June 21, 2016 § 10 Comments
I have recently devised the best training loop ever in the history of bicycle riding, called the Wanky Super Power Loop. I also hold the Strava KOM on this fantastic, amazing segment so please don’t bother trying to take it. In fact, since it’s my only KOM I really hope that all of you cyclists in the South Bay will be sure to not try and take it from me, as it would really hurt my feelings a lot, kind of like the time that I set a secret KOM on my home street and showed it to Eric and he went out and took it away from me the next day.
I’m not bitter about that.
Also, I trust that Wanky’s Super Power Loop will remain with me atop the leaderboard at least for the next five or nine years. However, today’s post isn’t (only) to point out how totally I crushed the Wanky Super Power Loop segment, it’s also to gin up recognition for this as, really, the best riding loop anywhere, ever. Why is it so good?
First, it has plenty of elevation but none of it is steep. This means you can use it to clear out your legs after a weekend of racing or eating donuts. It also means that if you want to go racing around as if your power numbers and Strava doodads really matter, you can do that too. In other words, it’s good for slow and it’s good for fast.
Second, it has plenty of shade. Los Angeles is not known for shade, and in the summer of the hottest temperatures ever recorded at the South Pole and an El Nino that has bleached dead hundreds of thousands of hectares of pristine coral reefs worldwide, there is a premium on trees (until you need them for a new floor, of course). Wanky’s Super Power Loop lets you pedal in comfort no matter how many people die from heatstroke over in Gardena.
Third, since it runs through a gorgeous and quiet neighborhood on the edge of Palos Verdes Estates, you will piss off all the curmudgeons who think that the street is theirs. Nothing makes a fun ride funner than waving a cheery “Good morning!” to some codger with an impacted stool who just wrote three angry letters to the mayor and donated $5 to the Trump campaign than the sight of a happy bicyclist pedaling down his street.
Best of all, Wanky’s Super Power Loop reprises sections of the infamous Thursday Flog Ride, so while you’re spinning along you can pick out the most judicious place to launch your attack or to chokingly wave “Easy week!” as the peloton rides away.
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June 20, 2016 § 5 Comments
People are different when they are on a bicycle, and it’s often difficult to know when someone is your friend or not. The guy who buys you a beer, picks up the tab, and helps you change a tire may well be the same dude who pours you through the meatgrinder, smiling.
Here are some things to look for when trying to decide whether you’re friends or foes.
- Tows you to a new Strava KOM? FRIEND.
- Takes one of your only two Strava KOM’s the next day? FOE.
- Shares his team’s secret strategy for tomorrow’s race? FRIEND.
- Uses a completely different strategy on race day? FOE.
- Offers to let you use his girlfriend for hand-ups on blazing hot day? FRIEND.
- Girlfriend “forgets” to hand you a bottle? FOE.
- Lets you sit on his wheel in a hard breakaway? FRIEND.
- Gaps you out so you both get dropped? FOE.
- Convinces you to sit at the back because “huge field, no break rolling today, save it for the finish”? FRIEND.
- Initiates and makes the winning split while you’re 98 wheels back? FOE.
- Leads you out? FRIEND.
- Takes you into the curb on the final turn? FOE.
- Buys you coffee? FRIEND.
- Buys you donuts? FOE.
- Invites you on “no-drop, fun ride”? FRIEND.
- Leaves you for dead 87 miles from home? FOE.
- Convinces you to try a bike race? FRIEND.
- Convinces you to try for a pro career? FOE.
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June 19, 2016 § 14 Comments
I have three kids that I know of. Each one of them gave me a special gift for Father’s Day, and each one of them was bicycle-related.
The first gift I received back in October, when my daughter and her son gave me my grandbaby biker.
The second gift was Ridgway’s rail. Woodrow and I had left early this morning for the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve in Huntington Beach. We had birded the little boardwalk spanning the lagoon. He lingered back on the boardwalk while I went ahead onto the trail.
A few minutes later he came up. “I have a funny bird but I don’t know what it is,” he said.
“Oh, good,” I said. “Let’s go check it out and be ignorant together.”
It was an adult rail with two black fledglings stomping around in the marsh grass. “It’s a clapper rail,” I said, pointing to the clapper rail in my book.
“My book doesn’t have a clapper rail at all. It looks like Ridgway’s rail.”
“I’ve never heard of that,” I said, “and there’s no Ridgway’s rail in my book.”
Woodrow got on his phone. “Clapper and king rail have been split into five new species,” he said as he read me the long history of the bird’s taxonomy. “Let’s go get breakfast.”
On the way to the pancake house we saw a slew of bikers on PCH. I vaguely wanted to be riding with them, but not really. Not when my son had just seen our first ever Ridgway’s rail together.
My third Father’s Day gift was a bike overhaul. My eldest son is coming home from Austria for a month, so I had Boozy P. overhaul his bike. The chain is now sparkling as only Boozy P. can make a chain shine. I told Hans about it when he called to wish me a happy Father’s Day. “Your bike is ready to go,” I said.
“That’s awesome,” he said.
“And there’s a no-drop Donut Ride that Joann started so we can go be freddies and drop and get dropped and eat donuts at the end.”
“I can’t wait to go ride with you, Dad,” he said.
June 18, 2016 § 9 Comments
My grandbaby is a complicated person but simple.
He is seven months old now and is happy when he is around his family. When he’s hungry he gets grouchy and howls for his pai-pai. Mom sticks the pai-pai in his mouth and he sucks it for a while. Sometimes he goes to sleep with the pai-pai stuck in his mouth. Sometimes he drinks from the pai-pai and then fiddles with it. Regardless, after a session of pai-pai he’s always in a good mood. Grandbaby bikers know that when you’re cranky you should eat.
When he’s doing his main business, which is exploring, he likes having his dad around. His dad will crawl around on all fours behind him so that when he looks back, there’s dad. Or his dad will crawl behind a door or around a corner and disappear. Then his dad will reappear, usually with “peek-a-boo” and a smile. My grandbaby finds this magical and funny and surprising every time. Grandbaby bikers know that everything is more fun when you’re with a pal.
In the middle of the day or maybe in the evening after he has crawled around for hours and hours and hours my grandbaby will get a bath. He loves baths. His mom or Grandma or dad will get into the bathtub with him and they will soap and splash. The water is interesting and very friendly. Grandbaby bikers always avoid being dirty and dehydrated with lots of water and a rubber yellow duck.
Most times he gets his day started with a big poop, like any grandbaby biker. He likes to poop and isn’t particular about where or when or who he’s with. The people around him are somewhat more particular, especially when they’re in the bathtub. No one likes a big evacuation of grandbaby poop while they’re in the tub except grandbaby. It’s exciting to watch the big people jump around and holler. It’s a kind of grandbaby biker attack.
His uncle is a giant, many stories tall, and my grandbaby loves his uncle. Being with his uncle is the best because his uncle will scoop him up for no reason at all and carry him off into his room at exactly the time that all the other members in the family peloton are exhausted and worn out like an old shoe. In the uncle’s room it stinks of boy and my grandbaby instinctively knows the stink of boy and he likes it. His uncle’s floor is cluttered with many interesting things and his uncle never cares if he puts them in his mouth, which he does, including socks of a certain date.
Grandma is happy and soft and very good with mushed banana. Every grandbaby biker knows that banana, after pai-pai, is the best energy food out there. Grandma’s banana hand-ups are the best and come with big smiles.
My grandbaby also likes me. I know this because he smiles at me and gets excited when I sing this little song that I made just for him:
Rin-chan got up in the morning,
He put on his shirt and he put on his pants.
He got his little shovel and he went outside,
And he dug some bugs and he dug some ants.
And the kitty went “Mew!”
And the kitty went “Mew!”
The kitty went “Mew, mew, mew!”
No matter how many times I sing this song, my grandbaby never gets tired of it, like going downhill on a smooth road.
June 15, 2016 § 16 Comments
We had six laps to go at Telo last night, which has evolved from a skull-splitting massacre by the strong of the weak into something even worse thanks to the introduction of the now-famed Telo World Championship jersey.
The rules are unclear as to whether you have to turn over your jersey if you lose, or whether former winners can wear their jersey during the race, but if you win the race you get the jersey, designed by StageOne Sports with curlicue flourishes to remind everyone that whatever else Telo is, it’s nastily windy.I showed up last night for the first time since the jersey was introduced and noticed that not only were all the hitters present and accounted for, but a Velo Club La Grange squad comprised of Austin Powers, Sausage, and Surfer Dan had shown up with the specific intent to rip the jersey off of David’s back and take it back to the west side, preferably with a few heads mounted on pikes to serve as warnings or as appetizers for Patrick Barret’s legendary barbecue.
The plan to keep my powder dry for the first thirty minutes didn’t survive first contact with the enemy, or the second, or the third, and in fact after five minutes my powder was soaking wet. The second 2:20 lap shed half the field and the third lap split the field again. Simple math suggested that if the field continued its torrid process of mitosis there would soon be no one left.
Stuck in the chase group I chased hard, which is another way of saying I sat on Davy’s wheel while he chased hard, then sat on Sausage’s wheel while he chased sort of hard, then sat on Carlos’s wheel while he didn’t chase hard at all, then sat on Patrick’s wheel while he sat on other people’s wheel, and then barely stuck my nose into the wind, realized it was blowing hard and directly into my face, and crawled back into my hole.
Soon the entire school of remoras were firmly attached to Davy’s mighty thighs, and after much sturm, much drang, and extreme discomfort, Davy dragged us back to the leaders.
Smasher and Derek attacked repeatedly and were repeatedly brought back. Then with six laps to go and everyone starting to calculate just exactly how they were going to get that pretty new jersey, I cruised into the headwind section and gradually pulled away.
I looked back and saw a huge gap which was bad. When you are old and weak and alone and in a headwind, the only possible outcomes are bad, worse, and worst. In this case of course it turned out being worst, because Smasher, Rico Swervy, and Austin Powers bridged up. Imagine being a guppy swimming happily with your other guppy tankmates and then suddenly some idiot dumps a catfish into the aquarium.
The first thing that the bridgers did, of course, is ride past me so that I had to swim extra hard to latch on. After a lap they began riding even faster. Then they began screaming at me. I wasn’t sure what they said due to the wind and my breathing but piecing each of the shouts together it sounded like this:
Smasher: …. through … catch … !
Austin Powers: Pull … you … the … gonna … you …!
Rico Swervy: … field … us … sake!
I marveled at the air from their lungs they were able to spare in order to repeatedly shout and spit at me; having none myself I endured the singularly horrible combination of verbal and physical abuse. At one point on the tailwind straightaway Austin Powers went so fast that my field of vision became a tiny dot of wheeze, not a speck wider than the 23mm of his rear tire.
Did they not know that I was 52 years old? Did they not understand that 52 is no match for 20, 30, and 40? Did they not understand that I had sprinters back in the field? Did they not understand that I wasn’t pulling through because I was totally pinned? Were they frustrated at my presence, which seemed to indicate that none of them were really all that good if they couldn’t ride away from a grandfather?
Smasher urged some more and then attacked and rode away and won.
Austin and Rico screamed and attacked but didn’t ride away, perhaps because they couldn’t. As we approached the finish they looked back in a panic. “You sprinting?” Austin begged, unaware that of all my bad qualities, sitting in a break at a training race and sprinting for second wasn’t one of them.
I said more nothing, as I’d been saying for the last six laps.
After the race Smasher was awarded the jersey as all of the dead, near-dead, and going-to-be-dead-later riders stood around and imagined themselves in that natty Lycra pullover. He smiled. He mugged. Then he singled me out: “Why didn’t you pull through?”
Everyone looked at me. “Congratulations, Josh,” I said.
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June 14, 2016 § 24 Comments
We’ve all had post-ride arguments about the “safe” way to handle a particular intersection or stretch of road when riding with our group, and perhaps the finest aspect of Facebag is its ability to get various dissonant voices all screaming at each other simultaneously while plodding through the morning email.
These discussions typically degenerate, or lead to nothing because different cyclists have such vastly different perspectives on what constitutes safety. They have different views because for most riders there is no shared platform of ideas about how to ride other than each cyclist’s personal experience.
“I’ve been riding this way since ’84,” “Don’t pull that crap on my ride,” “I never do that,” and “That’s daaaaangerous!” all represent a rejection of shared riding theories and the primacy of personal experience. In other words, people have little to no chance of ever agreeing.
In most fields there are a series of shared practices that form the basis for operating on the road, or in the air, or on the water. The same is true for people who file lawsuits, conduct medical research, build houses, or cook for a living. Only in cycling does each rider make it up as she goes along, blown by the vagaries of the particular group she happens to fall in with.
I’ve been fortunate enough to fall in with a group of cycling instructors who teach bike-in-traffic principles by borrowing from the same practices and ideas used when you teach people how to drive a car. Whether you agree or disagree, sitting through a bicycling class can have a profound effect on the way you cycle. There are different curricula for bicycle riding instruction, but all share a few core elements.
There are lots of reasons that bike instruction hasn’t taken off in SoCal. One is that it’s not mandatory. Another is that people think that because they can ride, they can ride safely in traffic. Another is because people ride for freedom, and what’s more antithetical to freedom than being told how to do something? (Hint: Getting killed or maimed.)
A bike group that operates in what is arguably America’s most challenging group ride environment, the Long Beach Freddies, spurred by the recent deaths and catastrophic injuries of cyclists in the South Bay, paid for and took a course offered by Cycling Savvy, a curriculum that teaches cyclists how to drive in traffic. Spearheaded by Scott Stryker, Bill Holford, Scott Raymond, Bill Harris, and Gil Dodson, the Freddies have begun grappling with the considerable issue of safety that is posed on every one of their M-F group rides.
This is because their route always travels for several miles along extremely congested stretches of Pacific Coast Highway where there is no bike lane, where the shoulder/gutter are filled with debris, pavement irregularities, and where for long sections riders are exposed to the door zone of parked cars. “It’s only a matter of time” was the sentiment that led this performance-oriented Lycra crowd to do the unthinkable: Take bike riding lessons from hairy-legged dorks on cargo bikes.
Cycling Savvy instructor Gary Cziko gave a tremendous presentation filled with facts, laws, video clips, strategies, and advice for how to conquer the fear of cagers and how to turn the roadway into a safe operating space. None of it involved tossing water bottles at offending cagers or the phrase “Fuck you!” The entire gang of speedsters was awestruck by the opening video clip showing Keri Caffrey, a yellow-shirted commuter on flat pedals, totally owning a fast, congested roadway in Orlando by completely controlling the traffic around her.
We all thought the same thing: “If she can do it, why can’t we?”
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Freddies are on the cutting edge of change. One person can’t change the world, but each person can change her world, and in the words of instructor Pete Van Nuys, “When you see things differently, you change the things you see.”
There are multiple levels of change required if cyclists are going to take their rightful place in the transportation network. Some of those changes are legal, some will require cager education, and in some few cases they will require infrastructure. But the one place that change must also occur is among the cyclists themselves. As Brad House loved to say, “I’m not in traffic, I am traffic.”
Taking the time to take a class, think about it, and apply it to your own regular rides will bootstrap safety discussions from “I think therefore it is,” to “This principle suggests that the best choice is [x].” And once you’re educated it’s a tiny step to asking others to take the time to get educated, too.
Shared principles among cyclists for riding in traffic that don’t include flipping off cars? Well, yes.
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