January 20, 2016 § 11 Comments
It’s that time of year. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.
That time of year is Spring, April 24, 2016 at 8:00 AM sharp.
What now is, is the time of year when you sign up for the Belgian Waffle Ride far enough in advance so that you think you’ll be ready for it. The good news is that you will be! The bad news is that you won’t.
This year’s edition, the fifth, features another leisurely spin through the gentle rolling hills and well-maintained road surfaces of North San Diego County. As in past years, the BWR will be pain-free, fun, easy to complete, and filled with happy conversation as you pedal long miles side-by-side with friends, catching up on family news and philosophizing about life, dark matter, and what’s really going on with Chinese stocks.
Of course there may be one or two riders with a different agenda, and who, rather than seeing the BWR as a casual LSD pedal, see instead a painful mix of dirt, tarmac, water, gravel, and rocky sections buffered on all sides by difficulty, epic challenges, and extremely tough riding conditions.
But what do they know?
Well, they may know this …
Although each BWR has been more monumental than the one before, the 2016 edition is the toughest yet. At 144 miles, it is the longest, has the most dirt sectors, and rarely traverses an intersections. The complexity of the course means that there’s something there for everyone, except those who really want to stop. For them, there will be six major and six minor aid stations, some of which will offer tequila or Belgian ale while still offering water, Coke, and event-sponsored beverages.
Some of the sections are so hard you’ll have to walk unless your name is Phil Tinstman or Neil Shirley. Some of the heroic dirt sections from past years such as Black Canyon, Canyon de Oro, and Lemontwistenberg will rear their ugly heads, but the new challenges of Lusardi and San Elijo also await. The rock garden of Lake Hodges has to be traversed in both directions this year, same as the Mule Trail. Perhaps the best feature is the Highland Valley beatdown, five miles of unvarnished climbing hell out to Ramona where you can contemplate forging ahead or calling it a day.
The only way you’ll find out, of course, is to do the dance and sign up for yet another year of full-gas pedalmashing. Better yet, if it’s your first time you can toe the line and discover what’s so fun about slamming a great waffle-egg-bacon-coffee breakfast, riding hard, competing against the best, capping off the ride with more good food and even better beer, then collapsing in a heap and hoping like hell you thought far enough in advance to arrange for a ride back home.
Registration is here: https://bitly.com/bwrreg2016.
Over the next few weeks I’ll put together a series of training plans tailored to the different needs of the various BWR participants. For now the simplest plan is also the hardest: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.
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April 25, 2015 § 39 Comments
Today is supposed to be a happy day, as 800+ bicycle riders try to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses as to why they can’t actually participate in tomorrow’s Belgian Waffle Ride despite having paid the $136 entry fee, purchased $3,402.71 in new cycling equipment, and retained the services of a professional coach.
But for me, even though I’m going down to San Diego in an hour or so to help mark the course and pick up my number, it’s not really all that happy. I can’t stop thinking about the refugees from Syria and Somalia who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in dinghies, rubber rafts, and leaky vessels, all in order to reach Western Europe.
The US State Department in Washington, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.
[The owners of the boats] knew even before the [boats] sailed that its passengers might have trouble disembarking in [Europe].
The voyage[s] of the [refugees] attracted a great deal of media attention. Right-wing [European] newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the government cease admitting [the] refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the government [s].
Many [Europeans] resented the relatively large number of refugees whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs. Hostility toward immigrants fueled both [anti-Mulsim sentiment] and xenophobia.
This is not an edited clip from a newspaper describing the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s an edited clip taken directly from the online story on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Museum about the voyage of the St. Louis, a German ship filled with Jewish refugees who in 1939 were refused entry to Cuba and to the United States as they fled Hitler’s campaign to exterminate European Jewry, a campaign whose earnestness was shown to all who cared to look in the Kristallnacht attacks of 1938.
Most oblivious to the historical implications of denying entry to refugees are the Australians, who have advised the EU to deal with refugee boats the same way that they do, by simply telling would-be immigrants that they will never set foot on Australian shores, that they will be turned away by military vessels, that no aid will be given, and that if their boats are not seaworthy, they will drown under the watchful eye of the Australian coast guard.
Australia touts the effectiveness of the program. Before implementation, over 1,200 people drowned trying to reach the continent. Today no one dies at sea because the PR campaign has effectively discouraged people from trying. Instead, refugees flee to New Guinea, Cambodia, and other places where the Australian government pays those governments to take in refugees. The governmental payees pocket the money and let the refugees try to “find a better life” in the squalor and poverty of some of the world’s worst slums. “There is lots of work in Cambodia,” one Aussie official was quoted as saying.
But at least the refugees aren’t dirtying up the streets of Sydney, stealing the jobs of white Australians and contributing to crime and unemployment. As in America, white Australians are apparently falling all over themselves to do the brutal, back breaking jobs typically done by immigrants.
As I was doing a BWR prep ride with a small group a couple of months ago, I chatted with a fellow rider about the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would have given amnesty to undocumented immigrant children brought to this country by their parents and who, through no fault of their own, quite literally live in the shadows.
“Well,” he said, “those kids … that was me.”
“What?” I stared in disbelief.
“Yeah. I didn’t have a green card until I was eighteen. I lived my entire childhood as an illegal, and it wasn’t until the amnesty of 1986 that I stopped living in daily fear of arrest and deportation.”
There we were, riding bikes, getting ready for the ultimate expression of privileged, middle aged faux athleticism, chatting about wives, kids, and the “travails” of white-collar jobs. We were both productive members of society–sort of–,responsible husbands and fathers–sort–of, and the beneficiaries of limitless opportunity, but one of us could only have gotten where he was by the stroke of a legislative pen.
And here we’re about to go ride our bikes again as thousands of others are about to embark on a deadly venture across the open sea, ruled by cut-throats, smugglers, and gangs, risking starvation, disease, and death because every one of those outcomes is better than what awaits them if they remain at home.
The Belgian Waffle Ride is about to happen with its supposed hardness, toughness, and difficulty … indeed.
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April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments
It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.
“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”
“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”
“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”
“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”
I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.
And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.
You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)
The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.
Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”
Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”
Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.
So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:
- Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
- Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
- Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.
So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!
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March 30, 2015 § 35 Comments
How do you know it’s a shit day? When the Belgian Hardman winner from 2012 swings over to the side of the road and swipes Uber.
But there were so many little hints that Saturday’s 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride unofficial practice ride was going to be bad, little hints that, when added up, reached a disturbing conclusion: Failure is more than an option. It is a likely outcome.
Eric, Dan, and I had had done all the pre-ride preparation perfectly. We had woken up on time. We had eaten a hearty yet healthy breakfast. We had washed and oiled our bicycles. Most importantly, we had pretended not to have any cash so that Eric would have to pay for the gas to drive us down to North County San Diego.
We had opted to forego the local 50-mile Donut Ride and the 3-day San Dimas Stage Race because experience and common sense told us that knowledge of the BWR course would be vital to our survival on April 26. It would also give us some much-needed practice riding on dirt roads. The only part of our otherwise perfect preparation that we had left out was actual fitness.
This became apparent on the first dirt section. Unlike in years past, the 2015 BWR gives you a brief warm-up on paved roads and then plunges you down a 200-yard steep sand ravine that does a vicious 90-degree turn onto a lovely dirt track in a scenic valley. Several people chose walking the first section over certain death.
The pretty valley crosses a pretty stream and then rears itself up a long, endless, nasty climb that is a couple of miles long. Whichever rear cog you brought, by the last quarter-mile it won’t be enough. We regrouped and offered various excuses, each rider’s more innovative the the one before.
“Wrong wheels today.”
“These are totally the wrong tires.”
“My rear cog is the wrong one for this.”
“My cranks are too long.”
“I should have brought a compact.”
“Wrong chain rings.”
No one mentioned the obvious, i.e. having left the right set of lungs, heart, and legs at home and showing up with perfect conditioning for a 40-minute crit.
The ambitious 102-mile jaunt was scaled back after the first couple of dirt sections because we kept stopping for, um, me. Then my front tire fell into a paving crack and came within inches of sending me onto my face, and then MMX did the same thing just to show that he could almost kill himself more violently and recover better than I could, and then there were more flats, and then we had used all our CO2, and then Canyon Bob took out his mini floor pump and got us going again, and then Surfer Dan’s derailleur spring shot out into the bush and the rest of the assembly lodged into his rear wheel, and then Eric flatted, and then out came the mini floor pump again, and then I was THAT GUY at the end of Lake Hodges with everyone pissed off at having to wait, and then Baby Seal flatted, and by now Canyon Bob’s forearms had swollen to the size of huge pencils, which is big for a roadie, and then the group shrugged and said “Fuck you guys” and rode off, including that girl who we’d helped fix her brakes several times, and then Paul B. said he could take us up to Cougar Pass where the group was going, but we thought he was talking about a geriatric whorehose and declined, and then I told Eric he could do whatever he wanted but I was going back to the truck even though we’d given the keys to Surfer as he swiped for his Uber ride back, and then Eric TT-ed all the way back and we had a great hamburger but not before we scooped out the peanut butter sandwich mush from our jerseys and ate it like it was both tasty and food.
Next, we sat in three hours of traffic and got home at 6:30 PM, and Eric checked his Garmin and said we’d ridden 55 miles, five more than if we’d stayed and done the Donut Ride, and when it was all factored in we figured that we paid a total of $175.23 for those extra five miles.
Glad I didn’t have any cash.
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March 19, 2015 § 29 Comments
You may think that the full-length Belgian Waffle Ride is the only game in town on April 26, 2015. That’s what I thought, even though I noticed at the bottom of the sign-up form that there was an option for something called the Belgian Wafer Ride.
“Wafer Ride? Really? What kind of namby-pamby bullshit is that? I’d be embarrassed to even admit I’d read about it.” So I went ahead and did what REAL HARDMEN and REAL HARDWOMEN do; I signed up for the full BWR, the breakfast equivalent of a Denny’s Grand Slam plus China King’s $5.00 all-you-can-eat buffet topped off with two entrees at the Heart Attack Grill.
And I felt like a real tough guy. Something about tapping those computer keys, clicking that mouse, running that credit card, and pushing back from the desk with a smug smile made me feel like Eddy+Roger+Tom+Fabian all rolled into one. Take that, wankers!
This, however, was back in February, and a few days ago the smugness wore off as I realized that all my mouse pointing and keyboard tapping had not been accompanied by training or long riding or even practicing on dirty roads. And I started thinking about what the last three years have irrefutably proven: I’m not tough enough for the BWR.
My three finishes were as follows:
2012: So devastated that I abandoned my three years of sobriety and plunged into the abyss of a 3-year drinking binge.
2013: So devastated that I missed the following week of work.
2014: So devastated that I sold my bike.
That’s when I started thinking a bit harder about the Wafer Ride. Sure, its name insinuates that you’re too weak, too lazy, too slow, too soft, and too un-Belgian to do the actual 140-mile BWR beatdown. But you know what? It’s true! And in addition to the truth setting you free, the Wafer Ride caters to all my physical and character failings, and is actually a much better fit for your training schedule if you’re a road racer who doesn’t normally target MSR, Ghent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix as the high points of your spring season.
If you happen to be an average masters schmo or schmo-ess, a 76-mile ride with 7,000 feet of climbing, 20 miles of dirt roads, and the undulating terrain of North County San Diego is beatdown enough for a day, and you really don’t have to train extra to do it or even survive it. Adding to the beauty of the Wafer Ride, it doesn’t interfere with your racing program, you can keep taking the same doses of test and EPO, it won’t ruin you for the following month, and best of all you’ll be back at the bunkhouse slamming Lost Abbey beer and Sam Ames’s famous post-ride sausages long before the real hard people (i.e. the idiots) have even thought about dismounting for the day.
Oh–and you’ll start at a humane hour, you’ll finish before sundown, get home at a reasonable hour, be able to sit at your desk on Monday without drooling blood, and will still have logged your toughest, most grueling 76 miles of the year. The sharpening effect of the Wafer Ride will translate into race fitness rather than leaving you a mass of broken ego and ground up flesh.
Best of all? There are plenty of spots left. Register here. I know which version I’m doing in 2016.
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March 5, 2015 § 40 Comments
This ride is not sponsored, authorized, approved, recognized, encouraged, abetted, aided, promoted, offered, suggested, referenced, affiliated with, created by, managed, supervised, regulated, reviewed, evaluated, or in any way, shape, method, means, form, or function related to or otherwise connected with SPY Optic and its officially endorsed Belgian Waffle Ride.
But that is not all,
Oh no, that is not all!
On Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM pointy sharp I’m leaving from the bricks of the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks in order to ride my bicycle. I will be riding my bicycle for one reason and one reason only: To prepare my spindly legs and spongy lungs for the battering that awaits on April 26, 2015, the day of the 4th Annual Belgian Waffle Ride.
This BWR practice ride of mine, which is wholly unaffiliated with the actual Belgian Waffle Ride and its sponsors, will ride from CotKU to Pacific Coast Highway and from there to The Rock, where I will pee, take in the view, and then turn around and head back towards Los Angeles.
On the way I will make a left-hand turn up Yerba Buena, and when I get to the top I will go down Mulholland Drive until it hits Pacific Coast Highway again, where I will turn left. After a little while I will make another left-hand turn, this time up Decker Lane. When I reach the intersection with Encinal I will turn right and go back to PCH.
Then I will pedal back to CotKU and from there back to Palos Verdes where I will climb another long hill. After it’s all said and done I will have ridden about 140 miles, which is a long way, and will have gone uphill a whole bunch. I will be very tired.
You can come if you want and you can ride as much or as little as you see fit, and here’s the thing: Anyone who wants to join me on this practice bicycle ride can. The same way that you can jog behind someone on the bike path, or follow someone on the freeway, or hop onto the tail-end of a bunch of wankers sliding along a cross-country ski trail, well, you can ride in my vicinity when I go ride my bike, too.
The catch? I’m not promoting the ride other than to note its existence, and I’m certainly NOT suggesting that you do it. I’m not providing protection, medical care, organization, road permits, or anything else. Why? Because it’s my own private bicycle ride that I plan to do alone. If you show up, that’s your business. It’s not a race or century ride or a Grand Fondue or a public event or a private one. It’s not an event of any kind. It’s my own personal bicycle ride.
What does this mean? It means that if you decide to leave from the same place at the same time with the same destination in mind as I, you may well die or suffer horrible, catastrophic injury. You may get hit by a car, you may fall off your bicycle and split your skull, you may have some wanker smash into you, you may slide out on a descent and get killed, you may blow a tire, bust a rim, snap a chain, crater a fork, or have any of a million other bad things happen to you.
And unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you ride a bicycle on public roads. You are trading the fun of riding your bicycle on the street for the risk of death or catastrophic injury. I’m not encouraging you to do it, to the contrary. I’m warning you about the danger and telling you that if you show up, it’s your life, it’s your safety, and it’s your responsibility to come home in one piece — not mine.
If you do decide to meet up with me, it will be good training for the BWR. I won’t be hammering, that’s for sure. And at the end of the day, although you may well get killed, you may well not. It could even turn out to be fun. Your call.
So see you on the road. Or not!
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February 8, 2015 § 18 Comments
The 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride is full. It took four days. Riders who didn’t get one of the coveted 700 slots are now on the waiting list, which will have 200+ names on it by the time the event goes off.
When the ride was announced, a big hoo-hah of publicity went out, which was awesome. However, not all of it was particularly beneficial. Especially disturbing were the “Top 10 Tips to Finish with Dignity” by Neil Shirley, and the “SPY Belgian Waffle Ride Tips” by some foreigner named Hupthur. If either one of these tip sheets comes across your inbox, please delete ASAP as they will lead you to ruin.
Shirley’s list should be ignored simply upon seeing the title. There is no dignity left when and if you finish the BWR. In fact, there’s not much of anything left. Spit, sweat, mucous, blood glucose, pride, dreams, hope … everything will have been torn from your chest, beheaded, and left wriggling on the roadside back around, say, Mile 100. If you’re lucky. Many will have suffered the Junkyard Implosion much earlier. Others will have simply quit. Still others will have abandoned before the race even started.
When Shirley talks about “finishing with dignity,” he’s referring to about ten people, and you will never see them except perhaps, briefly, at the start. Everyone else will finish with desperation. Exhaustion. A sense of bodily collapse and mental defeat. But not dignity. No fuggin’ way.
You are also advised to ignore everything Shirley says because he’s a two-time winner. Right. We have nothing in common with him. If he’s talking about the BWR, go ahead and turn up your iPod. As one of the best and most accomplished riders in SoCal, a guy who is devastatingly good no matter the discipline, he simply has nothing to offer the rank and file, not to mention the file shavings like you and me.
So here’s my reality tip sheet for the 2015 BWR. It won’t help you do better, but that’s because there is no “better.” To crumple and fold like bad origami is your destination. Trust me on this.
- Blab & Brag: Tell everyone you’re going to crush the BWR. This is the only pleasure you will get from competing in the event. Everything else will be a reduction of your humanity into a quivering puddle of failure and defeat.
- Polish & Purchase: Have your bike polished, cleaned, overhauled, and detailed. Then add the trick shit you’ve always wanted — Di2, full carbon wheels made of carbon, and lots of carbon. Plus carbon. The only chance you have of looking good and making next year’s video is either in the Preen Area at the start finish, or with your guts torn out after crashing along Lake Hodges. Also, lots of lightweight trick shit ups your chance of a ride-ending mechanical, which will get you back to the celebratory sausages and beer that much more quickly.
- Stamp Your Authority: True, the BWR is a 140-mile long odyssey that demands almost perfect resource management and conservation of energy simply to finish. But you don’t care about that. Those sausages are calling your name and Sam Ames has extra ice cream for the waffles left over from breakfast. Finagle your way into the first starting wave and drill it. If you’re not pushing 450+ watts on the rollers out of town, you’re losing. Plus, this is a great way to maybe get into one of those cool photos that has you riding next to all those hammerheads at the front.
- Ink up: The Preen Area will be filled with the legends of SoCal. They will be doing last minute equipment checks, reviewing the course map for changes, and making sure everything is ready. Take the time to interrupt them and request autographs, preferably onto obscure body parts. “Hey, Phil, I’ve always been a fan of yours. Would you autograph my scrotum?” is always a winner. Plus, you’ll have a unique memento to show your wife as she wraps you in a huge sheet of Tegaderm.
- Cower and Hide: If you really are planning on finishing the BWR, don’t ever take a pull. Ever. Not even one. My best moment in 2014 was drafting for 20 miles behind Hines, Chatty Cathy, Junkyard, and a string of South Bay wankers all the way into Ramona from Black Canyon, then sprunting by them as they stopped for drinks and organ transplants.
- Use Up Others: When you get shelled, immediately soft pedal until you’re overtaken by the next group. Slink to the back and occasionally yell encouragement to the people doing all the work. When they collapse and fall of the back, just remember, “Sucks to be them.”
- Cheat Where You Can: The BWR has a long and illustrious history of people who cheat, cut the course, hang onto follow vehicles, and take advantage of the fact that there are no race commissars or firing squads. Have your S/O wait for you at the 25, 75, 50, and 100-mile marks with her Prius and give you little 5-mile tows. If your conscience is a bit squeamish, just remember the BWR Wanker Motto: Rules are for losers!
- Dope: This one is obvious, but with no doping controls you should be loaded up with your favorite brand of cortisol, HGH, EPO, and steroid inhalers for your “asthma.” The joy of destroying some hairy-legged Fred to secure your 286th place is something you will cherish forever.
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