July 4, 2016 § 26 Comments
The July 4th Holiday Ride is always a doozy. This year was no exception.
It’s hard to disagree with the statement that the Holiday Ride is the worst ride ever. About 200 people show up and flail their way from Manhattan Beach to Brentwood. Then there is a knife fight in the mud for Tony Manzella’s wheel and we pack the entire lane of a narrow, twisty, fucked-up country road, the knife fight for Sweet Ass’s wheel moves on to guns, then mortars, then nukes, and two minutes in there are 10 riders left and unless you’re one of the ten your day is done.
If you’re one of the ten, you just risked life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for about twenty minutes of crystal-meth-pure misery.
Before today’s ride Sausage told me to video it on his GoPro. “But I have a Cycliq Fly12,” I protested.
Sausage is into high quality. He’s also real diplomatic. “Your camera sucks,” he said. “Use mine.” It’s hard to argue with facts.
EA Sports, Inc. and I drove to the Center of the Known Universe where everyone was standing around all nervous as hell. Why nervous? I don’t know, actually, because the ride always ends the same way. You get miserably dropped. There is no drama, and after having done it for ten years there’s not even any mystery about when it will happen.
Of course not everyone in the Santa-Monica-to-the-South-Bay arc is a lunatic. About 200 other people, all of whom who have done the Holiday Ride, and all of whom know how stupid it is, have formed an alt-Holiday Ride called the Yellow Vase Ride. They ride at a friendly pace around Palos Verdes and then have coffee and croissants at the Yellow Vase cafe. People laugh, talk, tell stories, and appreciate the beauty of the area and the fun of cycling.
Well, fuck those people.
By the time we got to Marina del Rey there were another hundred or so baby seals who’d been added to the clubbing list. In addition to the drama of the ride there had been some pre-ride Facebag drama, too. Phil Gaimon was going to show up and tow us up Mandeville at 462.3 watts like he did last year, but first we had to sign up for his Grand Fondue. One of the local Strava addicts complained that it wasn’t fair for us to be motoring along behind Phil, and a war of words ensued, after which there was a lot of red, rashy, very painful butthurt. So to make sure everyone on the ride was going to be okay I brought something for anyone who might need it.
Of course Phil didn’t show up so there was no need for the balm, but it’s nice to be prepared.
The ride followed its predictable course. At first people were chatty and tried to hide their anxiety with lighthearted banter. Then in Santa Monica people began to fight for position. Then on San Vicente it went from blob to narrow line, 2 or 3 abreast. Then on Sunset it was deadly silent. Then on Mandeville there was only grunting and the clanging of gears. A few people put on a brave front with occasional chatter. Two minutes in it was quiet as a teenager at a video console, an ethereal silence that enveloped us as each rider sank lower into the pain mire, everything in the universe resolved into the tiny strip of rubber twelve inches in front of your nose, and one by one people fell off, no words or excuses or explanations needed because the brutal pace and gravity spoke all that needed saying.
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September 8, 2015 § 27 Comments
If you have been following the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe, perhaps you’ve been agog at German chancellor Angela Merkel’s bizarre, incomprehensible response to the poor, the wretched, the hungry, and the persecuted, yearning to be free: “Welcome!”
That’s right, folks. Instead of building a wall (U.S.A., Israel, Hungary, DDR), Germany is rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the hard work of accepting and integrating what will shortly be over 800,000 refugees. Sure, there are Germans who believe that the best welcome is a water cannon and a concentration camp, but they are a minority. Merkel’s word on the influx of hundreds of thousands of people pouring in?
“Deutschland schafft es.”
“Germany has this.”
Compare that with the standard bearer for the Republican Party and current GOP front-runner, Mr. I Am Angry Donald Trump. He hates immigrants from Mexico and proposes a wall that Mexico will pay for. Trumpy is pissed off, doesn’t like brown people, and wants to keep everyone away from the table except himself and presumably the handful of white male billionaires like him.
So there I was, jammed into the chute behind Michael Smith, Rico, and Matt Cuttler as we pounded up Mandeville Canyon on the 18-minute interval that is the Holiday Ride. The 80-person peloton had been surgically reduced to a tiny group with the messy, bloody, painful efficacy of a giant liposuction hose and only wheelsuckers remained, glued to Matt’s wheel as he relentlessly tried to reel in the Wily Greek.
Towards the end a few faces who hadn’t been seen the entire ride rushed forth, led by a searing attack courtesy of Big Wanker from La Grange, a strong young buck who clearly believed in making his elders do all the work. Attila Fruttus and Dave Holland scampered off with him. I held his wheel for 200 yards and cracked, experiencing the spectrum of cardiac arrhythmias described here.
I think I got eighth in a non-race that no one counts while everyone raced and counted.
On the way down I chatted with one of the guys, a newcomer from the Midwest. He told me about his few forays down south into Orange County, and about how he’d done the Como Street Ride the day before.
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s pretty different down there.”
“Three hours of riding and talking with people and not a single person asked me a single question.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’d ride next to someone, talk to them about THEM and hear all the details of their life, what they did, but never got any interest the other way. It was a one way street. No one gave a damn.”
“It’s called the Orange Curtain for a reason,” I laughed.
“When I came to the South Bay I was welcomed,” he said. “People asked me to join their club, join their team, join their rides; I spent my first two weeks saying ‘Thanks.'”
“You are a national class bike racer, don’t forget.”
“It’s not that. In the last several months I’ve seen all kinds of people welcomed and have seen zero shunning. It’s just different here.”
“That’s cycling for you,” I said.
“Merkel or Trump,” I said.
He looked at me funny but I didn’t explain.
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July 2, 2015 § 18 Comments
The stupidest ride in America happens on July 4, the infamous South Bay Holiday Ride. The lemmings begin massing at CotKU an hour early, swilling bad coffee and getting into the zone, which is never erogenous.
Then at 7:59:13, give or take a thousandth of a second, the premature ejaculation begins when some over-caffeinated Frenzied Freddie can’t hold back and shoots down Highland towards the glorious doom that awaits all but a select few. Like cockroaches fleeing a flashlight, bicyclists scurry forth from every side street and crevice along the route to Santa Monica.
By the time you hit Vista del Mar the contingent is easily two hundred weak. By the time you hit the bottom of Mandeville, it is three hundred or more. Unlike other terrible rides and mob assaults on appliance stores, no order can be imposed on the Holiday Ride unless it is with a water cannon and pepper spray, although some have tried. This is because the Frenzied Freddies are hell-bent on going to the front and “racing.”
Laugh all you want, they’ve prepped all year for their moment of glory, and each one can hold 35 mph for two hundred yards before their nutsacks explode. This creates a massive churn-and-chum effect, with the mob hurtling along at breakneck speed, led by idiots whose eyeballs are stuck to their Garmins. The catastrophic crashing from riders 75-300 in the rear is epic, as Frenzied Freddies mix with Lazy Larrys who in turn bump and grind with First Time Tommys, the whole swirling mass shedding carbon, components, helmet shards, skin, spokes, pieces of skull, and spandex with each passing mile.
One year the Governor of Palos Verdes rode to the front and tried to “set pace,” resulting in him being swarmed by hairy-legged, hairy-knuckled, hairy-toothed riders who refused to take “No” for an answer.
By the time the group has run every stop sign and red light between Manhattan Beach and Brentwood, hundreds of riders have been shed and replaced with equally maniacal and unskilled Tour de France imaginaires. Then they hit San Vicente like a giant, soft, 60,000-pound blob of shit being lobbed into the sun, as the long, very gradual uphill always invites a handful of riders to hit the front and maintain an excruciating pace on the grade.
Riders fry, frazzle, quit, cry, pee, pop, and poop all the way up San Vicente until the group is whittled down to a svelte and manageable 200 riders or so, all of whom lunge at full speed from Sunset onto the narrow residential two-lane avenue of Mandeville Canyon Drive. From there it is an 18-minute race up a 6-mile climb, with riders pushed into oncoming traffic or shoved up against the right-hand edge into the curb, into pot holes, into road cracks, onto sprinkler heads, into oblivion.
The first five hundred yards are an elbow-throwing, bar-banging, shoulder-crunching jostle because if you let one of the Frenzied Freddies get in front of you here, you’ll be done quicker than a ribeye in an incinerator. Without killing or maiming more than a handful of challengers, you have to position in the top ten wheels, as Suicide Sammys will, one after another, take killingly bitter pulls to keep the pace bleedingly fast and shear the wool from the eyes of the deluded.
At the white picket fence, if he’s there and on form, Roadchamp will take his first smash into the wind, whittling the group down to ten finalists or fewer. From there it is a root canal of attrition, finishing at the top of Mandeville Canyon in dribs and drabs of gasping human meat and shuddering bowels.
I hate this ride with all my might, really, I do. It is a 70-mile foray in horrible traffic for the briefest of beatdowns administered by people I only know by their rear wheel.
But THIS YEAR the Helen’s-Santa Monica BMW team will celebrate the post-ride carnage at the dealership on 12th and Santa Monica Blvd. with free coffee, free smoothies, free bagels, and free CPR.
So this year I’m in. See you there!
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November 23, 2012 § 10 Comments
Iron Mike and I knew it was going to be bad, and not just because we made our first pre-ride pee stop at the elegant planter and walkway entrance in front of the Police Department.
“Can we piss here?” I asked, incredulously.
“Sure. Do it all the time.”
“What about the cops?”
“You see any cops?”
“I see a big entrance to the police department that we’re standing in front of.”
“I asked if you see any cops,” he said, casually uncoiling the hose and helping spruce up the vegetation.
I had to admit I didn’t see any, so I followed suit.
We’d gotten to the start of the Holiday Ride early. It was chilly but the sun had already burned off the mist. It was going to be a perfect day. Every idiot in the South Bay with a bike would be there. Rather than start with the foaming crowd we kept pedaling. After about ten minutes they caught us on Vista del Mar. Rather, they rolled over us like a tsunami.
Did you say THREE HUNDRED?
Remember, this is an unorganized, unsponsored, casual ride that has been happening for years on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, July the Fourth, and Labor Day. But whatever the critical mass was, it somehow got reached. Well over three hundred turkeys strutted out of the woodwork to test their legs in the race up Mandeville Canyon.
And a test it would be. Stathis Sakellariadis, Tony Manzella, Rahsaan Bahati, Diego Binatena, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Cory Williams, Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, and a slew of Helen’s strongmen were all there spoiling for a fight.
Which was fine and as it should be.
What was not fine, and what was not as it should have been, was the outright war for position that began the moment the swollen cancer left Manhattan Beach. Going down Mt. Chevron, some idiots braked for the reflector dots and took their feet out of the clips. The idiots following too closely and watching something other than what was in front hit and went down.
No one cared, apparently because this was a race to the death.
I’m not easily frightened
Well, actually, I am. I’m a cowardly, fearful, trembling wussmaster when it comes to crashing, pain, danger, or getting hurt. And the second we were overtaken by the cancer, my terror level went through the roof.
People who don’t race, who have never raced, who have no intention of racing, and who wouldn’t know how to pin a number on a mannequin were fighting for position like pros approaching the Tranche d’Fuckenberg. Tiny little space between two bikes? The Turkey Pros shot through.
Both lanes filled, curb to center lane? A Turkey Pro would jump the yellow dots, sprint into oncoming traffic, advance ten positions, and dive back in.
Can’t move up by riding in the wrong lane? Watch the Turkey Pros hop the right-hand curb and race up the sidewalk. That nice lady pushing a pram with twins will understand later how important it was for them to be properly positioned, even though she’s drizzling terror pee now.
Only a couple of people figured out the solution, one being Miles Irish. Miles bulled to the very front and kept the gas on all the way to San Vicente while Turkey Pros crashed and burned behind him. Downside? The plumes of smoke coming out of his ears once the road tilted up. Upside? He never planned on winning on Mandeville anyway.
Towards the front, but never on it
The main ploy behind the Turkey Pros was to hop, squeeze, slide, and push their way towards the front, but to never actually get into the wind. It’s a clever tactic worthy of a protected Euro pro in a big race…but it’s a wanker move par excellence for the Holiday Ride.
When we hit the left turn on San Vicente, Hair looked over. “Why the serious face?” he laughed. Dude fucking always laughs, is fearless.
“I’m trying not to crash.”
Hair laughed. “Better spend that energy trying to hang on.”
And he had a point, because when we hit Mandeville Canyon, Josh Alverson opened up the throttle. Tree Perkins followed, with me glued to Tree’s wheel. I held the speed for thirty seconds or so, then swung over. Done.
As the wankoton blew by, I counted. For ten solid minutes riders passed me. I stopped counting at 298, and there were dozens who’d never even turned up Mandeville as well as dozens who had u-turned and gone back before passing me.
Meanwhile, back at the Center of the Known Universe
Long before I reached the summit a cadre of South Bay wankers including Joe, Gus, Marc, and Doug came blasting by. They had made the sensible choice not to wait for the endless stream struggling up the hill, and to ride back in a smaller, safer group.
For some reason, however, the closer they got to CotKU, the more ridiculous things got. Dudes who hadn’t been in the same zip code for Mandeville honors were now gunning it, devil-take-the-hindmost, to be first in line for coffee.
The only thing that got in the way of their fun was a Cadillac Escalade, and although they hit it full tilt, the 4,000-pound vehicle amazingly didn’t crumple from the impact of the flesh-and-bone-wrapped-around-some-plastic-tubes.
It did lose a tail light, whereas Carey D.’s entire frame broke. Doug busted a brake, and Marc got an ouchy on his saddle bag.
Back at CotKU they compared notes, trying to understand why their forceful bodies hadn’t been able to easily thrust aside the Escalade. No one could figure it out until King Harold, who happens to be an engineer, explained it to them.
“Mass times velocity,” he began, as the wankers’ eyes glazed over at the word “mass.”
Then he re-started. “Look here, dorks.” Everyone looked at his foot, where a doodlebug was trundling by. He lifted his foot and lowered it quickly on the hapless bug.
“You, dorks, are the bug. The Escalade is the foot. Get it?”
A light went on in the formerly befuddled and confused faces of the crash victims. “You mean…?” said one.
“That if it’s a witch…” said another.
“And it’s heavier than a duck…” said a third.
“Then we burn it?” said a fourth, as the other three nodded vigorously.
King Harold shook his head. “No, no, no,” he said. “I mean that this Holiday Ride thing we just did…”
“Yes?” they asked in a chorus.
“It’s perfect for you. Just perfect. See you on Christmas Day.”
September 6, 2012 § 20 Comments
Yesterday night I was dragging ass through the parking garage and this dude said, “Good ride?”
“Yep. I’m pretty whipped, though.”
“Where’d you go?”
“I did the race out at Eldo.”
“Oh, a race? I used to race.”
“Yeah, back when they had the Olympic village, I was a track monster. Raced the old velodrome.”
He didn’t look very monsterish. “Ever try the new one in Carson?”
“No, I just lost interest. I used to be an animal, though.”
I couldn’t help thinking about Paul Ryan and how he, too, had been fast when he was young. Yeah.
The main two reasons people quit racing or never start
Aside from the fact that it’s pretty stupid, the main reason is fear of crashing. All it takes is one good crash to make you realize that the risk-benefit analysis is all whomperjawed over on the side of risk, and not much more than $25 or $30 in race “winnings” on the side of benefit.
Crashing and getting hurt is scary, and it’s a given that if you race, you’re going to crash. So, like, I get that.
The other reason people quit racing is because they are afraid of losing. They’ve built themselves up so much on Strava, or on their solo rides, or on their beatdowns with their fellow wankers, that it’s too intimidating to actually go toe-to-toe with people who don’t give a rat’s ass about your motor-assisted KOM and who will happily pound you into oblivion.
It’s better to stay comfortable as a coulda-been contender than a real-life lump of pack fodder.
There are a whole bunch of other reasons that people don’t race, and they’re all valid, but Fear of Crashing and Fear of Losing are far and away the top two.
My best three races of 2012
On the flip side, there is really only one significant reason that people do race: They’re idiots.
As my road racing season mercifully came to a close yesterday, I’m happy to say that it couldn’t possibly have ended any better. On Sunday I raced the 45+ Elderly Gentlemen’s Tender Prostate Category at Dominguez Hills. The field of 54 riders was greatly reduced from the first crits of the year, which were often at or near the 100-idiot limit. Many of the heaviest hitters were out replenishing the Depends, or getting their dentures refitted, but a healthy contingent including national and state champion Rich Meeker showed up to fight for the day’s honors.
In typical fashion, a few laps into the race the winning break rolled up the road. I was mid-pack, marveling at all the bicycles and how they never seemed to crash even though they were all so close together. I think about this often. All those moving parts! Each bike guided by a separate idiot of highly questionable handling skills! Yet through each turn they swoop and swerve and curve and slow and speed, always within a few inches, and hardly ever bounce along the pavement in a shower of carbon scraps and shredded skin.
It’s generally at these times, when I’m wondering if this kind of mass communication is what happens when flocks of shorebirds fly in tight formation at astounding speeds on moonlit nights, that something significant in the race happens, like a break, which it did. Of course, I had no idea, because what goes on “Up there” has nothing in common with what’s happening “Back here.”
When the lead shorebird squawks
As I was wondering about Western Sandpipers, a dude in a SPY-Blue kit came whizzing up on the left. It was my teammate, Johnny Walsh. “C’mon, Zeth!” he yelled.
“Wonder why he’s yelling at me? And ‘come on’ where? And why?” It was quite cozy back there in mid-shorebirdville, and the nasty pace at which he passed me suggested lots of un-shorebirdy pain.
Then I noted that on his wheel was Alan Flores, our team leader and Dude Who Doesn’t Do Stupid Shit in Races. I’m still unsure why, but I hopped on his wheel. The next time I looked back, we were clear of the field. “Where are we going?” I wondered. Then I looked up. Around the bend was a break. “Wow!” I thought. “I wonder if we’ll bridge?”
Johnny just went harder, and my legs just hurt more. When he sat up, we were on the back of the break. He nodded, legs blown, and drifted back to the field. “Wow!” I thought. “So that’s how you do it! What happens now?”
What’s with all these colorful sleeves?
My temporary joy at being in the break was immediately muted as I took roll. There was a dude with a stars-and-stripes thingy on his sleeve. That meant he was a national champion in something; probably not chess. There was another dude with a stars-and-stripes thingy…another non-chess national champion. There was a dude who looked a hell of a lot like Brett Clare, the dude who passed me in San Marcos like he was a Ferrari and I was a lamppost. Out of us eleven, there was only one complete flailer, and it was me. Everyone else looked pissed off and ready to go even faster.
Despite trying a series of moves that would later be described as “the silliest in the 2012 annals of SoCal crit racing,” I miraculously didn’t get dropped from the break and finished eleventh, my best placing of the year by far. Was it worth the $1,590.33 in entry fees? Yes. The $527.12 in gas? Yes. The risk to life and limb? Yes. The $15,982.12 in equipment/clothing/accessory purchases? Yes. The admission of personal failure every night when I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “Self, you’re almost fifty but are still fascinated by riding a bicycle.” Ummm, well, mostly yes.
Awesome race result #2
The following morning I celebrated Labor Day with two hundred other cyclists, many of whom appeared to be be on what was at least their second or even third full day after having learned how to ride. If this ride didn’t frighten you, you were beyond hope, because it was terrifying.
Usually, in order to steer clear of the fat dude with the dangling buttcrack, or to avoid the yackety chick who thinks that the center of a fast-moving foolfest is the perfect place to turn her head to the side for minutes at a time, or to keep from getting rear-ended by the neo-neo-neo racer pro kid who’s picked today to show off the $10k wheels with lightly glued tubulars, usually, I say, in order to avoid the certain death and injury resulting from riding near these knuckleheads and their next of kin, you have to get up to the top 20 or 30 riders and stay there.
Not on Monday.
No, sir, on Monday, the crazies had all gotten the Wankmeister memo that said, “Go to the Front!” and so, like crazies, they all went to the front. At the same time. Constantly.
The wankoton looked like the beach on a huge surf day, with massive swirls of raging dorkbreak foaming up to the front, followed by another series of churning idiots pushing up behind them, but the bozos in front, unable to drift back, created a fredtide, which ripped backwards through the wankoton, sucking the unwary back with them into the deathly perilous undertow, where victims such as Old George were crashed out and run over by people who didn’t even know the thing they were rolling over was a live person.
Don’t they know they belong in back?
I got to the front, the absolute front, and ran as many lights as I could, hoping that the bait of a speeding leader would draw at least a few of the worst wankers out into the intersection where they would be crushed and mutilated by speeding cross-traffic.
It didn’t work, however, as the number of idiots careening down Mt. Chevron on Vista del Mar was so great that it clogged both lanes and spilled out into opposing traffic as well. Drivers were petrified and simply stopped, and who wouldn’t if your windshield suddenly filled with a bearded, pony-tailed idiot wearing a vomit-spray jersey, gangly hairy legs poking out at right angles from the bike, spit and snot spewing from his face, and a barely-in-control-bike swerving crazily in and out of the lane?
This, of course, is the huge difference between racing and dorking: In a race, we wankers know that we belong in back. Our chance of winning isn’t even mathematical, so the only reason to be in front is to either suffer more (not good), crash out the dudes who can actually ride (worse), or have one of the ride bosses push us into the curb (worst).
On a fredfest, without this natural policing of the weak and feeble, those who don’t belong don’t know that they don’t belong, so they charge pell-mell to the front and create unforgettable mental tableaux such as when Ponytail Boy whipped a 30mph beeline for the curb at the bridge for the Marina bike path with Eddie W. on his wheel, only to decide at the very last second that nah, that ol’ curb is too big to hop, so he veered off to the right, braking hard, and sending Eddie into one of his finest string of oaths, a string so foul that even the wankers fishing off the bridge were taken aback at the new and inventive string of expletives.
They mysteries of the universe
It was at San Vicente that Chaos Theory gave way to Hammer Theory. Somehow, the freaks and freds who laboriously pounded all the way to San Vicente began to thin out as the road, like the pace, tilted up. By the end of the first mile we had lost between fifty and a hundred idiots.
At the turn onto Mandeville, another huge contingent had vanished, and by the end of the climb it was a small group of fifty or so out of the original 200+ horde.
Where did they all go? Did they fall by the wayside, dead? Did they drag themselves, mostly lifeless, to the doors of the angry, cyclist-hating Mandeville residents, and beg for shelter or for a quick gunshot to the head to end their misery? Did they swerve into a bike shop and sell all their gear? Or were they simply vaporized by the pace?
In any event, on the non-race race to the top of Mandeville Canyon, I got fourth going up the climb, which is almost a best ever, and even managed to get it on video. Once this gets published, Jonathan Vaughters will likely be sending me my contract.
The lost city of El Dorado
After this signal accomplishment, on Tuesday I went over to Long Beach for the year’s final running of the El Dorado crit series, which was held in honor of Mark Whitehead, the legendary Olympian, keirin pro, and track coach who died last summer at nationals in Frisco. Anything done in honor of “Meathead” is required to have, whatever else is on offer, the following three items:
- Cash prizes (to fight over in the parking lot after the race)
- Beer (to quickly stimulate the fighting)
- Controversy (to justfy #1 and #2)
A four-man breakaway left early in the race and collected the $100 cash primes on offer, cleverly working a combine to work together and share the loot. It would later turn out that in the chaos of the post-race awards ceremony someone claimed the money who allegedly wasn’t in the break, a perfect controversy that Meathead would have met with both fists and a gang fistfight.
With three laps to go, Rahsaan Bahati took the reins in hand and closed down the 30-second gap in half a lap, bringing the bunch together for the finale.
Throughout the race there was a dude without a number who was constantly pissing me off with his numberlessness. He sure as hell could ride a bike, though, and each time the pack surged he easily kept the pace. The longer the race lasted, and the longer he lasted, the more pissed off I got. “Who does he think he is, crashing our race?”
Each time I thought that, he would put on another display of bike magic, squelching my urge to ride up and say something to him. “Dude can fucking ride a bike, sure enough.”
With half a lap to go, all hell broke loose, with the wheelsuckers charging freshly to the fore, the fried wankers giving it their all to keep from getting dropped, the canny sprinters slotting into position, and the handful of spectators screaming what sounded like “Ugghhgooattlexphlllmzxooooo!” as we shot by at warp speed.
The magical moment when the wheels come off the cart
It’s in these final moments of a bike race that you are living on the razor’s edge of insanity, alone, but separated from the idiots all ’round you by nothing more than chance. It’s shorebirdy, almost, with nothing making sense, yelling, grunting, hands pushing people out of the way, hunched shoulders squeezing wide bars between too-narrow gaps, narrow rubber strips of rubber slinging from side to side, and everyone thinking the same thing: “Don’t fucking crash, but for fuck’s sake hold the wheel, don’t gap out, and go faster!”
The union of opposites, where the fear of catastrophe is perfectly blended with the thirst for meaningless glory, cancels out the risk of death with the benefit of knowing you’ve gone as hard as your spindly legs will carry you.
Then it was over, like sex, and I was shuddering across the line, cruising along as my lungs and legs and brain caught up with my heart, eventually pointing my bike into the parking lot where the banter had already begun: Who did what when to whom and man, that was HARD.
The dude without the number was laughing and backslapping with Steve Hegg and Johnny Walsh and Suze Sonye and Rahsaan, and I felt pretty stupid when I realized it, and felt even happier at having kept my stupid mouth shut: Nelson Vails don’t need no fucking number.
May 28, 2012 § 15 Comments
It’s hard to explain to people what it’s like riding with the leaders up the climb on the Holiday Ride. “Um, it’s hard,” or “Well, you see I was gassed and then Billy Boozles made a sweep up the right-side gutter while Arnie Aspartame swung off and then…”
Thanks to my new GoPro helmet cam, I got the chance to video the thing and let you see for yourself. Click here to watch the Mandeville Canyon climb all the way to the top with the leaders. Don’t tell me that it’s “blurry” or “fuzzy” or “dogshit quality video, dude.”
It seems that I stuck my finger on the lens cover and smudged it. Still, remind me again, how much did you pay for this? Exactly.
My ride commentary, with video documentation, is below.
#1. The video don’t lie
It’s amazing how much people lie about what they did during a ride. By the time they get done, they’ve fabricated a narrative that is so distorted that you wonder if the dude telling you the story was in the same century as you, much less in the same breakaway.
This video quickly punctures some of the biggest whoppers that bubbled up immediately after the climb. G3 complained, after getting caught and dropped, that his teammates had chased him down.
They all denied it. Vehemently. “We wuz riding tempo so you could stay away!” “I’d never chase down a teammate!” “Some dudes from another team reeled you in, dude, I swear!”
G3 was brought back by a well-oiled machine consisting exclusively of his own teammates. I know it won’t make you feel any better, Greg, but this is exactly how I feel when you chase me down on the Wheatgrass Ride, or when you chase me down at TELO, or when you drop me going up to the Domes. The only difference is that we’re not teammates. On the other hand, I know you’d do it to me even if we were.
Plus, there was no way in hell you were going to solo the canyon vee. Unless, of course, your teammates hadn’t chased you down, in which case, well, who knows?
#2. The dude taking the video is a wheelsuck deluxe
Yep. I sat on the whole way. Never took a pull. You’ll see Surfer Dan look back a couple of times and invite me to take a turn. You’ll see me refuse.
“Wow,” you’re thinking. “This is the guy who’s always telling everyone to take a pull? What a douche.”
As I like to say, “If the nozzle fits…”
I was gassed and too afraid of Surfer Dan to do anything other than suck wheel and pray that no one attacked hard enough to drop me, which is what usually happens. That’s how it is when you’re a wanker.
#3 The dude who won the hill is an even bigger wanker
Yeah. Sitting on your teammate for the entire canyon climb and then blasting by him with totally fresh legs after assisting with the earlier chase, catch, and drop of G3, who is also your teammate? What’s up with that?
Answer, and I quote: “That’s MY wall.”
Those who don’t know Tree well will know this much after watching this video: It’s all about Strava. He will sit, chill, and torch anyone, teammates included, if it gets him closer to a Strava record. In this case, he didn’t get the KOM, but he moved up the leaderboard to fourth. And he got the KOM for something called “Westridge to White Picket Fence.” So there’s that.
Attacking and dropping your teammate who tows you all the way to the end and being labeled a wanker is a small price to pay for an incremental gain on Strava.
Those of you who think this is just sour grapes because he blasted by me so fast and hard I couldn’t have hung on with a tow rope…you’re right! Of course, if I have to get my ass handed to me on a plate, Tree’s my first choice as server, because even after I called out his wankage he smiled back and said, “Good effort out there, Wanky!” Some people are nice no matter what. Go figure.
#4. Dave Jaeger is a total badass
The dude is 51 years old. Remembers Armistice Day. Helped Caesar cross the Rubicon. Was one of the first users of the new invention, dirt. Nonetheless, he attacks the breakaway. Gets reeled in by Surfer Dan. Attacks again and dusts off the remaining hangers-on. Gets reeled in.
Still finishes with the break for fifth. Tells me after the ride, “You rode smart for once.”
Me: “I wasn’t riding. I was holding on for dear life.”
#5. The real artillery was either home getting oiled or out doing a real race at CBR
Kalashnikov and G$ started the ride, which was about 150 strong, but parted company in Marina del Rey to go and do a real bike race instead of a kit parade w/15-minute hillclimb effort + frappucino at CotKU. Roadchamp was home, resting after a hard weekend of riding and putting the finishing touches on his afterburners for the state road race next weekend in Bakersfield. King Harold, Launch, Vapor, Critchamp, et al. were racing, placing, or winning.
#6. Tink is amazing
Check out the first part of the video where she winds up the pace and keeps the gas on. You can’t see the wreckage in the rear because I’m too busy sucking wheel to look back and catch it with my helmet cam, but she’s causing mayhem and destruction behind her. She sheared three minutes off her Mandeville PR and finished just after the first chase group. She now holds the QOM for Mandeville and sits 20th on the men’s leaderboard. This girl is simply incredible.
#7. The camera makes your butt look fat
It’s a 170-degree wide angle, and my nose is pretty much stuffed up your rear end, further magnifying the ginormousness of your hindquarters. Trust me, in real life your derriere is svelte, lean, muscled, and the stuff of magazine covers. It’s the fault of the camera that we all look like candidates for a bovine butt porn shoot.
#8. Surfer Dan is a total badass
Yesterday he went up to NorCal and got 8th in the state road race. This morning he turned on the jets going up San Vicente and kicked most of the holidayers out the back. On Mandeville he ramped it up, led the vicious chase to reel in his teammate, chased down Jaeger twice, shrugged his shoulders when Wankmeister cowered in the rear, and drilled it all the way to the top. He was gracious and not in the least bit miffed by Tree’s finish line antics or by my wheelsuckage, proving that the really good guys just go do their ride and never bitch about the result, while we wankers run home to our keyboard, uncork and savor a vintage 1876 whine.
May 10, 2012 § 2 Comments
So you’re in the South Bay. Lucky dog! And you’ve got your bike…luckier dog! Here’s a list of the standard rides, including a couple of the “top-secret don’t fucking show up here” ones, which are, of course, the ones you should make a priority.
- Dearly Beloved Clusterfuck Of The Ages: The Donut Ride
Begun a long time ago in front of a Winchell’s Donut Shop far, far away, the Donut Ride goes off every Saturday at 8:00 AM in the Riviera Village of Redondo Beach. 8:00 AM means “8:05 or 8:10 or whenever the group rolls out.” It NEVER means “8:00 AM.”
You have your own Donut Ride wherever you live, and this one is no different. Slow start, hammer up a hill, hammer on some flats, hammer along some some rollers, hammer up a hardass motherfucking 8-minute climb (“The Switchbacks”), stop, preen, let the wankers catch up, roll down the hill and then either climb back up from the other side or call it a day and hit the coffee shop.
This super-rad video was taken by local hammer Derek Brauch, beginning near Trump National and going all the way to the top of the Switchbacks. Watch ’em pop and fry!
- It can be an absolute beatdown, especially when local pros Sergio Hernandez, Rudy Napolitano, or visiting beasts like Mike Friedman or Tyler Hamilton show up.
- In good weather, which is most of the time, it’s a huge group with lots of places to suck wheel and cower from the front.
- After ascending the Switchbacks, there are numerous ride variations tailored to your level of wankerdom, including a hard climb up from the Reservoir + Homes & Domes + Glass Church hammer & sprint + Via Zumaya. You’ll be crushed if you eat the whole Donut. It’s never sugar-coated.
- Best scenery of any Saturday ride, anywhere.
- It can be a total wankfest if the fast dudes are all off racing somewhere and nobody wants to pull.
- Stopping and preening is pretty stupid and cools you down prematurely.
- The LA Sheriff’s Dept. and PV cops sometimes harass and endanger the group in the name of “safety.”
- It’s no fun getting kicked out of the back at Trump and flailing all the way to the top by yourself with some fat dude wearing sneakers and carrying a floor pump.
- If you’re one of those people who thinks that everyone’s shit smells bad except your own, it can be a real downer riding with ordinary humans, sitting as you are atop UCI world rankings.
- Twice-Weekly Ballbuster Before Work: New Pier Ride a/k/a NPR
This was originally the worst ride in the South Bay. It went along the bike path, meandered through parking lots, wandered over narrow bridges, perambulated along jogger trails, then turned into a series of mad, pell-mell dashes through a deadly gauntlet of traffic lights, stop signs, destroyed roads, and horrific morning traffic. That was the Old Pier Ride.
The New Pier Ride starts at the same place, the Manhattan Beach Pier (a/k/a Center of the Known Universe, “CotKU”), every Tuesday and Thursday, and rolls out promptly at 6:40 AM. “6:40 AM” may mean “6:38” or “6:39.” If you show up at 6:41, be prepared to chase and chase hard. The ride now skips the bike path, rolls through an alley of death for a mile or so, pops out onto Vista del Mar, keeps a fast tempo all the way to Pershing, and then is a complete hammerfest with four laps around Westchester Parkway. Don’t ever do this ride and say “It wasn’t very hard.” That will prove you were nowhere near the front.
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get mentioned on the most influential bike blog in the universe.
- Guaranteed to get your heart rate up, and then some, before work.
- Huge group on most days, 70-80 riders, so lots of places to suck wheel and cower.
- No big hills, just one small bump on Pershing and on the Parkway.
- If you get dropped you can pick up the pack when they come by in the other direction. And get dropped again.
- Pros like Rahsaan Bahati, and local beatdown artists like Greg Leibert, Harold Martinez, Eric Anderson, John Tomlinson, Aaron Wimberly, and others will usually show up wearing their best pair of stomp boots.
- The post-coital coffee chill at the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a the Starbucks at Manhattan Beach, is the apogee of all that is fun about being a marginally employed bike wanker. We sit. We joke. We check FB updates. We delay going to work. We soak in the sun. We slobber as the local talent slinks by. What’s not to like?
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get mentioned on the universe’s most influential bike blog.
- Too many places for the frail and the infirm to suck wheel and cower.
- Too many sprunters sit in and do nothing the entire time, then spank everyone in the sprunt.
- Unclear finishing line. Is it the beginning of the third traffic island? No one really knows, so it’s usually a case of “raise your hands and declare victory wherever your legs give out.”
- If you break free, there are numerous riders who never seem strong enough to go with you, but are always strong enough to chase you down.
- Occasional near-death traffic experiences.
- If You Show Up Uninvited You Will Be Crushed And Destroyed: The REMR (pronounced “reamer,” a/k/a Really Early Morning Ride)
This ride leaves every Thursday from the Center of the Known Universe at either 5:30 or 5:45. No one will tell you when. It will be dark. The other riders will materialize out of the shadows and grimly nod to one another. No one looks happy. That’s because no one is.
The best reason to crash this ride is that, even though you’ll be squished like a bug, you’ll be squished like a bug even if you are invited. It’s hosted by the South Bay Royalty, presided over mainly by Jeff Konsmo and Dave Jaeger. Unless they tell you before the ride that they’re going easy, they will crush you like a tin can. The ride rolls crisply out to PV, buries it up the Reservoir climb, crushes it up Better Homes, then squelches the life out of you up to the radar domes on Crest. When the king and queen are preparing for states/nationals, they throw in a handful of additional brutal climbs at race pace. No matter how good you think you are, you’re not.
- Pain beyond your wildest fears.
- Being dismembered by the fang and claw of nature.
- Once in the office you will stare at your computer screen with a befuddled gaze until it’s time to go home.
- The Biggest Wankfest Of The South Bay: The Kettle Ride
Ride leaves every Sunday at 7:00 AM, or 7:05, or whenever, from the Center of the Known Universe, across from the Kettle Restaurant from which the ride got its name. It is the United Nations of South Bay Cycling, attracting all manner of biker. It can be a big ol’ group when the weather’s nice and junior’s Little League games are done for the year, or it can be tiny when it’s a horribly frigid SoCal winter day, which can mean an unendurably cold 63 degrees and a light drizzle. As C.U. Tomorrow says, speaking for thousands of South Bay cyclists, “I don’t touch my helmet ’til the thermo hits 75.”
The group stops at the “Knoll Loading and Unloading/Pick-up Party Area,” or KLAUPUPA [Pronunciation key: “Clow-poopa”], a/k/a public toilets at Ocean Park on the bike path in Santa Monica. Aged prostates are relieved and the group continues on to PCH, where all heck breaks loose. There is a mad slugfest for 6 or 7 miles to Cross Creek in Malibu; midway some riders turn right to climb Topanga or choose a hillier route. Huge sprunt finish at the bridge in Malibu. Most riders turn around and go home, others continue up PCH for more Sunday frolic.
- Big ol’ group of wankers, and wankers are fun.
- Nice warm up and chance to chat with friends if you’re planning on doing one of the hillier routes.
- Great ride if you just want a brief paceline interval.
- Beautiful scenery.
- Excellent beach talent on the bike path return; most sightings of the first thong of spring occur here.
- The ride’s too easy, especially since MMX moved off to North County San Diego.
- PCH can be hairy and dangerous.
- The non-climbing route is pancake flat and boring.
- That fat dude with the sheer, all-white kit two sizes too small sometimes shows up, and you can wind up having to stare down the hairy brown eye of death if you’re inadvertently on his wheel.
- Shakes the Clown makes this a regular ride of his.
- The Secret Saturday Ride For The Anointed: The Nameless Ride
The Nameless Ride is the Saturday alternative to the Donut. It leaves CotKU at 6:00 AM and comprises the aforementioned royalty along with their retinue. No fucking around. The ride goes north and does a handful of hard climbs. Wankers will be ostracized and dropped. All participants required to know the secret handshake. No one will wait for you after you’ve been cracked on some lonely canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, as vultures circle above and hungry coyotes eye your wretched, stringy body as you lie writhing in the ditch. The ride is as short as 70 miles and as long as 100; 120+ if you’re coming from Pedro or PV.
- Feeling inadequate.
- Being ignored.
- Getting dropped.
- All of the above.
- The Best Ride In America: The Wheatgrass Ride
The Wheatgrass Ride rolls out from Malaga Cove Plaza on Sundays just after 8:00 AM. It’s a short, 1.5 hour romp around the PV Peninsula that goes up the Reservoir hill, Homes & Domes, Glass Church, long climb up Hawthorne to PV Mall, and a post-coital discussion of various things while quaffing coffee, Jamba Juice, and wheatgrass. The ride was started by Iron Mike Norris, a/k/a the Mayor of the Hill, or just plain “Dad.” He provides wheatgrass for all participants at the end as punishment for not going to church.
The scenery is spectacularful. There’s regrouping at the radar domes. The pace is only as hard as you want to make it. The group is very welcoming. No one gets snobbed on or ostracized, even Bike Toss Mike when his lechery gets the better of him. If you want to race like a madman with Stathis the Wily Greek or G3 the Mad Scientist, you can. If you want to test your mettle against Tink (and have your mettle wilt like a butter pat in the sun), you can.
Best of all, Wheatgrass is the ideal place to make your blogging debut. Something funny’s sure to happen, and you’ll be surrounded by the legends of the Hill. Iron Mike, Sunshine Rich, Big Bowles, Junkyard, New Girl, Pilot, Canyon Bob, Carlos, the Godfather, Vince di Draftlio…they’re all there. Most awesomely, you’ll get to meet Fussy, the human encyclopedia on everything that has ever happened in the South Bay. You’ll hear about the dude who used to take a mannikin to all the races and dress it with his jersey so his number would be pinned on perfectly, and that’s just the beginning. More funny stories per minute will be told than anywhere since Abe Lincoln was a circuit lawyer.
- The ride is short.
- No matter how hard you go, it’s not that hard.
- Tink will drop you and step on your manhood.
- You’ll be forced to drink wheatgrass at the end. Unless you’re Pretty Boy.
- You won’t be able to brag to your SO that you “did a hundred.”
- The ride is pure fun.
- People treat you like a real person.
- Everyone’s welcome, even Crazy George with the gym shorts, the saggy socks, and the rock collection he carries in his backpack.
- Someone will always stop and help you change your flat. Or your diaper.
- You’ll feel like one of the group your first time out.
- Nothing is as much fun as a sunny Sunday morning catching some rays, spreading some manure, and enjoying some post-coital smack talk with like-minded friends.
- Doin’ The Double: TELO Tuesday Training Race
After doing the NPR on Tuesday morning, you have the evening option of the TELO Training Race, which goes off every Tuesday at 6:00 PM from the spring time change to the fall time change. It is named after Telo Street in Torrance, a feeder road that leads into a lovely little office park.
The first lap is neutral, and the race lasts for an hour or until an errant vehicle takes out the field, whichever comes first. Packs are as small as 30 and as large as 60. As recently as a couple of years ago the pattern was this: Fast pace for a few laps, slow down, hard attack establishes break, pack chills for the rest of the race, breakaway hammers it out for the win. This rarely if ever happens anymore. The pace is so fast that breaks just can’t make it. There’s almost always a bitter headwind on the back half of the course, which is two long sides with a chicane and two short sides. Sprinter wheelsucks are always waiting in the wings.
- Super fast, super hard way to end your Tuesday.
- Close to South Bayers and free.
- Great way to get in a double workout if you do the NPR in the morning.
- Generally very safe racing. Crashes are rare, traffic knows about the race and is generally very considerate.
- It’s a crit. Yawn.
- If it comes down to a sprint between you, Aaron Wimberly, Paul Che, and Christian Cognigni, there’s no fucking way in hell you’re going to win.
- Wheelsuck sprinters who treat training races like the real thing. Yawn.
No, Virginia, Halloween isn’t a holiday: The Holiday Ride
When there is a national holiday, whichever day it falls on is the Holiday Ride. This often creates confusion on the part of most people in Manhattan Beach, and quite a few others in the South Bay who don’t really have jobs, and for whom every day is a holiday. So I get emails and texts from them like, “Hey, is there a Holiday Ride tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow,” of course, is usually Halloween, or Gothic Rune Day, or National Prayer in School Day, or the day We Honor Our Teachers but Still Pay Them Shit Day. These are not national holidays, however much you like to use them as an excuse not to finish those three shaping orders that have been 80% completed for the last six months, and therefore, no, there won’t be a Holiday Ride.
If it’s Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, MLK Day, 4th of July, etc., everyone meets at CotKU at 8:00 AM and leaves super promptly at 7:59. You’ll never catch if you show up late. If the weather’s sunny expect 200+ idiots.
The ride goes north to Santa Monica, turns right on San Vicente Blvd., makes another turn or two and then hits Mandeville Canyon. From the light at Mandeville, it’s game fucking on. The speed instantly snaps the mob into a single file line of death. If you think you’re a contender (you aren’t), don’t be more than ten wheels back.
People begin frying and charring immediately. It’s an endless climb, never very steep except at the last few hundred yards, where it turns into a wall. The finish rarely includes more than two or three people. The remaining 200 or so are flogging the little meat in ones and twos all the way back down the hill.
- It’s the ultimate “see and be seen” ride
- You get to see all the rich folks’ houses in Brentwood, or at least the ones you can see with your fucking face plastered to the stem, your eyes watering like a firehose, and sheet snot pouring out all over your face
- The climb up the canyon is intense and humbling
- It’s always a full-on beatdown
- Too many idiots
- Angry canyon residents have tried to kill cyclists using “their” road
- It’s always a full-on beatdown