Simple ride and punch in face

December 29, 2012 § 34 Comments

Have you ever noticed how there’s no such thing as a simple ride? Once you’re on your bike, shit happens. The reason we don’t think anything of it is because we forget most of it by the time we’re home.

Why do we forget?

Because when you’re on a bike, you’re out “in life,” where shit happens. You’re not cooped up in the car, or couch surfing, or nailed to a theater seat. You’re out in the world, going slightly more or slightly less than the speed of the world around you, unprotected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

So much happens so quickly, and it’s all interspersed with intense activity, that when you get home all you want to do is eat, shower, and sleep. Once that’s done, the details of the ride are a distant memory, or no memory at all.

Nothing special happened today

I met up with Jeff, Harry, and Rod for a leisurely pedal from the Center of the Known Universe to Mandeville Canyon. It was California cold, which is to say in the mid 40’s which is to say that a whole lot of cyclists stayed in bed despite the clear skies and beautiful morning.

The extra effort of pulling on a pair of booties can be, like, such a drag.

After drag racing up Mandeville, with Rod playing pacemaker until he fried, and then Jeff putting King Harold and me to sword, we turned around and descended. While clipping along San Vicente’s long, fast, straight downhill at well over 30 mph, a large magnolia seed cone fell from a limb and hit me in the face.

It was such a blow that it jerked my head back. Had it not been for my glasses, which absorbed much of the blow, my eye could have been taken out. I’ve often thought that the extra wide frame of my SPY Quanta frames afforded me extra protection, but this day proved it (insert applause for shameless plug here). As it was, I was lucky to retain control and pull over. Aside from a small cut, minor bruising, and a fine string of oaths, I was unhurt.

As we pedaled on, Jeff reminded Rod of the time that a giant piece of steel had flown up and hit him in the shin. “Remember that?” asked Jeff.

As if anyone ever forgets excruciating pain! “Oh, hell yes,” said Rod. His entire shin swelled up, he’d had to dismount, doubled over in pain…it was quite epic. Pain filled. Memorable.

This of course recalled insect bites. “Remember when that dude got stung in the eye by a bee?”

“Yeah, and his whole body swelled up like a giant grapefruit, and EMS had to come and take him off to the ER.”

“Or what about the time we were riding along and almost got hit by that piano?”

Everyone nodded, recalling the near disaster when a piano fell out of the back of a truck, bouncing along the tarmac at 50 mph, keyboard, legs, and chunks of wood flying like spears, scattering the terrified peloton.

“What about when G$ went over the guardrail at 40?”

“Or when Hottie hit that giant rock going down the Switchbacks at speed?”

“Remember when the angry driver got out and pulled a pistol?”

“That was scary as hell. And the naked chick on the motor scooter?”

“Ten stars! What about the time Stern-O wrecked an entire frame by running over a stick and getting it caught in the rear triangle?”

“High tide on the bike path when that huge wave came over the breakwater, knocked Jack off his bike and took his water bottle out to sea.”

“Stern-O’s wipeout at speed going into Pedro. Rolled a new silk sew-up at 40 in the turn dropping down Western. What the hell was he doing with silk sew-ups on a road bike?”

“Strauchmann’s one-legged crash and bike toss that almost took out Yule’s recently repaired elbow!”

“That freddie who got bit by a rattlesnake while changing a flat up on Piuma.”

“That dude who stomped off in the weeds to take a leak and found a small pot farm.”

“All those condoms and underwear in a neat pile underneath the bridge.”

Pretty soon we were home. And except for the punch in the face by the falling seed cone that almost blinded me and caused a horrific crash, it was a perfectly normal day.

The horrible crushing death of anonymity

December 20, 2012 § 28 Comments

It happened on December 13, 2012, at 10:16 PM. I would have missed it entirely had Lee Slone not posted the briefest of requiems. It was the farewell of an Internet character known by his Twitter handle as Captaintbag1. Most people called him Captain Tbag. I called him Cap Taintbag.

He accepted either appellation, and many others besides. He was a genius.

And now he’s gone, vanished into the ether, or the Home for Deleted Tweeters, or the Stumblehole of Vanished Tumblrs.

He was a genius because he did something completely new with the English language. He invented a vernacular that was idiomatic, yet perfectly grammatical even as it upended all rules of speling and gramar to create something funny, and beautiful, and most of all, new.

“There is no new thing new under the sun,” it is written in Ecclesiastes 1:9, and with the exception of electronic shifting and Prez’s color combos, it’s true. Everything that is has, more or less, already been.

But not Cap Taintbag. He was beyond rare because he was truly an original writer. He left the orbit of rarity and reached the sublime by also being witty, and powerful, and able to convey the truth in his 144-character mind-and-sight-and-sound-bites.

Hope you got to enjoy him while he was around. He was the best.

Who killed Taintbag?

Sad to say, he killed himself. His last few tweets make the reason clear: His persona, his character, his wit and his art were unsustainable.

They were unsustainable, in my opinion, because of his anonymity.

The Internet’s chief promise to many is its assurance of anonymity. All of those things you’re afraid to say because of your job, your spouse, your kids, your teachers, the police, the New National Surveillance Society, whatever…you can say them on the Internet under cover of a clever handle.

Taintbag blazed a path through the lies and hypocrisy of doping in cycling. He became an interlocutor who easily cowed and trampled the false bravado and attendant falsehoods of Vaughters and his apologists. He became a knife-like analyst who could, with a few charts and a few ungramatical mispelings, slice to ribbons the claims that Racer A and Racer B and Racer C won the Tour de D clean.

He was funny as hell, and through it all he reeked of kindness and decency and self-deprecation and humanity.

He was a wanker who you just knew was smarter at the keyboard than he was good on the bike, but somehow you didn’t hold it against him, and you loved him for it all the more.

But he learned a hard lesson: When you become a masked avenger you have to forfeit the You under the mask. You become the Dark Knight, only, since it’s reality not tveality or movieality, there aren’t any super powers or smokin’ hot wenches or fantastic successes that come with it.

You’re just an anonymous slob afraid to rip off the mask and let the You fill up the space formerly occupied by the outsized mask and the superhero get-up.

Taintbag swirled down the drain of his own creation, the dissonance between his persona and his real self eventually becoming so great that he pulled the plug himself. Gurgle, gurgle, gurgle.

I imagine that he’s a school teacher or a bureaucrat somewhere, incredibly relieved at having set his burden down. Now he can go back to his beloved MTB and tech talk, only wistfully, every once in a while, thinking about Cap Taintbag and maybe even telling himself that he can pick it back up again whenever he wants, even though he knows, I know, we all know, he won’t, and more importantly, he can’t.

Once Bruce Wayne razes the cave and tosses the outfit, he’s done.

The power of your real name

I admired and envied Taintbag. I admired him because he always took the side of right. I envied him because he was an original and a brilliant writer. He was a guy worthy of the highest praise I can muster for anyone, ever: He was a writer worth plagiarizing.

But I pitied him in his anonymity. He was ultimately a coward, a man possessed of great talent and insight and wisdom and decency who was too afraid of the truth to throw himself headlong into it, to announce himself to us so that we could thank him, admire him, and put ourselves at his feet. He had all the qualities of greatness except the one quality that would have made him so: The guts to use his name.

I’ve seen the transformative power that comes with discarding anonymity. Patrick Brady used to be an anonymous blogger who wrote under a pseudonym. One day coming back from Cross Creek I told him to quit being a chickenshit, to ditch the pseudonym, and to start signing his real name to his opinions.

He took my advice and now steers the helm of one of the most influential publications in cycling. He put aside the crippling anonymity of pseudonymous writing and let the You fill the space, then grow beyond it. That’s the power that comes with owning your opinions, with signing your name, your real one, and letting the chips fall where they may.

That’s the difference between people of character, and just plain old people.

When I read the comments that people post to this blog, and I read them religiously, I feel so much respect and admiration for those who cast aside the protections of handles and monikers and fake names and come here to announce themselves as they are, with the names given them by those who brought them into this world.

They stomp around in this Internet cycling gutter and do it in the open. They know that the real currency of real dialogue is real names.

Taintbag, I miss you more than you know. You were master of the Twittersphere, chickenshit and all. The next time you step forward, if you ever do, it will be under your real name, and no one will ever know that you were he.

But shoot me a sly wink. Then I’ll know it’s you. And we can continue on our separate ways, if that’s how it’s meant to be.

The yellow menace

October 27, 2012 § 24 Comments

We have some little Asian haters in our apartment complex. This means they have a lot to hate, overrun as we are with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and other people with black hair and non-white skin.

It started off with him and his friend yelling racial epithets at my youngest son from their balcony, which is higher than ours and which faces us. My son is in high school and doesn’t give a shit what some little kid and his friend say or do, so he just closed the blinds and ignored them.

Then a few mornings ago I was cleaning my bike and noticed a half-dozen exploded M80’s lying on the balcony. Ms. WM had told me that over the last few weeks the harassment had gotten worse; they’d begun shouting at her when she walked over to the parking garage.

I got home this evening to learn that it had escalated.

“You know little shitturds hate a Japnese?”

“Yeah. What’d they do now?”

“I’m gonna walkin to the garage and peeeeewww! Comes onna long water squirt. Little shitturds gonna sprayin me with pumpin water gun.”

“You’re fucking kidding me. What’d you do?”

“I done what you think I’m gonna done. I yelled at ’em little shitturds to stop sprayin onna water or they was gonna getta ass beating.”

“And?”

“They shitturded runnin back inna the apartment. I was gonna make a appointment and runnin late so I was gonna go by this evenin but I got too busy onna dinner to worry ’bout little shitturds.”

At that moment there was a “thunk” against the balcony’s sliding glass door.

We turned off the lights and opened the blinds. There the little shitturds were, scampering back into their apartment. We saw a big guy from another apartment next to theirs and lower down doing exactly what we were doing, only he was already out on his balcony looking up at theirs.

I went out and saw three or four other residents, all on our side of the building, doing the same thing. “They throwing shit at you?” I asked.

“Yes,” everyone chorused.

“Well,” I said. “Let’s pay them a visit.”

I felt like Tai-Pan or the white dude in Shogun, leading my band of hardy Asian warriors off to battle. They were pissed. Some had been bombarded with half-eaten apple cores, others with banana peels, and one with a tennis ball.

We got to little shitturds’ door and knocked. No answer. Then I pounded. No answer. “I’ve tried to do this before,” said a guy named Yang. “But they never answer. Their parents aren’t home. They yell things all the time.”

“When I walk beneath their apartment they say things like ‘Chink!’ and ‘Japfuck!’ and ‘Yellow bitch!’ said one incredibly lovely young girl, who was a senior in high school. It’s pretty annoying.”

A little dog emitted a fearful, muffled yap from one of the inner rooms. “We’ll smoke the little shitturds out,” I said. “Eventually they’ll come to the door and listen to us talking, thinking we don’t know they’re listening. Then we’ll have ’em.”

We kept banging and knocking for a solid five minutes. Finally the little dog was yapping right there, on the other side of the door. I held up my empty hand, pretending to be speaking into a phone. Yang and the others stifled a laugh. “Hello? Security?” I said. “I’m over at apartment building 12 and there are some kids who are throwing stuff and shooting off what look like large firecrackers. Could you send someone over?”

The dog went completely silent.

“Oh, I see. That’s a code red? So I need to call the police? It qualifies as a terroristic threat? Okay. 911, right? Thanks. And you’re sure they’ll make arrests and take these kids to jail ? Great. Thanks again.”

The door swung open.

The two boys stood there, as pasty-faced and frightened as anyone I’ve ever seen, or imagined seeing. The ringleader stood in front. He was a very fat little seventh grader with long, unkempt hair, a small mouth, and the beady eyes of a bully. His accomplice was taller and skinny, blonde and blue-eyed, and he was shaking.

Shitturd One spoke so softly, and his voice shook so badly, that I could barely make him out. “I’m really sorry,” he said.

“Listen, do you sorry little snotnoses want to go to jail? That’s fucking assault, hitting people with shit, and it’s attempted battery throwing shit at their apartment, and it’s a goddamn felony to try and hurt someone with a fucking explosive!”

They were shaking so bad that the fat kid’s blubber on his neck was jiggling like a bowl of jello. “We’re really sorry, sir,” he half-cried.

“Sorry? You think I give a rat’s ass if you’re sorry? What’s your name, you little fucking punk?”

“Billy Snipkins,” he stammered.

“And what about asshole standing behind you? What’s your name, you stupid little prick?”

“Me?” he said.

“You don’t think I’m asking the fucking dog, do you?”

“But I don’t even live here.”

“That’s an extra year in prison for being a non-resident accomplice. What’s your fucking name?” I roared.

“Thurston.”

“What’s your fucking last name?’

“Talleyrand.”

“You two little pricks go to Shady Acres Middle School?” They nodded. “Okay. Talleywhacker, I know your name now and am calling your fucking parents. I have a student guide from last year.”

“Are the police coming?” asked Snipkins.

“Fuck yes they’re coming. And they’re bringing a fucking bomb squad and drug dogs.”

At the mention of drug dogs both boys began to cry. “We’re sorry!” they wailed.

“Well get your sorry fucking asses over to my wife and apologize to her and ask her to call the cops and tell them not to come. But she’s so pissed at your bullshit she probably will call ’em just for the satisfaction of seeing you two little assholes get cuffed and stuffed and dragged off to jail. And you can start your fucking apologies here.” I gestured at Yang & Co.

They were now crying in earnest, and apologized over and over to each of the assembled tenants, all of whom were doing their best to look stern, which was a challenge. Next we marched over to Mrs. WM.

“We’re so sorry!” they wailed.

“Why you wanna do that?” she said. “You thinkin Asian people onna bad? We makin your car and TV and iPhone and Chinese noodle. What you gonna do without no car and TV and noodle?”

They apologized some more.

“Where your momma and daddy?” she asked.

The fat boy looked down. “My parents are split up.”

“Where your momma then?”

“She always goes out to bars and stuff after work.”

There were a few seconds of silence as the picture gelled. He was a bored and angry kid, ignored by his parents, and he had no way left to get noticed in the world, or noticed by the world, except through causing trouble. In a few years he’d graduate to real trouble, if he hadn’t already.

My anger and sense of righteousness evaporated in an instant. That kid was me. “Look, pal,” I said. “This kind of shit will get you thrown out of here. Don’t take your anger out on people just because they’re Asian.” I wasn’t yelling anymore, and could barely muster up my lecture tone. “Go apologize to these other families and be done with it.”

He wasn’t crying now, but he was still terrified. “Are the cops coming?”

“No,” I said. “No cops if you’ll knock it off.”

“Okay,” he said. “I promise.”

Mrs. WM closed the door and we sat down at the table. She was grateful they’d been brought to justice. No one likes to be the object of racial hatred, regardless of the reason. But she’s also a mom, and happens to be the best one I’ve ever known. “Little shitturd’s momma better quit hoppin onna bars.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You donna worse onna things than that when you was a kid.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“You feelin’ onna guilty ’cause you yellin at those boys but their momma and dad not around, and your parents was ignorin on you all time and you know how they feelin and they anger.”

“Yeah.” I said.

“You a grown up man now and gotta be a hypocrite. That’s what a growin’ up is for. So you can tell onna kids not to do what you did.”

“Yeah,” I said.

She reached over and squeezed my hand. “Don’ you feel onna bad. Those little shitturds gonna got a good lesson tonight.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“An you got onna good one, too.”

The beautiful eye

October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The first time I saw the photo, I was envious. Then I looked at it again, and my envy turned to burning, green envy with a purplish tint. There was no enjoyment of the image, no appreciation of the slice in time captured in the pixels on my screen, just envy.

‘Cause that’s just the kind of person I am.

I scrolled through the handful of photos he had posted on the gallery. Each one was not better than the one before. They were equals. Toweringly beautifully posed photographs ripped off shutterclick by shutterclick at some insane number of bangs per second, these were the keepers out of how many? A thousand? Five thousand?

“That bastard. That fucking bastard. Fuck. He is good.”

You’re so transparent

When people take pictures, when they write paragraphs, when they paint or sculpt or throw clay, they reveal themselves. The more you know about their craft, they more they show.

This dude’s autobiography was pressed into his gallery of nine images. All I needed to know about him, I learned in the hour or so that I studied those photographs.

Let me tell you these things about him. We’ve never spoken more than a minute or two with each other, and never about his photography.

  • He’s a perfectionist. You won’t see his work until it’s ready. The vast majority of his work, although stunning to you, isn’t good enough for him.
  • His photography doesn’t show people. It shows their character.
  • There’s only one right shot of a given person at a given time doing a given thing. That’s the one he wants.
  • He’s meticulous about his equipment, but he knows that it’s all in the eye.
  • He believes that great photos can only be created with the proper foundation. He prepares and looks and thinks and chooses each vantage point with incredible care, and that’s the foundation upon which he builds each photograph.
  • He hates what’s common.
  • He believes that if you want to show different characters, even from the same person, you have to shoot different perspectives.
  • He can’t take snapshots…he thinks and plans and angles and reflects too much to reflexively point and shoot.
  • Every picture isn’t a painting. It’s a sculpture, crafted laboriously by hand, with much effort and furrowing of the brow.

Danny Munson, photographer to the wankers

If you’ve spent any time on CyclingIllustrated, you’ve seen Dan Munson’s work, and it has left you slack-jawed. The power, the energy, the dynamic pulse of the athlete leaps out from each image so strongly that you can feel the striations in the muscles. If you’ve spent time on his web site, it’s equally amazing. If you’re lucky enough to be his friend on Facebook, your cup runneth over with more than a thousand pictures to browse through, which are worth millions of words.

I’ve been lucky to work with one of the finest photographers anywhere, Ted Eubanks, who also happens to be married to my mom. However good you think you are, you’re not this good. Unless you’re Colin Finlay. Because if you’re Colin Finlay, you’re better than Ted Eubanks…as long as you’re not shooting birds, butterflies, dragonflies, or natural landscapes.

Like Colin, who I’ve never worked with, there’s another giant behind the lens who I’ve actually ridden bikes and drunk coffee with. That’s Greg St. Johns. What he does with a camera is another degree removed, yet again, from what normal people think of when they think of photography. Greg is the head chef at a high end image restaurant; a professional TV cameraman who nails incredible shots of the cast–stars and water carriers alike–in black-and-white when the mood strikes.

I’m going through this mental Rolodex of photographers simply because I put Dan Munson in their sector of the Venn diagram, where the edges of artist, genius, and amazing person all intersect to make a tiny little club built out of photography. The thing about each of these guys is that their photos move, and you’d think that Danny’s job, shooting bikers, would be the easiest one for capturing motion.

But anyone who’s tried to photograph a crit or a road race knows that’s not the case; it’s the opposite, in fact. It takes amazing skill to wind up with anything other than a frozen figure hunched over a bike going nowhere. It takes love and passion and intellect and strategy and compassion and risk to make an office park routine into what it really is: A gladiator’s arena filled with pain, danger, despair, humiliation, elation, risk, defeat, and victory.

He shares all of these things with us, and more. Thanks, dude.

The family, Jules

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

I still remember when she appeared for her first NPR, standing over her bike as the riders appeared one after another, gradually crowding the deck of the Manhattan Beach Pier. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Juliana.”

“Hey, Juliana. Welcome to the Pier Ride. Where are you from?” She had that not-from-around-here accent that we Americans automatically label British, even though it could be Irish, South African, Ozzie, or Lithuanian.

Jules was of the VeggieMite variety. “I’m from Australia,” she said with a nice smile. And we were all smitten.

“Things kind of pick up once we hit this little up ramp on a street called Pershing. You might want to be towards the front in case it’s fast, so even though you drop back you won’t come off.”

“Okay!” she said.

A true troupe of gentlemen

With several new acquaintances watching out for her, the moment we hit Pershing it was every last soul for himself. The last time I saw her she was rocketing backwards at Warp 12. Like a hungry pack of marauding wolves, the peloton raced away. I saw her a couple of times on the Parkway with a small grupetto or by herself, banging it out against the wind. I would have dropped back to help, but, well, no, actually I wouldn’t have. And didn’t.

Welcome to Americuh. Fuck, yeah!

It was unfortunate that she, a triathlete, had shown up in the middle of race season when the NPR pace was high and the testosterone was discharging at full spigot. After the fireworks, though, she rejoined the group on Vista del Mar, and you never saw so many elbows get thrown and wheels get bumped as the guys who had just dropped her now fought to ride beside or behind her.

Junkyard eventually won the spot of honor when he was introduced as “The dude who designs all the kits for Garmin and SpiderTech.”

Before long we were all quaffing coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, and the great impression she’d made on the Pier amplified itself ten thousand fold.

Getting down to business

Far from being put off by the NPR beatdown, she continued to show up and stick it out, often getting spit out the back early on, sometimes hanging in until the end. She had guts and determination, but more importantly, she had other fish to fry: Jules hadn’t come to Los Angeles to ride around in circles with a bunch of prostate-weakened geezers, she’d come to train so that she could race.

Before her stint in California was up, she nailed 16th overall at the Ironman World Championships 70.3 in Vegas, and smashed in the door for a silver medal in her division in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. We’re absolutely certain that it was all because of those mornings on the Parkway…um, right.

More than just another bone-crushing pair of legs

Jules won people over wherever she went. With the LA County lifeguards, with the runners, with the swimmers, and of course with the bikers, she was a hit for her friendly demeanor, her unassuming good nature, and her uncommon presence of mind that would have been impressive in anyone, much less a 24 year-old on her first solo visit to the Golden State.

When her three-month sojourn in Southern California ended, she finished things up in that most California of ways: Getting to witness an arrest and detention at LAX. Americuh! Hell yeah!

Hope you come back soon, kid. ‘Cause you’re family now, Jules!

South Bay weekend roll call

September 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

Let’s start with the big stuff…

Mighty Mouse: Brought her NPR-honed dick stomping skills to the Nautica Malibu Tri and left a trail of shattered members all up and down PCH. CalTrans garbage truck overheated and broke down on Zuma Hill due to overloading with broken dicks. Wore her Big O tee on the podium’s second step.

Wankomodo: Got a public tongue lashing, laughed it off in the spirit it was intended, gave thanks for his new nickname, and refused to take the Wankmeister seriously. You are now officially part of the gang!

Italian Stallion: Came out for the Donut, rode off into the sunset in a marvelous pink outfit after telling G3 to shut-the-fuck-up about the crazy old lady trying to kill us in Portuguese Bend. Tony almost fell off his bike laughing, just as some wanker touched a wheel and flopped down in the middle of the road. Italian Stallion gives us a great write-up of his national championship road race here.

Crown Jules: Stomped everyone except Stathis the Wily Greek and the Italian Stallion on the Switchbacks, outsprinted John “Dillinger” Hall, who kicked me out the back like a pro roadie’s under-the-armpit snotblow.

Rico Suave: Got badly shredded on the Switchbacks, roared back on Wheatgrass to smash everyone up to the Domes, busted up the field on the Glass Church, towed WM to the line, beat him with a bike throw. I hope Rico never discovers drugs.

Erik the Red: Dropped all but a handful on Better Homes, took the sprunt at Hawthorne by a country mile after bridging with JLR. Formally announced his engagement to SPY Elite Team for 2013…yee-haw!

Tink: Returned to the mix, but was under coach’s orders not to engage in any nonsense for a couple more weeks. The sun shone in happiness at her return!

New Girl: Ignored flu symptoms, West Nile virus, superbug, and early onset pneumonia to lace up and ride to the Rock and then Wheatgrass before coming undone at the seams. Dr. Wanky has ordered bed rest until further notice.

Crit Champ: Showed up on the Donut after bringing home a silver medal from nationals, attacked the field on Paseo del Mar, followed all the moves until gravity took over. Also, wrote a fantastic piece about his season vs. the national championships. Read it here.

Surfer Dan: Displayed fine form that comes with his recent 899-mile weeks in preparation for the Everest Challenge, where he and a few other hardy souls will climb the highest mountains in California on a dog sled. Did three repeats up Crenshaw prior to showing up on Wheatgrass and smacking the snot out of us.

Ms. Abs: Was spied sunning herself on the strand in RB this morning, so we got to chat about life and Pen CX; she also updated me on Steve B.’s 198-mile, 11k of climbing ride that he did immediately prior to the Life Flight and coma resuscitation team.

Suze: Pushed several struggling wankers up through Portuguese Bend, and got a nice push on the tush by the Italian Stallion just past Terranea. Like the eye of Mordor, Wankmeister sees it all!

G3: Out for an easy noodle ride, set the fifth best overall time on the short Donut Loop. Ouch. Glad he wasn’t riding in earnest. Toured with WM along the Esplanade on his boss cruiser, with world’s cutest Ava in tow. When you see a kid that cute riding with G3, it makes you sure of this much: She takes after her mother.

Pilot: Noticed my general bonkishness and loaded me up with a full tankard of iced coffee atop the Hill. I owe you one; actually, I owe you several.

Lake(r): New inter-galactic rep for Lake Cycling showed up to taste the Donut despite being HQ’d in San Diego. Give him a welcome the next time he comes around. If there is a next time, as he sat with Wankmeister out at CotKU and learned that the South Bay is essentially an insane asylum without proper walls.

Iron Mike: Treated another passel of ingrates to $400 worth of nasty, foul-smelling, barely potable wheat grass, which made my front two teeth fall out and turned the others deep green. So at least they all match.

Junkyard: Spent Saturday in the 200-degree heat climbing Latigo, Piuma, Crownview, Anchovy, Deer Creek, Decker, and Questhaven, then couldn’t figure out why his legs were flat on the Wheatgrass Ride. I promised to draw him a diagram to explain it, as he’s a visual person.

Sparkles and VV: Rode the Wheatgrass in halter tops due to predictions of high heat, causing several neck strains in the field and aggressive fighting in the wankoton to ride next to them.

Casey Stengel: While he was noodling up to the Domes and I was chasing Rico Suave with all my might, he hopped out of the saddle and gave me a massive tow to within spitting distance of my quarry. The spit didn’t carry, though, and I never closed the gap.

Dude in Antique Sidis: I don’t know if you remember the Sidi Revolution, the first cycling shoe to use velcro, but Dude was wearing a pair and it looked like he hadn’t taken them off since 1986, including his hike across the Himalayas and the year he spent marching across a field of cow manure. We made him sit downwind at the Jamba Juice, where he killed a small flock of starlings with the smell.

Awesome [censored] party!

July 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Huge props to BJ Hale and the whole SoCal cycling family for bringing everyone together last Thursday night to Surf City Cyclery in Costa Mesa, where CyclingIllustrated.com lifted off, officially, into outer space.

Like any good family party it had the usual cast of characters: Crazy Uncle Hank who sits out on the porch all day drinking warm beer and shooting BB’s at stray cats; Cousin Slinky whose clothes are two sizes too small and whose [censored] keep almost bursting to freedom; Grandpa Dinkums who’ll pull you over and talk for an hour about how in his day they raced on square bicycle wheels; Brother Slick who makes a mysterious living selling a mysterious product that always keeps him in Porsches and Armanis; Brother Goat who can’t do anything right and who could [censored] up a [censored]; and most of all Daddy Warbucks, the hard-driving head of the family who makes it all happen.

We had all come together to celebrate the launch of CyclingIllustrated.com, but before we celebrated we got to eat free Mexican food, drink free tequila, and scoop up awesome gift bags loaded with quality swag.

So what the [censored] IS CyclingIllustrated.com?

In a word, it’s “the passion of cycling.” Okay, make that four words. Unlike the antiseptic voices of CyclingNews and Velonews and Bicycling, deadly dull publications written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters, CyclingIllustrated is a new, vibrant, exciting voice written by fatass wannabe fanboys with typewriters who actually race, along with the voices of men and women who make up the very top of the cycling elite.

CyclingIllustrated.com’s goal is to let top racers in all age groups and cycling disciplines share their insights with us, in their own words. In fact, after a quick analysis of the last 4,982 first-person accounts of elite cyclists, a recent study concluded that every successful cyclist has the same ten insights, which I’ve reproduced for you below.

  1. “Hard race.”
  2. “Attacked and got away.”
  3. “Sketchy sprint.”
  4. “No legs.”
  5. “Not my course.”
  6. “Good legs.”
  7. “Great teammates.”
  8. “That’s bike racing.”
  9. “Bah.” (Plus shrug.)
  10. “Mechanical.”

In fact, the video interviews and columns that CyclingIllustrated.com features on its web site offer a new and interesting take on the sport, because we get to hear the strategies, plans, successes, and failures from the very people we see every weekend. Their words help break down the intricacies of a race that might have seemed like one fluid blur. Their approach to a race shows the constantly shifting nature of fortune within each race, and how the slightest vagaries of wind, distance, speed, elevation, and composition of a break can completely alter the outcome of a race. Unless Richard Meeker’s in it, in which case there’s no [censored] way you have a [censored] chance in [censored] [censored] of winning.

The power of synergy

BJ Hale’s dream of a new cycling publication that draws on the very best writing and photography is an awesome one, not least of all because one of the key movers is Danny Munson. The cycling world is filled with photographers. It has a smaller but distinguished number of fine photographers. Danny is neither. He’s an artist, and he gives color, expression, depth, and resolution to the incredible moments in each race he shoots, whether it’s a CBR crit or the pandemonium of Tulsa Tough.

What was most incredible about the launch party, though, was that it showcased how many people and entities have come together to make this project a success. Success has many parents, but failure is an orphan. The success of CyclingIllustrated, though, is more like a group [censored] where everyone keeps diving in for more.

So, without more fanfare, here are the people and entities that made it happen. Props to you all, in no particular order. If I’ve left out a name, let me know. This ain’t my day job.

Shimano: Galaxy’s most awesome creator of bike chain shifter thingies so that we don’t have to shift on the down tube anymore or pedal our [censored] bikes up Alpe d’Huez on a fixed gear.

Spy Optic: Galaxy’s most awesome supporter of grass roots cycling and maker of the best eyewear anywhere. From highest quality performance wear to Rx glasses that will get you [censored] in any club on earth, SPY is the best.

IRT:  Googled “IRT” and came up with “Indiana Repertory Theatre,” “International Raquetball Tour,” and “IRT Deadliest Roads Video.” Nope, none of those. It’s Inertia Racing Technology, which is a fancy [censored] way of saying “badass cyclocross wheels that can take anything you got and more.”

Mercury Wheels: Look, I don’t know squat about wheels. I still ride 32-hole aluminum rim clinchers, for Dog’s sake. But these things look freaking awesome. Slap a couple of these onto your ride and you might finish in Jamie or Charon’s zip code. Slap them on Charon’s ride and his wheels will cross the line before he does.

SDG Saddles: Some people say the most important part of the bike is where the rubber meets the road. I say it’s where your [censored] meets the saddle. SDG saddles make sure you go your fastest without rubbing your parts into a gooey mess.

Now Energy Bars: You know how sometimes you’ll be out there hammering and suddenly you just crater? It’s usually because you’re weak and undertrained, and so you’re hosed. But occasionally you’re bonking, and the Now Energy bar, made from healthy stuff, will bring you right back to the razor’s edge.

PROLAB: This arsenal of products “delays muscle fatigue” for both weightlifters and endurance athletes. I sure could have used a case of that [censored] at the San Marcos circuit race yesterday.

H2O: Now someone’s gotta help me out with this one. Water is our sponsor? That’s rad, don’t get me wrong…

Cytomax: “Ctyo” comes from the Greek root for “wanker.” “Max” means “the most.” Cytomax will help you get the most out of your wankerish attempts on the bike, with a balanced blend of electrolytes and other stuff your body need when you feel like your [censored] lungs are about to explode out your ears.

Jenson USA: If you want to buy bike stuff and are too lazy to go to the bike shop, or you live in LA and you don’t have ten hours to spend in traffic, or you’re too pooped from your epic 5-hour training ride, you can pretty much buy it here. Online. From the comfort of your own Big Mac and large fries. It’s okay. We won’t tell.

GU Energy: This stuff isn’t, thankfully, anything like it sounds. Rather, it’s the choice of champions. Squirt a little goo down your craw and you’ll come pounding back like a jackhammer.

Axiss Sports: I Googled this baby to a fare thee well. Crickets.

CalBikeLaw.com: When you get mowed down by some [censored] idiot who’s too busy texting or drinking or snorting coke, who you gonna call? CalBikelaw.com, that’s who! Headed up by two of the best personal injury attorneys in California, Gerry Agnew and Bruce Brusavich have been representing seriously injured Californians for over 38 years.

Skull Candy: Sometimes you need the right sound to crank out that extra ten watts. Skull Candy can deliver the tunes right where you want ’em, when you want ’em.

Caliente Southwest Grill: These folks MADE the launch party a party, because without great food it’s just a bunch of people in a bad mood looking at each other and ready to brawl at the drop of a hat. Their food is delicious! Wankmeister certified guaranteed!

Kenda: Awesome bike tires. Slap a pair of these on and motor down the road! If you’re looking for something to go cheap on, don’t pinch pennies on your chamois or your tires. And please don’t whine to me about the high cost of race tires. If you were on a motorcycle you’d spend $600 per pair per race. Feel better, wanker?

Bahati Foundation: Supports inner city youth by providing educational, musical, and athletic equipment. Motivational outreach and giving back is the hallmark of the foundation. Oh, and it also happens to be run by one of the best road sprinters this country has ever seen!

Europa Sports Products: All kinds of rad supplements to help you bike faster, pedal longer, [censored] harder, and achieve the athletic results to which you’ve set your mind!

Surf City Cyclery: This is like the giant granddaddy of all Specialized bike stores anywhere. If you can’t find it here, you’re probably looking for goat cheese or for a rebuilt alternator. This shop is [censored] awesome, with helpful staff, bottomless inventory, and customers who include some of the best racers in SoCal.

In conclusion…

It was a wonderful evening of fun, food, bike tire changing contests, and trying to figure out why everyone acts so different in mufti from when they’re cloaked in their superman get-up, helmet, and black reflective glasses. Like, that dude who you’re scared to even say hi to on the bike is just meekly standing over in the corner looking like he’s gonna cry because no one’s talking to him. That bruiser sprinter dude who can crack your scapula with one shoulder bump is as quiet as a toad in a hole. Of course I did leave before they drained the tequila keg…

In keeping with CyclingIllustrated.com’s tradition, they did an interview of one of the greats: Kenny Fuller, world champion. And in keeping with the Crazy Uncle thing, one dude came up and started badgering BJ, “So what is this, anyway? And why are you doing it? And what makes you think anyone is interested?”

We dragged him out into the alley and poured [censored] down his throat, but not before we explained that we think people are interested because of the 200 guests, the outpouring of support for the project, and the forty billion web visits that BJ gets every ten seconds.

So there.

Next time there’s a party…hope to see you there!

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