August 15, 2016 § 27 Comments
One of my teammates is named Anthony Freeman. He was national champion in BMX several times. Coming from the inner city and competing in a mainly white sport, he had a lot of experiences that might make some people bitter.
Anthony’s not bitter. He’s positive, optimistic, and always looking on the bright side of things.
A few days ago he posted about getting a new aero bike and what a difference it made, how cheating the wind, even a little bit, can affect your placing in a race. It’s true, too. Bike equipment really does make a difference in everything from commuting to competition.
Having a bike with an electric motor can make the difference between being able to commute to a job 35 miles away or not having a job. Having the right aero rig can make the difference between winning and losing a time trial. Even small things like tires or electronic shifting can make the tiny difference between reaching your goal and failure.
Slippery clothing, helmets, tires … virtually every facet of the human-bicycle combination can affect outcomes, and of course they all cost money. It’s not called an arms race for nothing.
Anthony made this point and then he took it somewhere I’ve never been before. He related technical advantages in a bike race to social, economic, and healthcare advantages in society.
Think about it. If a few hidden cables and a better profile helmet make the difference between victory and success, what kind of difference does it make to a kid trying to make it in school whether he starts the day with food in his belly or not?
Whether he has eyeglasses so that he can see the board?
Whether he has a computer at home so that he can do his homework?
What cyclist can be focused on squeezing the last little dialed-in detail out of their bike but also oppose the most vulnerable people in our society from getting the huge leg up they need at the earliest, most formative times of their lives, especially when that leg up is as basic as food, healthcare, and education?
It’s an arms race, all right. But the weapons aren’t bikes. They’re bread, medicine, and books.
August 14, 2016 § 12 Comments
That’s an easy question for me to answer around 11:00 after I get back from the Donut Ride. Every muscle aches and I hobble from couch to bed to table and back again. The exhaustion is complete, and anecdotally the other riders who go through the full Donut ringer are likewise shattered.
I don’t know of many other regular Saturday rides that feature 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles, but I’m sure they’re out there. And the difficulty of a ride also has to be measured by who shows up. Although Mike Friedman, Tyler Hamilton, and any number of Olympians and Tour riders have cameoed on the Donut Ride, and although there are always a handful of really good riders leading the charge, I’d think that a place like Boulder or Colorado Springs would have a much bigger regular roster of elite riders on its Saturday ride.
One Saturday ride that is harder than the Donut is the Swami’s Ride in San Diego, but only the first part, which ends when you go up that miserable climb to Elfin Forest. After that, it’s mostly rolling and the ride seems to break up as people go different directions, and it doesn’t have any sustained climbing. Maybe another criterion is how badly the group shatters? The Donut Ride always finishes the three major climbs with a tiny handful of people, and one isn’t uncommon.
The Simi Ride is supposed to be the hardest Saturday ride in the galaxy. I’ve done it only once, but a buddy flatted so I ended up cutting the course. It certainly attracts a consistently higher caliber of rider and it’s longer, but it only runs for a few months a year and I don’t recall any sustained climbing. I remember there also being a huge group so at least the parts I did seemed to have plenty of places to cower and hide and shirk and suck wheel, which are kind of my specialties.
Yesterday’s Donut Ride went very fast from the start. David Holland posted a great video of U.S. pro Kathryn Donovan as she manhandled all but the three guys who split off early and stayed away on the first climb. Here’s his video of Katie hitting the bottom of the Switchbacks and basically riding the entire field of guys–and one surviving super tough woman, Kristie Fox–off her wheel.
Katie is currently ranked 8th among pro women in the U.S., and it shows. She’s best in road races, although last weekend she pulled off a podium spot at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, a fast and furious crit, by sticking a 3-rider breakaway on a super high speed sprinter’s course that rarely features successful breakaways. Katie has an attacking style of climbing; you can see her take stock, attack, rest, and attack, until there’s not much left but stomped dicks and broken egos.
This second clip shows the early move by A., who attacks long before the Switchbacks clip above. He’s immediately followed by Matt Cuttler, and then Diego Binatena. Diego comes back to us on the Switchbacks, then ditches us again towards the end, but Matt and A. stay away. Jean-Louis Bourdevaire launches in Portuguese bend and stays in between Matt & A., and my group, to the end, which is some tough riding because nowhere is worse than no-person’s-land, especially on a climb.
This final clip shows the second climb, Homes to Domes. It starts chill until Matt gooses it hard. Everyone not paying attention gets instantaneously dropped. Those paying attention follow for a while, then get dropped. There’s an oh-so-brief respite at the top of Via Colinita as we check for traffic, then Matt and A. take turns riding everyone off their wheel. I get popped just after the wall on Crest, but by that time there’s no one even close.
I’m sure there are harder Saturday group rides, but I hope I don’t ever have to do them.
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August 12, 2016 § 38 Comments
If you’re one of the 300,000 people who saw this video clip, you can go back to bed now reassured that the Internet did its job.
A few hours after we posted here about the greedy, violent, hostility of Lunada Bay surfers towards outsiders and cyclists, this saggy fellow from Corona del Mar showed that bullies and road ragers in Newport Beach got game, too.
And then Mr. Sagbottom discovered that videos on smart phones can quickly be uploaded to the Internet, which then results in this pathetic, babbling, self-debasing blibber-blabber which seems less an apology than a psychotic CYA self-flagellation tailored to a potential jury pool.
Yes, the Internet did its job, which, lest we ever, ever forget, is to entertain. We got the innocent victim, a cyclist out riding with his son. We got the caricature of a caricature of a caricature of a buffoon — angry, stupid, obese, dentally challenged, thinning hair, waddling, homophobic, and parroting a line from a cowboy movie, so ironic because he’s the opposite of the tough guys in the movie he obviously idolizes. Oh, and he was the perfect cardboard cutout for all that is bad about surfing and surfers, a fellow who is obviously too large and unfit to surf well, if at all, nonetheless pretending to speak for the surfing community.
If nothing else, it gave me pause to think how one asshole claiming to be a surfer can tarnish a whole bunch of people, not unlike the rude cyclist giving the finger to a housewife with a car full of little kids.
Robert Lewis gave every aggrieved cyclist the chance to happily and viciously punch the “like” button on Facebag, and to add a searing comment, piling onto a stinking heap of shit that smokes and smells just fine on its own. And then to watch the Newport Beach Police Department go from “We don’t care about this,” to “We’re taking this seriously and investigating” added a finale that was as unexpected as it was appreciated.
Justice may or may not be done, but Sir Sagbottom will spend a few more sleepless nights wishing he hadn’t made such an ass out of himself.
Entertainment is fun and the Internet delivers it. For that, I’m appreciative.
But for anyone who lives or cycles or cages in the South Bay, there’s a big load of work ahead, because the city of Rancho Palos Verdes has begun work on its bike safety master plan, and it is seeking clubs and cyclists who might be interested in collaborating.
I was gratified beyond words when Chris Rovin, Marvin Campbell, Tom Duong, John Wike, Greg Leibert, Chris Tregillis, Jose Godinez, Craig Eggers, Tara Unverzagt, Delia Park, Geoff Loui, Bob Frank, Mark Maxson, and Jaycee Cary responded within minutes when we reached out for potential volunteers.
They did so without knowing the commitment or even what was involved. What they knew was that it won’t be Internet entertainment. A group of RPV residents has already belittled cyclists as the residents attempt to illegally ban bikes from a public road; one fine fellow compared cyclists to dog shit. What these cyclists know is that it will be hard, it will take time, their asses may go numb from hours of sitting (free chamois cream and Junk Jam for all) and it will stretch their abilities to compromise and find common ground. It will also likely require them to spend actual face time with a bully or two like Mr. Sagbottom.
Thanks for stepping up. It’s not YouTube entertainment with a happy ending in less than 24 hours but it’s going to make cycling a lot more fun for others.
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August 11, 2016 § 25 Comments
Lunada Bay is located in the heart of the Palos Verdes peninsula, which is itself ground zero for the war on cyclists. But you’ll be surprised to know that we have all been here before. This amazing tale of Lunada Bay from a man who grew up here sheds light on the forces at play in gripping, powerful words that you won’t soon forget.
“That was Then, This is Then — Why Lunada Bay Never Left the ’70s”
With all the media coverage of late regarding the Lunada Bay lawsuit and the ongoing saga of the Bay Boys’ gang-like territorialism over “their” surf spot and broader community, I thought I would offer up an insider’s purview on the dynamic at play—shared through an archetypal anecdote of Bay Boy bad behavior.
It happened on a casual winter day in 1983 while my friend and I were on the southern section of the open cliffs in Palos Verdes that line Lunada Bay, checking the waves from a “safe spot” on the Avalanche side of the bay that wasn’t usually patrolled by the Bay Boys. There was a younger kid, about thirteen years old, sitting along the edge of the cliff near us with his unwaxed, brand new board straddling his knees.
We didn’t think much about him except we noted that his board wasn’t from one of the local shapers, but rather from a South Bay shaper, which the kid obviously didn’t know was like wearing a blue bandanna to a Bloods BBQ. It was just the three of us checking out the surf at the Bay, when out of nowhere came a Bay Boy we only knew as “Jeff,” a feeble surfer usually looking to compensate, who walked past us in that classic Bay Boy style—low hanging pants, flannel shirt, Ray-Bans and the duck-like shuffle affectedly conveying some sort of street cred that he thought might belie his (family’s) wealth.
With a façade of genuine caring, Jeff walked right up to the kid and said in the nicest way, “New board, huh?” The kid replied with a smile, proud of his new stick. Jeff said, “Lemme check it out,” and the kid easily handed it over to this seemingly innocuous character, then began answering the soft serve of questions Jeff delivered as the board was genuinely inspected in its every detail.
My friend and I were caught off guard by this surreal interaction. It seemed so incongruous with everything we had ever witnessed growing up around this surf spot, especially with this Jeff character, who was notoriously pernicious to all but fellow Bay Boys. We pretended to talk to one another while listening to the kid answer the questions. “Who shaped the board?” “How thick is it?” “It’s small, huh?” “Why the double wings?” “What’s with the swallowtail?” “Where are you from?”
And then it happened.
Jeff began to hand the board back to the kid, but with one smooth lunge of devotion to everything his little mind and body aspired to be, the new board went hurling off the steep and tall cliff, swirling and twirling, whooping and whirling, briefly, almost miraculously defying gravity on its way to a fate usually reserved for the most battered and yellowed of old boards.
All four of us watched for what seemed like a full minute as the board unraveled its spectacular dance of death, but the instant it was out of sight, Jeff turned to the kid and said, “Get the fuck out of here and don’t ever come back.”
The kid mustered a “You dick!” before he began visibly weeping, as Jeff turned to us, the only audience he had, chuckling oddly to himself as if he had just killed a rattlesnake.
Looking back, what was most noteworthy about the incident was the style in which it was perpetrated—like some well-rehearsed routine executed with flair, pomposity, and disdain, the Machiavellian nature of the act overshadowing its cowardly criminality and symbolizing the essence of the Bay Boy existence. It was a unique affront, in that moment, in that person, in that subculture, which was lost in time but still intact in some odd radioactive way, with a half-life that radiated intensity in a self-possessed fashion with self-preservation at its nucleus.
Jeff wasn’t afraid the kid was going to surf the Bay, not that day. Jeff’s act had a much deeper, more sentimental meaning behind it, besides making him feel taller and more potent. It was about preservation of the place, the people, the feelings, and the fraternal magic. It was about keeping things the same, about holding onto the past and the purity of surfing Palos Verdes when things had been much more simple. That kid, with his youthful exuberance and new board, was symbolic to Jeff of everything he and every other Bay Boy feared, that the newness of the modern, outside world could take it all away.
The reality that encased the PV surfer during the ’70s—the spectacle of Lunada Bay and its Bay Boys, their codes, nicknames, personalities, and demeanors—seemed to carry with it an incredible, collective, unspoken desire to hold onto something nostalgic. It was as if the Bay Boys’ customs, rites and rituals, clothes and attitudes, could half-retrieve the magic of the early days. Maybe by wearing black wetsuits, riding outdated white boards, going leashless, shunning the new, listening to the Stones or The Who or The Dead, they could conjure it all back to life. The Bay Boys were nothing more than sentimental creatures looking to hold onto something precious, a wave, a feeling, a moment, a subculture, themselves, their parents’ money.
Like the gangs that developed in East Los Angeles during mid-century, the Bay Boys were born from of a confluence of geography, sociology, and economic factors. Though they weren’t born out of repression, they were born out of possession. For all intents and purposes their parents owned the cliffs and, more importantly, the surf spots below them, which were aplenty and amazingly good during the winter months. They banded together to preserve their status quo because they could do it if they could keep the outside world off of their little island. Oddly enough, PV used to be an island; the channel between it and the mainland eventually silted up to form the Los Angeles Basin.
The Bay Boys were merely a reflection of the larger Lunada Bay culture, which has been informed by a long-held self-entitlement of the denizens of this bucolic yet small-minded community, and this includes surfers and non-surfers alike. They don’t want to share their waves, parks, roads, or even their sunset views with outsiders. Their tenets have been cultivated by an “it’s mine” mentality and by the companion idea of preserving it for themselves, and they have taken their preservation to stylistically interesting extremes.
Like real gangs, the Bay Boys have thrived on intimidation and notoriety. Many of their younger and more insecure members find cowardly vandalism or violence glamorous or necessary in order to maintain their individual status within the lineup. Like most groups, they have depended upon both individual and group participation in criminal activity that includes actual theft of the state’s coastline by constructing an illegal structure there and preventing anyone but themselves and their friends from using it.
Unlike legitimate groups or organizations, there hasn’t ever been a single identified leader. In fact, those at the top are the least likely to be involved in anything negative, leaving the dirty work for those on the lower rungs of the pecking order, spurred on by the unscrupulous members’ directives. Like other gangs, the Bay Boys have had their own hallmarks of identity: The clothes, the vehicles, the sunglasses, the stares, the music, the walk, the protocols, the P’s and Q’s. In the water, the style has been even more apparent. Besides the white boards and black wetsuits, there is a litany of behavior that comprises their style, all with an intended purpose, a saving grace, that with critical mass and less-than-critical thinking could preserve the Bay for all time for a select few who would somehow never never grow old, or grow up.
Surfing in PV was and still is largely controlled by the Bay Boys, whose ethos was formed in the sixties but found purchase in the seventies. Ever since, PV has been caught in a time warp of out-of-date sensibilities that keep it purposefully behind the times. While dramatic board advances were being made off the hill, the few PV shapers kept to their insular world, content to stick to their own ways. Even though the leash was being widely produced by the mid-seventies, they were largely unused the entire decade among PV surfers because, you know, leashes were for kooks.
While the rest of the surfing world was growing in new ways, the Bay Boys maintained their integral mores: Surfing longer, more gunny boards than necessary, swimming into the rocks to gather their leashless, battered boards, riding waves with a style that hearkened back to earlier decades, but failing to push the performance extremes of the envelope they had intentionally sealed themselves into.
Some would argue the Bay Boys pushed each other and grew their skills over the years, particularly through summer sojourns to Puerto Escondido, but somehow they managed to keep the outside world away from the Bay. It seems their own myopic efforts of not sharing managed to keep their dream alive. That is until now, as a number of incidents have drawn the attention of international media and ultimately the Coastal Commission, most compellingly represented in a pair of federal class action lawsuits targeting their gang activities.
Even today, just as it was in the ’70s, on the surface Lunada Bay is a serene, beautiful, enchanting place that’s home to one of the best big wave spots on the California coast, with slight crowds who share waves, take turns, patrol the cliffs, and socialize together.
But upon closer inspection, it’s easy to discern the sad tension, even angst, which permeates the fabric of the Bay Boys’ culture. Most would agree that the Bay Boys ride boards that are too big in a style that’s antiquated, that their rituals are archaic and their conduct is criminal. It’s all true.
But through it all, they’ve managed to stop time, to hold onto to something precious and preserve both the feeling and the place, and they’ve done it with a style all their own, and with a criminality that not only these adult Boys endorse, but that has been abetted by local law enforcement and the broader community for decades.
It’s a slice of paradise in the Wild West, a Technicolor vision of the California Dream, hidden right in the heart of teeming Los Angeles. And no, you can’t have any. Don’t you even dare look.
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August 7, 2016 § 13 Comments
It’s August. The sun is still beating down. There are still races on the calendar. February is so far away it might as well be in Micronesia. Yet for all that, people are already starting to ponder The Question and its bastard variants, i.e. “What should I be doing for the off season?”
Glad you asked.
First you should take out a calendar for 2016 and see how many races you did. By “races” I don’t mean NPR or Telo or coffee cruises with a sprunt or Strava contests or any ride that features a “sag,” “rest stop,” or a floppy bag filled with goodies.
By “races” I mean events where you pay money, pin on a number, get shouted at by an official in an ill-fitting golf shirt, get pushed around in a pack of doped-up insane people, run the risk of crashing and getting a brain injury, and ultimately either get dropped, get chopped in the sprint, or finish cursing the day you were born and swearing to never do a another one as long as you live or until next week, whichever comes first.
So after toting up all those races you can effectively plan your off season as follows:
- 1-5 races: There is no off season.
- 6-10 races: There is no off season.
- 11-15 races: There is no off season.
- 16+ races: You should have taken a break back in April, because there’s still no off season.
“B-b-b-b-b-but!” you complain. “I’m tired! I’m worn out! I’m mentally fateeeeeeged! I gotta rest!”
All of that is true, but it’s unrelated to the three races you did back in March. In other words:
- You are tired because you are old.
- You are worn out because you are old.
- You are fatigued because you are old.
- You gotta rest because you are old.
And guess what? Next year you will be what is known as “older.” This will require even more rest. It will not require an off season. Off seasons are for ski resorts, not chubby hobby bike profamateurs.
The single biggest obstacle to rest is what we colloquially refer to as the “weekend,” but is more commonly known as “the opportunity to do 200 miles of riding in 48 hours.” This may sound like a mere warmer-upper if you do events like RAAM or have a nickname like “Metal” or “Mr. 10,000.”
For old people, though, it will not work cramming all your weekly miles into a couple of days, somehow hoping that it will compensate for doing little or nothing the rest of the week, and somehow hoping that ((beer+shitty food) x (Mon + Tue + Wed + Thu + Fri) – Big Century Ride = Fitness.
The only thing that will remove your non-season’s season-ending fatigue is an old trick used by hunter-gatherers who had to scrap for every meal every fuggin’ day. It’s the old “get up early trick.”
Yes, your August doldrums are not the result of too much riding but of sloth, and your off season training plan shouldn’t feature anything special at all except this: Get the fuck up early enough to get in your weekday rides, and go the fuck to sleep (there’s a book on this) early enough so that you can get the fuck up early enough to ride again the next day.
Please email the reasons that you can’t go to bed early or you’re a night person or whatever else to: email@example.com; don’t email them to me because I know why you can’t go to bed early and get up early: You’re lazy and you’d rather pound the extra carafe of tequila or watch the BIG GAME, you know, the game that’s so big they will never have another one like it ever again until next week.
Go ahead, set your alarm for 5:00 or 4:00 or 3:30 or whatever the magic number is, and go the fuck to sleep so that you get the necessary 6 or 7 hours of beddy-bye time. You’ll run into people like Craig Hummer, Doug Murtha, Jim Bowles, and the MB Morning Crew, and never need another off season again.
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August 5, 2016 § 10 Comments
I’ve been riding with Josh for about a year now. We are teammates, but we first met at the Tuttle Creek Road Race out in Nowheresville, CA this February. It was a hard race and neither of us won.
Since that time he’s been an occasional attendee on the Thursday Flog Ride. I won’t bore you with how hard the ride is; I’m sure yours is harder.
One thing is pretty clear, though. Most people do the Flog once, maybe twice, and you never see them again. And another thing. Everyone who’s done it regularly since November has stood on a podium this year.
The ride goes around the PV Golf Course six times. It’s a 6-minute interval, then you descend to the starting point and do another loop. The intervals are hard (redundant) and they’re also strategic because at the top of the loop you sprint. Whatever kind of game you have, this ride improves it.
Last week Josh was making some hard efforts but in all the wrong places. I hate to give advice to anyone other than, “Keep your fuggin’ head up.” My philosophy is that any advice worth knowing can and will be used against me.
However, after one particularly disappointing lap (for Josh), where he had attacked on the first section of the golf course, then gotten caught and dropped, I coached him against my better instincts. “Dude,” I said. “You’re not strong enough to attack there and hold it to the end.”
“But I have to try,” he said.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “but don’t try there.”
“Where do I try then?”
“Suck wheel until the last hundred yards then sprint like a bastard.”
“But that’s wheelsucking.”
“Fight the battle with the weapons you have, not the weapons you wish you had.”
This morning the first two Flog laps were, well, hard. EA Sports, Inc. took the first two sprints in typical dominating fashion. On the third lap as we made the right-hander for the final leg to the finish, I looked back. It was just Josh. “He’ll attack about now,” I thought. “Way too early.”
But he didn’t.
With a hundred yards to go I got ready to launch, but no sooner had I clenched the drops than Josh came rocketing by. He didn’t just win it, he owned it.
As we circled in the parking lot waiting for the re-group, he was smiling. “Good job,” I said.
“Thanks,” he said. “I feel good today.”
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August 2, 2016 § 33 Comments
I always thought bike clubs were dumb. Why does anyone need an organization to ride a stupid bicycle, drink beer, and pedal around outdoors in your underwear? These things can all be done unaffiliated.
That’s why even though I’ve belonged to many clubs over the years, they’ve been racing clubs that got me a $5 discount on a pair of socks, a couple of free bottles, and the Always Promised But Never Delivered Race Reimbursements At The End Of The Year.
Your club is probably a lot better than the ones I’ve always belonged to, but it’s still dumb. I mean, think how goofy you would look if you went to dinner with your family and everyone was wearing identical clothes. Now multiply it times a hundred, and make it matching underwear worn outside. Really.
Also, you don’t need matching undies to make friends, although I certainly understand that there are situations in which it helps.
My outlook has changed, though. Over the years I’ve noticed that bike clubs really can have a purpose other than underwear coordination. One of those should be education. As I’ve noted before, the Old Ways Have Changed. Cycling is no longer a lunatic fringe activity where a few newbies join each year and are carefully disciplined by grizzled old-timers like Jack and Phil and Jeff who teach you the rules with sharp words.
The newbies are everywhere. They’re in your club. They are swirling around in traffic, mostly oblivious to how badly they can be hurt. Some of them may have even joined a club–your club–under the illusion that they’ll get some friendly instruction. (Note: Screaming “Hold your line!” followed by a wheel chop isn’t instruction.) Often, they assume that the skills they had at age 9, plus SRAM Rred and a bunch of carbon, are all they need to stay alive.
This is of course not true. The full carbon actually makes you go faster, and we all know what happens when you put lots of speed and money and carbon at the fingertips of not much skill and even fewer brains.
Since we can’t scream riding lessons anymore (I’m too old and tired, and the newbies mostly look like they know how to throw a right hook), what’s left is education.
It’s time for your club to assume the position and start teaching, and to do so formally. Why can riders join a club without mandatory training? Why can they join a club without classroom education? Why are we enticing people to be members of a fun activity that really isn’t any fun when you’re experiencing it through a breathing tube?
Our club held its first ever Cycling Savvy class for our members. It was my third time to take the class and I was absolutely electrified by it.
Over forty people showed up on a Saturday afternoon to, yes, learn how to ride a bike. Much pride was swallowed and surprise, much was learned. Following the lead of clubs like BCCC and the Long Beach Freddies, Big Orange has not simply made education available to its members, but it’s started down a path where education will be a requirement for membership. “Life over underwear coordination!” or something like that.
In addition, the club has taken the radical step of offering group ride training on its Sunday rides. This means rides with actual leaders who provide actual instruction based on many of the techniques taught in Cycling Savvy. My personal favorite technique is called “Control from the rear.” Pretty awesome, huh?
Whether you’re a race club, a riding club, or a baby seal club, if you’re pedaling a bike you need skills to survive. Implementing club-wide education doesn’t make you any more of a bike dork (or any less, I should add), but it makes cycling just a tiny bit safer. As Fireman pointed out, “Even if 90% of those dorks don’t get it, all you have to save is one life and suddenly it was all worthwhile.”
Cycling Savvy is offering a free course courtesy of the Orange County Wheelmen on August 4th. In typical cycling planning fashion, I got notice yesterday, but if you can make time for it, and if you belong to a club, and if you think making it home from the ride alive is a good thing, take a couple of hours out of your Thursday and invest it in the future. You can even wear your favorite garish underwear to the meeting if you need chamois time.
It’s something every underwear club in America could benefit from.
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