Ah, Bartleby, ah humanity!

The benefits to instituting a club licensing program are massive. First, it tells every single person thinking about joining that nothing matters to us more than your life. Second, it tells every single person thinking about joining that we don’t care how many races you’ve won, how many watts you put out, or how many imaginary trinkets you have stored on your imaginary Strava cupboard, THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU KNOW HOW TO RIDE SAFELY IN TRAFFIC. Think velodrome certification: They don’t care how good you think you are. Until you’ve proven you can ride on a banked track without gears or brakes, you’re not allowed to play in the sandbox.

Finally, of course, certification and licensing would begin to disseminate the life preserving skills we all need as vulnerable riders in traffic. It makes us advocates for smart riding and maybe, just maybe, decreases the number of memorial rides even by one.

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