My KOM

October 17, 2017 § 15 Comments

I’m not big on the Stravver, and not least of all because its welcome page says “Connecting the World’s Athletes.” Newsflash: I ain’t no athlete. I’m a creaky old profamateur masters bicycle delusioner.

Occasionally, however, I will be forced to participate in a KOM conversation, where someone who doesn’t have any KOMs is talking about KOMs, kind of like me talking about a full head of hair.

“I don’t have hardly any KOMs,” I will meekly say.

The person will look sadly at me. “That’s just because you don’t go after them,” he will answer, trying to make me feel better.

“No, it’s because I suck.”

“Aw, come on,” the person will whine, sensing a dose of reality in the offing. “You could get tons if you tried.”

“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve tried. Here in the South Bay there are no KOMs available to me. Lane, Spencer, Chris Tregillis … the KOMs are all theirs.”

However, I do have three KOMs on the Stravver. Two of them suck and you could take them with little effort. One of them is for the Wednesday Bro Ride, a loop that has a bunch of lights and stuff, and only twenty-five people have ever done it. The course record is 1:45 and some seconds. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could snap up this KOM without hardly breaking a sweat.

The other one is the “neutral” on Western, the part of the Donut Ride that goes through San Pedro. It’s a more legit than the “brochelada” segment; the KOM is nine minutes flat and it has been stravvered by about 1,800 people. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could take this one too–it’s got the word “neutral” in it, after all–but your legs are going to have to sting a little bit. So go ahead and grab it. Be my guest.

Then I’ve got one last KOM, and I think I’ll be hanging onto it for a little while longer. It’s on Vista del Mar, 2.1 miles, the segment rolling out on NPR. I share it with Eric Anderson, and the segment has been recorded on the Stravver 4,107 times. We set this in a seven-man rotation last January including Dave Ellis, Ramon Ramos, Peyton Cooke, Jon Paris, and Kristie Fox doing an alt-NPR ride called “The 6:50.” As is often the case, we had a tailwind. And we went pretty hard. Unlike my other KOMs on the Stravver, this leaderboard is littered with hitters. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you might not be able to take this one, but if you do, you’re going to need some help, and you’re going to have to like the taste of your own puke.

But none of those KOMs that I got on the Stravver compared to the one I got on Saturday, which was snatched away the moment that the other riders uploaded their data. This was on the Donut of All Donuts, which will be the subject of a future blog, and which occurred this past Saturday.

Every year when we have the South Bay Cycling Awards, which is on a Saturday, we also have the biggest Donut of the year. Last year some of the monsters from North County showed up–Josh Stockinger, Phil Tinstman, as well as a big contingent of West Side killers. I was dropped into the meat grinder and spit out pretty quickly.

This year Ryan Dahl, another North County tough guy, made the trek, and the full Santa Monica BMW/Helen’s squad showed up, led by Tony Manzella and “reinforced” by Alex Barnes, Matt Wikstrom, and the rest of their team. Diego Binatena, who holds the KOM on the Switchbacks was there, evergreen Rudy Napolitano, along with Derek Brauch and a bunch of other bad boys. For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, I didn’t even ride to the Domes on the first climb, quitting at the college after trying to follow a pace to the base of the Switchbacks that left me in tatters.

So you can imagine how my heart went pitter-patter the moment I uploaded my ride on the Stravver and saw a little crown for the 6:36 segment through San Pedro. Whaaaaat? A KOM on the hardest day of the year on one of the hardest Donuts ever stacked with the RuggedMaxx II wrecking crew? “It must be a mistake,” I thought, because although I remembered going balls out up Western, trading the front a couple of times with David Wells and everyone else just sitting on, I couldn’t have imagined it was a KOM effort. I’d been off the bike for two weeks, I have tendinitis, and it’s friggin’ October, fer fugg’s sake.

Well … as soon as the uploads started, it was gone as quickly as it had come. David Ellis sneaked by me a second or two, and a handful of other sitters equaled my faux KOM due to the way the Stravver works, which I don’t understand, but it has something to do with how if you start at the back and use the draft of the group to move up you somehow are going faster than the people who stay in the same place. Kind of makes sense but it really doesn’t, like why rednecks don’t want free healthcare. The Stravver is obviously flawed to begin with, putting me at the top of any leaderboard for any reason.

Getting that one faux KOM made my weekend, even though it’s all gone now. I got to brag about it all day and night at the Wankys, refusing to check my phone so I could honestly say “I have the KOM going through Pedro.” And I did. And at 53-almost-54 years of age, it may have been brief but I’ll take it.

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Diego Binatena solo on the Donut. Photo by JP Baby Seal.

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Low Fidelity Podcast #4: The Donut That Never Gets Stale

September 30, 2017 § 6 Comments

It’s the weekend. Time for another podcast, directly from my bed.

https://southbaycycling.podbean.com/e/low-fidelity-podcast-4-the-donut-that-never-gets-stale/

 

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

Everyone rides the Tour

July 16, 2017 § 11 Comments

It’s Turdy France time and everyone rides the Tour, as each group ride, for three short weeks, assumes the position of fake Turdy France stage. The Donut Ride was no exception, and it had been crowned the Fake Queen Donut Stage of the Fake South Bay Turdy France.

As with any fake Tour contender, I thought it meet to plan my strategy by picking the brain of ex-pro Phil Gaimon who, though he never actually rode the Tour, has read a lot of cool magazine articles about it. I’d heard that he was holding a book signing for his book “Ask a Pro,” and was also doing a sign-up for his yuge October Phil’s Fondue ride, so I sneaked into the book signing without an invitation.

“Hey, Phil!” I said as he was hunched over his stack of books, dutifully ginning out signatures like a pre-cryonics Ted Williams, while his manager hungrily eyed the sales receipts and swiped credit cards for the fondue registration.

“Yes?” he said.

“It’s me, Wanky! Yer ol’ pal. I had some questions I wanted to ask a pro.”

He pretended not to know who I was, which is what slightly famous people often do to cover up the fact that I’m actually more famous than they are. “Would you like to buy a book?” he asked.

“Nah,” I said.

“A grand fondue registration, perhaps?”

“Nope.”

He sighed. “How can I help you?”

“So you’re a pro, right? And you wrote a book called ‘Ask A Pro,’ right? Well, then. The Fake Queen Donut Stage of the South Bay Turdy France is tomorrow and I need some pro tips on how to ride it. So I thought I would ask a pro.”

Suddenly he got very busy but another guy who wasn’t a pro, and who didn’t really look like a pro, but who seemed more interested in me than the pro, chimed in. “Winning a fake queen stage? That’s easy,” he said.

“Really?”

“Sure. Don’t lose too much time. That’s the secret to stage racing.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes, and one other thing.”

“What’s that?”

“You know the guy in your group who always wins? Every group has one.”

“Sure. That’s Alx Bns.”

“Well, he’ll win the fake queen stage, too.”

I thought about this depressing little gem for a few seconds and how I’d been ripped off paying for it until I realized I hadn’t actually paid for it. I tapped on Phil’s shoulder. “Say, can you write up a quick training and diet plan for me while I’m here? I brought a few terabytes of power data I’d like you to analyze if you don’t mind. Since you’re already here, I mean.”

A few moments later Phil introduced me to a gentleman named Bouncer, kind of a weird name, who insisted on talking to me outside the event venue, onto the sidewalk, with my neck in a headlock. He didn’t know anything about winning queen stages, so I went home.

The next morning I got up to prepare for the queen stage. Preparation is key and I now had my mantra, courtesy of a guy standing next to pro Phil Gaimon. My mantra? DON’T LOSE TOO MUCH TIME.

I carefully went over each item of my Wanky Donut Gear. It is a high-tech bunch of stuff, loaded with lots of carbon that is 100% carbon plus everything is cutting edge and carbon. Speaking of cutting edge and carbon, Ms. WM and I got into it before I left because she was using my $500 carbon steel Japanese paring knife to scrape rust off the tea kettle.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I screamed.

“Itsa nasty gunkin’ so I’m cleanin it.”

“That’s my five hundred dollar paring knife!”

“Itsa cuttin good but not so good onna scrapin.”

“Of course it isn’t! It’s not a fucking scraper! You just ruined the blade!”

She was unimpressed and continued to scrape. In a sad panic I assembled the legendary Wanky Donut Gear. Below is an awesome fake Tour tech gallery that you can drool over. It is full carbon, all of it.

I rolled out of Chez Wanky, blood pressure still a tad high due to the ruined paring knife, and got to the sign-in area for the queen stage, which is the remodeled Riviera Village Sckubrats. A long time ago they named this part of Redondo Beach the “Riviera” because of the famed beaches and culture and high class of the French Riviera. I’m pretty sure they never actually saw the real Riviera before they bestowed the name, or they would never have called this run-down rat’s nest of beach huts and fake surfers the “Riviera,” but that’s another story.

This story is about not losing too much time and so one by one I quizzed my competitors about how they intended to strategify the stage. Each rider had a unique approach that centered on “don’t get dropped,” so I adopted that as my strategy, too. Only one rider, Englishman Alx Bns, had a different strategy, which was “drop everyone.” This bothered me a bit, but not nearly as much at the start as it did at the bottom of the Switchbacks, where he executed the strategy with the efficiency of Brexit. Okay, it was way more efficient than that, but equally ruthless.

Standouts included wet-behind-the-ears but stupid-strong-behind-the-legs Matthieu Brousseau, who despite his French-sounding name kicked almost everyone’s ass except Dan Cobley’s. My strategy of not losing too much time by not getting dropped (or gapped out as I prefer to call it), didn’t succeed too well. Towards the end I was passed by a fellow in a t-shirt and flip-flops who wasn’t even breathing hard. Thank dog it was my rest week.

But the really sad news is this. You remember Phil telling me about how the guy who was going to win was the guy who always wins? Dang it, that’s the guy who won.

PRE-RACE INTERVIEWS AT THE SIGN-IN FOR THE FAKE QUEEN DONUT STAGE

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS ATOP MT. SWITCHBACKS

 

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Peak performance

March 26, 2017 § 18 Comments

The best way to win the Donut Ride is to wait until a big race that attracts all the hitters. To quote Derek the Destroyer’s “First Maxim for Winning”: Your results are predetermined by who shows up.

The San Dimas Stage Robbery had started on Friday, and the usual complement of legit racers was, quite literally, off to the races. Leaky and creaky, I never have a chance to make it first to the top of the radar domes, but today, well, there was at least a chance.

At the bottom of the Switchbacks the group of twelve riders broke apart and by the first turn it was me, Tasker, Roberto, and Marco C., with Marco sitting on the front and churning out the watts. I sat on his wheel for a bit but he’s been in training and is now tipping the scales at 118, a weight that makes Strava Junior look like a fatty.

I dropped back to suck wheel behind Roberto while Tasker had the unenviable task of sitting behind the wraith. Marco dragged us all the way to the college, where Roberto pulled off, and then Marco dragged us all the way to the domes. I planned a sneak attack at the end to punish him for doing all the work, but well before my treachery he simply accelerated and pedaled away from us.

I surged by Tasker and elbowed him into the cones to keep him from getting fake second in our fake race.

Marco is fast and tough and has been around forever, one of the mainstays of the South Bay, but now that he’s on the air and water diet he’s simply leaving behind those of us who enjoy chocolate and donuts (not to mention chocolate donuts). Which got me to thinking about peak performance vs. mediocrity.

There are a lot of superlative riders in the South Bay, but many of them peak and valley. The peaks don’t usually last for long, a season is rare, two seasons Bachmann’s warbler rare … and the valleys can go on for years. In fact, some riders hit an extended peak and you never hear from them again.

On the other hand, there is a whole gaggle of hackers who never hit peak anything. As I like to say, my athletic profile is “slightly better than half-assed.” We mediocre riders never peak, but we never valley, either. Where we were last week is pretty much where we’ll be next week.

I’ve wondered why peak performance riding is so often correlated with extended disappearances. Part of it is the difficulty of achieving “race weight.” The other part is the awful horrible terribleness of FTP workouts, metering your farts on TrainingPeaks, and of course the bane of the non-insane, intervals. It takes so much to be your best. The other other part is that once you enjoy the rarefied air of putting everyone to the sword, it sucks to droop to the back of the bus, hanging on for dear life at the mercy of whoever the latest Peak Performance Flavor of the Month happens to be.

It’s why Eddy Merckx doesn’t fly over from Belgium every Tuesday for Telo, I guess. In his (limited) worldview, competing in our local training crit isn’t as impressive as winning five Tours and setting an hour record.

But to be your most mediocre? That takes considerably less than your best and it leaves room for chocolate donuts. It’s damned hard to do 3 x 20s, whereas it’s darned easy to ride with Gussy and have a croissant … and which person do you think is smiling at the end of the ride? Hint: It’s not the guy who just eked out another .01 w/kg and is going home to a dinner of one boiled egg and a sprig of raw kale.

Put another way, mediocrity is a long-haul tool; excellence is a roman candle. Both have their place, and the life of the ascetic sure looks enviable when it’s dragging you around with your tongue in the spokes.

But man, that chocolate donut …

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The Legend of Shirtless Keith

March 18, 2017 § 45 Comments

If you ever meet someone who claims to know what’s up in the South Bay, you can ask this simple question. “Do you know Shirtless Keith?”

The answer will tell you all you need to know.

Shirtless Keith isn’t legendary or even mythical. He’s way beyond that. He is the Holy Grail in bicycling.

Shirtless Keith rides (you’ll never guess) without a shirt. And instead of girlish Italian cycling shoes with fancy clip-in pedals, he rides with boots. Big, heavy boots. Boots that you can use for pedaling a bike or for walking 10 miles one-way to the brewery. Yep, he did that. And after having a few beers, he walked home.

When it comes to nutrition, Shirtless Keith don’t need no fancy-shmancy biker Barbie food. “Cyclists” carefully consume properly balanced foodstuffs made by elves who grew each organic ingredient on a small plot of earth farmed by earthworms and hippies from the 60’s. When Keith starts running low on fuel, you know what he eats?

Pop-Tarts.

Yep. You heard me right. And when he gets a hankering for a Pop-Tart he doesn’t reach into his jersey pocket because, shirtless, he don’t wear no stinkin’ jersey. Instead he pulls over, unstraps the bungee cord on his rack that holds down the Pop-Tarts, and eats it on the spot. And Shirtless Keith don’t need no water bottle. When he gets thirsty he rides over to a water fountain and drinks.

You think I’m joking? That’s okay, you’re just proving that you don’t know squat about the South Bay.

Keith rides an old cromoly Raleigh with knobby tires and a steering tube that’s longer than a fishing pole. Keith don’t need no carbon and no 25mm tires. All Keith needs is a 55-tooth chain ring, and that’s all he’s got. If the 55 is too big that just means he has to pedal harder.

And Keith don’t need no Internet coach. He rides 48 miles a day, seven days a week. But his favorite day is Saturday because that’s when the Donut Ride goes off. Keith rides around until the group comes barreling up to the Domes and he hops in with the leaders, goes to the front, drops a couple of people (usually me), then swings off and finishes the climb by himself.

Keith’s signature move is to troll for wankers. It never takes long to hook some mid-40s dude on a $15,000 rig. The dude takes one look at Keith’s boots, 40-lb. bike and shirtless back, rolls his eyes, puts the hammer down, and blows by. Dude looks back and sees that yeah, he passed Shirtless Keith, but now Shirtless Keith is passing him. Fast. Dude hops onto Keith’s wheel and pretty soon he’s stuffed into the pain burrito as Keith gets the 55 rolling.

Then Keith stands up and starts pounding like the world’s biggest mashed potato maker, and pretty soon the dude is gazing down at his $5,000 power meter which is telling him that he left his FTP back in Portuguese Bend and it’s exactly fifteen seconds to detonation time.

Shirtless Keith rides away.

If you talk to him he is humble and polite and the friendliest guy on the Hill. One time he hopped in with the Aussie women’s national team and rode with them around the peninsula. Like the classy guy he is, he asked if he could join before hopping in.

The funny people are the ones who tell him to “get a road bike” because he’ll “be a beast.” These are always people he’s shelled, by the way, like a rotten pecan.

Keith don’t wanna be no roadie. Keith don’t want no road bike and no fancy outfit. Keith wants to ride his bike, troll for wankers, hop in on the Donut every now and again, and enjoy cycling his way, on his terms, not yours. One Shirtless Keith is better than all the Velominati put together.

Like I said, the Holy Grail.

shirtless_ketih

Shirtless Keith bringing the heat on Crest!

shirtless_calves

Boots. Cutoffs. Leather belt. Man’s legs. Pop-Tarts. 12-inch steering tube. Legend.

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Shirtless Keith Google Street View, Trump Golf Course.

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サウスベイへようこそ!

January 28, 2017 § 8 Comments

When I moved to Utsunomiya, unsurprisingly, I met a lot of Japanese people. By the time I left in 2000 I had met a bunch more. A lot of them were cyclists. In fact, some of the very first people I met were cyclists, Tokyo riders like Ken Iijima and Miki Yamamoto.

One thing was sure. When I met Japanese cyclists they were like cyclists everywhere, and the first order of business was to try and drop the new guy. Whether they did or whether they didn’t, people were always super friendly. It was sometimes hard to remember names at first but eventually I did. I still have dreams about going into Tsunakawa Cycle, or getting pounded in Shinrin Park by Wada-san.

The racing was friendly, too. Guys would rip my legs off but afterwards they would always come over to talk and help clean up the blood.

Over the last few years a group of Japanese riders has sprung up in the South Bay. There is a contingent that shows up every week for the Donut Ride and the Wheatgrass Ride, guys like Koji, Hiro, Satoru, and my son in-law, Torazo. Some of them have been riding for a few years but others are veterans.

What’s noticeable about the J-contingent is that they’re unobtrusive, unfailingly friendly, and they show up like clockwork. I noticed that in Japan, too. People would take something up and then they would stick with it. Maybe it’s because their society has a bigger emphasis on social interaction than ours, on groups instead of individuals, so once you start riding in the South Bay you meet the other Japanese riders and they get to know each other and somehow having a group makes it easier to continue. It’s also more fun.

These guys all love riding bikes, and they are tough, too. And friendly. Welcome to the South Bay.

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The bravest among us

August 9, 2016 § 34 Comments

The worst thing that can happen to you isn’t being tortured and killed. It’s having that happen to the people you love.

You’d think that no matter how testy things got between the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch and cyclists on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there would be a line in the sand that even spoiled, failed, class action defendants wouldn’t cross.

You’d be wrong.

The latest spitball in the classroom melee over the world-shaking, hard to answer question of whether or not it’s okay to kill cyclists with your car was flung by the anonymous goon who maintains a hatesite dedicated to attacking everyone and everything that challenges the white supremacy of the PV Peninsula.

And of course, being a bully and a coward (but I repeat myself), he attacked a child.

Let me back up.

The Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch really is a thing. In a recent Daily Breeze article in which the LBBOMC were sporting afro wigs and blackface on MLK Day, one of the alleged perpetrators was defended by … his mom:

According to the lawsuit, a local surfer named Anthony Beukema wore blackface and an Afro wig to the protest, telling organizer Chris Taloa, “You don’t pay enough taxes to be here.” Beukema could not be reached, but his mother vehemently denied the allegations to a reporter.

In addition to defending the public coastline that they’ve stolen from the people of California, which is right in line with what their soul-brethren in Rancho Palos Verdes Estates are seeking to do with Crest Rd., i.e. convert public roadway to private property so that bikers can’t ride there, the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch have taken up the anti-bike cause on the peninsula as well.

One local realtor has gone on social media sites such as NextDoor and proclaimed that if cyclists get killed when disobeying traffic laws, it’s simply Darwinism at work. It makes you wonder what this must mean for his real estate pitches (“You’ll love this house. Great view, nice pool, friendly neighbors unless your kid’s on a bike then they will kill you.”) A small cadre in PVE have even brought into the cycling discussion such ideas as the Hajnal Line, and have pointedly suggested that that the reason PVE is so nice is because it is so white.

By now you’re probably wondering, “All this over a couple of bike signs?”

Answer: Yes. Oh, yes.

Anyway, at the last two PVE City Council meetings, one of the pro-bike speakers spoke, followed by his 12-year-old daughter. A few short weeks later the kid had become a target, with offensive and false comments posted about her on social media, comments so awful that the NextDoor admin took them down and even (Gasp!) admonished the poster.

So we’ve descended into 21st Century Online Hell, where grown men defendants sleeping on mom’s couch and their enablers are actually targeting children who dare to approach the lectern at a public meeting. And as repugnant as that sounds, well, maybe it’s not.

The first lesson in civics reminds me of this Japanese proverb: The nail that sticks up will get pounded down.

There are no risk-free public lecterns, whether you’re a kid advocating for safe streets or the parents of a soldier killed in the line of combat. Democracy and the defense of free speech mean that in order for good people who stand for justice to be heard, we must also hear the voices of Westboro Baptist Church.

It’s painful on a personal level when a surf gang member of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch attacks your kid (but less painful, perhaps, when you consider MMX’s question, “Have you seen them surf?”), but as a parent and a citizen you’ve already won. Your kid has stood up to the bullies, just like this kid did, and when the Palos Verdes City Council had to take a vote on making the streets safer, they voted to make the streets safer.

Take note of that, Boys on Mom’s Couch: The city council sided with an articulate 12-year-old and rejected the rantings of droopy, failed, defendant old men who are guilty of the worst crime you could ever commit in California, i.e. crappy surfing.

The Kooks on Mom’s Couch were too fearful and outnumbered to show up at the council meeting, and they lost. Their only recourse was to make some ugly videos, spew a little hate, and yell at mom to pick up another tub of ice cream at the Malaga Cove Ranch Market. And a sixer.

We teach our kids that sometimes the right thing is the hard thing, but maybe we’ve lied to them a little bit: The right thing is always the hard thing. The right thing is the Gandhi thing, the MLK thing, the Lincoln thing. It’s the path everyone wants to take until they note it’s overgrown with weeds, and each blade of grass is the serrated edge of a knife.

Like every leader, this kid has made the rank and file who support her dig in. If she’s willing to go to the lectern and advocate for safer streets, the nameless hundreds in her corner are willing to dig in, too, from the elected officials to the police to the Lycra-clad to the overwhelming majority of decent people in PVE who are sickened by these clowns.

Doubt me? Just watch. ‘Cuz three feet, fellas, it’s the law. Even in good old PVE.

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