Baby Seal’s big adventure

February 15, 2018 § 3 Comments

Baby Seal got up on Saturday in an untimely fashion. He had set his alarm for 6:30 AM so that he would have plenty of time to veganize, shave, and leisurely pedal to the Donut Ride in an immaculate sealskin, where he would be admired by all and sundry prior to tearing their legs off.

The alarm did its job but Baby Seal didn’t do his, and made the fatal mistake of lying back in bed for “just five minutes” only to awake with a mere twenty minutes to make it to the start on time. No longer having time to veganize or become immaculate or even ride his bicycle, Baby Seal tore through the dirty clothes hamper, threw on a minimally skid-marked pair of shorts, mismatched a jersey, mis-mismatched vest, and dashed out the front door.

In mid-dash he noted, carefully coiled on the kitchen table, a very expensive and fancy tool wrap, no lame saddle bag for Baby Seal! Instead it was a canvas, multi-slotted tool wrap not unlike the offerings of a fine sushi shop, packed with tube, tools, and other goodies in case he flatted or mechanicaled. “Arf!” Baby Seal barked to himself, “it’s the fuggin’ Donut Ride. I won’t flat!” He threw his bike into the van and sped off to the start.

Parking at Malaga Cove, Baby Seal leaped on his bike just as the wankoton roared by. He’d made it in the nick of time!

As the ride heated up and the group began suffering on the rise just past Terranea, Baby Seal heated up, too. No worries! Now was where Baby Seal stamped his authority on the wankoton with the famed Vest Removal In Mid-Pack Maneuver, whereby the sweaty rider unzips, immobilizes both hands behind his back while off the bars in defiance of the other idiots wobbling and packed together within inches, causing the entire group to gasp and stare in terror as it waits to see whether the vest removal will result in a disrobing or a colossal pile-up.

Baby Seal was on it, though, and seated erectly he proudly stripped off the vest and then, pro-like, balled it up for stowage. But rather than stuffing it into his rear jersey pocket like the typical clueless clodhopper, Baby Seal went All Pro and stuffed it up under his jersey, saving valuable pocket space and exhibiting amazing stuffing skills. “Look ma! No hands!”

At that very moment, however, Baby Seal’s twisting up of the bottom jersey hem caused his $12,000, mahogany paneled iPhone with RuggedMaxx II logo to squirt out of the jersey pocket and into the maw of the wankoton. The sound of tires running over the bouncing iPhone were like the sound of one’s offspring being murdered, and no amount of swerving could save the phone from the relentless battery of carbon-on-carbon crime.

As Baby Seal swung over to retrieve the phone, his friends in the group, which was everyone, accelerated hard to force a chase should he try to reconnect.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! The iPhone was only barely scratched and worked perfectly! Baby Seal hopped back on his mount and dug deep as his good friends dug deeper, until he caught them at the base of the climb. They were all glad to see him so they attacked the moment he rejoined. Baby Seal rejoiced that he had made the ride!

Many miles later as Baby Seal ascended Via Zumaya, the final punishing Donut climb, he ran over a razor blade and sliced his rear tire to the bone. Fortunately, riding tubeless, he was able to cover his leg in Baby Sealant, which made him happy, but not nearly as happy as Brooks, who was riding directly behind him, and who got his goggles and face also covered in Baby Sealant. Baby Seal’s flippers sunk as he thought how silly he had been not to take the extra four seconds to grab the sushi tool wrap!!

baby_seal_sealant

But lo! Miracle of miracles! Though 98% of the Baby Sealant only sealed Baby Seal’s leg, shoe, and Brooks’s eyes, the remaining 2% sealed the tire despite the slash and Baby Seal continued onward to the cafe at the end of the rainbow. Once there, in celebration of his big adventure, he ordered food for all the friends who had worked so hard to drop him, and when it came time to pay he discovered that his credit card, which lived in his iPhone case, had fallen out way back at Terranea.

So Baby Seal jumped on his bike and raced out along the roadway, on an empty tummy no less, where several thousand cars and bikes had already been since his mishap.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! There on the roadside was Baby Seal’s credit card, the one that hadn’t been declined yet! He scooped it up and went back to pay the bill, but his good friends had already left and paid. Like extra mackerel tossed from the food bucket, Baby Seal contemplated the joy of a free lunch!

The following day, Baby Seal, legs tired from the day before, showed up for the Telo World Championship Fake Training Race, where he promptly got dropped from the lead group. He put his head down and pedaled mightily as the leaders appeared to disappear.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! Baby Seal caught the break and won the sprunt for his first Telo victory ever, after which he was awarded the coveted Telo’s winner jersey ($75, cheap!) and a loaf of fresh bread. Most of the bread didn’t make it home from the big adventure … but Baby Seal did!

dead_bread

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The power of the (fountain) pen

November 29, 2017 Comments Off on The power of the (fountain) pen

Who would have thought that after blathering on for a couple of days about fountain pens, the New York Times would post up with a major story about my old favorite topic, doping, and how a simple fountain pen brought low the entire Russian sports program?

But they did, and two friends sent me the link to the story as soon as it hit the ether, “The Damning Diary That Could Upend the Winter Olympics.” The story is about how Grigori Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, had kept a meticulous diary by recording all of the transgressions and shenanigans that comprised the most sophisticated state-sponsored doping program since all the other state-sponsored doping programs (East Germany in the 70’s, USA in the 80’s).

What mattered to me more than the shocking shocker of shocks that athletes dope to win was that Rodchenkov kept his diary with a Waterman fountain pen. It seems that ink and paper are harder to erase with a click of the delete key than a Word file, much to the chagrin of Vladimir Putin and his henchpeople. Thanks to the diaries, Russia will likely be banned from the next Olympiad and sent to bed without any borscht, all because of a fountain pen, some diaries, and what can only be described as very pretty Cyrillic script.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Anything that embarrasses Vladimir Putin, the heir to Stalin’s throne, is awesome. But when the Times starts tossing off phrases that condemn Russia’s doping as “undermining the integrity of one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events,” I have to giggle and snort a little bit.

That the Olympics are prestigious I will admit. But that they have integrity? These are the Olympics that have been bought and sold to the highest bidder for decades. That were implicated in corruption and bribery in the selection of the Salt Lake City games. That have implemented anti-doping kicking and screaming and howling all the way. That have stripped medals from black athletes for political expressions. That stole Jim Thorpe’s gold medals because a Native American embarrassed all those great Aryan athletes. That showcased Nazi propaganda and actively assisted the spread of Hitler’s ideals, which prominently featured the dehumanization and extermination of the Jewish people.

Those Olympics?

Two of the guiltiest wrongdoers in the latest non-scandal, Vitaly Mutko and Yuri Nagornykh, let loose with a couple of gems. Mutko, Russia’s sports minister at the time of the Sochi Games and the current deputy prime minister of the entire Russian governmental mafia, said  the revelations were “a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport.” He’s right, of course, the accusations are an information attack, an attack of facts, kind of like how Galileo continued Copernicus’s information attack on those who believed that earth was the center of the universe.

Mr. Nagornykh, Mutko’s former flunky who will be coming soon to a gulag near you, denied the existence of a doping program. “I have nothing to hide,” he wrote. Of course he doesn’t; Rodchenkov with his Waterman fountain pen has exposed it all. Nagornykh’s denial is kind of like a stripper saying “I have nothing to hide” as she flings away the g-string. No, sweetheart, you don’t. Whether you should is a different story.

Two other figures fingered in the doping diaries, Nikita Kamayev and  Vyacheslav Sinev, proclaimed their innocence by mysteriously dying in the pink of good health.

Although they’re now singing a different tune, one with lots of sharps and flats and pianissimo galore, a report published by WADA after the Sochi games lauded that super-doped Olympiad as “a milestone in the evolution of the Olympic Games antidoping program.”

Was it ever.

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My KOM

October 17, 2017 § 15 Comments

I’m not big on the Stravver, and not least of all because its welcome page says “Connecting the World’s Athletes.” Newsflash: I ain’t no athlete. I’m a creaky old profamateur masters bicycle delusioner.

Occasionally, however, I will be forced to participate in a KOM conversation, where someone who doesn’t have any KOMs is talking about KOMs, kind of like me talking about a full head of hair.

“I don’t have hardly any KOMs,” I will meekly say.

The person will look sadly at me. “That’s just because you don’t go after them,” he will answer, trying to make me feel better.

“No, it’s because I suck.”

“Aw, come on,” the person will whine, sensing a dose of reality in the offing. “You could get tons if you tried.”

“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve tried. Here in the South Bay there are no KOMs available to me. Lane, Spencer, Chris Tregillis … the KOMs are all theirs.”

However, I do have three KOMs on the Stravver. Two of them suck and you could take them with little effort. One of them is for the Wednesday Bro Ride, a loop that has a bunch of lights and stuff, and only twenty-five people have ever done it. The course record is 1:45 and some seconds. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could snap up this KOM without hardly breaking a sweat.

The other one is the “neutral” on Western, the part of the Donut Ride that goes through San Pedro. It’s a more legit than the “brochelada” segment; the KOM is nine minutes flat and it has been stravvered by about 1,800 people. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could take this one too–it’s got the word “neutral” in it, after all–but your legs are going to have to sting a little bit. So go ahead and grab it. Be my guest.

Then I’ve got one last KOM, and I think I’ll be hanging onto it for a little while longer. It’s on Vista del Mar, 2.1 miles, the segment rolling out on NPR. I share it with Eric Anderson, and the segment has been recorded on the Stravver 4,107 times. We set this in a seven-man rotation last January including Dave Ellis, Ramon Ramos, Peyton Cooke, Jon Paris, and Kristie Fox doing an alt-NPR ride called “The 6:50.” As is often the case, we had a tailwind. And we went pretty hard. Unlike my other KOMs on the Stravver, this leaderboard is littered with hitters. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you might not be able to take this one, but if you do, you’re going to need some help, and you’re going to have to like the taste of your own puke.

But none of those KOMs that I got on the Stravver compared to the one I got on Saturday, which was snatched away the moment that the other riders uploaded their data. This was on the Donut of All Donuts, which will be the subject of a future blog, and which occurred this past Saturday.

Every year when we have the South Bay Cycling Awards, which is on a Saturday, we also have the biggest Donut of the year. Last year some of the monsters from North County showed up–Josh Stockinger, Phil Tinstman, as well as a big contingent of West Side killers. I was dropped into the meat grinder and spit out pretty quickly.

This year Ryan Dahl, another North County tough guy, made the trek, and the full Santa Monica BMW/Helen’s squad showed up, led by Tony Manzella and “reinforced” by Alex Barnes, Matt Wikstrom, and the rest of their team. Diego Binatena, who holds the KOM on the Switchbacks was there, evergreen Rudy Napolitano, along with Derek Brauch and a bunch of other bad boys. For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, I didn’t even ride to the Domes on the first climb, quitting at the college after trying to follow a pace to the base of the Switchbacks that left me in tatters.

So you can imagine how my heart went pitter-patter the moment I uploaded my ride on the Stravver and saw a little crown for the 6:36 segment through San Pedro. Whaaaaat? A KOM on the hardest day of the year on one of the hardest Donuts ever stacked with the RuggedMaxx II wrecking crew? “It must be a mistake,” I thought, because although I remembered going balls out up Western, trading the front a couple of times with David Wells and everyone else just sitting on, I couldn’t have imagined it was a KOM effort. I’d been off the bike for two weeks, I have tendinitis, and it’s friggin’ October, fer fugg’s sake.

Well … as soon as the uploads started, it was gone as quickly as it had come. David Ellis sneaked by me a second or two, and a handful of other sitters equaled my faux KOM due to the way the Stravver works, which I don’t understand, but it has something to do with how if you start at the back and use the draft of the group to move up you somehow are going faster than the people who stay in the same place. Kind of makes sense but it really doesn’t, like why rednecks don’t want free healthcare. The Stravver is obviously flawed to begin with, putting me at the top of any leaderboard for any reason.

Getting that one faux KOM made my weekend, even though it’s all gone now. I got to brag about it all day and night at the Wankys, refusing to check my phone so I could honestly say “I have the KOM going through Pedro.” And I did. And at 53-almost-54 years of age, it may have been brief but I’ll take it.

diego_binatena

Diego Binatena solo on the Donut. Photo by JP Baby Seal.

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Low Fidelity Podcast #4: The Donut That Never Gets Stale

September 30, 2017 § 6 Comments

It’s the weekend. Time for another podcast, directly from my bed.

https://southbaycycling.podbean.com/e/low-fidelity-podcast-4-the-donut-that-never-gets-stale/

 

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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 300 guests, so get there early.

Everyone rides the Tour

July 16, 2017 § 11 Comments

It’s Turdy France time and everyone rides the Tour, as each group ride, for three short weeks, assumes the position of fake Turdy France stage. The Donut Ride was no exception, and it had been crowned the Fake Queen Donut Stage of the Fake South Bay Turdy France.

As with any fake Tour contender, I thought it meet to plan my strategy by picking the brain of ex-pro Phil Gaimon who, though he never actually rode the Tour, has read a lot of cool magazine articles about it. I’d heard that he was holding a book signing for his book “Ask a Pro,” and was also doing a sign-up for his yuge October Phil’s Fondue ride, so I sneaked into the book signing without an invitation.

“Hey, Phil!” I said as he was hunched over his stack of books, dutifully ginning out signatures like a pre-cryonics Ted Williams, while his manager hungrily eyed the sales receipts and swiped credit cards for the fondue registration.

“Yes?” he said.

“It’s me, Wanky! Yer ol’ pal. I had some questions I wanted to ask a pro.”

He pretended not to know who I was, which is what slightly famous people often do to cover up the fact that I’m actually more famous than they are. “Would you like to buy a book?” he asked.

“Nah,” I said.

“A grand fondue registration, perhaps?”

“Nope.”

He sighed. “How can I help you?”

“So you’re a pro, right? And you wrote a book called ‘Ask A Pro,’ right? Well, then. The Fake Queen Donut Stage of the South Bay Turdy France is tomorrow and I need some pro tips on how to ride it. So I thought I would ask a pro.”

Suddenly he got very busy but another guy who wasn’t a pro, and who didn’t really look like a pro, but who seemed more interested in me than the pro, chimed in. “Winning a fake queen stage? That’s easy,” he said.

“Really?”

“Sure. Don’t lose too much time. That’s the secret to stage racing.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes, and one other thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You know the guy in your group who always wins? Every group has one.”

“Sure. That’s Alx Bns.”

“Well, he’ll win the fake queen stage, too.”

I thought about this depressing little gem for a few seconds and how I’d been ripped off paying for it until I realized I hadn’t actually paid for it. I tapped on Phil’s shoulder. “Say, can you write up a quick training and diet plan for me while I’m here? I brought a few terabytes of power data I’d like you to analyze if you don’t mind. Since you’re already here, I mean.”

A few moments later Phil introduced me to a gentleman named Bouncer, kind of a weird name, who insisted on talking to me outside the event venue, onto the sidewalk, with my neck in a headlock. He didn’t know anything about winning queen stages, so I went home.

The next morning I got up to prepare for the queen stage. Preparation is key and I now had my mantra, courtesy of a guy standing next to pro Phil Gaimon. My mantra? DON’T LOSE TOO MUCH TIME.

I carefully went over each item of my Wanky Donut Gear. It is a high-tech bunch of stuff, loaded with lots of carbon that is 100% carbon plus everything is cutting edge and carbon. Speaking of cutting edge and carbon, Ms. WM and I got into it before I left because she was using my $500 carbon steel Japanese paring knife to scrape rust off the tea kettle.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed.

“Itsa nasty gunkin’ so I’m cleanin it.”

“That’s my five hundred dollar paring knife!”

“Itsa cuttin good but not so good onna scrapin.”

“Of course it isn’t! It’s not a fucking scraper! You just ruined the blade!”

She was unimpressed and continued to scrape. In a sad panic I assembled the legendary Wanky Donut Gear. Below is an awesome fake Tour tech gallery that you can drool over. It is full carbon, all of it.

I rolled out of Chez Wanky, blood pressure still a tad high due to the ruined paring knife, and got to the sign-in area for the queen stage, which is the remodeled Riviera Village Sckubrats. A long time ago they named this part of Redondo Beach the “Riviera” because of the famed beaches and culture and high class of the French Riviera. I’m pretty sure they never actually saw the real Riviera before they bestowed the name, or they would never have called this run-down rat’s nest of beach huts and fake surfers the “Riviera,” but that’s another story.

This story is about not losing too much time and so one by one I quizzed my competitors about how they intended to strategify the stage. Each rider had a unique approach that centered on “don’t get dropped,” so I adopted that as my strategy, too. Only one rider, Englishman Alx Bns, had a different strategy, which was “drop everyone.” This bothered me a bit, but not nearly as much at the start as it did at the bottom of the Switchbacks, where he executed the strategy with the efficiency of Brexit. Okay, it was way more efficient than that, but equally ruthless.

Standouts included wet-behind-the-ears but stupid-strong-behind-the-legs Matthieu Brousseau, who despite his French-sounding name kicked almost everyone’s ass except Dan Cobley’s. My strategy of not losing too much time by not getting dropped (or gapped out as I prefer to call it), didn’t succeed too well. Towards the end I was passed by a fellow in a t-shirt and flip-flops who wasn’t even breathing hard. Thank dog it was my rest week.

But the really sad news is this. You remember Phil telling me about how the guy who was going to win was the guy who always wins? Dang it, that’s the guy who won.

PRE-RACE INTERVIEWS AT THE SIGN-IN FOR THE FAKE QUEEN DONUT STAGE

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS ATOP MT. SWITCHBACKS

 

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Peak performance

March 26, 2017 § 18 Comments

The best way to win the Donut Ride is to wait until a big race that attracts all the hitters. To quote Derek the Destroyer’s “First Maxim for Winning”: Your results are predetermined by who shows up.

The San Dimas Stage Robbery had started on Friday, and the usual complement of legit racers was, quite literally, off to the races. Leaky and creaky, I never have a chance to make it first to the top of the radar domes, but today, well, there was at least a chance.

At the bottom of the Switchbacks the group of twelve riders broke apart and by the first turn it was me, Tasker, Roberto, and Marco C., with Marco sitting on the front and churning out the watts. I sat on his wheel for a bit but he’s been in training and is now tipping the scales at 118, a weight that makes Strava Junior look like a fatty.

I dropped back to suck wheel behind Roberto while Tasker had the unenviable task of sitting behind the wraith. Marco dragged us all the way to the college, where Roberto pulled off, and then Marco dragged us all the way to the domes. I planned a sneak attack at the end to punish him for doing all the work, but well before my treachery he simply accelerated and pedaled away from us.

I surged by Tasker and elbowed him into the cones to keep him from getting fake second in our fake race.

Marco is fast and tough and has been around forever, one of the mainstays of the South Bay, but now that he’s on the air and water diet he’s simply leaving behind those of us who enjoy chocolate and donuts (not to mention chocolate donuts). Which got me to thinking about peak performance vs. mediocrity.

There are a lot of superlative riders in the South Bay, but many of them peak and valley. The peaks don’t usually last for long, a season is rare, two seasons Bachmann’s warbler rare … and the valleys can go on for years. In fact, some riders hit an extended peak and you never hear from them again.

On the other hand, there is a whole gaggle of hackers who never hit peak anything. As I like to say, my athletic profile is “slightly better than half-assed.” We mediocre riders never peak, but we never valley, either. Where we were last week is pretty much where we’ll be next week.

I’ve wondered why peak performance riding is so often correlated with extended disappearances. Part of it is the difficulty of achieving “race weight.” The other part is the awful horrible terribleness of FTP workouts, metering your farts on TrainingPeaks, and of course the bane of the non-insane, intervals. It takes so much to be your best. The other other part is that once you enjoy the rarefied air of putting everyone to the sword, it sucks to droop to the back of the bus, hanging on for dear life at the mercy of whoever the latest Peak Performance Flavor of the Month happens to be.

It’s why Eddy Merckx doesn’t fly over from Belgium every Tuesday for Telo, I guess. In his (limited) worldview, competing in our local training crit isn’t as impressive as winning five Tours and setting an hour record.

But to be your most mediocre? That takes considerably less than your best and it leaves room for chocolate donuts. It’s damned hard to do 3 x 20s, whereas it’s darned easy to ride with Gussy and have a croissant … and which person do you think is smiling at the end of the ride? Hint: It’s not the guy who just eked out another .01 w/kg and is going home to a dinner of one boiled egg and a sprig of raw kale.

Put another way, mediocrity is a long-haul tool; excellence is a roman candle. Both have their place, and the life of the ascetic sure looks enviable when it’s dragging you around with your tongue in the spokes.

But man, that chocolate donut …

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The Legend of Shirtless Keith

March 18, 2017 § 45 Comments

If you ever meet someone who claims to know what’s up in the South Bay, you can ask this simple question. “Do you know Shirtless Keith?”

The answer will tell you all you need to know.

Shirtless Keith isn’t legendary or even mythical. He’s way beyond that. He is the Holy Grail in bicycling.

Shirtless Keith rides (you’ll never guess) without a shirt. And instead of girlish Italian cycling shoes with fancy clip-in pedals, he rides with boots. Big, heavy boots. Boots that you can use for pedaling a bike or for walking 10 miles one-way to the brewery. Yep, he did that. And after having a few beers, he walked home.

When it comes to nutrition, Shirtless Keith don’t need no fancy-shmancy biker Barbie food. “Cyclists” carefully consume properly balanced foodstuffs made by elves who grew each organic ingredient on a small plot of earth farmed by earthworms and hippies from the 60’s. When Keith starts running low on fuel, you know what he eats?

Pop-Tarts.

Yep. You heard me right. And when he gets a hankering for a Pop-Tart he doesn’t reach into his jersey pocket because, shirtless, he don’t wear no stinkin’ jersey. Instead he pulls over, unstraps the bungee cord on his rack that holds down the Pop-Tarts, and eats it on the spot. And Shirtless Keith don’t need no water bottle. When he gets thirsty he rides over to a water fountain and drinks.

You think I’m joking? That’s okay, you’re just proving that you don’t know squat about the South Bay.

Keith rides an old cromoly Raleigh with knobby tires and a steering tube that’s longer than a fishing pole. Keith don’t need no carbon and no 25mm tires. All Keith needs is a 55-tooth chain ring, and that’s all he’s got. If the 55 is too big that just means he has to pedal harder.

And Keith don’t need no Internet coach. He rides 48 miles a day, seven days a week. But his favorite day is Saturday because that’s when the Donut Ride goes off. Keith rides around until the group comes barreling up to the Domes and he hops in with the leaders, goes to the front, drops a couple of people (usually me), then swings off and finishes the climb by himself.

Keith’s signature move is to troll for wankers. It never takes long to hook some mid-40s dude on a $15,000 rig. The dude takes one look at Keith’s boots, 40-lb. bike and shirtless back, rolls his eyes, puts the hammer down, and blows by. Dude looks back and sees that yeah, he passed Shirtless Keith, but now Shirtless Keith is passing him. Fast. Dude hops onto Keith’s wheel and pretty soon he’s stuffed into the pain burrito as Keith gets the 55 rolling.

Then Keith stands up and starts pounding like the world’s biggest mashed potato maker, and pretty soon the dude is gazing down at his $5,000 power meter which is telling him that he left his FTP back in Portuguese Bend and it’s exactly fifteen seconds to detonation time.

Shirtless Keith rides away.

If you talk to him he is humble and polite and the friendliest guy on the Hill. One time he hopped in with the Aussie women’s national team and rode with them around the peninsula. Like the classy guy he is, he asked if he could join before hopping in.

The funny people are the ones who tell him to “get a road bike” because he’ll “be a beast.” These are always people he’s shelled, by the way, like a rotten pecan.

Keith don’t wanna be no roadie. Keith don’t want no road bike and no fancy outfit. Keith wants to ride his bike, troll for wankers, hop in on the Donut every now and again, and enjoy cycling his way, on his terms, not yours. One Shirtless Keith is better than all the Velominati put together.

Like I said, the Holy Grail.

shirtless_ketih

Shirtless Keith bringing the heat on Crest!

shirtless_calves

Boots. Cutoffs. Leather belt. Man’s legs. Pop-Tarts. 12-inch steering tube. Legend.

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Shirtless Keith Google Street View, Trump Golf Course.

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