Hardest Belgian Waffle Ride ever

April 24, 2016 § 22 Comments

It was 146 miles of hell, dirt, rocks, and relentlessly battering climbs.

But I didn’t do it.


Tough guy you ain’t

April 23, 2016 § 15 Comments

Does anyone besides me remember the Tour de Louisiana from 1984? There was a 5-mile TT, a 60-mile RR, and a crit in Baton Rouge. It rained like a bastard the last day and we all slid out over and over in the crit, picked up our bikes, and kept on riding. I did it with teammates Jimbo Martin and Kevin Callaway the Good.

What I remember more than the racing and the nasty hotel with the wet spots on the sheets was this dude in the road race. He was about twenty, long black hair, and stuffed chock-full of rage. From the moment the road race started until we dropped him with about twenty miles to go he did nothing but yell, shove, threaten, and curse.

“Get out of my way, you dick!” and “Move over you asshole!” and “Watch what the fuck you’re doing, cuntface!” and more, many more, each oath emphasized with a threat about how if you didn’t like it then get off your fucking bike right there and he would whip your fucking ass. “Get off your bike now !” he was heard shrieking when the final acceleration came that dropped him for good.

This was the first time I’d heard so many threats of physical violence in a bike race, as if the violence of falling off your bicycle and breaking your head wasn’t enough, but it sure wasn’t the last. Over the years I’ve seen so many angry, underwear-clad Little Lord Fauntleroys get into raging whup-ass-talking-contests that it hardly even gets my attention anymore.

Of course the best is when the pixie-armed combatants are old fellows, promising to rain death and destruction with their mighty fists on the object of their contumely. Leaky prostate slap fighting is high comedy of the highest sort.

Still, a few weeks ago I heard some youngsters threatening to murder one another with their fists so I thought I would repeat some words of wisdom for those riders out there, decrepit and sprightly alike, who think that because the are Sprint Beasts or Climbing Machines or TT Assassins that they are tough guys.

  1. Bicyclists are not tough guys, especially when they are wearing colorful underwear to highlight their shaved legs.
  2. Tough guys make their way in the world with their fists, not with heart rate monitors and glucose replacement drinks.
  3. Cage fighters, bare-knuckled boxers, knife fighters, and people who kill other equally armed people in hand-to-hand combat are tough guys, especially when they finish the job with a bayonet. Everyone else is not a tough guy.
  4. Cycling is a tough sport but that doesn’t make you a tough guy (see exhaustive list above), in the same way that using a hi-tech cell phone doesn’t make you a hi-tech person.
  5. Cycling isn’t nearly as tough as marathoning, RAAM-ing, free climbing, or ultra-off road running. But those people aren’t tough guys either.
  6. Even if you get off your bike and “settle it right fucking now, like men” you are still not a tough guy. You are wearing cleats on the bottom of dancing shoes that are often painted bright red or hi-viz yellow. This means you are as tough as Fred Astaire, only not nearly so because he could carry a woman over his head and danced professionally until he was almost 90, whereas you can’t even help your wife with the trunk-full of groceries and the last time you had to dance at a wedding you crushed her big toe so badly that she walked with a limp for a month.
  7. The toughest guy in the peloton wouldn’t last a half-second in a fight with anyone who fights for a living or even as a serious hobby. You would get the shit beaten out of you like this guy did, minus the cheering crowd and the backflips.
  8. Even if you go to the mat, beating up another praying mantis in a skinsuit doesn’t make you a tough guy, it makes you a bug-squasher.
  9. Look at your arms. Now shut up.
  10. If you like to settle arguments with fisticuffs, why are you bicycling in your undies? Has no one explained to you that the winner is the one who rides the fastest?
  11. Nowadays everyone has a video camera, and you’re about to become a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons. END


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Cycling while blind

April 20, 2016 § 34 Comments

It’s illegal to bicycle while drunk in California. You might think it’s a slap on the wrist but as a misdemeanor it will show up as a criminal conviction on your record. Ouch. It also makes you subject to the provisions of CVC 13202.5, which relates to suspension of your driving license.

There are lots of great reasons not to cycle while drunk, and most of those reasons are because although immensely fun and the source of hilarious stories and the occasional Darwin Award, drunkenness rarely ends well. Still, the enhancement of CWFU to the general experience of riding is without parallel, at least until you get run over and killed.

The first time I ever CWFU I was fourteen or so. It was in 8th Grade. There was a guy in my homeroom class named Greg Choban, who was about six feet tall, which meant that in relative terms he was, like, twelve feet tall, and who had failed 8th Grade and now had to repeat it. Greg was a loner who always wore a big cowboy hat before and after school. He was quiet and standoffish, and no one ever fucked with him because he was so big, and now that he had failed 8th Grade, he was older, too, further making us all afraid of him.

His locker was next to mine and we’d occasionally talk, super briefly. He had a baritone voice and raging beard stubble and towered over me, especially when he put that cowboy hat on. One day, out of the blue, as we were collecting our books to go home, he said, “Hey, man, you doing anything after school?”

“No,” I said.

“Why don’t you come over and check out my treehouse?”

I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Okay.” Mostly I was afraid to say “No.” Treehouses, everyone knew, were for little kids, a few planks nailed to the side of a tree, some plywood in between the branches, and, like, that had stopped being fun in elementary school. The thought of going to play in a treehouse with Wilt Chamberlain was weird, to put it mildly.

We rode our bikes over to his house. His Dad was home, a very old guy, older than old, so ancient he might have even been fifty, sitting in the living room watching TV, which was weird because in 1976 or 1977 there was nothing on TV at three in the afternoon. I’d never met anyone whose father was unemployed, and all the drunks in my family didn’t start getting lubed up until 5:00 or 6:00 PM.

“Hey, John,” said Greg.

I froze. I’d never heard someone call his dad by his first name. The ancient fellow nodded and sipped some more of his Schlitz. I still remember how immaculate the living room was.

We went out the back door. “Where’s your mom?” I asked.


“Oh,” I said.

In the backyard stood a massive oak tree. Indeed, it had wooden steps nailed to its trunk, but there looked like a zillion of them and they went way, way up. Far above my head I could see the bottom of the treehouse, which looked like a small house. So much for plywood planks. Greg disappeared into the foliage.

I followed, soon swallowed by the boughs and leaves. You had to enter through a trap door in the bottom, which I did. When my head went through the floor I looked around, mesmerized. The treehouse had carpet and windows and its walls had incredible black light posters. On the floor were large velour red and purple pillows.

Greg was already seated, his back leaned against the wall, smiling. Even though it was in the high 90’s outside and humid as only the Houston swamp can be, it was cool and pleasant up in the tree, where a light breeze played through the open windows. His treehouse was a hundred times cooler than my bedroom. “Like it?” he said.

“Wow, this is amazing.”

“Settle in,” he said, and put a record on the turntable. It took a few seconds for me to realize that his treehouse had electricity. He showed me the album cover. “Like this?” It was Foghat.

I nodded. “Cool.” I noticed that there was a string suspended from the ceiling, and on the end of the string was a small plastic skull, about the size of a Hackysack, which was still years away from coming to the backwater of Houston. Seated where I was on the velour cushions, the plastic skull was about eye level. As the treehouse gently creaked from the occasional breeze that swayed the giant oak limbs, the skull moved like a pendulum ever so slightly.

Greg pulled out his water pipe. The bowl was massive, and he filled it. The acrid smell of burning leaves filled the tiny space and we took turns, each pull on the pipe causing the water to jump and gurgle and roar. After a long time it was dark outside, pitch fucking black.The only light was the fire from the bowl, and eventually that went out too, and we were in total blackness.

“Kind of dark up here,” Greg said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Better turn on the lights then,” he said, and flipped a switch. In the corners of the ceiling were four small black lights, and when they came on the psychedelic effect of the Hendrix poster, the Jefferson Airplane poster, the Robin Trower poster, and the Zeppelin poster was overwhelming, profoundly stoned as I already was. It took what seemed like hours for my eyes to go over the intricacies of each poster, getting lost in the curlicues and the hair and the guitar strings.

“Hey, man,” Greg said.


“Check this out.” He leaned forward to the dangling skull and grabbed it, pulling it back toward him. Then he let go and it came flying towards my face. He had measured the string so that the skull would get within an inch or so of your head before swinging back, but I didn’t know that.

All I knew was that I was being attacked by a flying skull, and as I violently jerked back my head cracked against the wall of the treehouse. Greg erupted in laughter, then he convulsed, then he fell over. “Oh, man,” he said, “that was the best one ever.”

My eyes were pinned to the swinging skull, stoned-terrified, praying that it would just stop swinging and not devour my face. Robin Trower was singing this, I think, from (what else?) Victims of the Fury.

I’m not sure how, but I stumbled down the ladder in the dark. The last thing I heard Greg say was, “Hey, man, it’s cool, it’s cool!”

I hurried through his house where his dad was still seated in front of the television, a pile of empty cans at his feet. My bike was leaning against the bushes. I jumped on it and rode crazily, drunkenly home, and I never went back. I still think about that lonely giant up there in that treehouse with the swinging skull.



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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.”


Cycling book review: “Ulysses” by James Joyce

April 17, 2016 § 18 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”




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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.



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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. 



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