The only thing that’s for sale are my morals

October 3, 2013 § 11 Comments

The phone’s been ringing off the hook, or rather, out of my pants since it’s not actually on a hook.

“Hey, Wanky, ol’ pal!” It was Darb Esuoh, a guy who I know, but try not to publicly acknowledge.

“Oh, hi Darb.”

“Pretty excited about those ol’ South Bay awards coming up tomorrow, heh, heh.”

“Yeah. It’s gonna be fun.”

“So, ah, like, who’s deciding these awards anyway? Is it a committee?”

“Committee? No. It’s me. Why?”

“Well, ol’ buddy, that’s great! Hey, great riding at nationals by the way!”

“38th place? Thanks, man.”

“Yeah, super stuff, there. So, like, is that 2013 Wanker Award for real or is it a joke?”

“Oh, you know me, Darb. It’s pretty much both.”

“So you’re really gonna name someone, you know, Wanker of the Year?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“It’s a fantastic idea, hilarious. So many fuggin’ wankers out here, y’know?”

“Yeah. All over the place.”

“Wankers, sheesh. I wish I had a nickel for every time I saw a wanker, har!”

“You’d be rich, dude.”

“Yeah, I know. Even when I was green I didn’t ride like these wankers nowadays, you know?”

“Right. Hey, you all healed up from that crash where you took out Tink and a couple other people in Portuguese Bend?”

“Aw, hell yeah. Good as gold. Thanks for asking, bro. Hey, by the way, I loved your blog post yesterday. Really touching. You’ve got a lot of talent, man. You’re our hidden gem. Just a matter of time before you hit the big time, you know?”

“You really think so? That’s an awfully nice thing to say.”

“Hell, everyone says it. You’re like Hemingway, only you don’t go around shooting elephants or yourself, which is awesome. Keeping it real, homie!”

“What?”

“Oh, just, you know, keeping it real. Love the way you keep it real, bro.”

“So, like, what’s up? I mean, you’ve never called me before.”

“Up? Nothing’s ‘up.’ Hashtag ‘justpals.’ You see that Justin Timberlake hashtag video? Raucous! Hashtag ‘funnyasshit.’ But that wanker award thing is hilarious as shit. I feel sorry for the poor schmo who gets that. I bet you had a hard time choosing. Hashtag ‘wankersbythesmillions.’ Har!”

“In fact, I did.”

“Fuggin’ wankers are everywhere. Did you, like, nominate people? Are there gonna be nominees and you choose from them, Oscars-type thing?”

“Oh, for sure.”

“Ha, ha, ha! That’s awesome! You’re awesome! Ha, ha, ha! Awesome! Hilarious!”

“Thanks.”

“Who are they?”

“You know, just the folks you’d expect.”

“Fuggin’ wankers. Hey, bro, just wanted you to know that if I’m nominated for Cyclist of the Year I probably will have to decline the award if, you know, I get picked.”

“Really? Why’s that?”

“Oh, hell, I been doing this for thirty years. Seven state titles, you know, that’s enough for me. I don’t have any more room in the trophy case! Har!”

“I bet. I didn’t know you had seven state titles. That’s cool.”

“It’s a record. No one has more. Real deal, bro.”

“Dang. Still, I don’t remember ever seeing your name as a state road champ.”

“Road? Oh, no, not road.”

“Or the TT? Or the TTT? Just drawing a blank. But maybe it was back in the day, you know, when you were racing against a young Thurlow Rogers, schooling that dude, eh?”

“My titles are all pretty recent. But they’re solid. Rock fuggin’ solid. The one my stoker and I won five years in a row is called the 90+ category and that’s because they add the ages of the captain and stoker averaging out to be 45+ years old each.”

“Five-time mixed tandem champ, huh? That’s badass. Was that the category that, like in 2011, had two entrants?”

“Yeah, but it was hard. Just you and the bike and your stoker and the clock.”

“Good stuff, Darb.”

“Oh, HELL yes. For tandem there’s also a 70+ and a 110+ category. My teammate and I also won that championship twice in the 140+.”

“Two or three other entrants, eh?”

“Oh yeah, but they were fast. The race of truth, man, the race of truth. Ya gotta go deep in to the pain cave to get all those state titles. Deep.”

“Well, hey, Darb, great talking with you. I gotta run now.”

“Yeah, of course you do, for sure. Say, don’t embarrass me with a Cyclist of the Year award, okay? I know seven state titles is more than most people can even dream of, but still … I gotta live with these folks. Especially the wankers! Har!”

“Yeah, Darb. Har. Catch you later, pal.”

Strava war

September 27, 2013 § 65 Comments

There is a Strava segment outside my apartment. I made it. Until a few days ago, only three people had ever ridden it, and two of those rides were before it became a segment.

Let’s get this straight. There is no reason for anyone to ride up the street, Ravenspur. It parallels Hawthorne and doesn’t go anywhere except to my apartment. It is steep as snot, but there are fifty dozen better climbs within a half-mile that can logically be incorporated into your ride. Among its other drawbacks, once you reach the end you have to make a left onto crazy-busy Hawthorne across four lanes of speeding traffic.

Why segmentize it? Because I don’t ride with a Garmin and I wanted to know how fast I could go up it. Oh, and to also sneak myself a little KOM-action, because I hardly have any left. “What the heck,” I thought. “No one ever rides up this street. It’ll be a nice little vanity-KOM that I can take out, polish, and caress for a few months, maybe longer.”

Uh-oh, looks like YOU SUCK!

So you can imagine my chagrin when, four days ago, I got the dreaded message. “Uh-oh! Your KOM was recently devoured whole by Spencer! Enjoy the rest of the day, gnawing on your own liver!”

If it had been anyone else I would have felt sad, despondent, and very blue. This is because I’ve never retaken a lost KOM. But to have it taken away by Spencer, a dude with eight entire pages of KOM’s, was infinitely worse. Why? Because one of the best Strava riders in our neighborhood had targeted me and my piddly KOM. It was important enough for him to track my activities, drill down to my rides, and wrench the precious little KOM from my soft, chubby hands.

I’m sure the moment he took it, the elaborately programmed disco ball in his living room went off, the stereo began playing “We are the Champions” by Queen, and he threw on his ermine robes and tinsel crown as he paraded naked in front of the mirror.

My sad face transformed into one of violent rage, and I set out to reclaim what was rightfully mine.

The devil is in the details

One of the things that was going to make my retake so hard was the very nature of the street. Coming home from work I’m headed uphill, and have to turn left across two lanes of fast, oncoming traffic in order to begin the short but steep climb. This means that when I set the KOM, I did it from an extremely slow starting speed. Spencer’s time was twenty-two seconds, one second faster than mine, and I knew that in order to claw back two seconds over a .1-mile segment it would take everything I had.

As I approached the left hand turn I slowed, hoping for a break in traffic so that I wouldn’t have to unclip before hitting Ravenspur. Sure enough, the timing was good and I slid through. The bump is quite steep, so I had it in my 39 x 25 and instantly ramped it up to max rpm. By the time I hit the finish, I could barely see. I got off my bike and, unable to stand, had to lean on the top tube to keep from falling down.

But I smiled. “Take that, Spencer.”

Imagine my shock when I uploaded my iPhone data and saw that not only was Spencer still the owner of my own little personal front-door segment, but my hardest effort ever was a full second slower than my earlier best time of 23 seconds. Now the devastation was complete, and a part of me died that day. I wiped away the tears and ambled to the dinner table while my family consoled me.

“It’s okay, you don’t suck at everything!” said Mrs. Wankmeister.

“I’m proud of you, Dad, because you’re helping me learn through failure,” said my supportive 15-year-old.

The spirit of a warrior

The next day I woke grim and determined. The day flew by, and I hastened it by leaving the office an hour early. My legs felt light, strong, powerful, rested. I warmed up on the ride home, doing quick bursts on Anza and two steady efforts on Via Valmonte and Silver Spur.

When I moved into the left-hand turn lane, I was going a solid ten miles per hour. Magically, a breach appeared in the oncoming traffic. Perfectly geared in my 53 x 21, I launched up Ravenspur. This time there was no question. I raced to the top, collapsing as I had the day before, but secure in the knowledge that I’d reclaimed my KOM.

As I whipped out my iPhone I crowed to Mrs. Wankmeister. “Finally put ol’ Snotnose back where he belongs!” She had no idea what I was talking about, but nodded and smiled.

What happened next was too terrible for words, and I collapsed in a heap, sobbing. My “record time” was a full second slower than the day before, which was already a second slower than my all-time best. The better I rode, the slower I went. A couple of hours later, after I’d stopped crying, I called Derek the Destroyer. Through chokes and half-sobs I explained my problem.

“Dude,” he said. “You’re never gonna get that KOM back.”

“I’m not?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“These Strava geeks grab the segments strategically.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“The two biggest factors are temperature and wind. Go back and look at the time of day he took it. It was in the morning, when it’s cooler. You’re always going up that thing at the end of the day, when it’s hot. What were you wearing today?”

“I had on my long-sleeve winter jersey from my morning commute into work. I was sweating like crazy.”

“Your body won’t produce the same wattage when it’s 80 degrees as it will when it’s 70, or 60, or 50.”

“You’re joking.”

“No, I’m not. That’s why you never see any of the Strava geeks take the hard climbs during a group ride. Do you actually know this guy?”

“I’ve never seen him, in fact.”

“It’s not that they’re stronger riders, it’s that they’re better Strava riders. Also, go back and look at your segment. Is there only one approach?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re coming at it uphill, right?”

“Yeah. It’s a ball-breaker.”

“Is it possible to hit it by coming down Hawthorne and turning right? You’d have a huge head of steam there, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, come on. There’s no way Spencer would do that. It’s a completely different attempt, doing a standing start up a 13 percent grade versus hitting the climb after a 25 mph sweeping turn. Nobody’s a big enough wanker to coordinate temperature, wind, and a downhill just to rob me of my one silly KOM.”

Derek laughed. “If you say so.”

The terrible team of titans

I opened up Strava, unwilling to believe what I’d just heard, and there it was. Spencer had hit the Lungpopper segment on the Hawthorne downhill, after dropping off Highridge. A more evil, sneaky, dastardly, unsportsmanlike thing I couldn’t imagine.

This morning after the NPR I was rolling around the Hill with Manslaughter, the Destroyer, Jake, and Whatshisname. They were very curious about the segment. As we discussed the awfulness of the whole thing, a gleam appeared in Manslaughter’s eye. “Whattaya say we go and ‘pay Spencer a visit’?”

Soon enough we were charging up Via del Monte. When we turned left on Hawthorne and hit the downhill the speed ratcheted up. I signaled the turn and one by one we swooped through it, then jumped as hard as we could, scattered across the road.

When Spencer checks his email later today, he’s gonna have to go looking for six spare seconds, because that’s how many he now needs to climb back atop the leaderboard. The Destroyer, Jake, and Manslaughter are ahead of him, too. And my front-door segment KOM? It’s back where it belongs. And just in case you’re thinking about coming out and taking it away, I’ll tell you right now: I have a car, and I’m not afraid to use it.

Week in review

September 23, 2013 § 12 Comments

Lots has happened.

Julie Cutts, who rides for La Grange, won two world masters championships this weekend, one in the time trial and the other in the road race. More about this at a later date, but suffice it to say that this is staggeringly, incredibly, amazingly fantastic news. Julie was joined in Trento, Italy by Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, and Tony Restuccia, who all raced in the men’s 35-39 world championship. Although everyone can appreciate Julie’s two victories, not everyone can appreciate the men’s results — 15th, 19th, and 60th. Let me be the first to say that these results are extraordinary. Out of 101 finishers, these three racers performed exceptionally on a global stage, on a brutal course that ended with a 20km climb, in the epicenter of world cycling. Simply being invited to the biggest stage for masters racers is a tremendous accomplishment. Finishing as strongly as these guys did is testament to their toughness, ability, and racing skill.

Cyclocross is here

The 2013-2014 cyclocross season kicks off in Southern California next Sunday, September 29, at the historical downtown LA state park. Dorothy Wong brings cyclocross back for another year, only it’s bigger, better, and promises even more participation and excitement. Even as road and track racing stagnate in the state and nationwide, ‘cross continues to grow. Why? Because it’s audience-friendly. Road and track focus on the athletes, and with the exception of blowout races like Tulsa Tough, it’s unheard of in SoCal to see a road race, circuit race, or crit that’s packed with spectators.

Cyclocross brings people in to watch. The courses are exciting and spectators can put their tents right next to the most thrilling parts of the course. The racers go slower and they come by much more often, and spectators are encouraged to cheer, heckle, and give questionable hand-ups. ‘Cross courses are “parky,” so kids can run around. After racing, the athletes are often found under the tents drinking beer, hanging out, and enjoying the rest of the day. What’s also interesting is that, as far as I know, there’s little or no prize money — and the racers could care less. They’re energized by screaming fans and a fun time, not the illusory professionalism that comes from getting a “paycheck” of $25 and a box of Clif bars.

More PCH tomfoolery

I did another couple of Sunday rides on PCH, taking the lane all the way out to Cross Creek and back. The criticism of this approach was initially massive by the local cycling community, or at least among the people with whom I ride.  Then, thanks to a video captured by a biker on Sunday, I saw an entire crew of “gutter bunnies,” 50 riders strong, taking the lane. So that’s awesome. One disappointment has been the almost complete absence of “take the lane” advocates, folks who are quite vocal about taking the lane and who spout lots of facts and figures regarding the  merits of this method, but who can’t be bothered to actually do it on PCH. Maybe you don’t believe in your method quite as much as you say?

My kingdom for a stem

On the way to the ride this morning I ran into Mike Barraclough, who was sidelined just past Malaga Cove with a flat tire, a short stem, and no stem extender. My wheels are box rim aluminum Open Pros and so they take any length stem, no matter how short, but when I went to the bike shop to get a new tube the only ones they had in stock were the 60mm. It turned out that this was just the right length, so we swapped his spare 52mm for my 60mm, and we got underway. Dave Kramer, also en route to the ride, had also stopped to help. Pressed for time, we took the most direct route from Redondo to Manhattan Beach, which is PCH, and we took it at full speed. Mike and Dave had breathing problems along the way, and we had to back it off a notch to stay together. Then, once we turned on Gould and dropped down to Valley, Dave and Mike blew a stop sign that had a police cruiser parked off to the side, waiting for speeders. This was our lucky morning, though — I put a foot down for the first time in recent memory, and the cop just watched us pedal away. When we got to the start of the ride, Mike and Dave looked like they were on the finishing leg of RAAM. Ron Peterson looked up and laughed. “You were supposed to exercise the horses, son, but instead you done broke ‘em!”

Can’t say enough about these shoes

I’ve been riding Bont shoes for about six months now. My first shoes were Detto Pietro. My second shoes were Marresi. My third shoes were the Sidi Revolution, the first shoe with a velcro strap. My fourth shoes were Duegi white patent leather track shoes with wooden soles … I used them on the road and almost died in them atop a high mountain pass in Japan, but that’s another story. My next shoes were Sidi, and I wore their various iterations for twenty years until two years ago I bought the Specialized S-Works under pressure from a local dealer. My feet eventually adapted to them, but the dials constantly wore out and it was frustrating and expensive to replace them. It also felt like a bit of planned obsolescence, so that I could keep spending money on the shoe. It rubbed me the wrong way.

I was given the Bont shoes as part of my team’s sponsorship package. Basically, they give me a bunch of world-class gear so that I can go place 57th in the local crits and DNF the occasional road race. I was skeptical about the Bont shoes because you have to put them in the oven. They are also flexible like well-cured concrete. And the road shoe looks a little boxcar-ish. Once I had cooked them and used them for a week, my feet molded perfectly to the interior of the shoe. Everyone loves to talk about their “stiff frame” and “stiff BB” and “stiff soles” and “stiff” whatever, but it’s a word I’ll use with care for the rest of my life after wearing the Bont.

So, how stiff are the Bont shoes? They are “sailor on shore leave” stiff. They are stiffer than a fused spine. Stiff like glass. When you push down on the pedals, the shoes are so stiff that, if your bottom bracket is sufficiently robust, the earth will flex on its axis before you’ll flex the soles on these beasts. The ‘cross version of the Bont Vaypor is just as good, with several modifications for the rigors of cyclocross. If you’re unhappy with the flexiness of your current shoes, consider the Bont.

Short news brief in summary and abbreviated form

July 6, 2013 § 8 Comments

I have been banging the drum here in L.A. for some time now regarding the great bicycle riding opportunities in North County San Diego. This is not because I want to encourage people to get to know others, have fun, and enjoy cycling. It is because I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing my friends and riding buddies suffer obliteration. Although riding in North County won’t make you faster, it will permanently devastate your self-esteem. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

I joined my first SPY Holiday Ride yesterday. The evening before we had a team celebration at RIDE Cyclery. MMX, Slim Jim, and Brent had stocked the deck with giant coolers filled with fresh growlers of beer from Lost Abbey. None of the growlers had fancy beer names like “Working Stiff” or “Take Five” or “North County Rough Road.” No, they just had percentages of alcohol content written on the caps with a Sharpie.

This was beer for people who were serious about drinking beer. The Lost Abbey figured out how to make the beer, and apparently it was your job to figure out what to call it. The next morning I awoke with a screaming, blinding, pounding, stomach-churning hangover from hell, so in the future I will call their beer Sbpsc Hfh. Add vowels as needed.

It would be easy to blame the next day’s dismal ride performance on the hangover were it not for the fact that I have never done a hard ride in North County that didn’t either kick me out the back or reduce me to a whimpering puddle of drained legs and melted ego.

Why you should do this ride

1. There is no “B” ride. It is uncompromising. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, be kicked out the back, and forced to find your way home alone or in the company of other lost damned souls. How many things do you do in life that are uncompromising? That demand everything of you and guarantee nothing but defeat? (Don’t answer this if you’ve been married for more than five years.) That bring out the best in you even when your best is a pathetic, sniveling NOTHING? So, you should do this ride because it replicates, in the tiniest of ways, your natteringly, immeasurably insignificant place in the universe.

2. You are a chickenshit. Yes, you. You, who hide behind wheels, always take the short route home, sandbag in the easiest categories, or “compete” by “racing” exclusively against Strava and your own “personal records.” Thing is, you don’t have to just be a chickenshit. You can go on this ride and be a smashed chickenshit and earn the contempt of the august men and powerful women on the SPY Holiday Ride who will crush you like an eggshell beneath the wheel of an Antonov An-225.

3. There is order in the court. Unlike the Manhattan Beach Holiday Ride, in which 300 freds and 50 solid riders usurp the roadways of coastal L.A. in a mad, undisciplined dash to Mandeville Canyon, the SPY Holiday Ride is ordered. Yesterday about 175 riders went two-by-two for the first five miles, a sick single file for the next four, and all-hell-breaking-loose at the nine-mile mark when the peloton shattered at the base of the San Diegueno climb.

4. Prizes galore. Yesterday an entire case of The Lost Abbey’s BWR Bad-Ass Ale was awarded to the sado-masochist who spent the most time on the front. Unsurprisingly, the winner was Phil Tinstman. KOM winners got cool SPY sunglasses. OTB-wankers got as many servings of ridicule and contempt as they could swallow.

5. Natural selection. This ride rather quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, and you eventually rode with the category of your true ability. Once the pain train hit Lake Hodges, those who had pulled early, blew early. Those who had sucked wheel in hopes that a miracle would get them up the punishing rollers had to re-evaluate their faith. Those who had saved so they could punish finally “Let the Dogs Out.”

6. Variable terrain. The terrain in North County is different from much of SoCal, and punishing. It doesn’t feature many long climbs, but it continually throws rollers in your path no matter which direction you go. These variations wear you down, break your will to live, and leave you looking for a quaint coffee shop with yummy pastries, or failing that, a Starbucks, or failing that, a house with a garden hose. But there are none.

7. Heatstroke. Once you leave the coast it gets A-fucking hot. The poorly hydrated crack, crumple, and cave. The lucky ones die.

8. Benign indifference. Although close two hundred riders started, only a tiny handful finished with the lead group. The rest were ground beneath the wheel, or, as Hesse would say, “Unterm Rad.” This is of course how the universe views you: With benign indifference. Many people go to Sedona or buy crystals or use Feng Shui to align themselves with the universe’s forces when really all they need to do to discover their true quotient of universal meaninglessness is go get their balls stomped on the SPY Holiday Ride.

9. Free salt for wound-rubbing. Post-ride, one wanker said “We normally ride a bit faster going up to the first climb, but we had a pretty gentle roll over there today.” This was the section where I pulled my fucking brains out, drove the pace like a madman, then cracked and split open at the bottom of the first climb only to learn that it had been a tad on the slow side. Sorry bastard motherfuckers.

10. Lots of awesome Strava KOM’s. The SPY Holiday Ride is a great chance for you to bag some prestigious KOM’s, kind of like “The lottery is a great chance for you to get rich.” Only, the chance for you is zero.

11. Regrouping. The SPY Holiday Ride regroups a couple of times, although neither time is for your benefit. It is to allow the baby seals to rejoin so they can be re-clubbed and re-skinned. And you will be.

12. Race simulation. The pace was very much like a tough road race with a series of difficult sections, each of which caused destruction at the back of the pack. Unlike real road races, however, where you can conveniently categorize yourself according to age and gender, this ride forced you to match matches against monsters like Thurlow, Full Gas Tinstman, MMX and the SPY Train, Brett Clare, and a handful of very strong wheelsuckers who never took a pull but attacked and attacked hard.

13. Fireworks. Although illegal due to the dry conditions and high temperatures, the ride offered constant explosive detonations that occurered when riders like Zink, Hatchitt, David A., Stinger, and Tait lit the fuses of Those Who Shall Not Be Named For Now and watched as they snapped, crackled, fizzled, and popped with a whimper.

14. Del Dios KOM. This bad boy has over 6,500 riders on Strava, but yesterday Full Gas Phil whomped the snot out of the record time and set a blistering new pace of 12:38. You should do this so you can be like me, who gave it everything he had and got 98th place. 98th.

15. The 130-lb. Exemption. After the first pitch the road flattened out and this was where, if you were still there (you weren’t), various hardmen went to the front. Then some dude hit the jets, even though he had never taken one pull the whole day. His reasoning? “I don’t have to pull, dude, I’m only only 130 pounds.” So take notice: Anyone 130-lbs. or less need not bring along so much as a shred of self-respect.

16. Watch Brett sprint. On the return there was a sprint into Rancho Santa Fe. Those hoping to pass Brett, Full Gas, Thurlow, MMX, Josh, etc. brought mopeds.

17. Pity the fools. The 3 Witches ascent had the next sprint at the top, featuring three risers that topped out with a nasty sprint. For the first two witches, a couple of wankers from SDBC set tempo with Thurlow, Full Gas, and MMX sitting behind. For the third and final witch, Thurlow pulled and dropped the fools, with Full Gas Phil taking the sprint, MMX next and followed by Thurlow. Everyone else was shelled here. You were, too. Oh, wait, no you weren’t — you were shelled like an hour ago.

18. Visionary delusions. After a few more merciless beatdowns, sprunt points, and complete draining of all bodily adeonsine triphosphate, the handful of remaining riders “remarked what a great ride it had been.” Uh, sure. Whatever. Bunch of fucking liars.

19. Horrific inland heat. The weather got hotter as the ride went inland. The heat sucked the life out of the weak, the lame, and the too-many-Lost-Abbey-brews-the-night-before. I staggered into a convenience store in Del Mar and doused my head in water, then lay on the cool pavement and hoped for a gurney or for someone to run over me. No one did.

20. Making great friends. After Zink flatted I was miserably stuck on his wheel for 30 miles while he “repaid” my assistance with the tire change by dragging me up hill, down dale, periodically dropping me, sitting up and waiting, towing me for a while, dropping me again, and generally making my life a living hell while trying to help me out. Note to self: Don’t ever stop to help Zink change a flat.

Ride facts:

— 60 miles with 3800 feet of climbing

— 4 sprint waypoints, and the KOM at Del Dios

— Held every national holiday. Next one will be on Labor day.

— Ride size: 100-200, depending on weather and time of year

Why Los Angeles is way better than San Diego

May 11, 2013 § 27 Comments

It’s really simple: We have the best early morning weekday rides. San Diego doesn’t.

What is a “best” early morning weekday ride? It’s one that begins around 6:30 AM, has a huge regular turnout, and rips your legs off.

“Oh, no!” I can hear you wailing. “We have the awesome Tuesday-Thursday ride! It’s hilly and it shreds the field!”

First of all, our ride is better because yours doesn’t even have a cool name. That’s because you’re too dumb to think one up. All that supposed surfer-cyclist-artiste creativity in North County and the best you can do is two names of the week? Sad.

Second, our ride is better because your ride has such a tiny turnout. Five semi-fast guys showing up with a hangover and pulling out each others’ teeth with rusty pliers does not a legendary bike ride make. Maybe it’s the early hour and you wike your wittle warm bwankie. Maybe it’s the lack of a swollen pack of baby seals among which the weak can cower and hide ’til the moment of reckoning. Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists in North County ride Trek. But most likely, it’s the fact that your riders just aren’t that good.

Third, our ride is better because we have Rahsaan Bahati, Suze Sonye, Greg “32” Leibert, Eric Anderson, and Cory Williams as regulars. Who do you have? That dude with the full purple bodysuit and the bad smell, that’s who.

Fourth, our ride is better simply because of the riders that you have and we don’t. Leaving aside for the moment that none of your guys have even halfway decent nicknames, let me list a few rotten limbs in the pile of  deadwood that makes up your “ride”:

Stefanovich–Comes north to do our NPR, returns home a shell of his former self, which was a shell to begin with.
Crazy Legs–The name kind of says it all, eh? Along with him, “Sketch,” “Skitters,” “Twitch,” and “Jerky”…
Andy McClooney–The best rider to never come north and get his serving of NPR humble pie.
Number 2–Pyeeeeeewwwwh!
Celo Pacific Wheelsuckers–This is a club developed around the riding “strategy” of “do nothing until the end, then do even less.”
Los Ranchos Suckeros–Every yummy pie has filler, but these sandbaggers don’t even taste good when you chew them up and spit them out.
Velo (barely) Hangers-on–Close relatives of NPR baby seals who think “towards the front” is synonymous with “at the front.” It isn’t.
Swami’s B, C, and D Riders–It’s the alphabet soup of lowly categorized wankers. Their best ones make the first ejecta from the first acceleration on the Saturday ride. Their worst ones don’t even have bicycles.
Nytro trigeeks–They don’t always look and ride like idiots, but the 99.9% of the time when they do, they’re so far behind that no one knows or cares.
The Wolf Pack Up-and-Leavers–Last to the fight, first to the feast.

Fifth, our ride is better because we brag about  it. If it weren’t for my amazing powers of investigative journalism, I wouldn’t even know your ride existed. If you don’t brag about it, it must not be any good.

Sixth, our ride is better because we have a cool FB page. Do you? Of course not. Without a cool FB page your ride can never be more than sucky. Sorry.

Seventh, our ride is waaaaay better because Robert Efthimos and Cory Williams video everything and then post cool movies of wankers like Jay “Manslaughter” LaPlante trying to murder his buddies. Then we get to spend the entire workday on FB chatting about it. What do you poor slobs do? You go to work and work, that’s what.

Eighth, our ride is better because we actively make fun of people who wear Oakley. SPY is how we roll, yo.

Ninth, our ride is better because we have that cute Asian chick who’s always jogging down the alley as we roll out. Who do you have? That furry dude who lives in the shopping cart behind the Starbucks.

Tenth, our ride is better because we have a ride kit. That’s right. Our ride is so pimpin’ that we have a kit with our cool ride’s name on it and lots of clever “in” jokes emblazoned on it by Joe Yule. Our ride is beautifully tanned Argentine leather. Yours is naugahyde.

Eleventh, we have Joe Yule. You have that dude who lives in his mom’s garage and builds web sites with Dreamweaver.

Twelfth, we have CotKU. You probably don’t even know what that is. Sad.

Finally, after our awesome ride, which is always awesome and so much better than yours, we get to sit around at CotKU, drink coffee, and watch Dave Perez do interesting things dressed up in purple and yellow. What do you have? A bunch of really serious MRI dudes dressed up in electric green  baby dwarf artichoke outfits. Hint: You can’t be serious if you are a dude in a baby dwarf artichoke suit. A clown, perhaps, but not a serious dude.

The day of reckoning

Although I’ve already reached my conclusions, invented my facts, and printed my story, I thought I would at least do you the favor of coming down to the next Tuesday ride to confirm that your ride is a complete sham and pose fest. I have no doubt about what I’ll find: A handful of scraggly, half-shaved riders, tummies hanging out of their undersized stretch pants while they suck down a gallon of pre-ride sugar goop pretending that their “ride” is a ride.

Please also be advised that I will be showing up fully primed and prepared to teach each of you the meaning of the word “beatdown.” Although I don’t expect to break a sweat, you should expect to suffer a calamitous clubbing. This is what LA is all about: Schooling the noobs in the south about how to ride their bicycles. After that I will give the survivors a surfing lesson, beginning with “How not to purl every time” and then followed by a video showing you the difference between a rideable wave, a closeout, and whitewash. Not that it will help.

See you soon, and bring your moped. You’re gonna need it.

Oh, no you don’t!

January 20, 2013 § 46 Comments

The dude in the black uniform with the badge and the gun and the handcuffs and the radio and the mace and the Taser was banging on my door. I looked at him through the keyhole, wondering whether I should wait, or ask for a warrant through the closed door, or dash out onto the balcony, hop down to the first floor and make my getaway.

“Who is it?” I asked in my best falsetto.

“Wanker Police! Open up! I’ve got a warrant!”

I cracked the door. “Show it to me.”

He thrust the paper through the crack. Sure enough, it was a wanker warrant, and it had my name on it. I opened the door and the cop strode inside.

“Are you Wankmeister?” He stared at my pink unicorn socks. “Never mind.” Then he took out his pen and looked at me officiously. “You know why I’m here?”

“No. I haven’t the faintest.”

“I’m Officer Smedley, Wanker Police Bureau, Licensing Division. I’m here to confiscate your license.”

“My what?”

“Your license. Your wanker license has been revoked. Here.” He shoved a piece of paper in my face. “Read that.”

“What about it? It’s a copy of the 50+ race results from the CBR crit this morning. So what?”

“That’s your name in third place. You got third place in a qualifying event, which means automatic revocation of your wanker license.”

“What do you mean, ‘qualifying event’?”

“There were a minimum of 60 racers. Held under USAC permit. 40-minute crit. It even says here in the notes ‘Placed after riding second half of the race in a three-man breakaway.’ That seals it. You can file an appeal, but for now you’ll have to turn over your wanker certification. Sorry.”

“Dude,” I said, “you’ve got to be kidding. You can’t de-wankify me based on one stupid race. I had no idea I was putting my wankerdom in jeopardy. If I had, I’d have sat at the back and sprunted with the field.”

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. By signing your wanker license you’re agreeing to abide by the rules. A top-three placing provisionally revokes your license. A three-man placing from a breakaway is automatic. Sorry.”

“That was no breakaway!” I protested.

“Of course it was. Says right here in the notes: ‘three-man breakaway with Wankmeister, Pinkle Dude, and Furbag.'”

“No, no, no, that wasn’t a real breakaway. You had to be there. Really.”

“What was it, then?”

“It was, uh, a wankaway. Pure wankaway from start to finish.”

“What’s a wankaway?” He looked perplexed and a bit confused.

“Dude, you’re coming here to yank my wank and you don’t know what a wankaway is?”

“It’s my first season,” he apologized.

“Ignorance of the law…”

“Is no excuse,” he finished, sheepishly.

“Exactly. First of all it was a 50+ race, and it’s almost impossible to decertify a wanker in one of those. Didn’t you know that?”

He shook his head. “Really?”

“Fact. I mean there we were, standing at the start, and there was more last-minute diaper changing, and Geritol popping, and prostate pad adjusting, and bifocal fiddling, and tiny pee dribbling than you’d see after yelling ‘Fire!’ at a nursing home. Just the creaking noise from all the legs getting thrown over the top tubes was enough to make you think an elephant was walking on antique wooden floorboards.”

“I see what you’re getting at. Wanker City, huh? But what about the breakaway, er, the wankaway?”

“Well, it all happened randomly and according to no plan at all, which is the hallmark of wankdom. A break went early and got caught. Then a second break went and got brought back.”

“This doesn’t sound wankerish to me. Sounds like a hard bike race.”

“Oh, but the second break had my own teammate in it.”

“So?”

“I helped bring it back.”

“Ahhh,” he nodded. “That’s pretty lame. That’s Cat 5 lame, in fact.”

“And what’s another word for Cat 5?”

“Wanker!” he said emphatically.

“Exactly.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, they called a prime.”

“That sounds legit.”

“But it was for Cialis and denture cream.”

“Wanker.”

“Yep. So King Harold strings it out in the gutter as all sixty-six wankers put their lives on the line for an OTC product they already have at home in the medicine cabinet.”

“Wankers, for sure.”

“Hellz. Then Big Steve blasts around for the prime. Everyone’s roasted.”

“And?”

“And I attack.”

“That sounds like real tactics, not wankerish at all. Attacking after the prime? How much more legit can you get?” He started to scowl.

“I look back and Pinkle Dude and Furbag are on my wheel. I go for a little longer and swing over. Pinkle pulls through. I look back and the whole Pinkle team is clogging the chase. They’ve got ten guys in the race with enough guts and butts to clog an industrial toilet.”

Officer Smedley furrowed his brow. “Yes, but they’re still blocking, and that’s a legit race tactic. Sounds like a breakaway supported by sound team tactics to me.”

“Yeah, it may sound like that, but you had to be in the wankaway.”

“Why’s that?”

“To see the antics of the three wankers in it. You’ve got Pinkle Dude pulling only in the tailwind, if ‘pulling’ is what you call whizzling along in your compact at 123 rpm.”

“And the other guy? This ‘Furbag’ individual?”

“Well, for starters, he’s wearing a mix-n-match outfit. The jersey says ‘Bill’s Sausage Emporium,’ and it’s light blue with green lettering, and the shorts say ‘Team Vegan p/b Mind-Earth-Body Anti-Aging Institute of East Murrieta.'”

“Wow,” he says. “Pretty wankish.”

“Yeah. And Furbag has more hair on his legs than Sasquatch.”

“Well, you can’t call someone a wanker because they have hairy legs. It says so in the rulebook.”

“Exactly. But Furbag hardly ever pulled. I mean, these lousy, slow, lame, fakish little half-efforts for five or ten seconds followed by the Brad House chicken elbow salute and panting and that sadsack ‘Sorry guys I’m too weak to pull but plenty strong to suck wheel in the break all day’ look.”

Officer Smedley shook his head. “Not wankish at all. That’s smart breakaway riding if you’re the weakest in the break and saving for the sprunt.”

“Not him, Officer, us. Me and Pinkle were too lame and slow and weak to drop him. And we tried.”

Smedley nodded. “That’s lame, all right. Wankish lame.”

“Exactly.”

“Well, what about you? You’ve established that your partners were thoroughbred wankers, but how about you? You initiated the break and you powered it to the end, it sounds like. That’s for sure grounds to decertify you on the spot.”

“No, sir, that’s not what happened. First of all, I took all the pulls into the headwind.”

“Oh,” he said. “Wanker.”

“And then with two laps to go instead of easing up I went harder even though Team Pinkle was blocking like the Steel Curtain, and my teammates, King Harold and Ted ‘the Wall’ were covering every move like a blanket.”

“Stupid. Just stupid. How long have you been doing this, anyway?”

“Over 30 years, Officer.”

“Wow. What a wanker.”

“Yep. And then with one lap to go Furbag stopped taking even his fakish pulls and Pinkle Dude refused to come through at all.”

“So you eased up and got ready for them to attack you?”

“Nah, that would have been clever. I just went harder.”

“Oh, Jeez. What a wanker.”

“See?”

“Don’t tell me they sprunted around you in the last 200 meters?”

“No way! They dusted me off with more than half a lap to go. I almost got caught by the field.”

“Yeah,” he nodded his head sympathetically. “There’s no way we can take your license for a performance like that. Those are some pretty hard core wanker moves.”

“Yup.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” he said, looking over his warrant. “It says here you also won a prime in the break, uh, the wankaway. Is that true?”

“You could hardly call it a prime. It was a half-dozen Depends.”

“Ah, yeah, right. Okay. Well, sorry to have bothered you. We’ll let it slide this time. But don’t be showing up on any more results sheets in the top three if you know what’s good for you.”

“Don’t worry, Officer,” I said. “I won’t!”

Rider of the year: Suze Sonye

October 9, 2012 § 10 Comments

I can say anything I want about Suze because we once had a big ol’ fight and talked more trash about each other than two rednecks getting divorced and arguing over who gets the half of the trailer with the leaky waterbed and broken TV, and who gets the set of false teeth.

Our spat happened like this. It was on the Pier Ride. The Old Pier Ride. Every single time I’d run the red lights going out on Admiralty, Suze would yell at me, which would make me run more lights, which would make her yell at me more. You get the picture.

This particular day, after running all the red lights and dragging the peloton along with me, we were half-pedaling up Pacific and I saw her out of the corner of my eye and gradually kind of half-chopped her wheel. Just a little bit. Enough to say, “Fuck you,” and enough so that if she hadn’t been paying attention she might have found herself in difficulty.

“Wow, what an asshole!” you might say.

“Are you fucking kidding me? You douchenozzle!” you might say.

“What a despicable, walking, talking, sack of human excrement you are!” you might say.

And you’d pretty much be right.

Save your Cat 5 tricks for the Cat 5’s

One thing about Suze is that she’s always on guard. That’s because people have been taking cheap shots at her for decades, especially lame-ass guys who are mortified at getting their dicks stomped by a biker chick.

Suze saw my cheap shot long before it got anywhere near her front wheel, and easily slid off to the side with nary a ruffled feather, but now she was pissed. For the rest of the ride she stuck to my wheel, and I got the message. “You’re never getting rid of me now, wanker.”

So when we hit the Parkway I made up my mind to get rid of her. Gave it everything I had…no luck. Hit the turnaround and drove her over to the curb…yawn. Sprunted out of the saddle to dust her on the rise…nuh-uh…there was the shadow of her little pigtail, bobbing along right in my draft.

Slow down, speed up, jump off to the left, hug the curb to the right, thread spaces that didn’t exist, open up every jet I had, scrub her off by attacking up the gutter, pull every lame move I knew short of slamming on the brakes.

Nope, nope, nope, and nope. She tailed me all the way to the finish, and made sure I knew it as she whizzed off to the right on Pershing at the end of the ride.

The Cold War

From that point on we behaved as enemies. She defriended me. I talked trash. She ignored me. I ground all the enamel off my teeth. She commented that I was a stupid lawyer. Everyone agreed (me, too, actually).

Arab Spring

Somehow, we started talking to each other again. Then chatting. Then smiling. Then one day, when I had swung off, gassed, rocketing backwards and about to get dropped on the climb up to Trump, I felt a strong hand on my ass and heard a little “Umph” sound. It was a track throw, strong, straight, and powerful enough to sling me back onto the tail end of the snake.

I glanced back at the rider who’d pushed me, and who was now dropped from that last full-on effort to help a struggling rider.

It was Suze.

Best rider in 2012

Suzanne is the South Bay Rider of the Year for lots of reasons. First, she won the poll unanimously. I was the only voter, and frankly, she was the only candidate. It was one of those Soviet-era elections, where the winner, again by a 100% majority, is Joe Stalin, and if you don’t fucking like it, you’ll be taken out, lined up against a wall, and blogged about.

Suze isn’t a recent convert to cycling who just happens to be talented and fast. She’s been racing for 31 years and has raced against and raced for some of the greatest cyclists in the history of the sport. The pinnacle of her pro career was racing three years for Saturn, the #1 UCI-ranked team in the world.

Think about that the next time you’re polishing your third-place trophy in the Men’s 45+B cyclocross race.

At Saturn she learned from the best on the global stage. Ina-Yoko Teutenburg, Judith Arndt, Clara Hughes, Petra Rossner, Anna Wilson, Cathrine Marsal, Dede Demet, Nicole Reinhart, and Suzie Pryde were just a few of the racers with whom she trained and raced. She learned to ride out of her skin for her teammates, and found out that even though she wasn’t the most talented or deserving rider on the team, she earned her slot and she earned the right to keep it.

If you’ve ever watched Suze race, or watched her maneuver on the NPR, you’ll instantly recognize where she gets her world-class skills. Bumping and positioning among men twice her size and half her age, she’s always perfectly positioned, always knows the right wheel, and is always in the mix.

How many other 49 year-old riders, men or women, can say that?

Teaching through kicking your ass

If some people have a hard time getting along with Suze, it’s for this reason: Ask her a question, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Do something stupid, and she’ll tell you what she thinks. Or this reason: Exist, and she’ll tell you what she thinks.

Suze has been with Helens Cycles for sixteen years, and  2012 is a fitting year to name her South Bay Rider of the Year because in addition to a string of impressive wins, it was her first full year running the Helen’s women’s program.

Working to achieve the goal of a strong women’s team is tough. Someone always wants to win, but in a highly individualized sport like road racing, the more competitive the race the more essential it is that riders work together.

Highlights in 2012 included winning the Brentwood Grand Prix at 49 freaking years old; placing 3rd overall at the Tour de Murrieta; watching teammate Shelby Reynolds win the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix; and most of all, being part of a team where people trust each other 100%. In 2013 the team will add Priscilla Calderon, and leg-breaker Emily Georgeson will graduate from the 3-4 team to the P/1/2 squad.

Learning through getting her own ass kicked

There are only a handful of South Bay women who can hang with the masters men racers when they’re going at speed. Suze is one of them.

In 2010, after returning to LA, Suze was dragging in the fitness and confidence departments. She didn’t believe that a return to the glory days was possible. With help and encouragement from wankers like Aaron, Victor, Rudy, Mike, Jay, Brenda, and most of all her mom, who kept asking people, “What’s wrong with her?” she found her legs again. And even though there’s the occasional lamefuck who tries to chop her wheel just to make a point, Suze will tell you that there are plenty of guys on the rides who push her to ride harder because they’re her friends.

I’ve learned first hand that underneath the toughness and the mad bike skills there’s a sweetheart of a girl. Lots of others have learned it, too.

When the ranks close

Of course it wouldn’t be cycling, and it sure wouldn’t be cycling in the South Bay, if there weren’t drama. People get mad, make up, then go off and get mad at someone else. And make up. It’s part of the scene. And it’s all good.

Except when it’s not.

One day on the Donut we were rolling up past Portuguese Bend. Some dude who no one knew was getting very attitude-ish. He was fit, fast, and had the best painted-on suntan in the peloton. As we rolled along the false flat he decided to move up. Suze was in his path. So he did what any jerkoff would do: He gave her a hard check, pushed her off her line, and told her to get out of the way.

In doing so, he broke the Rule of Davy.

This is the rule of the peloton that says “Thou shalt piss off anyone in the bunch as long as it’s not Davy.” The corollary to the Rule of Davy is the Rule of the Slowest Fuse, which says “Davy has the slowest fuse of any human alive and is therefore is almost impossible to piss off.”

Unless, of course, you fuck with Suze, with our Suze, in which case the slowest fuse in the peloton becomes a mildly excited 220-pound slab of chiseled steel. Davy never gets angry, but on this day he did get mildly excited.

Bullyprick suddenly found himself in the shadow of the man mountain, whose left arm lazily draped around Bullyprick’s shoulder. It was an arm larger than the trunk of a redwood, and adorned with a tattoo of a skull being pierced with a harpoon while being thrown to a shark in a volcano on top of a mushroom cloud.

“Dude,” Davy said. “If you do anything like that again you will not live to regret it. Because you will not live.”

Bullyprick stared several feet up at the somewhat smiling face of the man mountain and felt the forearm curling around his neck with the conviction of an iron noose. “But…ah…okay…sorry…” was all he could gurgle. And to his credit, it is awfully hard to argue your point when your trachea has been pinned shut.

We never saw Bullyprick again, and Bullyprick never saw Suze, because shortly thereafter she attacked and dropped him on the climb.

So the next time you see her, even though it’ll probably be as she recedes in the distance, take a minute to congratulate her on this coveted award. She’s earned it the hard way.

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