Bus bunny

January 29, 2020 § 2 Comments

When I lived in Austin back around the time that dirt was invented or as Sherri likes to say, when God was a boy, we would ride our bicycles down Speedway en route to the ride, whichever ride it was.

On the way back we would pass the Laidlaw shuttle bus stops for the college. There was always a bunch of students standing at the bus stops. Kevin Callaway called them bus bunnies.

We even made a little song about the bus bunnies, but I can’t remember it. That is a good thing, I can assure you.

Since that time I have ridden a bus a few times, but not that often, and hardly ever in the United States with a couple of exceptions, for example the time I took the Flixbus from Los Angeles to San Diego. Otherwise, no bus for me.

Since I abandoned the car lifestyle, or as John Forester would say, have rejected motordom, I have made use of the train when I can’t get it done on my bike. There really has been no commuting scenario where I’ve needed the bus, even though it stops right outside my apartment.

Yesterday I had to catch a flight from LAX; that’s about 45 minutes and $45 via Uber or taxi. The best bike option was to ride over near the airport and stash my bike at Sausage’s house, then Uber the couple of miles to LAX. The next best option was to cycle to Manhattan Beach and stash my bike with Destroyer or Manslaugher, then take the free tourist bus to LAX.

This seemed kind of lame, though, relying on friends to pick up the slack created by my morally and environmentally superior lifestyle. Plus, I hadn’t asked any of them, and it was the The Day Of. So I decided, at the ripe old age of 56, to get around in LA by bus.

I walked to the bus stop, which is covered and has a nice bench, and I would have sat down had there not been a giant pile of vomit right there where my feet would have rested. Looked like pizza. Pepperoni.

I had to make one transfer, at Hawthorne and PCH, and then it was a straight shot-sort-of to LAX, or rather to the LAX bus terminal, from whence it was a solid 15-minute walk to Tom Bradley. My sole piece of luggage, a knapsack, weighed 22 pounds. It took 2:20 from my front door to the already-long queue at Turkish Air check-in.

Since I didn‘t have exact change for the first bus, the driver waved me on, free. That doesn’t happen ever with a taxi or at a gas station. Total cost would have been $3.50 instead of the actual cost, $1.75.

I know what you are thinking: “Almost two and a half hours for a 45-minute trip!”

I know. But you know what I am thinking? I’m thinking $1.75 < $45.00.

On the bus there is free Wi-Fi to go along with the free moral superiority, and even better, sitting on the bus is like being in church guided by Jesus. There you are, buffeted in the storm of traffic, but Jesus is at the wheel, or at any rate some big dude/chick with a tattoo and friendly smile. Unlike when you drive to LAX, none of the stress is on you. Plus, all the cars look so tiny, and if they get in a wrangle with your bus, they are gonna lose.

The people on the bus are like you, or rather, like me. They aren’t in any particular hurry and they think you’re just as much fun to look at as you think they are, like the boy and girl in pajamas ditching school while holding hands, or the two women on the way to work talking about their bosses in Spanish, or the two tourists who, like me, had never taken the bus before and were wholly unsure where to get off. *Note: They did have correct change.

Although I could pretend that I used the Wi-Fi to get work done, in fact I gazed out the window and listened to the two ladies talk and laugh. With Jesus at the helm, your work productivity tends to drop off. When the bus let me off, my moral superiority had grown about three sizes, so I had to turn my head sideways to get out.

I strode purposefully to the airport. I wanted to get a t-shirt or gimme cap that said, “Bus Bunny and Proud of It” or just shout to the world, “I AM BUS BUNNY, HEAR ME SQUEAK.”

But I didn’t.


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Training plan

January 27, 2020 § 9 Comments

I was keeping a mileage log starting last November, but I gave it up in January because the numbers are so stupid. I’m averaging 55 miles a day.

Like I said, stupid.

When I quit driving I figured my recreational cycling would suffer because I’d be so tired from commuting everywhere. It doesn’t take more than a couple of client meetings in San Diego or Yucaipa before you start scowling at your bike.

I got crazy tired at first but then not so much. It took couple of months, and in December I reverted to my old recreational ways, that is, Donut Ride, with maybe an hour of motor pacing behind Boozy P. every now and again. In January the Flog started up, so that’s a solid 2, sometimes 3, hard rides on top of all the easy riding.

The result has been surprising. I’m riding better than I have since I was in my 20s. My endurance is sky high. Used to be, on Saturdays I suffered from a Donut coma, where I’d eat, shower, then lie immobile on the couch the rest of the day.

Now I take a quick nap and am fine. More often than not I’ll hop back on my bike to run an errand or two, and in my neighborhood an errand can easily involve 900+ feet of climbing. What matters even more from the standpoint of a delusional former masters #profamateur is that when the hammer drops on the group rides, I do okay, and more importantly, it doesn’t kill me.

A buddy was talking to me about my training, and he then sent me a link to something called polarized training, which is apparently what I do. Ride easy a bunch, and hard a little. I read the article and it really understates my polarization, both in time and intensity. A properly slow ride should be 50-60% of FTP, for 2-3 hours.

My slow ride yesterday after going full gas on Saturday’s Donut was eight hours and we covered maybe 80 miles. I don’t know my heart rate or FTP, but when I’m commuting or slow riding, I go so slow that it is literally effortless. I’ll get home and not even feel like I’ve ridden even after clocking six hours in the saddle.

Is this good for you? Does it make you faster? Is it a way to gain performance even as you age?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I spend so much time on my bike now that if I tried to ride with any vigor AT ALL on these slow rides, I’d be unable to make it through the week. And by “unable to make it through the week” I mean “unable to get out of bed.”

Here are some honest-to-goodness non-data results:

  1. I used to be able to barely hang onto the leaders during the Donut climbs, with maybe a single attack that was never taken seriously and always brought back. Typically I’d get dropped on the first climb, often as early as before the first turn. Now I can sit with the lead group, attack, and then counter. And then counter again.
  2. The Donut has four hard efforts, Domes #1, Domes #2, Hawthorne Sprunt, and Via Zumaya climb. I’ve been doing this ride since 2006 and have had a total of five days when I’ve felt good at each hard section. The last FOUR DONUTS IN A ROW I’ve felt good on every single hard section.
  3. The Donut has two traditionally neutral sections, from Western in San Pedro to Via Colinita, and the section after Hawthorne until Via Zumaya. For the last four weeks I’ve ridden each of the neutral sections full gas, in addition to having good legs on the climbs.
  4. My Flog times don’t appear to have changed much judging by who’s ahead of me, but I’m not tired the rest of the day. In fact, there is no more KDS on Thursday (Keyboard Drool Syndrome).
  5. I can ride 100-150 miles one day and motor pace, do the Donut or the Flog or another hard ride the following day and feel fine. Then follow the hard day with another big volume day … as long as it’s really slow.

None of this means much in terms of racing, obviously, because group riding ain’t racing or even close, but it’s something to feel this good and have this much endurance in the face of so much volume. Fox Training Systems insists that the modern emphasis on rest and recovery is way overblown, and that cyclists should focus on riding more, and Facebooking less.

Not sure she’s wrong.


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Donut report 1/25/20

January 25, 2020 § 2 Comments

Old friend Michael Smith is in town for a couple of days, so he came by this morning for sourdough pancakes to go along with his Donut. At the rollout I spied Kevin Salk, coming back after a long convalescence for his hip surgery; props. The best way to go fast is to go fast!

Michael stoked the fire coming out of Malaga Cove with a hard pull all the way to the top. In Lunada Bay, Fred Mackey took the reins and was then followed by in-from-Vancouver David Gerth, who then passed the torch to Evens Stievenart. Evens broke the field into pieces coming out of Lunada Bay, and a lengthy red light at Hawthorne let everyone get back together.

Bob Reichmann closed a ton of gaps to bring the chase group back. The light turned green and coming out of Terranea speedometers hit 39.3; the pace was relentless all the way to Portuguese Bend, with Evens doing virtually all of the heavy lifting. At Trump the peloton broke apart, which was itself less than half of what had started so happily a mere thirty minutes before.

Evens kept the throttle open to the bottom of the Switchbacks then swung over. I accelerated, and was caught by a group that was now down to a handful. Evens then took another huge pull, I jumped once, and the remaining riders were David, Stathis Sakellariadis, Ivan Fernandez, Evens, and Chris Tregillis. David put in a long effort, throwing everyone into disarray, until Evens returned to the fore and towed us all the way to Crest.

I jumped again, we shed David and Ivan, and then Stathis sped away with Chris in hot pursuit. Evens chased hard, me tucked onto his wheel, and when he harpooned Chris I countered and finished just behind Stathis.

On the way down from the college an angry guy in a BMW tried to run over Jon Paris, who laughingly told him to “Hit me or get out of your car.” The guy swerved wildly again, and, smiling, JP said, “I’ll take your car, your wife, your kids, and your bitch. So let’s go, piggy bottom.”

JP is a super nice guy but he is scary AF when he smiles and takes you up on your empty bs. The asshole guy, now frightened, said, “I wasn’t really going to hit you, man,” before speeding off.

On Western I hooked up with Evens, Ivan, and Bob, who passed me going full gas. Evens dragged us to the base of Colinita, and I climbed us back to PVD East. From there it was The Evens Show again all the way to Crest. I accelerated a little at the bottom but it meant nothing. Ivan attacked just before the turn but Evens brought him back, and then I slotted behind Ivan until the road started to go up again. I hit it after Ivan took a pull and stayed away until the finish.

The chase group of Stathis, David, and ?? was followed farther back by a larger group, with Satoru Rokuta and a Big O teammate towing the riders all the way up PVD East and Crest in pursuit of Group Stathis.

In Portuguese Bend, Bob punched it hard on the Hulk Smash downhill, trying to close the gap opened up by Jon Davy, who had teamed up with David Wells as they made a strong bid for glory at the Hawthorne sprint. Just before we rounded the turn at the Glass Church, Michael attacked and shed everyone but Ivan, me, and David. Jon and Wells were still pretty far ahead and looked likely to make the move stick.

David countered Michaels attack, and Ivan and I struggled to catch on. We got over the top and David was now in no-person’s-land. Ivan put in a big effort to close most of the gap, I sprinted up to David and then caught Wells and Davy just as the road tilted up for the finish.

Gassed from their long solo effort, neither Davy nor Wells sprinted, so I took the belated birthday gift and zoomed for the #fakewin. Kristie Fox was first among the tiny handful of chasers, and she collected trophies for her efforts, no mean feat on these much-ridden segments.

As in weeks past, instead of sitting up and turning the stretch to Via Zumaya into a preen, I hit out at the light along with Ivan, Wells, David, and Michael. Each rider took a crazy hard pull until we got to Zumaya; the group was in hottest of hot pursuits and we only had a hundred yards or so at the turn.

Ivan attacked hard at the bottom of the climb and dropped everyone but Stathis, David, and me, and kept it in the big ring all the way over the first wall. David then slammed it all the way to the second wall, at which point Stathis attacked and dropped Ivan/David. I followed, barely, and we all regrouped on Via Coronel. Stathis was licking his chops as we approached Via Fernandez, attacking and riding away from the three of us. I cracked first, then Ivan, then David, but with a bit of recovery I was able to catch and pass them both and almost get Stathis at the line.

Everyone else arrived as we did; broken.

Donut standings:

Stathis Sakellariadis    5
Seth Davidson 3
Leo Bugtai       2
Nigel DeSota   1
Jon Petrucci    1
Charon Smith  1
Kevin Phillips   1
Arturo Sustos 1


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January 24, 2020 § 7 Comments

Trailer Joe’s is a really terrible place. There is nothing there to eat, or rather, there is nothing there to cook with. Everything looks healthy and tasty, and it seems reasonably priced because of the cheap, intentionally thrown-together look. But when you get down to it, it is almost exclusively prepackaged food, overpriced, and as bland as bland can possibly be. This makes sense, because the target market is people who want to seem healthy, and who want to seem like they are preparing food from scratch, when they in fact are just as overweight, inactive, and dependent on the microwave as the people who shop at Safeway.

The one thing that Trailer Joe’s gets right though is its employees. People there are friendly, happy, they work hard, they know what is in the store, and they don’t get a sour look when you interrupt them to ask “Where are the pinto beans?”

That is in fact what I asked last night when I popped in to pick up milk, butter, and bacon. A friend once asked me if I am a vegetarian. “Yes, as long as bacon is a vegetable.”

Anyway, the reason that I was in Trailer Joe’s is because my father had given me a $100 gift card for my birthday, and they have cheaper milk and cheaper butter than I can get at the local grocery store.

The other things on my list I could completely forget about because there was no way in hell that Trailer Joe’s could help. Uncooked pinto beans? You must be crazy. All they have is shit in a can. Tomato paste? You must be crazy. All they have is… well, they don’t have anything that might substitute for tomato paste. Peppers? Sure if you want half a dozen jalapeños. But forget it if you just want a couple of loose peppers for seasoning. Anyway, I got what I needed and went to the checkout.

The checkout dude’s name tag said Julian. He looked at me with my rolled up pant cuff and backpack, and smiled. “Did you have a good ride?”

“Man, they are all good rides. Ever since I got rid of my car and ride my bicycle everywhere, it’s nothing but good rides. Even the shitty ones.”

He laughed and nodded his head. “Yeah, it’s amazing how much energy you waste, mental energy, just looking for a parking spot, and then getting pissed off when someone takes your space. It’s only when you have a bicycle that you start to wonder what in the world does it mean to call something ‘your’ parking space? I ride a bike, too.”


“Yeah. That’s it parked right outside the front door it’s chained to that sign it’s the green and tan one. I ride it everywhere. I gave up a car a long time ago. They are dumb.”

I loaded up my pack, which with the milk weighed a solid 15 pounds. Butter and bacon and some carrots and celery, they add up, along with a jacket and a sweater and a cap. As I walked outside I looked at his bike. It was quite beautiful. It had a big basket on the front with a very pretty kind of leather decorative covering. And it had a rack on the back, and it had what I would call an almost intentionally distressed look. I say intentionally distressed because at first glance the bike looked kind of ratty but when you looked at it again you saw it was immaculate. The spokes were polished, the leather seat was burnished, and there wasn’t a speck of grime on the chain.

That dude really loves his bike, I thought. I shouldered my heavy backpack and rode home in the dark. The headlight cut a narrow white beam through the darkness.


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Elementary, my dear Watson

January 22, 2020 § 12 Comments

Seeing without observing is something that has been around forever, and will be around for as long as there are people, because lazy. Nowhere is the failure to observe more keenly seen than when it comes to riding a bicycle.

There are so many routes that I have ridden hundreds of times and yet I still don’t know the names of the streets, I don’t know the block numbers, and I can’t even tell you any of the significant landmarks or things that might make one place stand out from another. Why? Because, lazy.

When I lived in Japan it was not that way. We didn’t have GPS, we didn’t have smart phones, and the streets didn’t have names. As far as I know most of them still do not. The way that you found yourself was by knowing where you were. And the way that you got somewhere unfamiliar was with a map. By map I don’t mean a printed thing that you bought at the store and followed, no, not that at all.

A map was something that you scratched down on a little piece of paper, hurriedly written down as someone explained it to you over the phone, or sketched out on a napkin at a bar, or a restaurant, or at a police box. The streets in Japan even in a small city like Utsunomiya were so labyrinthine, and so narrow, and so hard to find, that the only way you could get from one place to another was via landmarks. Addresses were useless, as you would find out when you got into a taxi and gave them an address. They would need landmarks, they would need to be told what main street they were to take and then from there how they were to deviate to your individual location.

What I’m getting at is that for most of human history we have used our brains to find out where we are and to find out where we are going. There is actually a part of the brain that is devoted to wayfinding. It all ties in of course with memory, but this is memory of a particular sort.

Even terribly directionally challenged cyclists have a better ability to find their way around than the population at large. That’s because the population at large, in addition to being large, is even lazier than the average cyclist, something that boggles the imagination. In other words, ordinary people can’t find shit. Shit, they cannot find. If you are a cyclist you must be able at a minimum to get back home, and ideally you will be able to even reach your destination, although that is far from assured.

On the scale of wayfinding and memory, I have always rated myself fairly high, and like all self graded tests, the high score is reflective of my overinflated ego and not much else. The world has needles laying here and there with which over-inflated egos can easily be punctured, but you have to take the time to pick up the needle. In this case it was a sentence in a book. The book is called “Behave” and it’s by a guy named Robert Sapolsky.

The line in the book mentioned an article in the New York Times about the London cabbie test, and described it as the most difficult exam in existence. Of course whenever I hear someone describe something as the most difficult in existence, and especially if it’s related to some kind of test, I want to know more about it. I will tell you right now that after reading the article, it is absolutely silly to call this the most difficult test ever, although it might be the most difficult test currently in existence.

It is a fact that in imperial China the civil service exam was far harder than the London cabbie test, simply because it was common for people to study for years, and decades, before they ever passed. Most never did. The London cabbie test, although it doesn’t take 20 years, can easily take several, and passage is far, far, far from assured. Read the article and get back to me if you think that becoming a licensed London cabbie isn’t beyond the pale.

But what this has to do with cycling is not too unrelated, at least not for this rather random blog of mine. Even though I now commute throughout Southern California, I think it’s fair to say that I see a lot, and I know a lot of routes, but my ability to truly wayfind is quite limited. The most interesting thing about the London cabbie test was what they call “pointing.” Basically this means going out and learning where you are, where things are, how to get there, and how to get there most efficiently. In a complex place like London, where the cabbie exam covers more than 25,000 streets in a 6-mile radius from Charing Cross, as well as all of the landmarks great and small, pointing is what you have to do in order to even think about passing the exam. Pointing is really nothing more than observing, using your brain for the function that it was intended and that it does best.

Nowadays people studying for the cabbie test do their pointing on motor scooters. But back in the day they did it on bicycles! Of course! You would cover hundred and then thousands and then tens of thousands of miles on your bicycle at a pace that was slow enough to allow you to see, and then to observe, and then to memorize, and then to pull over and jot down a quick note or 2 or 200 or 2000. As is often the case we find that some of the most interesting things in history actually were related to bicycles. Who knew?

Now that I spend a huge chunk of my life on a bicycle not going fast, and simply trying to get from point A to point B, it seems like it would also be worthwhile not simply to see, but also to observe. How well do I really know Los Angeles? To hell with that, how well do I even know my own neighborhood? By the standards of a London cabbie, I don’t know them at all. So what I’m really asking is how well is it possible to know them?

I guess I’m gonna find out.


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Wes for the win

January 21, 2020 § 1 Comment

I remember seeing you your first season at Telo, always getting dropped, but showing up again the following week. “Man,” I thought, “that guy just keeps coming back.”

Then a few months later you rode a whole bunch of people off your wheel in a 240-mile beatdown on Seth’s Big Day; you left me for dead. You’d been riding less than a year, right?

Pretty soon you started showing up for the Flog, and you kept getting faster and better.

You were unusual because you weren’t interested in cycling drama. You got along with people and never took sides. You seemed comfortable with yourself and intent on learning how to ride faster. You didn’t seem to care who you learned it from.

I suspected that you had a serious athletic background, but learned I was wrong when you told me you had played football at University of San Diego. “It’s okay,” I thought. “He may not have any sports experience but he is obviously a fast learner.”

In the meantime you kept racing at Telo, and before long you weren’t getting dropped, then you were making the split, then you were sprinting for the win.

On the Flog, I knew you were going to bust some chops because on one lap we sprinted and you were so pissed at having lost, but angry at no one but yourself. I think you said “mother”-something and slammed your hands on the bars in frustration. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “That dude doesn’t like to lose AT ALL.”

Pretty soon, on Thursday Flog mornings you were a distant point on the horizon, hardly anyone could keep up with you, and those who could had to barf up a kidney to do it. Whatever you were good at didn’t matter. You wanted to be better at the things you weren’t good at. So if a ride had lots of climbing, like the Donut, you threw yourself into the teeth of the saw, battling with skinny little dudes who weighed less than your left bicep.

Most people cherry pick their rides because their egos can’t handle getting shelled. But not you.

And if a ride was suited to you, you never sat in waiting for the sprint, like on NPR, when you would just bulldoze to the front when the pace started to slow. “I’m here to get better,” you told me one time.

“I got eyes,” I said to myself.

What’s crazy is that you’ve done all this with zero drama. People who can help you improve, you know how to spot them and learn from them and then kick their ass. People who are all hat and no cattle, you are polite and keep moving.

Now you are winning races and it’s just the beginning. I’ve learned so much from you. Thanks for sharing.


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Donut report 1/18/20

January 20, 2020 § 1 Comment

Back by unpopular demand …

This Donut didn’t get decorated with the #fakefisticuffs and #shoutypantsing of last week, but it was plenty exciting for all that. The ride rolled out with 40+ cyclists.

The pace out of Malaga wasn’t torrid, thanks to the absence of Jon Petrucci and thanks to Rebekah Potter not drilling and grilling from the gun. Giovanni DiOrio hit it with three other riders and they opened up a gap that held until Lunada Bay. The pace was hard enough to drop several riders, and when Evens Stievenart hit the gas coming out of Lunada Bay it was every rider for herself. Trinkets got harvested, which tells you something, as this course has been ridden more than once or twice …

We rode single file until the light, which thankfully was red. Greg Seyranian took a long pull up Terranea, and I mostly huddled at the back, where the field was greatly reduced.

Coming into Portuguese Bend, Attila Fruttus and I bumped handlebars for no apparent reason; I apologized and all was good. Out of Portuguese Bend things started to get a little bunchy until Attila launched just before Trump. That’s when Jon Davy rolled to the front and set the watt meter at “HARD” and steadily reeled him back, just in time for the bottom of the Switchbacks.

I jumped and a lead group formed. Several flurries later I was alone with Matt Noble of Methods to Winning, the team’s lone mountain biker, and man, can that guy hammer. He pounded me off his wheel and I sat up, eventually getting swept up by the chase group that included Kevin Phillips, Stathis Sakellariadis, and Evens Stievenart.

There was more attacking on Crest and I made a bid after the flat spot but got handily caught past the final turn by Kevin and Matt, who sprinted each other for the $15 Hi-Fi Espresso gift card, with Kevin taking the point.

There was confusion on the regroup, as Stathis rolled away by himself, later followed by a smaller group of four or five riders, and then the main group much later. I sat on Evens’s wheel until Via Colinita and then rode the rest of the way to the Domes, but Stathis had been there for a long time. Seems like the fireworks should wait at least until the bottom of Western, and other riders have a chance to regroup … no point was awarded by the commissaires for Domes #2.

For the Glass Church-Hawthorne sprint, Charon Smith led out his teammate Arturo after Davy made a huge effort to get them to the line; Arturo got the point and the coffee card.

Even though I’d gone early and been caught, I jumped as soon as the light at Hawthorne turned green; Charon and I motored for a while, then at Zumaya, Stathis caught on. He sat, attacked on the second wall, then dropped me past Fernandez; everyone else trickled in, in ones and twos.

Donut standings:

Stathis Sakellariadis    3
Leo Bugtai       2
Nigel DeSota   1
Jon Petrucci    1
Seth Davidson 1
Charon Smith  1
Kevin Phillips   1
Arturo Sustos 1


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