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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Injury dehabilitation

January 13, 2016 § 34 Comments

The average time that it takes a 1mm fracture in your pelvis to completely heal is 5-6 months. During that time it is important to exercise in such a way as to bring increased blood circulation to the fracture site, yet not to “overdo it” such that the soft tissue around the fracture becomes inflamed.

The best thing to do is to let pain be your guide as to any rehab program. Moderate pain is to be expected, whereas severe or excruciating pain likely indicates further damage or re-injury of the fracture.

Full resumption of pre-fracture, intense activities should not be resumed until at least five, preferably six months after the injury.

I had all this in mind as I rode to the NPR this morning, fully aware that I was merely seven weeks into the Wanky Rehab Plan. Then I became even more fully aware as the ride kicked up Pershing and gravity plus wind resistance plus speed forced me to the tail end of the 80-plus gaggle of flailing idiots.

As we made the sweeping turn for our first lap on Westchester Krapway, a place where I am accustomed to land the first blow, I grit my teeth firmly around my small intestine, hanging by a thread to the wheel of Scrubby Carbuncle, a poor fellow who, resplendent in his new 2016 team kit, had failed to adequately prepare for the physical stresses about to be placed on the fabric when it almost ripped after Scrubby doubled to his normal size by enormous gasps, and as a result began to gap me out as the massive, spiked Baby Seal Club of Turncoat Cobley swung a mighty blow across Scrubby’s tiny seal testicles.

The gap widened and there was nothing I could do. Slow of leg, weak of spirit, and fractured of pelvis I watched the gap widen as this–MY HOME RIDE–punched me in the kidney and prepared to drop me on the first acceleration of the very first lap.

Fate intervened, though, which was bad, because the brief stop at the first red light allowed me to catch back on, something as happy as, saying, getting the opportunity to ram your dangling, bloody stump back into the garbage disposal a second time.

I skittered briefly off the front only to hear the whooshing of The Club, this time being swung by the mighty G$. It cracked me across the nape of the neck and sent me hurtling to the back, where, instead of dying on the wheel of Scrubby, who had been skinned and had his bloody carcass dripping with entrails tossed into the maw of the rear-pack sharks who gnawed his guts while spinning in the slipstream of the mighty clubbers on the point.

Now my savior was the rear wheel of Daisy O’Doodle, a nice enough person who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous clubbing by Benedict Alverson, Sausage, and the gore-soaked South Bay Baby Seal, who had graduated from the ranks of the skinned into the ranks of the dickstompers.

Daisy’s skull split with the first whack of The Club, and as she sank to floor of the ice floe I felt huge shooting pains fire up into my crack, the tender fibers of barely knitted bone infused with the unholy fire of nerves being stimulated with red-hot coals. My tender nutsack, barely joined to my pelvic crack, dangled and jangled with each blow of the The Club as I shuddered and swayed, pushing harder than hard to close the four-foot gap which threatened to mushroom into a solid quarter mile.

By the final lap the monsters of the deep had taken over, with the Williams brothers, national clubber Holloway, Nutjob Pedalbeater, Dawg, Benedict Smasher, Baby Seal, Turncoat Cobley, and a host of murderers forming a final arrow that flew from the bowstring directly through the throats of all pretenders. I finished so far back I had to read about the sprunt in the newspaper.

At the post-coital lie and whopper exchange at CotKU, I required three people to help me dismount. After coffee I pedaled home at record slow pace, my tightened and aching bones barely able to turn the pedals.

Later that morning I had my first appointment with Dr. Patchumup, the bone guy who had diagnosed my strained nutsack as a broken pelvis.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Great,” I lied.

“What kind of activities are you doing now to help with your rehab?”

“Oh, just the usual.”

“What’s that?”

“You know, walking slowly in a heated pool. Stretching on my bed in the mornings. Trying not to move too quickly or to overstress anything.”

“Good,” he said. “Keep it up and you’ll be back on your bike by June at the latest.”

“Okay, doc,” I said obediently. “I will.”

END

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Nega-Strava

November 11, 2015 § 12 Comments

I was riding with my Internet cycling coach and psychologist and financial adviser and child-rearing counselor yesterday and he told me all about saving watts.

“What?” I asked.

“Yeah, watts,” he answered. “It’s not simply about gaining watts, but saving watts.”

“What?”

“Watts. Watts.”

“Oh … ” and then I mumbled something and the wind howled for a second.

“What?” he asked.

“I thought you said ‘watts.'”

“But I couldn’t hear what you said,” he said. “So I said ‘what.'”

We went along like that, who’s-on-firsting it until we got back on topic. “I know you hate Strava,” he said.

“True.”

“But you should use it to do a few Nega-Stravas.”

“What’s a Nega-Strava?”

“It’s where you measure how few watts you can use instead of how many. It’s an efficiency test. The best climbing happens when you get to the base having used less energy than anyone else.”

This made sense, so the next morning when I got ready to leave for NPR I downloaded the Strava app for my iPhone 2. “I’m gonna ride the NPR with maximal Vince di Meglio wheelsucking efficiency, avoiding the wind at all costs and following the most robust ass I can find.”

On the way out, when it was still neutral, I saw Hank Stengenbladdammit from Scottsdale who had shown up on the Donut last Saturday and flayed us all. I’d been hoping he would go home, but alas.

“Hi, Hank. I know this is your first NPR, but since it’s the off-season it will be really slow. You can go hard if you want but I’ll be chilling at the back.”

“Okay,” said Hank as we started up Pershing. We weren’t going very fast so I figured I would stay at the front until the Hop In Wankers at the top of the hill hopped in, and then I would slink to the back.

We passed the H.I.W.’s and I swung over and Hank came past like shit through a goose. “I’d better hop on his wheel so he doesn’t get lost as it’s his first time, plus, I’m on a wheel so it’s not that much effort.”

Hank ended up going really fast and I had to huff and puff a bit. “No problem. As soon as those H.I.W.’s pull through I will pull over and sit for the rest of the ride.”

It was a super windy morning and we hit the parkway hard. I was farther to the front than I wanted to be, and when Toronto swung off the point I was on the front. But I didn’t go too hard until Hank battered by again and I had to go a tad harder than I wanted.

Over the next three laps I masterfully sat on Hank’s wheel, but it seemed like we were always in these little three-or-four-man-plus-Katie-Wilson breakaways, then we’d get caught at a light because I never run red lights anymore and then we’d start off again and I’d head for the back but suddenly there would be a good opportunity to punch it with Hank going balls out but not punching too hard but probably harder than, say, sitting at the back.

At the start of the fourth lap everyone looked funny so I decided to sneak to the back for good this time but first I figured I should jump a little bit and test the waters. Then I was accidentally off by myself but I wasn’t going too hard except for a bit when I had to push it to keep my gap, which kept getting bigger but I don’t think it was too hard because I wasn’t going all that hard as much as it was they were letting me go. (All my pals are on the NPR and they like to help me a lot.)

At the final turnaround I had a very red light but since I’d stopped at all the other ones and the peloton was pretty close it made sense to keep going since there were 60 of them and 1 of me and they’d catch the green by the time they came around or at worst would have to stop for a few seconds so I started pedaling kind of hard. It was harder than if I’d been sitting in but hopefully not much except for the bits of oatmeal and almonds and blood from breakfast that kept coming up.

They must have all stopped and taken a nap and gotten caught by a bunch of lights and been concerned about the off-season and have wanted to let the old feller have one because I won the imaginary sprunt with lots of time to spare and when they caught up to me only Toronto and my Internet coach said “Good job.” Everyone else glowered, but they were happy glowers.

At coffee I checked my phone and said to Coach, “I averaged 352 watts.”

“What?” he said.

“Watts.”

END

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Excommunicated

April 30, 2015 § 41 Comments

I received this letter yesterday:

Notice of Revocation of License

Dear Mr. Wankmeister:

We, the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride, regret to inform you that after an emergency plenary session which was convened via Facebag on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 2:00 PM until 11:35 PM, you are henceforth prohibited from participating in, observing, commenting on, or otherwise involving yourself with any and all activities associated with the bicycle ride occurring twice weekly, on Tuesday and Thursday from the hours of 6:40 AM until 8:00 AM, and commonly referred to as the NPR or New Pier Ride.

This ban, effective immediately, shall continue until further notice and shall be enforced without right of appeal. You may, if you so desire, do independent laps around the Parkway with Nancy but only between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 AM in such small and easy gears as may be, and always are, selected by him.

It was brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior that your actions Tuesday last were among the most abominable, dangerous, hazardous, anti-safety, and despicable in the annals of our illustrious event, such that even the cavalier attitude and disrespectful riding habits of former attendee Josh A. and the previously excommunicated Wily Greek are deemed to be pale in comparison.

The general charges laid against you we hereby set forth as follows:

I. That on the morning of April 28, 2015, at approximately 6:37 AM, you appeared at the starting site for the NPR with what eyewitnesses have independently corroborated as a “mean, unfriendly, hostile attitude clearly intended to make other participants feel uncomfortable and perhaps sad.”

II. That after exiting the alleyway onto Vista del Mar, you intentionally assumed a hostile and unfriendly position on the drop portion of your handlebars and were seen to shift your chain onto the larger of your two chainrings while simultaneously lowering your chain onto the smallest rear sprocket. Eyewitnesses have confirmed that it was an eleven.

III. That immediately after passing the traffic signal at Grand Ave., you “hunkered down” and “began hammering like a maniac.” More than fifty of the assembled august personages who you later were heard to disparage as “wankers” generously offered to hop onto your wheel but you refused their assistance and pedaled away.

IV. That, being deprived of a rear wheel, the august personages of the peloton were rudely forced to give chase at a time during the ride when each of them was normally accustomed to friendly chatting about wattage, training plans, and other important items, and that this chase made each of them tired, induced burning sensations in their legs and lungs to which they were were not accustomed except on such days as Daniel H. and the aforementioned Josh A. are present.

V. That, with the exception of your despicable henchmen Surfer D., Man S., Tumble W., and a handful of other reprobates, the remainder of the decent and dog-fearing peloton were forced to continue painful pedaling without a wheel to sit upon all the way to the light at Pershing, which made each of them unhappy and uncomfortable and sad.

VI. That, rather than politely stop behind the long line of cars queued up at the light and give the noble and extremely pleasant wheel-followers in the peloton a chance to rest and attach themselves to your rear wheel, you blindly, recklessly, dangerously, and meanly sped through the narrow chute between the cars and the large brick wall, thereby endangering all who attempted to follow, and forcing the safety-minded and decent personages of the peloton who would otherwise have gladly assisted you by attaching themselves to your rear wheel, to come to a complete halt which further enhanced the unfair, illegal, dangerous, and unsportsmanlike gap you had created by willfully pedaling your bicycle hard in the manner of Josh A., who thankfully does not come here any more.

VII. That, once on Pershing, you continued to exploit your cruel, dangerous, and unfair advantage by repeatedly pushing down hard on the pedals such that when the decent and hard-working members of the peloton who had expended so much energy to reach you finally approached, each and every one of them was tired and felt meanly used and sad.

VIII. That, once the hop-in wankers atop Pershing who always wait there so they will not have to rush up the small bump on Pershing merged with you, additional bad-mannered henchmen such as Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Jon D., Man S., and repeat offender Surfer D. pushed the pace even harder until the fair and honest members of the peloton, unable to pull through and unable to sit on a wheel, opened up large-ish gaps and wreaked havoc amongst themselves, causing extreme unhappiness, sadness, and considerable discomfort.

IX. That, once on the Parkway, you and your henchmen continued your bad habits and reckless disregard for safety by running red lights and continually pedaling so hard such that the decent and honest peloton could not get close enough to sit on your wheel, assist you from the rear, and helpfully come around you at the finish.

X. That, in addition to your dangerous red light running and mischievous pedal pounding, you formed a final group consisting of yourself, Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Old F., and First O., refused to slow down or stop for traffic signals such that the honorable members of the august peloton could attach to your rear wheel and assist you from the back or otherwise float to the front and lower your unfriendly pace such that they could diminish the pain, discomfort, sadness, and general feelings of antipathy aroused by you in them.

XI. That, in addition to refusing to slow down and thereby forcing the august personages of the peloton to choose between chasing in earnest and suffering additional discomfort and sadness, or to give up and cede the victory to your unethical and dangerous riding and thereby diminish each of their feelings of self-worth, and thereby making them sad as if they were on a ride with Josh A., you insisted on continuing to ride like a maniac from Pershing all the way back to CotKU, thereby depriving the august personages of the peloton the opportunity to voice their displeasure, critique your awful behavior, provide you with useful training and racing tips, and castigate you for causing them so much needless danger, discomfort, and generalized feelings of sadness.

Therefore, be it know by these presents, that you are hereby excommunicated from the community of the New Pier Ride, that your seal clubbing license is peremptorily revoked, and that we, the members of the Standing Committee, will ensure that your behavior is monitored through Facebag postings and private email exchanges.

Sadly yours,

The Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride

END

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A bad time gone worse

October 30, 2014 § 17 Comments

For three years we enjoyed the New Pier Ride. But last week, a mortal blow was dealt to this mainstay morning ride in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Massive construction along Westchester Parkway meant that in addition to the normal avoidance of cars, crap in the road, and other bikers, we had to negotiate giant earthmoving equipment, massive trenches, construction workers, steel plates, ripped up pavement, plastic cones, and an entire parkway shrunk down to one tiny, narrow lane.

Many people, including me, decided that they would be taking a hiatus from the Tuesday-Thursday beatdown until the construction was finished. Some folks suggested a return to the Old Pier Ride, a classic urban fustercluck that included countless stoplights, lots of aggro morning commuters, and a deathly, screaming pedal along a narrow bike path in the marina.

Naaaah.

Then I got a note from Junkyard. It said something like, “Yo, Wanky. New route on Thursday around the golf course in PV. Four laps. Neutral descent. Finish on La Cuesta, with its 3-minute, 15% grade. Be there.”

At first it seemed crazy simply because it is so different from the NPR, which is flat. The loop around the golf course has three short, very punchy climbs, and that’s the opposite of what NPR aficionados want. In fact, the NPR is a place where pretty much anyone, regardless of fitness, can hang on due to the sucking draft of the 80+ riders barreling along a wide, flat parkway.

The illness of Junkyard’s route was that there would be nowhere to hide. The climbs weren’t long enough to select for “climbers,” but they weren’t easy enough to let the big and the lazy simply cruise over the difficulties by leveraging position and momentum.

At 6:35 AM we rolled out from Malaga Cove. One or two geniuses had left their headlights at home, but no matter. The crew consisted of Junkyard, Toronto, Tumbleweed, EA Sports, Inc., Cookie, Davy, Tregillis, South Bay Baby Seal, and me. “Let’s ride the first two laps neutral until we’re familiar with the course,” Junkyard advised.

We did in fact start at a neutral pace, but a hundred yards in we were going full-gas up PV North. Cookie made a groaning noise and popped. The next time anyone saw him, he was hanging over his top tube in the parking lot with his eyes spinning backwards in his head. When we crested the third and final riser at the golf course on lap one, only three riders were left. We regrouped and did another lap.

This time Davy and a couple of others opened a gap on PV North. Toronto closed the gap and then made an opportunistic attack at the bottom of the last climb. But then the transmission fell out of his chassis, a rod when flying through his engine block, and we didn’t see him again for a while.

By the end of the third lap Tumbleweed and Cookie had left in order to [go to work/ ride according to their proper off-season training plan/ do yoga]. Junkyard was shelled. Toronto was shelled. I was cracked.

On the final lap we hit the first climb up PV Drive hard. Then on Via Campesina, EA Sports, Inc. accelerated. Davy had taken a sabbatical and now I was about to do the same. Tregillis rolled by to bridge and I clawed onto his wheel. EA Sports, Inc. made it first to the top of the golf course, but unfortunately we had the beast of La Cuesta waiting. Tregillis hit the ascent and floated away, then caught EA Sports, Inc., and kept on floating.

I was so blown that even with EA Sports, Inc. paperboying up the climb I still couldn’t catch him. Atop La Cuesta we struggled and gasped and heaved.

Toronto joined us after a while. “My cleat kept wanting to come out of the pedal so I had to pedal just right,” he said, implying that but for the cleat issue things might have ended differently. Then he added, “Plus, I already rode hard and did some big climbs before we started.”

Junkyard trailed in, face and chest covered in sheet snot, eyes crossed, and strange sounds coming out of his mouth that sounded like English as it is spoken by wildebeests.

After a few moments we all agreed that it was a great course except that no one would ever want to do it. “Can you imagine the NPR crew showing up for this?” asked Junkyard.

“No,” I said. “I can’t.”

“And the whole thing was only 36 minutes,” he said. “Next week we’ll add two more laps. But the first lap will be neutral.”

We all looked at each other.

“Really,” said. “It will.”

END

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