Why people go away

February 10, 2017 § 22 Comments

Over the years a lot of people have come and gone from the bike scene. Maybe it’s the same with tennis, jogging, or being a terrible surfer on mom’s couch, I don’t know.

What I do know is that one day they’re there, never miss a ride, and the next day they aren’t. Here are the main reasons people leave.

  1. They got the monkey off their back. Some people get into cycling because they’ve got demons. Drugs, alcohol, a terrible relationship, triathlons, etc. After a lot of bike therapy they sober up, dump the abusive partner, shred their USTA card, and there’s no will left to live (on the bike). Bye.
  2. Racing!!! Pity the person who gets into cycling because of racing. Either they win and realize that “there’s no there there” or they never win and realize they’re never going to win, like a Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch who finally realizes what everyone else knew all along, i.e. he’s a kook.
  3. Gizmos. Gear and equipment and stuff abound in this faux sport and it attracts a certain kind of weird person who thinks TT bikes and a locker at the velodrome that includes a compressed tank of helium are awesome. Eventually they buy all the gear. So bored now. Bye …
  4. Exercise freaks. Mongo ge bike and realize that Mongo can ride forever. And Mongo do. Until Mongo get tired. But Mongo keep riding. And Mongo get tireder. BUT MONGO MUST RIDE MORE. And then Mongo go away.
  5. Lonely people. Lonely person starts riding, meets people, gets invited to join club, is totally flattered, makes shit-ton new friends, discovers that bikers are just as repellent as the general populace only they wear Lycra underwear, returns to Hermit Kingdom.
  6. My Big Crash. Rider loves riding, rides hella fast, alla time. Rider falls and hits head, breaks nutsack, etc. Rider’s family throws bike in trash, hides shoes. Rider goes back to Arthur Murray dance studio because, safer.
  7. Job insecurity. Rider is all in and one day learns from boss that he’s one pay period away from being all out. Of a job. Rider knuckles back down to 15-hour days and mortgage payments.
  8. Bundle ‘o joy. Rider is on all the rides, does all the races, logs six days a week, 12k a year. Rider’s S/O gets a bellyful of baby. Rider becomes popular on Craigslist until all of garage bike shwag is replaced with portable baby poopers, car seats, and baby bassinets.
  9. Boredom. What is more boring than riding a bicycle? Aside from not riding a bicycle, NOTHING.
  10. Faster than I never was. Rider starts young and fast. Over time rider becomes old and slow. Rider’s mind eventually catches up with decrepitude of rider’s body, and that’s that.

But what is it that makes people continue, whether it’s racing or touring or commuting or rando-ing or MTB-ing? Easy.

They keep doing it because slow or fast, long or short, dangerous or safe, it’s flat fuggin’ FUN. You know who you are.



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A series of unfortunate climbs

February 9, 2017 § 14 Comments

A long time ago when I had little kids there was a book called “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I’d occasionally flip through it but I only remember the author’s name, Lemony Snicket, and the premise, which was a couple of hapless kids having terrible things happen to them.

I don’t remember if there was an evil person pursuing them but they were mostly homeless, always running from something, and invariably in trouble.

So last night I was running over the pre-registration list for the ultra-leaky-prostate-category in Saturday’s UCLA Road Race, and I came across a bunch of new names, which is weird, because by the time you’re this old and slow you pretty much know who’s going to show up where and who isn’t.

Then it hit me. These guys normally race Boulevard as their super hilly road race and skip UCLA, but Bouelvard’s been taken out behind the outhouse and shot, so they’ve decided to make UCLA their season opener.

That is brave. Misguided but brave. You see, UCLA has nothing in common with Boulevard. Whereas in Boulevard you get to pedal for two laps entertaining visions of glory or maybe even sticking your thumb in the peloton’s eye once or twice before you suddenly notice that your legs fell off at the railroad tracks, UCLA isn’t like that.

UCLA is a series of very unfortunate climbs, beginning about .25 miles into the race. In other words, now is a real good time to cancel your registration and try to get a refund because if you are an old leaky prostate and you haven’t done this race before but are thinking it might be a good season opener, you are making a mistake along the lines of “Maybe I can clip my toenails with this here wood chipper.”

Of course your idea of a great time may be getting dropped immediately, in which case this is the perfect course for you, and you will have lots of company. Or your idea of a great time may be getting dropped two miles in, in which case you’ll have even more company. But if you’re thinking of using this as a way to eke out a top-10 placing and see where your fitness is, let me help you out:

  1. You’ll only get top-10 if numbers 11 on down quit.
  2. Your fitness is for shit.

In addition to a course where the only thing harder than the impossible starter climb is the downhill, UCLA also has a series of unfortunate weather events. Have you been riding on the trainer during all this rain lately? Have you failed to toughen up adequately for racing in the 40’s? Of course you have, and UCLA is going to offer up a series of terrible weather events to punish you for your laziness. At 5,000 feet elevation it will be cold. It won’t rain but it may sleet or snow. And if it doesn’t do any of that, it will force you to choose between too many clothes at the start, only to melt and collapse because it heats up unbearably later, or start with too few clothes so that you tip over and freeze to death on the first lap.

There are a lot of free-range dogs on course so at least your carcass will be recycled.

Anyway, I’m mostly kidding about all this. It’s a great, fun race. You’re gonna kill it. See you there.



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Tough guy

February 7, 2017 § 19 Comments

Fake cyclingnews.com wrote a story about how the new extreme weather protocol may be making pro cyclists softer. Of course the lead photo is Andy Hampsten going over the Gavia through 78 feet of snow as it rains boulder-sized ice floes on his head, but they could have picked any of a zillion photos from BACK IN THE DAY, a glorious place that never existed and that everyone who wasn’t there can’t wait to return to.

The fake news subtitle says “Safety first as organisers and teams less willing to take risks,” but the fake article says nothing about safety first in the traditional sense of the word, i.e. concern for human life. Instead, we learn from Team Evil Empire’s Rod Ellingworth that “We spend a lot of money on riders, and their health and safety is key to the team.”

That sentence says it all, just reverse the logic: “We didn’t used to spend any money at all on riders, so their health and safety was irrelevant.” Which is how pro cycling used to be. Riders were treated like animals, paid nothing, forced to ride in spectacles so horrific that the only way to endure, much less win, was to become hopelessly addicted to heroin, cocaine, and every manner of drug, and then once used up–which took only a few years–thrown to the side so that another crop of desperately poor riders could be fed into the machine.

Ellingsworth should have said, “People deserve a safe and healthy working environment. Intentionally endangering them for the pleasure of others too craven or weak to do it themselves is wrong.”

But it was Team Evil Empire, after all, and he was simply voicing the calculus of the moment. These riders cost a shit-ton to develop and maintain. Don’t throw away the investment on one bad day of riding weather.

Cycling has a lot of fake tough guy stuff. Fake tough riding in bad weather. Fake tough riding long miles. Fake tough climbing high mountains. But you know what it doesn’t have very much of? Real toughness.

I used to be a Boy Scout but got booted after a couple of years due to general incorrigibility. I had problems with authority and rules, and although our scoutmaster was a kind and gentle guy, there were rules and you did have to follow some of them. Naturally I honed in on the ones that absolutely had to be followed and broke them, like the time I tried to cut off a tree limb before I’d gotten my totin’ chip and instead sawed off half my middle finger. Mr. Black wasn’t happy, mostly because I bled four gallons of blood, but also because I’d undertaken to do something I wasn’t qualified to do and had hurt myself as a result.

He didn’t care what my parents were going to think, exactly, he cared that I’d been hurt on his watch and that it had been his responsibility to make sure I didn’t do crazy shit like saw off part of my hand. Several other scouts earned a ton of first aid and finger reattachment merit badges that day, though, so from a scouting perspective it wasn’t all bad.

Mr. Black was healthy and fit but he wasn’t fake cyclist tough. The only thing he knew how to do was raise a family and look after a pack of wild Texas kids. But that’s not tough.

The other day one of my friends, a guy named Eric Arentsen, was coming back from some long-ass bicycle ride. He had just left Camp Pendleton and was riding north towards San Onofre State Beach. Suddenly he was flagged down by a group of cyclists and asked if he was a doctor. He saw a cyclist on the ground who was turning blue, and several cyclists trying to revive him. Several people had phones out and asked him to find a ranger or doctor.

He sprinted ahead and found a big group of riders that had just done a U-turn at the bottom of the parking lot. Two nurses turned around from this group to render assistance to the cyclist. He then caught a few more groups, several of which had passed the dying cyclist on the ground and had not bothered stopping to help. About a mile up he found a ranger who rushed to the scene.

Finally two fire trucks, a sheriff, and a life guard truck heading south with all lights flashing let him know that help was at hand. Eric was behind two cyclists riding side by side when the vehicles passed and he was stunned to see they cyclists not pull over in the narrow parking lot to give the vehicles room to get by. The vehicles slowed noticeably as they passed. When he rode by the riders they talked about the incident at the end of the parking lot and they said they “didn’t want to get involved.”

The cyclist survived, no thanks to the people who didn’t want to get involved. They were probably really tough cyclists, too, able to ride hard and fast and long but not quite tough enough to stop and help someone who was on death’s door, and certainly not tough enough to move over so that emergency vehicles could safely pass.

I wish it was an isolated incident, but I see it and hear similar stories all the time about self-absorbed two-wheeled douchebags who won’t stop to help change a flat, who won’t stop to find out if you’ve got the mechanical under control, who are often so fucking serious about their tough-ass hobby that they can’t even be bothered to wave back or smile.

It won’t surprise you to know that Eric is a scout. Not just any old kicked-out-of-scouting-like-Wanky-scout, but an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster. He’s a tough guy where it matters the most, setting aside his own selfishness to make sure a fellow human is okay. There’s no fake tough to people like Eric, just gentle decency and warm humanity that will go to the gates of hell and back if it’s the right thing to do.

Oh, and he can kick your ass pretty good on the bike, too.


I received this awesome note about the women who stopped and saved the cyclist’s life. Decency and a willingness to help … wow. From Lauren Mulwitz:

I must say I am moved. I think we are all moved by what happened this weekend.

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 5th we were on a team training ride down by Camp Pendleton. Upon meeting at a rest stop, our team was alerted of a gentleman having a heart attack. That gentleman’s name is James Nishida. Immediately we rushed to the scene, and Cindy Fenton, Michelle Disanti, and myself began CPR. What felt like an eternity, probably lasted about 15 minutes as we tried to resuscitate him. The whole time thinking, this is someone’s brother, someone’s husband, someone’s father … and he has to wake up.

You meet nurses, doctors, and paramedics all the time, and are somewhat aware of what they do … but you sometimes forget how amazing they are until you see them in action. They have the ability to save a life, which is one of the most amazing qualities a human being can possess. Cindy and Michelle showed no fear and went immediately into action. Cindy unselfishly gave him rescue breaths, which when you don’t know someone, takes a lot of courage and unselflessness. Michelle performed compressions until she was fatigued, and even then continued until the paramedics took over, and I kept the airway open.

This past weekend, my teammates, Michelle and Cindy performed a most heroic and compassionate action. They saved a man’s life. So, I would like to publicly acknowledge their heroic efforts as well as the rest of Purequosa for their support. We are all pulling for you James and wish you the best life has to offer.

To Brooke Nishida and family, we are all here for you and can’t wait to meet and hug James.

I love you girls. I love life. Proud to call these women my sisters.



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Are you riding too much?

February 6, 2017 § 24 Comments

Yes, you.

You know who you are.

More importantly, you know how your legs feel right now.


Yeah. You, who don’t race for a living, are trying to figure out how to get through your Super Hangover from being on your bike all day yesterday. And the day before.

You know, that string of days that put you at more than 300 miles for the week with some crazy amount of elevation.

Has it occurred to you that, at age 40-whatever, you’re riding too much?

Has it?

Okay, I can already hear your answer. “TOO MUCH FOR WHAT?”

And that’s a good answer, because on the Internet the best defense is all caps. But you have a point. Too much for what?

Let’s drill down, shall we? I’d make a flow chart but those are too difficult. So here’s a handy self-diagnostic quiz:

  1. I ride more than 200 miles a week and I’m not paid for it. T/F
  2. I’m tired. T/F
  3. I ride when I’m tired. T/F
  4. I’m too tired for sex. T/F
  5. After I ride, I do things I have to do but I do them tiredly. T/F
  6. My thighs ache right now. T/F
  7. My back aches right now. T/F
  8. Every time I get ready to ride my bike I have to climb a small mountain of tired to get dressed,air up the tires, and roll out the door. T/F
  9. No matter how tired I am (like right now) I always make the group ride, after which I’m even more tired. T/F
  10. Being tired feels bad but not riding feels worse. T/F
  11. I feel guilty because I’m too tired to talk to my family, but I feel guiltier if I don’t ride. T/F
  12. I’m pretty sure that being tired helps me lose weight. T/F
  13. If you’re not tired you aren’t riding enough. T/F
  14. “Too tired legs” can only be overcome with a quick 2-hr. spin. T/F
  15. Other people ride a lot more than me and they’re not tired. T/F
  16. Tired is a state of mind. T/F
  17. Rest is what happens when your competition quits working. T/F
  18. I can recover with a good hard run. T/F

If you answered “True” to any of these except the first one, here’s some advice: Up the mileage. You’re clearly not tired enough.



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Some super observations 

February 5, 2017 § 21 Comments

It’s that day of the year again and:

  1. I only know one of the teams who’s playing.
  2. Traffic on the 101 is nonexistent.
  3. I saw my first Nuttall’s woodpecker.
  4. The parking lot at the pier in Santa Barbara is empty. On a Sunday.
  5. I don’t have to ride my bike to have fun.
  6. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning.
  7. The less you want the more you have.
  8. A good cup of coffee is good to find.



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Good bike

February 4, 2017 § 31 Comments

Last year I got a Cannondale Super Evo 6, or maybe it is an Evo Super 6, or maybe it is a Super Motel 6, I’m bad with names.

What it is, is carbon. Full carbon. It has so much carbon in it that if it had any more you’d have to spell it “carbone.” Which is Italian for “carbon,” only more so.

The reason I started riding this bike is because it was time to start riding a new bike. You will know when this time happens. It is different for every man, like menopause. But you suddenly don’t feel right on your current ride and you need a new one.

This is usually because your bike loses carbon as it ages. Bicycles are made from a special kind of carbon called carbon-14, which is radioactive and decays over time. You can actually date your bike frame by analyzing its carbon-14 radioactive isotopes. The fewer the isotopes, the older the bike. A typical full carbon bike that is made of all carbon, 100% hugely big carbon, the best, loses about half its carbon every two years.

That’s why you’ll be pedaling on the stiffest frame known to man one year, and the next year you’ll be pedaling around without a front fork. Which is awkward. Or maybe it’s because Boozy P. gave you a tune-up. Either way you need a lot of new 100% carbon.

The best solution is twofold: Get a new carbon-14 frame immediately and all new carbon parts. Or get disc brakes.

Disc brakes have revolutionized cycling since they were first used in 1982. Bicycling has never been the same. Now, the revolution that changed everything is something that you need to buy (a lot of) so that you can be part of The Spirit of ’82. Disc brakes are important because you can stop real quick on them.

Think of all the times you need to stop quick! There you are, pedaling to the porncery store, and a giraffe crosses your path. Bam! Grab a handful of front brake and fall on your head, causing permanent brain injury! Disaster averted!

Now, with full 100% all-carbon disc brakes you can stop a lot faster and you can slam yourself on your head even if a giraffe is nowhere in sight. Trust me, what’s good for a high performance motorcycle is even better for a recreational hobby bicycle. Plus, you can never have too much front braking power. Super good for fast, wet, downhill, off-camber turns. Trust Wanky on this.

But back to my Cannondale Motel 6.

It is the best bike I have ever had. Why? Because it’s all carbon? Nope. Because it handles great? Nope. Because it is more aero than Strava Jr. after a month of fasting? Nope.

It is the best bike ever because it is black. Fact is, Cannondale Super Motel 6 makes one of the best black bikes anywhere. It is better than ALL the black bikes Stern-O has ever had, and Stern-O only rides black. In fact, the Cannondale Motel 6 has blackness comparable to deep space. No light is reflected whatsoever from the Cannondale Super 6 Flags.

But just because it has the best black color, that doesn’t mean you should buy one.

It means you should buy TWO. Three if you can afford it or if you get the special Wanky discount (coupon code is #fullcarbonMotel6).

Still, it is possible that you are a comparison shopper, truly a despicable creature. And it is also possible that you really do like your hand-lugged Pegoretti with that unique Italian flavor that only comes from having a sweaty old man with garlicky breath and cauliflower farts lovingly join the lugs to the handlebars with a rubber hammer and pliers handed down from his great-grandfather, who died in prison due to his connections with the Mafia.

But whatever. We both know that your Pegoretti lives on the wall because no one rides art. Ever seen the French president gallop around town on the Mona Lisa? Of course not.

When it comes to stomping dicks, you’ll need carbon, and you’ll need a black Cannondale Super Motel 6 Stomper of Dicks.

Here are some things I’ve achieved this past year with my Cannondale Dick-6 Stomper that I could never have achieved on a much worse-black-painted Giant.

  1. Won the 50+ CBR rain crit, decisively beating Chris Lotts who was so weak he flatted, that dude who started late and wasn’t eligible to sprint, that other 66-year-old dude who had won the previous race in a one-hour solo break, that dude with the one knee pointing to Rome and the other to Beijing, and that dude who was racing in a different category. Not possible without the Dick Six.
  2. Had a natural way to chat up local Cannondale pro riders Krista Doebel-Hickock and Phil G. “Hey y’all, I ride a Cannondale too!” They think you are really cool when you do that.
  3. Set over 500 PRs this year on Strava. (*I deleted my account a couple of years ago and started a new one in 2016 but that has nothing to do with the plethora of new PRs.)
  4. Put on new handlebar tape.

Anyway, I hope you run out and get a Cannondale Super Evo Motel Dickstomper 6, black model only. You can get a great deal on them at Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, or Manhattan Beach. You can also hang around outside the shop and wait for someone to leave one unattended and borrow it. That’s what I would do. Did.



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Read your bike

February 2, 2017 § 26 Comments

Seriously, there is so much going on nowadays to make you feel rotten. We’re in the middle of a slo-mo coup d’etat, ruled by a man so insane that Kim Jong-Dong looks normal. Every day we lose 37 civil rights and a whole new sector of the population gets put on the drone assassination list.

This makes us squishy libs really angsty, really, it does, and it makes the racist Cheeto lovers angry, too, because even though they got their Hitler, the fact that they hate blacks, Mexicans, Muslims from Muslania, civil rights, and democracy means that they were in a terrible mood even before all this started.

So when I got this book in the mail the other day I was plunged into deeper despair. Why would I want to read a book about bicycling? I’d written one a few years ago and what else was there to say?


Plus, it was about pro cycling, the lowest form of life and the most hopeless career choice in the world today, with the possible exception of being this administration’s presidential hair stylist and skin tinter.

But there were other problems, starting with the title, “Ask a Pro.” Ask him what? Why he didn’t yet have a real job? Why he was still riding a bicycle and calling it work? It didn’t make sense to me that there could be more than one or two questions that any normal person could ask a pro, and neither requires a response.

So I did the thing that I always do with unsolicited gifts from kind people, which is toss it in the trash. However, our trash can is a paper bag with the edges folded down, and every evening our grandson comes over, goes straight to the trash bag, dumps it over, and strews shit all over the living room. This time, when I picked up the book to throw it away again, it was laying on its back, and the back looks like this:


That’s when I noticed the line “Advance Reader Copy for Media Use Only.”

“Oh my dog,” I thought. “Phil thinks I’m media. He’s mailing me this book so I can review it and hopefully say nice things about it and maybe even write something on my blog so that my two dedicated readers will tell their two dedicated readers who will tell their two dedicated readers and soon it will be a billion-seller and he won’t have had to do anything but tell the publisher to spend $1.50 on postage.”

I sighed with much sadness as I contemplated how little he knew about my media credentials, and about how, as an ethical person immune to bribes like free books, I could never say something positive about such an obviously awful book. Plus, in the interest of mostly full disclosure, I’d have to tell my readers about that time I crushed Phil on the Holiday Ride at that stop light on San Vicente.


This was a super tricky race and one of my best days on the bike. Phil was barely able to stay seated, as you can see from the way he’s not really on his saddle. My rear light was jarred off to the side due to the incredible power I put down that day. Anyway, I’m pretty proud of that finish and you’ll agree it was pretty stand-up of me not to embarrass him by posting up. But anyway, back to his “book” (you can PayPal me $50 and I will autograph this for you, you’re welcome).


Let’s start with the book’s obvious failings. First of all, you’re laughing starting from the dedication page. How do you think this makes me feel? Do you know how hard I worked to make MY book funny? Why does this guy get to start with a funny dedication?

Complete bullshit.

Anyway, moving along. Worst thing about the book is that it’s hilarious. You might think that’s a good thing, but I don’t. It really makes me feel terrible to see a dude train a hundred hours a week and just write shit in between flights and crank out a side-bustingly funny book whereas here I’m chained to this stupid computer for years on end bloviating bullshit for $2.99 a month and even my mom doesn’t think it’s funny. Really. Check the comments, especially the one where she told me I cuss too much.

For fuck’s sake, mom!!

Okay, so the book is really funny. I will give him that. Okay, really, really funny. Like, “people look at you funny because it’s that funny” funny.

And I give him that it’s an easy read. Quick, lots of laughs, well written. Okay, okay.

And I’ll give him the insight. There’s a lot of insight here. Okay, check the “insight” box for fuck’s sake.

But you know what really crushes me?

The book is a subversive “tell all” about why you’ll never be a pro even if Phil tells you how to be a pro by detailing what food he eats, how he sets his saddle, and that thing about the time he got lost in Bangkok and woke up in a hotel room tied to a dead elephant (really the funniest  part of the whole book). His subversive message about pro cycling, even as he answers your questions, is this:

  1. You’re old.
  2. You’re slow.
  3. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
  4. Please go enjoy your life.

This is totally subversive because the book is a compilation of columns published over a span of years in a bike magazine whose message is:

  1. Older = faster!
  2. Go faster with more purchases!
  3. You’d be happier if you were a Pro Tour rider!
  4. Emulate!

Crammed into the one-liners, the funny stories, the non-sequiturs, and the fart/shit/piss jokes, Phil Gaimon also demonstrates formidable writing skills. He’s coy about it at times, but it doesn’t take much effort to see that there is a lot of work, a lot of skill, a lot of talent, and old-school craftsmanship in the way he handles a universe of stupid, smart, and downright hilarious questions.

In his self-effacing way he also drills home how hard the job is, how uncertain it is, how dangerous it is, but how, like a Picasso painting where the nose is pushed over against the back of the head and the ears abut the neck, it all kind of hangs together in a pretty cool way.

Unless you’re a pretend auteur with thin skin who has also written a cycling book and whose envy is easily aroused, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this book, laugh a lot, forget for an hour or two that we’re about to be plunged into slavery and nuclear war, and most importantly, you’ll be fired up to register for Phil’s grand fondue this year. Anybody who writes this well about something this ridiculous is, as Stern-O would say, the real deal.



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