Disrespect your elders

July 10, 2017 § 20 Comments

The sidewalk was hot enough to fry the frying pan after incinerating the eggs. There was a nasty crosswind howling across the desolate course, which was strewn with construction equipment and port-a-potties, doors ajar as they wafted their sweet aroma through the spectators’ area. The final turn led to an impossibly bitter finishing climb that topped out at 6% at the line, where the sweltering audience would be able to inspect the bits of puke dribbling down the racers’ chins.

To quote a famous bike racing film: “Dozens of spectators. Hundreds of dollars on the line. And the stakes? Medium.”

It was Mike Hecker’s and Tom Fitzgibbon’s 805 Criterium, a labor of love that showed the depravity of older men. I took one look at the course and the boiling, stretched, agonized grimaces of the riders toiling up the grade a mere five laps into their race and knew it was going to be a day of bliss.

The race was held a half-block or so from the Amgen Campus in Thousand Oaks; so in addition to the complimentary wheel pit, the wrench services by sponsor Win’s Wheels, and the crack bike injury lawyer services offered by Derryl Halpern, there was also a special EPO pit where I could drop off my syringes in the event I started running low on oxygen uptake receptors mid-race.

Before the race began I carefully reviewed Steve Tilford’s racing principles, thoughtfully taped to my top tube. I only needed to review Rule 1: Don’t Fuggin’ Pull. Before the race I had spoken with Head Down James, who had relentlessly attacked but was never able to make it stick. “No breakaways,” he said. “The group’s momentum on the downhill will peg you back.”

“Then why did you keep attacking?”

Head Down James looked at me blankly. “Dude,” he said. “Because it is fun!”

The 45+ Leaky Prostate Profamateur Full Carbon Made of 100% Carbon race went off, shortened from 50 to 40 minutes due to a terrible accident a couple of races earlier. I sprinted to the back and began fighting aggressively for last place with another fat, slow, and stupid looking racer who looked a lot like Anthony Reguero. It took a while for me to establish my dominance at the end of the chain.

A long way ahead in a galaxy far, far away, Off the Front Wars were taking place as Pat Bos, Tony Brady, and countless other real bike racers ripped away from the field with incredible displays of amazing power. All I noted was that Matt Carinio, that dude who won that national crit title that one time, was fighting hard for next-to-last place and wasn’t interested in the heroics up ahead.

Before the race I had felt him out for his condition. “How’re the legs?”

“Just trying to find some form,” he egregiously lied with a straight face.

“Really? Because judging from your legs you can probably stop looking.”

He laughed. “No, I’m riding for fitness. Hopefully I can come around later in the season.”

The great thing about bike racers is the way they shamelessly lie in the face of indisputable facts. First, it was already later in the season. Second, he was obviously in peak form. Third, no one “rides for fitness” in a steel smelter. Whatevs.

With two and a half laps to go, one of the hopeless breakaways got caught immediately before the final turn leading up to Barfnpuke Hill. I had done nothing the entire race. My legs felt great. The hill had taken nothing out of my legs. The field was looking at each other, calculating the math for “When do I start moving up without getting stuck too far forward?”

I hit it hard. With five or six Big Orange teammates back in the field, I knew it would have to be decisive in order for them not to chase me down, as our key team tactic at Team Lizard Collectors is “Never chase anything but orange!”

My strategem worked. As I flew away from the tired, wrinkled, sad, scabby, pickle-faced old men, Rahsaan Bahati and Tom Fitzgibbon in the announcer’s booth began screaming something that sounded incredibly similar to “Wanky wins the $50 cash prime!”

I caught sight of Ms. WM on the sidelines, who was swooning as she realized that after more than thirty years her husband was, instead of worn-out excuses, finally going to bring home actual cash from a bike race. The gap was huge, it was now two laps to go, and the only way they would bring me back was with an organized team effort. Since Team Lizard Collectors had inexplicably decided not to chase, the work was left to Pat Bos and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford.

With one lap to go I was still clear and the five or six fans paying attention were cheering wildly, or at least somewhat lukewarmedly. With a final shuddering push, Pat and his henchmen hunted me down like a mangy cur, put the bootheel on my neck, and listened to the popping and cracking sound of my cervical vertebrae as the life and fight slowly seeped away.

Unhappily for them, instead of having sat up and gifting me the awesome victory, they were now left in the sad situation of having brought Matt Carinio, fully rested national champion who’d been at the back all day, Dave Holland, fully rested Big Orange Lizard Collector who has a massively fast finish, and one other fully rested dude to the bottom of the hill.

Carinio put away his nail file, folded the Sunday paper back into his jersey pocket, adjusted his glasses, did a couple of mini post-up practices, unclipped the leash and let go with what is often referred to as a “sprint.” Brian Davis got second, Dave got third, and Team Don’t Fuck This Up Bart Clifford watched as Bart, totally gassed from his team’s chase, kicked hard for fifth. Moral to the story: It’s better to get beaten by a national champion than a worn-out, broken down, wheelsucky, desperation-move Wanky.

After the race Ms. WM, recovered from the shock of winning fifty whole cash U.S. dollars, propped me up beneath the tent, doused my head with cold Gatorade, and firmly instructed me rest.

“Rest? We’re going home.”

“No,” she said. “You gonna race the 35 little boy race.”

“Like fuck I am,” I said. “It’s not for four hours, it’s already 100 degrees, and they’ll all be fresh. Fuck that.”

“You gonna go out there and get onna more fifty dollars. Thatsa good bike racin.”

“Honey, I won my first $50 cash prime in 33 years. Lightning won’t strike again today. Trust me.”

Four hours later I was lined up with a smaller field. A younger field. A fresher field. An angrier field. Fortunately, the wind was blowing lots harder and it was now 105 degrees. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “A break won’t stick. All we have to do is suck wheel and when they get pissed, flash our AARP cards. I’ll lead you out and you can show Charon and Bahati what the word ‘sprint’ means.”

Holland rolled his eyes. “Please don’t get anywhere near me in the sprint,” he begged.

The whistle blew, the race started, and coming up the hill on Lap 1 Charon and two dudes attacked. “Don’t worry,” I told Holland. “It’s way too early. They’ll be coming back.”

Charon and his breakmates then put a minute on the field and Charon won the race by six furlongs.

Twenty minutes in, things were getting desperate. A chase group of five was up the road, including John Abate. Another group of about fifteen riders was also up the road. In the far back were Holland, I, and fifteen other idiots all wondering why it was so hot, why our lungs were on fire, and whether anyone would notice if we sat out ten or eleven laps and then hopped back in.

As we hit the bottom of Barfnpuke Hill I knew it was now or never, and most likely never. Somehow I got across to the chase group. Holland made it too, but later realized that he had a dentist’s appointment and was not seen again. Everyone in the third chase group got a case of acute reality poisoning as the facts indicated the race for them was over, and if they stayed they would feel terrible and be ridiculed by their wives for finishing 20th, or ridiculed by their wives if they gave up and quit. So most of them quit.

Now I was with Rahsaan, Brandon Gritters, and a large person in an orange outfit (not with Team Lizard Collectors) who was delusional enough to think that we could catch the break. He began shouting at me to pull through, not realizing that he was large, young, and a perfect draft, and that the only way I would pull through is if he had compromising photos of me and someone’s pet goat.

“Pull through!” he yelled, breaking the rule of Don’t Talk. I silently hunkered down, enjoying his width.

Soon other unhappy bicyclists, all twenty years my junior, joined the chorus. “Pull through!” they yelled, treating a tired grandfather like some stupid draft animal. I hunkered some more.

As we hit the bottom of the hill, the one person who had not broken the rule of Don’t Talk, Rahsaan, downshifted and accelerated hard. I hopped on his wheel as he dragged me out of the trench, through the concertina wire, through the mortars, past the bayonets, through the mustard gas, into the barrels of the .50mm Brownings, and somehow, miraculously, onto the tail of the second chase group.

Orange Shoutypants Dude learned two vital lessons: (1) Save your air for pedaling, not bicycle racing instruction. (2) Wanky don’t pull.

No one else made it across except for Eamon O’Reilly and Gritters. Now there were three up the road and about nine riders. Everyone else in the bike race had quit in disgust or was flailing, lonely and in pain, around the windswept hellhole of a course. We were only halfway through. And if you want to know what makes people in a 35+ bike race angry, it’s having a 53-year-old hairy-legged old fellow tagging along. It’s very hard for 35_ fellows to convince themselves that they’re any good when they’re riding with someone who isn’t, especially since every time through the start-finish the announcers would shout, “There’s Wanky, somehow hanging on by a meat thread! Boy, these guys must suck if they can’t get rid of that worn out old shoe!”

The obvious solution to this shameful disgrace was to begin attacking the elderly, which they did. However, a lifetime of wheelsuckery and general meanness somehow allowed me to hang on, even as the group got smaller. With a few laps to go all pretense of pride vanished and the young, strong, handsome, fast young fellows submitted to the incredible humiliation of having me pull them around the course.

“This is all being caught on camera,” I told them as they refused to rotate through. “Rahsaan, they’re going to take away your national champion jerseys when this video gets out,” I added.

Finally, Rahsaan and Gritters, after resting comfortably for a while, responded to my last-ditch attack with a hard counter at one lap to go. I was left with four other riders, none of whom felt inclined to pull. Why should they? We were probably the last five riders in the race. Rather than fighting for a shred of self-respect they would be duking it out for, uh, sixth. Somehow, that’s better than last.

With a few hundred yards to go they all found legs and a new lease on life. I got tenth out of the eighteen corpses who finished the race, the only wanker to have completed two full races on a punishing, miserable, excruciating, stupid, meaningless, regret-and-invective-filled day. Everyone else had quit.

My best race ever, or at least since Telo.

805_phil_beckman

Copyright 2017 by Phil Beckman; Purchased with Commercial Use License.

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The incredible heaviness of other people’s training

December 28, 2016 § 37 Comments

I used to have a friend in real life who vanished from Facebag one day. “Yo, dude,” I said. “What happened?”

“I couldn’t stand all the happy people.”

“What do you mean?”

“Everyone was surrounded by a loving family in a beautiful home with a new bike and a cute dog. My life felt like shit.”

“It did?”

“Oh hell yeah. I was like ‘There’s no way that all 1,500 of my Facebag friends are that happy.’ You know? Divorce and suicide and drunkenness and jail and cheating on each other and debt and getting fired and loneliness and you know, reality. But even though I personally would see a friend at AA, there he’d be smiling on Facebag as if he weren’t on the knife edge of suicide and collapse.”

“People want to be happy.”

“I get it. But it made me feel like a loser. So I’m out.”

“And?”

“I feel great. No more time spent looking at other people’s happiness. I can focus on my own miserable fucking life and how to make it better.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. So for someone on Facebag it may not mean a lot when I get through Christmas without having a screaming match with my parents, but for me that’s progress. Feels great. My success is mine. Don’t have to compare it to some dude’s Ferrari that his wife bought him for the holidays so he can drive the fucking twins to Harvard en route to cashing in their billion-dollar winning lottery ticket.”

After that, every time I ran into Friend, he really was happier, and each time I asked him if he missed social media.

“Oh sure,” he’d say. “Like I miss having my big toe gnawed off by a pit bull with rabies.”

So I recently joined my club’s Strava page. On Strava I don’t follow anyone because I only use it to keep track of mileage. I don’t ride with a Garmin or a power meter or a heart/jock strap, don’t know how fast I’m going, how far I am from home, or when I’m getting back. I don’t give a fuck how far anyone else has ridden or how many KOMs they’ve harvested or how many miles they rode this week or month or year. Why not? Because crappy though it may be, my training plan has remained the same over decades:

  1. A little > nothing
  2. Ride with people when you can
  3. Go hard

As you’d expect, the results haven’t been spectacular, except in the one simple metric that matters, i.e. I’ve kept riding all my adult life, with almost zero interruptions. As people I used to ride with and race with have fallen off the radar screen and gone over to the dark side of Cheesecake Factory, unlimited servings of alcohol, or even triathlons, I’ve kept plodding away. Without any goals, without any targets to hit or to miss, and with nothing but the pleasure of riding a bike to keep me going combined with congenital meanness, it’s kind of worked. I’m hardly the last man standing, but many have come and gone and I’m still at it. Wish I had a nickel for every cycling enthusiast who was going to keep riding until he died and quit after five years with a quiver of bikes, a closet full of kits, and a garage turned into a professional indoor training space-cum-mechanic’s lab.

In other words, just plodding the fuck along, immune to the awesomeness of everyone else, works for me.

So when I joined the Big Orange Club Strava page I got a huge shock. Like, I suck. Not just the usual “Oh well, I suck,” that I accepted long ago, but the “Man, you are probably the worst cyclist in history and should donate your bike to an underprivileged fixie rider.”

The reason I suck so bad is that the club’s leader board is astounding. People ride 300+ miles a week and climb more hills than a Sherpa. It used to be satisfying to knock out 150 or 190 miles and think “Great week! Way to rock it, Wanky!” but no more. That won’t even get you up to the middle of the club scatter graph. Dude, if all you got is 200 miles a week, YOU SUCK and why are you hanging out with us?

At least that’s how it felt. And the following rationalizations, by the way, don’t work.

  1. My rides are quality, not quantity.
  2. Most of the people ahead of me on the leader board don’t race.
  3. Miles don’t equal speed.
  4. I dropped him and him and him and him and her and her and her last week and wasn’t even pedaling hard.

Those rationalizations don’t work for the same reason that my buddy’s observations about the imperfect lives of his Facebag friends didn’t work. When you see more miles and more climbing, it automatically makes you feel slower and less fit and more like a worthless slug. What’s worse, looking at some college kid with 389 miles makes me want to compete, even though it’s that very type of obsessive competition that I have never done and the avoidance of which that has allowed me to keep pedaling my bike for 35 whole years.

In fact, I even had it summed up in a little aphorism: “If you ride to achieve you’ll eventually quit. If you ride for fun you’ll ride for life.”

The huge challenge with cycling, especially as you get decrepit and your wife gives you birthday cards that gently make fun of your erectile dysfunction, is forcing yourself to roll out–not out of the house, out of bed. Once that battle is won, a fierce life-and-death struggle that begins and for most people ends with the gravitational pull of the warm pillow, everything else takes care of itself. But when you think that you’re already behind the 8-ball on Wednesday morning because you’ve only got 51 miles for the week and the club leaderboard has a dozen people already knocking on 150, it makes you want to give in to the siren song of “sleep more, ride later.”

The later, of course, never comes.

The other problem is that our club’s Strava leaderboard seems to feature people who are at completely different points in their cycling lives from me. Maybe they’re new or new-ish riders who are still on fire for all things bicycling. Maybe they have a coach. Maybe they are in their 40’s and doing their first athletic activity since high school. Maybe they’re trying to upgrade in 2017. Maybe they have one of those things, what are they called? Oh, yeah, goals. I’ve heard of those!

Whatever they’re up to, they’re doing something different from me, which is struggling simply to keep riding because nothing looks fresh and rosy and pink and fluffed when it’s in its fourth decade. I’m not fired up by having big miles or lots of climbing or racing or the Donut Ride or anything. My fire was doused in ice water years ago and all that’s left now is a 53-year-old bag of skin trying to slow the inevitable skid off the edge into the abyss.

Sure, I get fired up when I’m finally on the bike and pedaling, but that’s like saying I feel good when I win the lottery. Any fool can be happy when he’s doing something fun. But the trick is to get fired up beforehand, because without that you never make it out the door, and igniting the spark at 5:00 AM when you’re only seven years younger than a dead Princess Leia, two years younger than a dead Prince, the same age as a dead George Michael, two years older than a dead Michael Jackson, and eighteen years older than a dead Mozart, striking the flint is harder than you think.

And since the club leaderboard makes the battle with the pillow exponentially harder than it already is, I finally succumbed and hit the “leave” button on the club leaderboard. No offense, but I feel better already.

END

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One tough cookie

November 10, 2016 § 17 Comments

So this was my first grand fondue, and it was a doozy. 18 billion feet of climbing, nothing but Santa Monica mountain roads, and a finishing kick on PCH.

It was the first ever Phil’s Gran Cookie Dough, a fondo that had lots of great stuff, but whose key feature was cookies. Not just any cookies. These cookies.

cookies1

They were so filled with butter and massive bombs of chocolate that when you held them to eat, the aftermath looked like you’d been digging in dirt up to your elbows. I’m not sure if they were chocolate chip cookies, or giant lumps of chocolate with a few crumbs of flour around the edges.

Whatever they were, I needed them, because I had signed up for the full 117-mile, 13,000 foot beatdown only to arrive and decide that as old and stupid and slow and crazy as I was, I wasn’t old and stupid and slow and crazy enough to throw down with Jesse Anthony, Phil Gaimon, Matt Wikstrom, James Cowan, Michael Smith, Katie Donovan, and all of the other etceteras who were doing the full route.

Instead I chose the easy route, 88 miles and 10k of climbing punctuated with lots of rest stops. Problem was, this. And I’m not talking about the underwear:

back_strips

The previous Tuesday on the NPR there had been a rather brisk pace and upon returning home I realized that it had been so brisk I could no longer walk. Naturally, this led to fears not of paralysis, but to fears that it would affect my cycling. So I went back out on Thursday and rode a bunch more. The good news was that my injury didn’t impair my riding as long as I never had to get off the bike.

So on Friday I rode some more, took Saturday off, and did the grand fondue with what can only be described as wrenching pain every time I had to get off the bike and stand. Fortunately, a bike makes a great cane!

The ride started with a parking lot flat tire, where I used my only tube. “No worries!” I thought. “I never get flats.”

Then we rode rather briskly up Potrero, which isn’t really a climb so much as it is a 1-mile physics problem. (I failed physics. Then and now.) Over the top I soft pedaled, having set my strategy for the day: Give up, go slow, and eat cookies.

Soon I was joined by Frankie, Delia, and Lloyd, and we gaily chatted, gaily pedaled, and fell like marauding Goths on the first feed stop which overfloweth-ed with cookies. You’d be amazed at how grand fondue math works. It’s like this:

500 kcal expended + 1,500 kcal of cookies = make sure to eat more cookies at the next stop

That’s a real formula, perhaps with the multiplier of gels/sugar drinks/energy bars so that you finish the ride like I did, three pounds heavier.

About halfway through, my ride mates began having technical problems that involved flat tires and broken spokes, which was no problem because there were a pair of Mavic support cars trolling the course, changing flats, and getting everyone going again. The problem was that even though I’d been going slowly and eating bigly, after several hours in the heat it became clear that if I didn’t hustle I’d be going home in the sag van.

So I hustled.

Alistair Fraser and Tom Buffington, two fellows who were in for the full 117-miler, caught up to me on PCH and we turned up Mulholland together, each of us cursing Trump in our own special way, denying that such a person could ever win the presidency. After about a mile we were overhauled by a group that included David Steinhafel, Katy D., and five or six other young people who were clearly in a big hurry to get to the next chocolate chip cookie station.

Unfortunately, the station was at the top of a six or seven mile climb, and the pace was brutal. One by one riders dropped off, however, being a hop-in wanker who had joined the group after resting and going slow whereas they’d already done 80 miles of bitterly hard riding, I was able to struggle to the nasty top, clinging to the wheel of a 20-something kid with big frizzy hair who shredded everyone else.

He pulled over for cookies at the top and I dropped down the Yerba Buena descent. Yerba Buena was last paved in the late Paleolithic, and there’s nothing that feels better when you’re exhausted and in fear for your life than having your front wheel hit giant crack after giant pothole for mile after mile on a harrowing descent.

Kind of like being unable to get away from “that guy” in a crit peloton, the guy who is weaving and guaranteed to crash you out, the guy who no matter how hard you try to avoid but is always in front of you, I was continually hitting massive gashes in the road that I saw, avoided, and smashed into anyway. My rear tire finally succumbed and there I was, flat and out.

This is where you notice there are three types of riders in a grand fondue, and in life generally.

  1. The ones who pretend they don’t see you on the side of the road in your orange outfit holding a tube in your hand, helplessly.
  2. The ones who zoom by at 35 and say, “You okay, dude?” and are gone before you can sob, “No!”
  3. The ones who stop and help.

The great thing about cycling is that no matter how many times YOU may have been a 1 or a 2, there is always a number 3 because, yo, bike riders!

Peter Nesmith was my angel. He stopped, gave me his last tube, waited until I was sure the stem would fit through my all-carbon rims which were made of pure 100% carbon, and then continued on. However, I had misjudged the stem length and was soon standing with a properly mounted tire and tube and a fizzled C02 cartridge. My last one, natch.

Katie D. saw me, slowed, and did a number 3. Why yes, she did happen to have a valve extender. Why yes, she did happen to have an extra C02. Why yes, she would certainly help me get going again. Why yes, she would certainly show me how a pro descends. Why no, she would never see the fear smears in my shorts from following her wheel all the way down to PCH.

Once we got onto flattish, tailwindish roads, within smelling distance of the parking lot, we both got bumper fever, that sudden infusion of power and strength that comes from knowing the misery is almost over. None of the power and strength came from the tailwind. None. We were briefly joined by Patrick Barrett and Chris Miller, and some dude who had come down from Vancouver.

Back in the beer garden and barbecue park I wandered, dazed, eating the best pulled-pork sandwich ever, marveling at the people who had ridden 30 miles farther and finished two hours earlier, and wondering why I was having so much trouble standing. Must have been the cookies.

END

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Double header crazypants

September 29, 2016 § 44 Comments

On Monday night there was a traffic safety committee meeting held by the city of Rancho Palos Verdes. You think committee meetings are boring?

This one wasn’t.

It featured a guy who began by complaining about people taking pictures. The chair told him he was “out of order” which is nice speak for “shut the fuck up” and informed him that it was a public meeting, open to the public, held for the public, and publicly regulated under the Brown Act, which publicly regulates public meetings.

The guy was not mollified by the law because he was part of a contingent who demanded that the city put up signs saying “Bikes Must Ride Single File.” No matter that this isn’t the law, and no matter that the California Vehicle Code doesn’t prohibit riding two abreast, no matter that the committee has given extensive, detailed PowerPoint presentations on CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions, and no matter that the most fundamental principle of statutory construction is that the law permits everything that is not specifically prohibited.

In Rancho Palos Verdes these NIMBYs had come to the meeting to advise what they thought the law should be and to demand that the city put it on a sign. Right? Because after inventing a few new anti-bike provisions for the vehicle code they could follow it with signs that said, “No poor people,” “No Torranceites,” “No San Pedroians,” and of course “No people whose last names end in a vowel.”

It was clear that, having bought a second-hand home with an ugly garage on top of a hill and surrounding the whole faux estate with an iron gate and guard shack, this guy thought that the public meetings were private, too, and no amount of explaining that the meeting was “public” seemed to have any effect on him at all.

Because polysyllabic words and laws and facts kept getting in the way of his opinions, the guy followed up his outburst a few minutes later by showing the middle finger at what appeared to be the committee. When the sheriff’s deputy came over and told him he couldn’t flip off the committee, he told the deputy that he hadn’t been flipping off them, he’d been flipping off … me. For taking pictures.

I hadn’t said a word the entire meeting and when I looked back he threw a fleck of paper at me while raising his middle finger again for emphasis. There I was, back in Third Grade with the classroom bully showing me the finger, throwing spitballs, and daring the teacher to get on with her job. If you think it’s extraordinary that a grown man would go to a public meeting and show his contempt for public participation by flipping people off and flinging flecks of paper at his imagined enemies, you need to come to one of these meetings.

But what’s more extraordinary is that the very people who flipped us off, threw things, and booed Delia Park at the previous meeting when she described the catastrophic injuries of a friend belong to the same anti-bike contingent that opened the meeting with an appeal for civility and made pointed complaints about the militant biker bullies–never mind that not a single cyclist in any public meeting has insulted, attacked, threatened, or made an obscene gesture to anyone ever, and never mind that several cyclists began by thanking the committee for their efforts.

One first-time biker attendee later commented that “I thought you were exaggerating, Seth, but these people really are batshit fucking crazy.”

The discussion point of the meeting was colossally stupid. A handful of NIMBYs on Crest Road were seeking to apply the city’s event permitting ordinance to “organic” groups of ten or more cyclists. Unable to understand the law’s intent–regulation of large events that had a significant impact on the public right of way–these folks yammered on endlessly about how the law should be applied to local, unorganized, organic bike rides.

Under the ingenuous pretense of “safety,” though none of them had consulted any of the cycling groups whose safety is most imperiled in traffic collisions, and after having a prior petition to ban cyclists from the roadway being unceremoniously booted due to its patent illegality, they were now trying to regulate unorganized group bike rides in the hope it would make things somehow more orderly, i.e. get rid of bikes. When I asked one of the NIMBYs whether or not he would attend a free Cycling Savvy course to get educated about the law from the cyclist’s perspective, he told me he was “too busy” because he “had a 16-year-old who was just getting his driver license.”

Well, of course! No responsible father with a new young male driver in the family would possibly be able to make time to go learn the law and safe traffic skills that have to do with cyclists, especially the cyclists who allegedly cause so many traffic problems up on Rancho Palos Verdes Estates Wish We Were Palos Verdes Estates Crest Road.

The details of the ordinance appeared irrelevant to many of the NIMBYs, the main “detail” being no detail at all but rather its most salient feature: The ordinance specifically applies to “organized” events. Speaker after speaker on the cyclists’ side tried in vain to explain to the waxed-in brains of the NIMBYs that THERE IS NO ORGANIZER FOR THE DONUT RIDE. But they either didn’t understand, wouldn’t understand, or couldn’t understand.

It’s true that you can’t fix stupid, but in this case you couldn’t even shut it up. The committee, obviously perplexed by having to deal with something that made no sense at all, referred it for further “study by staff.” This will presumably involve someone sitting in a lawn chair watching groups of cyclists go by at 25 mph and trying to determine if they’re “organized” or “in a group” or “ten or more.” One fool suggested that group riders be required to ride with identifying stickers, a great idea that was used with much success in the late 1930’s.

A cyclist speaker offered the NIMBYs a thousand bucks if they could find the organizer of the Donut Ride, which one of the crazypants asserted was any person who mentioned it on their web site. Kind of like, you know, how you’re an organizer of the Super Bowl when you note on your blog its location, date, time, and the teams who are playing.

Almost three and a half hours later the meeting adjourned, but not before one guy spent several minutes complaining about committee member David Kramer’s “conflict of interest” because in addition to his duties as a committee member he was formerly an officer of Big Orange. We’ll set aside for a minute the fact that nothing on the agenda affects Big Orange as a club at all, another detail that didn’t matter because it so obviously contradicted this guy’s attack.

Lacking any ability to understand that Big Orange doesn’t have a single organized ride in RPV, and unable to do anything other than wave tax returns and Secretary of State filings, this bonehead repeatedly insisted that Kramer “recuse” himself.

Kramer repeated, as he always does, that the committee makes no decisions (ergo there’s nothing to be recused from), that all committee recommendations must be voted on by the city council which has the power to accept, reject or modify anything done by the committee, that the committee acts in a volunteer advisory capacity only, and that his activities as a cyclist have long been public, but the NIMBY didn’t care. All that the NIMBY could grasp is that Kramer is a cyclist, Kramer belongs to Big Orange, therefore Kramer has a conflict of interest. Of course with NIMBY logic, all of the motorists would have to recuse themselves from the committee, too, since no motorist could possibly be expected to be neutral on issues that affected cars. But in an absence of understanding and in a surfeit of ignorance, facts meant little, and one of the NIMBYs assured me outside the building that a lawsuit would be brought to remove Kramer from the committee.

“You’re not going to like that,” he said. I could only hope that he retained a very expensive lawyer with a huge, nonrefundable retainer.

In line with the NIMBY hatred of cyclists on Crest, riders recently reported a white Toyota Corolla buzzing, honking at, and harassing cyclists going up Crest in, surprise, single file. It’s hard to understand what they meant by civility, except perhaps this: Please shut up and go away from RPV.

The next day was Tuesday. I mentally flushed out the cremains of the night before with a good bike ride, one of those organic rides without a leader or promoter that’s been going on for over 30 years, and that evening I was back at another city meeting to witness another series of mindless assaults on cycling. This one was at Palos Verdes Estates.

At the end of the meeting I was accosted by a guy who claimed to be “Frank Ponce” and who “wanted to talk” to me. Imagine a pudgy bully whose hairpiece has been dipped in a bucket of chiGrecian Formula, clad in a two-for-one suit from Men’s Wearhouse, wearing an imitation of a fake Swiss watch and looking like he wanted to kill you.

Then imagine another guy, larger, blobbier, dumber looking (possible? yes!) who was also wearing a sandwich board with my picture on it and the caption “This Clown Wants More Signs.”

This clever fellow had discovered a picture that was on my web site and was now going to expose me as an advocate for bike signage. Plus he was going to call me a clown. Unfortunately, Mom’s allowance must have been a bit on the low side because the construction of the sign had the quality you normally associate with a cardboard roof used by a homeless person to cover his shopping cart.

How a person can strap on a homemade sign and duck-waddle around in public while calling someone else a clown is a metaphor for the wholesale absence of reflection, perspective, or self-awareness that the bike haters displayed at every turn. I was waiting for the Sandwich Clown to ask for gas money since Mom had perhaps kicked him off the couch for the evening, the best explanation for him even being out of the house.

Upon leaving the parking lot, Mr. Men’s Wearhouse, still furious that none of the cyclists would engage with him or take him up on his unspoken offers of a duel using tubes of Rogaine, taunted me as I walked by. Rumor has it that the fake watch consortium is going to set the wheels in motion to “revoke my law license.” It will be fascinating to watch the $99 suits tangle with even more words, rules, laws, and procedures, seeing as they still haven’t been able to read and understand CVC 21202(a) and its exceptions. Imagine their surprise when someone tries to draw them a stick-figure diagram of what an anti-SLAPP motion is and what attorney fee sanctions look like.

As I left the parking lot, catcalls ringing in my ears, it occurred to me that there it was again! Third Grade! Another flaccid wanker thinking that no one could possibly resist the idea of jumping into a verbal sewer with him. I kept walking, slightly pleased that with so little effort I’d taken up permanent residence into such a small and sand-filled head. And best of all, I was staying there rent-free.

The PVE City Council meeting itself was something of a clusterfuck. Because the council had seen the large turnout of cyclists in past meetings and been inundated by NIMBY emails complaining about outsiders/flatlanders/transients influencing their special snowflake on the hill, they sought to do an end-run by moving the time from 5:30 to 7:30 in order to conduct a workshop on traffic safety. It was never articulated as such, but the idea seemed to be to wear down the cyclists with an earlier meeting that would cut off speaking times. The plan only half-worked because the fire marshal had to stop people from entering after the room filled to capacity with cyclists.

While the tiny Men’s Wearhouse contingent had vociferously sought to rally the anti-cycling troops for the meeting, the packed-to-capacity council chambers were filled predominantly with cyclists. When asked to stand if they supported BMUFL signage, only a smattering of the 90+ attendees remained seated. If the plan had been to get all the concerned PVE residents out in force, it worked, because the meeting showed what we’ve known all along: Most residents don’t give two ratfucks about five new BMUFL signs and the only ones who oppose them are either still subsidized by Mom or are retired or are woefully underemployed or all three.

The workshop, although ostensibly held to educate the council as to this “complex” issue of four signs, seemed in fact to be Traffic Safety Principles 101 for the Completely Clueless NIMBYs. It was a rehash of many, many presentations I’ve heard in bits and pieces from the city’s traffic engineer, and it was all politespeak for “These BMUFL signs are legal, you dumbshits.”

But the problem was this: If the NIMBYs were so thick-headed that they couldn’t understand CVC 21202(a), and if they were so pig-headed that they refused to recognized the legality of BMUFL, how in the world was the workshop going to educate them about something as complex as “basic principles of traffic engineering”? Their go-to guy was a stooge in a sandwich board and a sub-literate, flabby realtor in a cheap suit whose Linked-In profile picture reminds me of a hubcap thief from the 1920’s. These people were going to be “educated” about engineering and the law?

No. They were not.

It was like having a civil rights lawyer address a group of Trump supporters on the illegality of segregation.

Civil rights lawyer: “Segregation is illegal.”

Trumpers: “But we hate black people.”

CRL: “It’s still illegal.”

Trumpers: “No, it isn’t.”

CRL: “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).”

Trumpers: “Can we change the law just for here? PVE is unique!”

CRL: “No. It’s the supreme law of the land and codified in numerous federal and state laws and the California Constitution.”

Trumpers: “We still hate black people. We still hate integration. We love segregation. We don’t understand why we can’t have it. We grew up with it. And we’ve lived here since 1984.”

The part of the workshop that did work was that it promptly concluded at 7:30, before even a fraction of the cyclists had gotten to speak out in favor of BMUFL signage. This served the city and the NIMBYs’ agenda perfectly: It delayed the decision on the signs even further, it forced the cyclists to come back again (and again and possibly again), and it let the BMUFL advocates know that the city wasn’t going to easily and quickly fold to the recommendations of its own attorney, traffic engineer, safety committee, and what one NIMBY at the last traffic committee meeting referred to as “transients.”

The other part of the workshop that worked out exquisitely for the NIMBYs was that the latter half of the workshop degenerated into “cyclists running stop signs.” No matter how many times the police say they have limited resources, no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations are equal among cars and bikes, and no matter how many times people point out that stop sign violations have nothing at all to do with BMUFL signage, once the Dreaded Stop Sign Issue is raised, everything goes running down into the gutter.

It’s as if you convened a meeting to discuss space travel and no one could stop talking about stop signs.

Bike Advocate: “BMUFL signage is legal and saves lives.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “So do motorists but that’s not the issue.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Bikes run stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, but today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Norm is videotaping all the scofflaw bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “Yes, we’ve seen samples of the high quality videos made by Mom’s Couch Productions. But today we’re here to discuss BMUFL signage, how it’s legal, recommended by the city engineer, and how it saves lives according the the NIH.”

Men’s Wearhouse: “Blobbly Bob is going to make another sandwich board showing bikers running stop signs!”

Bike Advocate: “I hope it’s a wide one.”

END

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We are concerned about cyclist safety

September 1, 2016 § 24 Comments

This was the claim of the entitled NIMBYs in Rancho Palos Verdes last month who advocated banning cyclists from public roads. They are a splinter, ALT-Trump group of ultra-socialists, i.e. people who believe the means of production should be subjugated to the wants of the lazy class, and they have their counterpart further down the hill in the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch.

They are concerned about cyclist safety, they say, as they focus on regulating every behavior but their own to achieve their life’s motoring goal, which is to have as much empty pavement in front of them as possible, paid for with other people’s tax money. They are the people who scream incessantly about cyclists who run stop signs but who don’t even know that the 3-foot passing law exists.

My response when they insincerely claim to be concerned about safety? No, you aren’t.

You don’t give a rat’s ass about cyclists, cyclist safety, or anything other than squelching the cognitive dissonance you feel at seeing strangers pedaling happiness machines on “your” roads because inside you are a miserable, envious, unfit, unhappy sack of tax dodges.

You don’t care if people get hit, killed, injured, maimed, terrorized, or traumatized, and you don’t care if the collateral wreckage includes kids who grow up without parents, spouses who spend years or decades caring for the shattered mind and body of a loved one, or individuals who get, in an instant, reduced from active, healthy, productive lives into badly broken, dependent shells.

Fortunately, in a couple of weeks you will have the opportunity to prove me wrong. The same stamping, champing, foaming, finger-pointing lardasses and potbellies who railed against Big Orange at the last Rancho Palos Verdes City Council meeting will have their second of six chances to actually do something about cyclist safety thanks, of course, to Big Orange, the group they so hate for insisting on doing something for cyclist safety that actually includes cyclist input.

On October 8, a Saturday that conflicts with football, pre-football, post-football, and, worst of all for the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, a 2:30 PM start time, which gives them only twelve minutes to put on sandals, roll off the couch, eat some dry Cheerios, and drive to the El Segundo Public Library, a place filled with books, (after filling up with mom’s gas card), yes, on October 8 Big Orange will sponsor its second Cycling Savvy course, taught by none other than Gary Cziko, Dude Who Used To Ride The NPR With A Giant Sign On The Back Of His Bike Saying “Bikes May Use Full Lane.”

That dude.

The Cycling Savvy course teaches bikers how to safely ride their bikes in traffic. But it does something else. It teaches cyclists, who also happen to be cagers most of the time, how to safely drive their 4,000-pound inflammable steel cages in the vicinity of underwear-clad people pedaling happiness machines.

In other words, every worthless Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, and every dishrag-for-a-brain, bike hating NIMBY atop Crest has the opportunity to come and see what real cyclist safety measures look like. What they’ll find is that bike riders are ordinary people who just want to keep pedaling their happiness machines, and what they’ll also get is a sense for is how easy it is to accommodate the underwear-clad class without even being late to check out the shitty surf at the bluffs and key someone’s car who hasn’t yet heard that Lunada Bay doesn’t like you.

Oh, and it’s free, just be sure to get there at 2:00 PM (course begins at 2:30) because seating is limited and the venue will fill on a first-come, first-served basis. Courtesy of Big Orange.

END

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180 degrees

August 28, 2016 § 44 Comments

It’s hard to admit you’re wrong.

It’s harder to apologize to the people you’ve wronged.

It’s hardest of all to affirmatively do something about it.

The last couple of weeks have seen a slew of attacks on cyclists. Mason Katz, a professional baseball player, used his Twitter account to attack people who ride bicycles and suggest that their mere existence made him contemplate harming them.

mason_katz.jpg

Then there was the woman who I’ll just politely refer to as the Charlotte Nutjob. After assaulting a peaceful group of cyclists she was portrayed in the first news stories as a victim.

mercedes_menace

At least one follow-up story confirmed that she’s actually an idiot. Maybe that makes some people feel better.

And then there was the San Diego Easy Reader story, peddling lies and absurd analyses from the Cato Institute trying to argue that bike planning is irrational and we should spend more time and money helping the poor beleaguered car industry.

 

All of this followed hot on the heels of stories in which Peter King, Sports Illustrated flunky, and his flunkette driver Jenny Vrentas, made a ha-ha-ho-ho joke about driving their cage in the bike lane on the way to a football game, which in turn was contemporaneous with a tweet by NFL Network analyst @HeathEvans 44, which highlighted the irrational rage that so many drivers feel at simply encountering an ordinary bicycle rider “clogging the street,” i.e. “riding lawfully.”

But then the story line changed.

One of my Big Orange club members, Delia Park, reached out to @HeathEvans44 and invited him to come apologize to our club before the Sunday ride. “Sure,” I thought. “Like he’s going to show up at 6:30 AM on  Sunday to get berated by a bunch of old farts in orange underwear.”

“Sure,” @HeathEvans44 responded. “I’d love to.”

“Believe it when I see it,” was my cynical thought.

Yesterday morning at the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks, @HeathEvans44 showed up as promised. Delia, Joann Zwagermann, Greg Leibert, Steve Utter, my youngest son Woodrow, and I were all there.

I had prepped my son about what to expect, prejudiced as I am. “The guy’s going to be some insincere asshat who’s been hassled on social media and probably by his employer to make this right. He’ll be condescending as shit.”

What we found was something so far away from that. @HeathEvans44 was, first and foremost, appalled that he’d tweeted something that condoned violence. He was more than apologetic. His voice, his manner, and his words evinced nothing but regret of the sincerest kind. You got the feeling that here was a guy who was gentle, kind, and who wanted to right a wrong. You know the old saying, “People make mistakes”? Well, they do. What they often don’t do, is apologize for them.

In addition to profoundly apologizing, Heath admitted to not having known the law. He asked forgiveness. He praised cycling as a sport, and he had obvious, unfeigned respect for the riders who were getting ready to roll forth for the day. He was an athlete who respected fitness and athleticism.

As if all that weren’t enough, he agreed that something further needed to be done to help educate the motoring public and to help counteract the gut reaction that many people have when they see a rider “in their way.” In our short pre-ride meeting there was no time to nail down specifics, but he shared his private cell phone and promised to work together with us to help get the word out.

Finally, he stood out at CotKU while iPhones snapped and popped. I’d had no idea that so many cyclists loved football. One rider asked him where he went to college. “Auburn,” he said.

“My daughter goes there,” said the rider, rolling up his sleeve to show an elaborate War Eagles tattoo. Football talk quickly ensured. Far from rushing away as soon as he could, he hung around to chat until the cyclists themselves clicked in and rolled out.

@HeathEvans44’s Twitter tag line is “Don’t dish if you can’t take it.” Pretty admirable to see someone turn a negative into a positive, and be adult enough to reverse course when the initial tack was just plain wrong. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart.

[EDIT: The original post neglected to mention that this would not have happened without the work of Joann Zwagermann, who helped spotlight the problem and who relentlessly engaged. It also omitted to recognize the work that Matt Miller, also of Big Orange, did to make sure that our efforts were positive, peaceful, and dedicated to rapprochement rather than acrimony and recrimination. Thank you to all.]

END

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I blame Obama! (and Head Down James)

August 19, 2016 § 13 Comments

In addition to being born in the foreign nation of Kenya and/or Hawai’i and being therefore an ineligible and illegitimate president, in addition to perpetuating the hoax that global warming is caused by humans, in addition to causing 9/11 when he was a state legislator in the Illinois Senate, in addition to being a founding member of ISIS, and in addition to repealing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Consution, I blame Obama for beating me at the Telo training crit, him and Head Down James.

“Surely, Wanky, you don’t mean that.”

“I do.”

“No, no, no. What you mean is that Obama put in place the policies, procedures, funding, and geopolitical landscape that caused you to lose at Telo last Tuesday. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”

“No. I mean what I said. I blame Obama for beating me at Telo. Him and Head Down James. And Pegleg Barrett for hosting the conspiracy on his private server and sending out classified emails to all of Velo Club La Grange to incite them to pile into the team van, drive down to Telo, and smash us into bits.”

“How is that Obama’s fault?”

“Glad you asked!”

It happened like this: There I was, giving a polite and courteous and harmonious speech to the raving NIMBY lunatics in RPV who want to promote bike safety by banning cyclists from public roads, and I was covered in dried spit and snot and sweat and smelled like an old hunks and was shaking from exhaustion and on the verge of collapse because I’d driven straight from Telo to the city council meeting.

Everyone was looking at my slobber in awe and a bit fearful of Zika and etc., but I couldn’t collect my thoughts because of Obama and Head Down James.

Right before the race began, Destroyer had sidled up to me. “You want to win?”

“Of course,” I said, reflecting on my Chevy Volt and therefore a bit suspicious of his as-yet unuttered advice.

“Follow Head Down James.”

“Okay,” I said, having no intention of doing it and fulfilling the first law of bike racing strategy, which is Lie At All Times. I mean, there was no way Head Down James and Obama could stay away from the beginning, and if there’s one thing more certain than that we need to make America great again, it’s that Head Down James was going to attack from the gun, which he did, so why should I follow him in a hopeless attempt?

“Go!” said Destroyer as Head Down James attacked at the beginning.

“Okay!” I said and drifted back.

Head Down James pounded away and won but not before Obama completely messed up the chase. All I really remember is that there was some poor schmo in a Texas Aggies pair of pants and another dude with a green jersey and Texas flag and they got completely shelled and lapped along with all but about seven people, welcome to California and Obama and socialism.

I followed wheels and did zero anything until I found myself in a break with Destroyer and Frenchy Jr. They almost dislocated their elbows trying to get me to take a pull, but with Obama working against me, and Frenchy Jr. being 22, and Destroyer being the champion sprunter, I didn’t see what sense it made for me to do a lick of work plus I’m lazy that way.

Although Big Orange started out with five guys we were Little Orange by the end with everyone but me and Skinny Dave having been shelled and lapped, and Velo Club La Grange only had Surfer Dan left but since Head Down James was up the road all he had to do was wheelsurf, which he did, plus pull me up the group the one time I got dropped which was around the time that Bahati literally tore off a crank arm he was pedaling so hard to bring back Head Down James.

But Obama carried the day with ISIS, and Head Down James closed the deal and got his first Brexit Winner’s Tunic. I can’t wait until Trump is president and implements Making Wanky Great Again and I finally have a chance.

END

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