Flu day

February 2, 2018 § 3 Comments

No blog appearing today due to flu …

Flat earth theory

January 11, 2018 Comments Off on Flat earth theory

My wife rides a road bike with flat pedals. It’s interesting to watch how people react to that. Rather, it’s interesting how reactions are so uniform.

“You need clipless pedals.”

“Why don’t you get some riding shoes?”

“You are losing so much power.”

“When are you going to ditch those flat pedals?”

“You’ll go so much faster with clip-in!”

And etc.

Most of the people who see fit to comment on her sad state of pedal affairs know that we are married and that I ride a bike a lot, so it’s kind of curious that they don’t run that through their filter, like this: “She’s got flat pedals, but she’s married to Seth so she probably knows about clip-in pedals, so there’s probably a reason …”

But no.

The reaction is uniform and knee-jerk: “Are you going to get clip-in pedals tomorrow? Or today?”

I wondered why people care which pedals she uses. The ostensible reason is that she will pedal more efficiently and therefore go faster. But that’s a bad explanation; the last thing that a new cyclist should do is go faster. New cyclists should go slower and learn to control the bike at lower speeds. Physics aren’t linear when you fall off your bike. Incremental increases of one or two mph result in much greater force when you fall off, and therefore greater injury. Telling beginners they need to go faster is like telling new drivers they need to go faster. Huh?

And from a psychological perspective, why would you want someone to go faster anyway? Doesn’t that mean they will beat you? You should want them on the worst equipment possible, in fact, eating nothing but peanut butter and ice cream five times a day.

The biggest reason people want you on clip-in pedals, I think, is because without clip-ins, you look like a Fred. This means two things: If you’re riding with me, and you’re a Fred, then I’m a Fred, too. Or it means that riding with you reminds me of when I was a Fred, and it’s a lot more comfortable to think I was born knowing how to drape myself coolly over a 100% carbon bike that is all carbon and made of pure carbon rather than to remember that, yeah, I used to not know anything, either, and I looked like it.

And of course in road cycling there’s the fashion element, where people instinctively shun those who are clearly unfashionable in an activity where the way you look is oh-so-important.

With regard to safety, everyone should start with flat pedals and most people should never leave them. On a road bike there are too many instances where taking your feet off the pedals will keep you from crashing. Anyone who thinks that you need clip-ins to climb well should have seen Josh Alverson or Stathis Sakellariadis shred the Donut Ride the times they rode it in sneakers.

And a bit of Internet reading confirms that the idea that clip-in pedals somehow yield huge improvements in pedaling power is not true. At best, the differences are negligible. Tellingly, the athlete in the power test confides that he still wants clip-ins because they help him when sprunting for peak power. Not sure that has any meaning at all for 99.999% of all people on bikes.

I’ve used both, but prefer clip-ins for a very particular reason.

And I’m not telling why. At least not today.



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Taste of Belgium

December 29, 2017 Comments Off on Taste of Belgium

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …


The year was 2012. The place was Carlsbad, California. The time was 8:00 AM and the idiots were over a hundred strong, each one lined up to attempt the first ever Belgian Waffle Ride. However hard we thought it was going to be, it was harder. I still remember flying off my bike and landing on my head as we tried to ride/clamber up a massive wall back onto the bike path.

Mostly what I remember about that BWR, though, is that it was the first of four such events that I dutifully lined up for, each beatdown being more awful than the one before it as the route lengthened, the quality of the field increased, the difficulty of the off-road sections intensified, and most importantly, as I got older, slower, more cautious, weaker, and more prone to quitting.

My 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride I swore would be my last, and not simply because I completed it on a loaner bike that weighed 30+ pounds which paradoxically resulted in my best finish ever. “Best finish ever” on the BWR is relative, of course. For me it didn’t mean “best time,” rather it meant “finishing without feeling like my head had been beneath one of those pavement tamping-down stamper machines for nine hours.”

I only fell once, didn’t get hurt, had no flats, and stayed hydrated and well nourished for the length of the ride.

Four full-length BWRs in a row, and I was done. I had nothing left to prove, or rather, the things I did have to prove were unproveable, at least out on that course, which wasn’t so much a ride with dirt roads but rather an endless number of dirt sections stitched together with brief segments of pavement.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but if that’s the case then why do former prisoners of war never long for a return to captivity? In my case, though, after a two-year hiatus and the implementation of a Baby BWR a/k/a the Belgian Wafer Ride, it started to sound like a good idea again.

What if I were to do the Baby BWR instead of the Full Grown Adult Hairy BWR? What if I were to do it on a full cyclocross bike with major knobbly tires and disc brakes? What if I were to do it without haste? Carefully? Not pushing myself to some absurd limit, but rather enjoying the day and its attendant festivities?

Because over the years the BWR has gone from being an invitation-only affair to one of the country’s signature rides, replete with great food, booths, entertainment, and a great vibe. Sticking my toe in the water, I went out a few months ago and did the Wafer course with some friends. It was perfect and rekindled my enthusiasm for my old flame. Better yet, it stimulated a kneejerk bicycle purchase, resulting in a new cyclocross bike.

This will be the 7th annual BWR, on the seventh route, covering approximately 137 miles with 44 miles of dirt, the most ever. The Wafer will be approximately 77 miles.

This year’s BWR promises to be bigger and more painful than ever, and thank dog the organizers have roped in Canyon Bicycles as lead sponsor and VeloFix as neutral support partner for both on-road and on-trail. A new Expo Festival format will be held Friday and Saturday (April 13-14) at the Canyon facility in Carlsbad, CA.

Whether you’re hell-bent on biting off the whole Waffle and trying to choke it down your throat, or looking to get a proportional beating on the Wafer, you’ll be among the lunatics who have over-committed themselves to the most unique cycling event in the country.

To top it all off, BWR progenitor Michael Marckx is coming to the South Bay on January 6 to ride with Joann Zwagerman’s legendary FDR group and to give South Bay riders a chance to talk with him about the ride, learn about its history, and (most importantly) get a rad sign-up discount. I’ll be there trying to get some course tips and intel. Michael will be there. Joann will be there. Hope you will be, too.

Ride leaves at 8:15 AM from Miramar Park in Redondo Beach.

Ride finishes around 10:00 AM at the Yellow Vase Ranch Market in Malaga Cove Plaza, post-ride refreshments provided! All riders who sign up after the ride will get a whopping $80 off the entry fee.

Visit the BWR website for more information and register today, before reality kicks in and you wonder what in the world you were thinking.

Additional Reasons to Waffle or Wafer

  • Fundraising opportunities for the Challenged Athletes Foundation with as an individual through our registration platform or through the CAF team. Join the CAF team and earn free reg!
  • Access to the BWR merchandise store to wear the best apparel on the road, designed and manufactured by JL Velo
  • Prizes and giveaways from sponsors and vendors
  • Complimentary race day breakfast, lunch (or maybe you’ll call it dinner, depending on when you finish), and Lost Abbey libations
  • Invitation to free BWR sponsored recon rides to explore the course
  • Finisher t-shirt and commemorative bottle of Lost Abbey “Bad-Ass Ale”

Course Specs

  • 137 Miles/222 Kilometers (Waffle), 77 Miles/124 Kilometers (Wafer)
  • 10 Categorized Climbs (including three category 2 climbs)
  • 12,000 Feet of Climbing (Waffle), 6,000 Feet of Climbing (Wafer)
  • 16 Dirt Sections totaling over 44 miles (long, sandy, wet, rocky, hilly, ugly)
  • 10 Water Crossings or Foot Bridge Crossings
  • 3 King/Queen of the Mountain Segments
  • 3 King/Queen of the Dirt Segments
  • 3 King/Queen of the Sprint Segments
  • 1 King/Queen of the Canyon Segment
  • 10 Feed Zones

Here is the link a movie that was created during last year’s event, if you want a flavor of what you’re in for! You can contact mmx@creativedisruption.info for additional info about the ride.




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New Year’s Presolutions

December 28, 2017 Comments Off on New Year’s Presolutions

Okay, it is that time of year to either make promises you don’t intend to keep, or to refuse to make promises and regret not breaking them later.

The solution to New Year’s resoultions is the pre-solution, where you can try on a New Year’s resolution in advance, break it a few times before the New Year, and then if you like it you can keep it or if you don’t, take it back to Wal-Mart for a free exchange as long as you have your receipt.

Here are some faves:

  1. Quit drinking. Yep, that’s right. This is the year you quit being a drunk. You can do it if you want to.
  2. Learn Chinese. Okay, you’ll never actually learn it. But you will be doing the equivalent of 3 x 20 intervals for your brain each time you memorize (and promptly forget) a new kanji.
  3. Dump Facebag. It is making you depressed, sucking up all your time, and giving you nothing in return. Why do you care what algorithms think of you? Why are you trying to impress an algorithm? After a brief period of withdrawal, you will have a big chunk of your life back.
  4. Delete your apps. Zap every app from your phone that you haven’t used in the last 30 days. You’ll have one simple-looking screen!
  5. Go meatless one day a week. You won’t lose weight or be healthier or feel better, but it’s easier on Planet Earth and after a while you might be doing two days, three days, or seven.
  6. Write one letter per month. That’s twelve measly letters. You got this! To someone you love. Using a pen. And paper. Bonus points for addressing the envelope by hand and licking the stamp yourself.
  7. Shave with a safety razor. And use old-fashioned shaving soap (with a brush). You’ll feel extra manly and get a much closer shave. Plus, it’s waaay cheaper and you may even graduate to a strop and straight razor. Nothing like starting your morning with a razor against your throat.
  8. Quit shaving your legs. Go ahead, quit. It’s dumb, a waste of time, doesn’t make you go faster, doesn’t “facilitate massage,” and doesn’t help “clean the wound.” Also, if you’re simply vain, shaving your face every morning before the ride looks way better than shaved legs and a face covered in porcupine bristles.
  9. Learn to bake bread. This will change your life, and the lives of those around you.
  10. Learn Slovak. This will let you easily travel to Bratislava next July when you go visit your son and daughter-in-law in Vienna.



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December 27, 2017 Comments Off on Jared

I wheeled up to the Donut Ride and immediately noticed him. It was freezing cold and he was woefully under-dressed; no arm warmers, no leg warmers, not even a jacket or a vest. And he was young. And he was nervous.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi!” he answered.

“What’s your name?”

“Jared. It’s my first time here. I’m kind of nervous.”

“That’s okay, everybody’s nervous their first time. Do you live around here?”

“I’m a freshman at UCSB and am just getting into cycling.”

“That’s great. Can I buy you a coffee?” I was freezing myself despite an undershirt, a jacket, gloves, and tights.

“No, but thank you,” he said.

It’s pretty miserable and exciting at the same time, showing up on your first beatdown ride. I haven’t always been the most helpful person, but over the years it has always seemed to pay off when you’re nice to people in the beginning. They remember it, they occasionally turn out to be beastly strong and repay you with a tow or a push, and I like to think that in twenty years’ time they’ll be the same way, talking to other newcomers and helping take the edge of. As my grandpa always said, “It don’t cost nothin’ to be nice.” Plus, after being nice you can smash in earnest.

Which we did.

I didn’t see Jared again until the bottom of Better Homes. A group of leaders including Pornstache, Tink, John (I think) van Guilder, J.P. “Just Pound” Jones, and my son-in-law had gotten away and I was deep in chase mode. I have never caught the break on Better Homes if they have sneaked away; the climb is too hard and I’m too slow, but I figured I had to try.

I gave it a dig and heard someone on my wheel. He came by hard and I jumped on. It was Jared. He was perfectly sized to climb and had those fresh legs of youth, you know the kind I’m talking about: The kind that can go full out, completely blow, and then recover in five seconds. He put in about three of these monster efforts and suddenly the leaders were just around the bend.

This kid was slamming it so hard and of course I was in whatever zone comes after red. Purple? Black? With only twenty yards between us and the front, he blew up again, this time for good. I punched it and managed to latch onto the leaders. I glanced back as he sat out there in no-person’s-land, then faded.

“Not the last we’ve seen of him,” I thought as we surged away.



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Celebrate, shattered

December 26, 2017 Comments Off on Celebrate, shattered

The 2017 Grinchmas Ride was a small affair. It was so small that at 5:30 AM at the Center of the Known Universe I wasn’t entirely sure but that it wouldn’t be me, possibly accompanied by myself, and perhaps I for company.

By liftoff three other riders showed up, Kristie, Steve Utter, and Evens Stievenart. Evens, he of the 24-hour cycling world record and two-time victor at the 24 Hours of LeMans, had texted the night before.

“Are you really riding at 5:30 on Christmas?”

“Yes. Best ride of the year.”

“I might join you.”

“A lot of people ‘might,'” I taunted

There was a brief text-pause. “I will be there,” he said.

Evens is in terrible shape. He’s been off the bike for two months and has been doing nothing but eating. So it seemed like it would be especially good for a leisurely pedal up the coast, especially with Pablo as pace protection and Manslaughter with his torn calf, so disabled he can barely walk.

Manslaughter texted in his regrets, and Pablo must have simply rolled over in bed.

That meant four of us. Thank goodness Evens was just getting back into shape, because normally he is fearsome company on a bike.

As we left CotKU in the pitch black, Kristie stripped off her armwarmers. “I’m too toasty already,” she said. It was barely fifty degrees, but I didn’t say anything, figuring that later on she would freeze to death but keep freezing rather than stop the ride to put the armwarmers back on.

By Pedal Stroke #4 it became clear that Evens’s rebuild program started at 250 watts, which probably doesn’t seem like much until you figure that I’m real old, real slow, and we were going to be doing it for four hours. The temperature continued to drop and the pace stayed steady, as in steadily miserable. We got to Trancas, had a quick coffee, talked to some foreign exchange students from Oman, and got back on our bikes.

The Oman students were so friendly and so obviously enjoying California. They were students at CSU Northridge. I hoped they were having a good experience here, and that people were treating them well, that America was being welcoming despite all the hatred towards foreigners that has been issuing out of the White House and Congress of late.

We had had a headwind on the way out, so were lucky to also get a headwind on the way back. To keep things interesting, as if being slowly ground into gristle for several hours isn’t interesting enough, Evens made a point of keeping his power steady on the punchy rollers going back; Zuma, Latigo, and Pepperdine’s double bump before dropping down to Cross Creek.

We reached the Santa Monica Pier in tatters, but I had to pretend that I was fine, and Evens kept the same miserable tempo all the way back to Manhattan Beach. The moment he turned off to go home our speed dropped to 10 mph, my shoulders slumped, and I wanted to get off my bike and cry.

My only relief the entire four hours had been a brief stop for a flat tire, the coffee at Trancas, and a miracle banana donated by Kristie without which I would still be on the bike path at Playa del Rey.

Back home there was an astounding feast awaiting. My wife had whipped up biscuits made from scratch, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, sausage, pan-fried potatoes, and cup after cup of freshly brewed hot coffee. Oh, and two kinds of homemade jam and one of marmalade. We opened presents and then she rolled out the most amazing chocolate birthday cake I have ever eaten in my life. I took a break from my no-sugar diet to enjoy a slice of chocolate heaven.

My legs finally seized up and I went to bed. Dinner was only two hours away and a massive homemade pan of mole tacos cooked up by my daughter awaited. Tomorrow, diet. Maybe.



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Grinchmas Ride, 2017

December 22, 2017 Comments Off on Grinchmas Ride, 2017

I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing this ride, maybe five years? It started one Christmas when I left the house very early and met up with Manslaughter, who is now doing penance for his sins with a torn calf muscle. The second year we hooked up with Pablo, and after that the group gradually grew to about six or seven people.

Rolling up Pacific Coast Highway with no traffic on a chilly Christmas morning is exceptional. The empty road, the sun coming up over the Malibu hills, the endlessly blue Pacific Ocean … and no Rage Rovers or Land Bruisers to break the quiet cadence of oiled chains, whirring wheels, and comfortable conversation.

This year, like every year, we’re rolling out from the Center of the Known Universe at 5:30 AM, pointy-sharp, pedaling up to Trancas and back. If the forecast holds, it will be pretty cold, at least for SoCal. Even though I’ve been so far off the #socmed grid that I don’t even bother taking my phone on rides anymore, I may take it along to click a few photos and post here.

Join us if the kids are grown, if the kids sleep in, if there are no kids, if you want to experience silence and beauty smack in the middle of one of the busiest places on the continent, if you’re not convinced that dog made the world in his image, or if you’re just a plain old Grinch. I know I am!




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