March 31, 2016 § 22 Comments
We have a training crit called Telo. No one is sure what it trains anyone for, but on Tuesday at 6:00 PM we do it anyway.
Telo, pronounced “this really fuggin’ sucks,” has one main feature, wind. Huge buckets of it sweep off the coast every afternoon without exception. Yesterday the buckets were Rubbermaid Industrial Sized; I’m guessing 25 mph.
The course is a long tailwind section, a short right-hander, then a long headwind section, a chicane, more headwind, another right-hander, and back to the tailwind part. You would think that the headwind section is the worst part and you would be right.
One of the great things about the Internet and being really famous is that when you announce you’re going to be at Telo a ton of people show up. So I announced my presence and got to see what kind of weight I pull in the South Bay as a tiny group of maybe twenty-five riders appeared.
The only thing that makes Telo harder than huge wind buckets is a small field. Yesterday the field included Evens, Smasher, Fireman, Destroyer, Surfer Dan, SB Baby Seal, Hair, and Family Jules. Clearly the worst thing to do would be to attack from the gun. All I had to do was mark Destroyer and I’d make the split, which is exactly like the old Aesops’ fable of Belling the Cat. All the mice have to do to stop the cat from eating them is put a big bell around his neck. Yep, that’s all.
Junkyard, who showed up to flash lap cards, waved us off. By refusing to participate, he once again proved himself the wisest person there, although as he scampered back and forth across the course with riders whizzing by he almost achieved the Trifecta of Bike Crashes: Falling on the Road, Falling on the Track, and Getting Run Over at a Bike Race While Not Even Riding.
I attacked from the gun, if “attack” is what you call dangling 50 yards ahead of everyone on the neutral lap. However, it served its purpose, which was to make sure I felt droopy and lacticky when the real attacks began, of which there was only one, and which came from Evens, and which was into the headwind, and which everyone could simply look at and drool hangdoggedly “You go.” “Nuh-uh. You go.” “Fugg tha, you go.”
The field had about fifteen people left and they all appeared to be small and thin and useless for my purposes, which was finding a good wheel to gasp onto.
I followed a couple of hapless moves and never slipped back more than fourth wheel, all the while wondering “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Where are Smasher and Destroyer?” Nothing would happen without them, except what had happened, which was that the winning break of one had morphed into the winning group of five and I wasn’t in it.
Fireman, though, was. He had told me before the race, “Just follow my wheel and you’ll make the split.” So I followed several other wheels while he made the split and I didn’t.
As I took a few ineffectual pulls I kept wondering, “Where are Destroyer and Smasher? Gee I’m tired and exhausted and tasting that salty sour bitter stuff in the back of my throat and my legs have that ‘stop’ feeling but where are they? What are they doing? Smasher is always patient and waits until the first 30 seconds to attack but not today. Is he tired? Weak? Sick? Too much Cal-Mex queso before the ride?”
Of course I could have looked, but it’s hard to turn your head when you’re rollicking through massive pavement cracks dodging oncoming angry cagers and delivery trucks whipping out of industrial park driveways and 25-mph gusts that stand you up when you slam from the sheltered short top section into the wind and your eyes have switched sockets.
If I had looked back I would have seen D&S chillily sitting in the back not having yet pedaled. Which would have been a bad thing to see.
“When are they going to attack and bridge?” I wondered. So I slipped back and got on Smasher’s wheel, who was on Destroyer’s wheel. “Okay fuckers,” I said. “Do your worst and drag me up to the break.”
On cue, Destroyer hopped hard on his pedals and Smasher hopped with him. Surfer Dan slotted in ahead of me and it was just the four of us. First we went fast. Then faster. Then really fast. Once we hit the apex of this-hurts-so-bad-if-we-go-any-faster-my-face-will-come-off, Destroyer started going fast.
Surfer gapped, which was great because now I had an excuse. IF ONLY HE HADN’T GAPPED ME OUT I WOULD HAVE MADE IT. REALLY, MOM!!!
I watched the two of them pedal merrily off, satisfied that I now had an excuse and, since we’d slowed down, could breathe again and uncross my kidneys.
Ten riders came up to us. Everyone else who hadn’t already been dropped got dropped.
We rode the next forty minutes in a single line. Each time you got within three riders of the front the pain was unendurable. My pulls went from weak and ineffectual to lightning-brief cameos where my pull consisted of one pedal stroke, a 5-mph decrease in speed, and a wildly flapping elbow.
One by one the group shrank. Every couple of laps someone shuddered and quit. 11. 10. 9. 8. 7. 6.
This is what it must have been like to be stuck in a life raft with nothing to eat but each other, and nothing to drink but blood, salt water, and urine. When SB Baby Seal melted into a wet stain and slithered off the back with only a couple of laps to go I knew things were bad. With Hair, Boozy P., Jay L., and Surfer Dan the only people left in our pitiful chase group that wasn’t really a chase group so much as it was a don’t-get-lapped group, and with us all broken the only thing left of the glorious dreams from 60 minutes earlier, we each struggled across the line, downcast, downtrodden, filled with futility, defeat, and the reality that no matter how bad you are on a bike, racing will make you worse.
Up ahead the shenanigans had been vicious. Heavy D. and Brokeback Brokeleg had been ridden out of the break. Fireman had been worked over. Family Jules had been denied his second Telo victory despite cagey wheelsucking, sagging, pull skipping, and work avoidance of every kind. Evens had ground everyone up into fine powder. Destroyer and Smasher had attacked every lap the last five laps until one of them beat everyone else.
However, I finally realized that I had gotten it all wrong. Telo isn’t a training race. It’s a funeral train. And you’re the guest of honor.
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March 30, 2016 § 27 Comments
I was riding along, minding my own business, trying to look like a very excellent profamateur. The four riders in front of me were all very excellent profamateurs and one of them was actually a professional.
I was feeling highly excellent, as this was my second Donut Ride back after my terrible bicycle-falling-off-incident in which I tumbled off the bicycle and broke my left nutsack. We were on PV Drive North and, as I believe I have already mentioned, I was doing very excellently.
Suddenly my profamateur suplesse was shattered by a horrible grinding and clunking and thunking and greenking and scranking noise that leapt up from the throat of my rear wheel like a terrible, garlic-and-onion-and-pizza-infused beer belch that will not be denied. “Here I go again,” I panickedly thought as I stopped pedaling with excellence and my face froze in a rictus of terror as I contemplated falling off my bicycle again and re-cracking my barely healed nutsack.
The others looked back to see why I had suddenly decided to set off a string of firecrackers and I coasted to a halt. I gingerly put my foot down and saw my chain hanging limply, with pieces of my SRAM Red derailleur cage attached. I was shaking, so certain had I been that a falling-off-incident was imminent.
Destroyer began examining the expired derailleur as Holloway went back to collect the shards of derailleur. Charon somehow had an extra plastic baggie and put the pieces inside. Destroyer called Uber and in a few minutes I was on my way home.
That afternoon I got a call from French Toast Ride Director Sportif Dave Jaeger. “Dude,” he said. “I heard you broke a derailleur.”
“Word travels fast.”
“I got a brand new SRAM Red 10-speed still in the box. It’s yours. Come and get it.”
“Really? How much? I’ll need to check behind the couch cushions.”
“It’s yours. I upgraded to 11-speed and don’t want or need it. If you can warranty the broken one, I’ll take it, but if you can’t, no worries.”
I got the new derailleur and went over to Boozy P.’s. “Dude,” he said. “What happened?”
“Obviously, the SRAM Red 10-speed is highly defective.”
“Yeah. I’ve only had it for about five years and it’s only got about 65,000 miles on it. It’s practically new.”
“Of course it is,” Boozy P. said, putting down his morning beer. “But isn’t that the same derailleur you crashed on in November and ground half of the derailleur body off when you slid across the road?” He had emptied the plastic baggie and was looking at the mangled parts.
“Yes, but it’s still clearly defective. Plus, all the stuff that got ground off was non-essential vitamins and minerals.”
“All vitamins are essential, Wanky.”
Boozy P. slurped down a few more essential vitamins, then slapped on the new derailleur and handed me back the baggie. He paused for a second. “Wasn’t this also the same derailleur that King Harold had to disassemble for you on the Donut a few months ago because you’d been trying to adjust it with Old. No. 72?”
“Coincidence,” I snapped.
“Be careful out there.”
I got home and took out a padded envelope, addressed it to RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas, and penned this short letter.
“Hi, Brent. I bought this new in 2012 and it appears to either be defective or I crashed the shit out of it and destroyed it. Most likely the latter. I know it’s a long shot, but could you send it back to SRAM and see if they will warranty it for its defective failure not to withstand sliding 100-yards across the pavement at 30 mph?”
A couple of days later Brent sent me a terse text message. “Lovely package received. On it.”
A couple of weeks later a nice brown unmarked box not filled with a bag of dicks arrived at my office. Brand new derailleur.
So when people tell me that the Internet is killing their bike shop, I think about Brent and his shop that is doing so well in Encinitas that he opened another one in Carlsbad. Off the hook service is his standard, and standing behind what he sells is a principle, not a slogan. And when I think about standing behind their product and giving the customer the benefit of the doubt I think of SRAM.
Maybe Internet bike shops aren’t so invincible after all.
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March 29, 2016 § 34 Comments
Another example of how Specialized doesn’t get it. Women are cyclists and customers, not sex objects. Of course tucked away at a trade show in Berlin, maybe Specialized thought they could do their thing under the radar. Talk about a company that represents the worst in cycling. I guess if you can’t sell your bikes because they’re good, rip a page from Budweiser and sell it because you think your customers might be dumb enough to think that buying one will get you laid. By a Playboy Bunny. Right.
What I thought was a goodnight kiss to my echo chamber turned out to be anything but. One poster defended the two models by saying that it was the German subsidiary who made the decision, implying that Specialized’s HQ in the liberal, equal-rights supporting Republic of NorCal would never have done such a thing. The same person also pooh-poohed the problem by saying that other companies in the same situation have done worse, then threw down the old Litmus Test for Social Commentary: If you’ve ever [—–] before, you have no right to comment on [—–].
His defensive reaction was not out of place. One person happily commented on how he loves “tits,” another about how he loves gazing at attractive women, one about “Uptight Yanks” (he’s an American), and the old standby whenever we’re criticizing Specialized, “Cannondale does it, too.”
The women who joined the conversation mostly had in depth, thoughtful, and strong opinions on the matter, like this one, but who cares about them? I got some mansplainin’ to do, so STFU.
And my mansplanation begins with this: I’ve done and said sexist things before, I’ve purchased products from sexist companies with sexist marketing campaigns, and if I had to make a list of times that my dick has overridden my brain it would be a very long one. So you can call me a failed feminist or a hypocrite or a bored late-night blogger or whatever else makes it easy for you to discount my criticism of Specialized. But even though (you think) that chops off my credibility at the knees when it comes to making this argument, it doesn’t take away the argument itself, which is this:
Whether it’s Peter Sagan groping the woman on the podium, whether it’s the practice of having women on the podium, whether it’s unequal prize lists, whether it’s events of unequal duration, whether it’s advertising that shows sexy women on bikes who are obviously not bike racers versus men on bikes who obviously are, whether it’s Specialized’s sexist product marketing and sales, whether it’s unequal team sponsorship, whether it’s unequal junior rider development, and whether it’s unequal support at the local, state, and national level, cycling is doing a poor job of providing equal opportunity and equal respect for women.
I’ve had people tell me that women only race bikes because they’re “looking for a guy.” I’ve been criticized for offering equal prize money when I’ve put up cash primes because “women’s fields are smaller.” I’ve seen guys on group rides aggressively push women who “dared” to contest the sprunt. And I’ve heard every possible criticism of women as participants, from casual riding to big-day racing.
With an environment this gnarly, it’s unfair to pretend that Specialized’s sexism stands out. If anything, their sexism is pretty ordinary. If you want to find a company that really doubles down on sexist marketing and the objectification of women you need to look at the company founded by Anthony Sinyard, the son of Mike Sinyard, who is the founder and owner of Specialized.
Anthony, in his 30’s and not what we’d call a super successful dude, has invested in a venture called Supacaz. Supacaz makes handlebar tape, and has taken Specialized’s sex-symbol sales approach and doubled down, then tripled down.
The apple didn’t simply fail to fall far from the tree, it never even hit the ground.
Of course none of this is really surprising, as noted by another poster on my thread, a woman who wasn’t shy about slapping down the justifications offered up for Specialized’s playboy bunnies as a “mistake of the German subsidiary.”
Studies have shown that sex doesn’t sell. Many, many, many studies. What selling sex does, however, is allow the dumbasses in marketing to go home at 5pm and stop thinking about how to market a shitty product with very little appeal. And THAT is why people use sex to sell. They use sex to sell objects because they’re lazy motherfuckers with no big-picture thought patterns, no understanding of sport sustainability and zero respect for the gender they’re so apathetically objectifying and dehumanizing. Marketing departments use sex to sell stuff because they have little respect for themselves and absolutely no respect for their audience; there is no art, no creativity, no meaningful engagement. And why should there be? When so much of their audience stands up and defends such useless existence, that means that Specialized (and Maxxis and 661 and Colnago and Sidi) don’t have to. They have mindless consumer drones who will do the PR for them.
Of course, when you get right down to it, I blame Lance. Because at the very moment in time that Amgen is offering better and longer women’s events, at the very time that European classics are offering more comparable women’s races with rumblings of equal prize money, at the very time that women are becoming a bigger and bigger part of cycling and its fastest growing segment, Ol’ Yeller teams up with a sexist blowhard gambler to time-trial from Vegas to Hollywood. That what cycling’s biggest story is for the non-cycling public.
Specialized, it looks like you’re going to have to up your game, by which I don’t mean succumb to more of the sex-sells-bikes myth. People who own Specialized bikes, and companies who compete against them, recognize that Specialized makes good bikes. It beggars belief that anyone who’s making a purchasing decision says to herself, “Hmmmm, Tarmac or EVO Super Six? I guess I’ll go with the Tarmac because, bunnies.”
Nor do I believe that Specialized’s focus groups show a customer base longing for “more images of scantily clad women to go with my bike.” What they want on the road is a better product, and if they also want something better in bed, well, they’re not going to get it from a full carbon frame, even if it’s 100% full carbon.
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March 28, 2016 § 50 Comments
Cycling is a community like your family or your workplace, which is another way of saying “I can’t avoid the assholes.” But the community, despite its dysfunctional parts, grinds along like a very old Toyota Camry with 350,000 miles. It’s not very fast, it’s not very sexy, and it’s not very efficient, but it gets you where you want to go.
Everyone focuses on the Camry, its mileage, the dent in the back that you got in the parking lot and that (as of 2016) more than 23 people have left business cards under the wipers that say “Fix bumper dings! $25.” Or they focus on the driver. He’s old, he’s not very good, and he drives 65 on the 405, which would back up the freeway for miles if it weren’t already backed up for miles.
But it takes more than the driver to make the car run, just like it takes more than the profamateur old fellow bike racer to make the cycling community go. One of the people who makes our cycling community go is Sherri. And as of March 17, that’s DOCTOR Sherri to you, pal.
I don’t know how many people have gotten their doctorate from UCLA while selling crotch cream and straightening handlebars in a bike shop, but there can’t be a lot of them. And the number shrinks even more when you consider that Sherri had to overcome a minor obstacle or two, like the time her brain broke and they had to saw open her skull and put in another bag of sand.
But what I do know is this: When it comes to encouraging, to helping out, to being ready with a pat on the back and a “shut the fuck up and get back on your bike you whiny little bitch” no one’s as good Sherri. No one’s even close.
She’ll patiently listen to your 15-minute angst-filled soliloquy about 23 mm vs. 25 mm and then draw it to a close by kindly sticking the on-sale item in your hand and running your card. She’ll hand you up the water bottle as you totter towards the turnaround, dropped with a 12-minute gap and another 30-mile lap to go. She’ll be at the shop at 5:30 AM to make sure the bagels, cream cheese, donuts, coffee, and heavy cream are ready so that you’ll have a 3,500-calorie breakfast for your 500-calorie ride. She’s not only smart enough to do the math, she’s kind enough not to remind you of it.
And when you need her, you really need her, she’s always there for you with a hug and a smile and a heartfelt “You can shut the fuck up now, I’m not your mother.”
While caring for the tender sensibilities of countless self-absorbed cycling weirdos, Sherri somehow also managed to get her Ph.D. in forensic pathology. She once told me in detail what that was, but all I got was that it was like being a doctor for dead people. So it cracked me up when, after a friend announced that she had successfully defended her dissertation and passed the turkey-carving portion of her examination, a bunch of people posted on Facebag asking if Dr. Sherri would check out their this or their that.
She will, honey, but when she does she finally won’t have to tell you to shut the fuck up.
Congratulations, Sherri. I wouldn’t be able to grasp how you got a UCLA Ph.D. in four years if I didn’t know how smart, hard-working, and dedicated you are underneath all of that charm. You’ve made all of our lives better. Now get out there and heal the dead.
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March 27, 2016 § 27 Comments
New doping meats Michael Buckley of Reno, Nevada, accepted his four-year doping suspension for doping as a doped doper with grace, courage, humility, thoughtfulness, and optimism tinged with regret.
Buckley’s masters cycling profamateur agent, Hoydinck van der Leyen van Poppkorn, issued the following statement:
“Michael wants to apologize to his Specialized-Touchstone Masters teammates, none of whom dope or knew anything about doping in general or his doping in particular, his wife, his kids, and of course his mom and dad and brother Biff. This doping suspension for using dope and being a doper in no way defines who he is, his ethics, or his character. He plans to move forward to put this one-time mistake behind him and work to foster an environment where doping does not have to be an option for California masters profamateurs trying to achieve their dreams and win the 35+ Festersore RR in East Stonefuck, which has twelve entrants and a $12 prize list.”
CitSB caught up with Buckley, the doping doper meats who doped, and got an exclusive interview.
CitSB: That was a pretty heartfelt statement written by your agent.
Meats: Yeah, he’s good. Fuggin’ Belgians know how to say “sorry” for doping, y’know?
CitSB: What’s next for a washed up masters profamateur doping meats like yourself?
Meats: I’ve had a long time to think about this since December, that’s a full three months.
CitSB: One full “cycle.”
Meats: Exactly. And I want to make the sport better. It’s not right that we profamateurs have to choose, in the quest to actualize our dreams of winning the local training crit, between racing clean and being loaded to the meats on doping meats. I want a sport where you don’t have to choose. Where it’s not meats or nothing.
CitSB: Wow, that’s really impressive. How are you going to achieve it?
Meats: I’m going to start a web site.
CitSB: A web site?
Meats: Yeah. It’s called Gastrocnemia Patients Group.
CitSB: Is that even a word?
Meats: Yes. It comes from the gastrocnemius vein, one of the veins of the leg. There are a lot of people out there with gastrocnemiitis, a rare disease of the leg veins that inhibits the uptake of things you put in it.
CitSB: Uh, okay. And what does one do on this web site?
Meats: It’s for informational purposes only. How to obtain maximal uptake for the leg vein in case you’re really ill and need to put something in there.
CitSB: I see.
Meats: And I’m also going into cycling apparel.
CitSB: Do tell.
Meats: There’s a high demand for custom, bespoke, made-to-measure cycling clothing, high end stuff that is clean, fits well, lasts forever, and stands out on the group ride.
CitSB: Do you have a name for the line?
Meats: Uh-huh. That’s trademarked, by the way, so shoot me a copy of this interview before you publish it so I can have my lawyers proof it to make sure you don’t infringe on my Meatsmark.
CitSB: So why the name “Meats?”
Meats: Because it takes a lot of power to, you know, make the big meat sing.
CitSB: Are we still talking about cycling?
Meats: You know, the big meat. The big ring. That’s what we used to say when we were drilling it in the 53 x 11. “He’s making the big meat sing.”
CitSB: Got it. Singing meat. What are the first product offerings on this … Meats … website?
Meats: We’ve got the red “Extra Watts jersey” for $631 per vial, the “Recovery bibs” for $589, and the “Race Day speedsuit” for $1,550 in two monthly treatments.
CitSB: Are you on Strava by any chance?
Meats: Yes. That’s part of my marketing strategy.
CitSB: It is?
Meats: I’m going to get lots of KOM’s using my Meats to raise Meats brand awareness and awareness of gastrocnemiitis.
CitSB: Do you think people might actually be turned off by Michael Buckley, a doping meats doper who doped and got caught cheating by doping against other people who also might have been doping?
Meats: No way. People will understand that you make mistakes. Ask forgiveness, never permission. Toss in a few rebel alleycat unsanctioned races and talk a little smack, maybe get a few tatts, I’ll have a whole new career turning my life around just in time to age up for 45+ masters nats.
CitSB: Hasn’t this all been done before?
Meats: Not that I know of.
CitSB: What’s your Strava handle, by the way?
Meats: “Meatsquatch.” But you can’t write that. It’s trademarked.
CitSB: Of course.
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March 26, 2016 § 45 Comments
Everybody quits racing eventually. I know I will. Like Keith Richards, who seems to have the expiration date of irradiated food, THOG is still racing, but he’s gonna quit banging bars one day, just like Richards is going to quit banging bars on the neck of his guitar.
Most bike racing quitters wake up one day and say, “Fuck this, I’m done.” All of the facts that were so obvious to the rest of the world for so many years suddenly become obvious to them. The scales fall from their eyes. The blind see.
Bike racing travels the arc of the human relationship, which studies show is this:
- Wow, she is hot.
- Wow, I want to spend all my time with her.
- Wow, let’s move in.
- Wow, my life is now complete.
- Wow, I wish she wouldn’t complain so much.
- Wow, how come she has cellulite?
- Wow, I guess we’re just not right for each other.
- Wow, I’m so done with you can I stay here until June because I can’t afford the security deposit on a new place yet and will you take the dog?
When you quit bike racing it usually starts with money or doping or existential angst or a big crash or all four, to wit:
- I can’t believe I paid $130 to race San Dimas, spent three days away from home, tacoed a $1,500 wheel, had my 45-minute “race” shortened to 35 minutes, and watched Konsmo win the overall, the TT, the road race, the KOM, and the green jersey still fail to cover his entry fee.
- Everyone is on drugs except me, and I am, too.
- I’m a grandfather now and my legacy is going to be … 42nd at Castaic Road Race in the leaky prostate 50+ category?
- I won’t be able to walk again until November after going down in the sprunt for 12th. WTF am I doing?
Unlike the Rolling Stones, though, who do a farewell tour every few years, or the Eagles, who retire by dying, bicycle racing quitters quietly sell their excess baggage on eBay and slink away. It’s a lot like retiring from the porn industry. One day you’re swimming in three bodily fluids at once, shimmering on everyone’s cell phone, and the next day you’re wearing baggy faded jeans, a floppy hat, and joining the Sunday birding walk over at the botanical garden. You’re fucking done, or more literally, you’re done fucking.
Me, I see the handwriting on the wall. I’m never going to win a big race, and even if I did, at age 52 THERE ARE NO BIG RACES. I might win a really tiny, little, itsy-bitsy race if I can get Nick Brandt-Sorenson to make me some of his really “custom” bibs and maybe get me on a program of “ultra-custom” jerseys.
But before I quit I’m gonna do just one more race. Yeah, that’s it. Just one more.
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March 25, 2016 § 21 Comments
The popular social media running-cycling app Strava announced today that it has instituted an anti-doping policy, effective immediately.
“We’re going to go back and re-analyze every segment ever recorded,” said CEO and co-founder Michael Horvath from the company’s San Francisco headquarters. “First we’re going to use a proprietary algorithm we’ve developed to match every single segment against our proprietary Body Type Database. If the number doesn’t match the body type, the segment will be automatically flagged.
“Once flagged, the member will get an ‘Uh-oh, looks like you’re a fuggin’ cheater!’ email, and have a five-day window to lodge an appeal with the new Strava Performance Integrity Team. SPIT will review the appeal and then make a final ruling.”
When asked how many segments would likely remain in Strava’s global database of 15,923,281,066 recorded segments, Horvath responded “About six.”
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