Sayonara, Japanese

February 23, 2017 § 27 Comments

Bicycling is a great way to meet people from other cultures and learn that yours is inferior to theirs. I still remember the time that I went over to Joe Vessowaite’s apartment a couple of weeks before I left for Japan the first time, in 1987.

Joe had graduated a couple of years ahead of me and worked in the accounting department at UT. He had a negative outlook on life that was exacerbated by being mostly right.

“What are you going to Japan for?” he asked with contempt.

“I was invited by my aunt who lives there and teaches English so I thought I would check it out.”

“You’ll hate it.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Yes, you will. Everyone there speaks Japanese. You won’t understand anything.”

“I’ll learn Japanese.”

“No, you won’t. Only Japanese can do that. You’re too old and too white and way too tall to ever learn to speak Japanese. And your hair is the wrong color.”

“You’re a narrow minded monolingual Texas bigot,” I said. “And what’s worse, you like football, which might be excusable if you didn’t like the Cowboys.”

“Whatever,” he said. “You’ll still never learn Japanese.”

So of course the first thing I did when I got to Japan was to learn Japanese, and what better way than by cycling with Japanese people? I met Ken Iijima and Miki Yamamoto and a bunch of other people and they only spoke Japanese and after a while I did, too.

Then I got married and had kids, not necessarily in that order, and lived there for ten years and published briefly a review of Japanese law that I translated from recent appellate decisions, and I could read the newspaper and understand the TV and listen to the radio and order stuff on the telephone and carry on every kind of conversation I ever needed to carry on, in Japanese, with Japanese, and to the Japanese, for the betterment of our two great nations and can I date your daughter please?

But I always had the sneaking suspicion that Joe Vessowaite was right. No matter how I tried, and no matter how many decades I made my wife speak to me in Japanese, and no matter how my kids all spoke it fluently, deep down I suspected that my Japanese was for shit.

I noticed that even though people would speak to me in Japanese, it grated on them. In fact, my Japanese bothered them a lot more than someone who could only speak a phrase or two, such as, “Please put more soy sauce on my hair,” and etcetera.

Why was it that my high level yet error-filled Japanese was so repellent? Surely it couldn’t be my personality or my breath … could it?

Anyway, the nagging suspicion that my Japanese really sucked was confirmed when my daughter married a Japanese man and the whole family ganged up on me. They would be chattering away happily in Japanese about whether to buy pork for dinner at the grocery store, or about whether the fifteen-cent discount at Marukai was better than the full price at Nijiya because Nijiya was closer, and everything would be waaaay harmonious, or “Wa” as they say, and then bam! I’d enter the conversation and everything would become a mishmash of Japlish or Englinese even though I would beg them to stop playing mix-and-match with the village idiot.

“Would you just pick one language?” I’d say. “I don’t care which one, but pick one and stick with it, for dog’s sake.”

And they emphatically wouldn’t. My presence was the great wa-killer, and I noticed this on bike rides, too, where our sizable Japanese contingent would avoid me like a genital sore out of fear that they will have to speak to me in Japanese, possibly upsetting their wa for days, if not years, compounded with the haji of getting their legs ripped off on the Switchbacks.

After a while I figured it out. English is a language that everyone must speak, trillions of people, and they speak it badly, horribly, ungrammatically, they butcher it beyond recognition and that’s just in Kentucky. When you show up as a TA to a course in physics at MIT it’s practically required that no one understand anything you say, it’s a rite of passage for the students and a job requirement for the TA. I’ve even seen their job applications:

Please check the applicable box:

  • My English is horrible.
  • My English is terrible.
  • Me English terribly.
  • Wakarimasen.

There is only one correct answer, of course.

What I’m trying to say is that English is a language that no one speaks properly, especially Australians, and we accept their mispronounced babble as something that, if they muddle through, gesticulate a lot, and wear a condom, things will turn out mostly okay.

The other end of that spectrum is Japanese, where speaking it incorrectly actually causes brain damage to the listener. Swapping out your wa with your ga, transposing your ni and your de, mangling your syntax and hacking to death your honorifics will earn you the most vile insult imaginable, which involves having someone, usually a lovely lady dressed impeccably and smiling while giving you a small gift of diamond-encrusted teacups, say to you, “Your Japanese is so very good,” when what she means is “You are killing a language, which is already an inanimate object.”

Japanese doesn’t have any particular characteristics that make it harder or more exacting than English, it’s just that no one speaks it except those who have read and signed off on the official EULA, and so whereas we’re used to quaint phrases like the British MP who railed against the Trump state visit as “Pimping the queen,” Japanese has no such analogues, except perhaps “Yes, Your Majesty.” It is a language accustomed to being spoken a certain way, and therefore speaking it otherwise marks you as a wa-killer.

So whether I’m on the bike, at the kitchen table, or trying to make small talk to some wanker fresh off the Boeing who’s about to get ground up into twisted little meat strings on the Donut Ride, I’m done with this language. I’ve tortured it for more than thirty years but will butcher it no more.

Joe Vessowaite, that sorry sonofabitch, was right.

END

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What would you take?

February 22, 2017 § 34 Comments

A fair part of any cyclist’s life, or rather so-called life, is looking lovingly at bicycling items. For some it is a favored helmet, for others the clean cut of a full carbon wheel that is made of 100% carbon exclusively and containing nothing but carbon, for yet others it is a new box of JoJe Peanut Butter and Chocolate bars, and for some it is a new pair of shoes with shiny ratchets and clicky-spinner thingies.

It is hard to choose which bicycling item is most special. But if you were marooned on a desert island, which bicycling item would you take with you? I think about this often and it is hard to decide, so I made a list because lists are comforting.

  1. JoJe Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip bars. They wouldn’t last long but then I again I probably wouldn’t, either, so might as well go with a smile on my face.
  2. Diablo MK8 headlight. I love this light so much I bought two of them and mounted them on my bars like car headlamps. It would be so cool to have that light on a deserted island. I could flash the light at passing ships until its battery ran out after 6.5 hours. Then it would be really dark.
  3. South Bay Cycling socks by Base Cartel. They are so comfy. I would walk around on the island comfortably, and stretch my legs out in front of me as I basked in the sun, admiring the fancy embroidery.
  4. Sunscreen. I’d for sure take the sunscreen.
  5. Wend Chain Wax. I wouldn’t have a chain but if it were an island, and the island had a reef, and it was facing some good swell in the winter, I might chop down a tree with my headlight and make a small surfboard and then I could use the chain wax for my surfboard.
  6. Front FastForward tubular racing wheel. I would be very bored on that island, but I can gaze pretty much forever at a spinning wheel. You know how you hold either end of the skewer and spin it and it goes around and around and around, hypnotically? I would do that a lot.
  7. CBR Crit Winner’s Pint Glass. I would squeeze coconut milk into this glass and mango, and add a dollop of fresh spring water, and enjoy the heck out of the beautiful colors while reminiscing on that amazing year when I won my first race and then retired undefeated.
  8. Big Orange skinsuit by StageOne. I would wear that thing everywhere, along with my racing socks. I would feel really fast, like I was about to ride off that deserted island in a flash.
  9. Starbucks card. You never know when they’re going to build one right near you, and then I’d be able to start my day with a latte even though I was the only person there. Yum.
  10. Lezyne floor pump. This is such an elegant device I don’t think I could be happy anywhere on earth without it.

What about you? What would YOU take?

END

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B(u)RP

February 21, 2017 § 12 Comments

It is pretty easy to complain about the state of road racing, which is why I enjoy doing it so much. Complaining doesn’t require any research (my forte) and can be done based exclusively on personal experience.

Although I often want to say good things about the state of road racing, the effort it requires is so monumental that I just go over to Cyclingnews.com and scan the latest podcast of Lance & Co. explaining how “he wouldn’t go back and change things,” which is really nice of him not to do that.

Problem is, when good news appears it always requires work to verify facts, get names spelled correctly, and make sure that I didn’t give Willy Walleye a shout-out for getting 27th in the 55+ men’s race when it should have been for Timmy Tosser instead. So when a buddy pointed out that the Beginning Racer Program that started this year at our local CBR crit series was overflowing with riders, I shrugged because, well, work, and also because there were some things I wanted to complain about, such as how Lance ruined my childhood dreams.

Then this afternoon I was talking with Jeff Prinz, the CBR race promoter, about the racing this past weekend, and he spewed forth an incredible number of facts about the B(u)RP program and how it has really taken off. Sensing an opportunity for someone else to do the work, I hurriedly took notes, okay, I didn’t take any notes, but am pretty sure he said this:

  1. B(u)RP participation sessions both maxed out at 50 riders each, and the first one began at 6:00 AM. Riders were queuing up at 5:30 to register.
  2. After B(u)RP-ing, every single B(u)RPee raced, except for those who couldn’t because the Cat 5 races sold out. Sold out. Does that mean anything to you race promoters out there? Did I mention the races sold out?
  3. Feedback was incredibly positive. Good coaching, an explanation of the fundamentals, and a welcoming atmosphere made the program a success.
  4. The program will be continued for the remaining four CBR races on the calendar, and will be greatly expanded for the April race.

Participants said mainly that they wanted to race but were intimidated by the “throw ’em to the dogs” approach for which cycling is famous. I still remember asking Fields if there were anything I should know before my first race. “Don’t fall down,” he advised.

Of course that’s still good advice, but the execution can be tricky, and trickier still when it’s your first race and it’s everyone else’s first race too, and there just happens to be that one person in the race who upsets the apple cart, a/k/a Mr. Physics. It turns out that the B(u)RP has been around in SoCal since 2015, and in NorCal for THE LAST THIRTY YEARS, but it is a long way from here to Fresno and you have to get past all those hog farms and etcetera so that’s why it’s taken so long. I mean the Donner Party died that time coming down Hog Farm Pass from Fresno to SoCal.

What’s more interesting is the fact that every single crit in SoCal doesn’t put one of these clinics on. It’s weird because you’ll see a scraggly field of masters racers–sorry, make that four different master’s category races in a single event–and not one single B(u)RP for new racers to learn about and get enthused about the sport. It’s weird because it seems like if you were a promoter you’d be really stoked to have new young racers filling up their fields and advancing through the lower categories and paying entry fees much more than you’d be stoked about having to spend half an hour arguing with some 57-year-old stockbroker who harangued your wife about why she overcharged him five dollars at the registration table.

But I progress.

The things you’ll learn as a B(u)RP participant are:

  • Basic Pack Skills – Protecting Your Front Wheel. This is the single most important aspect of racing, and BRP coaches will teach you how to headbutt, hook bars, and discuss the anatomy of someone’s mother as you viciously fight to the death for the best starting place ten rows back in the field of 100.
  • Cornering – Choosing and Holding Your Line. Cornering is misunderstood by almost everyone except the spectators who pile up in the corners in bloodthirsty anticipation of watching a whole bunch of sausage get shoved into the casing on a fast, downhill, off-camber, slightly wet hairpin that narrows into a cattle chute.
  • Pack Awareness & Skills — This also known as “effective cursing” and “screaming at max heart rate.”
  • Sprinting Basics — Where you learn the cardinal rule of sprinting: Don’t.
  • Bringing it All Together — This part of the session is most important for the longevity of your career, as it involves techniques for explaining to your family that you really did “win” even though you got 89th place because you were on the front a bunch and I know I spent $400 to go race for fifty minutes but it’s cheaper than a crack habit (actually, it isn’t).

Anyway, hats off to CBR and the the Beginning Racer Program. We need more of it. And next time I promise I’ll include some facts.

END

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The uselessness of data

February 20, 2017 § 14 Comments

You own a Fitbit, admit it. And after the first month, the only thing it measures is the fitness of the socks in the bottom of the drawer, where it permanently lives now. Right?

But wait. Fitbit and other fitness trackers, also known as sock drawer weights, are supposed to provide “real-time feedback that may be particularly useful to enhance lifestyle changes that promote weight loss in sedentary overweight or obese adults.” In other words … data!

Unfortunately, after billions were spent on the false promise of changing the way America eats through Apple Watches, Fitbits and etcetera, some skeptic, probably related to Billy Stone, decided to do an actual study using science and numbers and shit to see if the sock drawer weights actually work.

One such study started off by “recruiting 197 sedentary overweight or obese adults from the greater Columbia, South Carolina area.” I bet that was pretty easy to do. What would have been a challenge is “recruiting four non-obese adults from the American South.” But I progress.

So they took these poor folks, literally, and put them into four groups.

  1. Standard Care Group. Participants received a self-directed weight loss manual based on two evidence-based programs, Active Living Every Day and Healthy Eating Every Day. The manual’s focus was to help individuals adopt a healthful eating pattern and increase their physical activity levels through the use of cognitive and behavioral strategies consistent with the Transtheoretical Model and Social Cognitive Theory. Now I don’t know what that manual or model or theory are, but they sound a lot like Coach Castoria’s 7th Grade gym class at Jane Long Junior High back in August of 1979, where a rabid and sadistic football coach would spread a class of weaklings out on a 110-degree asphalt slab and scream at us to do leg lifts until we puked, which was about twice.
  2. Intervention Group: Same manual as above, along with a diary for participants to record daily meal and lifestyle activity, emotion, or mood. The mood section was pre-filled in with “hungry and pissed off about it.”
  3. Peer Weight Loss Group: 14 sessions with a facilitator using the manuals, with a weekly weigh-in and greater emphasis on weight loss than in the original programs. One-on-one telephone counseling sessions to provide continued support and enhance weight loss maintenance.
  4. Fitness Tracker Wearers: You know who you are.
  5. Peer Weight Loss Group + Fitness Tracker: Lecturing/scolding along with a fitness tracker.

Now before we get to the results and how it affects your cycling pro masters career, a couple of key facts. First, a bunch of people quit, which tells you all you need to know about fitness and weight loss. To recap: PEOPLE MOSTLY QUIT. Get it? No matter what you buy or how many power meters you own or how studiously you learn the CdA, most people quit.

THIS PROBABLY MEANS YOU. So, save your money and go buy some socks or some super stylish underwear. I recommend products by Stance:

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Moving on, what the study found is that when you do a study there are a lot of numbers. And making sense of those numbers isn’t possible because the only number that matters was previously discussed and indicates that you are going to give up, which your sock drawer weight proves you already have. More importantly, the study found — and this is truly amazing — that doing something is better than doing nothing.

And unhappily for the Fitbitters out there, it didn’t matter whether you read a manual, got counseled, or did both in tandem. As compared to doing nothing, doing something was better.

I know, I know, let’s call up the Nobel Prize committee now. However, there were a few sad qualifiers that seemed to throw the entire study into doubt, raising the awful specter that doing nothing may be just as good as doing something.

To wit: The study noted that if your participants are university students, they are pretty much worthless at doing anything: “Students were the most unreliable group in this study, and their adherence was especially poor for homework assignments and other assignments.” Parents, time to start asking for some tuition refunds from those deadbeat kids! Also, we learned that since so many people quit, weight loss is hard.

Finally, we learned that the study was conducted by one “Dr. Blair,” who receives book royalties from Human Kinetics and honoraria for service on the Scientific/Medical Advisory Boards for Alere, Technogym, Santech, and Jenny Craig. In other words, this study, which so conclusively shows that your sock drawer weight is no better than Coach Castoria, also conclusively shows that even that flimsy conclusion is dubious at best. Because, industry bias and university students.

But back to your data driven cycling career. Tell me again how all those numbers are going to make you faster? Because first we’ll need to get together a control group, and I’m not planning on going to Columbia any time soon.

END

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Onan the Contrarian

February 19, 2017 § 12 Comments

As Thrasymachus was fond of pointing out to Socrates, there are only friends and enemies. Or in my case, just enemies.

I had a rough day at the office today that involved … never mind what it involved, but the key hashtags are #newunderwear #spousaldiscord and #bikerace. But when I got home one of the best friends (enemies) I’ve ever had sent me an interview that he had done of me. It is fake of course, and therefore a perfect fit simply because after reading it I concluded that with the exception of the parts he had made up, it was all true.

Onan the Contrarian

by Destroyer

Today we’re going to turn the tables on Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson for a quick one on one to find out what makes him tick.

Destroyer: Good Morning Seth, let’s start out with the fact that you wear a lot of hats.

WM: Okay.

Destroyer: You’re nom de plume is “Wankmeister,” a name you claim no one that knows you calls you.

WM: Right. It’s a fake name.

Destroyer: I’ve actually heard people refer to you as “Wanky.”

WM: I don’t like those people.

Destroyer: Gotcha. You write at Cycling in the South Bay, what exactly is your title there?

WM: Head writer, editor, creative director, publisher, producer, head of ad sales, proofreader, researcher, spam filter monitor.

Destroyer: And where are the CitSB offices located?

WM: It’s actually a foffice in Palos Verdes.

 

Destroyer: So it’s close to your home?

WM: You could say that.

Destroyer: And you’re a former pro birdwatcher with a published book about finding birds in Texas?

WM: Right.

Destroyer: This isn’t really important, but how difficult is it really to find birds in Texas? Isn’t it filled with birds?

WM: Yes.

Destroyer: That’s kind of what I figured. And you self-published a semi-autobiographical novel about your time in Japan, which I read, and have to say  it was a tour de force.

WM: There is nothing lonelier than a self-published book. Except perhaps its author.

Destroyer: Your day job is lead counsel at Law Office of Seth Davidson, in Torrance?

WM: Yes.

Destroyer: And in your spare time you’re a bike racer. How do you have spare time?

WM: I don’t shave my legs.

Destroyer: For someone so into the racing scene I find it interesting you don’t shave your legs, do you consider yourself a contrarian?

WM: Absolutely not.

Destroyer: I’ve noticed you don’t raise your arms for podium pictures.

WM: I’m not on them often, so I’m particular when I have to climb up on one. But the tradition of raising your arms for podium pictures in some vacant parking lot stems from the days when winners of real races in wool jerseys in places you can’t pronounce with tens of thousands of adoring fans thronging the streets were presented with bouquets. They would hold the bouquets over their heads. They weren’t standing with one foot in an oil slick and the other in someone’s discarded dirty diaper. For me, no bouquet, no arm raising.

Destroyer: So why not just skip the podium?

WM: I like Facebook narcissism just as much as the next guy. Probably more.

Destroyer: Speaking of Facebook and life off the bike, you get pretty political on social media. Which TV networks do you think do the best job covering politics?

WM: I wouldn’t know, I don’t own a TV.

Destroyer: Well, I suppose that’s not too contrarian, a lot of people are cutting the cable these days. Do you have Amazon, Netflix, etc.?

WM: No to Amazaon and Netflix. I may have an etc. down at the bottom of my sock drawer.

Destroyer: Ah, an old school newspaper reader. Washington Post, New York Times? What do you read?

WM: Der Spiegel.

Destroyer: Uh, okay. Totally mainstream, check. But back to cycling. You coined the term, “CotKU,” or “Center of the Known Universe,” describing Starbucks at the Pier in Manhattan Beach as the place where all local cyclists hang out, pose, complain about having their wheel chopped by Major Bob, and drink coffee. So Starbucks, right? You’re not a total contrarian I guess. What’s your Starbucks drink of choice?

WM: Anything from Peete’s.

Destroyer: Of course. Speaking of local rides, you do the Flog Ride as a kind of anti-Thursday NPR, right?

WM: Yes, the Flog was Joe Yule’s creation, but like almost everyone who has done the Flog he suffered a heart arrythmia and antiperistalis and never came back so I’ve tried to keep it going. It is to the NPR what UCLA Road Race is to a CBR crit.

Destroyer: And now on Tuesdays you’ve started a second anti-NPR ride consisting of you and some acolytes riding a paceline?

WM: It’s not an “anti-NPR” ride.

Destroyer: Where do you do this Tuesday ride then?

WM: We ride the same route as the NPR, but 5 minutes later so that we’re going exactly opposite the NPR as it loops Westchester Parkway.

Destroyer: Nothing contrary there. I assume you’re also a big “Anti-Donut” Ride guy on Saturdays?

WM: No, I always do the Donut Ride.

Destroyer: I think I get it. To be anti-everything would be conformist to the internal logic of contrarianism, so you kind of have to conform here and there to make sure that you’re truly a contrarian. Is that it?

WM: You can start calling me “Wankmeister.”

END

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Trump bikes

February 17, 2017 § 17 Comments

I used to own a mountain bike. I bought it in 1988, from Freewheeling Bicycles in Austin. It was red and I think it was called a StumpJumper, although in my case they should have named it the StumpHitter, or the StumpNotQuiteJumper, or just the plain old StumpThumper.

Mountain biking seemed like fun until I started doing it. Unlike road riding, where you can pedal stupidly along until you get run over by a car, on a mountain bike you have to ride with all 12 senses going full Spidey alert which means you’ll never get run over by a car and will only splat into a tree or fall off a cliff instead.

Austin’s Green Belt didn’t have any 1,000-foot cliff drop-offs, but it had rocks and trees and no matter how carefully I rode they always seemed to reach up, slap my front tire, and knock me onto the cactus. At first it was fun coming home dirty and covered and blood, but at second it really wasn’t, and at third I realized that this wasn’t my fake sport.

Even though mountain biking and I parted company early on, I occasionally took note of it and its practitioners,  warily, kind of like you take note of the crazy downstairs neighbor who screams and beats the dog late at night when you cross paths taking out the trash. And I noticed that even without me, mountain biking did just fine. It became a big industry and got a lot of people involved in enjoying the outdoors and running over hikers.

Compared to road cyclists, mountain bikers always seemed to give a shit. I don’t know if it’s because they have to make their own trails, or because they have to fight grizzlies for the right to ride, or because by being surrounded by plants and water and rocks and natural beauty they feel more connected to the earth, but they seem to rally a lot better than road cyclists when the chips are down.

And you know, the chips are down, especially in Utah. The state has taken the lead in the latest Trumpian wave of dystopic, kleptocratic public theft as it is now trying to wrest back federal lands so the state can sell them off to private entities. Representative Dingbat Chaffetz is front-and-center in this public rape, proposing legislation that would rob generations of the right to use public lands.

In an amazing twist, the mountain biking crowd is having none of it. Being part of the giant Outdoor Retailers trade show every year that brings in $45 million annually to the Mormon economy, and being part of the Interbike trade show that recently left Las Vega$$$ for Salt Lake City, hitters in the outdoor retail business have told Chaffetz and Utah that, starting in 2018, they won’t be doing business there. They’re taking their money to Denver and will likely enjoy a bit of mile-high clean air and maybe even some of Floyd’s Rocky Mountain high.

Hats off, you stinky, scabby, dirt-covered mountain bike people. Thanks for putting your money where your tires are. I’d ride in solidarity with you but it wouldn’t be past the first rut.

END

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Shouting match

February 16, 2017 § 27 Comments

I know I’m old because I misremember everything. But I’m pretty sure that people didn’t used to scream at each other as much as they do now. In fact I’m pretty sure that the people I rode with didn’t scream at each other at all, except for that time in the Cat 4 road race at the Tour de Louisiana in 1984 when some guy screamed at everyone for two hours straight before the screaming tired him out and he got dropped.

Part of the reason we didn’t scream is because we all knew each other pretty well, and part of it is because back in those days screaming, by definition, was going to lead to punching, and there were a whole bunch of guys you pretty much didn’t really ever want to get cross wise with. Jerry Markee was one of them, Kevin Callaway the Good was another, but probably the biggest reason you kept your opinions to yourself was Fields.

Fields never screamed at anyone, and you sure never screamed at him. You thought four or five times about even raising your voice, and it was that fifth time that always led you to the right place, which was to hold your fucking tongue until after the ride when you could go complain behind his back.

Nowadays people scream all the time. They scream in races, which is weird but a little understandable, and they scream on group rides, which is incomprehensible to me. We had a race a couple of months ago when an 18-year-old kid who weighs about 130 pounds started cursing a dude who weighs 220 and is a former football player and a father and who could pretty much punch his fist through a concrete wall.

Back in the day that kid wouldn’t have gotten to the “ck” in “fuck” before his teeth were making an emergency exit out the back of his head. After the race the big guy came over and said, “Wanky, you need to get your rider to calm down a bit with the f-bombs.” It was kind of incredible to me that I had to explain to someone who weighs 130 that it’s bad policy to get aggressive with a dude who weighs 220.

When I was a kid the first thing I always noticed first about someone was his size, and then his temperament. That’s because where I grew up if you were little, which I was, and someone else was big, which a lot of people were, and if you had a smart mouth, which I did, you would end up getting a lot of ass beatings if you didn’t size people up properly. It also helped that I could run real fast.

Nowadays you can’t pull someone aside and beat his ass. I never could, but guys like Rick Kent didn’t take any shit from anyone. I never heard Rick raise his voice but he was legendary for getting off his bike and beating the shit out of motorists. If you wanted to go home to your wife with your ass beat and a handful of loose teeth, the best way was to pull up to Rick while you were driving to the store for a jug of milk and cuss him out, or better yet, swerve at him, call him a homo, then pull over and challenge him to a fight.

And then there were powder kegs like Dan Gammill, a guy who simply looked insane and whose body type was “giant coiled muscle” so that you either tried to get on his good side or you left him alone. I’m pretty sure that no one ever yelled at him his entire life, or if they did, it was a one-off deal followed by a tasteful graveside service.

But screaming and yelling and shouting is pretty common now. Today on the NPR two good friends got into it. One of them pretty deliberately chopped the other one’s wheel, and the choppee went after the chopper with more fuck-you’s than a NYC bike messenger.

It was embarrassing to watch these two guys on YouTube, one of them chopping and the other one cussing. Retaliatory bike handling has always been a part of this fake sport, but seeing it between friends made me wonder when and where we made that particular left turn. I’m a pretty crappy bike handler but I’ve never whacked a wheel intentionally in my life, and that time I chopped the shit out of Robb Mesecher at the 805 crit in Lompoc three years ago, he said “Whoa, Wanky, you chopped me and put me in the gutter!” and I apologized on the spot about eighteen times and still feel bad about it. It’s pretty demeaning to think I almost knocked down another rider just because I wasn’t paying attention.

And  watching the choppee on the NPR let loose with a bunker-buster’s worth of f-bombs made me wonder when it became okay to completely lose your shit like that. The mark of a good bike racer used to be someone who was always in control. If someone chopped your wheel and you didn’t like it, you either chopped them back or put them into the curb or rode them off your wheel or beat them in the sprint or dropped them on the climb or after the ride you beat their ass. If you couldn’t do any of those things you did what I always do, which is slink to the back and be thankful I didn’t fall off my bicycle and hit my head.

What would be cool is if both those dudes apologized to each other because they’re both super good bike handlers and solid people in pretty much every way, and after all the feathers get smoothed over, we’re really just overwrinkled kids on bikes in our underwear, and how serious can that really be?

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