What color are your butterflies?

January 20, 2017 § 4 Comments

Tomorrow is the big day. The big ride. The one you’ve been training for. Planning for. Buying lots of new everything for, especially carbon that is always pure carbon, made with 100% all-carbon fiber fibre.

“The hay is in the barn,” as G$ likes to say, “so relax.”

BUT YOU’RE NOT G$.

So you lay out your clothes and man are you selective. Those shorts with the white rear panels that give everyone a view of the gate when the sun hits them right? Out.

That beloved-but-stained heroine’s jersey from your KOM up Kidneystone Pass? Not tomorrow. Tomorrow you have to look fresh. New. Perfect.

And you’re not ashamed to sock measure, either, laying out your six pairs of identical socks and making sure that the right and left are exactly the same height.

Bike? Buffed and spiffed, chain redolent with the smell of fresh Wend chain wax.

Tars? New front, new back, filled up with brand new air, two spares and two cartridges in case Ms. Very Bad Luck strikes not once but twice.

Glasses washed, helmet wiped, phone charged, wallet crammed with money and credit card, Barbie food laid out, bottles topped off with super power drinky stuff, Garmin charged, alarm set, you climb into bed and lie there, eyes wide open, heart pounding, butterflies fluttering without rest.

Yep, it’s those darned butterflies, and the more you skip and hop around with that big floppy net the less you catch ’em. What color are yours?

Are they gray butterflies of dread, certain that the whole thing is going to be a massive catastrophe?

Are they little pink butterflies that anxiously flap up to the door of the blast furnace and then skip back with their butts singed?

Are they terrified yellow butterflies, deeply concerned about falling, flatting, getting dropped, knocking someone down, getting lost, bonking, and pretty sure that it will be all of the above?

Are they blue butterflies of unavoidable fate, destiny locked in, the exact result unknown but who cares because it’s going to be bad?

Are they bloodshot butterflies of exhaustion, wondering how you’ll complete a 118-mile beatdown that finishes up Balcom Canyon on two hours of sleep?

Well, here’s a little secret.

It doesn’t matter what color your butterflies are.

Because everybody has ’em.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

The discomfort zone

January 19, 2017 § 27 Comments

One thing about cycling is that you eventually get into the discomfort zone. It’s different for every rider. For some it means >1% incline. For some it means any road anywhere near a car. For some it means descending Mt. Suicide at 60 mph with your hands off the bars.

And then in SoCal, for almost everyone it means rain. A lot of riders define the rain discomfort zone to simply mean a threatening weather report two weeks out.

I get it.

Facebrag pics aside, no one’s impressed that you rode around for three hours in a typhoon, just like no one would be impressed if you woke up and sat under a cold shower for an hour. Rather, they’d think you were an idiot. And they’d be what is known as “right.”

“Back in the day,” a time period that existed only in the minds of people who weren’t actually there, the “hard men of cycling” performed amazing feats in the mud, rain, sleet, and snow … and that was just their coffee ride, before cyclists even drank coffee, or at least before they drank it with soy, or at least in the days when they had coffee for a ride instead of having a ride for coffee.

I’m far from the oldest guy out there but no one I ever knew liked riding in shit weather. Some few people did it but for the most part when the weather turned foul they worked on a different aspect of training and fitness, i.e. beer combined with chips/salsa and TV intervals.

Still, everybody feels guilty when four raindrops fall and they all go out and spend $5k on an indoor Computrainer, like they’re too weak or not good enough or too soft. And that feeling gets worse after the first indoor workout, also known as the last indoor workout, because you can’t return the thing covered in sweat and body grease, and since you live in a tiny apartment it’s your new furniture. Leather couch, nice wooden dining table, indoor trainer. Sweet.

People sometimes ask me if I have a trainer. “Yes, and we’ve been married thirty years,” I say.

But here’s the thing. I actually like riding in horrible weather. I even have a little saying. It goes like this: “THE WEATHER TELLS YOU WHAT TO WEAR. NOT WHEN TO RIDE.”

Pretty spiffy, huh?

You may be wondering what I like about terrible weather. Well, here’s what I don’t like:

  1. Being cold.
  2. Being wet.
  3. Numb hands.
  4. Numb feet.
  5. Frozen face.
  6. Wet testicles.

I rode winters in Japan for about ten years and it was always very cold. One time my pupils froze during a ride. Another time one of my friends, woefully under-dressed, froze the end of his junk. We were good friends, but not good enough for me to help bring it back to life. “You’re on your own with that, dude,” I told him.

I rode a winter in Germany where it alternated between freezing rain and rainy freeze. I rode all four seasons in Texas, including a couple of years in Houston where it rains every other day, hard. Non-Texans have no idea what that means.

Every time I pushed my bike out the door and it was raining or snowing or the trees were blowing sideways, I thought the same thing: “I’m an idiot. I hate this. Why am I doing this?”

The answer was always the same. “I have no idea.”

Then I would do the ride and get home completely miserable. One time I had to thaw out in a hot bathtub. I will never forget how it felt as the blood returned to my hands and my feet and my. You want pain? That’s pain.

None of those rides ever made me stronger, tougher, smarter, or better in any meaningful way. All they ever made me was colder, wetter, number, and dumber.

Still, this morning when the rain started at 3:00 AM and kept beating down until the minute I left, it never occurred to me to bail. Why is that?

Because when you finish and thaw out and eat a hot meal it is fun.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

How to ruin everything

January 18, 2017 § 30 Comments

Bicycling is generally a safe activity. Still, there is always someone out there who can, dog willing, turn a fun pedal into a total shit show. There was a bad crash on the NPR yesterday caused by some of the worst conduct on a bike I’ve ever seen.

Bottom line: If you are such a badass that you need to get off your bike and try to punch people out, you don’t belong on a bike. You belong in a cage on pay-per-view TV. However, I get that you really aren’t that tough, and that what you really like best is to act tough and leave everything around you broken and wrecked.

After watching the show that was put on yesterday, I’ve made a little handy-dandy set of bullet points that other people can use to ruin their local ride, and hopefully kill a few people while they’re at it.

  1. Being a Cat 3 makes you a total expert about bicycling, because you’ve been doing it three or four whole years and you won that Cat 4 race that one time and got on the podium another time and there was that time you won that prime and you always almost win the imaginary sprunt at the start of the third traffic island. Respect.
  2. Start every ride with a pack of Easy Offense Super Pissy Personality Fuses that they sell 2-for-1 at Bob’s Second Amendment Gun Shop. These burn almost instantaneously and can be ignited by virtually anything on the ride. A wobble. A swerve. A pine cone. A mismatched sock-and-armwarmer combo. Once someone sets off your hair-trigger fuse, you can go nutso. Super respect.
  3. Repeatedly yell at people. If someone yells back, light another Easy Offense Super Pissy Personality Fuse and go berserk. You don’t have to earn respect by riding at the front, upgrading, racing against your peers, winning hard races, or helping other people. That’s for losers.
  4. Never shrug anything off as if you were a grown-up. Grudges, blood feuds, battles to the death, that’s Cat 3 bike racing. That dude who called you a dick that one time? Enemy for life.
  5. Everyone respects a screamer, so never hold back. It also sets the tone for the ride. Your ride.
  6. A lot of the people on the ride are twenty or thirty years older than you are. Fuck those old wankers, they’re over-ripe for the grave anyhow, and being a tough guy means never taking into account how you affect other people, especially people who, when they fall off their bicycles and break, probably won’t heal up as quickly as you will. If they’re not dead yet you can help ’em along. They want a safe, fun ride? Get a tricycle.
  7. Never hesitate to pull over at a stoplight, get off, and rage towards the object of your ire even though you’re still drinking from a sippy-cup, wearing a diaper, and haven’t yet worn your first pair of man pants. Having six people restrain your 145 pounds of raging fury doesn’t mean you’re an immature dipshit, it means you’re a raw hunk of fighting man who kills with his hands. (Note: Don’t ever have a go at Marines like Big Steve or that ex-Special Forces dude who always seems like he’s in a good mood. You could take them for sure, but why bother when there’s easy pickings like that Cat 5 dude just learning the ropes?)
  8. All those losers who do the morning ride for a workout get up every morning and think “I can’t wait to go to the morning ride and get screamed at!” And that guy who cut you off that one time? He’s toast. And that other dude who didn’t pull through that one time? His ass is grass.
  9. Don’t be afraid to look behind you and shout at people while riding in the middle of the peloton. You have skills and plus you thought of another good name to call that guy who tried to get onto your leadout that one time.
  10. Don’t worry if, when you look back to cuss some dude out, you slam into the guy in front of you, fall on your face and break out your front teeth, knock down three other riders, destroy a bunch of (other people’s) expensive bike equipment, potentially wreck someone’s entire racing season, endanger the lives and livelihoods of the people there with a family and job (both of them), then lie on the pavement writhing in agony while people run to your aid, and while others risk their lives trying to direct the traffic that has no idea what’s going on and is rubbernecking at 55 mph  and weaving through a stopped group of 80 riders that has spilled out into the traffic lane, while you’ve ruined the ride, sent friends to the hospital, terrified everyone, called out the fire department, called out the county EMS, and generally left the whole thing in tatters. Shit happens and it sucks to be them.
  11. Post an apology on Facebag and you’re golden. Can’t they read? You SAID you were sorry.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

$15,000.00 for the pack fill

January 17, 2017 § 18 Comments

A lot of people have a lot of explanations about why road racing is declining. They are probably right in varying degrees.

My explanation is that there is no money in it for the racers. By “racers” I don’t mean the winners, although there’s precious little money for them, either. I’m talking about the pack fill, the cannon fodder. You know, us racers who pay the entry fees that make the event possible. For the pack fill, if you race you don’t have much of a chance to win money.

Pack fill like me doesn’t care. But other pack fillers do. Instead of judging them, it seemed like it was worth giving it a try by giving the customers what they want. This is a revolutionary concept in bike racing.

This year I’ve committed $15,000.00 in cash primes to Jeff Prinz’s 2017 CBR crit series. That means there are $2,500 in cash primes on offer every race, split up between categories so that there are plenty of chances to win. If turnout justifies it, I’m willing to consider more.

We tried this in the last three upgrade races of 2016 to the tune of about $5k, and the results were amazing. It turns out that racers like showing up, sprinting their guts out for prime cash, then doing it all over again. Who knew? The races were full gas as well; every time a prime was offered, which happened over and over each race, it went super hard, and the “easy” parts were still hard as nails and broken glass.

Jeff had turnout in December that was better than CBR’s spring races in 2016.

It’s weird to me that people will spend five grand to sponsor a team but not to put cash in the hands of racers. Racers remember it when you give them cash. They don’t always remember the fine print on their kit, or the water bottle they won.

The first CBR of 2017 is this Sunday, on January 22. Here’s the flyer.

fl_2017-346_page_1

Racing for primes means that other people have a shot at the glory, and it means they’re more than willing to pay entry fees and do multiple races. As one racer told me, “I calculated that I had eighteen chances to win fifty bucks. How can I turn that down?” He didn’t, and went home with $350, which paid for lunch and a spare tube.

Let’s race.

 

No expletives were harmed in this protest

January 16, 2017 § 56 Comments

Yesterday we met at Malaga Cove Plaza and rolled out our fancy new Bikes May Use Full Lane signs as part of our free speech demonstration. We held up the signs for all motorists to see, so that they could learn about the law and so that we could exercise our right to free speech.

By my rough estimate, more than a billion cars passed by, or perhaps it was a thousand or so. Many waved, a few showed the finger, and one sympathizer of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and Robert Chapman stuck his head out of the window of his rusty pickup and screamed, “Cars first!”

I pleasantly shouted back, “State law!”

He screamed, apoplectic, “Fuck you! Cars first! Whiny faggot!” summing up perfectly the grounds on which a tiny handful of people oppose the law.

The best car was a house divided, where the sour driver husband grimly shook his head and gave us a thumbs-down, while his wife enthusiastically smiled and gave us a thumbs-up. I bet she has a happy pool guy.

The great news is that standing at the intersection with a concise, easily seen statement of the law works wonders. The not-so-great news is that if you’re holding up an actual traffic sign that hasn’t been approved for installation by the city, the PVE PD will come up and threaten to cite you for violating CVC 21465. We had a civil and brief discussion with the police, who told us that it was free speech if our signs were made of cardboard, but not free speech if they were actual traffic signs. The statute doesn’t say this, of course, and we pretty clearly have the right as part of a demonstration to hold up whatever signs we want, but since the point of the protest was to educate motorists rather than be led away in chains, and since it was lunch time, we ended the protest without being fined or arrested. #winning

Our next and expanded intersection education campaign is already in the works. Thanks to all who honked encouragement, the cyclists who rode by and grinned, the entire Surf City Cyclery Team who yelled as they rode through, the high five from Gussy, and the advocates who showed up to help educate the city’s motorists.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

 

Deb’s throw a leg over ride

January 14, 2017 § 23 Comments

Debra Banks was hit by a drunk two years ago. Her ordeal was detailed in an earlier post here. I don’t know very many people who could have gone through what she endured and come out on the other end still wanting to ride a bike. But she is tough, randonneur tough, Paris-Brest-Paris tough, and for her there was never any question of whether she would ride again, only the question of when.

Everyone who gets hit by a car suffers from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. Getting back on your bike is only partly physical. It’s hugely mental. So when Deb told me that her doc had cleared her to ride again, we swapped emails, figured out a day, and I drove up to Sacramento so that we could commemorate this monumental event.

We left LA bright and early. I had never been to Sacramento before and was looking forward to all the mountains. We got there around noon and headed straight for an awesome coffee shop that Yasuko had found on the Internet. “You sure this place is good?” I asked, making a mental note of what seemed to be no mountains anywhere.

“It’s got a very good rating,” she said. “It’s called Estellle’s bakery. Itsa most famous chocolate croissant and we eat light and a coffee and still be hungry for dinner.” I wondered when I had never not been hungry for dinner.

We parked in downtown Sacramento across from the capitol. Sacramento is an amazing blend of gritty and funky, and it reminded me of Austin in the 1980’s, when the tallest building was the capitol. Sacramento has that feeling of pre-gentrification, where the funky and the gritty are creating the magic that, in a few years, will attract the burned out yuppies from the Bay Area who will kill it.

We got to the famous cafe and it was out of business. “I guess it was too good for its own good,” I said.

Down the street was the Capitol Cafe, a run down diner was part of a business empire that included the Capitol Bar on one side and the Capitol All You Can Eat Salad bar on the other side. It was a true cafe, where you could eat a full meal for a few bucks, and everybody knew everybody including the crazy vet nursing a cup of coffee and telling each customer that “Jesus is lord.”

Freed from the necessity of an appetite-saving croissant we decided to save space for dinner with a cheeseburger and fries, and Yasuko chose the diner’s equivalent of a croissant, which was a BLT. We would still have plenty of room for dinner if dinner were served at midnight.

We left the cafe and headed for the dumpster-filled alley that abutted the parking garage just in time to witness two homeless dudes get into a fight. It was kind of unique, because one of the guys coudn’t walk well and had a big wooden cane. “Someone’s going to get hurt,” I told Yasuko.

The cane-holder began the scuffle with the obligatory “you motherfucker” and hit the other guy on the shoulder so hard that his backback fell off.

“You’re the motherfucker,” the other dude said, and moved over into our line of sight so that we could see him fully, which is when we realized that this was going to be the fight of the the century because he had a cane, too. It was the Charles Sumner caning where both parties were armed.

The first dude (MF 1) steadied himsef after hitting the backpack dude (MF 2) and while he was regaining his balance MF 2 counterwhacked the shit out of him, dislodging  his styrofoam box of leftovers from his hand and spilling them onto the street.

“You motherfucker I’m going to kill you,” screamed MF 1, but by now both MFs realized that the dislodged backpack and the spilled salad kind of canceled each other out and there was an opportunity to avoid further foodshed by simply cursing some more and declaring victory, kind of like an imaginary sprunt victory at the  beginning of the third traffic island on the NPR.

We went back to the car and drove over to Deb’s place, taking the scenic route through east Sacramento, which was jam packed with the three horsemen of the gentrification apocalypse: Craft breweries, hip coffee shops, and Trader Joe’s.

We got to Deb’s and were joined by Mark, Darrel, and Kim. A sumptuous feast was served and we had the most amazing evening doing that weird thing that people used to do a lot but never do anymore. We sat and talked. For hours.

“Is it weird meeting people you only know through the Internet?” Darrel asked.

“Not any weirder than meeting people at a party for the first time. The only difference is that with Facebag friends you already know the fake stuff about their lives from their newsfeed and can go straight to what’s real.”

One of the real things was an awesome Wankmeister sculpture welded by Darrel for me as a gift, and other real things reminded me of the violent collision that had brought us all together: The shoes that had been cut off Deb’s feet in the first of countless gruesome procedures that had begun the process of cobbling back together her shattered ankle, shoes she had glued back together and planted with flowers, or the medieval external brace that had been bolted into her shin and was now a vase.

We talked and laughed late into the night, which for cyclists meant 10:30.

The next morning we drove over to Davis, where Deb and Mark broke the sad news: “There are no mountains here. It is a pancake flat valley. However, it’s super cold in the morning.”

We met up with Drew and Tuesday and rode out to Winters, where we stopped for good coffee. The day was spectacular and clear. This was Deb’s third ride and we talked about the mental and physical barriers to getting back on the bike because a lot of people simply never do.

A lot of it has to do with risk tolerance but more than that it has to do with the nature of what you require in order to live your life. For some people it’s the very existence of the risk that gives life its bite, that makes life something more than a tasteless oatmeal that you chew unenthusiastically until you reach your expiration date.

I’m inspired by people who get through to the other side, friends like Deb, like Marvin Campbell, like Chris Gregory, and so many others who get badly hurt and are able to get back on the horse. It’s partly a question of toughness but much more a matter of courage, a willingness to face fear and to power on through to the other side.

We finished the ride and were joined by Paul Thober, Darrel, and Kim for lunch, after which we selfied and got in the car for the seven-hour drive home.

Maybe that seems like a long way to drive for a two-hour ride. But to share a few moments with people like Deb, well, I would have driven twice as far.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

Rain cape

January 13, 2017 § 29 Comments

rain_cape

forecast rain, heavy. check closet. two rain capes. specialized rain cape like sieve. white plastic rain cape like greenhouse. recheck forecast. still heavy rain. post facebag. flog ride still on. derision responses. stageone notes new rain cape for sale. purchase. now $85 short in rent money. but have three rain capes. text bad judgment friend. want rain cape? wants. morning 3:00. steady rain. dread. morning 4:00 heavier rain. heavier dread. morning 5:00 alarm. no rain. joy. coffee. news. congress took my insurance. yay. better not take risks. dress. 6:00 poke nose outside. heaviest deluge since noah. push bike from under awning. instantly soaked to skin. temp 52. subtract 10 for wind chill. 42 degree cold shower. awake now. coffee wasn’t needed. descend no visibility. consider absence of insurance. continue anyway. soakage. rain cape working. chest dry. rest of body not so much. rain pelting. can’t see. arrive at flog launch. two other idiots huddled under arch. bad judgment friend has no rain gear. give plastic greenhouse cape. 6:35 pointy sharp. ride. rain pelts incomprehensibly hard, only more so. fun a concept not a reality. more rain. sadness. bodies slowly warm. slow as in not at all. six terrible flog laps. idiots senselessly cold and miserable. more sadness. la cuesta unendurable. all ascend. rain cape merely a fashion statement. only effective rain cape a roof over your head. flogging ends. rain ends. pain ends. sensations return to extreme places. can’t wait until next time.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!