Peak performance

March 26, 2017 § 6 Comments

The best way to win the Donut Ride is to wait until a big race that attracts all the hitters. To quote Derek the Destroyer’s “First Maxim for Winning”: Your results are predetermined by who shows up.

The San Dimas Stage Robbery had started on Friday, and the usual complement of legit racers was, quite literally, off to the races. Leaky and creaky, I never have a chance to make it first to the top of the radar domes, but today, well, there was at least a chance.

At the bottom of the Switchbacks the group of twelve riders broke apart and by the first turn it was me, Tasker, Roberto, and Marco C., with Marco sitting on the front and churning out the watts. I sat on his wheel for a bit but he’s been in training and is now tipping the scales at 118, a weight that makes Strava Junior look like a fatty.

I dropped back to suck wheel behind Roberto while Tasker had the unenviable task of sitting behind the wraith. Marco dragged us all the way to the college, where Roberto pulled off, and then Marco dragged us all the way to the domes. I planned a sneak attack at the end to punish him for doing all the work, but well before my treachery he simply accelerated and pedaled away from us.

I surged by Tasker and elbowed him into the cones to keep him from getting fake second in our fake race.

Marco is fast and tough and has been around forever, one of the mainstays of the South Bay, but now that he’s on the air and water diet he’s simply leaving behind those of us who enjoy chocolate and donuts (not to mention chocolate donuts). Which got me to thinking about peak performance vs. mediocrity.

There are a lot of superlative riders in the South Bay, but many of them peak and valley. The peaks don’t usually last for long, a season is rare, two seasons Bachmann’s warbler rare … and the valleys can go on for years. In fact, some riders hit an extended peak and you never hear from them again.

On the other hand, there is a whole gaggle of hackers who never hit peak anything. As I like to say, my athletic profile is “slightly better than half-assed.” We mediocre riders never peak, but we never valley, either. Where we were last week is pretty much where we’ll be next week.

I’ve wondered why peak performance riding is so often correlated with extended disappearances. Part of it is the difficulty of achieving “race weight.” The other part is the awful horrible terribleness of FTP workouts, metering your farts on TrainingPeaks, and of course the bane of the non-insane, intervals. It takes so much to be your best. The other other part is that once you enjoy the rarefied air of putting everyone to the sword, it sucks to droop to the back of the bus, hanging on for dear life at the mercy of whoever the latest Peak Performance Flavor of the Month happens to be.

It’s why Eddy Merckx doesn’t fly over from Belgium every Tuesday for Telo, I guess. In his (limited) worldview, competing in our local training crit isn’t as impressive as winning five Tours and setting an hour record.

But to be your most mediocre? That takes considerably less than your best and it leaves room for chocolate donuts. It’s damned hard to do 3 x 20s, whereas it’s darned easy to ride with Gussy and have a croissant … and which person do you think is smiling at the end of the ride? Hint: It’s not the guy who just eked out another .01 w/kg and is going home to a dinner of one boiled egg and a sprig of raw kale.

Put another way, mediocrity is a long-haul tool; excellence is a roman candle. Both have their place, and the life of the ascetic sure looks enviable when it’s dragging you around with your tongue in the spokes.

But man, that chocolate donut …



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Failed parent

March 25, 2017 § 28 Comments

Every parent has their secret horror, the words their child might utter, words that would make a mockery of everything the parent has tried to teach. Here are the most common parenting fears:

“Dad, I need to talk with you about my retail heroin operation.”

“Dad, would you still love me if I voted for Trump?”

“Dad, I’m having an affair. With mom.”

But for me none of those awful scenarios is nearly as frightening, terrifying, or depressing as this one: “Dad, I’ve gotten into cycling.” Because that’s what my daughter said.

Where did I go wrong? I thought I had showed her the folly of bicycles, how riding them would, in the words of the immortal Fields, “Lead to the bottom of a dumpster.”

I had talked with her about my friends who had pursued “bike racing,” “bike touring,” “grand fondues,” and worst of all, “the bicycle industry” only to wind up washed up. The list was endless. Cyclists turned Buddhists. Cyclists turned bankruptcy lawyers. Cyclists turned brewers, politicians, consultants, adult video actors, yes, even cyclists who had sunken to the worst depravity of all, triathlons.

And it seemed like my efforts had worked. I even took her on a couple of “fun” 40-mile rides on a bike with no gears and 4,000-feet of elevation to make sure she hated it, and she did! For years the mere mention of the word “bicycle” made her angry. Best of all, I could look her in the eye and say, “Do you want to be like me?” and watch the color drain out of her face before adding, “then be a cyclist.”

So I slept soundly for twenty-eight years, safe in the knowledge that another kind, decent, well-adjusted person had been saved from the mindless insanity of madly dashing hither and yon in search of new ways to waste more time and even more money.

Until a couple of months ago, when I noticed the warning signs, which for me were roaring, screeching, sirens. “Hey Dad, I went for a bike ride today!”

After that it was only a matter of time before she began wearing something other than her husband’s six-year-old hand-me-down shorts, baggy t-shirts, and leggings with skeleton prints on the outside. THE LAST TIME I SAW SOMEONE FALL HOPELESSLY, INSANELY HARD FOR CYCLING WAS WHEN MMX RODE WITH A SKELETON-PRINT JERSEY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT SKELETON PRINTS????

We rode together. The first time up Silver Spur, she walked. The second time, she walked half-way. The third time, she rode.

A month passed before she broke the terrible news, with a smile of course. “Hey, Dad! I’m on Strava!”

I sobbed softly, hand trembling for the beer I wished was there. “Yes?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah! And I got 2nd on the Monero segment!! Behind some girl named Frenchie!!”

“Oh,” I mumbled.

“Do you know her? Is she really good?”

“No,” I said. “Yes.” This was what it felt like to have a child go off to war and never come back.

“I’m only a few seconds down,” she said excitedly. “I’m gonna try hard to get that QOM!”

I looked at her tennis shoes, her MTB handlebars, and her 35-pound chromoly bike. Here was my dear child, coming to me with a Strava problem. How would I tell her the insanity of it all? The madness? The addiction? The waste of a young and beautiful life? How would I tell her to burn her bike and buy a Range Rover?

Our eyes met. “Look, honey,” I said, taking the deepest breath of my entire life.

“Yeah?” she said.

“You gotta approach Monero from Granvia and Hawthorne on the downhill. Slam the right-hander, rail the turn and let the momentum take you up the first quarter of the bump before you have to dig. Then hold about 90% to the crest, but save your last 10% for the flat after the top. That’s where people bog. You’ll nail it.”

She looked at me, giddy. “Thanks, Dad!”



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World fame on Amazon

March 24, 2017 § 19 Comments

There are two ways to know you’ve hit the big time.

  1. Your $2.99 blog finally gets four subscribers, none of whom is a family member.
  2. You get mentioned on an Amazon bicycle customer review.

One of these just happened. Click here.



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The Legend of Shirtless Keith

March 18, 2017 § 43 Comments

If you ever meet someone who claims to know what’s up in the South Bay, you can ask this simple question. “Do you know Shirtless Keith?”

The answer will tell you all you need to know.

Shirtless Keith isn’t legendary or even mythical. He’s way beyond that. He is the Holy Grail in bicycling.

Shirtless Keith rides (you’ll never guess) without a shirt. And instead of girlish Italian cycling shoes with fancy clip-in pedals, he rides with boots. Big, heavy boots. Boots that you can use for pedaling a bike or for walking 10 miles one-way to the brewery. Yep, he did that. And after having a few beers, he walked home.

When it comes to nutrition, Shirtless Keith don’t need no fancy-shmancy biker Barbie food. “Cyclists” carefully consume properly balanced foodstuffs made by elves who grew each organic ingredient on a small plot of earth farmed by earthworms and hippies from the 60’s. When Keith starts running low on fuel, you know what he eats?


Yep. You heard me right. And when he gets a hankering for a Pop-Tart he doesn’t reach into his jersey pocket because, shirtless, he don’t wear no stinkin’ jersey. Instead he pulls over, unstraps the bungee cord on his rack that holds down the Pop-Tarts, and eats it on the spot. And Shirtless Keith don’t need no water bottle. When he gets thirsty he rides over to a water fountain and drinks.

You think I’m joking? That’s okay, you’re just proving that you don’t know squat about the South Bay.

Keith rides an old cromoly Raleigh with knobby tires and a steering tube that’s longer than a fishing pole. Keith don’t need no carbon and no 25mm tires. All Keith needs is a 55-tooth chain ring, and that’s all he’s got. If the 55 is too big that just means he has to pedal harder.

And Keith don’t need no Internet coach. He rides 48 miles a day, seven days a week. But his favorite day is Saturday because that’s when the Donut Ride goes off. Keith rides around until the group comes barreling up to the Domes and he hops in with the leaders, goes to the front, drops a couple of people (usually me), then swings off and finishes the climb by himself.

Keith’s signature move is to troll for wankers. It never takes long to hook some mid-40s dude on a $15,000 rig. The dude takes one look at Keith’s boots, 40-lb. bike and shirtless back, rolls his eyes, puts the hammer down, and blows by. Dude looks back and sees that yeah, he passed Shirtless Keith, but now Shirtless Keith is passing him. Fast. Dude hops onto Keith’s wheel and pretty soon he’s stuffed into the pain burrito as Keith gets the 55 rolling.

Then Keith stands up and starts pounding like the world’s biggest mashed potato maker, and pretty soon the dude is gazing down at his $5,000 power meter which is telling him that he left his FTP back in Portuguese Bend and it’s exactly fifteen seconds to detonation time.

Shirtless Keith rides away.

If you talk to him he is humble and polite and the friendliest guy on the Hill. One time he hopped in with the Aussie women’s national team and rode with them around the peninsula. Like the classy guy he is, he asked if he could join before hopping in.

The funny people are the ones who tell him to “get a road bike” because he’ll “be a beast.” These are always people he’s shelled, by the way, like a rotten pecan.

Keith don’t wanna be no roadie. Keith don’t want no road bike and no fancy outfit. Keith wants to ride his bike, troll for wankers, hop in on the Donut every now and again, and enjoy cycling his way, on his terms, not yours. One Shirtless Keith is better than all the Velominati put together.

Like I said, the Holy Grail.


Shirtless Keith bringing the heat on Crest!


Boots. Cutoffs. Leather belt. Man’s legs. Pop-Tarts. 12-inch steering tube. Legend.


Shirtless Keith Google Street View, Trump Golf Course.



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Shimano defends exploding full carbon wheels that are 100% carbon

March 11, 2017 § 10 Comments

Cycling fans were shocked to see Gianni Moscon’s Shimano full carbon wheels explode in the team time trail on the opening stage of Tirenno-Adriatico, also known as “The Race That No One Knows Exactly Where It Is But Prolly In Europe Somewhere.”

Moscon’s full carbon Shimano wheels, made of 100% carbon and verified through rigorous testing to contain huge amounts of carbon, bigly, detonated mid-race causing him to experience a dramatic bicycle falling off incident and, with the prominent name of Shimano attached to the wheels, also caused Shimano to experience an even more dramatic falling off of sales incident.

The fourteen thousand shards of carbon were carefully collected and sent to G. Lonergan for repair, however, after careful evaluation, he reported from his world famous Duct Tape Labs that “I can fix it, but not in time for tomorrow’s race.”

The shards were then sent to Shimano’s research facility in Fukushima, Japan, where the company released a statement confirming that the wheels had passed rigorous testing under nuclear core meltdown conditions and that the Shimano 100% carbon full carbon wheelmakers were proud of their “flawless record.”

Industry insider Puddin’ McOlskool was skeptical. “Their fuggin’ flawless record ain’t so fuggin’ flawless now, now is it?”

The Shimano statement continued: “PRO is continuing its investigation into the issue we saw with Team Sky at the team time trail of Tirreno-Adriatico. We are continuing to look closely into all factors that could cause the incident.”

Cranky McSlammstem, tech analyst for CitSB, deconstructed the statement. “First off, see, they’re already blaming it on PRO, their wheel division, kind of like your right hand blaming something on your ding-dong that you’re holding. Second off, they’re calling it an issue, when what they mean is ‘our randomly exploding wheels.’ Sounds better, eh? I mean who doesn’t have issues? My old lady has ’em. I have ’em. Our pug has ’em which is why he pees on the couch when he gets excited. But ain’t nobody got a randomly exploding wheel, especially nobody who likes to ride fast on a bicycle. So my two cents is that they got some exploding wheels and that ain’t any good and if I was you I’d ditch my exploding Shimano wheels and get me a pair of FastForward full carbon race wheels, which is made of 100% carbon, purely.”

When asked to pinpoint what might have caused the wheels to randomly explode, both McOlskool and McSlammstem agreed that “Them fuggin’ wheels obviously wasn’t 100% carbon.”



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A close shave

March 10, 2017 § 20 Comments

About six months ago I joined Dollar Shave Club. This is an online business where you pay extra money for cheap razors that come with a newsletter filled with fart and manscaping jokes. So, totally worth it.

The idea behind Dollar Shave Club is to convert the average guy into a way-above average guy when it comes to caring about minor appearance areas on your body like, you know, your face. They even did a study that examined men’s attitudes towards shaving. Here are the results:

  1. 98% of men hate to shave.
  2. 98% of men who shave are cheap.
  3. 98% of men who are cheap use a disposable razor an average of six months before replacing it with something sharper, like an old tire or a stick.
  4. 98% of all men ever born think special products for your face are “for sissies.”
  5. 98% of all men would rather scratch their nuts when they itch than get a clean shave (assuming they had to choose, which, thankfully, they do not).

The whole idea behind Dollar Shave Club, which costs a lot more than a dollar, sells a lot of stuff that isn’t for shaving, and isn’t a club, is that once a man actually gets a good, cheap shave, he will change his way of living and eventually buy a more expensive razor, falsely reasoning that if you can get a great shave for a dollar, you can get an even better one for four, much as profamateur masters racers think that if you can go fast with carbon wheels, you can go even faster with carbon everything (that’s actually true).

Anyway, next thing you know you buy more expensive shaving cream, then purchase for the first time ever something called “beard softener,” and then, in an act that will pretty much leave your wife speechless, apply something called “after shave facial cream” which leaves your skin all smooth and smoothy. In short, you’re now a sissy.

You’re hooked on all the implements and then the Ten Dollar Shave Club becomes the Fifty Dollar Shave Club and before you know it you’re trimming your toenails and combing the knots out of your back hair once a month whether you need to or not. This was all happening to me in real time and it made me reflect on what a positive development it is.

You see, from the time I was eighteen until about four years ago I did in fact shave and scrupulously so, but the thing I shaved was my legs. And leg shaving was either something you did carefully, spending an hour in the shower, or you did it quickly, leaving cutter tattoos up and down those tendon thingies on the back of your knee, on your kneecap, and on your Achilles.

With all that time spent hacking up my legs, who had time for face shaving?

Then a few years ago Surfer Dan quit shaving and grew the most thick, luxuriant carpet of golden fur up and down his mighty legs, and guess what? He still rode everyone off his wheel, which meant that the single fake justification for leg shaving was disproven, i.e. shaving doesn’t make you faster. Pretty soon other people were throwing in the razor towel and we started seeing lots of fake racers with hairy legs mixing in with the shaved fake racers.

It was finally cool to be unshorn.

The other good thing about pedaling around with dual shag carpets hanging off his calves was that Surfer offended so many “purists,” especially Velominati wankers who were galled first at getting dropped, galled second at getting dropped by a surfer, and galled third at getting dropped by ol’ gorilla legs.

Anyway, the point is that after all those years of leg shaving I had a lot of pent up hair removal tendencies, and Ten Dollar Shave Club came along at exactly the right time. So now instead of having people look at me funny and ask “How come you shave your legs, old fellow?” and me having to say “Uh bike racer, uh aero, uh facilitates massage, uh prevents infection from road rash, uh uh uh,” they say “Oh my, what smooth skin you have, sailor.”

I like that a lot better. Try it. Maybe you will, too.



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Airport laps

March 9, 2017 § 12 Comments

The only thing more Far Side and Escher and Don Martin than sitting in an airport is walking in one, and by walking I mean any ambulation not purposed to get you to a gate, down a ramp, to a potty, to a gewgaw store, or to a sugar-caffeine-beer-grease dispensary.

I got to the airport with hours to spare because it is only by arriving anywhere absurdly early that you can truly risk being late. This principle applies most often to biking, where you get up an hour early to eat and be there in time but end up checking emails and Facebag and tear out of the house ten minutes late and miss the ride unlike EA Sports, Inc. who gets up five minutes before leaving and always makes it if only just barely and even though you have to average 32 to get there.

If being in an airport is Dali and Finnegan’s Wake, then walking around the airport in order to exercise is Dune after the sand worm has swallowed you. One full William P. Hobby lap through all three wings takes about 22 minutes and 14.567 seconds, approximately.

Certain sections are more challenging than others. The toughest section is passing the police outpost. The police outpost is hard scoot by to because you already look terroristic, walking aimlessly without a soy latte, and they keep a bicycle in front of the cop station to entrap bicycle terrorists. They know that as you’re wandering around you won’t be able to resist stopping and examining the police bike’s components and especially the tread wear and condition of the chain because it is sparkly clean (no mud puddles or road grime in the airport) and really, do the tires even wear at all when rolling on carpet and glassy tile?

Oh, and is it tubeless? And what make is the helmet dangling from the bars?

Once you stop to check out the bicycle your subversive credentials are proven beyond doubt, and they look at you funny and ask what you’re doing even though all you really want to know is: IS THERE A KOM FOR INSIDE THE AIRPORT?

They take notes and ask to see your ID and boarding pass again.

The first airport laps are toughest because every few yards there is a restaurant baiting you with all of the cuisine America has to offer, Tex-Mex, BBQ, Chinese food a/k/a fried chicken lumps in orange sugar sauce, burgers, Chick-Fil-A homophobic fried chicken, and coffee. You have to grit your teeth and focus on not stopping, especially since once you cross the Texas border the giant Trumpian wall prevents any barbecue from escaping, especially to California.

After you’ve plugged your ears, Ulysses-like, the pizza and burger sirens can no longer be heard and you can focus on other things, like finding new and circuitous routes through the chairs, or memorizing which gates have phone charging banks, or noting the people who seem mostly to die in the next 72 hours due to triple-wide obesity, or, after two hours of walking, finally breaking down in front of Peet’s and ordering a coffee, gruel, some warmed up oxygen and a side of toasted water.

Because it’s never too soon to get back to profamateur race weight. SoCal, here I come.



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