December 23, 2017 Comments Off on Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

There are lots of kinds of cyclists, but only two that matter: Those who can change their own flats and those who cannot.

Of course there is even a third kind, those who can mostly change their own flats but play hell changing the flats of others. I’m that kind. One time Tink and I spent an hour on the side of the road at the Glass Church while I tried to get her tire back on the rim. Another time I drove out to help Peg and Michelle fix a quadruple flat, and all I can say is that I’m glad I brought half a dozen tubes and a floor pump. My standard for pro tire changes is high; Gus Bayle, Jay LaPlante, Gerald Iacono, Kenny Lam … people who make the most devilish job in the word look like nothing at all.

Recently I have taken on a new training charge, my wife, and suffice it to say I am not a good teacher. Nor am I patient. However, she is very enthusiastic and has marked off every Friday from now until 2057 as our Coffee Ride Day. Today was one of those days, and it started off great.

Like most new riders she wants to ride every day, each day more than the day before, but unlike most new riders she has the Grinch That Stole Bikemas living at home (which is bad) and he is also riding with her (which is worse), so many of the pitfalls awaiting most newbies have a wooden stake driven through their heart and lungs immediately. The other day as she got ready to go out for her ride I growled “Don’t ride.”

“Why not? I planned it and have been looking forward to it all morning.”

“Don’t ride,” I said again, wondering what had been unclear about it the first time.

“Why?” she asked.

My first answer, “Because I said so,” got discarded in favor of something much more diplomatic. “You are tired and need to rest. Two days, no riding. Rest = Get stronger.”

She didn’t understand but took my advice, so when we started this morning she was peppier than pep. “I feel peppy!” she said.

“Ungh,” I grunted.

After a while we were going up the Monaco wall. It is horrible, long, steep, avoided by everyone, and no place for newbies. She had dropped back a ways so I circled around. “You okay?” I asked.

“Yes!” she said between deep gasps. “I feel peppy! Slow but peppy!”

And she did look peppy. And slow. At the top I suggested we stop for an ussie. That’s when I noticed her completely flat rear tire. “You know your tire’s flat?”

“It is? I thought I was just slow.”

“You were.”

“Can’t I make it home?” She had climbed the entire wall on the rim and we still had a long climb plus Whitley-Collins plus a bombing descent before we were home.

“Yes, but we’re not going to.”

“Are you going to fix the tire?”

“Yes,” I said. She got that glow of a damsel in distress about to be helped by a valiant knight-errant, and I started to feel less grouchy and semi-useful until I tried to get the tire off the rim. The tire was brand new and part of the Fuji Supreme she had bought from Performance Bicycle, and I suppose the “supreme” in the name referred to the “supremely tight” fit of the tire on the rim.

A close inspection revealed a tiny thorn that took forever to prize free with my fingernails, one of which cracked then snapped off. Then the work began with a flourish of my tire lever and a few well placed curses as the tire refused to peel away. It eventually came off, but I knew that this was simply the prelude, and getting it back on would be impossible. Half an hour later the tire was mounted. She looked at the massive puddle of sweat that had drained off my face onto the pavement. “Are you tired?” she asked.

“Sort of.”

“That looked a lot harder than when you were riding your bicycle.”

I didn’t say anything except “Fuck!” because as soon as I twisted the C02 canister, all the air leaked out of the pinch flat I’d created when I had remounted the tire with my lever.

“Let’s go!” she said happily. “But it doesn’t look any different.”

I shut up some more and pulled out my own spare tube. “Let’s try that again.”

“Are you doing it so I can practice? I don’t think I can do it. Look at all that blood on your hands.”

I kept on shutting up and got the tire mounted. Then there was that split second of fear where you wait to see if the air is going to come leaking out again. It didn’t and the tire inflated.

We rode home. “You are such a professional,” she said. “And you changed it so quickly!”

“Hmmmm,” I said.






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It’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas

November 30, 2017 Comments Off on It’s not beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas means … new bike.

Christmas means … new wheels.

Christmas means … new carbon, all 100%, made of pure carbon.

Have you noticed that no one is reminding you how many shopping days are left until Christmas, though? Have you noticed that there’s hardly any Christmas music playing at the mall? That the eight reindeer of the Apocalypse and the jolly old elf are nowhere to be seen?

No tears here, that’s for sure. I’ve been a Grinch for years and would like nothing better than to go through November and December without being punished by Christmas sales and holly and jingle bells and Christmas culture. I haven’t entrusted my happiness to a non-existent, mythical elf for decades.

However, if you think that the extinction of Santa means that you won’t be mercilessly hassled to go buy even more 100% carbon, you’re wrong. And if you think that the sudden disappearance of the Santa pagan and his musical trappings is a result of some greater corporate sensitivity to the fact that we live in a diverse and multicultural and poly-religious society, well, you’d be wrong again.

You see, marketers woke up one day and realized that the worst thing they could possibly do was put a time limit on shopping, because although it stimulated a mad rush up to December 25, thereafter things got deader than a Fleetwood Mac concert after 8:00 PM. Wouldn’t it be better if the sheep could be trained to not simply spend more, but to spend longer?

Yes, it would!!

So they put some arsenic in the reindeer feed, took the old redcoated fellow out behind the sleigh shed and smothered him with a pillow, and got down to the real business of Christmas, which has always been business. Using Black Friday as the new secular holiday marker, following it with Black Friday Weekend and then by Cyber Monday, and then keeping the phrase “40% OFF!” going full bore (selected items only a/k/a Shit You Don’t Want), American retail has finally found the solution to the Christmas Conundrum of “How do we initiate a shopping orgy that starts way back at the end of October and doesn’t finish until February?”

The only bit of Christmas music I heard at the mall the other day was “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which I think was written and sung by Mozart.

Santa is dead. Long live Santa.



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Dancing in the dark

November 17, 2017 Comments Off on Dancing in the dark

Yesterday was new bike day, which is always a sad day for me. It’s sad because once again I have to admit that after decades of riding on numerous bikes, they all feel more or less the same.

No, that’s not right. They feel exactly the same.

Whenever I read about some dude who has hopped on the “new, improved 2018 model” of the Whateverbike, and about how it’s stiffier and turnier and snappier and peppier and sprintier and climbier and time-trialier and aeroier, and about how the dude figured all that out in a 30-minute test ride out in the parking lot, all I can do is look in the mirror and say, “Wanky, you are a bicycling failure in every regard.”

So new bike day is always a stinky disappointment, and yesterday was, too. I had reluctantly climbed off my Cannondale Super 6 Evo All Carbon Bike Made From 100% Carbon because I had ridden it for two years and Team Lizard Collectors had an amazing team deal on a new Fuji bike that was almost like getting it for free except for all the money I had to pay for it.

My old roommate in college, Robert Doty, used to have a maroon Fuji, and we rode all over Austin and San Marcos and his parents’ home in Paris (Texas), him on the Fuji and me on my Nishiki International. My brother Ian’s first road bike, and the bike that got me into cycling, was also a Fuji, a black one. So I had some history with Fuji and was really looking forward to the disappointment.

After I picked up the bike at Veloworx in Santa Monica I took the new Fuji and the old Cannondale over to my trusty mechanic, Boozy P., for a quick swap. Boozy P. has lately gotten out of the bike business, but he was home from work and allowed as he could do a bike build for me if I didn’t mind waiting around. I didn’t.

He got to work right away, which meant taking out a couple of tools, putting the Cannondale up on the stand to haul out its guts, and then cracking open a tall boy to get him through the rough spots. Pretty soon we got to talking about bike racing.

“Destroyer wants to do a Telo Sunday, starting in January,” he said.

“Telo’s been on Tuesday evenings for the last 30 years.”

“Yeah but the course is so busy now with cars and shit. Place is empty on Sunday, and ever since Norris moved off to a log cabin and quit the Wheatgrass, there’s no decent ride on Sunday. Plus if we do it on Sunday morning we can do it all year and don’t have to deal with the time change.”

So we talked about that for a while, and then talked about some other things for a while, and pretty soon the sun had gone down. Boozy P. isn’t fast, but he isn’t slow, either. He’s methodical. And a big part of his method is working through those tall boys, because from my vantage point in the grease-stained chair it looked like he was only about halfway done with the bike but 100% of the way done with half a dozen tall boys.

Every once in a while Boozy would drop a handful of small parts on the floor and they’d roll away, completely invisible in the inky darkness, but he has the night eyes of a cat I guess and he’d pick up most of them on the first stoop.

“What about the other ones?” I asked.

“I think I got ’em all. And if I didn’t we’ll find out later.”

After a while it was plain old night time. I could barely make him out, much less the black Fuji frame, but we kept on talking, and he kept on draining the tall boys until he finally said, “I think that’s got ‘er.”

“I’m scared to ride it,” I said. “You just put the danged bike together in the dark.”

“Nah,” he said. “There’s still plenty of light.”

I held my hand up in front of my face and couldn’t see anything. “Maybe,” I replied, “but not on this side of the globe.”

We went out into the parking lot, but it was so dark I couldn’t even test ride it. “You’ll be fine,” he said. “I can put these things together with my eyes closed.”

“That’s good to know,” I said, “because you just did.”

The next day I took out the new bike and the shifters shifted, the brakes braked, and the handlebars didn’t fall off. Boozy P. had put that bike together tighter than a Republican plan to cut taxes for corporations and raise them for poor people. But I was disappointed anyway. That ol’ bike wasn’t any different from my Cannondale.



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Sock it to me

October 23, 2017 § 37 Comments

The first time I met Diego, he must have been around fourteen. His dad Joe had brought him along on the Man Tour, a ridiculous odyssey of geezers riding five days from San Jose to Los Angeles, flatting, falling, complaining, getting indigestion, getting road rash, getting saddle sores, getting achy, and having the best time this side of a fresh box of Depends that we were ever going to have.


Diego’s signature move each day was to collapse on a bed, unable to move, where he was essentially force-fed enough nutrients to make it through the next day. We were old and our prostrates were leaky, but we were still able to cover more ground faster and recover quicker than a little kid.

A couple of years passed and youth put age in its place as Diego became one of the fastest riders in SoCal, eventually landing a spot on the Hagens-Berman team and planning for a career in Europe. Along the way he became an Eagle Scout, because, you know, why not? More important than any community service or academic achievements, he also set the KOM on the Switchbacks here in Palos Verdes. Way, way more important.

After a brief stint in Belgium where the distance from home, poverty wages, brutal competition, lousy weather, unfamiliar food, and daily risk of life and limb convinced him that SoCal wasn’t so bad after all, Diego came home, put the $12k bike racer dream out to pasture, and embarked on a new  venture–his clothing company, Base Cartel. The ethos behind the clothing, in addition to quality construction, is a design aesthetic that focuses on the sights, sounds, and cultures of Los Angeles. Not being a designer myself, and only vaguely an imported Angeleno, I’m not sure what that means, but his stuff certainly looks great.

I can’t otherwise comment on Diego’s bike clothing line other than that it looks sharp and the people who wear his kits say great things about it, people who are pretty critical when it comes to cycling apparel. I can tell you that bike riders and bike racers in the South Bay love to support a hard-working young man whose business is community based and devoted to all things cycling. It’s refreshing to see a small business flap its wings and get off the ground, supported by friends, family, and personal relationships.

What I can comment on are Base Cartel’s socks. It was well over a year ago that he gave me a pair of his Pro Mesh socks to wear. Of course, even if they had fit like a plastic sandwich bag and felt like sandpaper, I would have gone ahead and purchased a couple of pairs to help the kid out. But I wouldn’t have bought more than thirty pairs for my own personal use, and I certainly wouldn’t have bought over 500 pairs to give to friends and as prizes for the La Grange Cup if they weren’t amazing beyond any words.

Pro Mesh sock, how can I describe thee? Thou art soft and comfy beyond any reason or rhyme. Thou grippest my toes in a loving embrace and leave nary a chafe or raw spot, no matter how tightly I lace down my shiny white dancing shoes. The first few times I wore these socks I thought, “They’ll be falling apart after the fifth wash. No way that anything this delicate and soft and smooth can last.”

But in addition to a softness and form-fitting nature that makes you want to snuggle with them between the covers, whisper sweet nothings into their cuffs, and bring them pancakes in bed, the socks are crazy tough, no, they’re Wanky tough. I don’t know what the secret sauce is that they pour into the Base Cartel socks in China or wherever the socks are brewed, but it is at least one part frog’s wart for every cotton/polyester fiber. That’s how magical these things are.

Of course, knowing that you’re supporting locally grown talent adds to the comfort, too. As it should.




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Winter is coming!

October 14, 2017 § 13 Comments

It’s mid-October which means my birthday is near so please send cash. Better yet, subscribe to my blog which is the same thing and allows you to give me carbon that is 100% pure carbon all year long.

But it’s almost winter, too, and no challenge is greater in SoCal for hardcore avid recreational cyclists (HARCs) than throwing a leg over when it’s a brutal 52 degrees outside and forcing yourself to shiver through the first hour of your ride until it reaches a barely tolerable 65 degrees.

Whatever else you want to say about it, cycling makes you as tough as our President.

I don’t normally recommend products unless I have something truly awful to say about them, but since your comfort and winter profamateur training schedules are at stake, here are the “must have” items if you’re going to be crazy fit and raring to tear legs off in January’s first Cat 4 30-minute crit.

  • Most people dress in layers, building thin strips of heat-retaining fabric on top of one another and capping it with an outer garment. Fugg that. In SoCal you start with the heavy stuff and work inwards. When you have forced yourself to get out of bed and be on the road by 10:00 AM, when you are battling the fierce late morning sunny temps, when it might, later in the week, start to sprinkle, you come prepared. And preparation in SoCal means the AGV Sport Thunder 2-piece Rain Suit. Brang it, beeyatch.
  • It’s Tuesday. No, it’s Thursday. Oh, wait, IDGAF because whichever day it is, it’s time to hit the NPR and stomp some fuggin’ dicks and club some baby seals. Thaswha I’m talkinbou. And you won’t be stompin’ and clubbin’ in a pair of Wanky’s shiny white dancing slippers. No sir, when it’s threatening to sprinkle and there’s a massive wisp of a cloud over at 3 o’clock threatening to plunge the temps even deeper than the current 59, you need to have the right footwear. You need stompin’ boots that will keep your feet dry and your ankles sexy and that can double as comfy apres-beatdownwear for when you are hanging out at CotKO and booting tourists from Ohio off your perch on the bricks. I’m talkingbou the Chrome 415 Storm Pro Bike Shoe. You will be, too.
  • Okay, you’ve got your rubber hood cinched down. You’ve got your Storm Pro Bike Shoes laced tighter than a granny’s girdle. But you ain’t goin’ far in a SoCal winter lest you have your hands taken care of. Studies show that after less than ten minutes of blasting frigid air on your hands, you will lose circulation and nerve sensations, and it doesn’t blast much colder than here in SoCal, where you lose ten degrees to wind chill making the morning temps an inhuman 52 degrees. Inhuman, I say. The Arete Pro will take you from HARC to your first UCI contract. Gare-awn-teed.

Of course there’s more to surviving the sub-60 temps than buying a bunch of stuff, although frankly, like a cyclocross bike, once you’ve bought it why in the world would you use it, but if you’re going to tough out the crazy winters here, there are some SoCal-specific training plans you need to consider purchasing from your online coach. We’ll discuss proper mental preparation in another exciting post.

Until then, enjoy these last days of fall, as the leaves turn, the state burns to a crisp, and temperatures begin going from 72 to 71 or even 70.8. Brrrrrr.



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White out

October 6, 2017 § 37 Comments

A few hours ago it became really clear that my right rear knee’s banjo wasn’t going to be ready for the Donut Ride on Saturday. The first part of my treatment plan, “Get off yer fuggin’ bike,” I had followed religiously for 24 hours. Okay, not quite 24 hours, but almost. I didn’t ride at all while I was in bed. Several people had emailed and posted curative comments such as “ice,” and “RuggedMaxx 2,” but it was too complicated for me to implement so instead I cleaned my shoes.


Then on Tuesday I decided to “give ‘er a try” so I pedaled up and down the street a few times and it felt okay. “Road to recovery,” I decided, and cleaned up my shoes some more.

On Wednesday I “gave ‘er another try” and pedaled up and down the street and it still felt okay. Well, okay, not okay, but it didn’t hurt. It felt a little tender, kind of like when you were a little kid and your brother had smashed you in the face twenty times the day before and the next day if something pressed against your lips, like air, it was tender. Tender like that.

On Thursday I was 100% sure that I was good to go because the day before I had spent five or ten minutes or two hours hand washing all of my white Base Cartel “South Bay Cycling” socks and they were screamingly ready to be worn along with my white shoes which had been rubbed down with some saddle soap, then glossed over with neutral wax and white scuff cover.

If crazy clean white socks and spanky white shoes won’t fix a raw banjo string, nothing will.

I put on my bicycle suit and rode across the street. I knew that it would be a bad idea to immediately ride anything hilly, especially anything steep, so I rode and up and down Old Hawthorne, which is completely flat except for the steep uphill parts which were in my way. My white socks and white shoes were firing on all cylinders, but what really got all of my tendinitis-curing white blood cells swarming was my bleached white shoelaces, which were sparkling in the sun. It had only taken a couple of hours to hand wash them and soak them in bleach and then rinse them out and then sun-dry them on the balcony; totally worth it.

After five minutes my banjo started hurting like a fucker, but that was just because it had been sitting there mostly unused for a few days and it was going to feel great once the white blood cells warmed it up. After ten minutes it was hurting like ten fuckers, so I stopped and adjusted my white shoelaces, thinking they hadn’t been laced up tightly enough to squeeze the white blood cells out of my feet up to the affected area. After fifteen minutes my tendon or my ligament or my bone knob or whatever it was, was hurting so dogdamned bad I could hardly pedal, so I limped back home and wrote a nasty letter to my sock supplier and to Giro shoes, advising them how badly their products had failed to cure my tendinitis.

Today is Friday, Donut-minus 24 hours, and it’s not looking good for the leaky prosate team. Does anyone out there have a white summer kit and some RuggedMaxx 2 I can borrow?



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early. Gussy, you can show up this year, just to say hello.




Option C

October 4, 2017 § 30 Comments

I have been doing this a long time, and I can predict that every October there will be a new kit kerfuffle. The NKK has to do with the design of your outlandish bicycling underwear, and the opinions and debate it engenders are always amazing.

This year, Team Lizard Collectors is doing what clubs around the world are doing, tossing out design options for their members to vote on and trying to get everyone to agree on the the least horrible pattern that clubmates will be prancing around in for the next twelve months or so. In our case there is Option A, which I’ll call “Striped Lizardskin w/Highlights,” and Option B, which I’ll call “Lizardskin Barcode Black.”

Club members are already voting, but before it’s all done, I’d like to propose Option C, and frankly, your club should avail itself of Option C, too. And Option C is: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.

You see, it doesn’t matter what you wear because you will always look stupid in a bicycle suit. A bicycle suit, if you are a man, is designed to bring your junk outline into painful visibility for all and sundry. Trust me, this will not be flattering unless you are Mr. R. Dollar, whose outline can reliably be viewed via Google Earth.

For everyone else, the prettiest and fanciest color design from Milan itself won’t make up for the twig-n-baby-bagels you are showcasing in your Xtra Pro-Lux SupaComfee Chamois.

However, even if you do have something more impressive than the average cyclist’s embarrassingly average toolkit, you still look like a fool. Why? Because you are an adult riding a bicycle in your underwear. What is it about this sentence that is so hard to understand? Would you wrap yourself in purple cellophane and go to a nightclub? Would you walk around in public in a latex outfit unless it were Halloween? And if you did, would you be surprised when people told you that you looked foolish? Heck no, you wouldn’t.

Yet every year, thousands of baby seals angst about whether the stripes should be horizontal, whether the mauve should be more saturated, or whether the logo for team sponsor Sam’s Speedy Venereal Treatments should be above the butt or above the pelvis. Stop angsting. To the broader public, you look silly and, um, underpowered.

To the cycling public, though, there are admittedly fashion and appearance issues that might cause concern for a particularly hideous color combo/design. Here too, however, you can rest easy.

The way to look good to other cyclists is to ride away from them. That’s all they care about. Take G$, for example. It doesn’t matter what he wears. When he stomps on the pedals and glides away, it is beautiful.

You, on the other hand, who like me are most excellent as a cyclist when typing or cruising Facebag, do not look beautiful because you are the person being ridden away from. Dropper = pretty. Droppee = lame. And it’s not because the stripe on your bicycle suit is horizontal.

Now’s the time to make your voice heard. Let the powers that be know that while others are fulminating about fashion, you’ll be exercising Option C: Riding yer fuggin’ bike.



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.


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