The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 12: The will muscle

July 3, 2015 § 12 Comments

The biggest muscle in the old fellow cyclist’s body is not the buttock or the jaw despite the close proximity of the two. No, the biggest muscle is the will muscle, or rather, it is potentially the biggest muscle. Typically the will muscle in cyclists is poorly developed and dwarfed by the beer muscle, the descending muscle (located in the abdomen), and the Strava muscle.

However, in order to reach your fullest potential and perhaps break the top-40 in an October upgrade crit, you will first need to enter a race with thirty or fewer riders. Failing that, you will need to work on your will muscle.

The will muscle’s most basic failure-to-flex typically occurs on rainy, cold, overcast, humid, hot, snowy, or windy mornings. By failing to flex the will muscle when there are four raindrops on your window you will remain in bed. This initial flex is more important than all other flexes of the day.

Like any muscle, the will muscle requires constant use to build and to avoid atrophy. It also requires fuel. Unlike the beer muscle, which is fed on beer, and the descending muscle, which grows on giant tins of Danish butter cookies, the will muscle only grows when nourished by positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement such as showing up on the Flog Ride and getting shelled in the first hundred yards will cause the will muscle to shrivel.

The will muscle can also be wrecked from overuse, like a normal muscle in Crossfit. The will muscle can only do one major exercise at a time, and some exercises require all of the muscle, such as giving up drinking, waking up before noon, or learning the names (middle ones too!) of your children.

In other words, there is never enough will muscle go around, so if you’re going to quit boozing, or quit wenching, or start learning Sanscrit, you can pretty much write off any other goal or activity that requires significant use of the will muscle. Remember the old American Express ad, “You can have it all!”? Well, they lied. You can’t.

The will muscle, even when highly developed, eventually fatigues and gives out when overused or when asked to do the impossible. It will also fail when you give it too big a task before properly conditioning it, like when I used to lift weights.

When I used to lift weights I went straight to the huge, massive stuff. After loading up the bar with 95 pounds of solid steel and lowering it from the little holder thingies onto my chest, I had that funny thing happen when the weight is sitting on your chest crushing your heart and you can’t lift it off, and you make that funny choking screaming noise and hope someone is watching, which they were, and if it hadn’t been for that junior high school girl who ran over and lifted it up with one hand (she was a beast) I wouldn’t be here today.

Your will muscle is the same way. Don’t ask it to do the massive 95-lb. bench press (quitting booze, etc.) before you have conditioned it with easier tasks (switching to decaf, actually listening to your spouse, not calling your boss “asshole”). In other words, work up to the big stuff.

Finally, don’t fall for the performance-enhancing stuff to make your will hypertrophic. Everyone hates an iron-willed teetotaling machine with a six-pack and a seven-figure salary.

So, start small and build up your will muscle with baby steps, such as, for example, by finding a really useful blog on the Internet that has a very affordable subscription price, say on the order of $2.99 per month, and subscribe to it.



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Return of the zombies

July 2, 2015 § 18 Comments

The stupidest ride in America happens on July 4, the infamous South Bay Holiday Ride. The lemmings begin massing at CotKU an hour early, swilling bad coffee and getting into the zone, which is never erogenous.

Then at 7:59:13, give or take a thousandth of a second, the premature ejaculation begins when some over-caffeinated Frenzied Freddie can’t hold back and shoots down Highland towards the glorious doom that awaits all but a select few. Like cockroaches fleeing a flashlight, bicyclists scurry forth from every side street and crevice along the route to Santa Monica.

By the time you hit Vista del Mar the contingent is easily two hundred weak. By the time you hit the bottom of Mandeville, it is three hundred or more. Unlike other terrible rides and mob assaults on appliance stores, no order can be imposed on the Holiday Ride unless it is with a water cannon and pepper spray, although some have tried. This is because the Frenzied Freddies are hell-bent on going to the front and “racing.”

Laugh all you want, they’ve prepped all year for their moment of glory, and each one can hold 35 mph for two hundred yards before their nutsacks explode. This creates a massive churn-and-chum effect, with the mob hurtling along at breakneck speed, led by idiots whose eyeballs are stuck to their Garmins. The catastrophic crashing from riders 75-300 in the rear is epic, as Frenzied Freddies mix with Lazy Larrys who in turn bump and grind with First Time Tommys, the whole swirling mass shedding carbon, components, helmet shards, skin, spokes, pieces of skull, and spandex with each passing mile.

One year the Governor of Palos Verdes rode to the front and tried to “set pace,” resulting in him being swarmed by hairy-legged, hairy-knuckled, hairy-toothed riders who refused to take “No” for an answer.

By the time the group has run every stop sign and red light between Manhattan Beach and Brentwood, hundreds of riders have been shed and replaced with equally maniacal and unskilled Tour de France imaginaires. Then they hit San Vicente like a giant, soft, 60,000-pound blob of shit being lobbed into the sun, as the long, very gradual uphill always invites a handful of riders to hit the front and maintain an excruciating pace on the grade.

Riders fry, frazzle, quit, cry, pee, pop, and poop all the way up San Vicente until the group is whittled down to a svelte and manageable 200 riders or so, all of whom lunge at full speed from Sunset onto the narrow residential two-lane avenue of Mandeville Canyon Drive. From there it is an 18-minute race up a 6-mile climb, with riders pushed into oncoming traffic or shoved up against the right-hand edge into the curb, into pot holes, into road cracks, onto sprinkler heads, into oblivion.

The first five hundred yards are an elbow-throwing, bar-banging, shoulder-crunching jostle because if you let one of the Frenzied Freddies get in front of you here, you’ll be done quicker than a ribeye in an incinerator. Without killing or maiming more than a handful of challengers, you have to position in the top ten wheels, as Suicide Sammys will, one after another, take killingly bitter pulls to keep the pace bleedingly fast and shear the wool from the eyes of the deluded.

At the white picket fence, if he’s there and on form, Roadchamp will take his first smash into the wind, whittling the group down to ten finalists or fewer. From there it is a root canal of attrition, finishing at the top of Mandeville Canyon in dribs and drabs of gasping human meat and shuddering bowels.

I hate this ride with all my might, really, I do. It is a 70-mile foray in horrible traffic for the briefest of beatdowns administered by people I only know by their rear wheel.

But THIS YEAR the Helen’s-Santa Monica BMW team will celebrate the post-ride carnage at the dealership on 12th and Santa Monica Blvd. with free coffee, free smoothies, free bagels, and free CPR.

So this year I’m in. See you there!



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Team Giant-Alpecin to drop “doping” slogan for duration of Tour de France

July 1, 2015 § 6 Comments

Hair product manufacturer Alpecin, co-sponsor of the Giant-Alpecin team, announced on Tuesday that it has dropped its controversial slogan, “Doping for your hair” ahead of the Tour de France and for the duration of the race in order to make sure the focus stays on the team’s athletic efforts rather than their attempts to avoid doping controls, reported AFP.

Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Edward R. Doerrenberg who in addition to having a name that no one can say or spell properly is also the managing the director for the team.

CitSB: So, that’s a really hard name to spell.

ED: Yes, it’s given me trouble all my life.

CitSB: I bet press conferences in Japan are hell.

ED: Uh-huh.

CitSB: So the team has decided to drop the “Doping for your hair” slogan for the Tour? What’s up with that?

ED: It was pointed out that “doping” and “Tour de France” might have negative connotations for some people.

CitSB: You’re joking, right?

ED: It took us by surprise, frankly.

CitSB: What were the specific concerns?

ED: There was concern on the part of the organizers that by using the slogan “doping for your hair” it was possible that some people might think that the riders were actually doping.

CitSB: For their hair?

ED: For the race. Doping for the race.

CitSB: Come on.

ED: I’m serious. That’s what the organizers were afraid of.

CitSB: Any thoughts as to why they were so prickly on the issue?

ED: It’s hard to say. One highly placed person with the UCI whose name rhymes with “Bookson” said that doping issues had negatively affected sponsorship.

CitSB: Hair doping?

ED: Performance. Performance doping.

CitSB: But isn’t Lance Armstrong riding a section of the Tour this year?

ED: Well, yes. But he doesn’t have hardly any hair left. So, no hair doping there.

CitSB: I see. And wasn’t Chris Froome pretty vocal about the absence of volcano doping tests at Tenerife recently?

ED: He did seem to think it was an issue.

CitSB: Got it. Volcano doping, bad. Hair doping, bad. Lance riding the Tour, good. Do I have it right?

ED: I’m afraid so.

CitSB: What have you come up with for a replacement slogan?

ED: We’re trying out a couple of new ones in focus groups right now.

CitSB: Want to share any of them with our readers?

ED: Sure, what’s the harm? The first one is “Doping for your muscles and cardiovascular system to illegally enhance athletic performance.”

CitSB: I kind of like it. It’s a bit long, but also succinct. Any others?

ED: “Doping in undetectable quantities to avoid detection by scientifically administered doping control.”

CitSB: Oh, that’s good. Any others?

ED: “Dope ’til you croak.” We were going to use that if they had Ventoux and the Simpson Memorial on the route. And there’s also “Just Dope It.” That was for a potential spot we were planning with Nike.

CitSB: Nice! Well, good luck, Mr. Dorkenberg.

ED: It’s Doerrenberg, atctually.

CitSB: Whatever.



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Race day story

June 30, 2015 § 18 Comments

I attacked and got away with five laps to go. Woof-Woof came with me. I had been going pretty hard throughout the race trying to cause a split, and he started taking some really solid pulls, which hurt bad. I would come through on the downhill/crosswind section, which was tough but not as tough as the turns and the uphill section, which he was taking full throttle, intent on sticking it out to the end.

Woof-Woof started yelling at me to “work” and “not be a pussy,” thereby violating the first law of sales and bike racing: If you’re explaining, you’re losing.

I started laughing as he got angrier and angrier. His best line was “If you want to ride with the big dogs you better work, goddamn it!”

“Arf, arf!” I said.

“He is one of the funniest people alive,” I laughed to myself, so much comedy wrapped up in so much seriousness over a bicycle race being fought between grandpas.

Then when Woof-Woof’s brother, THOG, and Genghis bridged to us with my teammate tucked in neatly behind, Woof-Woof began screaming and banging his handlebars in fury and frustration. His likely first and guaranteed second had just fizzled to fifth, at best.

I began laughing so hard at Woof-Woof’s curses that THOG mistakenly thought I still had more gas in the tank. This was a fatal error because I fizzled badly in the finish, and THOG had to come around a slowly imploding Big Blue Bus rather than a clean, fast lead-out.

In the end, Woof-Woof’s brother beat him (again) and Woof-Woof barely nudged by me for fifth. Afterwards he was still so angry that he came up to me and said contemptuously, “After all that work I did you were still gonna try to beat me in the sprint, huh?” Implication: Does the mouse challenge the tiger?

I smiled and congratulated him. “Good racing,” I said. “What a schmo! And such a serious schmo!” I thought.

Of course he’d been Invisible Violet until the moment of the breakaway, and I had fired several shells too many. As we cooled down THOG humiliated him in front of everyone. “Wanky’s a classy rider,” he said, looking at Woof-Woof. “Always takes his pulls.”

Compliments like that are a rare thing from the guy with the rainbow stripes on his sleeve, compliments to be treasured, even when — or especially when — you’re last in the break.

Best day of racing, maybe ever.



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Don’t skimp on the coffee

June 29, 2015 § 30 Comments

One of the great things about having Ms. WM leave town until September is that I finally control the purse, and am getting closer and closer (baby steps!) to wearing the pants.

As DJ likes to describe his approach to finances as “ratshit cheap bastard,” I prefer to describe myself as “willing to spend anything except money.”

So when we ran out of coffee it was a great time to improve on our home economy by purchasing something more reasonably priced than Trader Joe’s 28-oz. can of Organic Morning Wakeup Breakfast Blend, because $14.99 is a ton of money to spend on burnt beans.

As a pretend cyclist and profamateur opponent of Confederate flag bike races, morning coffee isn’t simply important. It is the morning. The day that begins with bad coffee gets hit with the “replay” button–I go back to bed and wait for 24 hours, then try again. The day that begins with no coffee doesn’t even begin.

So I walked over to the Pavilion’s. This is a fancy supermarket owned by Safeway, where for something that costs $1.00 at Safeway you can pay $2.00 and enjoy the thought that you are morally better and financially more stable than all of those impoverished heathens forced to shop at lesser-branded stores. I enjoyed my feeling of superiority and was only marginally bothered by my dirty t-shirt, broken flip-flops, and home buzzcut that I’d kind of messed up in the back.

I stood in the coffee aisle, first mesmerized and then outraged. Coffee cost $7.99 AND UP for a 10-oz. bag of unground beans? Are you fuggin’ kidding me? I checked to make sure the prices were dollars, not drachmas, reais, or pesos.

As I left the Starbucks and Peets shelves I moved along to the right, where name brands became less familiar and prices began to dip a bit. “Senor Ortiz’s Guatemalan Blend” for $6.99. “Colombian Superior” for $5.99. Then I left the 10-oz. bag section and hit the plastic buckets labeled with the names of my childhood. “If it’s Folger’s, it’s got to be good!” The prices were looking even better.

Then at the end of the line I came to the steel cans. Standing at the end was a small assemblage of fine coffee products made by “Pantry Essentials.” The 11.5-oz. can cost a mere $2.49.

“How bad can it be?” I wondered.

“Fucking undrinkably nastily raw-sewagish terrible,” my inner coffee voice answered.

“Yeah, but if it’s undrinkable I can toss it. It’s only $2.49.”

“You never toss anything once you’ve paid for it,” said Inner Voice.

“Ok, then I’ll drink it. It will only take a few days anyway.”

“What about your son?”

I paused. In fact I’d forgotten that the other coffee consumer was my eldest son. He was quiet, polite, clean, ate everything he was served, worked hard, and had only one small pleasure in life, which was his morning coffee. “He may not know the difference,” I told Inner Voice.

“You are Satan,” said Inner Voice, and went back to bed.

The next morning I opened the lid of the Pantry Essentials coffee. It smelled awful. I put three heaping spoons into the coffee press, because we don’t have a coffee maker. I poured over some boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes. I plunged the press and poured the coffee. The awful smell had intensified. It had the odor of something that’s been between your teeth for a few days, or that funny stink that comes out of the disposal when you’ve been putting lots of crap down it and have forgotten for a week or so to run the motor.

“Better cut this shit with heavy cream, lots,” I thought, and did.

That first sip of morning glory was gnarly. Thousands of Davidson taste buds marched off to their death with that swallow. I grit my teeth and drank the cup. “Maybe,” I said as I left for my morning bike ride — a coffee cruise — “he won’t notice.”

When I got home he had gone to work. And he had left me a note.


So, I guess he noticed.



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Let’s support Confederate flag-loving race promoters who live in Texas!

June 27, 2015 § 83 Comments

If you don’t know Brad House, you should. He’s a long-time former California resident and bike racer who operates Back on Track Promotions. Back on Track puts on a couple of races each year, notably the LAX Circuit Race and the upcoming Hotter ‘n Hell Hill Climb at Mt. Baldy.

I support everyone’s right to voice their opinion. Even people who are racist or homophobic have a constitutional right to voice their opinions. Fortunately, Brad is not letting his free speech right wither on the vine, because on Facebook he voices his support for the Confederate flag as “heritage” and shares messages that disparage homosexual equality under “Christian” principles.

Although Brad has the right to voice these opinions, I think it’s healthy for the riders that race, the clubs and volunteers that support the event, and the governmental entities that grant his permits to ask whether or not this is the kind of promoter who reflects their values. And although Confederate flag-loving, anti-gay opinions are constitutional, do they represent you? Do you want to contribute money to people who support these ideas?

Brad has the right to support a flag associated with the Confederacy. The Confederacy was an illegal rebellion that tried to destroy the United States of America through violence. The rebels’ war killed over 600,000 people, and the its aim was to preserve slavery. Slavery was a system in which white people bought and sold black people for money and legally used them as property. Under this system, blacks had no human rights of any kind. Many people believe that the racial problems we have in America today are a direct result of slavery.

If you like the Confederacy and you believe in its principles, if you think that our nation would be better today split in half, part free and part slave, and if you think that the Confederate flag represents your values, I encourage you to support Brad and his races.

But if you think that the flag is a symbol of hate and that it represents a failed, violent, terrorist attempt to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and government in order to maintain slavery — if you associate the flag with the Ku Klux Klan, the lynching of blacks, and as a symbol of our ongoing racial divide — then I suggest you stay away from Brad’s races.

More than that, I hope you share with other people how you feel, as well as the fact that Brad cross-posts anti-gay “Christian” messages while seeking support from California racers and clubs. Did I mention that Brad lives most of the year in Texas?

Many of us in the SoCal racing community are gay, all of us have gay friends and family members. Do we like Brad’s brand of race promotion, a brand underlain by homophobia and promotion of the Confederate racial hate flag?

I don’t think we do–I certainly don’t.

So rather than voting on Facebook and engaging in meaningless arguments, where Brad enjoys taunting California bike racers who are either gay, black, supporters of gun control, atheist, Democrat, or liberals, vote with your race registrations and let him know that while you support his right to freedom of speech, you won’t subsidize it through bicycle racing.

Brad can develop a successful business model for bike racing here in SoCal, where he is the go-to guy for racers who are anti-gay, anti-black, pro-KKK, and who want to wear a Stars-and-Bars champion’s jersey. Brad could even make that his business emblem so people know exactly what they’re getting.

His next race on the calendar is August 15. There’s plenty of time to make sure people know that when they give money to Brad, they’re supporting his beliefs with their money.

Pass the word on, and if you’re feeling especially energetic send a letter or two to the entities that permit Brad’s races. Who knows? They may have a black person or (gasp!) a gay one on their board. But I’m sure they’ll understand.



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Is that a pizza?

June 26, 2015 § 7 Comments

A lot of my relationships were degenerating into digitationships, where I see fewer and fewer real humans and “interface” with them more and more through texting, emails, or other inhuman forms of server-modulated, data-vacuuming contact.

Thus, we had a biker beer mixer at the Strand Brewing Co. in Torrance. It’s amazing how much more fun it is to talk to people than it is to scream epithets at Brad House on Facebag over the racist, Nazi confederate flag. In fact, live people don’t scream at all, except for when Dan-O and Lovely Laura staggered into the brewery with a half-dozen giant pizzas.

The screamer was me because it was the first real food I’ve seen since Mrs. WM scampered off to Japan and left me holding the bag, or rather the bags, containing 72 days worth of rice, pasta, instant ramen, chocolate chips, and flour. For the first few days it was kind of funny. “What are we going to have for dinner?”


“Ha, ha, ha.”

Then it got gnarly. “Hey dad, we’re not having pasta again for breakfast, are we?”


Stony silence.

It wasn’t helping that I was saving the leftovers. Three-day leftover pasta that’s been reheated twice has the consistency of old carpet backing, although it doesn’t taste quite as good.

Before heading off to the mixer I had cleared out the last handful of corn tortillas by heating them in the microwave and putting on some salt, celery, miso paste, and jam. I thought wistfully about the Nutella I’d so disparaged, gone long ago and not coming back.

When Dan and Laura came in with the pizzas I was in the middle of a story about Billy Joe Hlavinka, a kid in junior high who used to always hang out with us. He really wanted to be cool. Who didn’t? And he had a job at the Kroger’s where he’d save up money to get a cool polyester silk-screened shirt, or to get his hair cut with wings at Joni’s Hair of the Stars.

But he wasn’t cool, he was a dork. The cool guy was Danny Martin. We’d stand at the bus stop on the hot July mornings, waiting to go to summer school to make up all the classes we’d flunked so that we could move up a grade in September. Summer school was much harder than regular school because all the subject matter was condensed and because we were so extra stoned from the extra-long wait at the bus stop.

As we’d stand at the bus stop, Danny would keep his eye peeled for cute girls. When one walked by, which was rare, he’d whisper to us, “Nice ass!” We’d all nod and then confirm it with a professional knowing smile, each of us saying “Nice ass!” in turn.

Billy Joe loved it when his turn came and he’d always embellish it with “Super nice ass,” or “Smoking hot ass,” or “Foxy ass.” Billy Joe would also try to improve on everything Danny said. When Danny would say, “Cute face,” Billy Joe would say, “Cute visage!”

It’s like he spent his afternoons reading a thesaurus, which in fact he did.

One morning we were all standing there and a really cute girl walked by. She was so cute and we were all holding in the smoke from a joint we’d been passing around that everyone was speechless except for Billy Joe, who was last in line and hadn’t gotten to take a hit yet.

As she passed, Billy Joe said loud enough for her to hear, and with a knowing leer, “Nice rectum!”

The smoke exploded from our lungs as we began howling with laughter. The girl gave Billy Joe a withering look. “What the hell did you just say?”

Billy Joe shook his head, not sure why we had all fallen down screaming and why the girl was about to clobber him with her 40-lb. handbag. “Nothin’,” he said, and backed away.

Well you don’t need me to tell you what Billy Joe’s new nickname was, and every time we saw something with an asshole — woman, teacher, dog, cat, man in wheelchair — we’d whisper, “Nice rectum!” and collapse in stitches.

It got so bad that everyone at Jane Long Junior High started calling him by his nickname, and the expression became ubiquitous. Someone would get a new haircut and we’d say, “Nice rectum!” Someone would haul out a smushed tuna fish sandwich from their paper lunchbag and we’d say, “Nice rectum!” Test scores, touchdowns, getting sent to the principal, you name it, that’s how we commented on it.

When Dan and Laura came in with the pizzas I was in the middle of telling the sad end of the story about how poor Billy Joe couldn’t stand being saluted as Nice Rectum so he moved away, to Tomball, until they somehow found out about it there, too, and this was back in the day when “internet” meant you’d tangled up a couple of fishing seines.

After three weeks of pasta and flour I lunged into that sausage pizza with abandon. It was the best food I have ever eaten in my entire life, and I washed it down with copious cups of craft water. Everyone was staring at me as my chin dripped tomato sauce and cheese. I’d attacked the pizza so hard that I’d bitten my finger and hadn’t noticed the blood draining down onto the floor, where one of the brewery dogs was lapping it up.

“Are you okay, dude?” Dan asked in a worried voice.

“Vicariously watching my biker buddies drink beer while breathing in the perfume of fermented hops and bleeding over a fresh pizza? Never been better!”

Then I glanced at the brewery dog, who was looking up for some more mixed cheese-and-grease-and-blood drippings. “Nice rectum!”



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