A little restraint

April 18, 2016 § 21 Comments

When someone gets hurt from a bike fall or from a collision, it’s natural to want to know how they’re doing. However, well-meaning inquiries can impose a huge burden on the family members who may not have any information to share, especially when the extent of injuries is unknown. It’s incredibly stressful to be asked over and over about your loved one’s condition when the doctors haven’t even debriefed you on status, or when your loved one is battling for his life.

Moreover, family members may not want to share, especially with people who they may not even know. A terribly injured loved one is a huge psychological trauma. The last thing the family needs to also deal with are “How’s Bill doing?” text inquiries.

If you really care about the injured person and the family, consider the following.

  1. How close are you to the injured person? Super, super, super close? No? Then stand down.
  2. How close are you to the injured person’s family? Never met them? Then stand down.
  3. Do you have anything to offer besides prayers and “thinking of you” type support? No? Then stand down.
  4. Do you know they have a specific unmet need, and that you’re the person to fill it? Then consider reaching out, but not directly to the family.
  5. Have you been asked to do something by the family? No? Then stand down.
  6. Don’t post information on Facebook unless the family has asked you to.
  7. A lot of the time the family will have a very close friend who is with them at the hospital. If you know that person, contact him or her regarding hospital visits or other questions you may have, and spare the family the task of responding to countless questions.
  8. Remember that in the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic incident, the hospital and the closest family members/friends are usually taking care of the necessities. The tough part is after discharge, when your friend begins what is often a long and painful path to recovery. This is when visits, phone calls, your friendship and help can greatly ameliorate the brutal and plodding work of returning to normal.

These guidelines aren’t perfect, and there are always exceptions. But it will never ever hurt to really ask yourself twice, and then a third time, before you hit “send.”

END

Cycling book review: “Ulysses” by James Joyce

April 17, 2016 § 16 Comments

Although regarded by discriminating readers as the greatest novel of all time, and regarded by less discriminating readers as gibberish, “Ulysses” by James Joyce is unquestionably one of the greatest books in any language about cycling, better even than “Positively False” by Floyd Landis.

After recently completing this mammoth read from Mammon at the pace of 25 pages per day (est. 2.6 minutes per page), I realized that far from being a modern allegory about Odysseus, “Ulysses” is in fact a book about bicycling.

In the spirit of the freshman English class that I failed, what follows are my textual references to support my novel thesis about this most novel novel. After 782 pages of careful analysis I discovered that Joyce writes movingly and with passion, depth, and understanding about bicycling exactly thirteen times. Here they are.

  1. “They passed from behind Mr Bloom along the curbstone. Beard and bicycle. Young woman.”
  2. “His eyes followed the high figure in homespun, beard and bicycle, a listening woman at his side.”
  3. “Gerty MacDowell loves the boy that has the bicycle.”
  4. “As per usual somebody’s nose was out of joint about the boy that had the bicycle off the London bridge road always riding up and down in front of her window.”
  5. “W. E. Wylie who was racing in the bicycle races in Trinity college university.”
  6. “But he was undeniably handsome with an exquisite nose and he was what he looked, every inch a gentleman, the shape of his head too at the back without his cap on that she would know anywhere something off the common and the way he turned the bicycle at the lamp with his hands off the bars and also the nice perfume of those good cigarettes and besides they were both of a size too he and she and that was why Edy Boardman thought she was so frightfully clever because he didn’t go and ride up and down in front of her bit of a garden.”
  7. “His right hand holds a bicycle pump.”
  8. “He smites with his bicycle pump the crayfish in his left hand.”
  9. “Love on hackney jaunt Blazes blind coddoubled bicyclers Dilly with snowcake no fancy clothes.”
  10. “He had sometimes propelled her on warm summer evenings, an infirm widow of independent, if limited, means, in her convalescent bathchair with slow revolutions of its wheels as far as the corner of the North Circular road opposite Mr Gavin Low’s place of business where she had remained for a certain time scanning through his onelensed binocular fieldglasses unrecognisable citizens on tramcars, roadster bicycles equipped with inflated pneumatic tyres, hackney carriages, tandems, private and hired landaus, dogcarts, ponytraps and brakes passing from the city to the Phoenix Park and vice versa.”
  11. “of course hes mad on the subject of drawers thats plain to be seen always skeezing at those brazenfaced things on the bicycles with their skirts blowing up to their navels even when Milly and I were out with him at the open air fete”
  12. “pretending to read out the Hebrew on them I wanted to fire his pistol he said he hadnt one he didnt know what to make of me with his peak cap on that he always wore crooked as often as I settled it straight H M S Calypso swinging my hat that old Bishop that spoke off the altar his long preach about womans higher functions about girls now riding the bicycle and wearing peak caps and the new woman bloomers God send him sense and me more money”
  13. “can Milly come out please shes in great demand to pick what they can out of her round in Nelson street riding Harry Devans bicycle at night”

QED

END

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Rare bird

April 15, 2016 § 27 Comments

After many a ride Filds and I would recap the myriad stupidities of the day, and he’d always conclude, “Yeah, common sense. It just ain’t that common.”

As much as it pains me to say nice things about my friends, Gary Cziko and Pete van Nuys put on a seminar last night for our club, Big Orange. They are instructors for Cycling Savvy, a bike educational program for dorks.

In this case, however, the dorks aren’t the usual objects of contempt. They aren’t the people with panniers, recumbents, floppy dickhider shorts, helmet mirrors, sandals, and fourteen daytime lights. The dorks targeted by Cycling Savvy include everyone who doesn’t understand proper lane positioning. This means you.

Most of what Cycling Savvy refers politely to as “the lycra crowd” and I impolitely refer to as “delusional underwear pedalers,” considers itself expert at cycling safety. The reasoning goes like this:

  1. I wear my underwear on my bike and pedal fast.
  2. I enter one crit a year to get free crap from my team so I can call myself a bike racer.
  3. I have twelve top-10’s on the Strava leaderboard for 45+ men over 250 lbs.
  4. My bike is expensive.
  5. I ride in big groups.
  6. I’ve never been killed.

Of course if you ride with the lycra crowd long enough you realize that in addition to being delusional, many of them are wholly incompetent at bicycle riding, even many riders who climb well, sprunt well, and time trail well. What’s worse than their incompetence is that their insistence on bad positioning is built on an amazing resistance to criticism, let alone change.

After all, they’re wearing their underwear and have never been killed plus they got 10 kudos yesterday so they know what they’re doing, right?

Cycling Savvy’s curriculum politely but firmly begins with the premise that no, just because you ride a bicycle you don’t necessarily know what you’re doing. In fact, given the ignorance of law enforcement, the prejudice of cagers, and the lack of formalized cycling instruction, the chance that you know what you’re doing is quite small, because all savvy cycling begins with lane positioning, and a casual glance at any cyclist on any road reveals that most cyclists hug the gutter or the door zone.

It was fascinating to watch the Big Orange board get educated, a board that is comprised of people who have 12 zillion miles under their belt, who are already pretty expert at lane positioning, and who have extraordinary experience navigating large groups of idiots through the congested streets of L.A. It reinforced how badly we of the Underwear Tribe are in desperate need of education.

Unfortunately, the course is three hours long, which means your ass will be bleeding by the time it wraps up, and that doesn’t include the parking lot and on-the-road components of the class. The curriculum also contains too much information for the typical bonehead who has been roped into the session hoping to get a tip or two about how not to get killed.

Yet Cziko and van Nuys did a phenomenal job of introducing us to the law, the science, the logic, and the practice of controlling the fuggin’ lane, in addition to re-emphasizing the fact that if you put twelve boxes of Cheez-its in front of five cyclists they will devour everything down to the crumbs even when they’re no longer hungry.

I just wish they’d call the course “Control the Fuggin’ Lane, Dumbass!” and I wish more people would get educated. The rear-and-fore-facing videos showing how traffic responds to proper lane control are viscerally demonstrative of Cycling Savvy’s other premise: The life you save will be YOURS. Learning all this from people who themselves have been cycling longer than most of us have been alive, and who are professional, educated, and smart, was an added bonus.

Ultimately, if you think you know how to ride on the road, the chances are good you don’t. Because common sense just ain’t that common.

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 17: Fixin’ what ails ya

April 14, 2016 § 24 Comments

I was talking to a buddy the other day. “How are you?” I asked.

“I don’t feel so good.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t ride fast anymore and I’m always tired in the morning and I wear out quick. Plus after a long, hard ride I don’t recover and feel like an old shoe.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“A while now. The doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with me.”

So I told him what was wrong with him. “You’re just old,” I said.

“No, I’m not,” he protested.

“You sure are,” I insisted. “You are a ball bearing with all the round wore out.”

Then it occurred to me that there are lots of people like him who are pooped all the time especially after 120-mile rides, and they haven’t gotten the memo that they’re too damned old to be sitting on a bike for that long. So I came up with some helpful hints to help you get more out of your riding life.

  1. Don’t ride your fucking bicycle so fucking much. You are an old, worn out shoe, I don’t care how fat and cardiac-arrested everyone else was at your 40th high school reunion. The less you ride the better you will feel.
  2. Slow the fuck down. What’s the dogdamned rush? Where do you think you’re going anyway, besides the grave, and what’s the big rush to get THERE? When you go fast you pedal hard which stresses your systems, which are old and broke down. Give it a rest.
  3. Shoot your gym membership card. Gyms are for young people who can still get laid without paying for it. There is a simple rule for old person exhaustion: The more muscles you use (and you use ’em all at the gym), the tireder you will be. Plus, you look like an old fool trying to balance on that big bouncy ball, and you’re gonna look like a bigger fool telling the doc that you broke your face in half falling off of it onto the kettle bells.
  4. Unless you’re dating her (or him), quit the danged pilates class. Pilates and yoga only make you relaxed and warm inside when your insides are something other than cold, shrunken, icicles of rusted cynicism and despair. This means you.
  5. If you do any activity that rates you based on your age, stop it right now. The only reason Strava, etc. is age-graded is so that you can continue the delusion that you’re not a rickety rackety pile of hollowed out bones that will turn to talcum powder the minute you fall out of your walker. If you’re going to compete, compete with the P/1/2. You will lose so quickly and by such deafening margins that you will immediately see the virtue in birdwatching.
  6. Get some sleep. Remember how your mom used to tell you that you were a growing teen and you needed sleep? Well, she was just lying in hopes you’d not be out prowling the town late at night smoking dope and racing cars. But now you really do need sleep, so instead of prowling the Internet and reading blogs at night, switch all that shit off and go the fuck to bed. This means you, Sherri.
  7. Lay off the booze. You are tired in the morning because you are a drunk. Drunkening is the hardest workout you will ever do, and believe me, it shows. The last time I saw cheeks that puffy was on Mr. Stay-Puft. Lock up the liquor at least for a couple of weeks and you will have ten times more energy and enough money to buy a new tube instead of patching the same one for the fifteenth time.
  8. Spend a morning around some little kids. It will give you more energy than a case of Red Bull, after which you will be wrecked and sound asleep by 11:00 AM, which takes you back to #6 above.
  9. Cancel your new bike layaway plan. You’re already in debt and debt makes you tired, saps your energy, and drains your sex glands. Once you’re no longer saddled with a monthly paycheck deduction and 25% interest compounded hourly, you will sleep better, too.
  10. Quit doping. Doping makes you ride faster, which makes you more tired. Plus, doping makes you a lame-ass cheatbag. Aren’t you too old to still be cheating? No? Then you shouldn’t be cheating at something where, when you get busted, you get suspended from parking-lot crits. You should be cheating at something that will get you a life sentence, or maybe the electric chair. Go big or go pan y agua, baby. 

    END

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Call of the somewhat wild

April 12, 2016 § 24 Comments

I have been spending more time birdwatching lately. You know, getting back to my roots because I am too damned old and tired all the time to be racing every weekend. Except last weekend, and next weekend. And there are some other races coming up, too, later on.

But anyway, I love being surrounded by nature because it is very peaceful. When riding I often scream like a lunatic, curse at complete strangers, and behave like a raging steroid pumped up on bicycles.

A couple of weeks ago I went out early to Madrona Marsh, in Torrance. It is 48 acres surrounded by chain-link fence set behind the largest shopping mall in America, the Del Amo Fashion Center, where people go to purchase things that by virtue of being in a giant mall cannot possibly be fashionable. The marsh is a tiny postage stamp, all that remains of the thousands of acres of wetlands that once provided incredible habitat for wildlife in the South Bay.

After a few minutes I had drifted off into the other world of misidentifying birds and scratching my head over impossibilities. Rufous or Allen’s? Western or Cassin’s? What’s making that funny chirp?

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you’re looking at critters, exactly the opposite of how slowly time goes by when you’re on the fucking rivet going up the Switchbacks and some young punk is plucking the skin off your balls with a ball-peen hammer.

Anyway, it was really quiet except for the bird racket. Then across the slough I saw this dude dressed up like he was heading out on an expedition up the Congo. No joke, he was wearing full green camo, heavy utility vest, giant floppy adventurer camo hat, hip waders, and was carrying a giant pole that he stuck down in front as he walked as if he were navigating a giant crevasse field at Base Camp 12 of Chomulungma.

Keep in mind that the slough that feeds the pond is about ten feet wide and the water is about a foot deep, with lots of tall grass along the edge which is perfect dragonfly habitat; the bugs crawl up out of the water and onto the grass to shed their skin and spread their wings.

So I watched Dora the Explorer walk off the path and into the slough. I was about a hundred feet away. “Hey!” I yelled. He looked up quizzically, his massive waders crushing entire sections of fragile grass. “Yeah, you, you dumb bastard!” I shouted.

“Me?” he asked.

I walked over to the edge of the path. “What the fuck are you doing out there in the slough?”

“I’m, uh, researching,” he said.

I looked at his Amazonian explorer get-up and noted that he had a cheapo pair of $50 non-carbon field glasses dangling from his neck, binoculars that you couldn’t have examined your own navel with, much less a bird or a butterfly. “Like fuck you are,” I said. “Get your sorry fucking ass out of the slough, for fuck’s sake.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why? You’re CRUSHING THE FUCKING DRAGONFLY HABITAT, you stupid sonofabitch. Does the slough look like a fucking walkway?”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said, backtracking.

“You’re damned straight I’m right. Stay on the fucking path. If every jackanape in a clown suit who came here tromped through the fucking slough with those rubber snowshoes the whole damned place would be mashed flatter than a fucking pancake!”

Dora walked off, rather briskly.

I sank back into my quiet reverie, happy to have finally found such a peaceful activity devoid of all conflict and anger.

END

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America’s Top 10 Cycling Cities

April 4, 2016 § 16 Comments

I’ve been gathering data since March 2014 on cycling developments around the country and have completed what is in effect a long-term study on the best cities for cycling in the U.S. If you are interested in seeing the data that were used to compile this report, email me or post a comment requesting it and I will post a link to the raw data for your review.

  1. Houston, Texas. Known mostly as a sweaty hell-hole filled with mosquitoes and large, flying roaches, Houston is in fact the highest-rated metropolitan area in North America for its favorable cycling infrastructure and environment. Despite a high number of cyclist-cager fatalities (1,202.8 in 2015), Houston won the top spot due to its high number of cycling commuters: Over 40% of the city gets to work by bicycle.
  2. Minot, North Dakota. Although “perfect” riding conditions only occur between August 15 and August 28, the rest of the year Minot offers an incredible variety of riding. Aficionados can choose between riding indoors, hanging out at Val’s, or purchasing fracking equipment for their backyard. Minot nailed down the #2 spot due to its weekly ride (Tuesday) that boasts a gentleman who shows up on a tandem with no one on the back.
  3. Lancaster, California. Many people abhor the Lancaster-Palmdale Greater Methropolitan Area due to its ill-deserved reputation for drugs and highway fatalities, however,
  4. Tipton, Iowa. The hometown of former cyclist Jeff Filds, who no longer rides because he can’t find anyone who “just wants to ride down to the park and back,” Tipton offers scenic vistas, authentic Mayan burial pyramids, vast tracts of corn, and 47 different types of wind, all of which contain unique and beautiful varieties of dust.
  5. Bike Snob, New York. This black hole of negativity, anger, rage, formulaic writing, and sodden predictability drives me insane with jealousy. However, more Americans ride those pages than any other bicycling blog on the Internet.
  6. Portland, Oregon. Portland, site of former shipyards and naval stations and thousands of cases of mesothelioma, has in the last seven years imitated Austin, Texas, to a “T” and now boasts more people not from there who act like they were than the patrons of the Whole Foods Market on Lamar. Although most Porlandians drive SUV’s and add apostrophes to their acronyms, there are more bike shops operating in the red in this mainstream counterculture small town big city than anywhere except Boulder, CO.
  7. Yellow Knife, Northwest Territories. Selected for its mild winters, short distance from major metro areas such as Vancouver, culturally diverse population, and number of miles of dedicated bike lanes, Yellow Knife continues to punch above its weight in bicycle friendliness.
  8. Sugar Land, Texas. Located west of Houston, Sugarland is home to Russell “Ol’ Testicles,” one of the people responsible for getting more people out of cycling than anyone since Henry Ford.
  9. Santa Fe, New Mexico. This enchanted city tucked away in the mountains offers unrivaled vistas, uncluttered roadways, endlessly beautiful mountain climbs, and with the exception of a few cold weeks, year-round quality riding weather. However, this polished diamond is best known for its local bicycling tour guide services, the Stern Tours and Neophyte Welcoming Committee.
  10. Santa Monica, California. Home to one of the greatest champions of the modern cycling era, Nick Brandt-Sorenson provides the world’s leading web-based nutritional, pharmaco-medical, and fashion support for America’s cyclists.

END

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Chinese studying bike racing style

April 2, 2016 § 16 Comments

It is hard to learn another language because the people who speak it don’t want to practice it with you because they speak English better than you do Chinese so why would they want to listen to you say “I live in an apartment dog, I enjoy eating roast spit, and I have a 3-year-old daughter wife. How old is your tooth?”

The better question is why would a brain-rotted old fart like me want to learn Chinese anyway? My next trip is to Mallorca for the annual Old Texas Gizzards Romp and Norwegian Salted Fish Beatdown Bicycle Ride and they don’t speak Chinese there, they speak Catalan which is basically Spanish for defectives.

Anyway I like Chinese because it is very cheap. You can entertain the fuck out of yourself with a handful of Chinese words and it doesn’t cost hardly anything. The reason it is entertaining is because of the great simplicity of Chinese grammar, which is this: In order to translate anything in your head from English into Chinese, you simply arrange the Chinese words in an order that you wouldn’t ever arrange any sentence ever and then bingo you are bilingual.

But back to my problem of finding potential Chinese practice victims I did what I do with every life problem I apply a bicycle racing tactic to it. Bicycle racing tactics work for everything. In this case I used the Category Downgrade Tactic.

When you suck real bad at bike racing it’s not that you suck like Brad House, it’s that you are racing a too hard category. So you find an easier one that doesn’t have anyone in it who can beat you. This fits the Derek B. Rule of Race Outcome Prediction, which is this:

The thing that determines whether you will win is not your training or equipment or fitness or brains it is who shows up. Signed, Derek B.

The same thing is true of Chinese practicing. If you want to force someone to talk to you in Chinese their English has to suck balls worse than your Chinese sucks balls which frankly is a whole shit ton of ballsuckery. It’s a challenge because the only people whose English sucks balls worse than my Chinese ballsuckery are aged 4-6 months and they aren’t speaking yet, anything.

Hiring teachers is for balls because they only speak according to the Chinese to English Ration Rule which is this: You pay me $75/hour and I will speak 1:875, one word of Chinese to 875 words of English explanation.

So you pay the fuckers to teach them English.

Anyway, bike racing downgrade tactics work you just have to find someone who really sucks balls at English which is hard but not impossible because there are over a billion of them and about half live in my apartment complex. But if Brad House can win a dozen state championships then you can find one Chinese person whose English is dogsbody bad.

I was walking laps around the apartment complex and saw this aged Chinese couple sitting on the stairs catching their breath from lugging groceries up Ravenspur Drive to their apartment. It’s 18-percent and they were both about a hundred.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi,” they said.

“How are you today?” I asked.

“Bu dong,” they said.

“Nimen shi zhong guo ren ma?” I asked.

They smiled and said they were. Once it became clear that their English was absolutely nonexistent I had them snared like a new-bike owner on his first Flog Ride. I made a complete ass out of myself but they didn’t care because it fit the Rule of Assdom: No matter how big an ass you make speaking Chinese, it’s okay when your talking partner would make an even bigger ass out of herself speaking English.

I told them I was a lawyer but instead told them I was a fish. I told them I was married but instead told them I was tied up. I told them I had one daughter and two sons but instead told them that I had one toothache and two flippers. I told them my wife was orange. That my grandson’s name was “Cow.” That I like to ride my bicycle on car doors. And that every day I walked 10,000 laps around the apartment.

They smiled and told me my Chinese was excellent. We made a date to get together again and chat about the typhoon. I’m just afraid they will go home, break out the English dictionary, and learn five words of English. Then I’ll have to downgrade again.

END

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