January 31, 2018 Comments Off on #fakenews
I haven’t done the New Pier Ride in a long time. I used to do it once or twice a week but as PoohBearATX remarked, “I only do the NPR when I’m serious about my plateauing.” Or, “The best way to kill it on the NPR is to never do the NPR.”
Today we rode over and did it. It was great to see my #fakefriends. By the way, everyone who races or does a competitive ride is a #fakefriend. They will help you and be kind to you until suddenly they drop you. Still, there is a special kind of magic rolling down the alley in the dark, lights blinking, surrounded by people you know, chatting, laughing, girding loins for the coming quake.
We kept a rather brisk pace going out Vista del Mar. This stretch of road is riddled with cracks and potholes, but is good for a group because we can easily take the entire lane and have plenty of room for cars coming by in the fast lane. On Pershing the gas stayed on and the typical group of Pershing H.I.W.’s hopped in.
When you abandon the NPR for a few months people completely forget you. One Unity Riders H.I.W. took a dainty little baby pull and when I came through for a similarly brief pull after having hit it continuously from VdM, he yelled “Stay up there!” or something silly that I ignored. It always amazes me that people have the lungs to advise you but never the lungs to attack or pull hard, like the guy at CBR last week who told me I needed to “quit moving my shoulders around and save energy” after I had launched my umpteenth failed attack. I am sure he never made it out of the caboose.
Things never relented so that mid-way through the first lap I was roasted. I slunk to the back and caught my breath, then pushed back to the fore as we began Lap 3. Rahsaan jumped, followed by Ivan Fernandez and Lauren, and I tagged onto Ivan. We made it to the bridge and slowed for the light as the pack was upon us.
Elijah yelled, “If we had kept going we would have split the group!”
“If grandma had balls she’d be grandpa,” I said, gassed and amused that he saw fit to say “we” for a group he wasn’t part of.
At that moment the light turned green and I still had a little momentum so I went again and at the top of the bridge Eric Bryan came through. He sneaked a sly grin and I hunkered down on his wheel. He is a student at UCLA and also rides for Team Subarau Santa Monica; after a few seconds my legs felt engulfed in flames. He’s not especially tall or broad so there was no draft, and he is especially fast and gnarly so it only felt like being dragged along the pavement behind a truck.
Eric opened a massive gap after his 1-mile effort, swung over, and I got my elbow working before I even made it through, swinging over immediately as sheet-snot covered my face. Next in line was Steve Kim, who smashed it as I dangled on the back. After him came Cat 5 Adam Flores, a 20-something kid who rides like a raging Cat 2.
The break didn’t have much hope of succeeding but it was better than dawdling back there with the sitters, hoping for a bunch sprunt.
At the beginning of Lap 4 we only had a couple hundred yards on the group, but traffic intervened at the turnaround and Eric threw down another incredible pull into the headwind, matched by Adam. Every time I had to come through I did what we will call “elder statesman pulls,” wrinkly and saggy and leaky in all the wrong places, leaving barely enough energy to sprint onto the back of the break.
At the final turnaround the gap was considerable and the children relaxed. “They will hunt you down and steal your toys if you let off the gas,” was my grandfatherly advice.
Eric took it to heart, too much so, unfortunately, attacking and gapping me out as the others chased on. I reattached as Adam barreled up the slight rise to the golf course. Once we were through the final light Eric attacked again, distancing us all. I was too tired and weak to do anything but follow wheels, and his wheel was sadly not on my follow list.
Steve jumped and dropped Adam, I clawed on, and Steve put in a stinking huge effort to close the gap to Eric, who was now 300 yards from the imaginary #fakefinish. With 200 to go a weird thing happened. After sitting in and sucking wheel and doing nothing and panting and flapping my elbow and sheet-snotting and sagging over the bars and evidencing a geriatric cardiac event I suddenly felt really good and it coincided with Steve and Eric feeling something off to the left of good and maybe even westerly of horrible.
I gave it the old grandpa Low-T andropause scissorkick and waltzed across the #fakefinish for what was perhaps the oldest ever geezer to rip an NPR #fakewin from the bloody talons of the young. And even if it wasn’t … it felt like it, so I went ahead and did it. I raised my hands.
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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
September 22, 2017 § 67 Comments
Click the bar above and listen to the podcast.
You can click the link in this sentence and see video of the September 19, 2017 NPR crash.
Podcast recorded from the comfort of my bed, spoken into my iPhone.
July 5, 2017 § 28 Comments
One of the things about getting old is that the thrill goes away. What thrill? Every thrill.
You see it in your relatives, for example, who go batshit crazy about religion, or they become rabid racists, or they become recalcitrant conservatives who subscribe to the philosophy of “Everything for me, nothing for you.”
This is why I love riding my bike with other crazy people. It is flat fucking thrilling. If you don’t do it you won’t ever understand it.
Take today, Independence Day. It started with an NPR smashfest of epic proportions. Rumor had it that numerous baby seals had gotten too big for their pelts and needed a good skinning. Sure enough, on Lap 1 vast numbers of bleating pinnipeds got shucked out the back, only to play Hop-In-Wanker, reattach on the flip-flop, and get shelled again.
Rather than seventy baby seals sprunting vigorously for the win after sitting in and munching fresh sardines for four laps, at the end there was a tiny group of about fifteen, of whom only five or six had any legs at all. The clubbing and skinning were epic as Charon ended the hopes and dreams of all the sad-faced baby seals.
Then we did the Holiday Ride, 150-strong from the Center of the Known Universe, hooking up with another 100+ group in Marina del Rey, and barreling through Santa Monica to San Vicente. But today those of us who had smashed on the NPR moved the finish line from the top of Mandeville to the top of San Vicente, and the seal pups were denied the leisurely pedal to which they have become accustomed.
Instead, Cory Williams, Smasher, G3, and one or two other clubbers began crushing skulls at the bottom of San Vicente, skinning well over a hundred baby seals before we reached the top of San Vicente.
After the left-hander, a shameless group of La Grunge Hop-In-Wankers jumped into the mix and turned a 30-mile race to the bottom of Mandeville into a 1-mile downhill pedal followed by a 15-minute smash up the hill on fresh legs. They were crowned glorious winners, sweeping the imaginary podium and getting six out of the top ten fake slots, but their hop-in antics earned no approbation from the clubbers who’d been at it from the beginning of the ride.
Was that all the excitement and thrill? No!
Next was a bitter, hand-to-hand fight to the death at the annual Helen’s Cycles July 4th Sale, where cyclists poured through the doors and battled tooth and toenail to get unbelievable discounts on shoes, socks, BonkBreakers, bikes, helmets, and other useless stuff. The KOM was won by some dude from Malibu, who spent $15,000 in fifteen minutes.
Bar bumping, seal pelt skinning, vicious motoring, Mandeville uphill time trailing, it was a morning filled with adrenaline, testosterone (natural and added), and more fireworks than the Chinese New Year. But was that all? No that was not all!
We got home to find out that Mark Cavendish, sprinter extraordinaire, had been tutored by our very own James Doyle, the local wanker who squeezed through a non-existent slot and took out veteran Johnny Walsh. Unlike the UCI, however, who quickly reached a decision on the matter, USAC continues to drag its feet, twiddle its thumbs, review the tapes, and stick their thumb up a dark smelly place, paralyzed and unable to make a simple disciplinary decision about an outrageous move.
All of that and it wasn’t even noon …
The thrill? It’s alive and well and going strong. You can save your religious tirades for someone who GAF … because it ain’t me.
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December 11, 2016 § 17 Comments
Suddenly you wake up one day and bam! you’re the oldest guy out there. It’s a weird feeling. Your youth is so far behind you that you don’t even need bother with a rearview mirror, and the thing is, it happens bam! and you’re flat fuggin’ old.
There are no benefits to being old, not one, except its apparently marginal superiority to the alternative.
However, back to the wake up and bam! you’re old thing. I looked around in the break on the fake racey group ride and everyone else was either young enough to be my kid or my grandkid and they were tearing my legs off. This made the bam! you’re old thing feel a thousand times worse.
Of course it may have been somewhat demoralizing to them as the fact is pretty obvious that THERE IS NO PRO CAREER FOR YOU EVER EVER EVER NOT EVEN MAYBE PERHAPS IN UNICORN FART LAND IF YOU’RE IN A BREAK WITH GRANDPA.
But even though they were demoralized, they were angry too, because when you are young and strong and fit and forced to ride tire-to-tire in a five-man break with grandpa it is like having a goatshead in your jockstrap, it really does rub you the wrong way.
So we were pounding along which means that they were doing all the work and I was sucking wheel and taking .005-second micropulls, and even that was depleting my magnesium and glucose and calcium and strontium-90 such that it became clear that our fromthegunintheneutralzone (even though there is no neutral zone) stoplightbreakaway (all successful breakaways on the parkway are stoplight breakaways) was going to make it all four laps out on Westchester Parkway but that I might not be part of it at the end.
Two and a half laps in, along came a Hop-in-Wanker. HIWs are a crucial part of the New Pier Ride; they are people who either get dropped or who don’t make the break so they cut over to the other side of the parkway and hop in with the lead group. Usually the Hop-in-Wankers are pretty easily disposed of because of The Rule of Breakaways:
- If you weren’t strong enough to make the break, you’re likely not strong enough to stay with it when it comes by or when you hop in.
Unfortunately, this HIW hadn’t read the rule, and he was plenty strong. We were all gassed and he started taking donkey pulls, big, nasty, snot-blowing, leg-straining, horsefly killing, drag-through-the-manure-pile pulls and since we’d been going pretty hard it hurt and broke up our smooth rotation. For me, “smooth rotation” meant “place I could do minimal work.”
A couple of my breakmates began shouting at HIW. “Get the fuck out of here,” they said.
But I didn’t say anything because one of my breakmates, teammate Bader the Bad, was only 18, and the other breakmate, Throttle, was in his early 20s and it seemed to me that this was a teaching moment.
What teaching moment?
Well, the old “how you get rid of the unwanted Hop-in-Wanker” moment. Because it happens fairly regularly that you get some dude in your winning break who is either sitting in or who has a faster finish and you need to get rid of him without taking the whole break back to the field, which is what happens when everyone sits up and starts shouting. And in the whole history of bike racing, no breakmate has ever been dislodged by shouting.
So I told my breakmates to STFU and get the rotation going again, which they grumblingly did and which made Hop-in-Wanker happy to a fare-thee-well. He was gonna do enough work to make sure we stayed away and then charge us in the imaginary sprunt for the fake victory.
My young breakmates were perplexed and kept at it. We were about a thousand yards out from the final turnaround for the last lap. As I rotated by Bader the Bad and Throttle, I whispered, “Hit it at the final turnaround and I’ll last-man-lag our unwanted visitor.”
They didn’t know what I meant but they did understand “hit it.”
We jetted through the final turn and they leapt. The other two breakmates were caught out, and Hop-in-Wanker, glued to my wheel (first mistake), thought I was going to close the gap (second mistake). As my teammates receded in the distance, he realized that it was going to be up to him, and he surged. I latched on as he manfully strove to close the massive gap.
At about the time it looked like he might close, he made a horrible screaming noise as the engine overheated prior to death, accompanied by clunking noises and oil coming out from the bottom as he threw a piston rod, shot a small Chinese steel city’s worth of smoke out the tail pipe as his power steering and brakes went out, and he steered his 210-pound paperweight over a bit and wildly flicked his elbow for me to come through.
I sat and watched the smoking hulk go slower and slower until he dejectedly reached down for his water bottle, and I attacked him mid-sip. Somehow, perhaps with the aid of drugs, perhaps with the aid of a motor in my frame, perhaps with the aid of mirrors and a facelift, but mostly because the other two riders had caught my teammates and the break slowed for the final reconnoiter before the finish, I could reattach. Hop-in-Wanker was not seen again.
A flurry of accelerations followed, with Bader the Bad cruising to a beautiful solo imaginary victory against the three other breakmates and his grandfather, who viewed the whole thing from a galaxy far, far, away.
Afterwards the littl’uns asked me, “What happened back there at the turnaround?”
“That?” I said. “Oh, nothing.”
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May 4, 2016 § 25 Comments
What I want you to know is that yesterday, which was NPR Tuesday, I launched a glorious attack in the neutral zone along Vista del Mar as soon as we turned out of the alley. I’ve done this a zillion times before and it never works because I’m too slow and everyone else is too fast.
In order for any NPR break to stick a number of miracles have to happen, all simultaneously. First, Evens Stievenart has to flat. Second, you have to sneak away fast enough and early enough that you can scoot down the hill and get mixed in with traffic so the wankoton can’t really see you, like a thief in the night rummaging through *someone’s* panty drawer.
Finally, you have to *catch* all the lights on green or *catch* them on yellow or *catch* them on dead red a-la Stathis or Cowan and pray you don’t get crushed by a truck.
And then finally finally you have to latch onto a locomotive who is a) strong enough to stay away for four laps + Vista del Mar but b) not so strong that he drops you and c) is a complete idiot when it comes to bike racing and d) who can’t sprunt, i.e. Smasher has to be on the ride.
Finally finally finally, Venus needs to be retrograde in Cassiopeia and I’ll see your five and raise you ten. Then and only then do you have a chance.
Of course today was my day, because no sooner had I sprung clear from the snoozers than I saw Smasher up ahead. Smasher never met a hopeless breakaway he didn’t like. He looked back, saw the gap, and started smashing. “We got this,” he said. “Piece of cake.” Only one Vista del Mar sneak attack breakaway has ever stuck in the storied history of the NPR. That kind of once-in-a-lifetime cake.
Smasher smashed for a long way, I took a bitsy pull, and he smashed some more. Smashed up Pershing. Smashed up World Way ramp. Smashed onto the Parkway. I stuck my nose out in the wind for a few seconds for another bitsy pull. Then Smasher smashed some more.
When we made the u-turn it took so long to see the wankoton that I thought perhaps they’d made a wrong turn. Sausage was in no-wank-land attempting a hopeless bridge, and my teammates were chasing hard and then, all golden, we saw Evens S. flatted on the side of the road.
I sighed happily as I puked up bits of oatmeal, glued as I was to the mighty glutes of Smasher Who Smashed. At the final turnaround we were so far ahead that we lazily pedaled to the finish, where Cowan was standing with a camera because he’d crashed out for the tenth time this year and was having his bike glued back together. He was pissed. “You’re chatting!” he said. “What kind of finish is that?”
“We just owned your teammates, bitch,” I said. He reluctantly snapped a video of the laziest NPR victory pose ever and awaited the bunch finish for third, which had the hoped-for result: His teammate Todd Toofs beat everyone else. Grateful for scraps, Cowan posted the third-place video and titled it “Teammate wins NPR,” one of the few instances where history was written by the loser.
I tacked on a few extra hours, pedaling up Mandeville after almost getting doored by a car parked in front of Santa Monica Peet’s and driven by a guy who looked suspiciously like Ynot Alleznam, stopped at Phil’s and observed a homeless dude dance a jig in a Batman suit, then watched a crazy lady on the way home come shrieking up the bike lane in her Yaris beside a tour bus only to find when she popped out that there was a cop in the other lane who pulled her over and wrote her a ticket and then saw some buddies splayed on the pavement in Marina after they’d been run over by another crazy lady, this one on a bicycle going the wrong way in the bike lane and they’d had to chase her down and wrestle her off her bike and call the cops while the one dude nursed what looked like a fractured wrist, then I had a Tink sighting on the bridge, ran into Major Bob, Frenchie, and ML in PV but couldn’t stop to talk because I was bonking and then I got home, scarfed leftover tomato soup, leftover fried rice, an apple, a banana, half a box of chocolates and a quart of milk, and did my best imitation of “Crampie Grampie” where you hop around on one foot howling until the other leg cramps and then you roll in a ball and moan and everyone looks away embarrassed.
Mallorca, here I come.
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February 24, 2016 § 34 Comments
The first time I did the Old Pier Ride on a December day in 2006, I got yelled at by Stern-O. My crime? Daring to be a new face contesting the sprunt on a steel Masi while wearing a wool jersey.
On my first few Donut Rides I was yelled at and pushed around, and was only able to create breathing room by riding some of the worst-behaved people off my wheel. The only way you could get people to lay off was by beating them down.
Those few short years ago road riding in LA was like it still is in many places. Cliquish, hostile, and full-to-overflowing with self-important preeners.
Nowadays LA is not that way, even though other parts of SoCal and NorCal are still rife with faux elitism. Guys like Rahsaan Bahati, Robert Efthimos, Greg Leibert, and especially Greg Seyranian have created an environment where inclusiveness is the norm. New faces like David Wells, and old ones like Gerald Iacono and Michael Norris have kept up a steady drumbeat that welcomes new faces.
Eventually the most offensive snobs relocated to faraway climes, or took to riding by themselves in tiny groups at odd hours where they come into contact with hardly anyone, or they’ve simply quit riding.
This environment has attracted a lot of people to the old group rides. The NPR now easily starts with 70 or 80 riders. There’s often shouting and sometimes a bit of jostling, but it tends to be based on actual riding behavior rather than to establish a pecking order.
One of the guys who started showing up one day was named Francis, but one look at him and you pretty much knew that:
- You weren’t the first person who’d thought about saying, “Lighten up, Francis.”
- He’d beaten up lots tougher guys than you for lots smaller infractions than that.
In a universe where bikers are the underdog and the police are the enemy, Francis was like that overgrown guy in the movie with beard stubble and a knife who shows up in the 7th Grade classroom after riding his motorcycle to school and befriends the twiggly dork getting bullied by the bad guys. Turns out that Francis was a homicide detective and beneath his tough, flinty-eyed exterior there lay a hardened, unflinching, barefisted interior.
This was amazing because suddenly when the group got pulled over by a cop responding to a call from an irate PV housewife who’d been slowed down four seconds on her way to Starbucks, instead of getting a lecture, four back-up squad cars, and tickets all ’round, Francis and the cop would have a conversation and that would be it.
It was also amazing because we now had a cop who backed us up when bad things happened. It’s a funny feeling to think that when some cager in a pickup buzzes you and flips you off and then gets it into his head to escalate the situation that he’s going to find out he’s grabbed the red-hot poker with both hands by the wrong end.
Of course, what are the chances that a hard-bitten homicide cop would even be named Francis, let alone also be a cyclist, and a good one, at that? One in several billion. So in an effort to let him know how much he was appreciated, I made an especial effort to give him as much shit as possible, which, to his credit, he always returned in rather unequal quantities.
But back to the NPR …
In tandem with the large size of the ride, the police whose jurisdiction is LAX International Airport have their own Wellness Department, which focuses on health initiatives for employees and for the broader community. After a particularly bad car-bike collision on Westchester Parkway, which abuts the airport’s runways, the officer in charge of Wellness decided to get involved.
This guy’s name is Officer Sur, and with the department’s backing he now escorts the group on Tuesdays. He drives an SUV patrol car with large magnetic signs that say “3 Feet Please!” indicating the minimum legal passing space a motorist must give a cyclist.
He assists with intersection control when we make the u-turns on the Parkway, and also helps control traffic at lights when the lights are changing and only half the peloton has made it through. Officer Sur even came to our 6:40 AM liftoff at the Manhattan Beach Pier and gave a talk about rider safety and police involvement with things like the NPR.
From the time that he has been escorting the ride, we have gotten noticeably less (as in zero) buzzing or harassment by cagers. So in addition to the lottery-like odds of having one guardian angel in the form of a homicide detective named Francis, we wound up with an even more improbable scenario: Having two policemen who ride and who look out for others on bikes.
So I was talking to Officer Sur after the NPR, and telling him about Francis.
“Francis?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty weird, huh? I mean, what are the chances of having a cop named Francis who’s not only involved in cycling but who’s also kind of a guardian angel?”
Officer Sur looked at me to see if I was pulling his leg. “Pretty long odds,” he said. “Because that’s my first name, too.”
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February 13, 2016 § 25 Comments
There are a lot of people who refuse to ride the Tuesday/Thursday NPR here in LA because it’s dangerous. I can’t say whether they’re right or not, but there have been some pretty gnarly falls, most recently when a cager rear-ended a rider who was changing lanes.
Even when it was the Old Pier Ride, or OPR, it had a fair number of falls. I remember one in which some UCLA wanker took out about thirty-eleven riders.
The worst trait of the NPR, though, has been the habit of a handful or riders to run the red lights on Westchester Parkway. Although that had nothing to do with the recent car-bike collision, the tendency of one or two riders to bust through the lights meant that sooner or later someone was going to get hit by car-on-green-pegging-bike-on-red.
Although I was never the worst offender, for years I treated the signals as suggestions rather than imperatives. If there were no cars I kept smashing, especially in a breakaway where there were only two or three other riders anyway.
To her credit, Suzanne Sonye never tired of calling out the red-light runners, even when it got her a lot of unpleasant blowback. Eventually I had to concede that she was right, and began stopping at all the red lights. The most notorious red-light runner no longer rides, and so these days the NPR follows two basic rules.
- Stop at the red lights.
- Wait for traffic to clear before making the u-turn to do the next half-lap.
It’s a much better ride as a result. We have Suze to thank for it and now the really good riders who show up stop at all the lights, so the rest of us hackers have no excuse not to do so as well. It’s an example of how a group with major scofflaw elements can be tamed.
Then one Monday a couple of weeks ago an LAX cop showed up at Helen’s Cycles in Manhattan Beach. The cop spoke with the manager, long-time NPR rider Daniel Bonfim, and asked a bunch of questions about the group.
The next day, when the group left the alley and got on Vista del Mar, they were surprised to see this.
Incredibly, the cop had shown up to escort the group, and along with his flashers he had tacked a giant 3-Feet-Please sign on the rear and right side of the patrol car. The effect on the morning traffic was amazing. Rather than having angry and impatient commuters buzzing the group within inches, people gave a wide berth and passed slowly. And (surprise) no one even thought about running a red light.
The cop has shown up each Tuesday and Thursday, and may be well on his way to becoming a permanent assignment. Of course, his presence hasn’t been without issue. This past Tuesday he stopped while approaching an intersection to give us safe passage, but there was a parked truck on the right that created a narrow bottleneck. Much yelling and brake-grabbing ensued, as you’d expect from a gang of wankers, but no one went down or even got bumped.
There are a couple of other things, such as having the cop car go ahead of us and clear the turnaround rather than hanging at the back when we turn. It’s only a matter of communication, though. The cop is friendly, rumor has it that he’s a tri-dork, and he is following the attacks and accelerations with the interest of a spectator as well as an official, i.e. he appears to know what’s going on.
Of course some people don’t like the po-po no matter what they’re up to. I’m not one of them. Hats off to the LAX police, to Helen’s Cycles for coordinating with them, and thanks for giving us protection rather than giving us tickets.
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