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 SouthBayCycling.com: 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 SouthBayCycling.com: 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.

The middle ground a/k/a FDR

January 15, 2018 Comments Off on The middle ground a/k/a FDR

There is a sweet spot in cycling for most people, located right in that middle ground between “pound” on the one hand, where everyone feels like they had eye surgery sans anesthetic, and “flail,” where you finish the ride and wonder, “Did I ride?” The South Bay’s Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, hits the sweet spot almost every time.

It’s a hard spot to find because any grouping of riders invariably attracts an outlier or two. The pounder whines because it was “too easy,” and the flailer moans because it was “too hard.” Of course no ride is right for every rider, all the time. But coming up with that Sweet Spot Ride, getting it started, and hardest of all, keeping it alive, is fiendishly hard to do, yet it’s precisely this kind of ride that builds community and participation in cycling. How to do it?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joann Zwagerman’s FDR.

Genesis: How the FDR came to be

I could give you the background of the FDR, but why? Joann has already done it for me. With a few edits and emendations, here it is:

Greg Seyranian had a South Bay ride called the Anti-Donut. I would show up week after week and pedal my ass off. It was mellow for them but it was totally challenging for me. I did my best to try and keep up. They never abandoned me and they always waited for me and I found that remarkable.

Once race season began and the Anti-Donut ended, I found myself looking for a similar ride. If you were a racer, you were on the Donut Ride. If not, you were looking for friendly people to ride with. Thus, the Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, was born. It is an inclusive, non pretentious, friendly, fun and challenging ride.

Maybe today is your biggest ride? Your first group ride? Your first FDR? Whatever it is, I hope you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of it even if it’s just eating your first donut with chocolate sprinkles in ten years and making a few new friends!

Thank you everyone for all your support! Ride on and be safe!

Exodus: How riders joined the FDR

As we all know, it’s fairly easy to start a ride. You tell a few friends the time and place, give them a general rundown of the route, and three of them show up. If you invite a hundred people, you can expect maybe four. Everyone does the ride, has a more or less good time, and then you do the ride for a couple more weeks, and participation increases a bit or stays the same.

Then comes the crunch moment. It’s the day for “your” ride. You’ve told everyone you’ll be there. But yesterday you got a bo-bo on your boo-boo, or maybe a boo-boo on your bo-bo and it’s feeling really ouchie as you lay there in bed with only thirty minutes to crap, air your tires, drink some coffee, pull a pair of shorts out of the dirty hamper, and scurry to the start.

What do you do? You roll over, of course! This isn’t your job! It’s your hobby! Those wankers know the route! You’ll be there next week anyway! Snxxxxxxxzzzzzzzz!

Of course your pals see it differently. They get to the start and you’re not there. They check their phones. They call you. Someone finally rouses you and you groggily text back, “Boo-boo on bo-bo, out.”

And guess what? You just drove a wooden stake through the heart of your nascent ride. Because for a ride to continue, the person who started it has got to keep showing up. It’s like being married, only far worse because at least when you’re married, rolling over and snoring is an accepted part of lovemaking. Requisite, actually.

What Joann figured out with the FDR was that if you’re cycling in the South Bay and you want people to commit to you, you have to commit to them. And that means a date, a time, a place, and a commitment to be there “til death do us part.” Week in and week out, the FDR went off with Joann present to shepherd her lambs, and it went off in some pretty extreme situations.

Broken hand? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Broken wrist a few months later? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Ride founder overtrained and barely able to move? No worries, Joann either did the ride, sagged in her Rage Rover, or rustled up a deputy. And this last part, “rustling up a deputy,” has been a great innovation because the FDR’s success has led to its having two routes: A fixed loop around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and a variable route that can venture pretty far afield. Having a deputy means that the fixed FDR route always takes place, and people aren’t left showing up to a ride where they are the ride.

Revelation: You can make an FDR, too

Joann’s FDR has brought a lot of people into cycling and now serves as a focal point for people who are looking for a regular ride–not too hard, not too soft–and for event organizers who want to get the word out about their event. From Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Fondo, to the Belgian Waffle Ride, to Rivet Cycling’s Santa Barbara ribs extravaganza, people in the cycling community recognize that FDR is there for the community as a whole.

This, of course, is how you grow the cycling donut, and then get to eat it, too. One rider at a time.

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and pay to support what you might otherwise take for free. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

About SouthBayCycling.com: 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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