Pure as West Virginia snow

August 17, 2016 § 32 Comments

Do you watch the Olamepics? You should be ashamed.

Or ignorant. You should be willfully ignorant.

Or in pharma sales. You should be in pharma sales.

A relative asked me if I thought anyone in the Olympics was clean. “Sure,” I said. “The lifeguard probably is.”

I can’t even get out of bed without a cup of coffee that’s strong enough to jump-start a Boeing. And you’re telling me that some dude won 28 Olympic medals clean?

Fairy tales are nice, but when there’s a huge disclaimer on the front of the book that says, “THIS FAIRY TALE HAS NO BASIS IN REALITY” and you keep citing it as the linchpin for your scientific evidence that climate change is a hoax or that Noah really did build an ark with two of everything, including all of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that hadn’t even evolved yet, I’m going to politely refer you to a psychiatrist.

In this case, the disclaimer was the admission that everyone in Russia doped, including the cleaning lady. If you were a Russian Olympian, you doped. And then, instead of booting out the whole rotten bunch, the IOC punted and let the federations decide because it would take too much courage to publicly admit what had already been publicly admitted. And we wonder why governments can’t ‘fess up to the use of chlorine gas in Syria against children? That icky old yucky truth.

The decision to let the cheaters in actually makes sense because why should we pick on the Russians when Team USA’s star track cycling Olympian tested positive less than a year ago? As punishment for his positive test he’s going to have to ride in the Olympics and maybe get a gold medal.

Or just gazing at the teenage U.S. gymnasts who have the muscular development of a 25-year-old man … that was all done pan y agua, for sure. Con esteroides.

Sports have transcended politics and become a race for human performance with no ethical or health obstacles in between. Whatever gets you to jump higher, or just gets you higher, is legit because all of the people who complain about doping are glued to their TVs transfixed by performances that are as real as pro wrestling.

Each one of those viewers is a tiny tick in a giant algorithm that says the beer and Visa ads are working. So watch away, but I’ll pass. I prefer to watch my drug cheats at the local masters crit. At least that way I can be sure that the dopers aren’t getting rich.

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The point-one percent

August 16, 2016 § 27 Comments

Here’s a quick rundown of things that have happened in the last couple of months:

  • Three cyclists killed in PV
  • Crazy road rager assaulted a man and his kid for riding their bikes
  • Friend #1 got run over on PCH in Malibu
  • Friend #2 got terribly injured by hit-and-run in San Diego
  • Friend #3 got run over in PV
  • Entire club ride narrowly avoided being taken out by road-raging Tesla
  • Group of angry NIMBYs tried to ban cyclists from public roads
  • Surfer gang member advocated death for cyclists who break traffic laws
  • Wealthy citizen compared cyclists to “dog shit”

It’s easy to think that the world has gone crazy. When bicycles are the enemy and cars are the hero, we’ve literally turned the Imperial Stormtroopers into underdogs.

Except, we haven’t.

These same last few months I’ve been riding almost exclusively in PV, ground zero for the bike wars, and I’ve been sticking to some of the most controversial residential areas where opposition to cyclists is supposedly fiercest. What I’ve found is surprising, and it’s this: Most people are friendly.

I make a point of waving and saying hello to everyone I run across. Except for a couple of incredibly sour people for whom death will be a huge relief (for them and for us), people invariably wave back and smile. I’ve stopped and chatted with Mark the Dude with the Two Giant Poodles, and Bob the 80-Year-Old Dude Who Has Run Across America Twice.

What’s more interesting is that I’ve had zero car-bike incidents. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening; video from other cyclists proves otherwise. But by and large, people in PV are fine with bikes, especially when the cyclist is highly visible.

Since I began riding with super powerful daytime front-and-rear lights, I’ve become visible at all times. A 1200-lumen flashing headlamp gets your attention no matter how distracted you are, and a 100-lumen red taillight does the same.

What’s more interesting is that some very low-grade detective work has revealed that the “horde” of bike haters in PV is actually one guy using multiple fake aliases on social media to create the impression that many in the community share his views. The police know his identity, and although he’s noxious, crude, and wants to incite trouble, he’s nothing more than a harmless crank afraid to show his face in public, not to mention a terribly inept surfer.

At their worst, people may be slightly bothered by having to slow down for bikes. But the 99.9% hardly get enraged, and they certainly don’t wish for death and catastrophic injury as the penalty for pedaling a bike. Of course the .1% that do can do incredible damage, and they have.

But most people are on our side, and recently, so are the police. And 99%? The odds could be a lot worse.

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Bikes and breakfasts

August 15, 2016 § 27 Comments

One of my teammates is named Anthony Freeman. He was national champion in BMX several times. Coming from the inner city and competing in a mainly white sport, he had a lot of experiences that might make some people bitter.

Anthony’s not bitter. He’s positive, optimistic, and always looking on the bright side of things.

A few days ago he posted about getting a new aero bike and what a difference it made, how cheating the wind, even a little bit, can affect your placing in a race. It’s true, too. Bike equipment really does make a difference in everything from commuting to competition.

Having a bike with an electric motor can make the difference between being able to commute to a job 35 miles away or not having a job. Having the right aero rig can make the difference between winning and losing a time trial. Even small things like tires or electronic shifting can make the tiny difference between reaching your goal and failure.

Slippery clothing, helmets, tires … virtually every facet of the human-bicycle combination can affect outcomes, and of course they all cost money. It’s not called an arms race for nothing.

Anthony made this point and then he took it somewhere I’ve never been before. He related technical advantages in a bike race to social, economic, and healthcare advantages in society.

Think about it. If a few hidden cables and a better profile helmet make the difference between victory and success, what kind of difference does it make to a kid trying to make it in school whether he starts the day with food in his belly or not?

Whether he has eyeglasses so that he can see the board?

Whether he has a computer at home so that he can do his homework?

What cyclist can be focused on squeezing the last little dialed-in detail out of their bike but also oppose the most vulnerable people in our society from getting the huge leg up they need at the earliest, most formative times of their lives, especially when that leg up is as basic as food, healthcare, and education?

It’s an arms race, all right. But the weapons aren’t bikes. They’re bread, medicine, and books.

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What is the toughest Saturday ride in America?

August 14, 2016 § 12 Comments

That’s an easy question for me to answer around 11:00 after I get back from the Donut Ride. Every muscle aches and I hobble from couch to bed to table and back again. The exhaustion is complete, and anecdotally the other riders who go through the full Donut ringer are likewise shattered.

I don’t know of many other regular Saturday rides that feature 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles, but I’m sure they’re out there. And the difficulty of a ride also has to be measured by who shows up. Although Mike Friedman, Tyler Hamilton, and any number of Olympians  and Tour riders have cameoed on the Donut Ride, and although there are always a handful of really good riders leading the charge, I’d think that a place like Boulder or Colorado Springs would have a much bigger regular roster of elite riders on its Saturday ride.

One Saturday ride that is harder than the Donut is the Swami’s Ride in San Diego, but only the first part, which ends when you go up that miserable climb to Elfin Forest. After that, it’s mostly rolling and the ride seems to break up as people go different directions, and it doesn’t have any sustained climbing. Maybe another criterion is how badly the group shatters? The Donut Ride always finishes the three major climbs with a tiny handful of people, and one isn’t uncommon.

The Simi Ride is supposed to be the hardest Saturday ride in the galaxy. I’ve done it only once, but a buddy flatted so I ended up cutting the course. It certainly attracts a consistently higher caliber of rider and it’s longer, but it only runs for a few months a year and I don’t recall any sustained climbing. I remember there also being a huge group so at least the parts I did seemed to have plenty of places to cower and hide and shirk and suck wheel, which are kind of my specialties.

Yesterday’s Donut Ride went very fast from the start. David Holland posted a great video of U.S. pro Kathryn Donovan as she manhandled all but the three guys who split off early and stayed away on the first climb. Here’s his video of Katie hitting the bottom of the Switchbacks and basically riding the entire field of guys–and one surviving super tough woman, Kristie Fox–off her wheel.

Katie is currently ranked 8th among pro women in the U.S., and it shows. She’s best in road races, although last weekend she pulled off a podium spot at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, a fast and furious crit, by sticking a 3-rider breakaway on a super high speed sprinter’s course that rarely features successful breakaways. Katie has an attacking style of climbing; you can see her take stock, attack, rest, and attack, until there’s not much left but stomped dicks and broken egos.

This second clip shows the early move by A., who attacks long before the Switchbacks clip above. He’s immediately followed by Matt Cuttler, and then Diego Binatena. Diego comes back to us on the Switchbacks, then ditches us again towards the end, but Matt and A. stay away. Jean-Louis Bourdevaire launches in Portuguese bend and stays in between Matt & A., and my group, to the end, which is some tough riding because nowhere is worse than no-person’s-land, especially on a climb.

This final clip shows the second climb, Homes to Domes. It starts chill until Matt gooses it hard. Everyone not paying attention gets instantaneously dropped. Those paying attention follow for a while, then get dropped. There’s an oh-so-brief respite at the top of Via Colinita as we check for traffic, then Matt and A. take turns riding everyone off their wheel. I get popped just after the wall on Crest, but by that time there’s no one even close.

I’m sure there are harder Saturday group rides, but I hope I don’t ever have to do them.

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Old guys drool

August 12, 2016 § 38 Comments

 

If you’re one of the 300,000 people who saw this video clip, you can go back to bed now reassured that the Internet did its job.

A few hours after we posted here about the greedy, violent, hostility of Lunada Bay surfers towards outsiders and cyclists, this saggy fellow from Corona del Mar showed that bullies and road ragers in Newport Beach got game, too.

And then Mr. Sagbottom discovered that videos on smart phones can quickly be uploaded to the Internet, which then results in this pathetic, babbling, self-debasing blibber-blabber which seems less an apology than a psychotic CYA self-flagellation tailored to a potential jury pool.

Yes, the Internet did its job, which, lest we ever, ever forget, is to entertain. We got the innocent victim, a cyclist out riding with his son. We got the caricature of a caricature of a caricature of a buffoon — angry, stupid, obese, dentally challenged, thinning hair, waddling, homophobic, and parroting a line from a cowboy movie, so ironic because he’s the opposite of the tough guys in the movie he obviously idolizes. Oh, and he was the perfect cardboard cutout for all that is bad about surfing and surfers, a fellow who is obviously too large and unfit to surf well, if at all, nonetheless pretending to speak for the surfing community.

If nothing else, it gave me pause to think how one asshole claiming to be a surfer can tarnish a whole bunch of people, not unlike the rude cyclist giving the finger to a housewife with a car full of little kids.

Robert Lewis gave every aggrieved cyclist the chance to happily and viciously punch the “like” button on Facebag, and to add a searing comment, piling onto a stinking heap of shit that smokes and smells just fine on its own. And then to watch the Newport Beach Police Department go from “We don’t care about this,” to “We’re taking this seriously and investigating” added a finale that was as unexpected as it was appreciated.

2016-08-12

Justice may or may not be done, but Sir Sagbottom will spend a few more sleepless nights wishing he hadn’t made such an ass out of himself.

Entertainment is fun and the Internet delivers it. For that, I’m appreciative.

But for anyone who lives or cycles or cages in the South Bay, there’s a big load of work ahead, because the city of Rancho Palos Verdes has begun work on its bike safety master plan, and it is seeking clubs and cyclists who might be interested in collaborating.

I was gratified beyond words when Chris Rovin, Marvin Campbell, Tom Duong, John Wike, Greg Leibert, Chris Tregillis, Jose Godinez, Craig Eggers, Tara Unverzagt, Delia Park, Geoff Loui, Bob Frank, Mark Maxson, and Jaycee Cary responded within minutes when we reached out for potential volunteers.

They did so without knowing the commitment or even what was involved. What they knew was that it won’t be Internet entertainment. A group of RPV residents has already belittled cyclists as the residents attempt to illegally ban bikes from a public road; one fine fellow compared cyclists to dog shit. What these cyclists know is that it will be hard, it will take time, their asses may go numb from hours of sitting (free chamois cream and Junk Jam for all) and it will stretch their abilities to compromise and find common ground. It will also likely require them to spend actual face time with a bully or two like Mr. Sagbottom.

Thanks for stepping up. It’s not YouTube entertainment with a happy ending in less than 24 hours but it’s going to make cycling a lot more fun for others.

END

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That was then, this is then–Why Lunada Bay never left the ’70s

August 11, 2016 § 25 Comments

Lunada Bay is located in the heart of the Palos Verdes peninsula, which is itself ground zero for the war on cyclists. But you’ll be surprised to know that we have all been here before. This amazing tale of Lunada Bay from a man who grew up here sheds light on the forces at play in gripping, powerful words that you won’t soon forget.

“That was Then, This is Then — Why Lunada Bay Never Left the ’70s”

By MMX

With all the media coverage of late regarding the Lunada Bay lawsuit and the ongoing saga of the Bay Boys’ gang-like territorialism over “their” surf spot and broader community, I thought I would offer up an insider’s purview on the dynamic at play—shared through an archetypal anecdote of Bay Boy bad behavior.

It happened on a casual winter day in 1983 while my friend and I were on the southern section of the open cliffs in Palos Verdes that line Lunada Bay, checking the waves from a “safe spot” on the Avalanche side of the bay that wasn’t usually patrolled by the Bay Boys. There was a younger kid, about thirteen years old, sitting along the edge of the cliff near us with his unwaxed, brand new board straddling his knees.

We didn’t think much about him except we noted that his board wasn’t from one of the local shapers, but rather from a South Bay shaper, which the kid obviously didn’t know was like wearing a blue bandanna to a Bloods BBQ. It was just the three of us checking out the surf at the Bay, when out of nowhere came a Bay Boy we only knew as “Jeff,” a feeble surfer usually looking to compensate, who walked past us in that classic Bay Boy style—low hanging pants, flannel shirt, Ray-Bans and the duck-like shuffle affectedly conveying some sort of street cred that he thought might belie his (family’s) wealth.

With a façade of genuine caring, Jeff walked right up to the kid and said in the nicest way, “New board, huh?” The kid replied with a smile, proud of his new stick. Jeff said, “Lemme check it out,” and the kid easily handed it over to this seemingly innocuous character, then began answering the soft serve of questions Jeff delivered as the board was genuinely inspected in its every detail.

My friend and I were caught off guard by this surreal interaction. It seemed so incongruous with everything we had ever witnessed growing up around this surf spot, especially with this Jeff character, who was notoriously pernicious to all but fellow Bay Boys. We pretended to talk to one another while listening to the kid answer the questions. “Who shaped the board?” “How thick is it?” “It’s small, huh?” “Why the double wings?” “What’s with the swallowtail?” “Where are you from?”

And then it happened.

Jeff began to hand the board back to the kid, but with one smooth lunge of devotion to everything his little mind and body aspired to be, the new board went hurling off the steep and tall cliff, swirling and twirling, whooping and whirling, briefly, almost miraculously defying gravity on its way to a fate usually reserved for the most battered and yellowed of old boards.

All four of us watched for what seemed like a full minute as the board unraveled its spectacular dance of death, but the instant it was out of sight, Jeff turned to the kid and said, “Get the fuck out of here and don’t ever come back.”

The kid mustered a “You dick!” before he began visibly weeping, as Jeff turned to us, the only audience he had, chuckling oddly to himself as if he had just killed a rattlesnake.

Looking back, what was most noteworthy about the incident was the style in which it was perpetrated—like some well-rehearsed routine executed with flair, pomposity, and disdain, the Machiavellian nature of the act overshadowing its cowardly criminality and symbolizing the essence of the Bay Boy existence. It was a unique affront, in that moment, in that person, in that subculture, which was lost in time but still intact in some odd radioactive way, with a half-life that radiated intensity in a self-possessed fashion with self-preservation at its nucleus.

Jeff wasn’t afraid the kid was going to surf the Bay, not that day.  Jeff’s act had a much deeper, more sentimental meaning behind it, besides making him feel taller and more potent. It was about preservation of the place, the people, the feelings, and the fraternal magic. It was about keeping things the same, about holding onto the past and the purity of surfing Palos Verdes when things had been much more simple. That kid, with his youthful exuberance and new board, was symbolic to Jeff of everything he and every other Bay Boy feared, that the newness of the modern, outside world could take it all away.

The reality that encased the PV surfer during the ’70s—the spectacle of Lunada Bay and its Bay Boys, their codes, nicknames, personalities, and demeanors—seemed to carry with it an incredible, collective, unspoken desire to hold onto something nostalgic. It was as if the Bay Boys’ customs, rites and rituals, clothes and attitudes, could half-retrieve the magic of the early days. Maybe by wearing black wetsuits, riding outdated white boards, going leashless, shunning the new, listening to the Stones or The Who or The Dead, they could conjure it all back to life. The Bay Boys were nothing more than sentimental creatures looking to hold onto something precious, a wave, a feeling, a moment, a subculture, themselves, their parents’ money.

Like the gangs that developed in East Los Angeles during mid-century, the Bay Boys were born from of a confluence of geography, sociology, and economic factors. Though they weren’t born out of repression, they were born out of possession. For all intents and purposes their parents owned the cliffs and, more importantly, the surf spots below them, which were aplenty and amazingly good during the winter months. They banded together to preserve their status quo because they could do it if they could keep the outside world off of their little island. Oddly enough, PV used to be an island; the channel between it and the mainland eventually silted up to form the Los Angeles Basin.

The Bay Boys were merely a reflection of the larger Lunada Bay culture, which has been informed by a long-held self-entitlement of the denizens of this bucolic yet small-minded community, and this includes surfers and non-surfers alike. They don’t want to share their waves, parks, roads, or even their sunset views with outsiders. Their tenets have been cultivated by an “it’s mine” mentality and by the companion idea of preserving it for themselves, and they have taken their preservation to stylistically interesting extremes.

Like real gangs, the Bay Boys have thrived on intimidation and notoriety. Many of their younger and more insecure members find cowardly vandalism or violence glamorous or necessary in order to maintain their individual status within the lineup. Like most groups, they have depended upon both individual and group participation in criminal activity that includes actual theft of the state’s coastline by constructing an illegal structure there and preventing anyone but themselves and their friends from using it.

Unlike legitimate groups or organizations, there hasn’t ever been a single identified leader. In fact, those at the top are the least likely to be involved in anything negative, leaving the dirty work for those on the lower rungs of the pecking order, spurred on by the unscrupulous members’ directives. Like other gangs, the Bay Boys have had their own hallmarks of identity: The clothes, the vehicles, the sunglasses, the stares, the music, the walk, the protocols, the P’s and Q’s. In the water, the style has been even more apparent. Besides the white boards and black wetsuits, there is a litany of behavior that comprises their style, all with an intended purpose, a saving grace, that with critical mass and less-than-critical thinking could preserve the Bay for all time for a select few who would somehow never never grow old, or grow up.

Surfing in PV was and still is largely controlled by the Bay Boys, whose ethos was formed in the sixties but found purchase in the seventies. Ever since, PV has been caught in a time warp of out-of-date sensibilities that keep it purposefully behind the times. While dramatic board advances were being made off the hill, the few PV shapers kept to their insular world, content to stick to their own ways. Even though the leash was being widely produced by the mid-seventies, they were largely unused the entire decade among PV surfers because, you know, leashes were for kooks.

While the rest of the surfing world was growing in new ways, the Bay Boys maintained their integral mores: Surfing longer, more gunny boards than necessary, swimming into the rocks to gather their leashless, battered boards, riding waves with a style that hearkened back to earlier decades, but failing to push the performance extremes of the envelope they had intentionally sealed themselves into.

Some would argue the Bay Boys pushed each other and grew their skills over the years, particularly through summer sojourns to Puerto Escondido, but somehow they managed to keep the outside world away from the Bay. It seems their own myopic efforts of not sharing managed to keep their dream alive. That is until now, as a number of incidents have drawn the attention of international media and ultimately the Coastal Commission, most compellingly represented in a pair of federal class action lawsuits targeting their gang activities.

Even today, just as it was in the ’70s, on the surface Lunada Bay is a serene, beautiful, enchanting place that’s home to one of the best big wave spots on the California coast, with slight crowds who share waves, take turns, patrol the cliffs, and socialize together.

But upon closer inspection, it’s easy to discern the sad tension, even angst, which permeates the fabric of the Bay Boys’ culture. Most would agree that the Bay Boys ride boards that are too big in a style that’s antiquated, that their rituals are archaic and their conduct is criminal. It’s all true.

But through it all, they’ve managed to stop time, to hold onto to something precious and preserve both the feeling and the place, and they’ve done it with a style all their own, and with a criminality that not only these adult Boys endorse, but that has been abetted by local law enforcement and the broader community for decades.

It’s a slice of paradise in the Wild West, a Technicolor vision of the California Dream, hidden right in the heart of teeming Los Angeles. And no, you can’t have any. Don’t you even dare look.

END

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First failed dope test at Rio Olympics: A cyclist, of course

August 10, 2016 § 10 Comments

The IOC announced this morning that after conducting a total of over 15,000 doping tests leading up to and during the first week of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the first athlete to fail a doping test was a woman track cyclist from Team USA, whose name is being withheld pending confirmation of her B sample.

“It’s incredibly disappointing,” said Slovic Bracentz, IOC spokesman for doping protocols, the official liaison between the game’s organizers and the World Anti-Doping Agency, which conducts the tests. “We’ve tested thousands and thousands of samples, and for us even one failed test is a black mark. We hope it’s the last one.”

The athlete spoke on condition of anonymity pending testing of the B sample. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I did everything right. There’s no way I failed that test. The B sample will absolutely vindicate me and I can put this nightmare behind me.”

According to confidential sources who contacted CitSB via email late last night, the athlete who failed the test was seen shopping in a pharmacy nearby the Olympic village the night before the test. “She knew she was in trouble,” said the source, “and was trying to find doping products that would allow her to pass the test. She’d obviously been tipped off that she was going to be tested and was terrified that they wouldn’t find anything. Whatever she took, it was too late to show up in her urine. When they analyzed her sample she was clean as a whistle. Her only hope now is the B sample.”

IOC President Thomas Bach immediately took to Twitter to defend the integrity of the Games. “One failed test does not a clean Olympics make,” he tweeted, adding “IOC testing will always catch the cheats.”

Given the thorough testing before and during the Games, analysts are scratching their heads how the clean athlete made it through, especially in a drug-riddled event such as track cycling. “We don’t know how she could have failed the test. Clean athletes never make it out of regional competitions. We’re that rigorous.”

The athlete agreed. “The B sample will vindicate me. I’ve taken every drug offered by the team, the coaches, even that bald guy in the gym with the ball-bearing testicles. There’s no way my sample was drug-free. No way.”

Movement for Credible Cycling immediately applauded the IOC’s announcement in a press release. “People have said for years that you can’t catch the clean riders, but this shows you can. Each one of these cheats takes away from the hard-purchased results of young men and women who dedicate their entire lives to finding the right pharmacological enhancements that will allow them to compete with Russia. We support lifetime bans for athletes caught competing clean.”

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