Report card

July 29, 2018 § 8 Comments

I finished my 2-week intensive German course at the Vienna branch of the Goethe Institut on Friday. It’s hard to compare courses because I’ve never taken one before. On the whole it was really good and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to dive into German for a couple of weeks while enjoying an amazing European city.

The program has 4.5 hours a day of classroom instruction, which is a lot, by which I mean completely draining and exhausting. But the lessons are only part of the program. The other half of it, or more, are the daily events and tours arranged on your behalf. This is where you really get to put into practice all of the things you’ve been doing wrong in the classroom.

If you were to do the entire program from tip to tail, it would be a 12-hour day most days, because the events continue into the evening. As with most things in my life, I wasn’t really able to take full advantage of all that was on offer because, bike riding. It is really hard impossible to do a 7-hour beatdown, then class, then attend a Stammtisch. Oh, well.

For many of the other students you could probably replace “bike riding” with “massive consumption of alcohol.”

Goethe Institut v. Belgian Waffle Ride

The easiest way for a cyclist to understand anything is to compare it to cycling. In this case, the 50-hour course of advanced German approximated the BWR. So if you’re considering something like the Goethe Institut, here is a handy-dandy list that will let you compare, contrast, and do something else.

  1. Distance: Comparable. 50 hours of intensive German coursework with lots of grammar and 19th Century reading selections is like doing the dirt sections on the BWR … for 140 miles, backwards.
  2. Pain: Legs empty. Head throbbing. Throat dry from extreme dehydration. That’s how it feels to listen to a presentation in German on “Hydroelectric Power in the Swiss Alps.”
  3. Cost: BWR, about $150 for 8-12 hours. Goethe Institute, about $950 for approximately 120 hours.
  4. Sense of accomplishment: BWR gives you a t-shirt that says “Participant.” Goethe Institut gives you a certificate that says “Participant.” Neither organization is about to call you awesome just because you gave them money.
  5. Gewgaws: BWR gives you a bag filled with gewgaws of varying utility. Goethe Institut gives you a textbook with CD, neither of which you will ever use again.
  6. Course: BWR is a well thought out, impeccably planned route that includes a lot of pain for everyone and ultimate collapse. Goethe Institut follows a careful plan of helping you realize that mastery of German is within your grasp if you can only live to be 200.
  7. Food: BWR food is nourishing. Goethe Institut offers you coffee from a vending machine that is better than Starbucks, which isn’t saying much.
  8. Scenery: BWR scenery is fantastic even though you don’t see any of it. Goethe Institut scenery is world class and you get to see all of it plus panhandling plus as much secondhand smoke as your heart desires.
  9. Music: BWR offers pop music on the PA. Goethe Institut offers Vienna, e.g. Mozart.
  10. Comrades: BWR fellow riders are all self-flagellating nutjobs. Intensive German students are, too.
  11. Sag: BWR has frequent sag stops with pro hydration. Vienna has cappuccino every 100 steps.
  12. Comrades: BWR riders are mostly Usonian, male, white, middle-aged, and delusional. Goethe Institut students come from all over the world and are of all ages. Also delusional.
  13. Recovery: BWR, about a month of drooling and aching. Goethe Institut, no recovery required.
  14. Shame quotient: At the BWR you are only moderately ashamed of sucking because you’re alone most of the time and you can cut the course. At the Goethe Institut you are surrounded by people as you endlessly make a fool of yourself, like telling to the waiter “Pay my bill, please!” instead of asking him for the “Bill, please.”
  15. Pride quotient: BWR is “I suck but at least I did it.” Goethe Institut is “I may be a dumb American but at least I’m dumb in the local language.”
  16. Overall awesomeness: You’ll never forget either.



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BWR technical tips: The devil’s in the dirty details

March 20, 2018 § 2 Comments

I know it’s too late. “The hay is in the barn,” as G$ likes to say. However, you’re still signed up for the BWR, so rather than exhort you to train more, which won’t help, I’ve solicited some advice about the technical aspects of actually riding it.

As a matter of accuracy, the wider the tire, the better for the dirt sections. You can go faster in the dirt with 32mm tires than with 28mm or 25mm, as the skinnier tires don’t float like the wider ones and tend to dig down into the dirt, especially on very loose sand. The problem is that when you get to the road on the wider tires, the rolling resistance becomes an issue… for nearly 100 miles.

In other words, pick your poison. Is it a road ride that you need to be able to ride dirt on? Or is it a dirt ride connected by brief segments of pavement?

After two recon rides thus far for 2018, with many different kinds of riders and bikes, a few patterns have emerged which follow a hallowed trend. The rides start out quickly and everyone seems overly eager to hit it hard, which inevitably comes back to haunt them 50, 60, 80 miles in, when those same enthusiasts are bonking, cramping, seeking a fifth diaper change, or otherwise looking for a shortcut home.

The trick is pacing. Isn’t it always? Yet other things come into play, too. The more comfortable you are in the dirt sections, the more energy you can save for the road. If you are fighting your bike in the sand for extended periods of time, you are burning matches you will need later, matches without which the cigar will never ever get lit.

Eating and drinking are such a key factor, yet people still forget to eat or drink. This is a common phenomenon in racing and affects pros as well a beginners. By the time you’re hungry, you’re being eaten.

Worse, riders lose water bottles in the dirt and then they need to somehow find liquid along the way or make it on their hands and knees to the next anti-death aid station. Having properly functioning cages is something half the people don’t have. Also, people don’t eat or drink in the dirt sections, because… they can’t. Once through the initial couple of dirt sections, riders are now at Mile 26 and haven’t consumer much of anything, and are faced immediately with a 5-mile climb which has some really steep pitches. You put off drinking and then the dehydration leads to dessication and DNF. Waiting too long to eat or drink will have devastating impacts later on, so do both at regular intervals.

Riders also need to be prepared for flats and be ready to fix them on their own despite the event having roving mechanics on the dirt sections and many on-course support vehicles. As many as half the riders will flat, and as many as half will be flummoxed by the physics of tire removal. Another half will not have enough tubes. The final 50% will run out of CO2 cartridges, and the last half will take this as an omen from Dog that they should sag their way back to the start/finish for fresh beer and treats.

Proper gearing is different for everyone, but the BWR is not the time to slap on the 11-23 and “man up.” Many riders fail to have as big a rear cog as they are going to need, and it often means one that you could bake a pizza on. The problem is that when fresh it’s easier to muscle a bigger gear up a steep climb, but once fatigued, injured, starving, dehydrated, bonked, cramping, and delirious, we need more gearing or a motor to negotiate the 20% plus inclines. At the very end, Double Peak hits 23% at its steepest, offering the thrill of victory as you spin up it, or, as in 2017, the ignominy of having to dismount and walk their bikes up a road climb.

One other issue people aren’t prepared for is the fatigue of riding the dirt and braking a lot. Their arms and hands get tired, which can lead to further overall fatigue, or worse, they crash. When you’re considering equipment, if disc brakes are an option, go with them. They will greatly reduce brake fatigue on your hands and allow a much more precise application of braking. This results in less energy wasted getting back up to speed as well.

Lastly, those who are prepared to go it alone mentally and physically are the ones who will have the most rewarding ride, even if that simply means surviving. Being prepared for the last half of the ride going into a headwind is as much mental as it is physical, because you do so much strenuous climbing and dirt riding on the way out and then start descending back to Bandy Canyon, but it’s all into a headwind. Once at Sandy Bandy and every section thereafter until Double Peak is more or less into a headwind. Riders should seek to work with other riders for much of this and not be tempted to leave others behind or get left behind, because riding in a group can save enough matches to get you from the Oasis up the long final ascent to Double Peak.

The Zwartenberg a/k/a Black Canyon

It’s back, and it’s darker and longer than ever for Wafflers. This year it has a unique challenge, the Canyon King of the Canyon Challenge, sponsored by Canyon Bikes. This consists of two sectors’ worth of suffering and it’s basically the entire length of Black Canyon on the way out, which goes up, down, and then a long up. On the way back, once riders get to the bottom of the Sutherland Damberg descent, there is another segment that goes back up and then down the opposite way riders did it earlier in the day on Black Canyon. If a rider doesn’t do well here with pacing, they may not have what it takes to hit the second sector with the same bravado they hit the Canyon on the way out.

Black Canyon comes just after the second feed zone and a lovely respite along a freshly paved road. It is here riders will be confronted with The Zwartenberg—a decidedly dirty 3-mile ascent over washboards, sand and gravel, only made worse by the 2-mile descent after, which requires going down slower than you went going up. To make matters even worse (read: BETTER), at the bottom begins the longest, most big, black and beautiful climb of the day, eleven kilometers of the purest dirt. This climb will take many more than an hour to ascend. Good thing it’s a remarkably pristine place to feel completely alone. Sadly, riders will barely notice anything more than the few feet in front of them.

At the top, riders still have another happy 73 miles to go and the headwind will only get stronger after they reach the summit of this dark and demented segment. This lonely course feature adds the lovely touch of more dirt to the BWR in an emphatic and definitive drop of the guillotine’s blade, helping to make this year’s route dirtier than any before it.


This sector was introduced in 2017, with permission of SDRPT Park Ranger Dave Hekel, and it is one of the most interesting sectors of them all. It barely has any inclines but it has all sorts of rocks and challenges such that every body has to get off and run at some point.

It’s varied terrain runs parallel to Lake Hodges and follows along the western border until it becomes Twistenlemonberg, not to be confused with Lemontwistenberg, which some riders completed on the way out.

Hodgendam starts out after a pleasant but short asphalt section that riders enjoy after the rocky mayhem of Hodgesmeergate. Once on the Hodgendam, it’s easy to see why this is the most unique sector of the event. There are little bridges, banked turns, whoops and jumps. There are a series of tricky little ravines that many will choose to walk through, while some will ride, or try to. Eventually, all must get off and navigate the rocks as though it were a cyclocross race. Many will have to dismount several times along here. It’s okay. Walking is fun!

Once through all of the rockstacles, riders will pass Hernandez Hideaway and get on what really is the only true gravel road of the event, a roughly, and we mean roughly, 3-kilometer sector of big, rocky gravel. You’ll need to find the right line through here and stay on it because the gravel along here is brutal. The beauty of this sector will be lost on you, but if you were to take it all in there is the pristine serenity of the lake to the left and a wonderful woodland-like hill on the right that shouts the existence of Del Dios Hwy. It’s serene but the sound of your wheels grinding through the gravel will dominate your senses, unless thirst is considered a sense, because it’ll be hot with a headwind here.

Sandy Bandy

A signature sector with an augmentation for 2018, this deceivingly diabolical diversion, takes Wafflers and Wafers alike on an unseemly 6-kilometer excursion, eschewing the heavenly smooth and open road along Bandy Canyon. It parallels the beckoning smooth highway on a devilish dirt trail that is mostly, you guessed it, sand. Some would even say quicksand, and its depths will create more separation than the Bandy Weg climb that follows.

This sector is punctuated by a brief stint back on the road, but before that riders get to enjoy a soft single track with plenty of turns to slow everyone down. The initial part is kinda fun, really, if you like that kind of thing. There’s a headwind with the chance to slide out or hit a root and divert into a fence or a tree. Once through the first portion, the road feels weird on your tires, but not for long as the second, more challenging part begins. This section winds its way through a single path that’s usually home to horses.  Watch the land mines. It’s twisting and turning is only made worse by the unsuspecting deep sand pockets that can swallow riders whole if they take the wrong line. If you are a spectator, this is like hanging out at the final turn of the hometown crit, where all the crashes happen. Inevitably, riders will crash here, no matter how many times you warn them. When you do fall, make sure to wave your hand for one of the marshals to rescue you. Anyone caught trying to cut the course here will be left to the not-so-swift suffocation only quicksand can provide.

There is a third section on Sandy Bandy that ends with a difficult, rocky descent, before a turn up a nice kicker to the start of the Bandy Weg climb, but not until a forced dismount signals the next level of hell has been reached.


Aside from the above-mentioned challenges, the BWR is a piece of cake once you leave out the 100 or so more miles of brutal sand, dirt, rocks, wind, heat, and asphalt.

Prep well.

Get a good pair of bolt-ons. Bottle cages, I mean.

Remember to drink.

Remember to eat.

And for dog’s sake, leave the 23 at home.



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Santa Claus in March

March 19, 2018 § 5 Comments

I was sitting in the car trying to stay warm before the race began, wondering where our fearless leader G$ was. He always gets to races with plenty of time to warm up, but we had ten minutes to go and he was nowhere to be found.

Where he was, was racing madly across the frozen wastes of San Bernardino County, trying to make it to the race on time. He had whipped into a convenience store with all the time in the world to take care of his pre-race business, but clean heated bathrooms being clean heated bathrooms, and G$ being a man who likes to take his time, by the time he got through with the 400-yard roll of Charmin the race was about to begin.

This was the most important race of the century, the second 2018 edition of the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race, masters 55+ division (combined with the 60+), and the field was massive. I had given up on G$ and pushed my way through the pulsing, nervous throng, elbowing my way to the front. The six other riders in the race, three of whom were in my category, grudgingly let me through.

“Hope I make the top-ten,” one rider wisecracked.

“I got something for you after the race,” said my other teammate, Rob, who had fallen behind on his $2.99 blog subscription.

“I got something for you during the race,” said Hard Knocks with a snarl.

I knew it was going to be a tough, bitter day. As El Rey de San Bernardino, I had the record for most wins at the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race, and the citizens in the South Bay had been clamoring all year for me to bring the crown back home. Today’s race featured forty miles on the hilly course, with a howling 20-mph headwind in the finishing 500m. In order to beat the three other grandpas in my category, two of whom were on walkers, I’d need to ride the race of my life.

Cavalry to the rescue!

Just before they blew the whistle, G$ came sprunting to the line, a white tassel of Charmin stuck to the bottom of his cleat. I heaved a sigh of relief knowing that I’d have a teammate to help me in my bid to take home an unprecedented fourth win, as it had been G$ who had gifted me with my second Rosena Ranch victory back in 2015. I had no doubt that with a little begging and pleading, and a whole lot of luck, he might do it again.

The race began at about the pace you’d expect from a small group of timid old farts like us, only slower, and when we hit the howling wall of headwind, our slow hit the brakes and ratcheted us down to crawl.

I attacked from the front at a blazing 8 or 9 mph, but the field had its eyes on G$, knowing that as a member of Team Lizard Collectors it wouldn’t be long before he chased down his own teammate in the finest TLC tradition, dragging the field up to the breakaway.

I roared through the start/finish to cheers of “Go, Seth!” and “Are you fucking crazy?” and “Noooooooo!”

“What are they upset about?” I wondered. “This is easier than stealing dentures at a rest home.” For two laps I cruised, opening a bigger and bigger gap, and figuring that completing another eighteen 2-mile laps would be a cinch.

On the fourth lap it seemed like either the wind was stronger or I wasn’t quite as fresh. On the fifth it seemed like the hills were steeper or I was slower. At the turnaround I saw a streak of orange as G$ unleashed his patented “None Shall Follow” attack.

“This is awesome,” I thought. “Once G$ gets up here I can take a rest and beg for him to let me win while he does all the work. This solo shit is for the birds.”

Misery loves company

Rosena Ranch is an out-and-back course with two 180-degree turns, so you can see how much distance you have (or don’t have) twice a lap. My gap on the field had been pretty big, but imagine my surprise when I saw G$ had sprung free and was bringing Hard Knocks with him.

“WTF?” I wondered. “Hard Knocks is a fuggin’ sprunter and neither I nor G$ can sprunt for crap.”

A lap later and there were three of us. As they passed me in the howling headwind I thought I heard G$ say, “He’s going for first.”

“Of course he is,” I thought. “And of course you brought a sprinter up to the break. We’re the Lizard Collectors and chasing our teammates is what we DO!”

I sat on the back in disbelief as they did all the work. G$ of all people. The most selfless teammate alive. The guy who never brings company up to a break. The master solo bridge artist. And he dragged Hard Knocks up on this epic day when I was poised to set cycling history?

To make matters worse, Hard Knocks hit the stairstep climb on the backside of the course each lap with a vengeance, gapping us both out and seeming to get stronger every time. Ten laps in I couldn’t hold back my frustration any longer. I rolled up to G$. “He’s a sprinter, you know.”

“I know,” said G$.

“And you aren’t. And I’m not.”

He raised an eyebrow. “I know. I told you already.”

“I heard you. Why’d you bring a dude who’s going for first?”



“Hard Knocks?”

“Yeah. That’s what you said.”

G$ laughed. “No, man, you know I’d never do that. I said ‘He’s good for third.'”

Punchin’ the clock

As soon as I heard that, a huge rush of power filled my legs. All was not lost! In a fit of enthusiasm and desire to help I took really short pulls, all on the downhill tailwind section, making sure to hit the wind only when we came in view of the announcer’s stand.

“Look at Davidson!” the announcer roared. “He’s been off the front from the beginning and hasn’t gotten off! A monster! A machine! A true strong man of the peloton!”

No sooner were we out of sight than I’d sneak to the back just in time for Hard Knocks to hit the hard section, and later to batter into the headwind. He didn’t seem to care. “Dude’s not getting tired,” I thought. And then it dawned on me. We’d fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Hard Knocks, sneaking up to the break, was going to drive the pace, wear us out, lap the field, and then once we reconnected with the pack (is four riders a pack?), attack and solo for the win.

The harder that G$ and Hard Knocks rode, the more I helped by pulling from the back and soft pedaling the front during the tailwind downhill section. Sure enough, with four laps to go we caught the beaten and flayed geriatric remnants who were spinning along with one foot in the crypt.

“Here it comes,” I thought, as Hard Knocks took another monster pull up the hill.

Shovel in the coal

With one lap to go, Hard Knocks pulled so hard that the pack detritus threw down their walkers and gave up. G$ and I hung on for dear life. “This is embarrassing,” I thought, wondering how I’d explain getting third to my tiny grandson.

Just then Hard Knocks eased up. “You ready?” he asked.

“For what?” I said suspiciously.

“I said I had something for you during the race,” he said.

“I hope it’s a lead-out.”

“In fact, it is.”

“Try not to do one of the lead-outs where you ride me off your wheel, dude.”

G$ ramped it up and swung over as we hit the wind wall one last time. Hard Knocks shoveled on the coal until steam started coming from the top of his helmet, timing himself to detonate almost exactly a hundred yards before the line.

“Here comes Davidson!” the announcer roared. “He’s been pulling the entire race and is still so strong he’s devastating his breakmates in the sprunt!”

The crowd of seven cheered somewhat wildly. My wife snapped more pictures. I tried to raise my hands in victory but a huge gust of wind caught my front wheel, almost hurling me to the pavement and forcing me to abort my raised hand salute so that it was more like a mini-gesture of terror.

I didn’t care. #fakewin or not, #giftwin or not, #grampswin or not … I’d won.

Epilogue 1: G$, Yasuko, and I went to celebrate at Panera, where we ate #fakebread and broke down the key elements of the race where G$ had done all the work and I’d done nothing. After 40 miles of windy, hilly nothing I was trashed. G$ finished his #fakebread and headed back to the race, where he did his second race of the day, a 50-miler, hauling teammate G3 to victory in the 50+ (G3 is NOT G$; it’s complicated), hauling teammate Ryan Dorris to victory in the 45+, and getting second himself. Just another day in the life of Santa Claus.

Epilogue 2: Team Lizard Collectors distinguished itself and broke its long history of chasing down teammates. In G$’s second race, Attila the Hun blocked and refused to bring back his own team’s break. In the Cat 3’s, once Wall Street was up the road, Baby Seal rode the front and blocked for fifty miles, ensuring a glorious silver medal for Wall Street on this toughest of toughguy/toughgal courses.



Kind of amazing that for all that superb bike racing I didn’t win enough money to retire on! But you can help me afford a luxury retirement cardboard box with a subscription to Cycling in the South Bay! Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!




February 26, 2018 § 5 Comments

I woke up on Sunday morning, sore everywhere. Back, neck, legs, arms, shoulders, throat, eyelids; they all hurt. And no wonder. I’d make the mistake of entering, and the achieved miracle of finishing, two 30-mile races on the windy, hilly, beatdown Rosena Ranch course in San Bernardino.

The first race was a bad idea that quickly turned terrible. The 45/50 category racing in Southern California is pitiless. Sure, everyone is old and slow and weak and staggering with one foot in the grave. But before they put the other foot in, they race their bikes hard, and too bad if you’re older, slower, and weaker than they are.

The race began with attacks, after which the old folks would sit up for a minute, gather their wits, and attack again. The size of the field and its depth meant that nothing was getting away early, and nothing did. Chris DeMarchi, Norwegian Dude, Greg Leibert, Michael Marckx, and others kept the attacks coming until midway through the race a seven-man break rolled and the pack couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

Once they got clear I jumped and tried to bridge, and would never have made it across if they hadn’t hit the slight uphill, windy section just as I was barreling down the tailwind, slightly downhill part. I caught on barely and took stock. This was for sure the winning break with DeMarchi, Norwegian Dude, Marckx, Leibert, and my other teammate, Greg Cesarian.

Fortunately, as the break was falling into a steady rotation, I looked back and saw our teammate, Chase, dragging the peloton after us at full speed. There is nothing quite so awesome as having a teammate riding his little heart out so that he can catch up to his buddies in the breakaway, and it’s even more heartwarming to see him bring so much company.

DeMarchi turned and looked at me. “Team Big Orange is too big.”

Chase chased us down and happily sat up, pleased to be with his friends again. We sure were glad to see him, too. We hit the turnaround and Leibert attacked, opening a big gap. The field responded, caught him, and I countered, springing free, possibly for good, or at least until another couple of riders could bridge up.

Luckily, I glanced back and saw Chase on the gas, leading the chase up to his Team Lizard Collector buddy. He killed it! After a short while Chase had brought everyone up, and the peloton’s approval was awesome and loud. “Good job, Lizard Collectors!” they cheered us.

By then the race was in its waning phase, and the attacks relented as everyone read the big neon flashing sign evident to anyone who cared to look that said, “Bunch sprunt.”

And it was. The Norwegian dude, not content with all of his country’s gold medals at the winter Olympics, snagged a local wankfest circuit race to add to the medal tally. After the race we sat around beneath the team tent, excitedly reviewing our great race tactics.

“That was awesome how Chase chased!” we enthused.

“What’s even more awesome is the way he does it pretty much every race!”

“I love racing with Chase!”

“It would sure be terrible if he left Team Lizard Collectors and went to another team!”

“Wouldn’t it?”

“Things just wouldn’t be the same without ol’ Chase.”

“Thankfully,” I added, “even if he gets a better offer from another club that has full race reimbursement, two free pro kits to all Cat 2 and above riders, full race support, and a great vibe, we’ll probably be able to groom another teammate to take his place.”

“Yeah,” they agreed. “But I sure hope he never leaves.”



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Ride the Ranch

February 21, 2018 § 3 Comments

This coming Saturday, Alfie Sanchez is putting on my favorite race in SoCal, the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race. It’s a unique race and one that deserves our participation and support.

Unlike most races in SoCal, it’s not flat, it’s not a 4-corner crit, and you cannot win it by sitting in and sprinting, or by sitting in and giving it one hard effort the last part of the race. Rosena Ranch rewards aggression, early moves, and pain. It does not reward passiveness.

The course itself is amazing. It’s held on a closed circuit and the road is extremely wide and smooth. It has two 180-degree turns at either end of the course, both of which are safe, slow, and easy to navigate no matter how many people are taking the turn.

The race starts on a fast but gentle descent, then hits a very deceptive false flat made uglier by wind, followed by a small riser and then another false flat until you hit a brief downhill to the turnaround. The point about these false flats and minor riser is that they start wearing you down immediately.

After the turnaround you go from zero to a long but not-too-steep grade, usually guttered due to the wind. Then you catch a side-tailwind and a blazing downhill that is not steep but is very, very fast. The loop ends in an endless very slight uphill; most people start their sprint way too soon because the finish line is visible from so far away and it’s not until you start to fade that you realize you went about 300m too soon.

Hard racing

The best thing about Rosena Ranch is the difficulty–not technical difficulty, but the physical challenge of the course. I have never seen this race end in a bunch sprint in any category because the course always rewards initiative and suffering. Sometimes the break goes on the first lap, sometimes on the second or third, but never much later than that, and once the break goes it’s impossible to bring back because there’s not that big of an advantage riding in the peloton.

Unlike some crit courses that will suck you along, or create unstoppable momentum for a huge field such that it can pull back a break pretty easily, at Rosena Ranch you have to be positioned for the break, ready for the break, and in it when it goes. Attempts to bridge are rarely successful.

Race diversity

Rosena Ranch is really important to our race calendar because it is so different from the crit offerings that fill up most of the year. It’s one of the very few races where you actually have the combined effects of course, tactics, topography, a little climbing, and a little sprinting all rolled up into one event. If you don’t get smart and/or lucky with each one of those parameters, it’s almost impossible to do well. In short, it’s bike racing.

Putting on a bike race is hard work and always risky. All it takes is one bad weather event and the promoter is staring at empty fields and unpaid bills. I hope you’ll support this great race, whether it’s your “profile” or not, by coming out and racing. The same way that we non-sprinters come out and get drubbed week in, week out in flat crits by the speedsters, it would be awesome for the the fast twitchers to come and support this race, too.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos that show you what the action looks like:

Video 1
Video 2



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There is no winter in Winters

January 28, 2018 § 2 Comments

Everyone one is recovering from something. Booze, drugs, illness, injury, relationships, work, yesterday’s beatdown ride, the past, the present, and of course the future. Nothing is harder to recover from than the future. Today we celebrated a whole bunch of recovery. Nominally it was the recovery of my friend Deb Banks, who exactly three years ago on the last Friday in January got hit by a drunk and almost lost her right foot. And her life.

Deb started her recovery the minute after she was hit, and she has been riding for over a year now, regaining fitness and strength as only tough people can. In August she flies to Japan to do a randonneuring ride in Hokkaido, 720 miles in three days. Most people would say she has recovered.

But one of the funny things about catastrophic injuries collected while riding your bicycle is that you never fully recover. Some part of the hit and the injury stays with you forever, no matter how completely your body heals. When you think about it, this isn’t any different from any of the other things we recover from. Those of us in the drunk recovery world may be sober, and our bodies may not bear any outward signs of the previous abuse, but our minds carry it along, like baggage that never seems to get mistakenly delivered to Shanghai and lost forever.

Today’s crew was a true recovery crew. Along with me and Deb, there was Yasuko, Mark, Drew and Tuesday, Vlad, Darrel the EV Guy, and my buddy from junior high-high school-college days, Robert Doty. We drove to Davis and stopped at Konditorei, an Austrian bakery that our pals from the Slovak restaurant the day before had sworn we must visit. “It is the best Austrian bakery in a thirty-mile radius,” our Viennese friend promised.

We started with a walnut pastry thingy, which tasted great, and washed it down with a cappuccino. If you are going to call yourself an Austrian cafe you had better serve lights out coffee. It was.

Preparing for the wintry ride in Winters

The weather app forecast low 40’s warming up the high 50’s and scattered sun showers. We rendezvoused in the small town of Winters, bundled up, and set off ’round the Mountain. Drew and Tuesday had stashed our lunch in their garage-sized pannier, and although I had billed the ride as pancake flat we immediately hit a giant 3-mile climb up to a damn dam. The sun showers poured down on our heads from the moment we left until, by mile five, we were all soaked to the bone in sunshine, which continued the entire day.

Mark was riding a 1985 Oldie McOldschool frame with chromed fork and stays, Campy Nuovo Record, and a very trick five-speed freewheel on a non-compact (bloated?) 52 x 42. He had toeclips and soft leather lace-up riding slippers, and I couldn’t ride behind him because the glare on his burnished bike was so bright it blinded me. Mark is recovering from carbon. It has been a long a painful way back, but now that he owns fifteen steel vintage frames (“I always get a good deal!”) the worst side effects of his former carbon affliction have subsided.

Vlad had a hand-made steel Ellis frame with SRAM e-tap and a leather saddle, evincing deep internal conflicts about the clash of modernity and history. A recovering communist, Vlad emigrated to the U.S when he was fourteen, where he learned that Americans were even more ignorant about the Soviet Union that Russians were about the U.S. Vlad long ago was cured of communism and he engages in regular capitalist therapy working as a lawyer. We talked for a long time about Russian history as he politely listened to me mouth a great mountain of nonsense. Best of all, we communistically rode together for several miles sharing the work for the betterment of our small four-person soviet, freeing ourselves from bourgeois oppression as we took over the means of cycling production and distributed it fairly to the peasants behind us.

With us, Darrel embarked on his longest ride in well over a year. Despite his daily bike commute, a series of ailments including chronic neck pain and arthritis have ended his former lifestyle of day-long and multi-day trips on the bike. It was so much fun to watch him pound joyously up the hills; it was the look of a person who has been starving for cycling for a long time and finally been given a big chaw of cycling to eat. Darrel is also a recovering internal combustion engine user and we got listen to another lively lecture about the benefits if electric vehicles. He approved of my Chevy Volt as a “most excellent EV gateway drug.”

Drew and Tuesday weren’t recovering from anything specific until the chain on their tandem decided to flop off one of the twelve chainrings and devour one of the seven derailleurs. Thankfully they were able to turn the rudder sufficiently to get the giant ship turned around and headed back to port in Winters, where the dockworkers scraped the barnacles off, replaced the chain, and made everything happy and new again.

Unlike Mark, who was recovering from carbon, Robert was recovering from steel. After more than thirty years of faithful abuse he finally relegated his steel Colnago (“The Blue ‘Nag”) to the basement as a trainer bike, and now pedaled happily about on a full carbon Colnago made of 100% carbon and which was all carbon, entirely. Bob is also on the cusp of kicking his child habit, as the final Doty offspring is about to get sprung off to collage, where many disparate parts will be turned into one cohesive picture. Childrearing recovery is going to be tough, he just doesn’t know it yet. We reminisced about getting chased by dogs the times we rode from Austin to San Marcos with nothing to light our way but a Comanche moon. Amazing times …

Deb of course is recovering from her collision. She is our lodestar, our hero, our leader, our inspiration, and the person who picks up the tab when all of our credit cards get declined. She brings us together, keeps us together, and reminds us that the hardest journey is so much finer than never having journeyed at all.



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About 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.

French Toast Ride prep

January 19, 2018 Comments Off on French Toast Ride prep

Here we are, a couple of weeks out from Dave Jaeger’s infamous French Toast Ride, and that means it’s time to do some preparation. How do you prepare for a 117-mile, 7,500-foot smashfest populated by fanged assassins? Answer: Go ride your bike. A bunch.

However, I am very far past that point in life where I am going to ride my bike a bunch for anything, so instead I did a blog search and pulled up all the ride reports I had done since I began chronicling the FTR in 2011. Let me tell you something, reading those posts was almost as miserable as doing the ride. Long. Meandering. Pointless. Endless …

As I stumbled through them, I realized how many riders have come and gone over the years. And the French Toast Ride has been going on a whole lot of years. Twenty, maybe a hundred, longer even than Dave’s ongoing prostate leak.

Old cyclists never die, unfortunately

Many of the French Toasters (toasties?) have fallen by the wayside due to breaches of etiquette, as there are only two FTR rules. 1) Show up. 2) Be nice to Jim and Nancy Jaeger. No one has ever violated 2, of course.

But it’s amazing how many people, after swearing on a stack of Hustlers that they will be there for the ride, manage to not show up. Over the years they have culled themselves from the herd, with the most unforgettable breach ever occurring the year that Neumann not only failed to show (lame) but didn’t even bother to let anyone know (excommunication).

Other Toasters have fallen by the wayside due to silly things like marriage, kids, job, and quietly swelling guts that eventually begin to whisper “You cannot do that ride any more.” Some keep ignoring the whisper, or perhaps they’re simply hard of hearing, or (most likely) it will take more than a whisper to rope ’em away from Pancho’s All-You-Can-Eat $5.95 Buffet. And of course there are French Toast Ride icons who have given up the ghost due to unforeseen life catastrophes, such as yoga.

Nonetheless, every year a handful of 20 or 21 or 22 ravenously hungry old people show up, lay waste to Jim and Nancy’s bathroom, eat piles of tasty breakfast, smash themselves for seven hours, eat a bunch more food, and then quit riding for another eleven months or so. But knowing what lay in store, I decided to prepare this time. Really prepare.

Hell is other people’s French Toast Ride training plan

Rather than go out and do a series of well thought out, carefully executed rides, or, better yet, join up with Jaeger & Co. for their Saturday AM climb-fests in the Santa Monica Mountains, Kristie and I met up at Via Valmonte and PV Drive North on Tuesday, 5:32 AM pointy-sharp, and did four laps around the Peninsula. Each lap included the Cove climb, the Alley, and Millionaires. Total mileage was 104-ish, with a cherry on top by throwing in Basswood and Shorewood, and total elevation was, well, elevated.

I realized when I finished that the whole thing had been a horrible idea. The French Toast Ride is more like a race where everyone pretends not to race while stopping and cheating and quitting, whereas four laps around the Peninsula is more akin to dousing yourself in gasoline and lighting up a cigarette, putting out the fire after a couple of minutes, then doing it all over again.

In other words, I’m now so tired and broken that I won’t be riding again for a couple of weeks. Just in time for some stupid ride named after a piece of bread sopped in raw eggs and fried in a pan.

FTR 2011, FTR 2012, FTR 2013, FTR 2014, FTR 2015, FTR 2016 : Canceled, FTR 2017



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About 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.

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