Laboring day

September 5, 2016 § 25 Comments

My off season started in earnest on Tuesday, so I didn’t ride on Wednesday, Thursday, or even Friday. On Saturday I went down with some L.A. riders to San Diego, where they got a taste of what they call “fun” in North County.

I rode my bike to a few coffee shops but that was it, and in preparation for the San Diego trip I took off my cameras and lights and removed my tool box thingy that fits in the rear water bottle cage. I set it on the top of the cheap Ikea storage thing next to the bed, where I keep my bicycle tool.

On Sunday night, the last day of my off season, I began reassembling my bike for the Holiday Ride 18-minute beatdown. After bolting on all the cameras and strapping on the lights and filling up the water bottle I went to put the tool kit thingy in the bottle cage, but it was gone.

My apartment is pretty small and I don’t own much stuff so it was easy to search it from top to bottom. Nothing. We couldn’t even blame it on the grandbaby because it was too high for him to reach and too big to hold. We tried anyway. Nothing.

I did the Holiday Ride certain that I would have a flat because even though it’s been a year since my last puncture, we all know that the one time a flat is guaranteed is the time you don’t have a spare. Luckily, I didn’t flat, but Special Ops did. He blew out his entire tire. He’s a good friend and we had ridden out together, so I abandoned him immediately.

I felt a little guilty about it until EA Sports, Inc. helped me out. “Do the math, Wanky. Former Special Ops. Flats bicycle in city of 10 million people. Bike shop five minutes away. Has phone. Has money. Knows the natives and even speaks their dialect. I think he’s gonna survive.”

After the ride I tore up the apartment some more but no toolkit thingy. So I made an inventory of the important stuff and started thinking about replacing it.

  1. Tube with a stem that is too short for the rim.
  2. Multi-tool which I don’t know how to use but maybe someone in need someday will.
  3. Old CO2 inflation head that doesn’t work.
  4. Empty CO2 cartridge.
  5. Flimsy plastic tire lever.
  6. Boot.
  7. 10% discount coffee card at Peet’s.

Obviously the only thing that mattered was the coffee card.

The first bike shop I went to was closed. Then I went to Sprocket Cycles on PCH, which is owned by Paul Che. Paul has built a thriving business out of nothing in what has to be the world’s toughest market, the local bike shop.

They were open and fully staffed with three people. In a matter of minutes they had loaded me up with everything I needed, including a fancy pair of screw-in handlebar plugs to replace the ones that kept falling out.

Was it more expensive than if I’d bought it all on the Internet? I don’t know and don’t care. What I know is that they were there with great service and good products at a time when they were needed. Keep that in mind the next time you buy online. You may (or may not) save a couple of bucks, but Mr. Internet won’t be there on Labor Day to make sure you’re back on the road by Tuesday.

sprocket_stuff

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Sometimes the best ride is a chair

September 4, 2016 § 11 Comments

People don’t often invite me places and there’s a reason for that. I’m not fun. In fact, I have it on good authority that whatever “fun” is, I’m pretty much the opposite of it. Of all the places I don’t get invited, the place I don’t get invited to the most is (of course) bicycles rides.

So when someone is foolish enough to invite me somewhere, I always say yes. I don’t even check the calendar because it’s sure to be blank. Day? I’m free. Time? No problem. Three-hour drive to your vacation place at the bottom of an unlit mine shaft filled with toxic gas? Count me in. In, in, in.

A couple of days ago El Presidente invited me to go for a bike ride in San Diego. He, Th Surfer Dan, Okie, Head Down James, OC James, Wattbomb, Happy, and Goat were all going down to San Diego to crash the world famous Swami’s Ride.

Problem was, none of them had ever done it except for Th Surfer Dan, and he wasn’t talking. “Yo, Wanky,” penned El Presidente. “You’ll be chauffeured to the start line in our Mercedes UPV, fed a breakfast of Yum-Yum Donuts, slathered with sunscreen and testosterone gel, and fed a kingly lunch on the way back.”

“What’s the catch?” I knew that this fun-loving bunch of defectives didn’t want to spend the day cooped up in a Mercedes UPV with Wanky the Grim.

“We need a pilot fish, someone who can tell us about the ride, and Th Surfer Dan’s not talking. Since you’re the closest thing that LA has to a North County specialist, leaving aside for a moment that you always get dropped when you go down there, we thought that in exchange for the above amenities you might, you know, show us the way, give us some tips. That sort of thing. Also, gas is paid for.”

That sealed the deal except for one thing. “What’s a Mercedes UPV?”

“Oh, that. Stands for Un-Parkable Van. Long story.”

At 5:45 AM I found myself standing on the corner of Hawthorne and Manhattan Beach Boulevard, being accosted by a person who was either homeless or whose home was several hundred miles away. “Do you have a cell phone?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“I got PTSD from the war and I been riding this fucking bike without a saddle all the way from Wyoming and I need to make a phone call.”

I looked at his bike, which really did look like it had recently been in Wyoming and which really was missing a saddle. “Who do you want me to call?”

“The cops,” he said, shoving into my face a business card for Officer Melvin Muggley of the Hawthorne Police Department.

I looked around, anxiously hoping that the Mercedes UPV would show up. “Uh, I ain’t calling the cops,” I said.

“How come?”

“I got two outstanding warrants.”

“For what?”

“One DUI and a hot check.”

“What was the hot check for?”

“The booze that got me the DUI.”

He nodded. “Respect, man. Respect.” Then he pedaled off, butt carefully poised above the rusty prong, and vanished into the darkness.

When the Mercedes UPV showed up, it was stocked with donuts, hot coffee, licorice, three boxes of chicken nuggets, and a chocolate croissant. “Where is everyone?” I asked.

“Head Down James and Wattbomb got scared and couldn’t make it.”

“Dang,” I said.

“Hey,” El President asked. “Where’s your bike?”

“What bike?”

“Dude, we’re going to the world famous Swami’s Ride in North County San Diego. It’s a bike ride. Where’s your fuggin’ bike?”

“Oh, that,” I said, craftily. “I didn’t know I was supposed to bring it.”

“What?”

“I thought you just wanted intel on the ride.”

“Hell, man, we do.That’s why we’re bringing you along.”

I climbed into the van and plucked a steaming nugget out of the box, topped with a choco cruller and a tube of energy gel. “Never fear,” I said. “‘Cuz I brought you wankers this.”

I pulled out a few sheets of paper and handed them out. “This,” I said, “is all you need.”

Swami’s Ride Secret Inside Intel for Team Ride Crashers: Top Secret For Your Eyes Only Super Confidential And Secret And Etc.

Many of the Swami’s riders do a pre-ride that leaves at 7:00 which is reputedly harder than the Swami’s Ride itself. Whether or not that’s true, they get to the ride warmed up and ready to go. Starting Swami’s cold is a huge disadvantage and since you will all be starting stone cold you can expect to be instantaneously dropped.

The ride has no significant climbs to speak of. An analysis of the course profile on Strava indicates that for you hardmen of the Santa Monicas, it’s a piddling 2400 feet of elevation over 30 miles or so. Of course the problem, by way of analogy, is the “hill” on the PV Golf Course, which many of you have done.

Under normal conditions you don’t even notice that it’s a hill. But under Flog conditions, people quickly splinter and crack and are never seen again. Certain among you have shown up for the Flog once, twice, a handful of times, or not at all. My point? It’s not really the course that makes a ride hard, it’s the people in attendance and how fast they are pedaling, and on Swami’s they tend to pedal very, um, vigorously.

You may be hoping that because it is September and it is the off-season that the Swami’s predators will not be pedaling in anger. This is a vain hope. The moment they scent outsiders, they will turn into a frenzied pack of ball-chewing-cannibals.

The Swami’s Ride’s first climb is up Levante to Rancho Santa Fe. Be warmed up if you can, towards the front at all costs, and drift back if you have to. You will have to. The group is usually so large that you can’t get dropped here, even if you are really weak, but if they are going all out (they will be) *and* they catch the light going left on Rancho Santa Fe just over the top you will spend the morning by yourself. It’s a big ring power climb, short and difficult depending on who’s there, but nothing that a cagey bit of wheelsucking can’t get you through. El Presidente, this means you. Since the left-hand turn signal is almost always red when the bikes get there, it’s a chance to gasp, catch breath, scoot forward, check timber, regroup, and desperately fondle prayer beads.

Which brings us to the real beginning of this ride, which isn’t the course, but the “Who’s there?”

If Phil Tinstman, Thurlow, any young snotnose punkass kid in a Lux jersey, or any other of a large number of North County hammers show up, don’t even think about riding away. In fact, don’t think of riding away no matter what because it’s simply not a ride-away course. What you should think about is insurance, life insurance, and about naming me as your sole beneficiary. Just sign at the bottom of this paper to indicate your acceptance.

The one section where I’ve been dropped is the next one, going up San Elijo just before the turn onto Elfin Forest. If Karl Bordine hadn’t also been lollygagging at the back, then recovered, then dragged me back, my day would have ended. But realistically that’s the only place there is any chance at all of coming unhitched, and if you haven’t been battering at the front (for some, even if you have), there’s nothing on this ride that is hard enough or long enough to kick you out the back.

Unhappily, despite the easiness of the course, all of you will set new PRs for power, distance, speed, time dimensions, and multicolored spittle because Tinstman will be stomping dicks like a boot tester in dildo factory. It is an easy course that may well be your hardest day on a bicycle, including that time you had to push Billy Bohunks and his rock collection over Pepperdine Hill.

Unlike the Donut Ride, which really is a test of VO2 + masochistic tendencies, Swami’s is a series of secret sprint points that you’ll never know about until they are past and someone else has won. The regulars have done this ride a million times and they all know where to go hard, where to ease up, and where to collect the trinkets. The big sprint at the church is a barely visible wooden sign nailed to a tree overgrown with foliage. Or at least it used to be. Or at least that’s what they used to tell me.

Once on Elfin Forest (there are no elves and it’s not a forest) there are a couple of rollers where you don’t want to be caught unawares, but nothing that will drop you. By the time you figure out there’s a sprint it will be over, and everyone will be stopping at the church to urinate on holy objects, unless of course they don’t stop there anymore, in which case it will be more pain for much longer unless you’ve been dropped, in which case you will never find your way home because all the roads in North County San Diego are crooked, filled with lethal potholes, and paved with drunk drivers.

After the church the Real Cyclists may go on and do a Real Bicycle Ride. Don’t be tempted unless your name is Th Surfer Dan, and trust me, it isn’t. Instead, follow the meeker folks (not Meeker, folks) along the Swami’s route through the Lake Hodges section and back to the coast highway. Lake Hodges has a screamingly crazily insanely fast eternal downhill with no turns, a 2-inch shoulder, and traffic passing on your left at 80. So, it’s perfectly safe, especially with the frame-wobbling, cross-eyed beginner on tri-bars in front of you and the Cat 5’s on your left sprinting out of the saddle three abreast to keep up because no one has yet told them about that word “draft.”

Once the road bottoms out there is a gradual climb with a few rollers at the top. Whoever’s on the front (Thurlow) will be grilling and drilling, but everyone on a wheel will easily hang on, and that’s “easy” as in “it hurt so bad my eyes broke.” There’s another magic sprint point after the climb but before the stop sign. Then everyone checks timber, sips their sippy cup, and soldiers on to the coast highway. It’s interesting the first time you do it, and it can be blazingly fast, but the short distance, lack of elevation, and size of the group mean that you will get to the ocean and be disappointed … unless you win the final invisible sprint, which you won’t due to its aforementioned invisibility and Tinstman.

Did I mention Tinstman?

In addition to disappointment, of course you will also feel a sense of inadequacy and failure, which more than compensates.

There’s also a pecking order in North County and people aren’t overly friendly unless they owe you money, and then they sometimes will push you into oncoming traffic to cancel the debt. Be on the lookout for Stefanovich and Dandy Andy, two people who are actually friendly, and who are well regarded as the only people on the ride who once almost came close to barely being slightly faster than Tinstman that day he was home in bed with a cold. Both will lend you money or a GPS coordinate in a pinch, but both will be so far ahead of you that, well, they won’t.

Of course you’ll be tooling up to the start in the Swankmobile, and everyone knows Team Mercedes UPV, so it’s not as if you’ll be pelted with raw eggs. And if you are, whatever you do, don’t retaliate by hitting them with your empty syringes. In general they take this ride very seriously and don’t like it if you show up and tear their legs off.

But then, who does?

Unfortunately, although I’ll be in the van and available to do mortuary runs, casket pick-ups and drop-offs, massages (I’ll wear rubber gloves to cover my bleeding, open sores), mouth-to-mouth, CPR, and some crack mechanical skills (changed a front flat last week in .03 days), you won’t have anyone to hold your hand or refill your sippy cup or change your didy until the ride finishes. Be safe, enjoy the new terrain, and DO NOT FORGET to add me as the beneficiary to your policy.

I promise to take lots of photos beforehand that showcase you primped, pimped, and ready to roll. After-ride photos will be discretionary depending on how many limbs you return with. Also, please don’t finish up telling me that “It’s the hardest ride you’ve ever done,” because all that means is that you haven’t done the Carlsbad Wednesday Ride.

If something happens during the ride, my cell phone is (424) 301-9118. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you no later than Tuesday.

We got to Encinitas and they all rode off to their doom. I settled down at a cozy coffee shop, read a book, napped, and had a wonderful morning chatting with a young lady named Merlin, who, she said, was studying to be a witch. “Isn’t that a wizard’s name?” I asked.

“It used to be, but it’s all gender neutral now. You have witches named ‘Merlin’ and wizards named ‘Hilda.’ Actually, you have a lot of male witches now.”

“You do?”

“Yes. Better clothing options.” She stuck out a leg that was covered in black fishnet and had sequins along the inside of her thigh that spelled out “Broomrider.” She was also reading a book called “How to Get to Heaven.”

“Is that a good book for a witch?” I asked. “And don’t they already have a book about that called the Bible?”

“Oh, yes. But this one has all the shortcuts.”

“Shortcuts?”

“Yes. The Bible is old school. Love your neighbor and money is the root of all evil and that stuff. Takes forever and everyone agrees that it’s no fun at all.”

“What are the shortcuts?”

“Well, it says here that you can get all the Heaven points you need by giving some spare change to a homeless person.”

“Heaven points?”

“Sure. This book explains that Heaven goes by a points system. You need 150 points to get in. Donating spare change is worth 2o points, and once you get to 150 you can do whatever you want.”

“Kind of like being Catholic?”

“What’s that?” she asked. Then she brightened. “You’re not homeless by any chance, are you?”

I squinted hard at her and went back to my book.

A couple of hours later the troops returned looking awful, as they muttered, rather incoherently, “PR” and “Strava trinket” and “Fucking Tinstman” and “Fucking Thurlow” and “Fucking Snotnosed Lux Punk” and “Ouch” and “Almost got dropped” and “More testosterone gel” and “Jill Easter” and “Invisible fucking sprints” and “Oof” and “Stupid ride” and “Fuck I’m wrecked” and “Coffee” and of course Th Surfer Dan, who said the only complete sentence, which was “Four slices of pepperoni and a foot-long bacon-steak subway sandwich with marinara sauce, please.”

I looked at their broken visages and salted down appendages and hollowed out cheeks and straggly hair and bony bent shoulders and thought that it was pretty much the best ride I’d never done.

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 20: Proper rest is key

September 2, 2016 § 27 Comments

I admit it.

I’m tired, tired like a worn out shoe. (*Note: In Chinese “worn out shoe” is colloquial for a prostitute, so as Knoll would say, there’s that.)

I’m not just physically tired from cycling, blogging, and blogging about cycling, but my brain is also pooped. Focusing on withholding Strava kudos has been tough this year (0 given so far), not to mention the exhausting self-recriminations that come from failing to analyze a single byte of data.

Mostly, though, I’ve been ground down by my charging schedule. Every day I’ve had to swap and recharge batteries for the rear-facing GoPro, recharge the Serfas Retinakiller, recharge the NiteRider Eyeblinder, recharge the Diablo Seizure, recharge the Cycliq Collisionwitness, and every Saturday power up the front derailleur battery and then the rear derailleur battery, and make sure that the wireless earbuds are also fully charged so that I can hear bits and pieces of Lesson 26 (“You Are Almost Becoming A China Hand”–true title) in between the howling gusts of non-CatEars-blocked-wind that chop up the recording.

When I think back on the records I didn’t keep for this past racing season, it’s clear that I rode too much, achieved too little, and was blatantly snookered out of several top-20 finishes at Telo, including the infamous lap-cheating incident that resulted in me getting into an argument with a person posing as a dog on Faceboook.

But there are more indicia that it’s time for a break. Death threats from the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, Molotov cocktails lobbed into the apartment swimming pool, and suspicious packages covered with white powder have gotten me down, not to mention having to listen to angry Crest residents complain about “domestics” getting their windshields broken by the heads and bodies of oncoming cyclists.

Fortunately, now is the perfect time to rest and I began my off-season on Wednesday, coinciding with a viral infection that has kept me prone and covered in funny-looking sores. During this time I’ve been able to plot the perfect off-season schedule. If you’re suffering from burnout, take a look and feel free to copy if you want to. It may be just what the witch doctor ordered.

  1. Wednesday: Sleep. Eat ice cream. Light 1-hr. spin on the trainer for off-season recovery.
  2. Thursday: Sleep. More ice cream. Make a special energy shake with peanut butter, almonds, milk, raw eggs, cocoa powder, and bananas. Run to bathroom. Light 1.5-hr. spin on the trainer for off-season recovery. Run back to bathroom. blender_food_2
  3. Friday: Get up at 5:00 to prepare for 5:30 AM German lesson with Silke. Learn the different ways they say “whipping cream” in Austria. Moderate 2-hr. spin on the trainer for off-season recovery.
  4. Saturday: Attend Swami’s ride as team soigneur. Drink coffee. Read confusing articles about Chinese grammar, in English. Alternate light-medium-intense 2.5-hr. session on the trainer, conclude with 30-min. cooldown for off-season recovery.
  5. Sunday: Birdwatching + coffee. 3-hr. session on the trainer. Easy except for last 115 minutes, spin at the beginning for off-season recovery.
  6. Monday: Holiday Ride. Full gas, 3.5-hr. cool down for off-season recovery.
  7. Tuesday: NPR. 2-min. intervals x 30, light 4-hr. spin on the trainer for off-season recovery.
  8. Wednesday: Return to normal race preparation of 18+ hrs./week profamateur full-gas training schedule + intervals, sprunt workouts, long distance/high intensity mileage.

I’m already feeling pretty rejuvenated and it’s only Friday. Take a page from the training Bible and pray. Hard.

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We are concerned about cyclist safety

September 1, 2016 § 24 Comments

This was the claim of the entitled NIMBYs in Rancho Palos Verdes last month who advocated banning cyclists from public roads. They are a splinter, ALT-Trump group of ultra-socialists, i.e. people who believe the means of production should be subjugated to the wants of the lazy class, and they have their counterpart further down the hill in the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch.

They are concerned about cyclist safety, they say, as they focus on regulating every behavior but their own to achieve their life’s motoring goal, which is to have as much empty pavement in front of them as possible, paid for with other people’s tax money. They are the people who scream incessantly about cyclists who run stop signs but who don’t even know that the 3-foot passing law exists.

My response when they insincerely claim to be concerned about safety? No, you aren’t.

You don’t give a rat’s ass about cyclists, cyclist safety, or anything other than squelching the cognitive dissonance you feel at seeing strangers pedaling happiness machines on “your” roads because inside you are a miserable, envious, unfit, unhappy sack of tax dodges.

You don’t care if people get hit, killed, injured, maimed, terrorized, or traumatized, and you don’t care if the collateral wreckage includes kids who grow up without parents, spouses who spend years or decades caring for the shattered mind and body of a loved one, or individuals who get, in an instant, reduced from active, healthy, productive lives into badly broken, dependent shells.

Fortunately, in a couple of weeks you will have the opportunity to prove me wrong. The same stamping, champing, foaming, finger-pointing lardasses and potbellies who railed against Big Orange at the last Rancho Palos Verdes City Council meeting will have their second of six chances to actually do something about cyclist safety thanks, of course, to Big Orange, the group they so hate for insisting on doing something for cyclist safety that actually includes cyclist input.

On October 8, a Saturday that conflicts with football, pre-football, post-football, and, worst of all for the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, a 2:30 PM start time, which gives them only twelve minutes to put on sandals, roll off the couch, eat some dry Cheerios, and drive to the El Segundo Public Library, a place filled with books, (after filling up with mom’s gas card), yes, on October 8 Big Orange will sponsor its second Cycling Savvy course, taught by none other than Gary Cziko, Dude Who Used To Ride The NPR With A Giant Sign On The Back Of His Bike Saying “Bikes May Use Full Lane.”

That dude.

The Cycling Savvy course teaches bikers how to safely ride their bikes in traffic. But it does something else. It teaches cyclists, who also happen to be cagers most of the time, how to safely drive their 4,000-pound inflammable steel cages in the vicinity of underwear-clad people pedaling happiness machines.

In other words, every worthless Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, and every dishrag-for-a-brain, bike hating NIMBY atop Crest has the opportunity to come and see what real cyclist safety measures look like. What they’ll find is that bike riders are ordinary people who just want to keep pedaling their happiness machines, and what they’ll also get is a sense for is how easy it is to accommodate the underwear-clad class without even being late to check out the shitty surf at the bluffs and key someone’s car who hasn’t yet heard that Lunada Bay doesn’t like you.

Oh, and it’s free, just be sure to get there at 2:00 PM (course begins at 2:30) because seating is limited and the venue will fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Courtesy of Big Orange.

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10 ways to get worse on a bike

August 31, 2016 § 22 Comments

There is a whole industry devoted to making you a better cyclist. Whether it’s coaching, tips from Bicycling Magazine, or tech web sites that tell you which component has how many extra milligrams of weight, everyone knows how to make you better.

Yet, you aren’t.

This is mostly because although there a billion ways to improve, the marginal gains for any one item are minuscule and the mental effort to do any one of them consistently is harder than doing five push-ups every morning. Sure, everyone knows that five push-ups only take a few seconds. So? The day I start my morning off with a push-up is the day I start my morning with a bullet in the forehead. My day begins with coffee, period, so GTF out of my way.

Unlike improvement tips, deprovement tips number only ten, and each one of them has a catastrophic effect on riding, and chances are you do most of them. If you never did a single improvement tip and cut out a mere one or two deprovement items, you’d probably win the Tour.

Here they are:

  1. Diets. Please stop dieting now. It doesn’t work. If you’re really overweight, dropping a few pounds might make you go faster, but you’ll be so weak and cranky and angry and hair-trigger-ready-to-kill (otherwise known as “hungry”) that you won’t be on your bike. You’ll be roaming the sample aisles at Costco with lust in your heart and there’s no fitness to be found there.
  2. Equipment. With the exception of carbon, the more bike stuff you have, the worse you ride. Take Shirtless Keith. He owns one old, rusted-out hybrid bike with fat tires. He has one chain ring (a 55). He rides in work boots. HE STILL STOMPS THE SHIT OUT OF 84.2% OF THE PEOPLE ON THE DONUT RIDE.
  3. Race clothing. Race clothing is aero but it shows your multiple tummy rolls and pinches tender places, which makes you not want to ride. You are never going to get better not riding.
  4. Riding. If you have to choose between riding and not riding, always choose the latter. Riding a lot will initially make you a better cyclist, then it will make you broke, then it will give you a weird physique, and finally you will only know people who talk about bicycle topics = LIFE FAIL. One day you’ll wake up and go, “This is dumb,” and quit riding completely, which will in turn really make you a bad rider. So mostly don’t ride if you want to ride better. Knoll rides to the guitar shop to pick up new strings once every six weeks and he does just fine, thank you.
  5. Coaches.
  6. Cyclocross. Do you know why they wear face masks and stuff when sparring? It’s to prevent getting beaten to shit so badly in practice that you can’t do the actual fight. Cyclocross is like sparring with brass knuckles and no protective gear. It will first make you tough, then unconscious, then a tube-feeder.
  7. Group rides. These are fun. So is heroin. Neither is banned by USADA because neither one makes you any good.
  8. Anything that comes in a big plastic tub. Magical elixirs that replace crucial fill-in-the-blanks operate on the proven scientific principle that there’s one born every minute.
  9. Crossfit, running, weights, stairs, anything that requires a membership or is trademarked. If you want to improve, get out there and ride your bike a little, then treat yourself to a Twinkie. Ignore everything else.
  10. Bed. That place you lie in? It’s killing your performance gains.
  11. Internet cycling blogs. If any of those clowns knew anything worth knowing, they wouldn’t be giving it away for free.

END

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What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

August 30, 2016 § 23 Comments

I sometimes run across drunk cyclists. Some of them are sober for life, some are in between drunks, and some of them are going to die drunk.

The sober drunks I don’t have much to say to. They have found their way and it was usually by wandering through a lonely forest along an unmarked, overgrown path where each blade of grass was a razor in camouflage. They don’t need any advice or support or companionship from me.

The drunk drunks I have even less to say to. They have also found their way and they don’t want to hear any atheist psalms. Plus, I’m a lousy preacher because I cuss too much and say reassuring things like, “We’re both going to be dead for a zillion billion years no matter how much we do or don’t imbibe.”

And extra plus, the most useless piece of advice is the one no one asked for.

A few days ago, though, I butted my head into someone else’s problems, unwanted and unasked for. This Terrible Drunk didn’t care what I thought but listened politely, the way words flow around a person’s outer being and elicit only a kind, understanding look, with the corners of the mouth slightly upturned, the eyes saying “Don’t try to intrude on my hell.”

I spoke a river for half an hour and never said a single dog-damned thing.

My words must have been powerful, though, because no sooner had I finished delivering my fancy soliloquized philosophized rationalized Theory of Sobriety™, than Terrible Drunk went home and got terribly drunk. I thought about that and wondered if maybe I shouldn’t go to New York, invest my entire $500 savings, and tell the stock market to go down really, really low.

It was a good lesson for me. I may be sober, but you can’t teach sober. Some people are flat fucking out to find the bottom and there’s nothing you can do to stop them. Maybe the bottom is lying face-first in a pile of someone else’s puke on skid row in DTLA, or maybe the bottom is being dead, but the elevator’s going down lickety-split and it’s not stopping on my floor.

I suppose I should be happy that I was able to get off where I did, and I suppose I should accept the fact that everyone chooses, but it’s still sad to see, looking over my shoulder, walking quickly away, afraid of what I’ve seen.

END

180 degrees

August 28, 2016 § 44 Comments

It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.

It’s harder to apologize to the people you’ve wronged.

It’s hardest of all to affirmatively do something about it.

The last couple of weeks have seen a slew of attacks on cyclists. Mason Katz, a professional baseball player, used his Twitter account to attack people who ride bicycles and suggest that their mere existence made him contemplate harming them.

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Then there was the woman who I’ll just politely refer to as the Charlotte Nutjob. After assaulting a peaceful group of cyclists she was portrayed in the first news stories as a victim.

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At least one follow-up story confirmed that she’s actually an idiot. Maybe that makes some people feel better.

And then there was the San Diego Easy Reader story, peddling lies and absurd analyses from the Cato Institute trying to argue that bike planning is irrational and we should spend more time and money helping the poor beleaguered car industry.

 

All of this followed hot on the heels of stories in which Peter King, Sports Illustrated flunky, and his flunkette driver Jenny Vrentas, made a ha-ha-ho-ho joke about driving their cage in the bike lane on the way to a football game, which in turn was contemporaneous with a tweet by NFL Network analyst @HeathEvans 44, which highlighted the irrational rage that so many drivers feel at simply encountering an ordinary bicycle rider “clogging the street,” i.e. “riding lawfully.”

But then the story line changed.

One of my Big Orange club members, Delia Park, reached out to @HeathEvans44 and invited him to come apologize to our club before the Sunday ride. “Sure,” I thought. “Like he’s going to show up at 6:30 AM on  Sunday to get berated by a bunch of old farts in orange underwear.”

“Sure,” @HeathEvans44 responded. “I’d love to.”

“Believe it when I see it,” was my cynical thought.

Yesterday morning at the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks, @HeathEvans44 showed up as promised. Delia, Joann Zwagermann, Greg Leibert, Steve Utter, my youngest son Woodrow, and I were all there.

I had prepped my son about what to expect, prejudiced as I am. “The guy’s going to be some insincere asshat who’s been hassled on social media and probably by his employer to make this right. He’ll be condescending as shit.”

What we found was something so far away from that. @HeathEvans44 was, first and foremost, appalled that he’d tweeted something that condoned violence. He was more than apologetic. His voice, his manner, and his words evinced nothing but regret of the sincerest kind. You got the feeling that here was a guy who was gentle, kind, and who wanted to right a wrong. You know the old saying, “People make mistakes”? Well, they do. What they often don’t do, is apologize for them.

In addition to profoundly apologizing, Heath admitted to not having known the law. He asked forgiveness. He praised cycling as a sport, and he had obvious, unfeigned respect for the riders who were getting ready to roll forth for the day. He was an athlete who respected fitness and athleticism.

As if all that weren’t enough, he agreed that something further needed to be done to help educate the motoring public and to help counteract the gut reaction that many people have when they see a rider “in their way.” In our short pre-ride meeting there was no time to nail down specifics, but he shared his private cell phone and promised to work together with us to help get the word out.

Finally, he stood out at CotKU while iPhones snapped and popped. I’d had no idea that so many cyclists loved football. One rider asked him where he went to college. “Auburn,” he said.

“My daughter goes there,” said the rider, rolling up his sleeve to show an elaborate War Eagles tattoo. Football talk quickly ensured. Far from rushing away as soon as he could, he hung around to chat until the cyclists themselves clicked in and rolled out.

@HeathEvans44’s Twitter tag line is “Don’t dish if you can’t take it.” Pretty admirable to see someone turn a negative into a positive, and be adult enough to reverse course when the initial tack was just plain wrong. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

[EDIT: The original post neglected to mention that this would not have happened without the work of Joann Zwagermann, who helped spotlight the problem and who relentlessly engaged. It also omitted to recognize the work that Matt Miller, also of Big Orange, did to make sure that our efforts were positive, peaceful, and dedicated to rapprochement rather than acrimony and recrimination. Thank you to all.]

END

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