Broken record

May 4, 2013 § 33 Comments

I hate to be the one to break your Strava bubble, but “PR” is an oxymoron. There’s no such thing as a “personal record,” any more than there’s a “personal Super Bowl victory” or a “personal presidential election.”

A record is a mark set by someone that at least two people have done. You know Chris Horner’s time up Mt. Palomar? That is a record. Eleven hundred people have done it and his time is the fastest. It’s a record time.

Even though when you climbed it on Tuesday two and a half hours slower than Chris and it was the fastest of your 67 attempts, it’s still not a personal record. It’s two and a half hours slower than the record. You can call it your personal best. You can call it your fastest time up Mt. Palomar. You can call it proof that your $2,000 power meter and $15,000 bike and $950/month personal coaching regimen are making you faster…but it still pegs you in about one thousandth place relative to the RECORD.

Nothing personal about it.

All cycling metrics point to one conclusion: You suck

Strava’s business model is simple: Provide data to wankers that shows they’re getting better. Since none of us is getting better, and in fact all of us are getting older and therefore worse, and since those of us who are improving quickly reach a plateau, there has to be a way to snake-oil us into thinking that we’re improving.

So Strava sells you a premium membership where you can join a smaller subset of records (65+ men with an inseam of less than 25″ who sleep on the left side of the bed), and thereby convert some of your meaningless “personal records” into something more meaningful: A higher spot on the age adjusted, inseam-length adjusted, side-of-the-bed adjusted leaderboard.

Unfortunately, even after adjusting yourself into 75th place, which is a huge jump from 1,000th, physics still mercilessly claws its way to the front. Your “progress” plateaus, and your ability to climb the flailerboard grinds to a halt. So it’s back to personal records, and chasing the illusion of improvement even though all the data point, or rather, scream deafeningly, to a wholly opposite conclusion: You not only suck, you suck more than you did on this segment last year. Introspective riders feel the icy hand of death tightening its grip around their throat if they look at the data too closely past about age forty.

Note to the Stravati: There’s a reason you prefer Strava to bike racing

I don’t vomit often, but when I do it’s usually after someone takes one of my KOM’s. I’ve only got seventeen of them left, and there’s not a single one that couldn’t be handily snapped up by any number of Stravati who live for that kind of thing.

It’s no defense, but I never tried to set a single one of those KOM’s, which is probably the reason they fall so easily. The handful of times I’ve gone out and tried to grab a KOM, I’ve failed, usually miserably. I use Strava for the same reason that I wear pants. It’s a social convention the lack of which would earn too much opprobrium. I also use it as a handy calorie counter. And finally, I use it for you. Just when you’re starting to think your performance is dropping, or you’re really not very good, you can click on my most recent ride and feel relief: There’s someone in your neighborhood who’s slower and an even bigger bicycle kook than you.

This, I believe, is a powerful source of inspiration for flailers and wankers throughout the South Bay. Through Strava, I keep them riding. It’s a social service, and you can thank me via PayPal.

What you can’t do is get away with the pleasant little self-deception that your KOM is as good as a bike race. You can’t even get away with the delusion that it’s as good as an old-fashioned group beatdown on the NPR.

You know why that is? Because it isn’t. Masturbating your way to the top of a leaderboard on Strava, when unaccompanied by ball-busting accomplishments on group rides or in real mass start races in which you have to actually pay an entry fee and pin on a number, are just that: Digital auto-titillation.

Believe it or don’t, I’m fine with that. Riding a bicycle is like consensual sex between adults: I not only approve of it, I’m wholly uninterested in your particular activities. I’m not a libertarian, I’m a “don’t give a fucktarian.” If you’re out pedaling your bicycle, in my book you’re winning.

If your riding is confined to setting Strava records without racing or group riding, though, you are wanking. Can we be clear about that? Good. Because last Thursday a new South bay cycling record was set. Not on Strava, where anonymous, zipless riders virtually compete  using all manner of tricks, traps, aids, pacers, run-ups, and “special assists” to set the record.

No, this Thursday record was set the old-fashioned way. Clubbers clubbed. Baby seals got their heads staved in. Pain was ladled out in buckets. And only the strong, the ornery, the mutton-headed, and the relentless survived.

One thing that’s never happened on the New Pier Ride

…is a successful four-lap breakaway. Dan Seivert and I once, on a cold, rainy, windy winter day in 2012 attacked on Vista del Mar and stayed away for four laps, but it wasn’t a real breakaway. We sneaked off three or four miles before the real ride began, there was zero horsepower in the field, and no one even knew we had attacked. Although we hurt like dogs and congratulated ourselves for the heroic effort, it was more a flailaway than a breakaway. Plus, no one cared. To the contrary, they tortured us with the worst torture known to a group ride breakaway: “You were off the front? If I’d known that I’d have chased.”

Last week, though, word went out that MMX was coming to town to do the NPR. This meant one thing: Merciless beatdown in the offing.

There were at least ten thousand baby seals at the Manhattan Beach Pier when the ride left at 6:40 AM. We hit the bottom of Pershing and it immediately strung out into the gutter and then snapped. The Westside seals were all lounging on the roadside atop the bump, because they’ve learned from repeated beatdowns that it’s better to jump in after the first hard effort than to try and jump in as the group comes by at the bottom of the little hill. Just as they were finishing their first bucket of raw mackerel, we came by like a whirlwind.

As we passed the parkway, Josh Alverson drilled it.

Then Peyton Cooke drilled it.

Then Johnny Walsh drilled it.

MMX, who had started at the back and worked his way up to the point, later noted that from the bottom of Pershing it was pure mayhem. Many of the baby seals were killed with that first single devastating blow to the head. Others, un-hit, were so stunned by the acceleration that they simply pulled over, unclipped, and skinned themselves.

Robert Efthimos reported that Thursday was his 128th time up World Way ramp, and it turned out to be his single highest average wattage ever for a lap on the NPR. He churned out those numbers stuck at the back of the herd after the break left.

After the ramp, Greg Leibert blasted away, stringing it out into a line of about 15 riders, with a small clump forming at about 16th wheel and turning into an amorphous lump into which 80 or 90 baby seals still cowered. After Greg swung over, MMX opened the throttle, dissolved the clump and turned the entire peloton into a single line with countless little blubbering seals who began snapping and popping like plastic rivets on a space shuttle.

We turned onto the parkway in full flight, with Johnny Walsh, Marco Cubillos, Josh, and “26” pounding the pedals. This is the point where after the initial surge, the front riders usually slowed down, or the neverpulls in back made their first and only real effort of the day to chase down the nascent break. Marco, John, Josh, and 26 kept going, and were soon joined by Greg, Jeff Bryant, Jay LaPlante, some dude from La Grange who was incinerated shortly thereafter, and one of the South Bay’s legendary purple card-carrying, neverpulling, wheelsuckers extraordinaire whose name shall not be mentioned.

MMX looked ahead from the pack as the break gained ground, surged, and bridged. Then he closed the door and threw away the key.

No break has ever stayed away on the NPR for all four laps. The course won’t allow it due to stoplights, the high tailwind speeds of the chasing field, and the relatively flat nature of the course.

We made the first turn and had a gap. Atop the bridge Jeff Bryant unleashed a monster pull, but then, over his head by the extreme effort, he and Greg were unable to latch onto the break as it accelerated at the next turnaround. Accounts differ, with some claiming a car pinched them, and others claiming they were too gassed to catch, but in any event the break didn’t feel like waiting, as there were already too many orange kits in the group. This meant the Greg/Jeff duo had to chase.

The pack was in a different time zone, which meant nothing as we’d just completed one lap and there was plenty of time for them to organize and chase in earnest. What we didn’t know is that they were already chasing in earnest, and the stoplight gods were smiling on us.

Having taken the initiative in trying to fend off the entire baby seal population of the South Bay, we were being rewarded with a string of green lights even as the baby seals were being punished with reds. Naturally, post-ride the baby seals that survived chalked everything up to the traffic signals rather than the sheet-snot that covered our faces and the haggard, beaten look of those who rode the break for the entire four laps.

Greg and Jeff, unable to reattach, finally hopped across the road and jumped in as we whizzed by. Greg then attacked us balls-out the remaining lap and a half. Ouch. Every time we brought him back another of our matchboxes was incinerated.

On the final stretch, after berating Sir Neverpull for never coming through, MMX unleashed the leadout from Klubtown. Sir Neverpull, suddenly discovering that with the end in sight he wasn’t quite that tired after all, leaped just in time for his engine to blow and his legs to detach from his torso. Jay LaPlante sprunted around the MMX lead-out with Josh fixed on his wheel. Going too far out and in too small a gear, Jay settled for second after a doing yeoman’s work in the break.

We celebrated this, the first ever four-lap breakaway on the NPR, with coffee and sunshine.

And yes, it was a record.

Let the moonlight wash it away

October 26, 2012 § 22 Comments

I got up and had a banana. My mind was teeming with all the things that lay in wait the rest of the day. Then I had two cups of coffee. In each cup of coffee I poured some nonfat milk and a tiny, really tiny, dollop of heavy cream. I rolled out just after 6:00 AM, met up with Bull and rode to the Center of the Known Universe.

We rode the New Pier Ride, which was fast and hard and into the teeth of a howling Santa Ana crosswind. Afterwards I bought more coffee at Peet’s, cut it with some nonfat milk and another dollop of half-and-half, and sat on the bricks in the morning sunshine at CotKU. My mind was a jumble of thoughts and memories and stories and reactions and questions and plans and ideas.

Then I went to the office, showered, had an apple, and worked until eleven. So many problems and angry people and odd ins and outs and procedures and letters and emails and faxes and more angry people and worried people and just people. All of them crammed inside my head, my tiny head.

At eleven I went down to the Coffee Bean and Tea leaf with a new graduate who’s awaiting his bar results. We had coffee. I put half-and-half in mine, feeling like a lawbreaker. A brazen lawbreaker.

The rest of the day force fed my mind with all the things it had in store.

I went back to the office and ate lunch. Lunch consisted of a can of tuna packed in water dumped into a bowl. Atop the tuna I cracked a raw egg and mixed it with the tuna and some pepper. Then I ate it with two tortillas and a baby Fuji apple for dessert.

I worked until five. Then I had a cup of coffee and four peanut M&M’s. They are twelve calories each.

After a full day of work my head was heavy as a big, rough stone that someone had moved with a bulldozer. I left the office just past five-thirty. My head was so heavy and swollen I could barely cinch my helmet strap.

As I pedaled home the wind blew strong in my face, passing Joe’s house, thinking about him and the six-day bike odyssey upon which he and the other Man Tour riders have just embarked. I turned along Esplanade in Redondo Beach. The wind was now at my back, blowing hard. The sun was quickly dropping onto the horizon. The breakers had been whipped up into large, ragged swells by the wind. Despite the poor form, several surfers were out bobbing in the whitecaps, seeking a few seconds of size and intensity.

The straightest way home is up Via del Monte. Left turn.

But I turned right at Malaga Cove and dropped all the way down to the water. Then I did the steep climb up by the little bay and popped out onto PV Drive.

The sun was mostly in the water.

The straightest way home was now PV Drive all the way to Hawthorne. I turned right on Paseo del Mar, went right at the elementary school in Lunada Bay and took the sharp, short, hard little spike up the secret alleyway.

The sun was gone but the afterglow threw out plenty of sunlight as dusk began to settle.

The straightest way home was Hawthorne. I turned right at Calle Entradero and descended back to the water. People walked peacefully with their dogs. One lady in a billowing dress was taking a photo of a landscape that made her happy. I climbed the little wall back up to PV Drive.

Now I was at Hawthorne. The shortest way home was straight. It was vaguely dark, or rather deep dusk. I switched on my tail light and turned right, did a u-turn at the Starbucks, and headed the other direction on PV Drive back towards Lunada Bay.

The wind was in my face. A group of three bikers came whistling down Hawthorne and raced away, their red strobe tail lights taunting me to chase. The light turned green, but I didn’t chase.

I reached Via Zumaya and turned right, flicking on my headlight. I was now bathed in sweat. The thought occurred to me that my entire engine had run from morning to this point on a few hundred calories. I wasn’t really hungry, and my legs felt fresh.

It was now dark. The headlight cut a sharp beam, delineating the pavement. The moon was brilliant.

I glided up the climb, not going hard, but not giving in to gravity, either.

The moonbeams got stronger the higher I got, or maybe they made me higher.

At Coronel Plaza I turned right and merged with another rider. “Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he said.

I climbed Ridgegate alone, the moonlight clearing everything from my mind except the rhythmic turning of the pedals.

There was nothing left in my mind, nothing at all, except this: “I wonder what’s for dinner?”

That, and a few moonbeams.

The great NPR bike path vs. alleyway controversy

September 26, 2012 § 10 Comments

It’s been simmering for months now.

One group of idiots wants to take the bike path. Another group of idiots wants to take the alleyway.

And today, it all boiled over.

Advocates for the bike path

The bike path has everything going for it. It allows for a slow and measured pace out to the dickstomping grounds of Westchester Parkway. It provides panoramic views of the beauty that is Santa Monica Bay, with Malibu, the mountain peaks, blue skies, and gently breaking waves as a backdrop. It meanders. It is devoid of angry drivers seeking to start their day with a bit of fresh cyclist roadkill. It’s traditional, and it lets you start your day, whether winter, spring, summer, or fall, with a crisp reminder of all that is good and lovely and wonderful about Southern California. If there’s a swell working at El Porto, you may even get to see one of Dan-O’s Danc surfboards shredding the glassy face of a tidy little beach break.

Advocates for the alleyway

The alleyway has nothing going for it. It’s ugly. Cars dart out of garages and cross streets with only inches to spare. Gnarly drainage culverts whack your rims every few hundred yards. The landscape is a gloomy ass-end of homes and condos, blotting out the sky, the sun, the ocean, and the early morning thongage. The occasional pack of grim-face runners will swoop by, looking like runners everywhere look: miserable and in pain.

Like a cheap whore, the alleyway is fast, boneshaking, and gets straight down to the business of going from the Pier to the beatdown in the shortest possible time. At the end of the alleyway, there’s a short jaunt over to Vista del Mar, where the peloton picks up a mashing head of steam, blasts down Mt. Chevron hill, and pounds it hard all the way to the Pershing death launch.

Why would anyone choose the alleyway?

First, because people are sheep, and they will follow where led, even, and especially, to the slaughter. Second, the bike path is often strewn with sand, which creates ickyness inside the links of $250 Campy chains and fancy Chris King freehubs. Third, although the drowsy morning commuters lurching forth pose certain hazards, the bike path features large numbers of the dreaded pathalete, a species of biker/runner/rollerblader/walker/stroller pusher/surfer/skateboarder/razorer who careens along the narrow strip of asphalt, often threatening to bash head-on into the rolling peloton.

Of course, the bike path is luxuriously wondrous for viewing if you’re on the point, but everyone else (except Hockeystick, who’s always got his head turned sideways) has to focus intently on not crashing due to slowing, extremely tight quarters, and the numerous turns that are studded with sand.

But the biggest strike against the bike path is that it’s pleasant and leisurely, so when the nasty reality of the Pershing bump appears, numerous wankers find their kneecaps blown off by the sudden hard surge.

When the voice of the South Bay speaks

…you listen. And this morning, G$ began the ride thus: “Assembled wankers! Today we ride the bike path! It is spoken!”

No one’s voice has the strength of G$’s, and when he pointed his bike down the path, all but six of the massed riders followed. I headed for the alleyway with SBW Eric, Patricia, Canyon Bob, Jens, Pistol Pete, and one or two others. I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I was trying to fuel a controversy. There’s a difference.

By the time we reached Dockweiler, we could see over onto the bike path from Vista del Mar, and the wankoton was far ahead. Eric and I rolled steady, trying to make up ground, and apparently we succeeded, attested to by his deep gasps and the strings of snot trailing along my upper lip and around my neck. At the Pershing launch site, Canyon Bob sprunted up the hill. Bucks and a handful of others saw us coming and wrongly assumed we were the main group.

Canyon Bob kept mashing, I clung to his wheel, and by World Way ramp at LAX we had a flailaway group that included Chris Stewart, Dan Luzier, Chris Cooke, and four or five others who all died an untimely death by the time we dropped down back onto Pershing. At the turn onto Westchester there were just four of us. The main peloton was far behind and apparently not willing to chase. After a while Dan crawled into the gutter and rolled up in a fetal position. We soldiered on.

One for the record books

Of the many incredible benefits of doing a clusterfuck like the NPR, none surpasses this: If you flail, you can blame it on the lights or on the speeding peloton working together to rein in your heroicism. If you prevail, you can chalk it up to your general greatness and wonderfulability on the bike. Conversely, if you’re in the pack and someone escapes, you can blame it on the lights you had to stop at, or the traffic you had to wait for at the turnarounds, or on the unwillingness of the dawdling peloton to work together to rein in those OTF wankers.

In short, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone, and you can always tell your wife how awesome you were and how everyone else sucked.

Today saw the first time in the history of the NPR that a breakaway stayed away for the entire four laps around the Parkway. The victors chalked it up to their speed, their ability to work together (as Jack from Illinois [not his real name] would say), their canny sense of timing, their hardness into the wind, their incredible ability to endure pain that would destroy mere mortals, and their fancy bicycling outfits.

Grumpy wankers in the peloton saw it differently, as this menu of comments suggests:

Prez: You were off the front the whole time? I thought you had a flat and got dropped.

Black Sheep Squadron: You didn’t win the NPR, dude, you cheated by taking a shorter route.

Hoss: No one bothered to chase. Didn’t you see us soft-pedaling and laughing at you each time you passed on the other side of the Parkway?

Stathis the Wily Greek: We let you have it.

Ol’ Bollix: Dude, you sneaked away on Vista del Mar and hammered before anyone even knew you were gone. Then you ran all the red lights except one, and you only stopped there because of the cop car. Finally, it’s the fuggin’ off season and the only people on the point were the schmoes who use this as their one chance all year to go to the front. What a fuggin’ joke. You guys are a sneaky bunch of cheatbag wanktards.

As I said, there’s a plausible excuse for everyone. Which begs the question, now that the wankoton has seen that a well-timed, well-placed, well-stoplighted breakaway can p*wn the group, when faced with the choice of bike path vs. alleyway on Thursday…

…which one will it be?

The family, Jules

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

I still remember when she appeared for her first NPR, standing over her bike as the riders appeared one after another, gradually crowding the deck of the Manhattan Beach Pier. “Hi,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“Juliana.”

“Hey, Juliana. Welcome to the Pier Ride. Where are you from?” She had that not-from-around-here accent that we Americans automatically label British, even though it could be Irish, South African, Ozzie, or Lithuanian.

Jules was of the VeggieMite variety. “I’m from Australia,” she said with a nice smile. And we were all smitten.

“Things kind of pick up once we hit this little up ramp on a street called Pershing. You might want to be towards the front in case it’s fast, so even though you drop back you won’t come off.”

“Okay!” she said.

A true troupe of gentlemen

With several new acquaintances watching out for her, the moment we hit Pershing it was every last soul for himself. The last time I saw her she was rocketing backwards at Warp 12. Like a hungry pack of marauding wolves, the peloton raced away. I saw her a couple of times on the Parkway with a small grupetto or by herself, banging it out against the wind. I would have dropped back to help, but, well, no, actually I wouldn’t have. And didn’t.

Welcome to Americuh. Fuck, yeah!

It was unfortunate that she, a triathlete, had shown up in the middle of race season when the NPR pace was high and the testosterone was discharging at full spigot. After the fireworks, though, she rejoined the group on Vista del Mar, and you never saw so many elbows get thrown and wheels get bumped as the guys who had just dropped her now fought to ride beside or behind her.

Junkyard eventually won the spot of honor when he was introduced as “The dude who designs all the kits for Garmin and SpiderTech.”

Before long we were all quaffing coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, and the great impression she’d made on the Pier amplified itself ten thousand fold.

Getting down to business

Far from being put off by the NPR beatdown, she continued to show up and stick it out, often getting spit out the back early on, sometimes hanging in until the end. She had guts and determination, but more importantly, she had other fish to fry: Jules hadn’t come to Los Angeles to ride around in circles with a bunch of prostate-weakened geezers, she’d come to train so that she could race.

Before her stint in California was up, she nailed 16th overall at the Ironman World Championships 70.3 in Vegas, and smashed in the door for a silver medal in her division in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. We’re absolutely certain that it was all because of those mornings on the Parkway…um, right.

More than just another bone-crushing pair of legs

Jules won people over wherever she went. With the LA County lifeguards, with the runners, with the swimmers, and of course with the bikers, she was a hit for her friendly demeanor, her unassuming good nature, and her uncommon presence of mind that would have been impressive in anyone, much less a 24 year-old on her first solo visit to the Golden State.

When her three-month sojourn in Southern California ended, she finished things up in that most California of ways: Getting to witness an arrest and detention at LAX. Americuh! Hell yeah!

Hope you come back soon, kid. ‘Cause you’re family now, Jules!

It’s so daaaaaaaaaangerous!

September 14, 2012 § 37 Comments

It finally happened. A frightened and outraged participant called out the New Pier Ride for its reckless, dangerous, traffic-law-violating, scofflaw ways. It appears that as the pack was flying down the hill on Vista del Mar to the light at Grand, “1/3 of the pack” rolled through the red light.

Wankomodo, in the back 2/3, the light stone red, and motorists with the right of the way staring at a green light as a mob of bikers roared by, called out “slowing” with twelvedy-nine speeding riders behind him. Then, to avoid getting rear-ended, he pulled a right to “wait out the light.”

Wankomodo duly noted that he “has seen some sketchy and dangerous behavior by NPR riders,” but proudly said that he “tries his best not to be one of them.” In addition to “pissing off motorists,” this dangerous behavior “makes cyclists look bad.”

Some of the folks behind this sudden stop-and-swerve maneuver voiced their displeasure with verbiage familiar to flailing wankers everywhere after a bonehead move: “You fucking asshole! What the fuck are you doing?” and similar sentiments were duly expressed. Wankomodo was offended, and let everyone know that if he was going to get “bitched at for riding safe and obeying the law on the NPR” then “the NPR is not for me.”

After this manifesto, Wankomodo then went on to question himself. “Was I wrong to call out ‘slowing’ and stop at the traffic signal?” More importantly, he begged for confirmation that this type of behavior was not “condoned” on Big Orange team rides. After all, Wakomodo reminded us, he has a family that relies on him and he didn’t need to take any more risks with motorists than he already does.

A heartfelt thanks to Wankomodo

See, there I was wondering all day what I was gonna blog about, and bing, Wankomodo delivered this gem, pre-cut and polished and already set in the 14-karat band. It’s folks like him that make writing easy and fun!

So, let’s get down to business.

First: Were you wrong to slam on your brakes, screech “Slowing!” as you slam a hard right turn at the light, and scare the bejesus out of fifty other idiots just because you had a chickenshit brainfart?

Answer: No. Given the fact that you were in the back 2/3 of the wankoton, what you did was perfectly acceptable. That’s what the back 2/3 is for, so idiots like you can ‘tard out and kill other numbskulls who couldn’t handle a bike safely even if it was bolted to the floor.

However, if you’d pulled that shit in the front 1/3, we would have jerked you off your fucking bike and drop-kicked your sorry ass into the urine and poop processing pools along Vista del Mar, because that’s the kind of shit that gets people killed. Don’t ever slam on your fucking brakes in the middle of a fast moving pack, doorknob.

Second: Does Big Orange condone this kind of behavior?

Answer: Who gives a rat’s ass what Big Orange condones? They’re not the ride police. They’re a local group of wankers just like the rest of us, and if you’d pulled that bullshit in front of the Big O dudes and chicks I know they would have given you a what-for. The NPR is a big old group ride, which is longhand for “clusterfuck,” where the goofballs hang on at the back for dear life and those who want to live another day strive might and main to be near the front or, Dog forbid, on it.

Third: It’s daaaaaaaangerous on these big group rides, isn’t it?

Answer: Yeah, fuddlefuck, it is. Group rides like this are a great way to get seriously injured or killed. If you’re not taken out by some moron slamming on his brakes in the middle of an intersection, chances are you’ll be smushed by a big yellow maintenance truck on the Parkway.

Group rides are really fucking dangerous because they incorporate idiots like you with UCI pros with flub-happy in-line skaters with bone idling wankers on training wheels. Throw into the mix ten score of pissed off morning commuters, sun in your eyes, wet roads, oncoming traffic, badly timed lights, weaving in and out of traffic, cutting off oncoming trucks at the turnarounds, rocks, glass, debris, flats, overlapped wheels, equipment failure, panic attacks, cracks in the road, howling wind, and lummoxes going 35 mph with their heads staring straight down and you’ve got a recipe for serious injury.

The Pier Ride has been around for over 30 years, and people have gotten every sort of awful injury as a result. Just this year one guy broke his hip, a chick hit the curb with her head, Bumpngrind fell down in a turn, and there have been about twelve gazillion near-sprunt deaths.

Get it? These things are stupid and deadly and make no sense at all, like cycling itself. That’s why we do them.

Fourth: Should we be concerned about pissing off motorists?

Answer: Yes, just like we should be concerned about world peace, the third round of Quantitative Easing, and whether the left hand really does feel like a different person.

But you know what? When you have a zillion idiots barreling through a light, and all the traffic is stopped letting us go through, there’s a certain number of motorists who are just going to be pissed and hate our guts and have to go to their shitty jobs and complain about it while we get to spend our morning riding our bikes. Life sucks to be them.

Plus, what the fuck are you, Ambassador at Large for the Cycling Public? Cyclists, like motorists, are 9 parts idiot to 1 part skilled. Why are you so fucking concerned about pissing off motorists, who already hate you anyway? Why not be concerned about them pissing us off?

Fifth: Is the NPR just a bunch of scofflaw traffic-law violators?

Answer: Since you admit to running stop signs and lights “when no one’s around,” as if that makes it legal, I guess you sort of answered your own question. If you want to play Polly Patrolman or Harry Hall Monitor, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort. Why not spend it “Just Saying No” to the third helping of sugar donuts, and get strong enough so that you can stay up front and let the rearguard fend for itself? We’re all adults out here, even Prez, and no one gets up at 5:00 AM to be nagged at by some wankhappy newbie who belatedly realized that the pavement is hard and that oncoming traffic weighs slightly more than a carbon bike and lycra bodysuit.

Sixth: Should you be taking these risks since your family relies on you?

Answer: It’s refreshing to hear that of the 150+ people who regularly do the NPR, we finally have one whose family depends on him. The rest of us have families, but they don’t give a rat’s ass if we live or die, or what happens to us. That’s why we bike all the time.

The answer, of course, is “No.” You shouldn’t be taking these risks. In fact, you shouldn’t be taking any at all, you big pussy. Starting tomorrow, when the alarm goes off, stay in bed. Your risks will plummet dramatically.

If you do have to get out of bed (avoid the dangerous shower!), please don’t ride your bike. LA County roads are the site of numerous deaths and countless bike-car accidents every year. Cycling is dangerous. Cycling on roads is dangerous. Cycling with other idiots is dangerous. Cycling with cars is super duper dangerous. Cycling down dirt trails is dangerous (trees hurt!). Cycling without brakes or gears is dangerous. And most of all, being an idiot who slams on his brakes in the middle of a fast moving pack on a downhill is dangerous beyond any fucking description.

Which leads to the final question…

Seventh: Although you’ve been cycling for 25 years, since you’re new to the “fast group ride thing,” is this the norm for all group rides?

Answer: Dude, saying you’ve been riding for 25 years but have never done fast group rides is like saying you’ve been jacking off for 25 years but haven’t ever used your penis. Fast group rides all  have several common elements. I’ve listed them below for easy reference.

  1. They are flat fucking crazy scary deadly and dangerous.
  2. Wankers like you are the prime reason they’re so dangerous.
  3. If you want to ride with other idiots, you have to chance death and mayhem. The legal term in California is ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK. Memorize it.
  4. Group rides won’t make you faster or fitter.
  5. Group rides will teach you survival skills.
  6. Group rides will help you make friends even if you’re a total kook, although it will take longer.
  7. Group rides have the best offering of post-ride lies and “Didja see me?” tall tales.
  8. Group rides have the hottest chicks with the cutest butts.
  9. Group rides are where you can have some chick like Suze crack your nuts in half and remind you how much you suck.
  10. Group rides are terrifying beyond belief.
  11. Group rides are where you bond with other living, breathing, mostly human beings. They’re the opposite of solo ego-fapping Strava jagoffs.
  12. Group rides are where, if you stick it out and pay attention and follow the right wheels, you may actually, one day, learn how to ride your fucking bike.

Hope this helps!

Wankmeister

Some people…

August 24, 2012 § 9 Comments

If you’ve ever ridden much with Aaron Wimberley, and you don’t like him, you’re probably an asshole. On second thought, scratch “probably.” You are an asshole.

I’ve always admired him, and not just because he’s fast, and tough, and has great bike handling skills, and always fights fair. And not just because he’ll talk your ear off. And not just because he’ll talk trash and laugh good-naturedly when you talk it back.

Those things are all great qualities, but the thing I admire most is that he shares.

Dude, you really suck

A few weeks ago after a brisk beatdown on the NPR, he came up to me while we were sipping froo-froo coffees at the Center of the Known Universe.

“Dude,” he said with a laugh. “You know what I’m gonna start calling you when you attack?”

“Lightning?” I asked hopefully.

“Fuck, no. I’m gonna call you the Big Blue Bus ’cause you pull away so fucking slow that everybody, including that dude on the skateboard, has time to jump on your wheel.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling pretty tiny and cockroachish.

“Yeah,” he continued. “Just like the Big Blue Bus, dude, everybody’s parked happy in their seat and staring out the window while you flog yourself into a pile of meat and sweat, and then they all blast by in the sprint, dumping you quicker than a turd from Montezuma’s Revenge.”

“Well, I’m just slow.”

“Fuck no you’re not slow. You got power galore and you go fucking fast when you get up to speed. But like the bus, it takes you too long. All these wankers have time to climb aboard, read the paper and get a peddy. You need to work on your snap. Here’s how.”

He proceeded to give me some solid advice about how to become, if not Greased Lightning, at least a turbo bus.

Mr. Snappy

There’s another guy who’s a regular on the NPR, Trevon Salazar. He’s young and incredibly quick, but he never manages to make his way to third or fourth wheel in time for the finish. He’s always choking on someone’s fumes.

Aaron took him aside, too, and although I wasn’t there, the conversation must have gone something like this.

“Dude, your sprint positioning sucks balls. And your top end looks like you bought it at Wal-Mart.”

“Oh…” [Feeling very, very tiny.]

“Yeah. Get your ass out on the Parkway one of these evenings with me and Derek and a couple of teammates and we’ll practice giving you leadouts. You gotta be on the right wheel and then when your competition kicks, you’ve gotta have the top end to pass. It ain’t fucking rocket science.”

Take notes. Do as told. Watch good results flow.

On this morning’s NPR I didn’t do a single Big Blue Bus curb attack. Instead, I waited and hit it hard, springing free so that even though I got reeled in, the chasers had to actually chase. Each time there were nice gobs of snot and spittle hanging from the mouths of the chasers, and when they caught, there was never any counter.

After the second effort Aaron grinned over at me. “Good job, Bus. That’s how to do it!”

In the finale I grabbed Aaron’s wheel and actually made it to third in the field sprunt, my best ever.

But the most impressive thing was watching Trevon after a week of working with Aaron. Today, even though I was locked on Aaron’s wheel, with 400 yards to go Trevon just took it from me. When the last leadout man pulled off, Aaron unleashed, and not only did his understudy hold the acceleration, but he came by him neatly and with a bike length or two to spare.

“Good job, dude,” Aaron said.

How many people do you know in bike racing who’ll train their competition, and then congratulate them on a job well done?

Not very many, I bet.

In their own words (sort of)

August 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

This morning’s New Pier Ride was a wankfest deluxe, replete with a dozen different flats, a founding NPR wanker who tumped over on his side at 2mph and trashed his frame, a cement mixer swooping by at warp speed, four hundred thousand medium-sized rocks scattered along the 2.5 mile western leg on the Parkway, bar-bumping, shoulder-rubbing, hollering, hiding, sprunting, attacking, crumpling, wheelsucking, and of course Going to the Front.

The clarion sounded last night, announcing on the Internets that MMX would be coming up from North County to work off his hangover; that Fukdude would be gracing us with his national champion presence; that Prez would be there in a new lime green kit; that Erik the Red would be on a scalp-collecting mission, and that every newbie, oldbie, dumby, and Gumbie would be flailing and flogging in a mad attempt to not get kicked out the back on the first lap.

The wankers answered the call in force. Promises of an audience with the Godfather, promises of sunny weather, and promises of a merciless beatdown resulted in seventy wankers rolling out from the Pier, with an additional 30-40 getting picked up along Pershing.

How was it, then…?

“Today was a dynamic one for me, filled with highs and some lows. I slept three hours and rolled up to the Pier still drunk. I was pumped at the prospect of an exciting, solid ride.”

“I got there early and rode up the bike path. There were lots of people. and they kept coming and coming, like roaches to a pile of fresh puke.”

“Wow, a big ride for Marc’s birthday. Not that anyone knew.”

“WM has cultivated an impressive ride. Blew me away how it kept growing and swelling all the way to Pershing and then along the Parkway.”

“It was cool to see people I haven’t seen in a while.”

“This ride and Wankmeister’s crazy blog got me back into cycling. I’ve been doing this ride for two months and it just gets harder even though I’m getting fitter. Today was the fastest ever.”

“From Pershing I left the wankoton and moved to the front of the class. Got in a nice hard slap at the front after the overpass.”

“Had Wankmeister on my wheel for a long stretch, pulling into the wind. At the front I felt fantastic and never anaerobic, I could have danced all night.”

“I kept waiting for the pace to quicken, but it never did.”

“Did a few rotations and drifted back five or ten wheels, then repeat.”

“Seemed like the first first real acceleration was the second lap, when one or twenty numb nuts let Eric and a couple others go down the road. I had to chase like a motherfucker.”

“Is this ride always this hard? I used to be a bowler. Bowling’s just not this hard.”

“King Harold did a wonderful flat back pull up toward the u-turn, start of Lap 3. I was third wheel. Harold flicked an elbow and the second wheel sat up and moved right, like a total fucking wanker, leaving me to bridge that little gap and then pull all the way up to the turn. Fucking wankers. Don’t they read your blog? Go to the fucking front.”

“Finishing up the 3rd lap I hit a huge rock no one pointed out and nearly lost control. Pinch flatted, which took me out toward the start of the last lap. Major bummer; I was so primed and ready turn on the jets. I think there were twelve flats today.”

“Is there a slower B ride?”

“I kept trying to Go to the Front, but just ended up Going out the Back.”

“Strava flail. How hard was this ride, anyway?”

“The New Pier Ride is incredible. Props to Douggie, Trey, and the other wankers who thought this up. Never seen a regular ride like it, or even heard of one. Fantastic stuff.”

“This ride is a fredfest. Saw two fucking freds almost murder each other and take me out.”

“Won’t be doing this again. Fast enough to tire you out, but not fast enough to make you faster. Fucking trucks and rocks and lights and traffic and crazy people on their first bike ride. This NPR shit blows.”

“People of all stripes come from all over. Its amazing. Really inclusive, which is unusual for road cycling.”

“I didn’t get my coffee this morning because we had a power outage at my apartment. Needless to say, OTB.”

“There were the usual fast guys and lots of new guys who think they are fast until they get near the front and melt like ice cream in a reactor core. I watched a number of guys near me who never took a pull. Now, granted, some of these guys are the guys who were waiting for the sprint (as though this was a race)–we know who they are. But there were others who never got to the front but would linger near it, kind of like a dude with a naked chick who sticks his face down near her crotch and sniffs but won’t drop trou and start humping. I don’t like these people. Hump or go home.”

“I noticed you on the front numerous times, Wankmeister, but I think your legs were zapped. Good posing, though, even though you slowed us down every time you pulled through, you wanker.”

“I saw Eric on the front a few times, including that attack I had to chase down. He’s a badass.”

“The guy in the SBW was awesome. Is that the Dennis Herrera dude you were telling me about? Driving the front. I loved riding with him.”

“Awesome all the other girls out. Makes me feel good to have other girls riding nearby. And they’re strong and getting stronger.”

“Bull would pull but he would get so gassed he’d let gaps open up after, only to come back to the front for another pull. Relentless = awesome.”

“Returning to the South Bay, you had the typical wankers hitting the gas, even though they had all been wearing invisibility cloaks on the Parkway. WTF?”

“Fucking endless list of riders who never pulled, not even once. That Pischon dude took a monster hit westbound on Lap One. Beastly. Prez got the bit between his teeth once, too.”

“Fast guys are fast: Lonergan, Hair, Davy, Eric, Big Steve.”

“So many people do this ride, get dropped and jump back in make it scary. I especially don’t like the guys who get dropped and then when the lead group catches them they feel compelled to jump towards, but never on, the front. Scary bunch of wankers.”

“Ride is awesome because when you get shelled you can hop back in. I’ve gotten hella stronger in six months and can almost finish the ride.”

“Post ride festivities indicate there is a real community feel that has developed from this ride. Kudos.”

“People taking care of each other is a good sign. The camaraderie is apparent and it’s contagious. This is beautiful. Saw people always stopping to help with mechanicals and flats. Just don’t see that much.”

“I wish I could do NPR more often!”

“Thanks to all the SB wankers for creating such a great ride and for making me feel a part of it.”

“Is this a regular ride? What time does it start?”

“Can you dig all the westsiders who come down for this? Legit.”

“Huge turnout, largest I’ve ever seen. Wanker to hammer ratio was decent.”

“Lots of fresh faced wankers I don’t know. Not so fresh faced at the end, just rent with shrapnel and had the look of the black plague about ’em. They’ll toughen up.”

“Does this ride always have all these rocks? I fricking flatted. Yo, wankers, point shit out and help thy fellow rider, that is if you’re not riding over your head and can remove your hands from the bars without crashing out thirty people.”

“Great pace, not too fast, not too slow.”

“Fireman brought it home over Hair in a nail biter.”

“Great to see MMX out and briefly catch up. Dude’s riding strong.”

“Fuck that was a giant group festering at the pier before ride. The last time I saw that many idiots in one place was when I watched a joint session of Congress.”

“Every lap I poked my nose in the wind and soon thereafter thought I would be dropped.”

“The ride was incredibly hard. However I noticed several dingleberries at the ass end who were neither poo nor hair  yet were stubbornly there. Someone oughta shake them loose.”

“Post ride coffee looked like a class reunion. I almost got a phone number. These biker chicks are smokin’ hot.”

“Dave Perez likes having his picture taken. And why was he lying on the ground at Fukdude’s feet?”

“My favorite part of the ride:  Some wanker shouting ‘Stop riding on the rocks,’ as if those little pebbles were a problem. Pussy needs to ride a few miles in rural Madison County. He’d be praying for rocks. Our roads are paved with possum teeth, the bones of Republicans, and small bore bullets.”

“This Cancellara looking dude I’ve never seen in my life goes, ‘Hey is this the last lap?’ and I go ‘Yeah,’ and he goes ‘Then you lead it out, I’ll jump on your wheel and take the vee, ok?’ Uh yeah, sure, and you wanna pork me in the ass afterwards as well?”

“It was the fastest NPR to date, 24mph + average speed, not counting the boulders flying everywhere, fucking pachinko cycling at its finest as Trey flailed in the corner and broke his bike. Not that he cares, ’cause now he has an excuse to get a new one.”

“My legs are still sore in weird places from racing San Marcos with my fit all fucked up!”

“Can you introduce me to that cute chick I was riding behind? She is so hot.”

“I came to ‘sit-in on a social ride,’ because ya, SPY MMX is here, let’s be social because they are the BEST!”

“Ride started out super chill…seemed extra slow to the base of Pershing. Then people started flying and others started gasping, I was like, wow, do these hackers have medical clearance to be out here?”

“Can you introduce me to MMX after the ride? I’ve always wanted to meet him.”

“I set a PR on the whole ramp section meaning it was the fastest in a long time.”

“This just wasn’t even a social ride, I mean nobody really seemed to be in social mode unless that meant look to the person behind you and give them the ‘Noooo, you go!’ look or look ahead at where you can go to make everyone else have to go faster.”

“What’s wrong with people? Might as well attempt to take a pull, why not?”

“Surfer Dan told me to go to the front today and tell people he told me to. Of course he wasn’t there. Surfing.”

“I took a short pull that clearly seemed slow to everyone else because someone quickly came by me. Thanks.”

“Everyone seemed to be hurting a lot after about Lap 1. Wankers!”

“I went to the front when I could. Problem was that I kept jumping on wheels of people that liked to act like they were going to the front and then slow down like five wheels before it. Guyyyysss, that’s not the front!”

“After four laps we had completed what Strava records as the fastest total time for the four laps I have ever done with two laps being the fastest ever. So it was a damn fast four laps. Anybody who thinks it wasn’t hard was in the caboose.”

“I actually wanted to sprint, but I had never heard so much yelling, cursing, and wheels going squiggly! But, I was close enough to the front to see the people that were legitimately sprinting and I must say it was damn impressive!”

“When we turned off the Parkway a SPY guy, Perez, and a couple others went back to hammering. I followed. Another PR.”

“Ramp…fastest ever. Four laps…fastest ever. Return to Imperial…fastest ever. There was no fucking break.”

“They should call this the Lots of Rocks, Flats, Yelling, and Gasping Ride.”

“It was a huge ride that became much smaller once the gas got turned on. Props to everyone who kept getting back in the mix!”

“I felt like my head was a giant pimple that was about to burst!”

“What a bunch of whiners! Why would you come on a ride that is supposed to be a total beatdown and then complain when you get an awesome workout?”

“I say thank you to people after they get me through a workout that I never could have done alone. You just got stronger without asking for it!”

“Wanker crashed out turning onto Imperial on the way back. It looked like he pulled a Tink and just fell over. Hope he was okay.”

“NPR as of late and especially today: more LADIES, and all the ones that have been coming regularly are getting stronger and stronger!”

“The Pier almost sank from the weight…of bodies, not bikes.”

“NPR participants will lobby Manhattan Beach planning committee to widen the alley.”

“More horsepower today than the Arkansas Tractor Pull Championships. But not as many IQ points.”

“Big names, astonishing jerseys, 110 wankers. Doesn’t get much better than this!”

“Can your Tuesday AM ride do this?”

“Burlap Jack, Mountain Mouse, Pippy Aus-Stocking, the SPYfia family shooting the place up, guns blazing, bodies everywhere, blood gushing from new orifices, but afterwards everybody friendly as hell. Even Daniel.”

“In order to make the World Way overpass in the top 10 required having the tip of the saddle touching the lower intestine. Fuck that hurt.”

“Getting back to Westchester, the tip of the saddle was now rubbing the pancreas.”

“First lap was like a fuck’n MMA cage fight, with 20 dudes in the cage at once who only knew how to groin kick and eye stab. Nasty shit.”

“Second lap, beside the white boulders… there were flashes of white light…and fifty wankers pedaling triangles in the gutter as their heads spun around like Linda Blair. Hope they got their demons outed.”

“The so-called sprint was more like Custer’s Last Stand, minus the surprise. All the wankers knew the killing was going to happen. Scary shit.”

“Wankmeister, you’ve taught a lot of people that beatdowns are to be valued. Now could you teach them to Go to the Front?”

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