August 13, 2017 § 13 Comments
What’s the essence of cycling?
What kind of people?
Pablo Maida, West Side legend, all-round nice guy, and champion sporty goatee wearer, celebrated his 50th birthday on Saturday with a party. A rolling party. On Pacific Coast Highway.
Between a hundred and four thousand people showed up to celebrate with him, and we didn’t simply ride down PCH and take the fuggin’ lane.
WE TOOK THE WHOLE FUGGIN’ LANE.
I have never seen a group ride go three abreast (four abreast in places) along the world’s finest bike path, but we did today. The pace was steady but not too quick in order to accommodate the various abilities out on the ride. I got to enjoy the thing about cycling I love best, which is yelling at people to “Slow the fuck down!” and “Call that shit out, fer fuck’s sake!” and “Quit half-wheeling, dogdammit!” and “Get your ass back there!”
What should have been a free-for-all down PCH turned into an orderly, disciplined mob that cruised all the way from Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica to The Rock and back without shattering into a billion slivers of pain and broken dreams. Head Down James never attacked, if that tells you how orderly it was.
When we got back to Santa Monica, Pablo’s beautiful and awesome wife May May had put together a massive party at the S&M Brew Works, where tired baby seals feasted on mackerel, beer, and the amazing food truck parked in front. Free beer? Free food? Hungry cyclists?
Pablo and I got to spend some time preening and showboating on the front as pro photographer Steve Cohen snapped away throughout the ride. Friend Dan Mitnick also shot a huge number of great on-the-bike pictures, which he’s generously shared and which are posted below. It’s no accident that Pablo is beloved. He’s taken some hard knocks in life and instead of becoming bitter, has used those experiences to become a more compassionate and understanding guy. It shows in the people who surround him.
We talked about the team rider who was killed during a race several years ago, and about how that death completely changed his perspective on riding a bike. Instead of riding to be first, he began riding to appreciate the things around him. Pablo told me about what it was like post-epiphany to climb Latigo, a ride he’d done countless times, and how with new lenses he saw the landscape, the sky, the beauty of the earth … all things that had been invisible when his face had simply been shoved down against his stem.
We talked about how randomly lucky each of us was to simply be there at that place and time. And then, the 80-mile ride ended in a flash, washed down with a delicious burger, fries, and a Coke.
Happy birthday, Pablo. You’ve made each one of us a little bit better. Thanks for taking us along on your ride.
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August 24, 2016 § 19 Comments
I’ve heard this phrase a lot, usually prefaced with the colloquial equivalent of “fornicating.” Never heard “black drivers” or “Mexican drivers” and certainly never heard “white drivers.” Used to hear “women drivers” a lot back in Texas.
I can’t testify as to whether Chinese drivers are worse than the general driving public. Traffic collision reports, from which collision statistics are generated, have a place for race but not for nationality. Also, my wife, who is a terrible driver but is Japanese, might get lumped in with Chinese drivers by angry cagers who witness one of her famous swoop-and-brake maneuvers.
What I can testify to is that I’m a really bad driver. I know this by process of elimination. I know about three good drivers — Manslaughter, Evens, and Derek — and I have nothing in common with any of them. Good drivers are like good bike handlers. They are fully aware at all times of the vehicle, its capacities, its limits, the road conditions, and the positions/behaviors of everyone around them.
That isn’t me. All I know is that shit is happening way too fast on the freeway and someone’s going to get hurt. And that’s at 65. Seventy mph is crazy, speed demon stuff.
So I slow down. Going slow, I’ve been told, is just as bad as going too fast. But since the people who say that are always in the passenger seat, I ignore them. If you want to go faster than 65, get out and walk.
On city streets I’m not a defensive driver, I’m a defensive fortification. Tons of room between me and the idiot in front. Turn signals. Hamster-like apprehension that there’s a hungry cat around every corner. Enough insurance to cover a major earthquake. And so although it’s possible that Chinese drivers are extra awful, I wouldn’t know since I’m always focused on staying alive, which means dealing with idiots of every race, color, creed, and bumper sticker. Careless, distracted, inattentive driving doesn’t seem to discriminate based on nation of origin. Everyone is distracted and angry and wants to kill me, and there’s only one of those three problems I can affect.
So you can imagine my surprise when I finally got to Chapter 25 in Book 2 of the New Practical Chinese Reader, 2nd Edition, and saw that the title was “The driver drove us to the hospital.”
Turns out that in addition to learning about the high speed trains in China and the Chinese New Year and how to ask for toilet paper when the roll runs out, the editors thought we’d also benefit from learning about traffic collisions.
Lina, an exchange student, was coming home from a movie with her pal, Xiao Yun, and they were coming home on bicycles. As soon as I saw “bicycles,” I knew how this story was going to end.
Lina and Xiao Yun were chatting and not paying attention and having a good old time when, making a right turn, Lina slammed into a parked delivery car. Fortunately, the kind driver took her to the hospital, paid for her medicine, and made sure she was okay before leaving his business card and returning to work.
Of course Lina’s admission of liability raised all kinds of questions. Was the driver legally parked? Did he have his flashers on? If she hit him immediately after turning, isn’t that prima facie proof that he was parked too close to the intersection? Was he in an unloading zone? Was there a local ordinance requiring him to put cones out? How long had he been parked there? Was he insured? Did he have a commercial license? Was he in the course and scope of his employment? Had his coverage lapsed? Did Lina have adequate UM/UIM coverage? Were there MedPay provisions in either policy?
The textbook didn’t say. Lina just made a big deal about how lucky she was that she’d hit the car rather than the other way around, a typical cyclist ploy. The injured rider is all stove up with a rod in his spine, a dick broken in three places, and a titanium plate in his skull, and all he can feebly say through his breathing tube, aside from “How’s my bike?” and “When can I get on the trainer?” is “It could have been worse.”
Well sure it could have been worse, that’s because you’re a cyclist and you’re terminally aware of the ultimate worst-of-all outcomes when you pedal a bike. But that doesn’t mean the jerk who was parked in front of a hydrant to unload a carton of condoms had the right to be there, or that your injuries are somehow better because they could have been worse.
Then Song Hua, the helpful chaperone who’s been squiring Lina through the textbook (I think he’s a government spy and they’re having a torrid affair), comes to see her at the hospital and praises the valiant driver for taking her to the hospital, as if there’s something special about having a shred of, you know, humanity.
One thing’s for sure, though, and this was the original point I wanted to make: When you’re riding a bike on the streets of Beijing, you’d sure as hell better watch out for the Chinese drivers.
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August 8, 2016 § 6 Comments
In the world of Profamateur™ cycling, nothing marks you as a B-lister like having one bike.
I have one bike.
And of course if you want to play the Profamateur™ game, or even sit at the table, you need a garage to put your bikes in.
I don’t have a garage.
Finally, in addition to your Profamateur™ bike quiver and Profamateur™ mancave, you gotta, absolutely gotta, have massive amounts of unused ProfamaStuff™.
ProfamaStuff™ means lots of wheels, lots of parts, lots of tools, lots of tires, lots of tubes, lots of indoor trainers, a Zwift™ training system, lots of car racks, lots of wall racks, a potion cabinet for Profamateur™ supplements and doping products, pulley wheels, derailleurs, bike stands, truing stands, hand stands, chains, a lube cabinet, Cintas weekly cleaning rag home delivery service, free hubs and clusters for every contingency (including that 12-17 Regina from 1979), and a curled-at-the-edges Photosport poster of the Badger duking it out on L’Alpe with Greg LeMond.
I have a bike stuff drawer, singular. In my bedroom. Beneath the drawer that holds my four t-shirts. And it looks like this.
Every couple of years or so I open up that drawer and get overwhelmed by how much bike stuff I’ve accumulated since 1982, and I clean the darned thing out. You’d be amazed at how much stuff fits into that drawer. Nonetheless I make the full-day commitment, usually when they’re running MBGP or Dana Point or some other crashfest I’m afraid to race, and get rid of all the junk.
It can fill up 3/4 of a plastic Von’s shopping bag, that’s how bad it gets, and yesterday was no exception. I excavated several receipts, some old camera mounts, seven empty SPY sunglasses bags, four half-eaten BonkBreakers, a flat tube, two tube extenders, a Band-Aid, a baggie of safety pins, some empty CO2 canisters, and a sock.
Then at the bottom there was an envelope with my name on it. “Seth,” written in graceful, ladylike script. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Must be a secret love letter I was hiding from Ms. WM and didn’t want her to find. She’d never think to look in one of my drawers.” As I fished it out and turned it over for clues I saw a brown coffee stain on one corner.
Then I opened it up and found money in it. Now, if it had contained $20 I would have pretty much considered myself the luckiest man on earth. Who finds $20, aside from that dude who found my Jackson when I was going into Pedro seven years ago to get coffee with Caron and Chief and that bill slipped out of my jersey and I spent two hours combing the roadside and never found it.
But as I fished into this envelope, imagine my astonishment when instead of a couple of fives and some crinkled ones, there was a fresh, uncrinkled $50 bill.
My heart stopped. None of the liquor stores I’d recently robbed had anything like that. $50 whole U.S. dollars? From where? With my name on the envelope in a pretty girlish hand? That I’d forgotten about? “Seth forgot money” is rarer than a graviton in the Large Hadron Collider. And that Mrs. WM hadn’t sniffed it out and taxed it at the legal rate of a 100% levy on all found funds lacking a specified origin?
I carefully put the envelope back where I found it and buried it under my passport, some helmet pads, a couple of empty baggies, and an old pair of underwear for good measure. She’ll never find out about it now.
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July 14, 2016 § 5 Comments
One bummer thing about cycling is losing good people. Later in August two of the best, nicest people in the South Bay are packing their bags and moving to hell or Michigan.
Eric and Patrizia Richardson made every ride better, and in the leaky prostate crits at Compton, Eric was a regular. Never flashy, often hanging on for dear life with his ankles slapping his spokes, Eric was always good for two or three superman efforts to get you up to the front, help you position in the pack, and most importantly, commiserate with you at race’s end about how much you sucked.
Eric never complained, never talked smack, was a steady wheel and one of those people whose presence in the peloton was a quiet gift except for that time on the way back from the Holiday Ride when he hit some root-buckled pavement in Brentwood and splatted. Thankfully, he was fine.
We’ll miss you two, and hope that your new lives in hell fail miserably and you’re shipped back to sunny SoCal so that we can flog ourselves together again on the NPR.
At the same time we’re losing these two fine people and hell is gaining two great cyclists, we also lost the one and only David Miller. Who is David Miller?
David Miller was the Cat 4 who became a Cat 1 in six months, but who cares about that? What made Dave the man who everyone wanted to be like was his unmatched ability to hammer, recover, hammer some more, drink a keg, hammer some more, keep everyone in stitches with a wit drier than gunpowder, slam another keg, race some more, and post the world’s funniest Facebag comments ever.
He may be a Canadian, he may have returned to Calgary, he may be able to squat my apartment building, but he’ll always be Cat 4 Dave to me.
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June 24, 2016 § 15 Comments
I was at the San Marcos crit several weeks ago retiring from a fabled amateur cycling career that was filled with fables. As I retired before doing the 45+ Grandpa Low T race, I ran into a gal who I will call Ms. J.
Ms. J. had begun bike racing this year and was doing really well. She had made a couple of podiums and already understood the fundamentals of bike racing, fundamentals that to me often seem like math equations that fill a chalkboard (Note: I failed Mrs. Morcom’s Algebra 1 class and had to retake it in summer school in order to graduate from Jane Long Junior High).
As we chatted about bike racing and I picked up from her what useful information I could, I noticed her hands, and how small and lovely they were. When she got to the part where she was going to tell me something that might actually help me win a race, I interrupted her. “Hey,” I said, “I hate being an advice sausage but I’m really old and I’m a grandpa and I can’t help noticing your beautiful hands and I gotta tell you something.”
She paused. “Yes?”
“You gotta wear gloves.”
“Yes. All the time. Long-fingered ones.”
“Because whether you have pretty hands like yours, or ugly old nasty things like mine, it’s super hard to pick your nose without any fingers. And all it takes is one good bicycle falling off incident or getting doored while training and your hands will be all garfed up for good. Ask Charon. He used to be Mr.-Tom-Boonen-Gloves-Are-For-Sissies until he slid 400 yards along the asphalt on his palms.”
She looked at her very lovely hands. “I think I’ll get some, but my race is about to start.” Off she went and got on her podium in one of the hardest races on the calendar and I didn’t see her again.
A few days later I got an email telling me about her race. “That’s great,” I said, “did you get the gloves?”
“Well … ” she replied.
So I went online and got her a pair, like the ones I use, the Giro Somethingorothers. I’ve got a couple of pair and even after years of use they are ragged but still in great condition. They are long-fingered, incredibly comfortable, warm in winter, cool in summer, stylish, and thick enough to save your hands when you need it but thin enough to give you great touch on your bars. I mailed them off, because grandpas hate it when young people dilly-dally around with important stuff like HANDS.
Then a funny thing happened.
There is this woman who rides in the South Bay named Michelle. She’s a great rider, sure, but more than that she’s a great person. Positive, earnest, fun, and always finding the bright side of things. If Michelle’s around you’re going to be in a good mood unless of course you’re Eeyore, which, sad to say, I often am.
I went out to the mailbox and there was a thick mailing envelope. I opened it and inside it was a pair of my very favorite Giro Somethingorothers, only in an even more stylish color than my tan ones. And along with the Somethingorothers, gloves that she had carefully noted on my hands and found the exact make, model, and size for, was a note. This note:
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June 1, 2016 § 10 Comments
Off to the races, or rather, back from them …
- Heartfelt victory: Bart Clifford of Surf City Cyclery won the Barry Wolfe 45+ crit on Sunday, an event he’s been trying to win for years. Bart lost his daughter when she was only fifteen, and Thousand Oaks was a place filled with memories for him as he and his daughter lived not far from the current race course. We spoke the day after the race; no words can do justice to what he’s been through, or what it means for any parent to lose a child. Hats off to you, Bart. WE LOVE YOU.
- Shout it from the rooftops: The City of Palos Verdes Estates has a traffic safety committee meeting on Wednesday, June 1, at 7:30 PM. Show up and tell these folks that we won’t tolerate any more violence against cyclists in their supposedly “safe” city. Agenda here.
- Crime reporters: Several cyclists have shown up at various law enforcement agencies and filed reports for assault with a deadly weapon. That’s what it’s called when a car tries to hit you and fails. Here’s a link to an editable Word doc that you can use to file your own crime report when a driver tries to hit you. Whether the police investigate the crime or not, the report becomes a statistic that they’re required to report annually to the FBI, and statistics, unlike cyclist lives, matter.
- Licking their wounds: South Bay racers returned from masters nationals in North Carolina deploring the horrific crash-fest designed by the incompetent, greedy boobs at USAC. The local ER went into triage as a result of the bloodbath, and the idiots at USAC didn’t even bother to inform the hospital that there was a race the day of the crits. My lone appearance at masters nationals in Bend convinced me that as crazy as I am, I’m not crazy enough to do a race where there are half a dozen big crashes in a 60-minute crit. Jeff Koontz writes a very restrained criticism of what was a shitshow put on by a confederacy of dunces.
- Rise again: Local South Bay artist, icon, and lifelong cyclist Steve Shriver is on the mend after a horrific collision on PCH. So great to know that this gentle and talented guy is going to be back. Also cheers to local rider Marvin Campbell, back on his bike after a horrific collision last year in which he was hit by a car.
- Pizza and crime reports: South Bay cycling club Big Orange is going to put on a workshop for crime reporting so that you can have the tools of the trade at your fingertips when some asshat tries to kill you for exercising your legal right to ride in the road. Details coming soon.
- Top of the heap: South Bay cycling club Big Orange, according to USAC stats, has the most wins/podiums/race entries of any club in Southern California. Just sayin’!
- Bragging rights (but not worth falling off your bicycle for, please): SoCal elderly fellows’ state crit championships happen on June 12, courtesy of the occasionally courteous Chris Lotts and CBR. Come on down and watch the people who always win, win again. The flyer’s not up or I’d post it. Special guest: My 7-month-old grandson.
- So fly: I got a Cycliq Fly-12 handlebar-mounted video cam. It records for 10 hours on an infinite loop, installs easily, and will get its first test tomorrow morning, which is the day off that I’m not going to ride at all, not even a little bit except for maybe just a touch. You know, stretch the legs, recover from the racing, record some crimes …
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May 17, 2016 § 8 Comments
Lots happening in the South Bay and environs, especially, say, France.
- How do you say “asskicking” in French? Big Orange rider and French transplant Evens Stievenart won the Route de l’Oise, a stage race just north of Paris that has over 200 racers and that includes the town of Compiègne, best known as the starting city for Paris-Roubaix. Evens is best known in the South Bay for riding everyone off his wheel on training rides; what’s less known is that he has only been racing for six years and already has close to 50 Cat 2 wins in France to go along with his most important victory, a win at the local Telo training crit a couple of weeks ago. Congrats, Evens!
- Blazingly fast! VC La Grange junior rider Ivy Koester won a state crit title at Barrio Logan Grand Prix on May 8. She is super fast, super smart, and has one of those smiles that let you know she’s having fun.
- I’ll have some victory on those pancakes, thanks. Southbay Wheelmen might consider changing its name to “Wheelwomen” thanks to junior rider Makayla Macpherson, who continued her batteringly good year in Bakersfield a couple of weekends ago, winning the Jumpstart crit, the road race, and then placing second in the women’s open 3/4 San Luis Rey road race. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that she’s 13.
- For a fistful of dollars. Big Orange junior Bąđĕŕ Āqîł got his first race win on the challenging tough guy course out at Rosena Ranch this past weekend. Hats off to a dedicated and hardworking young man.
- Over the moon. Swami’s junior racer Ryder Moon Phillips picked up two more wins in what has been a breakout year, with victories in the time trial and crit at the Kern County Stage Race. We’re all looking forward to more great things from a talented competitor.
- The nerds strike back! Local South Bay riders were assaulted by a cager in a McLaren and they took what is now becoming the default defense for cyclists who are fed up with the casual violence directed against them: They went to the police, in this case the Palos Verdes Estates PD, and filed a complaint. The police not only took them seriously, but they opened an investigation. This clown’s world is about to get a lot more complicated. Please take a minute to read this post to see what you can do to defend yourself when you’ve been buzzed with a deadly weapon.
- Return of EA Sports, Inc. Rumor has it that the most feared sprunter in the South Bay, and the nicest guy anywhere, Eric A., is back on his bike after rebuilding his house from the nails up. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
- Watering the grass. Joe Yule of StageOne Sports, a company otherwise known for making the best fitting, most comfortable, most stylish apparel in the cycling world (go suck an egg Rapha, ThorfinnDopesquatch, etc.), has single-handedly revived the venerable Torrance institution of the Telo training crit by posting a leaderboard, keeping track of finishes, rustling up sponsorship with the generous help of Dave Perez and Samsung, and has now even created a weekly winner’s jersey (I wear a men’s S, thanks). Telo now regularly hosts the best riders in the South Bay, including Evens S., Smasher Alverson, Derek the Destroyer, Paul Che, and any day now, YOU.
- People who make a difference. If you don’t know Joann Zwagerman, you will. A California native, she has come back home from the East Coast and thoroughly embraced cycling. She has singlehandedly created rides that focus on fun, friendliness, and welcoming people regardless of ability (whatever that is) who share the passion to pedal. Her legendary FDR Saturday ride in the South Bay, a wholesome alternative to the Donut Ride, is massive and actually features real donuts. More than that, her smile, her selflessness, her pro knack at getting the best selfie angles, her toughness (did the BWR Wafer ride without a hitch and finished it smiling!), and her willingness to help get done whatever needs doing are unmatched. One Joann has sent out ripples of kindness and enthusiasm that have, at last count, touched thousands.
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