Block and tackle

June 18, 2018 § 19 Comments

I used to smile when I heard people complain about writer’s block. “What in the hell are they talking about? All you gotta do is start writing.”

I am not smiling now.

I have got the biggest, nastiest, stinkiest case of writer’s block that anyone anywhere ever had since the first Chinese dude drew signs inside a tortoise shell. I’ve tried to write today’s blog a dozen different times and each one has petered out like a Trump promise.

Here are today’s dead blogs:

  • The incredible reading experience I’m undergoing as I weed my way, slowly, through Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams.”
  • The incredible eating experience of making my own sourdough bread.
  • The incredible ridiculousness of cycling as a path to longevity.
  • The incredible lameness of the four lameheads who rode a 44-minute TTT last weekend.
  • The incredible credulity of people who still don’t believe that we live in a corporatist police state built on prisons and slave labor.
  • The incredible awesomeness of my new carbon fiber wheels which are made exclusively of.
  • The incredible depressive effect that TT bikes have on bike racing.
  • What I had for breakfast.

Yet no sooner did I set down the basic first sentence than each topic withered on the vine, childless, unable to procreate little baby sentences so that it could grow up into a proper blog about bicycling and something.

The writer’s block had me by the throat as I chewed my way through dinner. Dinner tastes awful when you still have a blog to write, and the more I procrastinated the worse it got. Suds in the sink as I washed the plates, a couple of trips to the dumpster, a few dispirited checks of my phone, but the fear and loathing only increased.

You would think that after seven years of more or less daily scribblings and scrawlings I would have a pattern, a tried-and-true method, a formula into which I could dump the parts and out would come the sausage, but no, I don’t. Each day is a new Sisyphean struggle. The boulder is right back at the bottom of the dogdamned hill and the only person who’s gonna push it back up is me.

Somewhere between the forks and the broccoli bits stuck to the colander, it hit me: I would lose this round to writer’s block. For the first time since 2011 I’d sit down and will the words to come, and none would. Sure, I’ve skipped plenty of days, but never once have I tried to get something out and failed.

There’s a first time for everything. Today will have to be the first day I wanted to publish a blog and couldn’t.

Whoops! I did it again.

END

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First Annual All Clubs BBQ

June 12, 2018 § 5 Comments

It is pretty much a commonplace that cyclists rarely see each other with their riding clothes off, by which I don’t mean in the buff (that may be less rare than we think) but by which I mean in regular clothes.

People look different when they aren’t doing bicycle cosplay, and you know what? They act different, too. The faster you go on a bike the less you talk, and the less you talk the less you really interact. My favorite conversation is the archetypal Donut Ride rollout conversation, the one between people who have known each other for years, if not decades.

“Hey, man, how’s it going?

“Great. You?”

“Super.”

Then jostle for a little bit more position as you prepare for Mr. Scott to ramp up the engines.

The long talk

Of course when the mix and the route and the roads are right, you can have quite involved conversations while riding. I still remember the countless hours that Fields and I would talk as we cruised the back roads of the Texas Hill Country, or the multi-hour arguments that I’d have with Kevin Callaway on long winter rides.

But those are the exception these days; most rides occur on dense roads with a bunch of other riders, and the terseness is exacerbated when you happen to be riding with a completely different club or group of riders. As my friend Ken Vinson noted, the helmets, glasses, and clown suits make it even harder somehow to talk.

So Ken had a great idea about how to address the problem, which may not seem like much until you realize that we have a lot of racial conflict in the Los Angeles peloton. It’s not always overt, but sometimes all it takes is a bump, a push, or an angry word and suddenly racial tensions flare. I’ve seen it many times, and I am sure a lot of other people have, too.

Much of that tension is a product of the fact that people don’t really talk all that much on the bike. The relationships can be thin and limited to a few cursory greetings, greetings that don’t cut it when people are fighting for a wheel or disagreeing about whether a particular move was safe.

Ken’s solution was an all club barbecue, where any bike club in Los Angeles could come, put up a barbecue pit, bring the non-riding members of the family, and actually mingle.

The date is August 12, from noon to six

This was the impetus for the first annual All Clubs BBQ, which will be held at Eldorado Park in Long Beach, and will include a cook-off competition and barbecue samplers for a few dollars per plate.

This year we’re also going to fold in the sixth annual South Bay Cycling Awards with the All Clubs BBQ, but more about that later.

The event will take place on August 12, 2018 at the El Dorado Park West “Willow Grove” Picnic site from 12-6 PM. The All Clubs BBQ event entry is free.

Details:

  • El Dorado Park West 2800 N. Studebaker Road, Long Beach, CA 90815
  • “Willow Grove” Picnic site enter on E. Los Arcos St. off Studebaker Road
  • Ample free parking
  • Extensive tree covering and covered picnic shelters (available on a first come basis)
  • Family friendly outing
  • Playground
  • Games
  • The chance to mingle and talk off the bike
  •  It’s a picnic so bring your own food–BBQ sampler plates will also be available for a few bucks!

     

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Old rest, young rest

June 11, 2018 § 2 Comments

When you are young and you are a cyclist, you ride a bunch and get tired, then you rest. You might get off your bike a week, maybe two, to give your muscles and your mind a chance to recuperate.

But when you are old, and especially when you are a new rider, and especially when you are on the Wanky Training Protocol, it’s a little bit different. When she started off, I had my wife on a modest plan based on lots of sciencey stuff that I made up as I went along, but two of the main points were these:

  1. Mostly short and easy.
  2. One “stretch” day a week.
  3. Tons of rest.

She followed the plan and like anyone else who follows a reasonable training plan, she got fit pretty quick. Three months in she did her first ride up Mandeville, which was pretty gnarly because at the end of the ride she still had to do the 1,200-foot climb up to the cheap seats back home.

Every month I’d throw in a solid week of no cycling at all, and she hardly ever had more than four riding days a week. After about six months, though, she finished a week of riding, took a week off, but when she started up again she felt flat as a pancake.

“Time to take a big break,” I said, and that went over like putting a book on Trump’s desk.

You know how people who spent fifty years not cycling suddenly treat a missed week like the end of the world? But I was convinced she needed more than just a couple of weeks off because even though a two-week break sounds like forever to a fit, habituated cyclist, I think that beginners, especially old ones, really need more than that.

For one, when they ride they aren’t simply tearing down muscle. They are tearing down and rebuilding entire organ systems. Digestion, elimination, endocrine, not to mention cardiovascular systems, all of which are being thrown into chaos with the sudden conversion from sedentary to cyclist.

Unlike young people who can go from two packs a day and a case of beer to a three-hour marathon in twelve months, old people … can’t. Whether it’s their joints, their digestive tract, or the capillary network they have to beef up to cope with the demands of sustained exertion, it takes a huge toll, one that is far beyond what they can recover from  in a few days.

This is Week Three. Seems like it’s working.

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Wheels of justice

June 10, 2018 § 8 Comments

I rode to Santa Monica a month or so ago and stopped at Dogtown Coffee. My first order of business was the bathroom, and when I got out I saw that my wife had struck up a conversation with some dude and his wife. I sat down.

The dude loved orange bicycles, which was a weird coincidence, because I belong to a club called Big Orange, was wearing an orange clown suit, and had sashayed up to the coffeeshop on my bright orange bike.

“I am the original lover of orange bicycles,” he said with the smallest hint of a foreign accent.

“You should join Big Orange, then. We are all orange all the time, except when we are collecting lizards.”

He looked quizzically at me. “Lizards?”

“It’s a long and painful story that involves lots of unsold ugly green socks, Facebag, an Asian lady winning a medal, and lots of butthurt. I’ll tell you about it never. Where are you from?”

“Germany,” he said.

So we began to talk in earnest.

Books and sourdough starter and links

I don’t really remember how this next phase came about, but a few weeks after we met, I was headed back to Santa Monica to meet Ralf again and to drop off a bag full of books and a jar of sourdough starter. The books were an assortment of recent reads that I’d designated for the library donation bin, and Ralf had professed interest in one of the titles, and his wife had professed interest in some sourdough starter, so that kind of explains it, vaguely.

Then, a couple of weeks later, he sent me an email. “Don’t know if you’re familiar with the Villa Aurora, but here’s a link, and they have some pretty interesting events from time to time.”

I clicked on the link. How many bad stories have started like that?

Hitler’s most wanted

Villa Aurora is a mansion. It’s about twelveteen hundred thousand square feet perched on Via Miramar, just off Sunset with a commanding a view of the Pacific Ocean. Lion Feuchtwanger bought it in the 40’s for $7,500. It is worth more than that now.

Feuchtwanger was a Jew, and he didn’t wind up on the West Coast by choice. He was driven from Germany in 1933 when Hitler published his first Denaturalization List, which designated enemies of the state who were thereby stripped of citizenship. Hitler considered Feutchwanger a personal enemy due to the novel “Success,” a fictionalized and brutal portrayal of the Nazi party.

After exile in France, Feuchtwanger and his wife Marta effected a daring escape from the Gestapo via Portugal to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles in 1941 and living there until his death in 1958. Feuchtwanger, along with Thomas Mann, formed an intellectual, literary, and social propaganda front on the West Coast opposing Hitler and Nazism, and Villa Aurora was a center for Jewish and European exiles who did everything in their power to encourage the U.S to enter the war against the Third Reich.

So here I was, living in LA, having ridden my sorry ass bike a stone’s throw from Villa Aurora a thousand times or more, and I’d never heard of it or its illustrious history. I’d never even heard of Feuchtwanger, and I learned about it all just because of an orange bike and a chance conversation in a coffee shop that led to an Internet link as reciprocation for a couple of books and some yeast.

Good government, bad government

The U.S. government is today led by a Neo-Nazi, and it maintains concentration camps for immigrant children who are tortured by being taken from their parents, subjected to mental and physical abuse, and who are also sexually assaulted. Their parents are now being incarcerated in federal prisons, and civil rights workers, lawyers, and social workers are denied access to these modern concentration camps.

This is our land.

But it was not always this way. After World War II, the U.S. government poured the modern equivalent of $110 billion dollars into decimated Western Europe, not to shore up dictatorships like modern Russia, but to to build up democracies like modern Germany. After spending its Marshall Plan funds, Germany set aside a portion of the money and founded something that, when I applied for it in 1988, was called the Bundestag Internship Program. It came with free accommodations at the University of Bonn’s married student housing, a generous monthly allowance, coursework at the university for two semesters, and nine months of work in the office of a member of parliament.

I worked in the office of a former Nazi soldier, Burschenschaftler, and all-round conservative Bavarian dick named Dionys Jobst, whose only memorable political act was to jokingly suggest that Germany purchase Mallorca as the 17th federal state, only to find out that for much of the world, German acquisition of foreign territory wasn’t especially funny. However loathsome I found his politics, the money I received from the German government changed my life. In addition to the friends I made, I received an education unlike any other, as my arrival in Bonn in August of 1989 coincided with the first freedom trains from Eastern Europe which presaged the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, a world-changing event that came about in November. In the middle of this complete upheaval of the world order, I happened to be sitting in the front row, and it’s no accident that my eldest son is named Hans despite no apparent family connection to anyone in Germany.

It was in Germany that I first ate bread, real bread, that I first rode my bike over cobbles, that I first confronted the living, breathing intellectualism of Western thought, that I first understood racism as a global phenomenon, that I first saw how modern and alive Nazism was forty years after war’s end, that I first saw the depth and power of a real social democracy based on human rights.

Not a day went by during my time in Germany that I didn’t reflect on the fact that I was the recipient of welfare from my own government, and from the coffers of a foreign nation as well.

Those Hollywood nights

Shortly after I left Germany, its government purchased the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. I don’t think the two were related. After investing several million dollars to shore up the home’s foundation, it was restored with those of Feuchtwanger’s books and personal items that hadn’t been donated to the University of Southern California, and rebooted as a guest home for visiting fellows, who rotated on a three-month basis.

This was remarkably similar to my own experience in that, again, the German government was investing money to develop good things around the globe, except in this case the Villa Aurora’s mission was truly extraordinary: At least one of the fellows is always a writer who is being persecuted by her government, just like Feuchtwanger himself.

After joining their email list, I received an invitation to an evening of Meet the Fellows, and it was extraordinary beyond any description, beginning with the villa itself. Whatever you think of Feuchtwanger as a writer, he was an impeccable judge of real estate, as the scenery stretching out below Via Miramar captures the ocean, the sunset, and the stunning beauty of the Topanga parkland. The villa is luxurious after a 1930’s fashion, but its most impressive feature is the leftover collection of Feuchtwanger’s books, which line every wall.

I spent an hour reading the spines of every book and covered less than half the volumes in only two rooms, a compendium of French, Spanish, English, and German writings that spanned every genre and every time period.

The high point of the night, however, was the series of presentations put on by the fellows, beginning with the brilliant and moving Onur Burçak Belli, a Turkish journalist fighting on the front lines of human rights against what can only be described as the true forces of evil in the form of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dictatorship.

#freeTurkeyjournalism and #journalismisnotacrime

Belli, an accomplished writer who covers crucial issues such as the repression of dissent in Turkish universities, the plight of Syrian immigrants in Turkey who are fleeing Assad’s civil war, and the changing landscape of immigration in the EU, spoke at length about the dangers of working as a journalist in Turkey.

The price of the pursuit of facts for journalists can easily be death or decades in prison, yet Belli introduced writer after writer who, unbowed, has defied Erdogan’s Nazi-like regime and his security forces in order to publish punishing facts about the government. Belli described the fully militarized state, replete with continual police brutality, sham trials, political murders, and secret police reprisals that define daily life in the southeast part of Kurdish Turkey, as well as the atrocities committed against reporters who dare to disclose facts unfavorable to the regime.

By detailing the stories of individual journalists, Belli brought home the reality of those who are persecuted as well as those who continue to fight to keep reporters out of prison, and to fight for freedom for those who have been incarcerated. When Belli described the show trial of one reporter, the room shivered as she described the courtroom scene: Without a lawyer, without the ability to cross-examine or even know the names of his accusers, when the writer was allowed to speak in his own defense he laughed at the judge and said, “I am not here to defend myself for I have done nothing that merits a defense. I am here to prosecute YOU for your crimes against Turkey’s laws the Turkish people!”

Through the ringing applause, you could hear the clapping hands of Feuchtwanger, too.

A sound apart

The second fellow was Stefan Beyer, a composer from Braunschweig who currently lives in Berlin. Funny, intelligent, modest, and well aware that the average person has zero idea what modern music sounds like, he treated us to a fifteen minute selection from his composition, “I Have Never Eaten Human Flesh.”

I’ve never eaten human flesh either, but if I did, I wonder if it would be as interesting as Beyer’s music? Doubtful.

Of course listening to modern music as a wholly uninformed and ignorant listener, anything I might say about it would only reinforce my previously stated qualifications, even as an illiterate would be less than competent to interpret, say, ancient Greek. Nonetheless, I can say this: After listening to a couple of his pieces, I’m now listening to a third, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you check it out.

The world from yesterday

It was barely a couple of years ago that I returned from Vienna, my rucksack stuffed with books, and none impressed me more than Stefan Zweig’s epic, “Die Welt von Gestern.” Previously I had read one of his novels, Ungeduld des Herzens, but it was nothing compared to The World from Yesterday.

That book led me eventually to Karl Kraus’s “The Last Days of Mankind,” a most damning work that obviously influenced Zweig and The World from Yesterday in countless ways. So you can imagine the thrill that ran up and down my spine when I learned that the third fellow was Maria Schrader.

Who?

Right. I didn’t know either.

However, the whole point of education is to learn what you don’t know, and so I unashamedly googled Ms. Schrader only to learn that she is a famous German actress and, of much greater interest to me, is the director of the acclaimed movie Vor der Morgenröte, which, incredibly, is about the life of Stefan Zweig.

Schrader’s film, and yes, it’s a fuggin’ film, captures Zweig’s life in the most amazing way, with individual scenes from his life, concluding with his exile in Brazil, where, after escaping the Nazis, he settled down to a life of extraordinary happiness, peacefulness, and suicide. Having read Kraus’s work, and having read a wonderful series of works by great Viennese writers in the early 1900’s, and having read The World from Yesterday, it was like a dream to sit and listen to Schrader talk about going from an idea to a final, fully produced scene in a movie.

Her presentation taught more about filmmaking than I’ve known my entire life, and it was done with humor, self-deprecation, in beautiful English, and summed up with a scene from the movie that, in a brief four minutes, justified all of her acclaim.

All of this, right here in Los Angeles, a few hundred feet from PCH, there were movies, music, political resistance, great journalism, human rights, like-minded people supporting the same ideals … all of it courtesy of a generous and farsighted government, all of it accessible thanks to a fortuitous meeting on a bright orange bike.

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Another cool MVMNT Ride

June 9, 2018 § 1 Comment

My ride began at 6:05 AM this morning, nary a car on the road as I descended to PV Drive North. I made the left and drifted out of the bike lane on the deserted street.

Whatever drowsiness that remained was blasted away by a white pickup that had sped up onto my rear wheel and violently leaned on the horn. It was one of those loud, obnoxious, “Fuck you!” honks that are such a specialty of the terminally angry South Bay not-quite-rich-enough folks.

I met up with a gang of Big Orange riders at the Center of the Known Universe, and as we left Manhattan Beach a very angry white person leaned on the horn without let-up for a solid minute, letting us know that she wanted us off of her road. We waved when she finally passed, and wished her the nicest of days, although it was clear that the sight of twenty happy bicyclists had already ruined her entire weekend.

We reached the meet-up spot at La Tijera and La Cienega. A big contingent of the Beach City Cycling Club also showed up, as well as large numbers of riders from Major Motion, Methods to Winning, the Bahati Foundation, Penuel Cycles, a bunch of other clubs, and a large assortment of unaffiliated riders. In all there were well over a hundred riders.

The MVMNT Rides were started as a way to get together white, black, Latino, Asian, Filipino, and every other ethnicity on two wheels and pedal through urban Los Angeles on routes that many of us don’t often take. One of those routes is to Watts Towers, an extraordinary landmark by any measure, yet one that most L.A. denizens have never seen.

We owe a huge debt to Ken Vinson, Methods to Winning rider and engine who has done so much to get our communities talking to each other. Ken is the person who put the word out for today’s MVMNT Ride, and people turned out in force.

It took us over an hour to make the short 12-mile pedal because we stopped at traffic lights and because the pace was intentionally slow and conversational. In addition to enjoying the sights of the city we got to meet so many new people. Of course, throughout the morning people honked at us, but unlike the uptight South Bay people in their Rage Rovers, these were friendly honks accompanied with happy yell, thumbs up, and waves.

It’s something I’ve gotten used to riding with a large group in urban L.A. Half of the people shouting have bikes at home and wish they were with you, and the other half are shouting because they are stoked.

Watts Towers was amazing. I’d tell you about it, but you have to see it for yourself.

Post-ride BBQ

After the ride, there was a neighborhood barbecue put on by East Side Riders, which turned out to be an amazing end to an amazing day. I was unable to go, but friend and fellow Big Orange rider Kristie Fox went with Ken to the event. Here is her report:

“ESR is more than a bike club, and membership requires a mindset of giving back to the community and helping people in need. The BBQ and the people there reflected that. For the East Side Riders, bikes are transportation, not toys like they typically are on the West Side and in the South Bay, and that’s why the organization fights for bike lanes and other advocacy issues.

“John Jones, the head of the club, is a super charismatic person but totally unpretentious. You can feel how much he cares about what he is doing and how good it makes him feel just standing next to him. The BBQ had free food and drinks, mountains of hot dogs, sausage, hamburgers, pasta salad, potato salad and watermelon, all paid for by John and free to not only the club, but anyone in the community who needed to be fed this day.

“Everyone there was incredibly friendly and happy. It felt more like a family reunion than a bike club BBQ. Everyone smiled and talked, some came up and introduced themselves. There was a woman there from the MVMNT ride named Aso who does a lot of riding with ESR. She talked about riding, the people she has met, and how inspirational they are to her. There was no talk of carbon, watts, racing, teams, power meters, and the other garbage that gets bandied about by bike racers, but a lot of talk about getting away from gangs, getting kids away from gangs, and giving something back to help people struggling in their neighborhoods with real problems like no food, parents on crack, illness, and no health insurance.

“There is a group of women in the group called The Flawless Diamonds. They are some of the most genuinely kind, energetic and completely crazy women you could ever hope to meet. They go by names like MZZ. V, Snazzy, MZ. Vilvit, and Ms. Booty. They were there selling BBQ to fund their club that raises money to sponsor families in south central Los Angeles. They adopt families and children for the year and provide them with everything they need for school, food and help with academics. They pay for everything, that’s everything, folks, and make sure the kids have dinners for holidays and anything else they need for the year. The founder, Snazzy, told about one family they’ve helped where the dad was raising two very young children because the mom was a drug addict who left and was never seen again. These women pay for medical expenses for kids with serious illness like cancer, and they volunteer every single Sunday in Bellflower to cook meals for the homeless.

“Napoleon Moore was also there, an unforgettable, unmistakable legend of the cycling world. He rides a minimum of 100 miles a day, all over the city. He had ridden 100 on the way to the BBQ and was on his way to rack up a bunch more miles after. He talked about how ESR had changed his life and gotten him out of the gang mindset by allowing him the get outside the community. He said that before ESR he couldn’t ride his bike anywhere but on his own street because the other streets were claimed by different gangs.

“ESR did not follow a gang claim rule for membership, and riding with them allowed him to move around and through the community to the outside where there were no gangs. He said this was something he had never heard of before joining them. He talked about how kids are isolated and segregated by systematized enforcement of gang territories, which stunts them into becoming gang members. He said that ESR had saved him, and he does everything he can to get more kids involved with ESR and moved away from a life in gangs and drugs.”

Thoughts about the day

On the way back I was talking with Baby Seal. “Why does money make people so bitter?” he wondered aloud.

“It’s because people with money don’t have to interact much with other people. Every problem in life is a transaction. But when you don’t have money you have to talk with people, rely on people, deal with people, comfort people, listen to people, help people out. Karma isn’t a bumper sticker for your Rage Rover, it’s a way of life, helping people and encouraging people because you know that what goes around really does come around, and your turn could be right around the corner.”

A bunch of young guys standing by the bus stop whistled and waved, and we waved back.

END

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All in a day’s ride

June 4, 2018 § 13 Comments

When you are a super excellent mid-50’s #profamateur #fakebikeracer whose life revolves around all things carbon all the time, it is easy to forget that there are other things in the world, things that are meaningful, interesting, educational, healthy, and a ton of fun, too. This past weekend I encountered just such a thing and would like to tell you about it, it is called cycling.

Every year the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition puts on a River Ride which does in fact go along a river but which also goes through big chunks of downtown L.A. They do this on bicycles; you pay an entry fee which goes to the best of causes, and then you ride your bicycle along public roads that you would otherwise ride for free, except that you’d never actually do it because you are too lazy to come up with the route, and because you’d never be able to arrange the pit stops, food, burritos, beer, and other things along the way.

But back to my discovery, this cycling thing.

What is cycling?

Cycling is where you ride a bicycle for fun; it has nothing in common with bike racing. At the River Ride this past weekend, which happened to be the event’s 18th edition, there were several thousand people on bicycles not racing, another way of saying “having fun.”

The first proof of the fun that everyone was having actually occurred prior to the cycling thing, and it occurred in the port-o-potties, or rather it didn’t occur at all. Pre-race port-a-potties are legendarily awful, for this reason: Racers are jittery AF. My friend reported that prior to doing her first sanctioned bike race a couple of weeks ago, she pooped three times before lining up to race.

What this means is that your bike race port-a-potty experience can be ghastly. Not so with the port-a-potties at a cycling event. It was pointed out to me by Mrs. WM, who pays very close attention to such things, that “Racer poopers are worst! The fun bicycle poopers don’t hardly even poop. Itsa clean and not stinky!”

In other words, cycling peeps, unlike bike racers, aren’t riven with terror and anxiety, so their bowels stay firm. Why aren’t they riven with terror and anxiety? Because they are there to have fun.

Fun indicia

It seemed like everyone at the River Ride was there to have fun and no one was there to do EPO and testosterone and kill the other person for a trinket. Here are some ways that I noticed these cyclist folks having fun:

  • Bike-mounted sound systems. Lots of people carried their own boom boxes, and others actually sang along. Never seen anyone singing at CBR.
  • Comfy clothing. Many cyclists were wearing loose fitting garb that didn’t restrict aortas and such. Others wore comfy sneakers. One dude did the century in flip-flops.
  • Frequent stops. Cyclists stopped at every rest stop and “topped up” with every kind of snack imaginable. They chatted, laughed, compared notes, rode some more or simply turned around and called it a day.
  • Kids. Cyclists brought kids rather than leaving them in the cellar while dad spent the day doing a manly road race in eastern Yolo County. Kids got to ride and get medals or, better yet, free pop.
  • Spousal and significant other units. Cyclists brought people they loved to the event and rode with them.
  • Leisurely beer and burrito refueling. After riding, even for the short 35-miler, cyclists congregated under tents, and ate burritos that were bigger than the Hindenburg.
  • No shoutypantsing. Cyclists didn’t shout at each other, chop wheels, or engage in post-ride punchemups over who jiggled who for 42nd place.
  • Smiling. Cyclists smiled from the beginning to the end, except when they were a bit tuckered out with ten miles to go and a headwind.

Conclusions

Based on my experience, I think I would like to do more cycling. It seems like a fun and interesting way to meet people and have fun. Now where do I get one of those little mirrors?

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Slow ride

June 2, 2018 § 12 Comments

I am pretty sure that when Foghat recorded the song Slow Ride, they weren’t talking about cycling, but hey, you can listen to it and decide for yourself.

The old hack saying about the best way to learn something is to teach it, I’m finding, has some truth to it, along with the corollary that it’s also the best way to go insane in the shortest period of time.

Harsh reality repeatedly slams on my ego like the steel door of a safe on a tender thumb in this way: Each year I am unable to ride as hard as long as I did the year before. The booted-off-the-top-floor phenomenon of rapidly declining everything really picks up steam after fifty, and by the time you hit the mid-50’s it is a luge on a world record run.

As I’ve been riding with my wife, I’ve had to slow down, way down, way way way down, ultra down, dragging a ball and chain down, and as Ol’ Grizzles put it during a long phone call between L.A. and Fresno, when he offered me much in the way of marital and psychological counseling, “Riding with your S/O is terrifying and tedious.” His other summary was equally pithy: “No one gives a shit about your problems.”

The re-education of Wanky

While I wouldn’t say that S/O riding is tedious, I would definitely say that it’s horribly tedious. This is simply because as a lifelong #profamateur the only time you ride 12 mph is when you are walking, sleeping, or dead.

But repeatedly taking 3-4 hour rides where the average pace is in the low teens has had surprising results. First is that I’ve learned to enjoy it. The terror-tedium phenomenon has given way to mild fear and relaxation.

Of course relaxation on a bike ride is pretty much the opposite of why I ride a bike. If I wanted to relax I’d learn ancient Egyptian. So relaxation as the outcome of a bike ride pretty much ruins the bike ride. We all know that if you don’t finish the ride depleted, wrung dry of all fluids and minerals, whimpering, a wrecked bag of wrinkled skin and raw sores, the ride was an unequivocal failure.

However, and there’s always a however, it turns out that slow riding actually increases your ability to achieve a successful (i.e., miserable) ride on the other days. Therefore, it is totally worth mastering.

Complex physiological concepts

Every cyclist understands the crucial concept of rest, which is why we ignore it so utterly. It’s our disdain for rest that turns our “easy day” into a 45-mile “spin” with 5k of climbing and a few sprints to “keep the legs loose.”

This is why cyclists are always exhausted and nonfunctional during crucial times of the day (work, coitus, etc.). They simply do not know how to rest.

What you will find if you ride your bike for a couple of hours at 12-13 mph with a fairly high cadence is that you return home un-tired. It is as different from the standard cyclist recovery ride as Trump is from an adult. And as I’ve been doing one to two of these “non-rides” a week, I’ve been able to achieve two seemingly impossible objectives, that is, both ride my bike AND be fresh.

Along with achieving true recovery, the crazy slow, moderately high rpm ride has another, even more important benefit. It is extremely efficient at burning calories. Hard 3-4 hour rides burn more, but something about hard rides and the concomitant fatigue also drive your hunger through the roof. There’s nothing more depressing than clicking on the Stravver, seeing you burned 4,000 calories, and then mentally calculating that in the eight hours after the ride you consumed 8,000. Yes, I’m talking to you.

In my slow ride experience, there’s something about the low-level, non-tiring exertion that burns calories without also spiking appetite. Sound magical? Well, it pretty much is.

Learning to crawl

Slowing down is safer. Slowing down is conversational. Slowing down is discipline. Slowing down lets you go harder, faster, longer, and exponentially increases the pain and misery the rest of your rides. And of course slowing down is maddening, but like Charlie Christian’s Blues in B, it is rewarding beyond any words when you finally understand it.

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