The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 17: Fixin’ what ails ya

April 14, 2016 § 24 Comments

I was talking to a buddy the other day. “How are you?” I asked.

“I don’t feel so good.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I can’t ride fast anymore and I’m always tired in the morning and I wear out quick. Plus after a long, hard ride I don’t recover and feel like an old shoe.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“A while now. The doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with me.”

So I told him what was wrong with him. “You’re just old,” I said.

“No, I’m not,” he protested.

“You sure are,” I insisted. “You are a ball bearing with all the round wore out.”

Then it occurred to me that there are lots of people like him who are pooped all the time especially after 120-mile rides, and they haven’t gotten the memo that they’re too damned old to be sitting on a bike for that long. So I came up with some helpful hints to help you get more out of your riding life.

  1. Don’t ride your fucking bicycle so fucking much. You are an old, worn out shoe, I don’t care how fat and cardiac-arrested everyone else was at your 40th high school reunion. The less you ride the better you will feel.
  2. Slow the fuck down. What’s the dogdamned rush? Where do you think you’re going anyway, besides the grave, and what’s the big rush to get THERE? When you go fast you pedal hard which stresses your systems, which are old and broke down. Give it a rest.
  3. Shoot your gym membership card. Gyms are for young people who can still get laid without paying for it. There is a simple rule for old person exhaustion: The more muscles you use (and you use ’em all at the gym), the tireder you will be. Plus, you look like an old fool trying to balance on that big bouncy ball, and you’re gonna look like a bigger fool telling the doc that you broke your face in half falling off of it onto the kettle bells.
  4. Unless you’re dating her (or him), quit the danged pilates class. Pilates and yoga only make you relaxed and warm inside when your insides are something other than cold, shrunken, icicles of rusted cynicism and despair. This means you.
  5. If you do any activity that rates you based on your age, stop it right now. The only reason Strava, etc. is age-graded is so that you can continue the delusion that you’re not a rickety rackety pile of hollowed out bones that will turn to talcum powder the minute you fall out of your walker. If you’re going to compete, compete with the P/1/2. You will lose so quickly and by such deafening margins that you will immediately see the virtue in birdwatching.
  6. Get some sleep. Remember how your mom used to tell you that you were a growing teen and you needed sleep? Well, she was just lying in hopes you’d not be out prowling the town late at night smoking dope and racing cars. But now you really do need sleep, so instead of prowling the Internet and reading blogs at night, switch all that shit off and go the fuck to bed. This means you, Sherri.
  7. Lay off the booze. You are tired in the morning because you are a drunk. Drunkening is the hardest workout you will ever do, and believe me, it shows. The last time I saw cheeks that puffy was on Mr. Stay-Puft. Lock up the liquor at least for a couple of weeks and you will have ten times more energy and enough money to buy a new tube instead of patching the same one for the fifteenth time.
  8. Spend a morning around some little kids. It will give you more energy than a case of Red Bull, after which you will be wrecked and sound asleep by 11:00 AM, which takes you back to #6 above.
  9. Cancel your new bike layaway plan. You’re already in debt and debt makes you tired, saps your energy, and drains your sex glands. Once you’re no longer saddled with a monthly paycheck deduction and 25% interest compounded hourly, you will sleep better, too.
  10. Quit doping. Doping makes you ride faster, which makes you more tired. Plus, doping makes you a lame-ass cheatbag. Aren’t you too old to still be cheating? No? Then you shouldn’t be cheating at something where, when you get busted, you get suspended from parking-lot crits. You should be cheating at something that will get you a life sentence, or maybe the electric chair. Go big or go pan y agua, baby. 



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Stupid sport for stupid dumbheads

April 13, 2016 § 21 Comments

Now that I have quit bike racing except for last weekend and next Sunday I realize what a stupid sport for stupid dumbheads it is. Can you imagine? Old people putting on underwear and racing around in circles or over tall mountains so they can pat themselves on the back and further the delusion that they’re not teetering on the edge of the abyss?

Dog, what a stupid sport. Now that I have quit it completely I don’t miss it at all. What was I thinking? How many years did I waste? All that time I could have spent with my family or in prison, spilt, Onan-like, on the asphalt, never to be put in a productive furrow.

It’s so embarrassing.

Today was Telo, the local Tuesday nighter and a really stupid training crit. Extra stupid, in fact because it is hard and windy and windy and hard. What maroon would voluntarily go down there and flog himself for an hour for NOTHING? Stupid dumbheads, that’s who.

I knocked off work at 4:00 and hadn’t done any exercise so I figured I would go down to Telo to check it out as a new, sober ex- racer. It just so happens that I have a completely idiotic skinsuit that’s practically brand new so I went ahead and put it on because otherwise, what a waste.

Also, my race wheels have perfectly fine tubulars in perfect condition and I thought I might as well give them a ride even though I’d only be pedaling for a lap or two at a snail’s pace while laughing at all the stupid idiot dumbheads racing like crazy shooting through parked trucks and oncoming traffic like dumbheads.

Also, I took off my extra bottle cage because who needs that? And there were some other things, unneeded, which I also removed, and there was my stupid, overpriced, aero helmet but why not wear that? And the stupid dumbhead shoe covers. I mean, I own ’em, might as well use ’em.

The race started and I pitied the poor fools, stupid dumbheads every one, acting like any of it mattered. I was going to pedal for two laps but since I was already there and it was super slow I kept rolling around, watching them attack and ride like fools, fools. After about fifteen minutes Destroyer put in a hard effort and it was SOOOOOO stupid I was watching him and shaking my head but what the heck? So I pedaled up behind him, but it was only going to be for a lap until we got caught by the other stupid dumbheads, then I’d quit and have a good laugh at their expense.

The two of us rode around a few laps and I looked back and no one was in sight so I figured “What the heck? It can’t hurt to do another lap or two until we get caught plus we’ll pass that wanker Brad House a dozen times and it’s always fun to watch him with smoke coming out of his ass as he flails around pretending he’s here for some reason other than to make a buck at his annual bike race with its $200 prize lists and dirty jockstrap primes.”

The stupid dumbheads didn’t catch us because they were going so slow, so I pedaled some more. Pretty soon it had gotten really stupid, so just before I quit I figured I’d do another lap but then it was five to go, and who quits with five to go? So I chuckled at how stupid it all was, dog knows it made no difference to me who won, and I pedaled a bit more and soon it was two laps to go.

Now I didn’t want to win at all, it didn’t mean anything to me. I’ve given up on bike racing it’s STUPID. Still, I felt sorry for Destroyer who obviously was desperate to win so I rode a little bit more until one lap to go. Well, with one to go you have to go to the end, even when you don’t care, right?

I didn’t go that hard but it was hard enough to feel moderate sensations of discomfort, and that’s exactly when we got caught by the pack and passed quicker than a plate loaded with casserole surprise. Of course it made no difference to me, I couldn’t have cared less just because I got next-to-last because I had planned on quitting anyway.

So glad I’m done with it except for this coming Sunday and I think there may be a couple more on the calendar that I’m doing out of a sense of obligation, that’s all.



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Call of the somewhat wild

April 12, 2016 § 24 Comments

I have been spending more time birdwatching lately. You know, getting back to my roots because I am too damned old and tired all the time to be racing every weekend. Except last weekend, and next weekend. And there are some other races coming up, too, later on.

But anyway, I love being surrounded by nature because it is very peaceful. When riding I often scream like a lunatic, curse at complete strangers, and behave like a raging steroid pumped up on bicycles.

A couple of weeks ago I went out early to Madrona Marsh, in Torrance. It is 48 acres surrounded by chain-link fence set behind the largest shopping mall in America, the Del Amo Fashion Center, where people go to purchase things that by virtue of being in a giant mall cannot possibly be fashionable. The marsh is a tiny postage stamp, all that remains of the thousands of acres of wetlands that once provided incredible habitat for wildlife in the South Bay.

After a few minutes I had drifted off into the other world of misidentifying birds and scratching my head over impossibilities. Rufous or Allen’s? Western or Cassin’s? What’s making that funny chirp?

It’s amazing how quickly time goes by when you’re looking at critters, exactly the opposite of how slowly time goes by when you’re on the fucking rivet going up the Switchbacks and some young punk is plucking the skin off your balls with a ball-peen hammer.

Anyway, it was really quiet except for the bird racket. Then across the slough I saw this dude dressed up like he was heading out on an expedition up the Congo. No joke, he was wearing full green camo, heavy utility vest, giant floppy adventurer camo hat, hip waders, and was carrying a giant pole that he stuck down in front as he walked as if he were navigating a giant crevasse field at Base Camp 12 of Chomulungma.

Keep in mind that the slough that feeds the pond is about ten feet wide and the water is about a foot deep, with lots of tall grass along the edge which is perfect dragonfly habitat; the bugs crawl up out of the water and onto the grass to shed their skin and spread their wings.

So I watched Dora the Explorer walk off the path and into the slough. I was about a hundred feet away. “Hey!” I yelled. He looked up quizzically, his massive waders crushing entire sections of fragile grass. “Yeah, you, you dumb bastard!” I shouted.

“Me?” he asked.

I walked over to the edge of the path. “What the fuck are you doing out there in the slough?”

“I’m, uh, researching,” he said.

I looked at his Amazonian explorer get-up and noted that he had a cheapo pair of $50 non-carbon field glasses dangling from his neck, binoculars that you couldn’t have examined your own navel with, much less a bird or a butterfly. “Like fuck you are,” I said. “Get your sorry fucking ass out of the slough, for fuck’s sake.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Why? You’re CRUSHING THE FUCKING DRAGONFLY HABITAT, you stupid sonofabitch. Does the slough look like a fucking walkway?”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said, backtracking.

“You’re damned straight I’m right. Stay on the fucking path. If every jackanape in a clown suit who came here tromped through the fucking slough with those rubber snowshoes the whole damned place would be mashed flatter than a fucking pancake!”

Dora walked off, rather briskly.

I sank back into my quiet reverie, happy to have finally found such a peaceful activity devoid of all conflict and anger.



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Easiest sixth place ever

April 11, 2016 § 14 Comments

  1. Put on tubular race wheels which are made of much carbon.
  2. Request Mrs. WM to drop me off at the Hun’s.
  3. Check weather.
  4. Note rain with extra rain and some more rain.
  5. Remind self: heavy SoCal rain is a light sweat.
  6. Develop killer race strategy to propel Team Lizard Collectors to glorious victory after glorious victory in road race at San Dimas that involved much chasing of teammates.
  7. Arrive at race and lie to teammates. “Tired legs. Dead, very.”
  8. Note presence of Bad Bart. Borrow chain lube from him.
  9. Huddle with and lie vociferously. “I will cover everything and block for you.”
  10. Build undisclosed plan to hide, cower, chase teammates when in promising breaks and encourage organized chases from other teams when teammates appear to be getting away.
  11. Fill bottle with new energy fluid never tested before.
  12. Wait ten minutes.
  13. Feel uncomfortable bowel fullness.
  14. Curse the micro-thin potty tissue where your finger pokes through. Yeccch.
  15. Hurry to line and start racing.
  16. Chase teammates vigorously.
  17. Rest.
  18. Get cursed at by other riders. “You dumb fuck, you’re chasing your own teammates!”
  19. Advise cursers to imagine that every Lizard Collector rider is wearing a different colored jersey.
  20. Endure additional oaths.
  21. Advise cursers to study difference between “team” and “club.”
  22. Chase some more.
  23. Rest.
  24. Rest.
  25. Rest.
  26. Rest.
  27. Watch winning break go with two teammates.
  28. Chase furiously, dragging field behind.
  29. Rest.
  30. Assist other teams with chase.
  31. Rest.
  32. Rest.
  33. When field sits up, scamper away with plan to solo up to break or better yet take other non-team Lizard Collectors riders along.
  34. Establish four-man chase.
  35. Let non-TLC riders in chase group chase their brains out.
  36. Endure curses for refusing to pull.
  37. Watch in amazement as “sprinter” Bad Bart pulls his brains out for three laps.
  38. Plot to drop Bad Bart in last minute attack because he is so fucking fast in a sprint.
  39. Execute last minute attack.
  40. Chase down the Hun who has been dropped out of the break.
  41. Furiously chase other teammate with one lap to go.
  42. Note that Bad Bart is still there.
  43. Drop teammate who had worked valiantly.
  44. Start sprunt too late. Proper timing to beat Bart would have been to begin sprunt last Thursday.
  45. Watch Bad Bart scamper away from me like a Scientologist avoiding the IRS.
  46. End race.
  47. Receive glorious sixth place medal and dowsing rod.
  48. Drive back with the Hun.
  49. Tell him how hard I worked to block.
  50. Answer “Nothing” when the Hun asks what I’m doing that afternoon.
  51. Answer “Nope” when the Hun asks if I mind if we stop for a minute so he can pick up some groceries.
  52. Wait in the car for an hour and a half.
  53. Observe crazy lady in the parking lot of the Gonzales Ranchero Mercado tip over her shopping cart, prize the anti-theft wheel locks off with a giant screwdriver, and gaily push it off the lot.
  54. Get home.
  55. Go to bed.



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Any way you slice it, it comes up sugar

April 9, 2016 § 22 Comments

I’m allergic to joyfulness and have been for years. It’s one reason I love cycling. You can have a good time on the bike, but it’s always in the context of some larger unpleasantness. Sometimes the misery is contact with the pavement, sometimes it’s contact with other people.

Hey, life’s a bitch. You’re born, you get old, you die, and you’re forgotten.

So when it comes to pure, unadulterated joy, I’m not your guy, which is why having a grandson has been so difficult. No matter how I try to find the negative, it comes up sugar.

No matter how grimly I try to fit this experience into the framework of cosmic irrelevance, hope and joy bubble to the surface. It’s like going to a bike race where you actually win, and where everyone is happy for you, even your teammates who did everything they could to chase you down at San Dimas. In other words, it’s not like a bike race at all.

Having had three kids, I wonder what’s changed? How did I not notice any of this before? Where the fuck was I?


  1. You are older. A lot.
  2. You were even more clueless then than now (incredible, but true).
  3. Riding my bike.

It’s hard to articulate the joy of a grandchild. He is so fat. How fat is he? He has rolls on his ankles and wrists. Why is it okay for grandbabies to have fat ankles and necks and wrists, but not for adults? I don’t know. Maybe because the adults sweat and have moles with hair growing out of them and blackheads? I just know that I don’t want to nuzzle some adult’s bellyroll, or daub their flabby triceps across my chin.

I’ve tried to focus on how exhausting he is as a negative, for example. They say it takes a village but that isn’t true. It takes as few as one person and as many as a zillion, because babies can vacuum up all the energy in the room. Whether it’s one or infinity, no number of adults can supply the vacuum-sponge of a baby, who will leave each adult spent and exhausted, especially old grandparents who didn’t start the day with much vim anyway.

But the exhaustion isn’t like staggering off a bike and collapsing face-first into a plate of meat sauce, or coming home from work and flopping like a dead fish on the sofa. It’s the most gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.


It’s the only gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.

And when my grandson smiles and laughs, the whole world laughs with him, even his crusty and sour old grandfather. “Where is the down side to baby laughter? There has to be one, doesn’t there?” I wonder. And I got nothin’.

In fact, as I listen to his voice, my vulture’s croak is overpowered by a warbling birdsong that rushes over it in a torrent, reminding me of love.



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I hope it rains tomorrow, hard

April 8, 2016 § 36 Comments

The LA weatherperson forecast rain tomorrow and this weekend. This generally means it won’t rain, but people have already canceled Friday coffee cruises, Saturday races, and Sunday group rides.

If it does rain, people from other parts of the country will probably not call it “rain.” Rather, it will be a few concentrated drops of water more commonly recognized as drizzle. But it will keep cyclists home in droves.

Not me. I hope it rains. It’s not that I like the rain or that I’m one of those tough guys who licks his chops when it starts raining in sheets and the wind starts howling and the temperature drops to freezing. But every once in a while I really enjoy going out and getting soaked on my bike.

It’s because when I started junior high my dad drove me to school on the first day. Then on the second day I got my things ready and told him I was ready to go. “Okay,” he said. “Have a great day.”

I looked at him for a minute because he was still drinking coffee and reading the paper. “I’ll wait in the car.”

“You might have a long wait.”

I tried to divine the Oracle of Dad, but either I hadn’t proffered the right goats and virgins and incense or he was done talking. So I stood there for a minute. “Aren’t we gonna drive?” I asked.

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

I did some quick mental math, which for me took a while. “So I’m gonna walk?” It was a solid three miles.

“You can if you want to,” he said without looking up.

I fidgeted and squeaked this out, something that might have almost been rebellious. “What if I don’t want to?”

The Oracle of Dad read a few more paragraphs about David Berkowitz a/k/a Son of Sam, who had been all the rage for a couple of weeks. “Then you should ride your bike.” The audience with the Oracle of Dad was now over and my three-year sentence of daily commuting in the humid, hot, wet, miserable hell hole of Houston began.

The worst days were rain days. It would come down in blinding sheets, cars spraying walls of water as they passed within inches, and I’d arrive at school as wet as if I’d just stepped out of the swimming pool, or something really nasty, like the Gulf of Mexico. I remember clenching my teeth as filthy road water soaked my face, and I remember spitting out the bitter, brown, grit-filled sludge. On the worst rain days, which was all of them, I remember seething with rage at being forced to swim to class, arriving sopping wet and hunched over as I tried to lock my bike up in the bike cage, never a problem finding a good spot because on those days my bike was the only one there.

It took an average of two class periods to fully dry out, and my shoes generally squished until the end of the day. If I was lucky the rain would pick up again around three and I’d get to do it all over again.

Those rain days left some kind of stamp on me, something written in a secret invisible ink that has to be treated with a special potion to come to the fore again and be visible. Nowadays, when it’s not raining too hard and it’s not too cold and I’m not too lazy, I love to get out in it and pedal around, hoping that maybe the stamp of youth and struggle will become visible again.



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Don’t attack from the gun

April 7, 2016 § 18 Comments

Every time I ride Telo I roll away on the neutral lap.

There are no neutral laps.

This time I repeated all the way there, “Don’t roll off on the neutral lap. Don’t jump and follow any early attacks. Don’t be an early attacker. Sit on Destroyer. Destroyer never misses the split. Today thou shalt rest.”

Telo is too hard, too windy, and too hotly contested for a rider or a pair of riders to stick it for a full sixty minutes. But I am too boneheaded and impatient to pay attention to silly facts and I never like to rest.

Grandpa Joe waved us off. Evens Stievenart, two time French national TT champion, rolled away with Evan Stade and Dan Beam. “I’d love to go with you suckers on a futile suicide mission of dumbness,” I chuckled, “but today I am going to save my bullets and win. And I am going to rest.”

I had my special winning speedsuit on and my full carbon everything including my fully carbonized water in my carbon water bottle.

After five minutes Destroyer unleashed the bridge attack from hell that no one can ever follow. I chortled, chortlingly, easily following his searing acceleration until he sat up. I refused to pull through and slunk to the back, resting. The group regrouped and we pedaled some more. I rested.

The wind wasn’t as windy as it normally is. “But still, there’s no way those three guys are going to stick it. No one has ever held a 60-minute breakaway from the gun.” I watched a couple of hard efforts and smirked, resting.

Pretty soon after a very long time it was only a few laps to go. Destroyer began taking massive pulls and suddenly the break was in sight. Then they were closer. Then they were a lot closer. With one lap to go we could see the browns of their rear eyes. I sure felt rested.

Destroyer took a shuddering pull and swung over. So did the rest of the tattered remnants. I still felt fresh and rested. The break was all but caught.

Take note and put special emphasis on the word “but.”

As we checked each other out and tried to come up with plausible excuses for not making the final effort without having to say “I was too tired” or “I was too weak” we instead focused on “Evens is our teammate, yeah, that’s it, and we’d never chase a teammate except at San Dimas.”

The break pulled away. And we never caught them.

But I sure was rested.



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