Burrito warm-up

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.

Burrito heaven

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.

END

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Riding up and down the Pacific Ocean coastline in perfect weather with friends on a Friday is a sacrifice. Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

Charming Peter Sagan

April 13, 2018 § 8 Comments

I vaguely remember when Peter Sagan became famous, and I remember hearing that he was from Slovakia. I have always had an allergy to all those Balkan and Eastern European countries. Once you leave Germany everything was very vague, and the Slavic countries were the vaguest.

Those “over there” countries included Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, not to mention Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and of course Hungary, which is like Turkey in that you wonder, “Why did the Turks name their country after our Thanksgiving bird? And why did the Hungarians name their country after a ravenous feeling in the pit of the stomach?”

So I didn’t pay any attention to Slovakia, Peter Sagan’s native land, because, well, how can you pay attention to a country you can’t even find on the map?

How times change

Nowadays I’m very invested in Slovakia. Three days a week I sit down at my computer and take Slovak lessons with real, honest-to-goodness Slovaks in Slovakia speaking Slovak. In me they have found a butcher of the beautiful Slovak tongue. In them I have found out about Sagan. And one thing you learn pretty quickly is that Peter Sagan is a big deal in Slovakia along the lines of saying UY Scuti is a big deal in the constellation Scutum.

Slovakia has about 5.4 million people, roughly 40% of the population of the greater L.A. metro area, and is only about 20% larger in area. And unlike Los Angeles, which has a surfeit of famous athletes to spread around among those millions, Slovakia’s list of superstars is considerably shorter, and its only truly world-conquering athlete ever is Peter Sagan.

So it’s pretty easy to see how things like Sagan’s baby became a riveting national story. And being a student of Slovak, I now get a front row seat to the show.

Most charming athlete ever?

When you listen to Sagan speak, it’s a bit surprising. He has that Jack Nicklaus squeak, which always catches you off guard as you expect the vainquer of Roubaix, Flanders, and the Worlds to speak with a deep manly voice resonating testosterone and back hair.

And to his credit, his interviews in English are very good; I’m pretty sure the day will never come when I can answer a media scrum in fluent Slovak after a grueling, 7-hour Monument. But it’s still his second language, and a distant second.

When you watch him interviewed in Slovak, he impresses with his charm and his repartee. His facial expressions and his jokes transform his Slovak interviewers from fanboy journalists into slaveboys.

And a fan club? Of course!

But the best way to get a sense for Sagan is to visit YouTube and do a search for “Sagan rozhovor.” You’ll pull up a huge string of Slovak interviews. You may not understand them, but after a few minutes of watching him talk … you won’t need to.

END

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Two points

April 7, 2018 § 5 Comments

In this, our fourth year, we have had more riders on the Flog than ever before. Used to be, ten was a huge turnout and five or six was often the norm. This past Thursday eighteen riders showed up, and it’s common that twenty or more cyclists appear at the Malaga Cove fountain every week at 6:35 AM to flog themselves around the golf course for six laps.

One guy who is there without fail is Luke. He and I battle it out quite a bit, with me usually dropping him up to the top of PV Drive North, and then him surging by and dropping me on the wall. About half the time I catch him and beat him to the top, and about half the time he beats me.

He is very tough. You have to be tough to do the Flog Ride. You have to be a lot of other things, too, none of which are very flattering.

The leaderboard

This year a leaderboard was instituted. The person who got over the top first at the end of the climb got a point. “What about points for second and third?” a rider asked me.

“What are second and third?” I asked him back.

The last lap of the Flog continues past the golf club and ascends La Cuesta, which is an 89% grade and is roughly 12,000 miles long. The first one up La Cuesta gets two points; everyone else gets a selfie.

As you’d expect, the same riders collect all the points, week in and week out, and the rest of us get shelled and are non-first up the climb. Surfer Dan, Kyle, Adam, and a couple of other riders look down from the top of the leaderboard … way, way down.

And of course all the riders who have precious little chance, as in “zero,” of ever being first up the climb, let alone first up La Cuesta, have to settle for disappointment. And there is a lot of disappointment to go around each week, along with the faint glimmers of hope that show up each Thursday, only to be doused by the wattage rained down on them by the Cobleys, Jacksons, Floreses.

A boy can dream, can’t he?

This past Thursday the hitters overslept except for Kyle, who showed up in rare form. He took each point every lap, and he took them by a long, long way.

But after the fifth lap he didn’t stop in the parking lot to regroup, he kept on riding, and when Lap 6 began he hadn’t come back. We all looked at each other and it became instantly clear: Two magical points, the holy points up La Cuesta, were now on offer. You could feel the excitement.

In the past three Flog years, I’ve been first up La Cuesta less than five or six times. And the pattern in Year Four was painfully the same. I’d hit the bottom hard and get passed by Luke. Not passed by a little, passed by a lot. I was the tin can and he was the oncoming freight train. If I was gonna get those two points today, I’d have to beat Luke. And he wanted the points badly, desperately, because even though he is really good, he’s never been able to get a point.

I, on the other hand, through skulduggery, wheelsuckery, riding on blizzard/ice storm days when no one else shows up, and all manner of chicanery, had twelve points on the leaderboard. It would be a battle of ability and honor versus faithlessness and cunning.

Against the wind

Peter was the lead-out goat up to the top of PV Drive North. I was glued to Luke’s wheel as he sprinted over the top of the first climb and drilled it on the downhill and then all the way to the wall. Halfway up the wall I still hadn’t taken a pull, and as Luke slowed, Emily, and Ennis charged by with Lauren in the lead. Luke grabbed onto the back.

Reichmann caught us and sprinted by, cresting the climb and shooting down towards the base of La Cuesta. A few pedal strokes up La Cuesta and everyone fell away except Luke and I. He surged and immediately stuffed me into a place that made the hurt locker look like Club Med.

He wanted those two points so badly, but the knowledge of those points on offer somehow kept me from tailing off in the spots where I usually crumple and melt. We hit the final two hundred yards, which on La Cuesta, at 16 or 17%, feels like the face of a glacier by the time you get there. The cumulative sprinting and 5-minute intervals from the preceding five laps have worked your legs into putty, and there is nothing but pain.

And desire.

With a hundred yards to go, all of my wheelsucking started to pay off. Luke began to go from smooth hammerstrokes to uneven jabs, his speed dropped, his head began to hang ever so slightly. He was digging down into a place where most people not only never go, they don’t even know it exists. It energized me too, in a different way. Something about the sight of raw meat gives a cyclist energy, like a jolt of caffeine injected into the base of your skull.

But then in a brief second I considered everything: He had pulled the whole way. He had zero points on the leaderboard. He had never won a lap. He was one of the ride’s most faithful, strongest, safest, and reliable riders. He was tough as nails. He was a good person. He had never said a cross word, never complained, never pulled a dick move, and every lap he rode his heart out.

I had twelve points. I’d won plenty of laps in years past. None of it made any difference anyway, and what kind of person was so selfish that he couldn’t sit up and let a pal have a taste of glory on a fabled South Bay climb? If there were ever a place for decency, I realized, this was it.

I hit the gas as hard as I could and sprinted to the top, the sound of his labored gasps echoing in my ears.

END

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Down and out

April 4, 2018 Comments Off on Down and out

One of the funny things about cycling is that you don’t always know that much about people, even if you ride with them a lot. It’s weird in cycling to ask someone, “What do you do?” or to make small talk about jobs. There are people on the NPR I’ve ridden with for years whose names I don’t know, but whose riding characteristics I’ve memorized and whose butts I can pair with a face from 100 yards.

Yet many of those same people are complete strangers. What they do, where they live, and the other huge parts of their identity? No fuggin’ clue.

What’s more, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what someone’s personal details are when you’ve got your nose smashed against the stem and you’re struggling might and main to keep from getting shelled. Stockbroker? Trash collector? IDGAF because your occupation is not going to help me hang on. And after the ride, who in the world wants to talk about work when we can talk about the epic NPR screaming match between Major Bob and Anthony?

The anonymity of the back

There is one guy who does the NPR a bunch but he always rides towards the middle or the back. I know his name and we always exchange that classic biker throwaway line, “How’s it going?” before we sprint off. I’ll call him Ol’ Jake. He’s a chiropractor. How did I know he was a chiropractor? Because he looked like one, that’s how.

One day I heard some bad news. Ol’ Jake had gotten in a bicycle-falling-off-incident and smashed up his leg pretty good. It was smashed up so good that people weren’t sure he was going to walk again. Cyclists being cyclists, that is, uninsured, a group of guys decided to put together a Kickstarter campaign for him, because it was the kind of injury that would cost a fortune to fix, would keep him off work, and would take a long time to heal.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know Ol’ Jake very well. There was a lot of confusion about where he lived and where his office was, that kind of thing.

Eventually someone got hold of him and got his address. A group of guys took the afternoon off and rode over to his place to check with him and make sure he was okay with the Kickstarter thing. Cyclists are almost never too proud to beg and accept charity, but you never know.

Kickstarter for whom?

When they got to Ol’ Jake’s apartment building they were surprised because it wasn’t your typical deadebeat bike rider apartment building. It was a high-rise, and Ol’ Jake wasn’t simply on the top floor, he was the entire top floor, with a view of the ocean and city and mountains and pretty much everything else.

When Ol’ Jake ushered them in their eyes about popped out at the opulent furnishings. “I guess you done pretty good at the chiropracting,” one guy said.

“Sorry?” Ol’ Jake said.

“The chiropracting. You must have a good business with all those adjustments and shit.”

“What makes you think I’m a chiropractor?”

“Wanky said so.”

Ol’ Jake laughed. “No, I haven’t ever tried my hand at that. But I’ve restored the classic car collections of a lot of famous people, and of some royal families in the Middle East. I’m just a mechanic, really.”

They looked around. Ol’ Jake was “just a mechanic” like Muhammed Ali was “just a boxer.”

“So, we, uh, came over to see if you’d mind if we started a Kickstarter campaign to help you pay for your medical bills, but I guess you probably don’t need it, so what do you say to starting a Kickstarter campaign for us?”

Ol’ Jake laughed. “It’s pretty darned nice of you to come by. You fellas sit down and let me get you some coffee.”

And they did.

END

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Bile-and-spit flavored Donut

April 1, 2018 § 3 Comments

Alex Barnes and teammate Ryan Ung of Santa Monica Subaru came out yesterday to say “hello” on the Donut Ride, and they said it in a very mean, spiteful, nasty way.

The pre-ride timber check had all the markings of a ghastly ride, as it included Mark Tripp, Mathieu Brousseau, and some dude on a fugly green Specialized along with Attila the Hun, JP Jones, JP Baby Seal, Kevin Phillips, G3, David Steinhafel, Ramon Ramos, and Chris Tregillis, who missed the start and had to chase one of the fastest Donuts in memory … and he caught on!

There was a slew of teammates from Team Lizard Collectors and various other species of animal, all vying for the impossible honor of getting to the radar domes first. Josh Dorfman, Josh Alverson, and Lauren Mulwitz lined up along with Super Old Guy and Asskicker Rich Mull, but no Derek Brauch. Many riders were  finishing the San Dimas stage race from last weekend and either had a score to settle or wanted to confirm their awesomeness in the race that truly matters, i.e. the group ride wankfest.

It was the middle of race season, real and artificial testosterone levels were high, the Ronde was on Sunday, and it was going to be hideous.

Coming out of Malaga Cove I glanced at the traffic control speed warning sign, which said “28,” a speed that was clearly false because Mathieu came around me about 3 mph faster. The great thing about not riding with a power meter, speedometer, or Strava is I can make everything up. “It was so fucking hard” sounds a heck of a lot better than “175 watts.”

In a flash, Mathieu and I were dropped by Alx Bns and Ram-Ram Ramon. The field caught us although we didn’t catch Alx-Ram-Ram; it had been single from the bottom of the Malaga Cove climb and would stay that way to the bottom of the Switchbacks, about 40 minutes later. That’s unusual on the Donut, where there’s almost always a fat phalanx at the back affording shelter.

Mathieu finally caught Alex and Ramon, and kept drilling it all the way through Lunada Bay and then to Golden Cove. People were hanging on like charted pieces of meat about to drop off the spit and into the flame; none dared come around, while several realized it was time for their morning coffee break and went elsewhere.

Mathieu single-filed some more until Alex and Ryan took over, along with a couple of huge efforts by JP Baby Seal that shelled even more riders and eventually shelled Baby Seal as well. I have never seen it single file from the very beginning all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks. People were coming unhitched right, left, and center. At the bottom of the climb I was fourth wheel, behind Alx, Ryan, and Ugly Bike Dude whose name is Steve and whose former full-time occupation was “bike racer.”

I dropped back to seek more shelter as we climbed only to find that there was no more “back.” Mark Tripp was the last guy in our little community until Ryan took one last monster pull then swung over for Alx to attack. Only Steve could follow; I’m not sure he ever broke a sweat. Attila and Kyle Jackson came up, and then we formed the first chase group with Ryan, Kyle, Mark, and Attila. It was Sad Face Day for me as I took stock and realized I’d never beaten any of these guys on a climb. Oh, well.

On the worst part of the Switchbacks, Yasuko was hunkered down on the side of the road shooting pictures. Check out the faces! The most embarrassing one is where I’m hanging on for dear life and Ryan’s MOUTH ISN’T EVEN OPEN. You suck, dude.

Ryan, who had been hammering since Trump, finally swung over, which sucked because his pace was somewhat endurable; I was okay hanging onto the back. Then Kyle took over, giving Ryan a rest, and I was suddenly not okay. Somehow I hung on; Ryan then jumped, I went with him, and we shelled the other three. I hung on until just before Crest, when Ryan dumped me like a load of rotten potatoes.

Attila caught me about a third of the way up Crest and towed me to the top, where he sprinted for a glorious fourth place.

After that, everyone wanted an easy spin up Western so JP Jones and I laid into it, squeaking through an extremely ripe orange light and then going full blast. JP melted on Better Homes, then caught me again on Crest. We traded pulls until Alex and Steve caught us; I jumped on and survived until just before the end of the flat spot on Crest, when Steve pulled so hard that all I could do was drift off the back as my heart spiked along with my eyes, kidneys, and liver. So, third …

Heading off to the Hawthorne Sprunt, Mathieu, smarting, had attacked early with Heavy D., JP Seal, and Steinhafel. They opened a big gap thanks to Heavy D.’s superior gravitational skills and vicious smashing. Alx chased all the way to the bottom of the
Glass Church. I attacked and neglected to check who was on my wheel because I never check who’s on my wheel because IDGAF. This time it mattered. I caught the break and gapped the leaders but was then countered by Steve and Ryan and couldn’t get on, same as you can’t “get on” when you’re passed by a jet taking off the deck of an aircraft carrier. They rode away. I was alone over the second bump, then put my head down and pedaled hard but without hope.

That’s when Daniel Park, Heavy D., Steinhafel, and Alex caught me. The other chasers were back in Riverside County. After the light at Terranea we had about 200m between us and Ryan/Steve and they were hauling. As we started up the last roller before the sprunt, I told Daniel Park, the 17-year-old kid who sprints like a runaway train, “Go now!” and he launched the attack from hell. I barely latched on, he caught and dropped Ryan and Steve, then drove it to the sprint which I thought he might get until Heavy D. and Alex chased us down and passed us.

Alx finished so far ahead it was silly.

On Zumaya I was last. However, I was first to the fridge here at home, which is way more important than being first anywhere else, ever. The ride was an order of magnitude faster today than last week, which sounds so much more awesome than having actual data like speed, time, you know, facts. What can’t be quantified, though, was the fun. It was crazy fun, to be this old and creaky and still loving riding my bike this much.

Hope you had a great ride yesterday, too!

END

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Crashing the Crash

March 31, 2018 § 6 Comments

One of the craziest and most infamous rides in Los Angeles is the Marathon Crash Ride. It is held in the wee hours of the morning before the L.A. Marathon, when the marshals have closed off the city roads for the run the next day.

Thousands of bikes take over the streets for a few short miles, and it is epic. Joann Zwagerman, friend and Big Orange teammate, led a crew out to the Crash Race for the third year, and was kind enough to share this report:

“This was my third year doing the LA marathon bicycle crash ride. The first year, 2016,  I organized about eight people. It was drizzling, foggy, cold and damp. We were late because we had some mechanicals and the feeder ride we latched onto dropped almost their whole group. We adopted them and towed them to the start. We missed the start and had the entire road to ourselves. The whole experience is seeing the mass. Different people, different ages, and everyone on different types of bikes. We were still blown away by being able to ride eight abreast down the middle of Hollywood Boulevard with not one car around us.

“The second year, 2017, we met at The Kettle in Manhattan Beach and there were about sixteen of us. This year, we were in front of the entire group, dodging fixies and breathing in fumes from the police cars that were pacing us. It was stop-and-go and we didn’t really get to see what I felt this ride was all about, which is the people. Not being able to see the critical mass behind us was a huge missed opportunity. Who cares about being in front unless you’re racing? Not I!

“I had actually decided not to do the Crash Ride this year. Actually, until Friday night, I had forgotten I was organizing a feeder ride to the event. Thank god that someone who doesn’t do social media texted and asked me what the plans were! That is so Franzi Utter, the sweetest, cutest woman ever, asked me to do it again because she missed it last year. How could I say no to that girl and her pretty face? Of course I was in. I put out a Strava event on the FDR Facebook page and we had about twenty-five people show up at 1:00 AM at The Kettle.

“Five people were late and had to chase. All but one of them made the feeder ride and the others met us at the start. JP Seal rode all the way down from Santa Monica and was right on time! Pointy fucking sharp people! I will wait on most rides but not on a ride that leaves at 1:00 AM.

“As we rode down Vista Del Mar, I noticed that a young man, sixteen years old and about my son’s age, had the smallest rear light I had ever seen. As a mother hen, I yelled at him, “Turn your light on!”  Then I got nervous. He reached back and was not keeping a straight line. I told him to please wait until we got to the bridge so as not to crash out fifty people. I yelled at the group to stop at the bridge. “What is your name?” I asked. I have memory issues so I already knew I would never remember his name because it wasn’t Bob or Steve or Jack or any one syllable word. “I will just call you Child,” I told him. “You will be known to me as Child for the rest of the night. Now turn on your tiny little goddamn microscopic light.”

“It was dead, of course, not that it would have made any difference given its tininess. I gave him one of my three honking 100-lumen taillights and felt confident that he had a proper light, as the people behind him were wincing. His dad thanked me and then we were off. I rode behind Child the entire way east and lectured him about the importance of lights, not just at night but also in the day. Justin Okubo, who I also call Child because I have another child his age, told Child II to try and get used to my motherly lectures. He said that I treat him the same way even though he isn’t a child anymore, he is 19! Lol! I told Child II if he promised to ride with this light on in the day, it would be my present to him. So he promised. Hope he’s not a little liar like most 16-year-olds making promises to strangers.

“Funny thing, this year, my new pointy-sharp attitude was not appreciated. We were an hour and a half early! We had no mechanicals, no flats, and a bit of a tailwind. That’s what you get for being on time–you get there early. We ended up waiting in the freezing cold for 1.5 hours. We found a Fatburger with no bathroom and that just wouldn’t do. I and another went searching for a more suitable establishment with flushing privileges. We found a 24-hour Subway that was warm and had bathrooms. We waited there until 3:45 AM. I’m sure they loved us.

“We rolled out and instantly started shivering, and it was going to get even colder as the night went on. Heading towards the start, even before we turned the corner, we could smell the reefer and hear all the people. Over a thousand strong and we were approaching them head-on. It was an amazing sight, one that if you’ve never seen before, you should. It’s not like any other bike ride. Not everyone was in a kit or wearing a helmet, by a long shot. There were so many different kinds of bikes. If I could have taken more photos, I would have, but I can barely drink from my water bottle let alone take pictures while I ride, let alone do it in the midst of a thousand stoned crazy people on bikes.

“This is a ride where I would never not have both hands on the bars at all times. There were all-skill sets and no-skill sets, and they were all mish-mashed together. There were people who were high and reckless, and I didn’t want to be crashed out. Amazingly, I didn’t see a single person die.

“I made the speech beforehand so everyone knew what to expect. If you wanted to ride in the front you were welcome to, but you’d miss the view and all the cool outfits and bikes. If you wanted to ride in the back, you were free to, but there might be carnage. All the points I touched on above were discussed.

“I decided to ride in the middle with my German girl, Franzi. We’d all meet at the end of the ride, and I begged everyone to be careful. Franzi and I had the perfect spot. We saw the sea of critical mass in front of us. We smelt the burning rubber and reefer of fixies going downhill, we saw people dressed in next to nothing while we were wishing for skiwear, and we rode handlebar to handlebar calling out hazards and not letting anyone wheel chop us. It was perfect except for the cold, which hit 40.7 at the low, in other words, it was horrible.

“The marshals seemed to have shortened the course this year; it was over quickly. We regrouped and headed back to the South Bay. We had all planned for breakfast but everyone just wanted to go home and get warm, or at least get to a point where they could feel their teeth again.

“The next day I felt as I had the year before and the year before that. I felt like I had pulled an all-nighter, but instead of having done it at work or over a pile of books, I’d done it on a bike. I was groggy and in a fog most of the day. Will I do it again next year?  I say no right now but I probably will. In 2019, though, I’ll take more photos and wear a puffy coat!”

If you’d like to read the article from LA Weekly last year, here it is: http://www.laweekly.com/news/a-once-renegade-bike-ride-on-the-la-marathon-route-goes-legit-8033650

And if you have some time to kill you can watch this video from Joey Cooney, it’s here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MZD8A0qvEJo

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Passing it on

March 30, 2018 § 8 Comments

The biggest benefit of having my wife ride is learning that I actually know something about cycling and, more amazingly, that I can teach it. I had a conversation with my friend Nancy Linn the other day, she of the PV Bike Chicks, and we talked about doing a basic skills clinic for a small group of riders. The PV Bike Chicks have been riding on the Hill for almost a decade now, and they are a great example of cyclists who are also wonderful members of the community.

Seven members of the “Early Bird” crew showed up at Malaga Cove Plaza and we dropped down to the parking lot by the church to start our clinic. Our goal was to work on one aspect of riding that Yasuko and I have been working on together, riding even-wheeled or, put negatively, “not half-wheeling.”

Half-wheeling is endemic to cycling; you’d be amazed how few people have ever even heard of it, let alone know what it is, and that includes a lot of “racers.” Yet riding even-wheeled is a critical component of good cycling skills because it teaches a whole bunch of mission-critical skills in a single activity. Even-wheeled riding means:

  • You are forced to use peripheral vision to keep track of your neighbor’s wheel.
  • You are forced to pay attention to someone other than yourself.
  • You are forced to develop the skills of making micro, fine adjustments to position and line.
  • You are forced to ride closer.
  • You are forced to improve your reaction time.

We practiced for about an hour and the results were stupendous. My students learned a lot, but as any teacher will tell you, the mark of a good lesson is whether the teacher learned at least as much as the students.

I did! And to make matters even better, when we finished they graciously gave me a coffee gift card. I think that’s what they call #winning.

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