May 2, 2018 § 6 Comments
In a new tell-all biography detailing his twelve-year career as a domestique for the UCI Rather Pro Continental IV Substrata team Herndy-Doo, Belgian rider Wim van der Poop admitted that he had raced clean his entire career. “Of course I’m ashamed of it,” said van der Poop at the press conference announcing his book, Bread, Water, and More Bread. “But that’s how it was at the time. If you wanted to come in last, or near last, that’s what you had to do.”
The UCI has launched an investigation into the allegations, most of which center around team manager Donqui van Hoydonck. “Van Hoydonck knew that the riders were on a non-doping program,” van der Poop alleges in his book. “He simply turned a blind eye. His attitude was, ‘If the racers are clean, that’s none of my business.'”
When Cycling in the South Bay contacted van Hoydonck about these explosive new non-doping allegations, van Hoydonck vigorously denied them. “Van der Poop was never a major factor in any race, ever. Plus, why would we endanger our team’s reputation by putting him on a non-doping regimen? If our sponsors ever found out it would have been the end of the team, twenty-two people would have been out of jobs. You think I would have risked that just to put van der Poop on bread and water?”
Van der Poop’s book details the procedures through which riders were non-doped. “It was a complicated, very organized affair, perhaps the most extensive and corrupt non-doping system in the history of sport,” van der Poop writes. “In the morning we were brought into a cafeteria and fed large amounts of bread, eggs, bacon, and water. Some riders even received mineral water such as Perrier or San Pelligrino. I couldn’t ever bring myself to swallow the bubbles, but many did. I personally saw them do it.”
Team Herndy-Doo folded in 2017 after failing to find a sponsor when its top rider, Wouter Spouter, was expelled from the most important race on the Rather Pro Continental IV Substrata race calendar, the Tour of the Bill’s Plumbing Supplies Parking Lot. Spouter tested negative for thirteen different performance enhancing substance and was judged “physically, and perhaps mentally, unfit to race.” Team Herndy-Doo, a charter member of the Incredible Movement for Credible Cycling, was forced to withdraw its entire team under the cloud of suspicion that non-doped riders were participating in UCI-sanctioned events.
“There’s an omerta in cycling about non-doping,” says van der Poop. “But the madness has to stop. Until someone is willing to admit that riders non-dope at all levels of the peloton, we’ll continue to have people like me who chase their dreams only to retire, bitter and disillusioned, and facing a lifetime of not having a single drug addiction or horrible health-related disability as a result of never using banned drugs. It’s just not right.”
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April 28, 2018 § 4 Comments
We had hit Trump, I was in my 53 x 17, and Gavin Hoover was pulling away. I was doing my best to stay on his wheel. At the bottom of the Switchbacks he began doing his best to make sure I was not on his wheel, which was pretty effective, not just as to me, but as to the other four riders struggling might and main not to get dropped. When a dude with his sights set on making the Olympic team hits the gas, your day is done. The peloton was a distant memory.
I tried to shift onto an easier rear cog but the derailleur wouldn’t move. I got off the big chain ring but the 39 x 17 was too small to keep up, and they began pulling away. I realized the rear derailleur battery on my SRAM e-tap had died.
Every Saturday afternoon I charge front and rear, and this week I’d only ridden Tue/Thu/Fri, hardly enough to run down the battery. On the other hand, the batteries were two-and-a-half years old. That’s about 130 charges, which I figured was probably enough to have taken the battery to the end of its life.
I pulled over to swap the front battery onto the rear. Swarms of riders passed. I fumbled a bit but got it done, hopped on, and pedaled away. After a bit Derek the Ninja Destroyer caught me, dragging Ivan and someone else, and towed us to about 200 yards from the first chase group, throwing burned and shellacked droppees into the Destroyer blender as he passed.
I hopped up the last couple of hundred yards and rode up Crest, towed the whole way by Bryant Rolf, who recently relocated from the East Coast back to L.A. and brought a vicious pair of legs with him. I sucked wheel until the end and sprunted around him.
The group re-agglomerated and as we rode into San Pedro I told Gavin what had happened. He nodded. “I don’t think my cables ever lost their charge during a ride or race,” he said.
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April 27, 2018 § 3 Comments
Team Lizard Collectors is a pretty big outfit. It has about three hundred members, most of whom I’ve never met. There’s another contingent who I kind of know by sight but have never ridden with, or I’ve ridden with them briefly and talked to them briefly-er. Especially there’s a dude who sometimes shows up at Telo and rides around in a TLC jersey and a floppy black pair of shorts.
Last night I was at the Team Lizard Collectors Prayer Circle, which was being held in the Chapel of Beer at Strand Brewing Co. One of the dudes there was Floppy Black Shorts Dude. He was normally attired. As I nursed my craft water we started talking and exchanging the pleasantries that bike riders always do. “How’s the riding going?” “Got any carbon?” “Are we friends on the Stravver?” and etc.
It started out pretty normal but then took a hard left turn.
“I’m going pretty well,” he said. “Upgraded to Cat 4 and I’m pretty pleased with that.”
“You should be,” I said. “It’s hard to be that deranged and that old all at the same time.”
He laughed. “Well, I’ve come a long way.”
“We all have,” I agreed. “I came from Texas. I bet you haven’t come that far.”
He laughed good-naturedly. “Thirteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever come out of the ICU.”
“Really? What happened?”
“I was at work one day in my boss’s office and I felt something go pop in my head, then I felt kind of light headed, and then I sprawled across his desk, cleared it off like a broom, and collapsed on the floor.”
“Dang. I bet he was surprised. Most people just say, ‘Can I have a raise, sir?'”
“Right. I lay there and fortunately he was ex-military and in a few minutes EMS was there and the next thing I knew I was in the ICU.”
“Not the best ending to a Monday.”
“Or any day. Because I had something called an arteriovenous malformation, or an AVM.”
“I’m no doctor, but anything with ten syllables or more sounds real fuckin’ bad.”
“Yeah, it is. It’s basically a malformed network of blood vessels in the brain, and if it’s your unlucky day, a vessel breaks and you stroke out.”
“Dogdamn. I guess you lucked out then?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You didn’t have a stroke. I mean, you look fine and everything.”
“I totally stroked out. When I woke up I couldn’t move the left half of my body. The docs said I’d never walk again.”
“How long ago was this?”
“About thirteen years.”
“I said ‘fuck that’ to the prognosis and decided I’d come back, even if I had to learn everything over again, which is what I did. First day of rehab they put a ball in my hand and I couldn’t even move my fingers. It took hours and days, man, just to be able to close my fingers around a ball, and once that happened, I had to learn the other thing.”
“What other thing?”
“How to let it go.”
“You’re kidding me.”
“I’m not. It was like that with everything. Standing, walking, using the left half of my face to talk, every possible use of my fingers, arm, hand, leg, foot.”
“How long did it take?”
“But I saw you out at Telo the other day, hammering like a madman. You look great.”
“I’ll never be 100% on my left side. My ankle is all messed up and never really recovered, so I have a bit of a limp and can’t run anymore. But I don’t care. I can walk. I can ride. I got my life back.”
I looked at him for a second. He had this incredible smile on his face, the smile of someone who has been where you never have, and returned from it alive. Someone whose toughness and fortitude go out to the very limits of human endeavor. Someone who appreciates the simple act of breathing in and breathing out, the true gift.
“You know the best part?” he asked.
“What?” I said.
“I work for the government, so in order to really get up into higher management, some degree of significant brain damage is mandatory.”
“You know it!” he grinned.
After a few minutes the Prayer Circle started and we all began praying to the deity of Leibert. But Floppy Shorts Dude, I’m pretty sure, was praying to something else.
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April 26, 2018 § 17 Comments
My family has a long tradition of weird names. My grandfather Frank’s first name was Nahum. How many Nahums have you ever met? I’ve never met one, and I grew up in the Bible Belt.
My dad’s name isn’t exactly weird, but it isn’t exactly normal, either. His name is Chandler, which is not too unusual as a last name, but I’ve never met another first-name Chandler. Apparently it means a dealer in equipment for ships and boats, or it means the head of the “chandlery” in medieval households who was responsible for wax, candles, and soap.
My name, Seth, may not sound too weird now, but in the 1960’s and 1970’s it was way weird. Like Nahum, it is an Old Testament name. Seth was the third son of Adam; he was one of those early biblical types who did lots and lots of begatting and lived to be 912. So I got that going for me.
What I didn’t have going for me growing up was a regular name like “Billy.” I wanted to be called Billy. In Texas, no one looked at you funny when your name was Billy, and no one called you “Beth,” “Death,” or said that your name rhymed with “Bad Breath.” Basically, if your name was Billy, people left you the fuck alone.
A few of the bible beaters I ran into growing up knew that Seth was an Old Testament name, which never helped. “Which Baptist church do y’all go to?”
“We don’t go to no church. We’re atheists.”
“That’s a good Christian name, boy,” they’d say and then I’d get an ass beating, one for not believing in dog and two for going to hell.
Nor was I named Seth for any good reason. I had been born a day or so, all jaundiced and with one ear bent over, and people kept asking “What’s his name?” and my parents couldn’t think of anything, so my dad pulled the bible off the shelf that he never read and saw “Seth” in Genesis.
“His name’s Seth,” my dad declared, and that was pretty much that. My mom didn’t care either way.
My wife doesn’t have a weird name, or rather she didn’t until she came here from Japan. Over there, “Yasuko” was like “Jane,” but over here it’s like “Ozpltaxifmp.” The only people who can spell it are East Asian Studies Ph.D. students and baristas, which are often the same thing.
We carried on the odd name tradition with our daughter, Cassady Sakura. I thought I was naming her after the Grateful Dead song, “Cassidy,” but I 1) misspelled it and 2) had never read On the Road.
Our first son got a weird name too, but not as weird as my first choice, which was Wolfgang. I was in my Early German Phase and wanted either a Wolfgang or a name not Xavier that started with X. I was sold on Xenon for a while but got off of that after reading Der Zauberberg by Thomas Mann. “Hans it is,” I decided, opting for the novel’s main character, and it has been so ever since. He liked the name so much that he learned German, moved to Austria, and married into a German-speaking family, where he has the best conversation starter in bars known to man:
Stranger: Your name is Hans? Do you have German family?
Stranger: Then why is your name Hans? It’s not really your name, is it?
Hans: Yep. It is.
Stranger: But why Hans if you’re not German?
Hans: My dad read a German book one time and liked it.
Etc. etc. etc. as the conversation crumbles and dies.
Then of course there’s my third child, Woodrow Shu, named after Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, the singer, along with a middle name that means “he who will be honored” but is written with the Kanji for “Takashi,” which means his name will eternally be mispronounced in Japan. However, as my friend Jeff Fields said 21 years ago upon learning of the christening, “Well, at least he has the category of presidential footwear names locked up.”
My daughter Cassady, she of the misspelled Grateful Dead song, had her first child with her husband, Torazo. Torazo is a completely weird name, even in Japan from whence he hails. It means “Tiger Elephant,” which is completely badass, and it translates exactly like it sounds: “Hi, my name is Tiger Elephant Jones.”
Whoa. Don’t mess with that dude. He’s either gonna win a golf tournament or beat your head in with his trunk.
Of course when you cross a Tiger Elephant with a Grateful Dead song you are going to get something special, which is my first grandson, whose name is orders of made-up magnitude far beyond large mammals and psychedelic songs: His name is Ringoro, which in Japanese means Magic Dragon Protecting Man. Yeah, say that three times fast backwards after a couple hours of beer pong. When people meet Magic Dragon Protecting Man in Japan, they pretty much freeze in their tracks, whereas in the U.S.A. they don’t even know how to begin pronouncing it so they just say, “Can we call him Ringo?”
I mean, being called the name of a member of the greatest rock and roll band of all time is pretty boss, right? Almost as boss as his middle name, Alfaro, paying tribute to our non-existent Hispanic heritage through the name of Alfara Siquieros, the great Mexican muralist whose work adorns the entrance to the Santa Barbara County Museum.
So I knew when my second grandson was born two days ago, he was going to have a humdinger of a name. And he does: Kohaku Marshall Davidson. The name means “amber gemstone” in Japanese, and no one has ever heard of a person in Japan having that name. But I’m saving the best for last, because his middle name was a twofer: Named after Marshall Taylor, the bike racer, and Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice.
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April 24, 2018 § 19 Comments
One thing about trying to teach someone how to ride a bike is you realize they have no idea what gears are. It is something you don’t think much about until you try to explain it, which I’ve seen lots of people try to do.
“Shift into the big ring!”
“Shift into the small ring!”
“Up a cog!”
“That’s too big a gear!”
“Your gear is too small!”
All of this presumes that the offending new cyclist knows what a ring is, big or small, what a cog is, and what big/small gears mean. In fact, they often don’t. The big ring is big and it’s a big gear, but the small cog is a big gear too, so WTF?
Mrs. WM and I set out to visit Dogtown Coffee on Friday. We had been working on CC&E and having much success over the last weeks with the C and the E part of the equation, “ride Close” and “ride Even,” respectively.
But the “Cadence” part of the formula was mostly random. Intuitively I knew that with all the other stuff going on, a gearing lecture wasn’t going to sink in, so my instructions were simply to “make your legs go around about like mine.” It sort of worked until I caught myself saying “shift into the big ring” and realizing that I might as well have been saying “put the flimmer in the flammer.”
So I decided to teach, which is always a danger sign, me being as far removed from a teacher as you can get. After a bit of observation I realized that she didn’t know which lever did what, or why.
“Honey, do you know what you’re doing?”
“No,” she said brightly, raking the gears up one side and down the other.
“Well first let’s get the big ring/small ring figured out. This handle here, when you push it, it moves the chain up here.”
We had dismounted and I showed it to her. “Oh,” she said.
“Big ring, hard to pedal. Small ring, easy to pedal.”
“But it’s hard to pedal now,” she said, and I noticed that she was in the small ring but also in the 11.
“That’s because you’re in the eleven,” I said.
“What’s an eleven?”
My BP spiked. “Let’s just pretend that big ring is hard to pedal and small ring is easy to pedal, okay?”
“And here’s how you make it go from little ring to big ring.”
“What’s the little ring?”
“It’s this,” I said, pointing.
“I thought you said that was the small ring?”
Cars drove by. The sun rose a little bit more. Gulls cried aloft. I inhaled deeply and exhaled like a yogi. “My mistake,” I said. “The small ring. You push this thing here and it goes into the small ring. And you know what that does?”
“We pretend it makes it easy to pedal,” she said.
“Exactly. Now let’s try it out.”
You can’t make me shift if I don’t wanna
She started pedaling. “Okay,” I said. “Shift to the big ring.”
She pushed the lever, I saw the derailleur move, but the chain stayed on the small ring. “You gotta push the lever a bit harder,” I said.
She cranked the shit out of it, but since it was already shifted over, it didn’t do anything. “Sorry, honey, first you gotta click the little lever to put it back on the small ring.”
“What little lever? And it’s already on the small ring.”
We pulled over and I showed her the small ring lever. “When you shift onto the big ring and it doesn’t shift, you have to click this to put the derailleur back over the small ring so that you can try to shift it back onto the big ring. It’s like a reset button.”
“Why is my new bike broken?”
“It’s not broken,” I said. “I don’t think.” So we traded bikes, her holding onto my 58cm with the seatpost jacked up to the 10th Floor, and me straddling her 50cm frame with the seatpost mostly all down. “Hold my bike for a sec,” I said, and started pedaling.
At this moment a gaggle of Big O friends swarmed by. “Hey, Seth! Nice bike!” they said as my knees knocked my chin.
Her front derailleur worked just fine so I gave her bike back.
But somehow she couldn’t make it shift except once every ten times or so. It will drive anyone insane to watch someone crank the front derailleur over and hear the chain rub, then switch it back, then try again, more chain rub, over and over and over.
“I’m getting the hang of it!” she said.
“No,” I said, “you’re not. One in ten shifts isn’t right. Why don’t we try something else?” I thought about suicide. Maybe I should try that.
“You see all those cogs in the back?” I asked
She looked down and almost smashed into a parked car. “Yes?”
“Push the mini lever on the right one click at a time until it won’t click any more.”
“Now push the outside of the handle one click at a time until it won’t click any more.”
“Can you feel the difference?”
“Yes! Mini click is hard to pedal, big lever is easy to pedal!”
“Yep. Just keep doing that for a while.”
For the next three miles down Vista del Mar she went all the way up and all the way down, over and over. In the beginning she was skipping cogs on the upshift but by the end she was going up ten, down ten. She really got the hang of it, even counting the clicks to herself so she knew when she was at the end of the cassette.
I didn’t try to explain it. “Good job,” I said.
Big ring sweet spot
After coffee at Dogtown we rode back, and she practiced the up-cog, down-cog all the way along Vista del Mar. I had been a very bad man in my previous life.
When we reached Hermosa Avenue I told her to shift into the big ring. She obediently tried but it wouldn’t shift. Grind, grind, grind.
Then I had an idea. “Okay, try it again, but this time when you shift, stop pedaling.”
Voila! The chain hopped up on the big ring. She had been mashing during the shift, and once she stopped pedaling the chain did its business.
“Try it again,” I said excitedly, “only instead of stopping pedaling, ease up on the stroke just a bit.”
She did, and the chain again hopped up on the big ring.
It made me remember how shifting used to be before electro and before index, even, when you had downtube shifters and absolutely had to finesse the chain going onto the big ring, onto the small ring, and anytime you were upshifting the rear derailleur. I got ready to deliver that mini-lecture, until I saw her snappily shift into the big ring.
I shut my mouth and pedaled.
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April 20, 2018 § 6 Comments
Yesterday was the 51st Running of the Flog. Actually, there have more like 130 floggings, but for some reason I started counting late and so fifty-one is the number.
A solid crew showed up, except for me. I’ve been licking wounds all week from the Baby BWR beating and simply couldn’t face six laps around the PV Golf Course followed by an ascent of 18,000% Via La Cuesta, so I decided that instead of riding I would show up and take photos.
No kidding, five minutes before the ride started, down came the rain. The temperature plunged into the 40’s, which is plenty cold if you’re not dressed for it (only two riders were), and unendurable if it’s accompanied by buckets of rain. Several of the riders got early onset hypothermia. One jumped into the shower at home fully clothed and ruined his cell phone. One didn’t feel her feet again until noon. All were miserable beyond belief.
The Flogroll was comprised of Scotty E., Ken V., Fred M., Bob R., Trevor D., Kyle J., Salvador B., Mike H., Luke R., Kristie F., Greg S., and John L.
It was Trevor’s very first Flog, and he was one of the five riders who lasted to the bitter end. What a nice, warm welcome to hell.
April 14, 2018 § 10 Comments
I got an email from Ryan Dahl of Wend Waxworks inviting me to a Friday morning burrito ride in Carlsbad, CA. The main point of the ride was to showcase how few people in North County San Diego have jobs, because what I thought would be a handful of folks turned out to be a gang of riders 140 strong, none of whom was in much of a hurry to do anything except pedal leisurely up and down the coast.
Eliel bike apparel and a little-known component manufacturer named Campagnolo sponsored the ride, which, with the BWR coming up in a few hours, made the whole thing feel like a convict’s last meal. One of the Campy guys and I talked about the old HQ in Houston back in the 80’s, there at the corner of 610 and US 59. “I still have my catalog from the Houston days,” he said with a laugh.
Today’s ride launched from the Campagnolo headquarters, and just across the way from Canyon Bicycles USA, where the Belgian Waffle Ride takes place on Sunday. The weather was spectacular, the free cold brew coffee was smoother than a waxed back, and the pace all the way to Torrey Pines was, amazingly for San Diego, not torrid.
Enjoy today because Sunday will be hell
Mrs. WM and I drove down with Jay-Z, who graciously chauffeured us in her Rage Rover. As we rolled out, there was one dude in our group who was 100 years old and riding without a helmet. “Can you believe it?” Jay-Z said. “That guy doesn’t even wear a helmet.”
“I guess if he has a bad accident he won’t live to be a hundred,” I said.
This was Mrs. WM’s third group ride and we had to hustle to stay with the group. Even though it was a “slow” pace, people were getting punched out the back, proving that slow is the most relative of words when you are in San Diego County.
When we hit the bottom of the legendary Torrey Pines climb, Jay-Z pulled the plug. “I’m saving for Sunday,” she said. “I’ll wait for you guys down here.”
We got to the top and started down, when the cap to Mrs. WM’s toolbox flew off, bouncing out into traffic. In the time-honored cyclist tradition of “save the $10 item at the risk of getting killed by oncoming traffic,” Mrs. WM leaped off her bike and immediately showed the life-saving skills of riding with sneakers instead of clip-in pedals.
Whereas a properly styled cyclist in shiny new cleats would have clattered out into the lane and promptly been run over by a truck, Mrs. WM sprinted out of the blocks, scooped up the irreplaceable Ming Dynasty toolbox cap, and sprinted back, avoiding death by a whole one or two feet.
At the bottom of the climb, Jay-Z was nowhere to be seen, validating the most important rule of cycling: Always wait for your friends unless a big group comes along offering draft.
15 + 15 = 60
Although it was a mere fifteen miles out, the exactly retraced route back was more than twice as long owing to something known as “howling headwind.” I eventually pulled over to call Jay-Z, worried because she was nowhere to be seen.
“We are about 15 minutes back,” I texted.
My phone rang immediately. “Wanky!” Jay-Z said. “Where are you?”
“About 15 minutes back.”
“Cool. I’m with Hector. We’re going really slow, about 18, Hector says you’ll catch us in no time.”
“No time is about right. We’re going 15-ish.”
“Okay!” Jay-Z chirpily said.
I shrugged and hung up. After a very long time we got back to the Campy HQ; Jay-Z was waiting for us on the corner with a giant grease smear on her thigh. I have seen lots of chain ring marks on calves, but this was the first time I’d ever seen an Exxon Valdez-sized oil spill on someone’s thigh. Thinking it might be intentional, like a gang sign or something, I didn’t say anything.
The folks at Campagnolo provided free burritos for the entire 140+ riders, and since the average biker can eat about three burritos, my arithmetic showed that they made over 10,000 of them. A good portion of the riders were doing the BWR in two days, and everyone seemed subdued as they thought about the rigors that awaited.
After enjoying our lunch, Jay-Z pointed the RR back north towards L.A. We reminisced about the makeup Wafer ride last year, site of the amazing adventures of the Bobbsey Twins, who had had mechanical and physical failures of epic proportions. Mrs. WM sawed logs in the back seat as Jay-Z and I plotted BWR stragety.
“I’m gonna go slow,” she said.
“I’m gonna go slower,” said I.
“I’m gonna enjoy the scenery,” she said.
“I’m gonna enjoy the snacks at the aid station,” said I.
“I’m not gonna bomb the descents,” said I.
“I’m gonna walk them,” said I.
“I think we got this shit figured out,” she said.
I nodded in assent.
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