Good times

December 3, 2016 § 12 Comments

Don’t ever tell a man riding a bike in his underwear to grow up. It ain’t gonna happen.

After the world’s most important NPR breakaway and tactical team imaginary victory on Thursday, we returned to the Center of the Known Universe.

At CotKU everything appeared normal. Douggie had quit the NPR early and/or been dropped so that he could arrive at CotKU first and be the first one seated in the best place in the sun with the first cup of bad Sckubrats coffee.

Since it was 8:00 AM, the Manhattan Beach moms had begun to trickle in from school drop-off, trolling for bored yoga instructors. Several important business meetings were taking place where 50-something dudes in jeans excitedly negotiated billion dollar ideas that were “gonna be the next Facebook” and “already had Silicon Valley investors super interested” and etcetera.

The line was longer than usual, which means it was pretty long. I got my coffee and came out to the bricks. Major Bob was sitting there, characteristically, and still wearing his helmet, uncharacteristically.

“Well,” he drawled. “I might as well take my helmet off.” No one paid much attention until he did. After that, much attention was paid.


Major Bob had decided, and we’re still not sure why, to give himself the feared “circle beard.” There are few things in life that are truly self-explanatory, but this is one of them. Aside from the gasps, howls of laughter, incredulity, and immediate whipping-out of our personal activity trackers to memorialize this historic event, several things became clear.

However, the clarity didn’t really appear until the photos went up on Facebag.

What became clear was that Major Bob’s circle beard was really a very clever Rohrschach test designed to evaluate how you deal with unexpected events, because nothing could have ever prepared anyone for something like this, coming as it did from a calm, even-keeled, retired military man.

Here were the reactions, and they were instructive because each comment showed not simply how they viewed the world, but how people really viewed themselves:

  1. You are awesome. It is so cool that you can do funny things and laugh along, even if it’s at yourself.
  2. This is terrible in every way.
  3. You deserve to be ridiculed.
  4. I envy the fact that you are so carefree.
  5. I envy the fact that you don’t have to go to work.
  6. “You made a bad decision!” followed by “Why am I reprimanding a grown man?”
  7. This has made you unattractive as a sexual partner.
  8. You have become famous.
  9. I love this.
  10. You are courageous.
  11. This is terrible but it is also great.
  12. “What have you done?” followed by, after seeing other posts, “This is great.”
  13. You must now shave your pubic region.
  14. Jesus would not be pleased.
  15. I am now fearful.
  16. This is lol.
  17. I love you.
  18. I was afraid to post this on my own Facebag page.
  19. Major will be angry at me for posting this on someone else’s Facebag page.
  20. What were you thinking?
  21. Wow.
  22. You look very happy.
  23. [Misogynistic epithet]
  24. I will not desert you no matter how bizarre you look.
  25. You resemble a literary figure.
  26. I do not understand your theme.
  27. This has made my stomach hurt from laughing so much.
  28. You are retired, obviously.

Interestingly, no one told him to grow up. At least all of the other children pedaling around in their underwear understood that.


The chase

December 2, 2016 § 12 Comments

I did the NPR yesterday and am prohibited from describing any aspect of it using words such as “suffering,” “hard,” “brutal,” or any other term that would qualify as “piffle.” So instead of focusing on how hard and brutal and punishing and pifflish it was, I will instead focus on some practical riding tips for all the dumb bastards out there.

You may be wondering why piffle should suddenly be banned from a blog that is essentially nothing but. One of my regular hecklers, Trolliam Stone, rightly recognizes that virtually all cycling-related race reports or recounts of sessions on the indoor trainer are nothing more than piffle casseroles and etcetera. He also coined the phrase “and etcetera.”

I have tried to point out that when you remove the piffle from a race or training report you are left with “I rode my bicycle that day,” which is hardly enough to justify a $2.99/month subscription, which price, by the way, Trolliam has never paid despite religiously reading this blog and abusing me for it and probably stealing from it in closed gay porn chat groups that I don’t belong to yet.

However, keep your enemies close, and your frenemies closer, and to his credit and etcetera, an occasional piffle-free set of paragraphs isn’t a terrible way to start the day.

So back to the NPR. I noticed a couple of things as four of us, then three of us, and finally one of us pedaled our bicycles ahead of the others in such a way as to keep them permanently behind us.

The first thing I noticed is that when you are in a small group of people, four in number, pedaling rather strenuously, you should point shit out. This is so that the people behind you don’t run over the thing you yourself have scrupulously avoided. It is like being sure the next person has toilet paper after you have dropped a few corn-studded bowl breakers down the pipes. It is common courtesy.

The second thing I noticed is that a lot of people wear earbuds when they are in a group. This is rude and stupid. If you can’t ride your bicycle without music you need to evaluate your brain. That is, why is your brain so idle and empty that it must continually be filled with the noise of other people? Why can you not pedal your bicycle and have thoughts of your own for an hour or two that are pleasing or interesting? Why must you drown out everything with your tunes?

Especially, why must you do it when the sound you drown out is crucial to staying alive or even winning? In our small group of people, whittled down to three, I tried to advise my teammate about an auspicious moment to pedal more vigorously, such that it would cause the other remaining member of our small group to be unable to pedal along with him and my teammate would pedal first across a generally known invisible finish line to accrue an imaginary victory.

Yet because he was wearing earbuds he could not hear me, and it would have defeated the stealth purpose by shouting. Fortunately, he pedaled more quickly eventually anyway.

So the point is to please remove your earphones. They are stupid and dangerous and make it impossible to hear the puking and panting of others as you pedal, not to mention admonitions such as “Rock!” “Hole!” “Crevasse!” “Coffee!” and etcetera.

The third thing I noticed is that, as we were ahead of the other people and doing laps around the Parkway, they were unable to organize a chase. Later reports confirmed that no chase was ever organized. Big Banana reported it this way: “It was like watching the Keystone Cops try to put out a fire. Grab the ladder instead of the hose. Put the fire truck in reverse and back through the wall of the burning building. Connect the hose to the gas line.”

Other reports from within the chase group were similarly desultory. “One dude instructed another dude to organize a chase. That dude then pointed to the break, which was minutes ahead and on the opposite side of the Parkway and said, ‘Chase them?'”

So it occurs to me that except for the well-known phenomenon of chasing down your teammates, which every Cat 5/4/3 rider instinctively knows how to do, I would give some suggestions about how to do it intentionally.

  1. When the breakaway leaves, do not sit up and grouchily yell, “Let ’em go!” as if you have been personally insulted and that this somehow ruins your training plan for 2017.
  2. Do not go flying off the front 10 mph faster than the group, explode after 100 yards, then slink to the back and stay there.
  3. Do not refuse to chase because you one time took that pull on OPR back in ’95.
  4. Do speak with five or six riders. Say this: “Let’s organize a chase and bring them back.” It needn’t be screamed. It shouldn’t be addressed to everyone. It shouldn’t be yelled from the back.
  5. Do get your four or five chase mates in a line.
  6. Do bring them gradually to the front. (Note: The “front” is that mythical place where you may have never personally been. It has wind and etcetera but the view is very nice there.)
  7. Do swing over quickly and allow your chase mate to pull through.
  8. After all five of you have taken a pull you will notice lots of clogstacles in 6th-50th position. They have no intention of pulling through or helping the chase. They are clogstacles and don’t even know why they are there.
  9. Do point to the wheel of your chase mate and tell the clogstacle clinging to it to let you in. If the clogstacle refuses, get on his wheel and when it’s his turn tell him to pull through. Expletives are usually required here.
  10. Do not accelerate to the front when it is your turn such that you open a 200-yard gap. This is called “surging” or “Head Down James.” It ruins the chase and ensures that your quarry will never be reeled in.
  11. Repeat this procedure until you catch your quarry.
  12. When you stop at stop lights or hit the turnaround, regroup and continue your efforts. Ignore the surgers.
  13. Eventually you will catch them and hopefully they will also be your teammates.


Well, well, well.

November 30, 2016 § 12 Comments

I’m not a giver, I’m a taker. Conniving, jealous, greedy, suspicious, malevolent, quick to seize any advantage no matter how small, a freeloader when I can be, the guy who gives the least when give he must, cunning, plotting, nefarious, in short, a racer of bicycles.

And part of being small minded and jealous means keeping careful track of my victories over the last several years, which is fairly easy because I can still count to two. And not simply keeping track of victories (did I mention two?), but also keeping track of fake victories, i.e. fake races like Telo (I can count to zero there), and especially fake non-races like NPR.

Over the years I have won the NPR group ride, yes, ponder that ridiculous statement for a while, a grand total of six times. And I’ve done the ride a bunch because it goes off every Tuesday and Thursday … and out of all that only six measly faux imaginary victories.

Of course there are many who have won NPR scads of times, but multi-repeat winners of the NPR are typically sprinters because it almost always ends in a bunch sprunt. There aren’t a lot of NPR champions who have won multiple times out of a break AND out of a bunch sprint. And with the exception of Alverson, no one has won over and over again solo.

That’s because winning out of a break is very difficult. The gaps are never big and a stop lights can easily derail the nicest gap. I’ve won the NPR out of a bunch sprunt, beating Cameron Khoury one time to his everlasting shame, I’ve won it solo twice, and four times out of a break.

It always takes a confluence of miracles for an NPR breakaway win to occur. Good riders have to stay home or have leg cancer or be prepping for a big race or you have to be on Daniel Holloway’s wheel the whole time and then he pulls off with 200 to go and lets you have it. All the lights have to be green or you have to run them. The chasers have to get stuck at all the lights. There can’t be a police escort. The wind has to be stiff so that the chasers get tired. Head Down James has to be in the chase so that there is constant surging and blowing and never an organized effort. You typically need to have eaten lasagna the night before, and it always helps to start your attack as early as possible, say, in the alley, or perhaps on Sunday.

Even with all this silliness, or because of it, NPR wins are treasured, hallowed things for most of the 200-some-odd semi-regular riders, something that most wankers will never achieve. If you don’t understand why a grown person would want to “win” an imaginary finish with an undefined finish line, risking life and limb in a crazy sprunt or suffering extraordinary misery in a prolonged breakaway, then you will never understand the ridiculousness of cycling, or, parenthetically, the incredible heights to which you can be taken by something as objectively meaningless as pedaling a bike.

But I digress.

This morning I sized up the group. There was much leftover Thanksgiving in evidence hanging off the midriffs of the attendees. Sallow faces were still in shock at having had the gluttonfest that began Thursday come to such a cruel end four days later. Tired faces from having ridden overmuch on the long weekend stared out from behind leaden eyes. Cold morning temperatures shriveled small parts. A brisk wind cut through everyone who wasn’t wearing Stage One cycling apparel. No enthusiasm abounded. Sullenness lay all around, as unappreciated as discarded gift wrapping on Christmas morning.

So as soon as we reached Mt. Chevron I did the early attack, the same thing I’d tried on Thursday and that had failed so miserably when Ramon and I drilled it along VdM only to be hauled back easily by the pre-Thanksgiving crowd. In a few seconds I was joined, then passed by Steve Kim.

Steve Kim.

Towards the end of last year he had shown up on a couple of Flog Rides and been sufficiently humbled that he never returned. We were Big O teammates but rode different categories, so although I saw him at a lot of races we never raced together much. He was quiet. Not so flamboyant on the bike. Kept to himself …

Steve Kim.

A week or so ago I saw him riding a new bike in a nondescript kit made by Eliel, the people who make the kits for Surf City. It was a Surf City team bike, and no orange to be seen on him anywhere. He was drilling it at the front of the NPR, a spot usually reserved for psychopaths. “Is that Steve?” I asked Charon.

“Yeah,” he said.

“He riding for Surf now?”


“Hmmm,” I thought. “What’s a wanker like that doing riding for Charon? Charon’s a pretty good judge of horseflesh, and except for Prez that team is a bunch of bona fide killers.” But I said nothing.

Nor did I say anything this morning, because I couldn’t. Steve was pulling into the headwind so hard that at times I was sprinting just to hold his wheel. He’d drag me along for a couple of minutes, swing over, slow down a lot, let me take a baby pull so he could catch his breath, and then come banging through again.

Before we hit Playa del Rey I looked back and the wankoton was nowhere to be seen. “This might be the day,” I thought.

Steve kept throttling it and me as we hit World Way Ramp. Each of my pulls got softer and his continued in a masterful kind of way: He’d come through slow enough for me to hop on, then ramp it up until I was simply pinned.

On Westchester Parkway a chase of five riders had started and the headwind had broken the wankoton into two big lumps. I could see Head Down James leading the charge, but it soon became clear that he had no intention of working with his chase mates and had chosen instead to surge them rather than get an even chase going. Mutiny and disarray in the chasers is a beautiful thing to behold when Steve is flogging you about the head and shoulders with unbridled fury.

By the end of Lap 2 Steve looked at me. “We might make this,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed. “Thanks to you.” This had the desired effect of making him work even harder. Even though his efforts were huge and constant, the longer I dallied and soft-pedaled and weasled and sucked wheel the more my legs came around. In another half a lap I’d be getting back to fresh, the perfect point to sandbag a bit more and then attack the shit out of him at the end for the imaginary win. The best lesson to teach an improving bike rider is that everyone hates you.

Head Down James was making ground but not enough. The chase had given up. The wankoton was broken into two corn-studded lumps floating in the bowl.

As we went through the last orange-ish light I pulled up next to him. “You ever win the NPR?”

He looked at me. “No.”

And there you had it. Lame and imaginary and delusional and fake and not-pinned-on-a-number as it was, here you had yet another guy, a guy a lot better than I would ever be, who had never crossed the line first.

“Well, you’re gonna win it today.”

I hunched over and rolled it as hard as I could, almost breaking 15 mph with the tailwind and throwing down my full 135 watts. As we approached the imaginary finish line at the beginning curb edge of the third traffic island before the second to last light, Steve came flying by.

Then, as his wheel got in front of mine, he eased off and slid back, putting me forward for the win. I eased off even more and reversed it. He eased off even more-more and it was me again. I eased off even more-more-more, and he won the imaginary finish.

We both grinned and missed a fist bump, almost knocking out each other’s teeth.

“That was fucking hard,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Good job,” I said. “You fucking killed it.”

“You, too,” he said.

Coffee this morning at the Center of the Known Universe tasted particularly good.



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Great Cyber Monday cycling deals!

November 28, 2016 § 11 Comments

I have scoured the Trumpernet to find the best cycling deals on Cyber Monday so you don’t have to! Some of these are cycling specific, some are not, but all will greatly enhance your enjoyment of biking AND your performance on the bike without busting your PayPal account which, frankly, is already broken.

Spousal/Significant Other Sex Special. Cost: Free or dinner out or a lifetime of bondage. Go get yourself a big bucket of sex. Sloppy, trimmed or wild bush, after a hot bath or covered in slime from the last off-road mudfest with Manslaughter, some partner sack time is one of the few holiday gifts that you can give as well as get.

Suitcase of Courage. Cost: Varies. From the Luis Vuitton leather matching set to the Samsonite Monkey-Tough rubberized plastic hardshell, these items will get you out of bed and on the road to the not-so-nearby hilly road race you’ve been avoiding these past five years so you can go get your sorry baby seal ass clubbed to a fare-thee-well. Paul Sherwen autographed models add $1.88.

Old No. 72. Cost: $87.50. Made by Snap-On, this giant adjustable wrench can be used to break pretty much anything. Handle doubles as a lever for opening stuck suitcases of courage or for staving them the fuck in.



USAC Racing License. Cost: $70.00. RACING NOT REQUIRED. This little beauty allows you to show skeptics that you are a tough bike racer and allows you to answer questions about the Turdy France, tell people to “HTFU,” and explain what a “hardman” or “hardwoman” is. Pronunciation key included for “Paris-Roubaix,” “DeVlaeminck,” “Merckx,” and “Erythropoietin.”

Givenchy Eww of Toilet Perfume. Cost: $70.00. This Eww of Toilet perfume is made by luxury brand purveyor LVMH, owner of Dior, Givenchy, Luis Vuitton, Hennessy, and other brands, and soon to be owner of Rapha Cycling Apparel. Your favorite hardman/hardwoman will, along with his/her new USAC license, now be able to wear the finest luxury cycling outfits complemented with that “je ne sais quoi” French essence to daub over the mild sweat you’ve worked up at spin class.

Lifetime Flog Ride Membership. Cost: Free. This allows you to show up every Thursday at the Malaga Plaza fountain at 6:35 AM, pointy-sharp, to enjoy an hour of pleasant conversation and camaraderie as you pedal around the golf course at Palos Verdes Estates. Members receive six gigantic helpings of oxygen in 6-minute intervals. Begins in early December, runs through August. Typically requires you to bring a fully-loaded suitcase of courage.

Wanky Super Socks: Cost: $14.99. These awesome socks, made by Base Cartel, will make you faster on the bike and better in bed. Cozy, long-lasting, and sewn with the South Bay insignia, everyone will recognize that you are a Force of Nature the minute you show up with these bad boys. Or, they will simply ride away.



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Really terrible throbbing

November 26, 2016 § 21 Comments

That’s what my legs are doing right now. Big, pulsing, outward-thrusting, deep-tissue pangs of low-level pain, low-low-low-grade having-your-thumb-slammed-in-the-door achiness, radiating from my thighs downward to the soles of my feet and making brief domestic violence trips to my calves, knees, ankles, soleuses (solei?), first/second/third/fourth plantar layers, then gobstopping boluses of pain back up to the buttocks, lower back, middle back, neck, and all the way back down again.

Ahhhhh … another serving of the Dogtown Pumpkin Spice Latte Ride, served up on ice with sugary sprinkles of broken glass, bits of rusty nail, and a frothy topping of blood-laced, freshly boot-heeled scrotum. If you bought it at a juice bar it would look like this:


Where do I start, except of course the starting place of any heroic bicycling endeavor, that is, Strava? Strava tells me I was something of an amazing hero, with 49 whole trinkets.

The physical reality of the seasonal Dogtown Pumpkin Spice Latte Ride told me something else, and it went like this: YOU SUCK.

It sucked from the minute I crawled out of bed and got my miserable excuse for a worthless day started with a cup of coffee, a bowl of gruel, and Chapter 34 of Book 3 of the Practical Chinese Reader, Second Edition, where I read about General Zhang’s snuff box collection, to the final nail in my coffin. You want to talk about pain? That’s some painful shit right there.

Axel Buns was waiting for me at the coffee shop, unfortunately, which meant I couldn’t go back home to bed. Emmy G. showed up on her pimping Linus cruiser at 6:40 AM super pointy sharp, looking cute as a bed bunny, to tell me that she wouldn’t be riding across town and back to get massacred and then soaked in the torrential downpour scheduled for 1:00-ish.

“It’s not gonna rain,” I protested. “You’ll be fine. Look!” I pointed at the sunny sky.

She smiled and pointed at her cloudy smartphone, which was plastered in digital images of rain, hail, lightning, snow, sleet, and dragons.

Axel and I got to Dogtown Coffee half an hour early, confirming the hard truth that cycling in SoCal is really nothing more than an extended parade lap from one coffee house to the next. Awaiting us was Dan Chapman and his camera, where he memorialized the future corpses for identification by Dr. Foxworthy at the LA County Morgue post-ride. Below are some of Dan’s awesome photos, stolen with something similar to his permission, copyrighted and etcetera 2016.

Axel and I swilled some coffee and he spoke slow enough for me to understand bits and pieces of his Cambridge English, and unfortunately all of it sounded like, “Well I say, Wanky old chap, this appears as if it will be a bit of a beating, crumpets and tea and such.”

“It’s really hard to understand that Cambridge English of yours,” I said.

“Oxford, actually.”

“Whatever. It’s all English to me.”

The ride quickly swelled to about fifty complete idiots. Our fearless leader, Tony “Pumpkin Spice” Manzella, rolled up with the royal sceptre already drenched in blood, and lowered the ceremonial boom with a slashing movement that lopped off a couple of heads and instilled the fear of dog into those who remained.

“This,” Tony intoned, “is the seasonal Dogtown Pumpkin Spice Latte Ride. If you ever call it that I will kill you. And we only have one rule: No kooks.”

“But I’m here,” I squeaked.

“Except Wanky,” he said.

The next hour was a blur of snot, tears, and sobbing as we attacked Climb Number 1. This obstacle goes straight up for a long time and finishes atop cumulonimbus. I began at the back, planning to husband my resources and then finish strong, but instead I drifted farther and farther back as everyone turned into tiny little specks far up the wall. Even Charon beat me. By a lot.

We descended at 55 mph and someone got one of those big downhill flats that sounds like a gunshot and you have to choose between looking over your shoulder to see who’s going head over heels on asphalt in a smear of bone, skin, cartilage and brains, or keep bombing the descent so you don’t get dropped. Easy call, sucker.

There was a brief breather and then we tackled the second obstacle, Climb Number 2. This was just like Climb Number 1 except it was more steep, more long, more awful, and more stained with the shattered delusions of all the people who thought that they were going to get to the top without tipping over. Having learned my lesson from the last time, I started at the back, husbanded my resources, and planned to finish strong.

In this case “strong” meant the very fastest of the last seven or eight cadavers. We looked kind of like this:

What followed was a kind of choreographed insanity: Dropping down Palisades Boulevard bar-to-bar with a churning mass of idiots who barely knew how to pedal their bikes, much less descend on them. What could possibly go right, especially with racing Ferraris blowing by in the left lane honking and flipping us off and throwing big chunks of rebar out of the jump seat and firing live rounds at us as if we were Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

Fortunately, only five or six people died, and none of them was me, so I hunkered down on Pumpkin Spice’s wheel and waited for the PCH Massacre to begin. This is a short 5-mile jaunt along the coast in a roaring paceline.

“What is a paceline?” you are wondering.

Glad you asked!!!!!

A paceline is where Pumpkin Spice ramps it up to 35 going into a bitterly stiff headwind, and everyone else sits on his wheel and whimpers. Then Cutty, Holland, Charon, Chucky Cheese, Steve K., and one or two other suckers take turns at the front while the remaining 37.3 wankers sit at the back in a big glob of pain and, shirking work like a union employee on a cigarette break, cower and hide while the Titans of the Road Do the Real Work.

One of the last pieces of Real Work occurred when Strava Jr. took a dandy little pull that caused several anal sphincters to rupture, including perhaps mine as I cowered at the back for all I was worth.

The next item on the agenda was the neutral section, where everyone casually rides up Pepperdine Hill then up Malibu Canyon Road then up the first part of Piuma.

“What?” you may be wondering “is even halffuckingway neutral about that stretch of road?”

The answer is of course that when Hamburger Hegeler dashed up Pepperdine and I followed him, acquiring all sorts of Strava trinkets as he manfully towed me around like a limp dishrag, me wondering all the while what a stiff dishrag was, when we finally got to Piuma and paused to polish our trinkets, the main group came roaring by at twice our speed and informed us that “that section didn’t count because it’s neutral.”

I observed numerous neutral strings of gooey snot and blood dangling from the ears and rectums of the passing riders and was glad that it was indeed neutral because had they really been trying someone certainly would have died.

What happened next is a terrible blur, and nothing ever really focused for long except the brief views I had of Wikstrom, Strava Jr., Pumpkin Spice, Head Down James, and various other actual cyclists sprinting away up 14-percent grades, not to be seen until the top of 7-Minute Canyon which, when done at my pace ended up being 15-Minute Canyon even with Oron Oronsky hauling me up and over like a stinky bag of fish garbage that he couldn’t get to the dumpster quick enough.

Pumpkin Spice had promised us that after shattering our spines he would treat us to free coffee at the top, and no one was smart enough to wonder how there could possibly be coffee at an armed guard shack miles from civilization on a rambling mountain road. Fortunately, there are apparently dozens of suckers born every minute, and all of them were on this ride, so after leaving our hearts and souls on the tarmac we stood around and chanted the “Masters Cyclist Lament”:


By now everyone was tired, so Holland, Cutty, and I sneaked away and got a head start on the final climb. Instead of starting at the back and finishing not-so-strong, this time I started at the front and finished not-so-strong, which meant passing lots of people on the uphill only to have them pass me again on the screaming, balls-in-your-teeth descent.

Back in Santa Monica, Rahsaan had invited everyone to the Raleigh bike shop on Main, where we would have free coffee and bagel, and everyone was quite famished and thirsty and hoping that THIS coffee would be a touch more substantial than the evanescent, theoretical, ethereal coffee that Pumpkin Spice had served atop 7-Minute Enervation Canyon.

Axel Buns, Holland, and I had some coffee and bagel and headed home. By the time I got to the bottom of the climb in PV where Eric A. had on Thursday tossed my shit into the back of his pickup and driven me home, I was pondering whether or not to go by his house and beg another ride.

The sky was lowering and the perfect no-rain day had transformed into the beginning of an ugly squall. Should I be driven home in disgrace or race up the 2,000-foot hill and beat the rain?

I chose the latter only to find out that whatever “race” I’d had in my legs was back on PCH in a gutter with the used condoms and that pink dildo that Knoll had found on a ride one time. The rain hit and it hit hard, hard and cold. I set a new PW (personal worst) getting up the hill, and arrived miserable, soaked to the bone, frozen, shaking, hungry, and thirsty from only having had one bottle of water in the last hundred miles.

I staggered across the threshold and flopped into the peanut butter jar, pulling out a fist and smearing the magic unguent across my face, lips, tongue, and eyelids.

Ummmm. Nirvana. Until next year.

Thank you, Tony.



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Pumpkin spice latte

November 25, 2016 § 10 Comments

This is the time of year when seasonal specials abound. There’s the ol’ favorite of pumpkin spice latte (what is it, actually?), and of course Black Friday that is now Cyber Monday that is really just Business As Usual.

But the best seasonal special out there really is limited edition. It happens four, maybe five times a year beginning in November.

It’s free.

You have to pick it up in person.

It really hurts.

And it tastes like vomit.

This of course is the world-renowned Dogtown Ride, a pleasant little 60-mile jaunt beginning in Santa Monica, doing a few nasty upchuck-inducing rides, then hammering on PCH, then climbing some more, then climbing a bit more, then finishing it all with climbing a bit more and some hammering on the flats until you get back to your car or your home or the intensive care unit.

The ride goes off on Saturday at 8:00 AM at Dogtown Coffee, and I make it a point to always be busy that time of year. There are some seasonal specials that you really can have too much of.

The idea of a seasonal ride is actually an amazingly great one. Too often people start up a ride which is perfect for a particular time of year, but then the ride fizzles out because what works in November doesn’t always work in March. Then the ride is buried in a graveside service that no one attends, and years later people fondly reminisce about “Ol’ Leggs Ripperoffer that did 10,000-feet of climbing in the first hundred yards.”

Since doing a ride week in and week out, or month in and month out, is impossibly hard on real work-life schedules, doing it for a few weekends in the Fall is perfect.

The Dogtown Ride, although impossibly, miserably hard, features re-groups, a welcoming vibe despite the tag line of #nokooks, and awesomely delicious coffee at one of Santa Monica’s best roasters. Just make sure you don’t have anything planned for the rest of the day that requires you to use your legs.



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The cowardly lions have spoken

November 23, 2016 § 142 Comments

A quick glance at the 2017 SoCal road race calendar confirms what anyone who has bothered to race in the last decade knows: Bike racers here don’t like to race.

In addition to the loss of Vlees Huis Road Race, the promoters of Boulevard RR have also folded. There go two of the very best races on the calendar, if by “best” you mean “challenging courses that take everything you have just to finish.” Forget winning. These races are nails-and-broken-glass tests of your physical and mental fiber.

These departures leave UCLA Devil’s Punchbowl race, Tuttle Creek RR, and maybe, if we’re really lucky, the Castaic beatdown as the only three events left on the calendar that are anything more than a parade followed by a sprint. Because the fact is that there’s no comparison to winning a 45-minute crit and finishing–yes, finishing–a grueling 60-mile road race with over 6,000 feet of climbing.

The one requires timing, intelligence, teamwork, speed, and fearlessness. The other requires that you go so deeply into the world of pain and tenacity that you come out the other end a different person. One is fun. The other is transformational. One is thrilling. The other is the essence of sport, distilled to performance and desire.

Why has the SoCal calendar become a series of crits and boring circuit races that anyone can finish? Why have the toughest, most challenging races in an already grueling sport fallen by the wayside?

Well, I hate to break the news to you, but it’s because most bike racers, otherwise known as customers, are too emotionally fragile to stand the shattering reality of getting crushed on a hilly course. It’s not that they can’t complete, it’s that they can’t compete. They equate last place with failure, getting shelled with failure, being ground up and spit out with failure. No one bothered to teach them that doing your best in a tough situation is what matters in life.

And of course, failure is the one thing that Americans are uniquely unequipped to handle. Everyone’s a winner, and if they can’t be a winner, they’re going to stay home.

That’s weird because the most epic physical and mental feats I’ve ever witnessed happened in road races and were the product of people who had zero chance of winning. I still remember Harold Martinez burning up the first two laps of Vlees Huis in service of his teammates, only to fade and stagger across the line by himself almost three hours later. Harold, the sprinter.

I’ll never forget watching Charon Smith toe the line at Boulevard and give it 100% helping his teammates fight for a podium, even though he was done after two laps.

And of course I’ll never forget the countless times I’ve been dropped, beaten at the line for 20th place, punctured while off the front in a potentially winning, last-minute move, the humiliation of throwing in the towel, or the grim satisfaction of having punched it through to the very end of a freezing day at Boulevard, one of the very last riders to make it in before the sun completely set. Frozen to the bone. Wet. Drained. Destroyed. Happy.

There were never very many people willing to sign up for the guaranteed defeat of tough road racing, and nowadays there isn’t even the tiny number that there once was. The old riders are tired of hard racing that ends miserably, and the young riders are afraid of it. Better to sprint for 15th in a crit and preen before and after than to straggle in, your face covered in sheet snot, legs cramping, bottles empty, twenty minutes down on the winner.

But the sad thing is that people who’ve made the investment in all that fancy equipment, who’ve bought all those pretty kits, who have logged all those miles, who have amassed all those trinkets, who’ve subsidized all that coaching, and who are uniquely positioned to go out and enjoy the real beauty of bike racing, are afraid to go exploring in the wilderness of pain and human limits.

They’ve gone to the brink of paradise and pulled back because their only conception of winning is being first. No one ever taught them that if you want to win, you have to fail.

Adios, bike racing. It was nice knowing you.



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