Work together!

December 2, 2018 Comments Off on Work together!

Cyclists often have a conflicted relationship with law enforcement. This is because law enforcement often does not give so much as one-tenth of a broken fuck about cyclists. They often don’t know the law, don’t care about the law, and have even been known to willfully ignore it to the detriment of the cyclist.

My best worst memory was having a Hayes County sheriff’s deputy outside of Buda pull his service revolver and point it at my head as I tried to escape by riding off in a bar ditch. I fell over so he didn’t have to kill me for failing to pull over.

But it’s not always that way. There are cops out there who know the law, and even more unicorn-ish, cops who actually cycle.

One of those cops is officer Fran Sur. And he’s the classic example of why it matters to have law enforcement on your side.

Last week on the NPR an apparently crazed and/or insane and/or drug-addled and/or drunken driver came close to mowing down the group. He then flipped a u-turn and had a second go, which thankfully came to naught.

Officer Sur, who works for the LAX PD, was immediately on the scene and helped apprehend the suspect. It’s not the first time he has gone above and beyond to make sure that cyclists are respected on Westchester Parkway. An avid and dedicated triathlete (forgiven, dude), and member of Big Orange, he’s an example of what happens when cops and cyclists are one and the same.

Nor is he the only one. Many cops ride, a few of them race, and they are dedicated to making sure that the laws are fairly enforced, not just against cyclists, but against drivers, too.

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Asian Methodists

October 19, 2018 § 21 Comments

My wife did her first NPR on Tuesday and it didn’t go so hot. She tipped over on the hill waiting for the light at the Chevron and skinned her elbow.

Everyone dashed off when the light turned green except one guy who waited for her. She pedaled over the hill and onto Vista del Mar. He came up alongside and gave her a push to get her up to speed.

The group was disappearing fast and she was still in shock from tipping over and now scared because she was going down the big hill at the  Chevron. The helpful guy pushed a little more until he realized that she was too nervous. “Please go ahead, I’m okay,” she said. “And thank you!”

Released from bondage, the rider sped off. Yasuko called her friend Michelle who picked her up and took her to coffee. Thankfully, unlike her daredevil husband, Yasuko kept her helmet on inside the car, which is where most non-self-inflicted, non-fall related head injuries are likely to occur. I hope that all helmet advocates are equally consistent.

Back at the ranch

“So who was this nice guy who helped you?” I asked.

“I couldn’t recognize him because of his glasses and helmet but he was a nice young man, a kind of tall guy, an Asian Methodist, I am pretty sure.”

“A what?”

“An Asian guy, I think. He looked Asian.”

We talked about the rest of the ride but I still couldn’t figure out what the hell she meant by Methodist. Sometimes, when you have been married for more than thirty years, you just shut up, and then after you get finished shutting up, you shut some more.

Sausage text

The next day I got a text from Sausage. “Hey, man, Mrs. WM did great on the NPR despite her tipping-over-incident. I gave her a little push to try and get her up to the group but she didn’t look very comfortable so I did what any self-disrespecting bike racer would do, I left her and caught the group before they were gone for good.”

“Thanks, Sausage,” I texted back.

Yasuko was sitting at the table. “Hey honey,” I said. “The guy who pushed you was Sausage.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Greek Caucasian Asian guy.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I couldn’t tell. He looked like a nice young Asian man at the time.”

Finally I couldn’t stand it any more. “Why did you say he’s a Methodist?”

“Because of his kit. It looked like one of those kits.”

“What kits?”

“You know, Rahsaan and Charon’s team.”

“Rahsaan and Charon?”

“Yes. Don’t they ride for Methodist Winning?”

THEY DO NOW.

END

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safety_first

Down and out

April 4, 2018 Comments Off on Down and out

One of the funny things about cycling is that you don’t always know that much about people, even if you ride with them a lot. It’s weird in cycling to ask someone, “What do you do?” or to make small talk about jobs. There are people on the NPR I’ve ridden with for years whose names I don’t know, but whose riding characteristics I’ve memorized and whose butts I can pair with a face from 100 yards.

Yet many of those same people are complete strangers. What they do, where they live, and the other huge parts of their identity? No fuggin’ clue.

What’s more, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what someone’s personal details are when you’ve got your nose smashed against the stem and you’re struggling might and main to keep from getting shelled. Stockbroker? Trash collector? IDGAF because your occupation is not going to help me hang on. And after the ride, who in the world wants to talk about work when we can talk about the epic NPR screaming match between Major Bob and Anthony?

The anonymity of the back

There is one guy who does the NPR a bunch but he always rides towards the middle or the back. I know his name and we always exchange that classic biker throwaway line, “How’s it going?” before we sprint off. I’ll call him Ol’ Jake. He’s a chiropractor. How did I know he was a chiropractor? Because he looked like one, that’s how.

One day I heard some bad news. Ol’ Jake had gotten in a bicycle-falling-off-incident and smashed up his leg pretty good. It was smashed up so good that people weren’t sure he was going to walk again. Cyclists being cyclists, that is, uninsured, a group of guys decided to put together a Kickstarter campaign for him, because it was the kind of injury that would cost a fortune to fix, would keep him off work, and would take a long time to heal.

It turns out I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know Ol’ Jake very well. There was a lot of confusion about where he lived and where his office was, that kind of thing.

Eventually someone got hold of him and got his address. A group of guys took the afternoon off and rode over to his place to check with him and make sure he was okay with the Kickstarter thing. Cyclists are almost never too proud to beg and accept charity, but you never know.

Kickstarter for whom?

When they got to Ol’ Jake’s apartment building they were surprised because it wasn’t your typical deadebeat bike rider apartment building. It was a high-rise, and Ol’ Jake wasn’t simply on the top floor, he was the entire top floor, with a view of the ocean and city and mountains and pretty much everything else.

When Ol’ Jake ushered them in their eyes about popped out at the opulent furnishings. “I guess you done pretty good at the chiropracting,” one guy said.

“Sorry?” Ol’ Jake said.

“The chiropracting. You must have a good business with all those adjustments and shit.”

“What makes you think I’m a chiropractor?”

“Wanky said so.”

Ol’ Jake laughed. “No, I haven’t ever tried my hand at that. But I’ve restored the classic car collections of a lot of famous people, and of some royal families in the Middle East. I’m just a mechanic, really.”

They looked around. Ol’ Jake was “just a mechanic” like Muhammed Ali was “just a boxer.”

“So, we, uh, came over to see if you’d mind if we started a Kickstarter campaign to help you pay for your medical bills, but I guess you probably don’t need it, so what do you say to starting a Kickstarter campaign for us?”

Ol’ Jake laughed. “It’s pretty darned nice of you to come by. You fellas sit down and let me get you some coffee.”

And they did.

END

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#fakenews

January 31, 2018 Comments Off on #fakenews

I haven’t done the New Pier Ride in a long time. I used to do it once or twice a week but as PoohBearATX remarked, “I only do the NPR when I’m serious about my plateauing.” Or, “The best way to kill it on the NPR is to never do the NPR.”

Today we rode over and did it. It was great to see my #fakefriends. By the way, everyone who races or does a competitive ride is a #fakefriend. They will help you and be kind to you until suddenly they drop you. Still, there is a special kind of magic rolling down the alley in the dark, lights blinking, surrounded by people you know, chatting, laughing, girding loins for the coming quake.

We kept a rather brisk pace going out Vista del Mar. This stretch of road is riddled with cracks and potholes, but is good for a group because we can easily take the entire lane and have plenty of room for cars coming by in the fast lane. On Pershing the gas stayed on and the typical group of Pershing H.I.W.’s hopped in.

When you abandon the NPR for a few months people completely forget you. One Unity Riders H.I.W. took a dainty little baby pull and when I came through for a similarly brief pull after having hit it continuously from VdM, he yelled “Stay up there!” or something silly that I ignored. It always amazes me that people have the lungs to advise you but never the lungs to attack or pull hard, like the guy at CBR last week who told me I needed to “quit moving my shoulders around and save energy” after I had launched my umpteenth failed attack. I am sure he never made it out of the caboose.

Things never relented so that mid-way through the first lap I was roasted. I slunk to the back and caught my breath, then pushed back to the fore as we began Lap 3. Rahsaan jumped, followed by Ivan Fernandez and Lauren, and I tagged onto Ivan. We made it to the bridge and slowed for the light as the pack was upon us.

Elijah yelled, “If we had kept going we would have split the group!”

“If grandma had balls she’d be grandpa,” I said, gassed and amused that he saw fit to say “we” for a group he wasn’t part of.

At that moment the light turned green and I still had a little momentum so I went again and at the top of the bridge Eric Bryan came through. He sneaked a sly grin and I hunkered down on his wheel. He is a student at UCLA and also rides for Team Subarau Santa Monica; after a few seconds my legs felt engulfed in flames. He’s not especially tall or broad so there was no draft, and he is especially fast and gnarly so it only felt like being dragged along the pavement behind a truck.

Eric opened a massive gap after his 1-mile effort, swung over, and I got my elbow working before I even made it through, swinging over immediately as sheet-snot covered my face. Next in line was Steve Kim, who smashed it as I dangled on the back. After him came Cat 5 Adam Flores, a 20-something kid who rides like a raging Cat 2.

The break didn’t have much hope of succeeding but it was better than dawdling back there with the sitters, hoping for a bunch sprunt.

At the beginning of Lap 4 we only had a couple hundred yards on the group, but traffic intervened at the turnaround and Eric threw down another incredible pull into the headwind, matched by Adam. Every time I had to come through I did what we will call “elder statesman pulls,” wrinkly and saggy and leaky in all the wrong places, leaving barely enough energy to sprint onto the back of the break.

At the final turnaround the gap was considerable and the children relaxed. “They will hunt you down and steal your toys if you let off the gas,” was my grandfatherly advice.

Eric took it to heart, too much so, unfortunately, attacking and gapping me out as the others chased on. I reattached as Adam barreled up the slight rise to the golf course. Once we were through the final light Eric attacked again, distancing us all. I was too tired and weak to do anything but follow wheels, and his wheel was sadly not on my follow list.

Steve jumped and dropped Adam, I clawed on, and Steve put in a stinking huge effort to close the gap to Eric, who was now 300 yards from the imaginary #fakefinish. With 200 to go a weird thing happened. After sitting in and sucking wheel and doing nothing and panting and flapping my elbow and sheet-snotting and sagging over the bars and evidencing a geriatric cardiac event I suddenly felt really good and it coincided with Steve and Eric feeling something off to the left of good and maybe even westerly of horrible.

I gave it the old grandpa Low-T andropause scissorkick and waltzed across the #fakefinish for what was perhaps the oldest ever geezer to rip an NPR #fakewin from the bloody talons of the young. And even if it wasn’t … it felt like it, so I went ahead and did it. I raised my hands.

wanky_win

END

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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

 

Low fidelity Podcast #1: NPR!

September 22, 2017 § 67 Comments

Click the bar above and listen to the podcast.

You can click the link in this sentence and see video of the September 19, 2017 NPR crash.

Podcast recorded from the comfort of my bed, spoken into my iPhone.

END

Methods of misery: Last man lag

December 11, 2016 § 17 Comments

Suddenly you wake up one day and bam! you’re the oldest guy out there. It’s a weird feeling. Your youth is so far behind you that you don’t even need bother with a rearview mirror, and the thing is, it happens bam! and you’re flat fuggin’ old.

There are no benefits to being old, not one, except its apparently marginal superiority to the alternative.

However, back to the wake up and bam! you’re old thing. I looked around in the break on the fake racey group ride and everyone else was either young enough to be my kid or my grandkid and they were tearing my legs off. This made the bam! you’re old thing feel a thousand times worse.

Of course it may have been somewhat demoralizing to them as the fact is pretty obvious that THERE IS NO PRO CAREER FOR YOU EVER EVER EVER NOT EVEN MAYBE PERHAPS IN UNICORN FART LAND IF YOU’RE IN A BREAK WITH GRANDPA.

But even though they were demoralized, they were angry too, because when you are young and strong and fit and forced to ride tire-to-tire in a five-man break with grandpa it is like having a goatshead in your jockstrap, it really does rub you the wrong way.

So we were pounding along which means that they were doing all the work and I was sucking wheel and taking .005-second micropulls, and even that was depleting my magnesium and glucose and calcium and strontium-90 such that it became clear that our fromthegunintheneutralzone (even though there is no neutral zone) stoplightbreakaway (all successful breakaways on the parkway are stoplight breakaways) was going to make it all four laps out on Westchester Parkway but that I might not be part of it at the end.

Two and a half laps in, along came a Hop-in-Wanker. HIWs are a crucial part of the New Pier Ride; they are people who either get dropped or who don’t make the break so they cut over to the other side of the parkway and hop in with the lead group. Usually the Hop-in-Wankers are pretty easily disposed of because of The Rule of Breakaways:

  1. If you weren’t strong enough to make the break, you’re likely not strong enough to stay with it when it comes by or when you hop in.

Unfortunately, this HIW hadn’t read the rule, and he was plenty strong. We were all gassed and he started taking donkey pulls, big, nasty, snot-blowing, leg-straining, horsefly killing, drag-through-the-manure-pile pulls and since we’d been going pretty hard it hurt and broke up our smooth rotation. For me, “smooth rotation” meant “place I could do minimal work.”

A couple of my breakmates began shouting at HIW. “Get the fuck out of here,” they said.

But I didn’t say anything because one of my breakmates, teammate Bader the Bad, was only 18, and the other breakmate, Throttle, was in his early 20s and it seemed to me that this was a teaching moment.

What teaching moment?

Well, the old “how you get rid of the unwanted Hop-in-Wanker” moment. Because it happens fairly regularly that you get some dude in your winning break who is either sitting in or who has a faster finish and you need to get rid of him without taking the whole break back to the field, which is what happens when everyone sits up and starts shouting. And in the whole history of bike racing, no breakmate has ever been dislodged by shouting.

So I told my breakmates to STFU and get the rotation going again, which they grumblingly did and which made Hop-in-Wanker happy to a fare-thee-well. He was gonna do enough work to make sure we stayed away and then charge us in the imaginary sprunt for the fake victory.

My young breakmates were perplexed and kept at it. We were about a thousand yards out from the final turnaround for the last lap. As I rotated by Bader the Bad and Throttle, I whispered, “Hit it at the final turnaround and I’ll last-man-lag our unwanted visitor.”

They didn’t know what I meant but they did understand “hit it.”

We jetted through the final turn and they leapt. The other two breakmates were caught out, and Hop-in-Wanker, glued to my wheel (first mistake), thought I was going to close the gap (second mistake). As my teammates receded in the distance, he realized that it was going to be up to him, and he surged. I latched on as he manfully strove to close the massive gap.

At about the time it looked like he might close, he made a horrible screaming noise as the engine overheated prior to death, accompanied by clunking noises and oil coming out from the bottom as he threw a piston rod,  shot a small Chinese steel city’s worth of smoke out the tail pipe as his power steering and brakes went out, and he steered his 210-pound paperweight over a bit and wildly flicked his elbow for me to come through.

I sat and watched the smoking hulk go slower and slower until he dejectedly reached down for his water bottle, and I attacked him mid-sip. Somehow, perhaps with the aid of drugs, perhaps with the aid of a motor in my frame, perhaps with the aid of mirrors and a facelift, but mostly because the other two riders had caught my teammates and the break slowed for the final reconnoiter before the finish, I could reattach. Hop-in-Wanker was not seen again.

A flurry of accelerations followed, with Bader the Bad cruising to a beautiful solo imaginary victory against the three other breakmates and his grandfather, who viewed the whole thing from a galaxy far, far, away.

Afterwards the littl’uns asked me, “What happened back there at the turnaround?”

“That?” I said. “Oh, nothing.”

END

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Unplugged

September 22, 2016 § 29 Comments

After reading a thoughtful article about the benefits of unplugging, shared by a friend who’s recovering from a broken collarbone after crashing on the NPR, I switched everything off last night around 7:00 PM and didn’t turn back on until I woke up, just after five. I woke up without an alarm.

Then today I powered down at 4:30 PM, plowed through thirty more pages of a book that is dense but that, as one friend put it, “Is a hairbrush for the tangled mind.” I did some other etceteras and was looking forward to bed when I realized I couldn’t very well blog on paper.

During those few hours of relative mental calm I reflected on the terrible chain collision that happened on Tuesday’s NPR. A big chunk of asphalt didn’t get called out, one rider hit it, another launched over it but didn’t fall, and a third went down hard. At least five other riders hit the deck. One left in an ambulance with a fractured scapula and broken ribs, another broke a clavicle, and a third suffered a severe concussion.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but none of it resolved a key question. Does the Big Group Fake Race belong on the streets anymore?

Leaving aside for the moment that no one was killed but easily could have been, and leaving aside for the moment that the NPR has been the site of many bad falls, one serious car-bike collision, and at least four huge gang pile-ups … wait, we can’t really leave that aside because that’s pretty much the point.

If the pace is slow, everyone bunches up and it’s sketchy as hell. Then the group is frisky for the sprint and people who shouldn’t be going full-gas in a packed group are. It’s scary.

If the pace is fast, everyone from mid-pack back is gassed and can barely keep their head up. Any irregularity in the road, large rock, or sudden change in speed up ahead can cause the kind of catastrophic chain reaction that we saw on Tuesday.

For a few months we had a police escort, but the powers that be eventually quashed that and now the group is back on its own. At least now everyone stops at red lights.

We all know that riders assume the risk and that when you’re feeling good the risk is worth assuming. It’s when everything goes sideways that you really have to wonder.

  • Why am I here?
  • Why are you here?
  • Are there too many people?
  • Is it time to euthanize this ride and do something else?

END

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