Donuts are bad for your health

June 17, 2018 § 4 Comments

I always love it when people talk about the health benefits of cycling, as if punishing your internal organs to the brink of failure is somehow good for you.

Yesterday’s Donut was filled with about as much cholesterol, fat, sugar, enzymes, dextrose, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, xanthan gum, karaya gum, wheat starch, cornstarch, sodium stearoyl lactylate, artificial flavors, sodium propionate, and food dyes Yellow No. 5 and 6 as the finest Dolly Madison Little Gem.

Before we started, Destroyer looked around. “You can win today, Wanky,” he said.

“I can?”

“Yes. But you can’t attack at Kilometer 1.”

“I can’t?”

“In the race to the radar domes, every single pedal stroke counts. But there’s no one here today who can beat you. With cunning and wheelsuckery you’ve got this.”

“What about Sausage? He’s ripping legs at the Flog Ride.”

“One-off. He has peaked for the state ITT and won’t be a factor.”

“Ivan the Terrible? He is so fit right now.”

“Yes but he’s focused on crits and honing his sprunt. The climb to the domes will be a bridge too far.”

“But look over there. Medium Banana has brought his wrecking crew from D.C. They are lean and look like they just had a bucket of chum for breakfast.”

“D.C. is flat. They won’t digest their first Donut very well.”

“What about Goggle? He’s in razor sharp form.”

“He’s competition, but smart riding from you and you could collect your first Donut victory since that last one you fake lied about in your blog.”

I spied Tinkerbell as she rode up, resplendent in her pro outfit. My heart sank. “There’s Tink,” I said.

“Conserve every stroke. Do not attack. Wait until the climb. Today is your day.”

Conservation and wheelsuckery

We bit into the Donut at 8:00 AM pointy-sharp, an 80-strong phalanx of ill-tempered cyclists dreaming of glory, savoring that first taste of sugar and soy lecithin as our mouths watered from wrapping our tongues around the glory hole of fresh donut.

As we approached the starting gate in Malaga Cove at Kilometer 1, I reflected on the wisdom of Destroyer’s words. To eat this Donut I would need to nibble around the edges and only chomp when the final ramp was in view. Restraint was the key. Cold calculation. The young man is strong, but the old man is wise.

I thought of the countless years that Surfer Dan and I had attacked at Kilometer 1 and even earlier, out of the parking lot, and of the futility in which virtually all such moves had ended. I reflected on my recent Km 1 accelerations and how they always flamed out early, a soggy lump of donut clogging my windpipe and arteries as I went down in paroxysms of indigestion.

This time would be different.

Donut attack!

As we rolled past Km 1 an uncontrollable urge surged over me and I attacked, exactly as Destroyer had enjoined.

“This is futile,” I told myself.

“Don’t do it,” I told myself.

“Ease off,” I told myself.

So I pedaled harder and didn’t look back until I had passed Pregnant Point a couple of miles later. The wankoton was invisible, and my passengers were three: Dennis, Tinkerbell, and Goggle.

Tink and Dennis had no appetite for any more Donut at that point and were steadfastly chewing; only Goggle crammed more donuts between his teeth and began sharing the load.

I figured we’d get caught soon but that perhaps we could at least make it to Golden Cove. Dennis took a couple of pulls but Tink declined the invitation, masticating her chunk of Donut into smaller and smaller easily digested bits while Goggle and I stuffed ever larger pieces into our maws.

Dennis tailed off and then it was us three. Tink took a couple of token pulls, seemingly amused at our faces, which were covered in white donut powdered sugar.

Heart palpitations

We hit the bottom of the Switchbacks and Tink accelerated with the ferocity of a rider who had won the QOM at last year’s Tour of California, which she had. “Rest day,” she smiled as we struggled back to her wheel. She slid to the back and we pushed on, littering the way with crumbs and the gummy spew that lines your arteries and creates artheriosclerosis of the aorta.

Goggle and I took turns, passed the flat spot on Crest, and began to get that feeling like maybe we shouldn’t have downed the whole sleeve at once. Maybe we shouldn’t have punched it at Km 1. Maybe this was a bad idea.

At exactly that moment Tink jumped us like a schoolyard bully, her rear wheel waving wildly from side to side like a flounder on the deck of a fishing boat. Goggle conveniently had a flat tire, or so he claimed, and I was left to respond with two flats of my own, a right one and a left one.

Somehow I latched on. Tink relented once she saw my shadow. We were only a hundred meters from the final turn, and she took a quick look back to check my temperature.

What she saw was the twisted rictus of a gasping, heaving, choking, shuddering, worn out old shoe, and she stood once more on the pedals, gleefully chewing her Donut and leaving me to twist in the wind, choking on mine.



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The electric bicycle acid test

May 7, 2018 § 17 Comments

It had to happen.

I stomped hard at the beginning of the Donut Ride on Saturday coming out of Malaga Cove Plaza, and they let me go. At the top I glanced back and there was no one, which kind of sucked. I had fallen into the overtrained-tired hole, and didn’t have the legs to stay out there by myself for very long, but with a gap this big I’d be alone until Hawthorne unless one or two riders bridged up.

I hunched down a little more and kept the gear rolling.

As I whipped down Paseo del Mar I saw a shadow on my right and a shadow on my left, and knew that these would be my breakaway companions for a couple of more miles until we got caught. After having done this ride a million times, there are only a couple of variations, and this was one of them.

Then I heard the noise of many bikes and glanced back. The entire peloton was there, and the rider whose shadow I’d seen in front was a guy who, as far as I know, has never chased down anything. He had brought me back instantaneously and wasn’t even breathing hard. I sat up confused, but glad that I could soft pedal and wait for the right moment to pull the plug and go home.

Meet the new boss

The PV Estates police, with their new lease on life, have been staffing every stop sign along the Donut route every Saturday, and they were out in force again. The group mostly put a foot down, got through, and started rolling again.

That’s when I noticed.

The dude who had brought me back was up at the front again, and he had a happy grin on his face, the grin of someone who was about to do some damage. I know that look. But what I didn’t know, and couldn’t believe even though I was staring right at it, was that he had shown up on the Donut and led the charge on an electric bike, or, as I like to call them, electric motorcycles with goofy footpegs.

So I said a few things to him, among which were phrases like, “Excuse me good sir but would you please be so kind as to remove yourself to the rear of the peloton?” and “Are you aware, good sir, that riding an electric motorcycle at the front of a group ride like this is ungentlemanly?”

To make sure he understood, some other vocabulary was also used, including references to various acts of reproduction, as well as references to individuals who do not play by the rules and the various parts of their anatomy in which their electric motorcycles should be stored.

To make extra sure, I said all of this several times in a rather loud voice. The dude slunk to the back, and even though I quit soon after to help mediate for a couple of riders who had been stopped by the cops, he apparently got the message and didn’t do any more chasing at the front.

Build it, and they will cheat

I continued on after the police dragnet and passed a friend going up the Switchbacks. “How’s it going, Mike?” I asked as I rode by.

“I may be last but at least I’m not riding an electric bike,” he said.

At the college several other riders expressed their contempt for the electric biker.

“He’s a good guy,” I said. “He’s been doing this ride for years.”

“Fuck that,” said one rider. “This has nothing to do with good guy/bad guy. That was a total douche move. He flipped the switch going up that hill and dragged the whole peloton up to you.”

“I was going to quit anyway.”

“Fuck that,” said another. “He’s giving everyone else the message: E-bikes are not only welcome on the Donut, they’re welcome to chase breaks. Why don’t we all just show up on motorcycles?”

When I got home, the dude had written me a very apologetic text message, promising to never do it again. And while I believe him, his rationale for doing it in the first place will likely occur to others.

  1. I want to give my friends a draft.
  2. I want to run interference to alert the riders about the cops.
  3. I want to carry snacks to hungry riders so they can eat if they get hungry.

Number one? Yeah, buddy, don’t we all? Problem is, to do it you have to have the legs, and once you do it, you’re done.

Number two? Please. We still got pulled over.

Number three? You’re kidding me. What’s next? Bringing a stash of clean diapers?

The real problem with cheating

When you bring an electric motorcycle with goofy footpegs to the Donut Ride, it’s my opinion that you are cheating. Why do I consider it cheating? Because you are using an electric motor to pedal your bike while everyone else is using their legs, and as the steam drill showed John Henry, the machine is stronger than the man.

The problem with cheating is that it is unfair. But that’s not the only problem. Once you cheat, other people will imitate you, and they will cheat, too. Soon, it won’t be cheating anymore, it will be the new rule. And in one fell stroke you will have killed a ride that has been around for more than forty years. How many of the people who were there on Saturday will show up when it’s a pack of e-bikes?

What’s so brazenly bad about this is that you, dude, have enjoyed this ride for at least two decades, being the beneficiary of participating in what is surely one of the best hard group rides in the country. And now, because you’re older and your nutsack is droopy, instead of bowing to physics and physiology like thousands have done before you, you are bringing a motorized cycle to a bike ride, and what’s more, using it to kick everyone’s ass.

If you doubt that cheating changes the rules, look at the President. By lying multiple times every single day about every matter big and small, people have gotten used to lying. And once they get accustomed to lying, they stop insisting on facts, because the liar is never held to account. And once they stop insisting on facts, it becomes a contest of who can lie the biggest, the boldest, the most outrageously. After the shouting contest? Of course, disagreements are settled with fists, because without facts it becomes the rule of might makes right. Do away with laws, and you’re left with the law of the jungle.

Which is what will happen on the Donut, and every ride like it where electric motorcycles with goofy footpegs are allowed to drive the front, chase the break, and lead the charge up the climb. You’ll win, all right. But when you get to the top to celebrate your awesome purchasing skills, you won’t find that special thing inside you, the residue of having given it your all called satisfaction. You’ll find something entirely different.

You’ll find that you’re empty, and that you’re all alone.



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Battery doping

April 28, 2018 § 4 Comments

We had hit Trump, I was in my 53 x 17, and Gavin Hoover was pulling away. I was doing my best to stay on his wheel. At the bottom of the Switchbacks he began doing his best to make sure I was not on his wheel, which was pretty effective, not just as to me, but as to the other four riders struggling might and main not to get dropped. When a dude with his sights set on making the Olympic team hits the gas, your day is done. The peloton was a distant memory.

I tried to shift onto an easier rear cog but the derailleur wouldn’t move. I got off the big chain ring but the 39 x 17 was too small to keep up, and they began pulling away. I realized the rear derailleur battery on my SRAM e-tap had died.

Every Saturday afternoon I charge front and rear, and this week I’d only ridden Tue/Thu/Fri, hardly enough to run down the battery. On the other hand, the batteries were two-and-a-half years old. That’s about 130 charges, which I figured was probably enough to have taken the battery to the end of its life.

I pulled over to swap the front battery onto the rear. Swarms of riders passed. I fumbled a bit but got it done, hopped on, and pedaled away. After a bit Derek the Ninja Destroyer caught me, dragging Ivan and someone else, and towed us to about 200 yards from the first chase group, throwing burned and shellacked droppees into the Destroyer blender as he passed.

I hopped up the last couple of hundred yards and rode up Crest, towed the whole way by Bryant Rolf, who recently relocated from the East Coast back to L.A. and brought a vicious pair of legs with him. I sucked wheel until the end and sprunted around him.

The group re-agglomerated and as we rode into San Pedro I told Gavin what had happened. He nodded. “I don’t think my cables ever lost their charge during a ride or race,” he said.



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Bile-and-spit flavored Donut

April 1, 2018 § 3 Comments

Alex Barnes and teammate Ryan Ung of Santa Monica Subaru came out yesterday to say “hello” on the Donut Ride, and they said it in a very mean, spiteful, nasty way.

The pre-ride timber check had all the markings of a ghastly ride, as it included Mark Tripp, Mathieu Brousseau, and some dude on a fugly green Specialized along with Attila the Hun, JP Jones, JP Baby Seal, Kevin Phillips, G3, David Steinhafel, Ramon Ramos, and Chris Tregillis, who missed the start and had to chase one of the fastest Donuts in memory … and he caught on!

There was a slew of teammates from Team Lizard Collectors and various other species of animal, all vying for the impossible honor of getting to the radar domes first. Josh Dorfman, Josh Alverson, and Lauren Mulwitz lined up along with Super Old Guy and Asskicker Rich Mull, but no Derek Brauch. Many riders were  finishing the San Dimas stage race from last weekend and either had a score to settle or wanted to confirm their awesomeness in the race that truly matters, i.e. the group ride wankfest.

It was the middle of race season, real and artificial testosterone levels were high, the Ronde was on Sunday, and it was going to be hideous.

Coming out of Malaga Cove I glanced at the traffic control speed warning sign, which said “28,” a speed that was clearly false because Mathieu came around me about 3 mph faster. The great thing about not riding with a power meter, speedometer, or Strava is I can make everything up. “It was so fucking hard” sounds a heck of a lot better than “175 watts.”

In a flash, Mathieu and I were dropped by Alx Bns and Ram-Ram Ramon. The field caught us although we didn’t catch Alx-Ram-Ram; it had been single from the bottom of the Malaga Cove climb and would stay that way to the bottom of the Switchbacks, about 40 minutes later. That’s unusual on the Donut, where there’s almost always a fat phalanx at the back affording shelter.

Mathieu finally caught Alex and Ramon, and kept drilling it all the way through Lunada Bay and then to Golden Cove. People were hanging on like charted pieces of meat about to drop off the spit and into the flame; none dared come around, while several realized it was time for their morning coffee break and went elsewhere.

Mathieu single-filed some more until Alex and Ryan took over, along with a couple of huge efforts by JP Baby Seal that shelled even more riders and eventually shelled Baby Seal as well. I have never seen it single file from the very beginning all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks. People were coming unhitched right, left, and center. At the bottom of the climb I was fourth wheel, behind Alx, Ryan, and Ugly Bike Dude whose name is Steve and whose former full-time occupation was “bike racer.”

I dropped back to seek more shelter as we climbed only to find that there was no more “back.” Mark Tripp was the last guy in our little community until Ryan took one last monster pull then swung over for Alx to attack. Only Steve could follow; I’m not sure he ever broke a sweat. Attila and Kyle Jackson came up, and then we formed the first chase group with Ryan, Kyle, Mark, and Attila. It was Sad Face Day for me as I took stock and realized I’d never beaten any of these guys on a climb. Oh, well.

On the worst part of the Switchbacks, Yasuko was hunkered down on the side of the road shooting pictures. Check out the faces! The most embarrassing one is where I’m hanging on for dear life and Ryan’s MOUTH ISN’T EVEN OPEN. You suck, dude.

Ryan, who had been hammering since Trump, finally swung over, which sucked because his pace was somewhat endurable; I was okay hanging onto the back. Then Kyle took over, giving Ryan a rest, and I was suddenly not okay. Somehow I hung on; Ryan then jumped, I went with him, and we shelled the other three. I hung on until just before Crest, when Ryan dumped me like a load of rotten potatoes.

Attila caught me about a third of the way up Crest and towed me to the top, where he sprinted for a glorious fourth place.

After that, everyone wanted an easy spin up Western so JP Jones and I laid into it, squeaking through an extremely ripe orange light and then going full blast. JP melted on Better Homes, then caught me again on Crest. We traded pulls until Alex and Steve caught us; I jumped on and survived until just before the end of the flat spot on Crest, when Steve pulled so hard that all I could do was drift off the back as my heart spiked along with my eyes, kidneys, and liver. So, third …

Heading off to the Hawthorne Sprunt, Mathieu, smarting, had attacked early with Heavy D., JP Seal, and Steinhafel. They opened a big gap thanks to Heavy D.’s superior gravitational skills and vicious smashing. Alx chased all the way to the bottom of the
Glass Church. I attacked and neglected to check who was on my wheel because I never check who’s on my wheel because IDGAF. This time it mattered. I caught the break and gapped the leaders but was then countered by Steve and Ryan and couldn’t get on, same as you can’t “get on” when you’re passed by a jet taking off the deck of an aircraft carrier. They rode away. I was alone over the second bump, then put my head down and pedaled hard but without hope.

That’s when Daniel Park, Heavy D., Steinhafel, and Alex caught me. The other chasers were back in Riverside County. After the light at Terranea we had about 200m between us and Ryan/Steve and they were hauling. As we started up the last roller before the sprunt, I told Daniel Park, the 17-year-old kid who sprints like a runaway train, “Go now!” and he launched the attack from hell. I barely latched on, he caught and dropped Ryan and Steve, then drove it to the sprint which I thought he might get until Heavy D. and Alex chased us down and passed us.

Alx finished so far ahead it was silly.

On Zumaya I was last. However, I was first to the fridge here at home, which is way more important than being first anywhere else, ever. The ride was an order of magnitude faster today than last week, which sounds so much more awesome than having actual data like speed, time, you know, facts. What can’t be quantified, though, was the fun. It was crazy fun, to be this old and creaky and still loving riding my bike this much.

Hope you had a great ride yesterday, too!



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The staff of life

March 26, 2018 § 17 Comments

I was in a deposition a couple of weeks ago, and before opposing counsel came in I was chatting with my client, a guy from Eastern Europe. We were talking about bread and he lamented the absence of heavy, dark sourdoughs here in the U.S.A.

I mentioned that we bake sourdough at home and that I eat it for breakfast with lots of butter and jam, and for lunch with peanut butter.

The court reporter blurted out, “How can you be that skinny and eat that much bread?”

I didn’t break the bad news to her. At 5’11” and 155 lbs., I’m not skinny for a historically healthy person. If anything, I’m a bit on the large side. But for a modern American, where the standards for normal body size begin with “immense” and go rapidly upwards, I suppose the word “skinny” fits.

But I did break the good news. You can eat dense, high-calorie bread, and eat a bunch of it, and not gain weight.

Bread’s bad rap

I thought I would try to prove this by reading some dreck on the Internet, but there is an extraordinary amount of digital nonsense that says bread is really bad for you. The reasons are mostly the same, no matter what article you read: Bread is bad for you because refined bread causes sugar spikes, bread turns to sugar (and we all know that sugar is bad), wheat is grown with deadly pesticides, commercial bread additives are potentially carcinogenic, and bread contains gluten, a substance that makes you sick and wrecks your health.

A quick search for “Roman Meal bread ingredients” confirmed some of this when you click on the ingredients button down the page. This go-to supermarket loaf contains “Coarse Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Brown Sugar, Whole Grain Wheat Flakes, Yeast, Vital Wheat Gluten, Whole Grain Rye Flakes, Soybean Oil, Honey, Molasses, Salt, Cultured Wheat Flour, Dough Conditioners (Calcium Sulfate, Enzymes), Yeast Nutrients (Ammonium Sulfate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Soy Lecithin.”

Roman Meal has huge amounts of sugar added in the form of sucrose and molasses. The malted barley flour is fermented barley, which results in more sugars and more sweetness. A breakdown of the ingredients in Wonder Bread is equally depressing; the main ingredient after flour and water is sugar. But the biggest knock on these two supermarket staples is that they are uncooked to a degree that they taste like soggy, barely dry dough. Forget a crackly crust, or chewy bread that makes your jaw sore. Modern store bread can easily be eaten without teeth.

And compared to those two supermarket staples, the McBun is a veritable nutritional sewer. Unless, of course, you’re big on high fructose corn syrup, sugar, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, ammonium sulfate, ammonium chloride, sodium stearoyl lactylate, datem, azodicarbonamide, mono- and diglycerides, ethoxylated monoglycerides, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, guar gum, calcium peroxide, calcium propionate and sodium propionate. Aren’t those all flavors of ice cream?

Scientists have taken a serious look at wheat and its component part gluten, and have tried to address how it affects humans. A great overview of the main types of problems people have eating wheat is laid out in this this scientific review, which breaks down the various difficulties that some people run into eating the most staple of all staples.

But one question in these investigations don’t answer is, “What are you calling bread?” People who exhibit gluten intolerance may be ingesting nothing but commercial, sugary, chemical-laden, starchy foods that use bleached white flour as the main ingredient, but does that make it bread?

Not in my house, it doesn’t.

Bread’s good rap

Of course if you don’t like one set of facts, keep googling and you will eventually hit upon a set that more closely conforms to your personal prejudices. For example, these folks insist that whole wheat bread is quite good for you.

“Scores of studies,” they say, without citing any of them, “have found that whole-grain carbs can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, strokes, and obesity.” And they recommend a whopping three servings a day. Yum! Sounds good to me.

The payback to all this gluten gluttony? You’ll be more energetic, you’ll be healthier overall, you’ll live longer, you’ll feel happier, you’ll be skinnier, you’ll shit like a bike racer, and you’ll be blessed with healthier hair and skin. I don’t know about you, but #5 pretty much closes the deal.

The taxonomy of bread

Getting back to the deliberate confusion of calling a variety of things bread, regardless of what they contain or how they’re made, it occurred to me after wading through much sound and fury, signifying clickbait, that one problem people have with bread is defining it. Is Roman Meal bread? Is Wonder Bread bread? Is the McBun bread? If so, saying “bread is bad” is probably pretty safe, at least relative to other food options out there, such as sand or plutonium.

But how then do we explain the fact that bread, the “staff of life,” has marched in lockstep with the exploding human population for the last 10,000 years? If bread is so toxic and so inextricably linked to illness and bowel disease in the 21st Century, why didn’t it kill us off in the first twenty? And if you are a Christian sort of person, you’d have to agree that for such a terrible, toxic substance, bread sure gets it share of airtime in the bible.

The article on gluten-related disorders by Sapone et al. suggests that “One possible explanation is that the selection of wheat varieties with higher gluten content has been a continuous process during the last 10,000 years, with changes dictated more by technological rather than nutritional reasons. Wheat varieties grown for thousands of years and mostly used for human nutrition up to the Middle Ages, such as Triticum monococcum and T. dicoccum, contain less quantities of the highly toxic 33-mer gluten peptide [65].”

In other words, the wheat we eat now differs from the wheat we ate in the Middle Ages. Wheat varieties have suffered from a dramatic decrease in genetic diversity since 1960. One study suggests that relatively recent nutritional changes show up in the content of the wheat itself: A comparison of modern wheat with wheat from 100 years ago shows a steady reduction in micronutrient values.

Modern wheat yields more calories than historic varieties. The variety that accounts for 99% of all wheat production, semi-dwarf wheat, yields more grains per acre, is resistant to the devastating disease of wheat rust, is hardier due to its shorter stalk, and is easily harvested by heavy equipment. There’s more of it and it’s cheaper to eat, so we do what everyone does when you shove something in front of our face, we eat more of it, and as with anything else that is over-consumed, it causes problems.

But modern wheat is much more caloric than historic varieties were due to changes in processing as well. Until the early 20th Century, almost all wheat was milled so that the entire wheat grain got crushed up and used as flour. Roller milling allowed the healthy parts of the wheat to be efficiently stripped away, leaving nothing but the starchy kernel. The result was bread that had more calories, but became a barren nutritional landscape.

Sound familiar? Cue Wonder Bread …

My point, then, is that when we talk about bread, we’re probably talking about completely different things. Bread bashers are talking about what they buy in the store or pick up at Fasty McFastfood. But I’m not talking about the garbage that supermarkets pass off for bread; that kind of white sugar-squish never makes it onto my plate. I’m talking about something else.

Cooking made easy and other redundancies

A lady in our complex recently signed up for one of those Blue Apron-type services, where they bring you the ingredients, the recipe, and make home cooking “easy and simple.” Of course the problem isn’t that cooking is complicated or difficult. If it were, people would have died out long ago, and baking bread is Exhibit #1.

So when I say “bread,” I’m really talking about a well-defined thing whose ingredients couldn’t be simpler: Flour, water, yeast, salt, and maybe some uncrushed seeds for variety and flavor. Baking bread is simple, too. All it takes is the one luxury that rich people can never seem to buy: Time.

That’s not to say that all baking is simple, but making a delicious and wholesome loaf of whole wheat bread is flat-out easy, especially after you’ve done it a few times. All of which brings us back to that deposition and the astounded court reporter.

My go-to loaf these days is a whole wheat sourdough with six grains. It takes about 24 hours to make; this includes getting the starter going, making the dough, letting it rise overnight, setting it out to rise again for two hours during the day, about 45 minutes in the oven, and another hour to cool. All of this can be done in between other things; the total amount of time actually making and baking is about 90 minutes. And of course my wife’s legendary white-whole wheat loaves can be knocked out in a couple of hours, also while doing other things, taking up less than thirty minutes of actual “doing.”

Sourdough bread leverages the live yeast and bacteria in starter to ferment the dough, which results in a “mini-ecosystem packed with flavor-making potential. Both yeast and bacteria increase the acidity of the dough, which fends off harmful bacteria and gives sourdough its characteristic tangy taste.” Sourdough is healthier and easier to digest, and “the long fermentation time required and acidity of the dough are what really contribute to its health benefits.”

Cycling and bread

Along with water in my water bottle, I’ve found no other food will sustain you on a ride  as long as a granite-heavy slab of multi-grain sourdough slathered with butter and homemade jam, percolating away in your guts. It powers your legs long after the quick shot of “Barbie food,” as my friend Dan Sievert calls gels and similar snacks, has been vaporized.

Another huge benefit is that thick, dense, grainy breads crowd out other snack foods once you’re off the bike. After a slab of bread you just don’t want to eat anything else, especially if you’ve washed it down with a tumbler of cold milk.

Bread is also social. We talk about it in the kitchen, we compare it to previous loaves, and we excitedly peek into the oven to see what the newest offering looks like. Every loaf is a creation, albeit a temporary one, and hardly immortal.

When baked the old way, it sustained mankind for millenia, so I think it will get me through the Donut Ride. And if this weekend is any indication, it may even do so with flying colors. Wonder “Bread” need not apply.



Eating home-baked bread is one of the finest things in life. The smell, the taste, and the enjoyment of something so simple yet infinitely complex. It’s good for your riding, too. If this has been a good read, please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!




Baby Seal’s big adventure

February 15, 2018 § 3 Comments

Baby Seal got up on Saturday in an untimely fashion. He had set his alarm for 6:30 AM so that he would have plenty of time to veganize, shave, and leisurely pedal to the Donut Ride in an immaculate sealskin, where he would be admired by all and sundry prior to tearing their legs off.

The alarm did its job but Baby Seal didn’t do his, and made the fatal mistake of lying back in bed for “just five minutes” only to awake with a mere twenty minutes to make it to the start on time. No longer having time to veganize or become immaculate or even ride his bicycle, Baby Seal tore through the dirty clothes hamper, threw on a minimally skid-marked pair of shorts, mismatched a jersey, mis-mismatched vest, and dashed out the front door.

In mid-dash he noted, carefully coiled on the kitchen table, a very expensive and fancy tool wrap, no lame saddle bag for Baby Seal! Instead it was a canvas, multi-slotted tool wrap not unlike the offerings of a fine sushi shop, packed with tube, tools, and other goodies in case he flatted or mechanicaled. “Arf!” Baby Seal barked to himself, “it’s the fuggin’ Donut Ride. I won’t flat!” He threw his bike into the van and sped off to the start.

Parking at Malaga Cove, Baby Seal leaped on his bike just as the wankoton roared by. He’d made it in the nick of time!

As the ride heated up and the group began suffering on the rise just past Terranea, Baby Seal heated up, too. No worries! Now was where Baby Seal stamped his authority on the wankoton with the famed Vest Removal In Mid-Pack Maneuver, whereby the sweaty rider unzips, immobilizes both hands behind his back while off the bars in defiance of the other idiots wobbling and packed together within inches, causing the entire group to gasp and stare in terror as it waits to see whether the vest removal will result in a disrobing or a colossal pile-up.

Baby Seal was on it, though, and seated erectly he proudly stripped off the vest and then, pro-like, balled it up for stowage. But rather than stuffing it into his rear jersey pocket like the typical clueless clodhopper, Baby Seal went All Pro and stuffed it up under his jersey, saving valuable pocket space and exhibiting amazing stuffing skills. “Look ma! No hands!”

At that very moment, however, Baby Seal’s twisting up of the bottom jersey hem caused his $12,000, mahogany paneled iPhone with RuggedMaxx II logo to squirt out of the jersey pocket and into the maw of the wankoton. The sound of tires running over the bouncing iPhone were like the sound of one’s offspring being murdered, and no amount of swerving could save the phone from the relentless battery of carbon-on-carbon crime.

As Baby Seal swung over to retrieve the phone, his friends in the group, which was everyone, accelerated hard to force a chase should he try to reconnect.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! The iPhone was only barely scratched and worked perfectly! Baby Seal hopped back on his mount and dug deep as his good friends dug deeper, until he caught them at the base of the climb. They were all glad to see him so they attacked the moment he rejoined. Baby Seal rejoiced that he had made the ride!

Many miles later as Baby Seal ascended Via Zumaya, the final punishing Donut climb, he ran over a razor blade and sliced his rear tire to the bone. Fortunately, riding tubeless, he was able to cover his leg in Baby Sealant, which made him happy, but not nearly as happy as Brooks, who was riding directly behind him, and who got his goggles and face also covered in Baby Sealant. Baby Seal’s flippers sunk as he thought how silly he had been not to take the extra four seconds to grab the sushi tool wrap!!


But lo! Miracle of miracles! Though 98% of the Baby Sealant only sealed Baby Seal’s leg, shoe, and Brooks’s eyes, the remaining 2% sealed the tire despite the slash and Baby Seal continued onward to the cafe at the end of the rainbow. Once there, in celebration of his big adventure, he ordered food for all the friends who had worked so hard to drop him, and when it came time to pay he discovered that his credit card, which lived in his iPhone case, had fallen out way back at Terranea.

So Baby Seal jumped on his bike and raced out along the roadway, on an empty tummy no less, where several thousand cars and bikes had already been since his mishap.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! There on the roadside was Baby Seal’s credit card, the one that hadn’t been declined yet! He scooped it up and went back to pay the bill, but his good friends had already left and paid. Like extra mackerel tossed from the food bucket, Baby Seal contemplated the joy of a free lunch!

The following day, Baby Seal, legs tired from the day before, showed up for the Telo World Championship Fake Training Race, where he promptly got dropped from the lead group. He put his head down and pedaled mightily as the leaders appeared to disappear.

But lo! Miracle of miracles! Baby Seal caught the break and won the sprunt for his first Telo victory ever, after which he was awarded the coveted Telo’s winner jersey ($75, cheap!) and a loaf of fresh bread. Most of the bread didn’t make it home from the big adventure … but Baby Seal did!




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December 27, 2017 Comments Off on Jared

I wheeled up to the Donut Ride and immediately noticed him. It was freezing cold and he was woefully under-dressed; no arm warmers, no leg warmers, not even a jacket or a vest. And he was young. And he was nervous.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hi!” he answered.

“What’s your name?”

“Jared. It’s my first time here. I’m kind of nervous.”

“That’s okay, everybody’s nervous their first time. Do you live around here?”

“I’m a freshman at UCSB and am just getting into cycling.”

“That’s great. Can I buy you a coffee?” I was freezing myself despite an undershirt, a jacket, gloves, and tights.

“No, but thank you,” he said.

It’s pretty miserable and exciting at the same time, showing up on your first beatdown ride. I haven’t always been the most helpful person, but over the years it has always seemed to pay off when you’re nice to people in the beginning. They remember it, they occasionally turn out to be beastly strong and repay you with a tow or a push, and I like to think that in twenty years’ time they’ll be the same way, talking to other newcomers and helping take the edge of. As my grandpa always said, “It don’t cost nothin’ to be nice.” Plus, after being nice you can smash in earnest.

Which we did.

I didn’t see Jared again until the bottom of Better Homes. A group of leaders including Pornstache, Tink, John (I think) van Guilder, J.P. “Just Pound” Jones, and my son-in-law had gotten away and I was deep in chase mode. I have never caught the break on Better Homes if they have sneaked away; the climb is too hard and I’m too slow, but I figured I had to try.

I gave it a dig and heard someone on my wheel. He came by hard and I jumped on. It was Jared. He was perfectly sized to climb and had those fresh legs of youth, you know the kind I’m talking about: The kind that can go full out, completely blow, and then recover in five seconds. He put in about three of these monster efforts and suddenly the leaders were just around the bend.

This kid was slamming it so hard and of course I was in whatever zone comes after red. Purple? Black? With only twenty yards between us and the front, he blew up again, this time for good. I punched it and managed to latch onto the leaders. I glanced back as he sat out there in no-person’s-land, then faded.

“Not the last we’ve seen of him,” I thought as we surged away.



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