So you’re in the South Bay. Lucky dog! And you’ve got your bike…luckier dog! Here’s a list of the standard rides, including a couple of the “top-secret don’t fucking show up here” ones, which are, of course, the ones you should make a priority. Dearly Beloved Clusterfuck Of The Ages: The Donut Ride Begun a long time ago in front of a Winchell’s Donut Shop far, far away, the Donut Ride goes off every Saturday at 8:00 AM in the Riviera Village of Redondo Beach. 8:00 AM means “8:05 or 8:10 or whenever the group rolls out.” It NEVER means “8:00 AM.” You have your own Donut Ride wherever you live, and this one is no different. Slow start, hammer up a hill, hammer on some flats, hammer along some some rollers, hammer up a hardass motherfucking 8-minute climb (“The Switchbacks”), hammer another 10-minute climb up to the radar domes, stop, preen, vomit, let the wankers catch up, roll down the hill, ride to San Pedro, climb Miraleste back to the radar domes, and then take PV South for a nasty grind up by the glass church followed by a sprint before Hawthorne, concluding with a horrible ascent up Via Zumaya to certain death. This super-rad video was taken by local hammer Derek Brauch, beginning near Trump National and going all the way to the top of the Switchbacks. Watch ’em pop and fry! Pluses
- It can be an absolute beatdown, especially when local pros Sergio Hernandez, Rudy Napolitano, or visiting beasts like Mike Friedman, Tyler Hamilton, Robbie Lea, Gillaume Boivin, or Daniel Holloway show up.
- In good weather, which is most of the time, it’s a huge group with lots of places to suck wheel and cower from the front until the climbing starts, at which time no prisoners are taken. Ever.
- After ascending the Switchbacks, there are numerous ride variations tailored to your level of wankerdom, including a hard climb up from the Reservoir + Homes & Domes + Glass Church hammer & sprint + Via Zumaya. You’ll be crushed if you eat the whole Donut. It’s never sugar-coated.
- Best scenery of any Saturday ride, anywhere.
- It can be a total wankfest if the fast dudes are all off racing somewhere and nobody wants to pull.
- Stopping and preening is pretty stupid and cools you down prematurely.
- The LA Sheriff’s Dept. and PV cops sometimes harass and endanger the group in the name of “safety.”
- It’s no fun getting kicked out of the back at Trump and flailing all the way to the top by yourself with some fat dude wearing sneakers and carrying a floor pump.
- If you’re one of those people who thinks that everyone’s shit smells bad except your own, it can be a real downer riding with ordinary humans, sitting as you are atop UCI world rankings.
Twice-Weekly Ballbuster Before Work: New Pier Ride a/k/a NPR [Note: As of 1/12/15 the NPR has resumed now that most of the construction on Westchester Parkway is finished.] This was originally the worst ride in the South Bay. It went along the bike path, meandered through parking lots, wandered over narrow bridges, perambulated along jogger trails, then turned into a series of mad, pell-mell dashes through a deadly gauntlet of traffic lights, stop signs, destroyed roads, and horrific morning traffic. That was the Old Pier Ride. The New Pier Ride starts at the same place, the Manhattan Beach Pier (a/k/a Center of the Known Universe, “CotKU”), every Tuesday and Thursday, and rolls out promptly at 6:40 AM. “6:40 AM” may mean “6:38″ or “6:39.” If you show up at 6:41, be prepared to chase and chase hard. The ride now skips the bike path, rolls through an alley of death for a mile or so, pops out onto Vista del Mar, keeps a fast tempo all the way to Pershing, and then is a complete hammerfest with four laps around Westchester Parkway. Don’t ever do this ride and say “It wasn’t very hard.” That will prove you were nowhere near the front. Pluses
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get mentioned on the most influential bike blog in the universe.
- Guaranteed to get your heart rate up, and then some, before work.
- Huge group on most days, 70-80 riders, so lots of places to suck wheel and cower.
- No big hills, just one small bump on Pershing and on the Parkway.
- If you get dropped you can pick up the pack when they come by in the other direction. And get dropped again.
- Pros like Rahsaan Bahati, and local beatdown artists like Greg Leibert, Harold Martinez, Eric Anderson, John Tomlinson, Aaron Wimberly, and others will usually show up wearing their best pair of stomp boots.
- The post-coital coffee chill at the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a the Starbucks at Manhattan Beach, is the apogee of all that is fun about being a marginally employed bike wanker. We sit. We joke. We check FB updates. We delay going to work. We soak in the sun. We slobber as the local talent slinks by. What’s not to like?
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get mentioned on the universe’s most influential bike blog.
- Too many places for the frail and the infirm to suck wheel and cower.
- Too many sprunters sit in and do nothing the entire time, then spank everyone in the sprunt.
- Unclear finishing line. Is it the beginning of the third traffic island? No one really knows, so it’s usually a case of “raise your hands and declare victory wherever your legs give out.”
- If you break free, there are numerous riders who never seem strong enough to go with you, but are always strong enough to chase you down.
- Occasional near-death traffic experiences.
- If You Show Up Uninvited You Will Be Crushed And Destroyed: The REMR (pronounced “reamer,” a/k/a Really Early Morning Ride)
This ride leaves every Thursday from the Center of the Known Universe at either 5:30 or 5:45. No one will tell you when. It will be dark. The other riders will materialize out of the shadows and grimly nod to one another. No one looks happy. That’s because no one is. The best reason to crash this ride is that, even though you’ll be squished like a bug, you’ll be squished like a bug even if you are invited. It’s hosted by the South Bay Royalty, presided over mainly by Jeff Konsmo and Dave Jaeger. Unless they tell you before the ride that they’re going easy, they will crush you like a tin can. The ride rolls crisply out to PV, buries it up the Reservoir climb, crushes it up Better Homes, then squelches the life out of you up to the radar domes on Crest. When the king and queen are preparing for states/nationals, they throw in a handful of additional brutal climbs at race pace. No matter how good you think you are, you’re not. Pluses
- Pain beyond your wildest fears.
- Being dismembered by the fang and claw of nature.
- Once in the office you will stare at your computer screen with a befuddled gaze until it’s time to go home.
- The Biggest Wankfest Of The South Bay: The Kettle Ride
Ride leaves every Sunday at 7:00 AM, or 7:05, or whenever, from the Center of the Known Universe, across from the Kettle Restaurant from which the ride got its name. It is the United Nations of South Bay Cycling, attracting all manner of biker. It can be a big ol’ group when the weather’s nice and junior’s Little League games are done for the year, or it can be tiny when it’s a horribly frigid SoCal winter day, which can mean an unendurably cold 63 degrees and a light drizzle. As C.U. Tomorrow says, speaking for thousands of South Bay cyclists, “I don’t touch my helmet ’til the thermo hits 75.” The group stops at the “Knoll Loading and Unloading/Pick-up Party Area,” or KLAUPUPA [Pronunciation key: “Clow-poopa”], a/k/a public toilets at Ocean Park on the bike path in Santa Monica. Aged prostates are relieved and the group continues on to PCH, where all heck breaks loose. There is a mad slugfest for 6 or 7 miles to Cross Creek in Malibu; midway some riders turn right to climb Topanga or choose a hillier route. Huge sprunt finish at the bridge in Malibu. Most riders turn around and go home, others continue up PCH for more Sunday frolic. Pluses
- Big ol’ group of wankers, and wankers are fun.
- Nice warm up and chance to chat with friends if you’re planning on doing one of the hillier routes.
- Great ride if you just want a brief paceline interval.
- Beautiful scenery.
- Excellent beach talent on the bike path return; most sightings of the first thong of spring occur here.
- The ride’s too easy, especially since MMX moved off to North County San Diego.
- PCH can be hairy and dangerous.
- The non-climbing route is pancake flat and boring.
- That fat dude with the sheer, all-white kit two sizes too small sometimes shows up, and you can wind up having to stare down the hairy brown eye of death if you’re inadvertently on his wheel.
- Shakes the Clown makes this a regular ride of his.
- The Secret Saturday Ride For The Anointed: The Nameless Ride
The Nameless Ride is the Saturday alternative to the Donut. It leaves CotKU at 6:00 AM and comprises the aforementioned royalty along with their retinue. No fucking around. The ride goes north and does a handful of hard climbs. Wankers will be ostracized and dropped. All participants required to know the secret handshake. No one will wait for you after you’ve been cracked on some lonely canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, as vultures circle above and hungry coyotes eye your wretched, stringy body as you lie writhing in the ditch. The ride is as short as 70 miles and as long as 100; 120+ if you’re coming from Pedro or PV. Pluses
- Feeling inadequate.
- Being ignored.
- Getting dropped.
- All of the above.
- The Best Ride In America: The Wheatgrass Ride
The Wheatgrass Ride rolls out from Malaga Cove Plaza on Sundays just after 8:00 AM. It’s a short, 1.5 hour romp around the PV Peninsula that goes up the Reservoir hill, Homes & Domes, Glass Church, long climb up Hawthorne to PV Mall, and a post-coital discussion of various things while quaffing coffee, Jamba Juice, and wheatgrass. The ride was started by Iron Mike Norris, a/k/a the Mayor of the Hill, or just plain “Dad.” He provides wheatgrass for all participants at the end as punishment for not going to church. The scenery is spectacularful. There’s regrouping at the radar domes. The pace is only as hard as you want to make it. The group is very welcoming. No one gets snobbed on or ostracized, even Bike Toss Mike when his lechery gets the better of him. If you want to race like a madman with Stathis the Wily Greek or G3 the Mad Scientist, you can. If you want to test your mettle against Tink (and have your mettle wilt like a butter pat in the sun), you can. Best of all, Wheatgrass is the ideal place to make your blogging debut. Something funny’s sure to happen, and you’ll be surrounded by the legends of the Hill. Iron Mike, Sunshine Rich, Big Bowles, Junkyard, New Girl, Pilot, Canyon Bob, Carlos, the Godfather, Vince di Draftlio…they’re all there. Most awesomely, you’ll get to meet Fussy, the human encyclopedia on everything that has ever happened in the South Bay. You’ll hear about the dude who used to take a mannikin to all the races and dress it with his jersey so his number would be pinned on perfectly, and that’s just the beginning. More funny stories per minute will be told than anywhere since Abe Lincoln was a circuit lawyer. Minuses
- The ride is short.
- No matter how hard you go, it’s not that hard.
- Tink will drop you and step on your manhood.
- You’ll be forced to drink wheatgrass at the end. Unless you’re Pretty Boy.
- You won’t be able to brag to your SO that you “did a hundred.”
- The ride is pure fun.
- People treat you like a real person.
- Everyone’s welcome, even Crazy George with the gym shorts, the saggy socks, and the rock collection he carries in his backpack.
- Someone will always stop and help you change your flat. Or your diaper.
- You’ll feel like one of the group your first time out.
- Nothing is as much fun as a sunny Sunday morning catching some rays, spreading some manure, and enjoying some post-coital smack talk with like-minded friends.
- Doin’ The Double: TELO Tuesday Training Race
[TELO is dead. RIP. Don’t show up. This entry remains for nostalgic reasons.]
After doing the NPR on Tuesday morning, you have the evening option of the TELO Training Race, which goes off every Tuesday at 6:00 PM from the spring time change to the fall time change. It is named after Telo Street in Torrance, a feeder road that leads into a lovely little office park. The first lap is neutral, and the race lasts for an hour or until an errant vehicle takes out the field, whichever comes first. Packs are as small as 30 and as large as 60. As recently as a couple of years ago the pattern was this: Fast pace for a few laps, slow down, hard attack establishes break, pack chills for the rest of the race, breakaway hammers it out for the win. This rarely if ever happens anymore. The pace is so fast that breaks just can’t make it. There’s almost always a bitter headwind on the back half of the course, which is two long sides with a chicane and two short sides. Sprinter wheelsucks are always waiting in the wings. Pluses
- Super fast, super hard way to end your Tuesday.
- Close to South Bayers and free.
- Great way to get in a double workout if you do the NPR in the morning.
- Generally very safe racing. Crashes are rare, traffic knows about the race and is generally very considerate.
- It’s a crit. Yawn.
- If it comes down to a sprint between you, Aaron Wimberly, Paul Che, and Christian Cognigni, there’s no fucking way in hell you’re going to win.
- Wheelsuck sprinters who treat training races like the real thing. Yawn.
- No, Virginia, Halloween isn’t a holiday: The Holiday Ride
When there is a national holiday, whichever day it falls on is the Holiday Ride. This often creates confusion on the part of most people in Manhattan Beach, and quite a few others in the South Bay who don’t really have jobs, and for whom every day is a holiday. So I get emails and texts from them like, “Hey, is there a Holiday Ride tomorrow?” “Tomorrow,” of course, is usually Halloween, or Gothic Rune Day, or National Prayer in School Day, or the day We Honor Our Teachers but Still Pay Them Shit Day. These are not national holidays, however much you like to use them as an excuse not to finish those three shaping orders that have been 80% completed for the last six months, and therefore, no, there won’t be a Holiday Ride. If it’s Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, MLK Day, 4th of July, etc., everyone meets at CotKU at 8:00 AM and leaves super promptly at 7:59. You’ll never catch if you show up late. If the weather’s sunny expect 200+ idiots. The ride goes north to Santa Monica, turns right on San Vicente Blvd., makes another turn or two and then hits Mandeville Canyon. From the light at Mandeville, it’s game fucking on. The speed instantly snaps the mob into a single file line of death. If you think you’re a contender (you aren’t), don’t be more than ten wheels back. People begin frying and charring immediately. It’s an endless climb, never very steep except at the last few hundred yards, where it turns into a wall. The finish rarely includes more than two or three people. The remaining 200 or so are flogging the little meat in ones and twos all the way back down the hill. Pluses
- It’s the ultimate “see and be seen” ride
- You get to see all the rich folks’ houses in Brentwood, or at least the ones you can see with your fucking face plastered to the stem, your eyes watering like a firehose, and sheet snot pouring out all over your face
- The climb up the canyon is intense and humbling
- It’s always a full-on beatdown
- Too many idiots
- Angry canyon residents have tried to kill cyclists using “their” road
- It’s a full-on beatdown, but only for 18 minutes
The Love and Thursday Ride around the Golf Course: “Golf” spelled backwards is “flog” Rides come and go, mostly go. When the New Pier Ride was ruined by construction on Westchester Parkway back in November, a new ride was subbed in. Dreamed up by local rider Junkyard, the new Thursday ride has now reached a point of such viciousness that its founder not only gets shelled in the first three minutes, but it’s gotten so hard that he can’t even get out of bed. Now that, friends, is a hard bicycle ride. The Thursday ride leaves at 6:35 AM sharp from the fountain in Malaga Cove. The route is simple:
- Right on PV Drive.
- Right on Paso del Campo.
- Right on Via Campesina.
- Right on Via Chico, through the arch, and back to PV Drive.
- On the sixth lap, left on La Cuesta, where the ride terminates at the top and you vomit.
- Back to Riviera Village for coffee and lies.
The awesomeness of the ride is expressed by the fact that it immediately starts with a climb, so people immediately get shelled. No imagining, no hoping, no fantasy that you actually had sort of a good ride. You start and if you don’t have the legs you’re gone. There is something beautiful about this type of summary execution, where the usual habit of lingering, wheelsucking, and flailing by at the end becomes a nasty sort of trial, judgment, and punishment within the first few hundred yards. However, the fun doesn’t stop there because the beginning climb isn’t that steep, and the following climb up around the golf course isn’t that steep. So with practice you can get strong enough to hang on, although the humiliation and crushing sense of defeat that comes from getting repeatedly shelled the first few times you do the ride is usually enough to make people go away and never come back. The net effect is that after a few laps are three groups.
- Stathis the Wily Greek.
- Everyone else.
- The fragments.
But it gets better because there are no stoplights. On the NPR, indeed every group ride in L.A., the ride is controlled partially by stoplights, and largely by stoplight whiners. Essentially, when you’re off the front on the NPR with one other wanker and you have a pack of 85 chasing with a tailwind and you’re pedaling harder than teakwood and you approach a red light and you run it, at the end of the ride all the wheelsuckers and never-seen-the-fronters and wait-til-the-end-sprunters and why-are-we-hammering-it’s-Novemberers will berate you for scofflawing. Never mind that there was never any danger, and never mind that the whiners are the very people who will pull the craziest death-shit in the middle of a pack fighting for a wheel. The point is that they want to detract from your awesomesauceness and your heroic brokeaway antics. Plus, they’re pissed that their sprunt didn’t count because you had already crossed the imaginary line in a fantasy victory. Not so with the Thursday ride! There are no stoplights to run, only stop signs, and the stoplight whiners never, ever, ever show up for the ride. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, then fricasseeing them and eating them for dinner. The ride offers up lots more goodness, for example racing tactics. There is always one idiot or two who will attack from the gun and establish a healthy gap. Said idiot, who often writes a daily blog, then gets reeled in and crushed. But rather than simply floating to the back to regroup and attack again, the torrid pace and the constant rolling climb punish the would-be attacker to such an extent that the next hard acceleration, typically unleashed by Derek, or by EA Sports, Inc., or by 26, obliterates the hangers-on so that Sausage, Spivey, Fireman, and I wank along until they shell me, too. In short, you can get all the misery and failure of a race every single week without paying a nickel or driving a mile. But wait, there’s more! Repeat riders get stronger (can you imagine that?) so the ride gets even harder. 26, who never finished without getting shelled, put the wood to everyone yesterday. When a big boy like that gets as comfortable on rolling power climbs as he is in sprints, it’s going to mean mayhem. Best of all, with the exception of the time that Sausage got dropped, turned around, and hopped back in with us as we came by, there is no cheating. Once you get unhitched, you’re on your own to struggle and suffer and try to catch the little red blinking light in front of you. Or you pair up with another wanker and suffer in tandem. The ride is short; just under one hour long, and after finishing the climb on the last lap you jog left and go up La Cuesta. It’s only a little more than a quarter-mile long, but at 12 or 13 percent it feels like a light-year. Now if we can just get the ride’s founder to start showing up again.