October 23, 2013 § 71 Comments
So, yesterday morning I wrote about the dangers of cycling, and a few hours after posting I went out and joined up with the NPR for our twice-weekly beatdown. With a thousand yards to go, a wanker who had sucked wheel and flailed for the entire ride dashed up to the front, grabbed the wheel of the leadout train, touched a wheel, slid out, and knocked down ten other riders.
My head hit the asphalt at 37.4 mph, according to Strava, leaving my helmet structurally disintegrated, but firmly attached to my head. Aside from skinned knuckles, a touch of road rash, a very sore hip, and a blinding headache, I was good enough to saddle up and ride back to CotKU, where Em and Jake bought me a latte. From there I pedaled in to work.
Others were less fortunate. Shattered frames were everywhere. Shredded uniforms. Road rash galore. Stitched up knees. Broken collarbone. Broken wrist. Trashed wheels. I still can’t believe that no one was catastrophically injured. “What,” I wondered, “was it all for? What in the world were we doing?”
Foremost, we were dressing up in clown suits, riding clown bicycles, and trying to go as fast as we could without crashing. We failed. The queue of motorists could have only thought one thing: “What a bunch of fucking idiots.”
So, there’s the inevitable post-mortem. Choose the one(s) you like best.
1. The Dominic Felde Theory: Everyone who hasn’t raced in Belgium and had 30 years experience racing at the highest levels is a fucking kook. Kick them out of the ride or avoid them by doing your own ride or scream at them until they slink away.
2. The Rahsaah Bahati Theory: This was a teachable moment. We should be patient educators with people who dash up to the end of the lead-out train at the end of the ride and then take out ten people and cause $25,000 in damage because they overlapped a wheel.
3. The Seth Davidson Theory: Bicycling is dangerous. You will eventually fall and get hurt. No exceptions.
4. The Pablo Maida Theory: After a huge crash like that, the one thing we’ve learned is that it’s important to finish the pedal home by strapping your helmet onto your handlebars and ride with the wind in your hair, carefree.
5. The Joe Yule Theory: I have catastrophic crashes all the time, and it’s because of those damned kooks.
6. The Pokey-Kneed Dude’s Theory: Did I do something wrong?
7. The Chris Gregory Theory: What in the world was I doing up there?
8. The David Jaeger Theory: When you are in a group ride winding up to a sprint and you neither know nor trust most of the riders around you, swing over, head to the back, and let someone else take the glory or the road rash, as the case may be.
9. The Peyton Cooke Theory: Make sure you’re going fast enough so that the crash happens behind you.
10. The Eric Anderson Theory: I won. Again.
11. The Marc Spivey Theory: Never go anywhere without your camera and the ability to quickly upload to Facebook.
12. The Damian Stevens Theory: Find the escape chute and let the other wankers hit the deck.
13. The Suze Sonye Theory: Next time I see someone riding like a jackass, I’m chewing his ass. Oh, wait, I already did!
14. The Elijah Shabazz Theory: I was the fastest dude there, except for the dudes ahead of me.
15. The FB Commenters’ Theory: What the fugg were you wankers doing going that hard in October?
16. The Baby Seals’ Theory: Is the ride still on for Thursday?
As a participant to the crash, the only one of the above theories that I can discuss with any intelligence is #16. And the answer is “Yes.”
October 9, 2013 § 32 Comments
Several baby seals, confused by the vicious clubbing and strewing of brain matter about the Parkway, have sent me emails requesting to know the “rules” by which the NPR is organized. Although the typical answer to such inquiries is a vicious blow to the head and skinning, I’ve decided to answer. Here they are.
- There are no rules.
- There is no off season.
- If you didn’t go to the front repeatedly until you aspirated your own shit, you didn’t do the NPR.
- First wanker to cross the plane of the starting point of the third island on the fourth lap wins.
- The group must obey all traffic laws.
- The break must break all traffic laws.
- If you are repeatedly towards the front but rarely on it, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you are towards the front and don’t pull through, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you won the sprunt and didn’t take at least five shit-aspirating pulls, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- Do not let your head droop, lest you become a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- NPR is terrible training, therefore you must do it to win or to aspirate your own shit.
- One point for the win; most points by the annual South Bay Cycling Awards is crowned Champion of the NPR.
- The noblest NPR win is solo.
- The second noblest win is out of a break.
- The third noblest win is by beating another team’s leadout train.
- The most ignoble win is by following wheels.
- All wins are equal.
- On the NPR, Strava is for shit.
- Better to dig, blow, and get shelled than to follow and finish with the group.
- Everyone knows the wheelsucks.
- One all-out effort at the front equals an entire year of FB wheelsuckery.
- The nastier the weather, the greater the cred.
- The highest form of NPR-ism is pushing the weak when you’re gassed.
- Advice is better spoken than screamed with flecks of spit and snot dribbling around your mouth.
- No one forgets.
- NPR-ists always forgive.
- Thou shalt never brag about taking a pull. Those who matter saw it. Those who didn’t, think you’re a lying sack of shit.
- The only thing lower than a baby seal is a shrimpdick who chops a chick’s wheel.
- If you “join the group” after the bump up Pershing, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- If you reach World Way Ramp without having aspirated your own shit, you are a baby seal, worthless except for clubbing.
- When in doubt, go to the front.
That is all.
August 24, 2013 § 28 Comments
When you bike, you meet people you otherwise would never meet. It’s enriching.
Hoofixerman appeared on the South Bay scene a year or so ago, riding an ancient “state of the art” aluminum frame with first generation handlebar shifters. He’s one of those dudes who used to ride a lot and then got married and had kids and gave birth to a mortgage and spent his spare time on his first love, some Italian chick named Ducati.
Then the kids got older, the mortgage shrank a bit, and the Italian chick started hinting that she was really into more kinky, dangerous stuff, and Hoofixerman gravitated back to the bicycle. It’s an old story: Formerly fit dude gets back into cycling and after a bit he picks up where he left off, kicking ass and taking names.
Cycling being cycling, and the arms race being the arms race, after a year or so he made a stealth upgrade, and one day Hoofixerman appeared on the New Pier Ride pedaling an all-black, all-carbon Giant TCR with deep dish wheels. A month or so into the new bike and he was sticking his nose out into the wind, testing his legs with a few attacks, seeing how far off the leash he could go on those 52-year-old pegs with a swarm of hungry, pounding punks hot on his heels. Answer: Not very far.
The bike wants to live, too
One day Hoofixerman, who’s a blacksmith and shoes the horses of the rich and famous for a living, joined me for a trip up to north L.A. for a bike ride. Being old and afraid of death our conversation turned, of course, to the dangers of cycling. We talked about that ridiculous old notion of “calculated risk,” a comforting nostrum invented by people aware of the deadly potency of the bike + car traffic combination who want to stay immersed in the toxic stew but also have a clever explanation for why it “makes sense.”
Hoofixerman talked about motorcycles and about unlearning common sense when you’re moving fast on a motorbike, about unlearning the instinct to hit the brakes in a turn, about unlearning the fear reflex, and most of all about letting the physics of the two twirling gyroscopes do their thing — knowing when to inject yourself into the dance, and when not to interfere.
“Ya gotta remember,” he said, so casually that it was an iron fact, “the bike wants to live, too.”
My mind exploded with the concept. The bike is a living thing and it wants to make the turn just as badly as you do. It’s got the full panoply of physics at its disposal, and all you have to do is ride it and guide it without asking the iron horse to buck the laws of physics.
It may be an iron horse, but it’s still a horse, and the horse wants to live, too.
There was an elegance in Hoofixerman’s idea that made me happy every time I thought about it, turned it over, examined it. From every angle, it was pretty and smart and sound.
Last Tuesday we hit the last stoplight on the last lap of the NPR before the turnaround. After the turnaround there are approximately three minutes and twenty seconds of hell that finish in a sprint.
Hoofixerman hit the gas when the light turned green, and the hundred-strong pack watched him roll away.
“He’s too old.”
“He’ll never make it.”
“Who’s he kidding? Does he think the new bike makes him younger?”
“He’s wearing the same funny helmet as Cobra Penis. No way.”
We got to the turnaround and, for the first time since the New Pier Ride was created, the entire pack was held up for thirty seconds by an endless stream of cars. Still, no problem. With enough horsepower to reel him in, the engines went to the front and started drilling it.
Everyone knew the rules. The NPR is governed by traffic and stoplights, and you have to take that into account when attacking or following an attack. If you escape and the chasers get hung up at the red lights, that’s their penalty for not risking all with the break. If your breakaway gets stuck at a light or by traffic, and you get brought back as a result … that’s the risk of taking a flyer.
The one thing you can never say on the NPR is this: “Yeah, I would have [ fill in awesome result here] if it hadn’t been for that light.”
We buried ourselves to bring him back, until there, a few hundred yards before the finish, he was, going full gas with only a few yards left to the end. We had him. His bid would end vainly, full of vanity, in vain.
And then he dug once more, hard and deep, with everything he had. The carbon frame and carbon wheels kicked ahead, leaping like a horse catching the bite of the spurs, and somehow, in front of the fastest finishers in LA County, he crossed the line first. He was so gassed he couldn’t even raise an arm. Everything left there on the road, he was the oldest guy to ever win the NPR. It was incomprehensible to everyone else, but not to me.
Because you know, the bike, it wanted to win, too.
May 4, 2013 § 33 Comments
I hate to be the one to break your Strava bubble, but “PR” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a “personal record,” any more than there’s a “personal Super Bowl victory” or a “personal presidential election.”
A record is a mark set by someone that at least two people have done. You know Chris Horner’s time up Mt. Palomar? That is a record. Eleven hundred people have done it and his time is the fastest. It’s a record time.
Even though when you climbed it on Tuesday two and a half hours slower than Chris and it was the fastest of your 67 attempts, it’s still not a personal record. It’s two and a half hours slower than the record. You can call it your personal best. You can call it your fastest time up Mt. Palomar. You can call it proof that your $2,000 power meter and $15,000 bike and $950/month personal coaching regimen are making you faster…but it still pegs you in about one thousandth place relative to the RECORD.
Nothing personal about it.
All cycling metrics point to one conclusion: You suck
Strava’s business model is simple: Provide data to wankers that shows they’re getting better. Since none of us is getting better, and in fact all of us are getting older and therefore worse, and since those of us who are improving quickly reach a plateau, there has to be a way to snake-oil us into thinking that we’re improving.
So Strava sells you a premium membership where you can join a smaller subset of records (65+ men with an inseam of less than 25″ who sleep on the left side of the bed), and thereby convert some of your meaningless “personal records” into something more meaningful: A higher spot on the age adjusted, inseam-length adjusted, side-of-the-bed adjusted leaderboard.
Unfortunately, even after adjusting yourself into 75th place, which is a huge jump from 1,000th, physics still mercilessly claws its way to the front. Your “progress” plateaus, and your ability to climb the flailerboard grinds to a halt. So it’s back to personal records, and chasing the illusion of improvement even though all the data point, or rather, scream deafeningly, to a wholly opposite conclusion: You not only suck, you suck more than you did on this segment last year. Introspective riders feel the icy hand of death tightening its grip around their throat if they look at the data too closely past about age forty.
Note to the Stravati: There’s a reason you prefer Strava to bike racing
I don’t vomit often, but when I do it’s usually after someone takes one of my KOM’s. I’ve only got seventeen of them left, and there’s not a single one that couldn’t be handily snapped up by any number of Stravati who live for that kind of thing.
It’s no defense, but I never tried to set a single one of those KOM’s, which is probably the reason they fall so easily. The handful of times I’ve gone out and tried to grab a KOM, I’ve failed, usually miserably. I use Strava for the same reason that I wear pants. It’s a social convention the lack of which would earn too much opprobrium. I also use it as a handy calorie counter. And finally, I use it for you. Just when you’re starting to think your performance is dropping, or you’re really not very good, you can click on my most recent ride and feel relief: There’s someone in your neighborhood who’s slower and an even bigger bicycle kook than you.
This, I believe, is a powerful source of inspiration for flailers and wankers throughout the South Bay. Through Strava, I keep them riding. It’s a social service, and you can thank me via PayPal.
What you can’t do is get away with the pleasant little self-deception that your KOM is as good as a bike race. You can’t even get away with the delusion that it’s as good as an old-fashioned group beatdown on the NPR.
You know why that is? Because it isn’t. Masturbating your way to the top of a leaderboard on Strava, when unaccompanied by ball-busting accomplishments on group rides or in real mass start races in which you have to actually pay an entry fee and pin on a number, are just that: Digital auto-titillation.
Believe it or don’t, I’m fine with that. Riding a bicycle is like consensual sex between adults: I not only approve of it, I’m wholly uninterested in your particular activities. I’m not a libertarian, I’m a “don’t give a fucktarian.” If you’re out pedaling your bicycle, in my book you’re winning.
If your riding is confined to setting Strava records without racing or group riding, though, you are wanking. Can we be clear about that? Good. Because last Thursday a new South bay cycling record was set. Not on Strava, where anonymous, zipless riders virtually compete using all manner of tricks, traps, aids, pacers, run-ups, and “special assists” to set the record.
No, this Thursday record was set the old-fashioned way. Clubbers clubbed. Baby seals got their heads staved in. Pain was ladled out in buckets. And only the strong, the ornery, the mutton-headed, and the relentless survived.
One thing that’s never happened on the New Pier Ride
…is a successful four-lap breakaway. Dan Seivert and I once, on a cold, rainy, windy winter day in 2012 attacked on Vista del Mar and stayed away for four laps, but it wasn’t a real breakaway. We sneaked off three or four miles before the real ride began, there was zero horsepower in the field, and no one even knew we had attacked. Although we hurt like dogs and congratulated ourselves for the heroic effort, it was more a flailaway than a breakaway. Plus, no one cared. To the contrary, they tortured us with the worst torture known to a group ride breakaway: “You were off the front? If I’d known that I’d have chased.”
Last week, though, word went out that MMX was coming to town to do the NPR. This meant one thing: Merciless beatdown in the offing.
There were at least ten thousand baby seals at the Manhattan Beach Pier when the ride left at 6:40 AM. We hit the bottom of Pershing and it immediately strung out into the gutter and then snapped. The Westside seals were all lounging on the roadside atop the bump, because they’ve learned from repeated beatdowns that it’s better to jump in after the first hard effort than to try and jump in as the group comes by at the bottom of the little hill. Just as they were finishing their first bucket of raw mackerel, we came by like a whirlwind.
As we passed the parkway, Josh Alverson drilled it.
Then Peyton Cooke drilled it.
Then Johnny Walsh drilled it.
MMX, who had started at the back and worked his way up to the point, later noted that from the bottom of Pershing it was pure mayhem. Many of the baby seals were killed with that first single devastating blow to the head. Others, un-hit, were so stunned by the acceleration that they simply pulled over, unclipped, and skinned themselves.
Robert Efthimos reported that Thursday was his 128th time up World Way ramp, and it turned out to be his single highest average wattage ever for a lap on the NPR. He churned out those numbers stuck at the back of the herd after the break left.
After the ramp, Greg Leibert blasted away, stringing it out into a line of about 15 riders, with a small clump forming at about 16th wheel and turning into an amorphous lump into which 80 or 90 baby seals still cowered. After Greg swung over, MMX opened the throttle, dissolved the clump and turned the entire peloton into a single line with countless little blubbering seals who began snapping and popping like plastic rivets on a space shuttle.
We turned onto the parkway in full flight, with Johnny Walsh, Marco Cubillos, Josh, and “26” pounding the pedals. This is the point where after the initial surge, the front riders usually slowed down, or the neverpulls in back made their first and only real effort of the day to chase down the nascent break. Marco, John, Josh, and 26 kept going, and were soon joined by Greg, Jeff Bryant, Jay LaPlante, some dude from La Grange who was incinerated shortly thereafter, and one of the South Bay’s legendary purple card-carrying, neverpulling, wheelsuckers extraordinaire whose name shall not be mentioned.
MMX looked ahead from the pack as the break gained ground, surged, and bridged. Then he closed the door and threw away the key.
No break has ever stayed away on the NPR for all four laps. The course won’t allow it due to stoplights, the high tailwind speeds of the chasing field, and the relatively flat nature of the course.
We made the first turn and had a gap. Atop the bridge Jeff Bryant unleashed a monster pull, but then, over his head by the extreme effort, he and Greg were unable to latch onto the break as it accelerated at the next turnaround. Accounts differ, with some claiming a car pinched them, and others claiming they were too gassed to catch, but in any event the break didn’t feel like waiting, as there were already too many orange kits in the group. This meant the Greg/Jeff duo had to chase.
The pack was in a different time zone, which meant nothing as we’d just completed one lap and there was plenty of time for them to organize and chase in earnest. What we didn’t know is that they were already chasing in earnest, and the stoplight gods were smiling on us.
Having taken the initiative in trying to fend off the entire baby seal population of the South Bay, we were being rewarded with a string of green lights even as the baby seals were being punished with reds. Naturally, post-ride the baby seals that survived chalked everything up to the traffic signals rather than the sheet-snot that covered our faces and the haggard, beaten look of those who rode the break for the entire four laps.
Greg and Jeff, unable to reattach, finally hopped across the road and jumped in as we whizzed by. Greg then attacked us balls-out the remaining lap and a half. Ouch. Every time we brought him back another of our matchboxes was incinerated.
On the final stretch, after berating Sir Neverpull for never coming through, MMX unleashed the leadout from Klubtown. Sir Neverpull, suddenly discovering that with the end in sight he wasn’t quite that tired after all, leaped just in time for his engine to blow and his legs to detach from his torso. Jay LaPlante sprunted around the MMX lead-out with Josh fixed on his wheel. Going too far out and in too small a gear, Jay settled for second after a doing yeoman’s work in the break.
We celebrated this, the first ever four-lap breakaway on the NPR, with coffee and sunshine.
And yes, it was a record.
November 16, 2012 § 10 Comments
PV Bicycle Center is celebrating its fourth year atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula with, among other things, a hill climb featuring the legendary Switchbacks. The race goes off at 9:00 AM at the bottom of Palos Verdes Drive East. Victims meet at 8:45 AM to sign up and receive last rites at the parking inlet off Palos Verdes Drive South, just west of Palos Verdes Drive East. The first rider goes off at 9:00 AM and then successive riders leave at thirty second intervals. Category winners of the hill climb will receive a $50 gift certificate to the shop, and a supply of Athlete Octane.
At 10:00AM riders will regroup back at the shop for prizes, product demos by Marc Pro, free samples from vendors such as Athelete Octane, and for the chance to check out the shop’s 2012 clearance sale.
Guest of honor
This is all well and good, of course, but the real attraction to this event is that you’ll finally get to meet Craig Hummer. Craig is best known to Tour de France fans as the dude who provides color commentary with Bob Roll during the annual July extravaganza that is the Tour. However, here on the Hill, he’s known for something else: Not mixing with the proletariat.
Despite being a phenomenal athlete, the dude refuses to do the Pier Ride. Never shows up on the Donut. Avoids the Holiday and Wheatgrass rides like the plague. Instead, if you want to hang with Craig, you have to troll the Hill or Westchester Parkway long before sun-up, where he’s most likely to be found doing what he lives to do: Search out and destroy your Strava KOM’s.
Yep, this wanker likes to find an area KOM and then devote his life to claiming it. In fact, he used this stealth technique to steal one of my most-prized segments called “The Big One,” a segment I created and owned until it was discovered and ridden by another rider. In short, although Craig wouldn’t be caught dead riding with you, he’ll snatch and crush your Strava dreams under cover of darkness, and his coup stick of KOM’s dangles with numerous climbs around the peninsula.
Although I don’t have any intel on whether he’ll be hanging around after he blazes up the Switchbacks, chances are good that if you have a motorcycle or a net you can delay him long enough to get answers to your most burning TdF questions. I know I’ll be hanging around to find out when he’s going to show his stuff on the NPR.
October 17, 2012 § 6 Comments
I knew the NPR was going to be a smashfest this morning when, before we’d done half a lap on the Parkway, someone groused “We’re going as fast as if it were January.”
But this isn’t about Prez’s amazing jam 400m from the line, or about Erik the Red’s devastating smackdown in the sprunt, or about Davy Dawg’s pain-laced wind-up, or about USC John’s bitchslap pull up to the bridge on the last lap.
Nope. It’s about the clash of the new kits.
Bull and I had just dropped down off the Hill, joining with G$ and Mighty Mouse as we pedaled from Redondo to Manhattan Beach. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, Roadchamp appeared.
“Check it out!” he said, maw gaping like a bass going after a worm.
“Check what out?” I asked.
“Teeth, dude! I got teeth!”
Indeed he did. The half-year process of ripping out his corroded teeth and nailing posts into his jaw was now complete. Roadchamp would no longer talk or look like a biker from a Red State. But Roadchamp’s new teeth weren’t the only new thing on the NPR.
Young bucks from Trojan U. model their new StageOne kit
Once we were joined by the mob on Pershing, one thing stood out: The kids from USC were sporting their new kit, just as the ride’s regulars had unveiled their new NPR kits the week before. Although both were stylishly designed by Joe Yule, it became obvious after a few pedal strokes that it would be a contest of fashion on today’s ride.
No quarter would be given as wearers of the new kits dared each other to outstyle the other. A flurry of NPR kit attacks came early, even as last-year’s-kit-wearers from Big Orange and SPY vainly tried to keep up with the torrid pace. With each powerful surge of the Euro-cool outfit, the pack got thinner.
On the second lap, after biding their time, the attractive USC kits made their move with a series of searing fashion attacks. John Tomlinson’s perfectly tailored fit, followed by Ben Rudolph’s snappy thigh panels, laid waste to the peloton. Even the USC wanker dude who always makes a valiant stab before getting clubbed like a baby seal was pushed far forward, almost to the front, by the natty design of his new outfit.
Sterno-O flails with the all-black get-up
Down from the goat shacks of New Mexico to enjoy some SoCal sunshine, Stern-O, the one and only Stern-O, the legendary Stern-O, the man, the myth, the goatshack refugee, Stern-O himself showed up for his inaugural NPR.
Twice, or in some cases three times the age of other riders, Stern-O immediately showed that even though he was older than the hills, older than dirt, older than DOS even, he wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out in the back. Pounding off the front a couple of times and never hesitating to test his legs in the wind, Stern-O embarrassed all the wankers who, after more than a year of NPR’s have never made it to the front one single time.
Unfortunately, his escapades were accomplished wearing an all-black kit, and this year’s cycling fashion ensemble, although heavy on the black, requires certain bright colors in order to really contend for the fashion sprunt.
The bitter fashion pace sheared away a chasing wankoton composed of riders wearing clothing from 2011, 2010, and the few hapless sods whose gloves and socks didn’t have the same logo. Phlegmy O’Donnell, who, in the morning rush, had put a Big Orange jersey over an SBW pair of bibs, was pushed into a curb and left for dead.
The one fashion design you never can beat
In the end, the NPR kits ruled the day, even though the official sprunt finish was taken by Erik in a very last-year SPY kit. Davy Dawg’s wind-up was greatly hampered by his last-season Ironfly ensemble, and Big Steve, fresh from major back surgery, simply couldn’t contend with the amazing design sensibilities expressed by the NPR kit.
Several riders could be seen banging their bars in frustration at the slowness of their clothing, and Gimpy Sloots went so far as to dial up his team’s designer after the finish. “Mostly black with a dash of color, you hear me, dogdammit!” he screamed into his dumbphone.
Even though the USC outfit rode strong, in the end all were vanquished by the one quality of the new NPR kits that blew away the field: Their incredible tummy and butt-slimming effect. Numerous NPR regulars who had heretofore been known as “Cadillac draft,” “Barn door,” “Vacuum party,” and “Dallas-sized Ass” appeared, simply by pulling on an NPR kit, to be svelte, narrow hipped, and 30 pounds lighter.
NPR riders who were already narrow across the gunwales looked Schleck-thin. Roadchamp was barred from donning an NPR kit because of the general fear that its slimming properties would make him disappear altogether.
Unfortunately, Joe has saved his most devastating fashion release for last: The 2013 SPY-Giant kit, recently modeled by MMX on Facebook. Possessing roughly double the thinning properties of the NPR kit, and splashed with just enough color to make it stand out in the crowd, this is the outfit that could lay fashion waste to the field for the entirety of 2013.
Tune in next Tuesday to find out how the Battle of the Bike Kits goes down!
September 28, 2012 § 11 Comments
The first time I heard the patrol car bleep his horn, we were headed towards the turn to begin the last lap on the NPR. “We’ll be seeing him again,” I thought.
Lap four played out in all its glory: Vapor leadout, Wike the Bike spanking all pretenders in the sprunt, and the Belize Bullet making a last minute acceleration from too far back. We reached the red stoplight at Pershing and the cruiser pulled up next to us. The cop was highly unhappy. “Who’s the leader of this ride?” he yelled.
Each of the seventy riders knew that the answer to this question was, “Write ME the ticket, officer.” So no one said anything.
“That’s okay,” I thought. “I’m surrounded by the crew. There’s nothing that one cop can do against this phalanx of mighty warriors.” So I hollered back at him. “I’m not the leader, but I’d be more than happy to talk with you.”
“Pull over there!” he ordered as the light turned green.
We 70 badasses aren’t scared of no damn cop
I pulled into the turnout and dismounted, confidently approaching the policeman. Well, more deferentially than confidently. My father had always said that the only proper answer to a person in a bad mood with a badge, a gun, a pair of handcuffs, mace, a radio, a riot shotgun, and a fully armed partner on alert was “Yes, sir.”
“You guys can’t ride like that,” he said.
“Yes, sir. Like what, sir?”
“You’re spilling out from the far right lane and filling up the entire second lane as well. It blocks traffic and is incredibly dangerous.”
“Look, I totally respect what you all are doing out here. You’re in great shape, you’re doing a healthy workout, and it’s good. We have no problem with that. But when you block the entire road, someone’s going to get hurt.”
“Now, what’s your name?”
“Perez. Dave Perez.”
“Okay, Mr. Perez. What’s your phone number?”
“Ah, 867-5309. Area code 310.”
The cop looked at me funny. “I’ve heard that number before.”
“It’s, uh, common, sir.”
“I’m not going to cite you, but I’d appreciate it if you got the word out in your club that you can’t block both lanes.”
“I’ve talked to this group before. What’s the name of your club? South Bay something?”
“Wheelmen? No, we’re not a club. This is just an unorganized ride. It’s…”
“Look, I know you guys are a club and this is a club ride. Which club is it?”
“Yes, sir. But sir, we’re a bunch of different clubs.” I held up my SPY armwarmers. “I ride for club SPY. And all these other people,” I jerked my hand over my shoulder, “ride for various clubs. There are people from all over the U.S. and even the world, and even Australia, who join on this ride.”
I was thankful that Caveman James from Colorado had joined us today, as I could pull him out from the throng as proof that we weren’t just one big club ride but rather an amalgamation of unrelated idiots. Caveman had his best American Flyers’ Russian full facebeard and really did look like a foreigner, or a space alien, even.
The cop was scowling now. “Well, why’s everyone wearing the same outfit then?”
“Same outfit? There are at least a dozen different…” I turned around to start pointing out the different kits and teams who were represented on the ride, but stopped mid-sentence. The massive gang of supporters had melted away. No one but Sparkles, New Girl, Mr. and Mrs. Diego, Mel, Hines, and a couple of other wankers had stayed. The only team kits were Ironfly and…South Bay Wheelmen.
“Mr. Perez, those outfits clearly say South Bay Wheelmen.”
“Yes, sir. I can explain, sir.”
“I’m sure you can. Just like I can write a ticket.”
Mercy is the hallmark of justice
“But I’m not going to,” he continued. “I’d like you to get the word out. We want this to be safe just as much as you do. If it spreads out into a long line because you’re going fast, so be it. But when things bunch up and start blocking both lanes, we’re going to have to intervene.”
I couldn’t explain that he’d seen us just before the turnaround, and that with few exceptions we did a pretty good job of stopping for lights, stopping for oncoming cars, checking before we u-turn, and being safe except for the last 400 yards when people risk everything for the glory of winning the sprunt. So I just said, “Yes, sir.”
“And what’s with those socks?”
“Yeah. Why the tall pink socks?”
“It’s ah, breast awareness, sir.”
“Cancer, I mean. Breast cancer awareness. Think pink breast awareness,” I mumbled, blushing.
“Okey-dokey.” He shrugged. “You guys and gals be safe out there, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” I said.
“Now go catch up with your group. Have a good day, Mr. Perez.”
“Yes, sir!” We looked at each other, knowing full well that everyone was already back at CotKU quaffing their third latte and taking bets on who had gotten the ticket.
New Girl rode up, grinning. “Coffee’s on me, Wankster. Thanks for taking one for the team.”
“Oh, it was no big deal. He wasn’t going to give me a ticket.”
“How did you know that?”
“I’ve already gotten one ticket this year. That’s my limit. Now if this had happened in 2013, I’d never have stopped.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m buying your coffee anyway.”
And she did.