August 9, 2015 § 24 Comments
My elder son Hans and I went for a Stealth Fred Ride yesterday. He had come home after three years in college, all bulked up from weightlifting and soccer, and found a teaching job where he could put his degree to use and retire some of his school debt. The only catch was that at 22 he still didn’t have a driver license.
So he started commuting to work every day on his younger brother’s bike and has done so for a year. Every day he climbs from sea level to our apartment up Hawthorne Blvd., about a 900-foot climb, toting a 15-pound backpack. One day Aaron W. ran into him and snapped this pic, all fredded out.
Hans and I have ridden together a few times. Our best ride was to Santa Monica one day where we had tacos with The Sherri. His vocabulary expanded a bit that day.
Since none of my kids like cycling, that thing where we work, eat, sleep, and exist in order to zip around in our stretch underwear while drinking 100% butter-laced coffee out of 100%, full-carbon coffee cups, Hans wasn’t about to spend one stinking nickel on bike stuff.
“I’ve got these boots,” he said when I inquired about perhaps upgrading his pedals and shoes. “They work just fine.”
Since he wouldn’t cyclo-sportif up, I fredded down, slapped on flat pedals, bought a pair of Vans and a pair of thick socks, and got those capris riding pants for men who haven’t yet made some important decisions but are leaning decidedly in one direction.
I forgot to mention that after a year of commuting Hans lost all his bulk and has gotten beastly, stupid strong, with the finesse on a bike of an angry farm laborer tossing hay bales. It’s not cycling endurance strong, where he can climb like a goat, time trial like a locomotive, and jump like a kangaroo. It’s just ordinary 22-year-old fit dude strong. Dumb as a coffee shop, game as a banty rooster, happy as, well, a kid on a bike.
When you pedal full fred you find out why people dislike cyclists. Hans likes to wave and say “Hello!” but cyclists for the most part pretended we didn’t exist. Except for eagle-eyed riders like Arik and Rachael K., who spotted us going the other direction, Beppe from LaGrange, the Big O. pals we ran into, and the occasional happy rider, when you ride full fred you realize how much much better cyclists think they are then everyone else.
The biggest d-bag was an old man in a Team Nater jersey who sprinted by us on Admiralty then tried to drop me, and was surprised and angered when he couldn’t. Runner up was the other cyclist who chopped us at 40 descending Via del Monte and then almost killed himself on the 180-degree turn when he spilled out across the yellow line in front of oncoming traffic. Skilz.
Hans towed me up Mandeville and we passed half a dozen people on the way. He said “Hi” to every one of them. We got to the top and chatted with a nice trio from Brisbane. Then one of the guys we’d passed arrived and pedaled over to Hans.
“Dude,” he said, grinning, “that’s the most demoralizing thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
“Getting passed by some dude with no shirt wearing construction boots. Good job!”
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August 8, 2015 § 22 Comments
“Hey, Wanky!” said the email, “Let’s check your chub!”
I said to myself, after checking the sender’s address and noting that it was from a respectable, upstanding person, “That can’t mean what I think it means.”
So I started over:
“Hey, Wanky! Let’s check your chub! I bought two tickets to the Body Spectrum fat scanner, one for you and one for me. It’s in Santa Monica–we could pedal over after the Friday coffee ride. What do you say?”
I said, “What in the world are you talking about?”
She said, “It’s this thing where they tell you your fat content, bone density, menstrual proportionality, and cranio-fibular viscosity.”
I said, “I already know my fat content: too much.”
She said, “But it will be FUN!”
I said, “Do they dunk you in a vat of kryptonite? Or is it the deal where they strip you naked and pluck your fat off the underlying tissue with those torture pincers?”
She said, “Neither. They just lay you on a table and scan you.”
I said, “With what? A bar code reader?”
She said, “No, silly, with x-rays.”
I said, “I don’t want to get irradiated like a piece of food being prepared for a bomb shelter just to be told I’m chubby.”
She said, “It’s free.”
I said, “Okay.”
As we pedaled over to Bulletproof Coffee, where I had a large cup of coffee made with a stick of butter, I said to her, “Look, I know my fat content. It’s between 13 and 15 percent, give or take a point. Guaranteed.”
She said, “How do you know?”
I said, “There are about 10,000 online fat calculators. Do ten of them, take the average, and that’s your fat. And no cancer-causing x-rays.”
She said, “But what about your bone density?”
I said, “My bones can’t be dense. I ride a bicycle and my resistance training consists of trying to resist having seconds. My bones are like peanut brittle, guaranteed.”
She said, “You’ll feel better knowing.”
I said, “I never feel better knowing. I always feel better imagining.”
We got to Body Spectrum and they very nicely made me take all the metal out of my pockets. I asked if I could leave in my fillings and the plate in my head. They said yes.
The nice lady scanned my body. Then a different nice lady sat down with me to review the results.
She said, “You are not fat.”
I said, “Did someone say I was?”
She said, “But you have some fat around your viscera.”
I said, “You mean I’m chubby inside?”
She said, “Yes, but not unhealthily so.”
I thought about Wednesday when we went to the coffee shop and the nice counter girl asked if were a cyclist. I was wearing floppy shorts and a t-shirt and all my friends were wearing stretch underwear. “No,” I said. “I’m just a person.”
“I didn’t think you were a cyclist. You look ill … ”
“I do?” I asked.
” … suited. I meant to say ill-suited to be a cyclist.”
I gave her no tip for service, but a $5 tip for being so unintentionally cruel.
Back with the chubby checker, things were better. “Your numbers look good,” she said. “16.3% body fat is fine. You might want to do some resistance training, something to build bone density.”
I started to tell her about all the second helpings I was resisting, and all the booze I’d resisted in Germany, but didn’t. I quit while I was ahead.
100% butter made with pure butter.
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August 7, 2015 § 7 Comments
Have you ever spent years knowing someone through reputation and perhaps email, only to finally meet them? It’s anxiety provoking, isn’t it? Will they look the way you think they look? How will they talk? Will you even like each other?
Almost four years ago I collided in the Internet way with Steve Carre. A rider named Robert Hyndman had died while descending Las Flores Canyon, and I blogged about it. The ride had left from Steve’s shop, Bike Effect, and so it was natural and inevitable that we talked and exchanged some emails.
But we never met in person, even though over the years Steve’s reputation has swollen to that of a titan in the world of bike fitting, and I can’t count the number of people I know who’ve gotten bike fits, shoe fits, lumbar replacements, and cranio-tibial adjustments in his workshop.
Yesterday I was in Santa Monica for a meeting, and after the meeting had a date with The Sherri and Duran, Duran scheduled for 7:15 at Porno Burger. Yes, that’s really a place, and I suppose the name comes from the obscenity of charging $16 for ground up dogmeat slopped with grape jam and called a “fig burger.”
However, I came early (a recurring theme) and had some time to kill. That’s when I realized I was caddy-corner from Bike Effect. Should I go by? I wasn’t shopping for anything. Would he remember me? I’d only said fuckity-fuck-fuck-damnit-shit three or forty times when we spoke on the phone four years ago. Would it conjure up bad memories? Robert’s death had scarred us both.
When faced with this type of dilemma, my solution is always the same. Just Fuggit. So I pushed open the door and stood there like a dork in my suit, holding my briefcase, looking like a semiconductor salesman.
“May I help you?” asked a very beautiful woman.
“Uh, duh, um, yes, please,” I stammered.
She had that look of “You can relax, I’ve dealt with salespeople before. I’m sure you’re a fine person but we don’t need any more semiconductors today.” She smiled, waiting.
“I, uh, was, um, duh, looking for Steve.”
“He’s with a client.”
“Oh, uh, well, duh, er, could you tell him I came by?”
“Of course. What’s your name?”
“Uh, duh, Seth.”
“And you’re a friend of his?”
“Uh, yeah, I mean, duh, um, no, you see, well, duh, we are friends kind of but we haven’t, duh, er, uh, you know met ever.”
She smiled kindly, the way people patiently wait for the village idiot to quit eating his boogers before they tell him the king’s coming through town so please go home. “Do you know him through cycling?” she asked even though it was obvious that I wasn’t a cyclist.
“Yes, exactly, well no, not really, kind of it was an Internet thing, duh.” Swallow booger.
“Okay, what kind of Internet thing?” She was a very patient interlocutor.
“You see, this dude died and … ”
She got very serious. “You knew Robert?”
“No, no I didn’t. But I wrote about him.”
She smiled that pretty smile again. “Okay, now I know. I’ll tell Steve you’re here.”
A moment later I was ushered into the fitting chamber, which, with its four banks of Snap-On tool cases and laser-guided mass spectrometers was a cross between an old-school filling station and the Fermi Lab. He smiled, finished with his client, and shook my hand warmly. He was even kinder than I’d imagined he would be.
We immediately began talking shoes, and before I knew it he had me on a stool and was measuring my foot’s length, width, angular momentum, and infra-metatarsal droop. “Do you mind taking off your sock?” he asked.
“Last person who I did that for had a concussion and nightmares for a month.”
He laughed and briefly examined the twisted and corroded state of my mangled feet. “There’s a Chinese proverb,” he said.
“Only one?” I asked.
“That says ‘We die from the feet up.'” He finished spraying DDT on my feet and then gave me some simple things I could do to reduce the excruciating, unbearable, agonizing pain I feel every time I even look at my Bonts, a shoe engineered according to the concept of “If it hurts, hurt more!” and “Stiffer than concrete but not as comfortable.”
“But they’re very stiff,” I said, feeling like an idiot.
“Yes, they are.” He gave me more information, made some suggestions, and would have done a full callus analysis if I hadn’t glanced at my watch and seen that I was ten minutes late for Porno Burger, and since The Sherri never goes anywhere without her Glock, late arrivals run the risk of being met by a hail of gunfire. “Come in when you have some time and I can take a closer look at your foot situation,” he said, peeling off the gas mask. He shook my hand with the gentle firmness of a bricklayer, that handshake that exudes formidable strength but has no need to use it on your ballet fingers.
“Thanks, Steve,” I said. “I will.”
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August 1, 2015 § 32 Comments
Pedaling my way across Germany was a kind of hell because I’m an alcoholic, not a recovering one but an active, big chain ring, I’D LIKE A FUCKING DRINK RIGHT NOW AND HURRY THE FUCK UP alcoholic. That was a problem because Germany was filled with beer and everyone was drinking and 99% of the drinkers were drinking responsibly and all I wanted was JUST ONE LITTLE DRINK I PROMISE I’LL BE GOOD.
It was very unpleasant and so every time my knees started to buckle and my hands started to shake and my mouth got dry I would resolve to have a beer but first I’d have a coffee. Then I’d sit down and have the coffee and would resolve that before I had the beer I’d have something to eat and after that for sure I was going to wash my throat with a fresh tasty German beer.
Then I’d finish the food or the cake (usually cake) and tell myself that the beer would have to wait until I was done biking for the day or walking for the day or daying for the day. And somehow through this process I was getting to bed every night sober in the paradise of beer.
Each day, though, was as mentally exhausting as the Flog Ride, straining as I was to bust loose.
Then I got a note from a pal who has been going through some alcohol difficulties of his own. He said that he was really looking forward to the end of September so that he could reward himself with a drink. At first I thought he was kidding but he wasn’t.
“I’ve reprogrammed my brain,” he said. “I’ve taught it that there’s a place in my life for alcohol but I have to use it in moderation.” This shook me to the core. We were five days into our ride when I got the message, I was beat, and every kilometer we we seemed to be pedaling past a beer garden filled with happy people and very tasty-looking beer.
“Have I been doing this wrong?” I wondered. “Shouldn’t I just be reprogramming my brain and using alcohol to my benefit instead of my detriment? Why am I putting myself through all this trial and denial?” It was worse than the Nancy Reagan Sex Abstinence Program (which I’d never tried but had been scarred by even learning about) and I felt like a fool and resolved to really truly actually have a moderate beer that evening, and possibly two moderate ones. But not three. Okay, three moderates ones, but not four,
The closer it got to beer time, though, the more worried I got. Hadn’t I been down this road before and didn’t it always end in a headache and too many numbers to the left of the decimal point on my credit card bill? My brain didn’t feel reprogrammed anyway, it felt like the brain of a raging drunk who’d been denied his life fluid for too damned long and couldn’t wait to get smashed.
The more I thought about it the clearer it became: My friend and I are different. He has a programming problem whereas I’m an unreconstructed drunk. This was terribly depressing because I knew the statistics: Only 5% of alcoholics succeed with abstinence or AA-type abstinence programs.
That makes sense because when you have a bad drinking problem and you quit, for it to work it has to be forever. I’m an impatient person on the best of days; forever isn’t a time frame on my planning calendar.
I got off my bike and leaned it against a tree as my son and I sat on the grass and shared an apple, tired and many miles from our day’s destination, which itself was only a waypoint on a long journey. I considered the metaphor.
Then I catalogued the good things that had happened since I got on the misery treadmill of moment-by-moment sobriety.
- I’d won a bike race.
- I’d started doing the dishes.
- I’d lost 20 pounds.
- I was in the middle of an amazing trip with my son.
- I had saved several thousand dollars and invested them in 100% carbon products made of full carbon.
- I’d decreased my social media presence by 99%.
- I’d begun flossing.
Instead of life spinning wildly out of control, thanks to the sobriety-misery treadmill it was merely on the verge of spinning wildly out of control. If you don’t think there’s a difference in quality of life between those two states, you’re wrong.
My son and I finished the apple and contemplated, briefly, the long and tiring road ahead. “We’d better get going,” my son said.
“Yes,” I answered, throwing my leg over the top tube. “We’d better.”
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July 30, 2015 § 28 Comments
My friend Derek wrote the other day, concerned. “Dude,” he said, “I get the whole Germany trip father-son bonding thing but there are concerns being voiced within the community that Cycling in the South Bay has become way too Eurocentric.”
“What community? The community of crazies?” I emailed back.
“No, man, your three readers.”
“What do you propose?”
“I will write a guest blog to kind of bring things back to this side of the Atlantic.”
“You will? Awesome!”
So he did and I emailed him right away. “Dude,” I said, “this doesn’t have anything to do with cycling.”
“What about my editorial standards?”
“I’d never noticed any.”
“Look, you can just add a few things here and there to make it more cycling-ish. No one will ever notice.”
“Okay,” I said. So here it is:
A drive-by guest blog from Derek Brauch
The Donald Trump campaign is fascinating. It’s the final fusion of the reality TV world with, well, reality. Donald Trump, the hard-nosed businessman who plays a hard-nosed businessman named Donald Trump on a reality show has brought the reality TV show Donald Trump character to a real presidential race. And of course he’s killing it. The Donald Trump reality TV show character does not have “Oops” moments a la Rick Perry because Trump doesn’t have pre-rehearsed inoffensive, bland, non-controversial talking points, which are the ones politicians believe the least and hence find so easy to dramatically forget under pressure. Trump’s analysis of Froome’s Tour victory was bold and unapologetic when he said that “all cyclists should be lured out onto freeways and killed like Cecil the Lion.”
The success of having a fake character run for a real political office got me thinking: Can Trump extend this formula to his cabinet selections? Of course he can. And I think that his cabinet would look like this:
Department of the Interior – Kim Kardashian
This young up-and-comer carved out her niche and made a tremendous amount of money with her wildly successful TV reality show. She will also make a great bikini model for the new ten dollar bill, and is rumored to be seeing Chris Froome behind Kanye’s back.
Attorney General – Judge Judy
An obvious choice, Judge Judy, like Trump’s reality-imitating-reality TV persona, is a real judge who plays a judge on a TV show. Also like Trump, there is no room for gray in her reality. On the offing is a perfect black and white world, with none of the tiresome thinking that is intrinsic to uncertainty, negotiation, and compromise. Judge Judy would also make sure Chris Froome was thoroughly tested.
Surgeon General – Dr. Drew Pinsky
Completely selling out your real patients and their real addictions heedless of the predictably disastrous consequences, and all for public entertainment and personal enrichment doesn’t get your psychiatric license pulled, it gets you promoted to top doctor. Doc Pinsky could also do a public psychoanalysis of Oleg Tinkov.
Secretary of Treasury – Theresa Guidice
A simple pardon will free up this choice, along with dropping the False Claims Act case against Lance.
This one is too sensitive a selection to be revealed yet but let’s just say Honey Boo-Boo, leave your phone on.
July 29, 2015 § 10 Comments
The best part about buying our bikes in Germany was not having to pack or ship them or pay excess baggage of $250 per bike, and the worst part was going to be trying to sell them before we left. Before doing a please-come-rob-and-beat-me-up ad on Craigslist I stopped by a used bike shop filled with rusted out POS specials and which had a sign saying “We buy bikes.”Our two Radon ZR Team MTB’s were the newest thing that had been in the shop since the owner put on a new sweater back in ’95.
Mehmet, the owner, eyed them suspiciously. “Where you steal them? I’m not telling, our secret.”
“They aren’t stolen. We bought them in Bonn two weeks ago and rode to Berlin.”
“Yeah sure, of course,” Mehmet said, dismissing the presumed three consecutive lies. “And now you must sell quick, yes?”
“So you can show receipt?”
“Actually, you see … ” I had thrown them away with the manuals in Koblenz.
Mehmet waited patiently for my explanation, nodding sympathetically. “Yeah so I can give you 75€.”
“I paid 400€ and they’re barely two weeks old.”
“75€ each,” he added, effectively halving his earlier offer.
“Thanks,” I said. “Let me check around before I take that.”
“Next time I see you, 50€,” he smiled and waved.
I went to the grocery store and got some wet wipes. It’s amazing how dirty two bikes can get in two weeks. An hour later they were clean, photographed, and posted in a “Like New!” scammer’s special on Craigslist.
Several buyers emailed, all wanting copies of the receipt. I was asking 200€ apiece. I had to admit, it did sound sketchy that, buying new with intent to quickly resell, I had tossed the receipts, but I managed to get a screen shot of my Visa statement and emailed the relevant transaction to the inquiring murderers.
“You take 175€?” asked Gregor from Potsdam.
“200€ each, firm. They are pristine.” And they were, except for the scratches, dents, dings, malfunctioning brakes and shifters and drivetrain, slow leak in the front and worn-through spot on the rear tire.
“Ok. When can see? Today? Now?”
Gregor showed up with his friend Tobias, who was 6′ 6″. I am not kidding.
“Test ride ok?”
I saw that they could simply hop on and ride off. “Sure,” I said.
They disappeared around the corner. Five minutes later I shrugged, pissed that I’d passed up Mehmet’s offer but glad that Tobias hadn’t punched my face.
A pregnant woman walked up. “Have you seen my husband?”
“I don’t know your husband. I don’t think.”
She furrowed her brow. “He was coming to buy a bike.”
At that moment Gregor and Tobias whizzed around the corner, smiling like kids. “These are fantastic!” He pulled out 400€ and stuffed them into my hand. “Thank you! Can we buy you a beer?” They were the kindest people.
“I don’t drink,” I said, bringing back all of their earlier suspicions about my trustworthiness.
“That’s okay,” said Kristina, “we will buy you a nice water.”
We walked over to Burger Amt, where Tobias ate enough for twelve people. They insisted that I eat, and we got to talking about East Germany, where they were from. At first I was puzzled by their polite and respectful attitude until I realized that I was old enough to be their dad.
“You should come to Potsdam, it is so beautiful,” said Gregor, so I told them that I would. Then I realized that I couldn’t, as I I no longer had a bike.
July 28, 2015 § 18 Comments
“So I can meet my new friend!”
“What new friend?”
“A new friend I met in a chat room.”
“What is this friend’s name?”
“That’s nice. And how old is Mr. Tanaka?”
“I dunno. Twenty or fifty or something. But he is a very nice man.”
So we sat down with her and explained that the Internet is filled with axe-murderers and even though Mr. Tanaka probably seemed like a very nice man the chances were good that he was a bloodthirsty killer and therefore not only would she not be meeting him that summer but henceforth she would follow The Rule: Thou shalt never make physical contact with a virtual friend.
On my way to Berlin I received an invitation from a stranger via my blog to meet up and go for a bike ride once we got there. He seemed like a very nice man and I had completely forgotten about Mr. Tanaka, so a few days later I emailed him.
“Hey, Ben, I’m in town and if the offer’s still good let’s go ride. Signed, Seth.”
He immediately emailed back. “Who is this?”
“The blogger dude you invited for a ride, but no worries.”
“Oh, it’s the world-famous Mr. Wankmeister. I was thrown by the name and the law office address in your email. I had no idea you were a lawyer, I thought you were unemployed. Yeah, let’s ride, mate.”
We squared away the details, then this came: “Is it okay if one of my mates joins us?”
“Sure. The more the merrier.”
“He just got here from France where he’s been doing a bit of riding and I told him about you and he checked out your blog and thought he’d have a go. He’s a super nice guy, great rider too, absolutely doesn’t feel pain.”
Suddenly the “merrier” prediction didn’t seem so apt.
“Okay, but you guys might be riding by yourself as I’m on a mountain bike with flat pedals and am very old and slow.”
“No worries,” he replied, to which I replied, silently, “Worries.”
I got lost en route to the meeting place and was mightily disappointed to find they had waited.
As I’d feared, they had the grim look of Internet axe-murderers, and the label on Ben’s cap that said “SUICIDAL” failed to instill confidence. “I’m Ben, this is Tristan, but we just call him ‘Assassin.'”
“Shocking,” I said. I had broken The Rule and was getting ready to pay. Dearly.
They were both from Tasmania, and if you think Australians are friendly, wait until you meet a Tasmanian. By the time we’d finished introductions they had offered to buy me dinner, treat me to some new beers, help me sell my bikes before leaving Berlin, take me to the airport, let me borrow their girlfriends, and give me a place to stay if I’m ever in Tasmania.
Then we started riding and they tore my legs off.
I spent the first hour doing sprint starts at each traffic signal as Ben bolted away. I spent the second hour clinging to Tristan’s wheel on the forested rollers around Wannsee. My age, heavy bike, wide tires, and flat pedals only encouraged them to twist the knife, even as I remarked on my recent AARP membership.
We finally stopped for coffee, then remounted and did it all over again. They were a bit disappointed that they hadn’t been able to dislodge their dad–they were both 23–but they had a solution.
“Let’s ride again Tuesday. I’m a bit tired today from my 250-km workout yesterday,” said Tristan.
On Tuesday I got up at 4:30, ate black bread with butter, had a cup of instant, and crossed the city for our 6:00 start. I got to Ben’s but no one was waiting out front. I checked my phone to see a message from Tristan sent late the night before explaining how he suddenly couldn’t make it.
I was relieved and it crossed my mind that, after our previous ride, perhaps he was, too.
I spent the morning doing a perfectly slow tour of the city’s monuments, uncrowded, beautiful, peaceful, serene.