June 29, 2018 § 7 Comments
When the NPR started last Tuesday, it had all the hallmarks of a beatdown. And it was. Surfer, Frexit, and Dennis lined it out on Vista del Mar, and the pounding continued for the entire ride.
Usually no matter how hot it starts, the ride usually slows down by the second of four laps, but not on Tuesday. Each time it looked like it might bunch up, someone charged to the fore and strung it out again.
At the end, a small group including Justin Williams, Frexit, E.A. Sports, Inc., Rudy, and a couple of other riders pinched off. The chasers chased hard up the golf course but when we hit the orange traffic signal, everyone stopped. This was weird because with the break just a few seconds up and the end so near, orange has never stopped a charging NPR peloton of idiots.
But it did on Tuesday.
I looked around and everyone was panting, glad to put a foot down. I expected there to be anger or frustration at losing the #fakerace, but there wasn’t. Instead, there was a weird sensation, a shared group happiness. People were smiling and chatting as they waited for the light. Did I mention we’d all been on the verge of vomiting for the entire ride? When it changed, we pedaled more or less vigorously the remaining half-mile, and the ride ended.
It puzzled me that I felt so good after such a bitterly hard ride, and it puzzled me even more that everyone else felt so good despite the shellacking. I remarked on it to a friend, who shrugged. “Of course everyone feels good. Didn’t you see how hard they were going?”
“But we got our dicks stomped. We were gassed. And we couldn’t catch the break.”
“But everyone was still happy, right?”
“Yeah, it was so weird.”
“Not weird at all. The harder you ride such that it creates repeated intervals, the bigger the endorphin release.”
“Sure. Moderate exercise doesn’t cause much, if any endorphin release. When you go crazy deep and repeat it over and over, you get swamped with endorphins. That’s why so many of these wankers are literally addicted to the NPR. Sausage is a certified NPR junkie.”
It kind of made sense, now that I thought about it.
“The endorphins are only released during that kind of intensity because your body has to have something to help you cope with the pain. That’s the mechanism.”
“Wow,” I said.
“There’s only one down side to the addicting, incredible flood of incomparable pleasure.”
“In order to get the flood you have suffer like the dog you are. And the pain is so bad that most people won’t willingly do it very often. That’s why you see so many formerly fast racers puttering around like brokedown kiddie carts once they hit fifty.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
August 22, 2017 § 20 Comments
By now everyone has seen “Icarus,” even people like me who have never been to a Netflix theater. So I broke down and walked over to the PV Mall to watch it but when I got there the lady at the movie theater said they weren’t a Netflix theater.
“Do I have to go to Crossroads at Crenshaw?” I asked.
“You can go wherever you want,” she said, crossly. “Next in line, please.”
So I went to Crossroads where it was a different movie theater and they were about as rude. Finally a guy told me that Netflix wasn’t a movie theater, rather, it was an app for your phone.
“I don’t want a new phone,” I told him. “I just want to watch ‘Icarus.’ It’s a new movie only showing at the Netflix theater.”
“There ain’t no Netflix theater, man. It’s on your phone. It’s an app. Like YouTube. You ain’t never gone to no damn YouTube theater have you, man?”
“Well shit, that’s ’cause there ain’t any. Same with Netflix.”
He explained it and then we downloaded the Netflix theater on my phone and I watched the video movie documentary. Everyone had told me that I had to watch it because it revealed global corruption reaching to the highest levels of government in order to dope the Olympics.
I don’t know about any of that stuff, but here is the story:
- Wanker does a grand fondue. Gets ass kicked.
- Wanker gets pissed at the dopers.
- Wanker decides “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
- Wanker does worse on drugs than he did racing clean.
- Wanker stumbles onto Russian doping program that led to the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.
I can’t really comment on #5, but I can totally comment on numbers 1-4. First, the wanker Bryan Fogel, who is also the film maker, is completely delusional. Which makes him awesome.
He dresses up in off-the-rack Assos clothing, buys an expensive bike, and assumes full Superbikeman Wanker powers, i.e., gets a coach and flies around the world trying to win various grand fondues. So far, pretty normal for a delusional idiot. But his descriptions of the fondues and his competition are truly insightful as to the depths of his illness: “They could be pros!” he says, describing a gaggle of goofballs who look about as pro as the 3rd string baby seals on the NPR.
“It’s as hard as the Tour!” he exclaims as he labors slowly up a climb day after day, alone, unaware that when you are alone on a climb in the Tour for very long you quickly become what is known as “missed the time cut.” Also, they don’t let you in the Tour when your riding style approximates a pig romancing a football.
Most amazing is Bryan’s coaching. One shot shows him hooked up to a breathing tube and nailed to an ergometer while his coach says just the right combination of phrases to humiliate him while simultaneously making him hope there might be improvement, i.e. keep him writing those monthly checks.
The whole crockumentary was pretty sad, for me. I mean here was perhaps the world’s finest baby seal, with a freshly glistening coat no less, and he’d never made it to the NPR, or Flog, or Donut, or Nichols. What’s worse, the guy lives in L.A., on the west side, so the whole time he was drowning in visions of sugarplums he was just a few pedal strokes away from a weekly beating that would have saved him all that airfare. He wouldn’t have had to go to France to get clubbed; we’d gladly have done it here in his own back yard, bought him coffee, made him wear a Team Lizard Collectors kit, and taught him how to go to the front.
And of course it was sad to think that he had fallen into the bubbling vat of profama-soup and didn’t even know that you can’t really do the delusion thing right without a fake team kit and tramp-stamp butt sponsors. Off the rack Assos? Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.
But anyway, on to the real moral of the story, which is NOT that doping is bad. At least that’s not what I got out of it, even though in the film one guy was murdered, another given a new identity and spirited off to Utah or Manitoba, and a small country was invaded all in the name of better Olympiads through state-sponsored drugs.
No, for me the motto was that doping is horrible, awful, unmentionable in the extreme because unless you actually have talent and a team and bike racing skills and know how to train, doping will make you worse. It’s not the old saw of “You can’t make a donkey into a racehorse,” no, it’s more terrible: Unless done right it will make a donkey into a newt.
Which is what Brian became, at least in the world of profamateur grand fondue doping, a newt. A glistening, small, crawling, mostly brainless salamander in the subfamily Pleurodelinae. A fate worse than Kayle’s … by far. Sad.
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July 5, 2017 § 28 Comments
One of the things about getting old is that the thrill goes away. What thrill? Every thrill.
You see it in your relatives, for example, who go batshit crazy about religion, or they become rabid racists, or they become recalcitrant conservatives who subscribe to the philosophy of “Everything for me, nothing for you.”
This is why I love riding my bike with other crazy people. It is flat fucking thrilling. If you don’t do it you won’t ever understand it.
Take today, Independence Day. It started with an NPR smashfest of epic proportions. Rumor had it that numerous baby seals had gotten too big for their pelts and needed a good skinning. Sure enough, on Lap 1 vast numbers of bleating pinnipeds got shucked out the back, only to play Hop-In-Wanker, reattach on the flip-flop, and get shelled again.
Rather than seventy baby seals sprunting vigorously for the win after sitting in and munching fresh sardines for four laps, at the end there was a tiny group of about fifteen, of whom only five or six had any legs at all. The clubbing and skinning were epic as Charon ended the hopes and dreams of all the sad-faced baby seals.
Then we did the Holiday Ride, 150-strong from the Center of the Known Universe, hooking up with another 100+ group in Marina del Rey, and barreling through Santa Monica to San Vicente. But today those of us who had smashed on the NPR moved the finish line from the top of Mandeville to the top of San Vicente, and the seal pups were denied the leisurely pedal to which they have become accustomed.
Instead, Cory Williams, Smasher, G3, and one or two other clubbers began crushing skulls at the bottom of San Vicente, skinning well over a hundred baby seals before we reached the top of San Vicente.
After the left-hander, a shameless group of La Grunge Hop-In-Wankers jumped into the mix and turned a 30-mile race to the bottom of Mandeville into a 1-mile downhill pedal followed by a 15-minute smash up the hill on fresh legs. They were crowned glorious winners, sweeping the imaginary podium and getting six out of the top ten fake slots, but their hop-in antics earned no approbation from the clubbers who’d been at it from the beginning of the ride.
Was that all the excitement and thrill? No!
Next was a bitter, hand-to-hand fight to the death at the annual Helen’s Cycles July 4th Sale, where cyclists poured through the doors and battled tooth and toenail to get unbelievable discounts on shoes, socks, BonkBreakers, bikes, helmets, and other useless stuff. The KOM was won by some dude from Malibu, who spent $15,000 in fifteen minutes.
Bar bumping, seal pelt skinning, vicious motoring, Mandeville uphill time trailing, it was a morning filled with adrenaline, testosterone (natural and added), and more fireworks than the Chinese New Year. But was that all? No that was not all!
We got home to find out that Mark Cavendish, sprinter extraordinaire, had been tutored by our very own James Doyle, the local wanker who squeezed through a non-existent slot and took out veteran Johnny Walsh. Unlike the UCI, however, who quickly reached a decision on the matter, USAC continues to drag its feet, twiddle its thumbs, review the tapes, and stick their thumb up a dark smelly place, paralyzed and unable to make a simple disciplinary decision about an outrageous move.
All of that and it wasn’t even noon …
The thrill? It’s alive and well and going strong. You can save your religious tirades for someone who GAF … because it ain’t me.
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February 24, 2016 § 34 Comments
The first time I did the Old Pier Ride on a December day in 2006, I got yelled at by Stern-O. My crime? Daring to be a new face contesting the sprunt on a steel Masi while wearing a wool jersey.
On my first few Donut Rides I was yelled at and pushed around, and was only able to create breathing room by riding some of the worst-behaved people off my wheel. The only way you could get people to lay off was by beating them down.
Those few short years ago road riding in LA was like it still is in many places. Cliquish, hostile, and full-to-overflowing with self-important preeners.
Nowadays LA is not that way, even though other parts of SoCal and NorCal are still rife with faux elitism. Guys like Rahsaan Bahati, Robert Efthimos, Greg Leibert, and especially Greg Seyranian have created an environment where inclusiveness is the norm. New faces like David Wells, and old ones like Gerald Iacono and Michael Norris have kept up a steady drumbeat that welcomes new faces.
Eventually the most offensive snobs relocated to faraway climes, or took to riding by themselves in tiny groups at odd hours where they come into contact with hardly anyone, or they’ve simply quit riding.
This environment has attracted a lot of people to the old group rides. The NPR now easily starts with 70 or 80 riders. There’s often shouting and sometimes a bit of jostling, but it tends to be based on actual riding behavior rather than to establish a pecking order.
One of the guys who started showing up one day was named Francis, but one look at him and you pretty much knew that:
- You weren’t the first person who’d thought about saying, “Lighten up, Francis.”
- He’d beaten up lots tougher guys than you for lots smaller infractions than that.
In a universe where bikers are the underdog and the police are the enemy, Francis was like that overgrown guy in the movie with beard stubble and a knife who shows up in the 7th Grade classroom after riding his motorcycle to school and befriends the twiggly dork getting bullied by the bad guys. Turns out that Francis was a homicide detective and beneath his tough, flinty-eyed exterior there lay a hardened, unflinching, barefisted interior.
This was amazing because suddenly when the group got pulled over by a cop responding to a call from an irate PV housewife who’d been slowed down four seconds on her way to Starbucks, instead of getting a lecture, four back-up squad cars, and tickets all ’round, Francis and the cop would have a conversation and that would be it.
It was also amazing because we now had a cop who backed us up when bad things happened. It’s a funny feeling to think that when some cager in a pickup buzzes you and flips you off and then gets it into his head to escalate the situation that he’s going to find out he’s grabbed the red-hot poker with both hands by the wrong end.
Of course, what are the chances that a hard-bitten homicide cop would even be named Francis, let alone also be a cyclist, and a good one, at that? One in several billion. So in an effort to let him know how much he was appreciated, I made an especial effort to give him as much shit as possible, which, to his credit, he always returned in rather unequal quantities.
But back to the NPR …
In tandem with the large size of the ride, the police whose jurisdiction is LAX International Airport have their own Wellness Department, which focuses on health initiatives for employees and for the broader community. After a particularly bad car-bike collision on Westchester Parkway, which abuts the airport’s runways, the officer in charge of Wellness decided to get involved.
This guy’s name is Officer Sur, and with the department’s backing he now escorts the group on Tuesdays. He drives an SUV patrol car with large magnetic signs that say “3 Feet Please!” indicating the minimum legal passing space a motorist must give a cyclist.
He assists with intersection control when we make the u-turns on the Parkway, and also helps control traffic at lights when the lights are changing and only half the peloton has made it through. Officer Sur even came to our 6:40 AM liftoff at the Manhattan Beach Pier and gave a talk about rider safety and police involvement with things like the NPR.
From the time that he has been escorting the ride, we have gotten noticeably less (as in zero) buzzing or harassment by cagers. So in addition to the lottery-like odds of having one guardian angel in the form of a homicide detective named Francis, we wound up with an even more improbable scenario: Having two policemen who ride and who look out for others on bikes.
So I was talking to Officer Sur after the NPR, and telling him about Francis.
“Francis?” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Pretty weird, huh? I mean, what are the chances of having a cop named Francis who’s not only involved in cycling but who’s also kind of a guardian angel?”
Officer Sur looked at me to see if I was pulling his leg. “Pretty long odds,” he said. “Because that’s my first name, too.”
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February 13, 2016 § 25 Comments
There are a lot of people who refuse to ride the Tuesday/Thursday NPR here in LA because it’s dangerous. I can’t say whether they’re right or not, but there have been some pretty gnarly falls, most recently when a cager rear-ended a rider who was changing lanes.
Even when it was the Old Pier Ride, or OPR, it had a fair number of falls. I remember one in which some UCLA wanker took out about thirty-eleven riders.
The worst trait of the NPR, though, has been the habit of a handful or riders to run the red lights on Westchester Parkway. Although that had nothing to do with the recent car-bike collision, the tendency of one or two riders to bust through the lights meant that sooner or later someone was going to get hit by car-on-green-pegging-bike-on-red.
Although I was never the worst offender, for years I treated the signals as suggestions rather than imperatives. If there were no cars I kept smashing, especially in a breakaway where there were only two or three other riders anyway.
To her credit, Suzanne Sonye never tired of calling out the red-light runners, even when it got her a lot of unpleasant blowback. Eventually I had to concede that she was right, and began stopping at all the red lights. The most notorious red-light runner no longer rides, and so these days the NPR follows two basic rules.
- Stop at the red lights.
- Wait for traffic to clear before making the u-turn to do the next half-lap.
It’s a much better ride as a result. We have Suze to thank for it and now the really good riders who show up stop at all the lights, so the rest of us hackers have no excuse not to do so as well. It’s an example of how a group with major scofflaw elements can be tamed.
Then one Monday a couple of weeks ago an LAX cop showed up at Helen’s Cycles in Manhattan Beach. The cop spoke with the manager, long-time NPR rider Daniel Bonfim, and asked a bunch of questions about the group.
The next day, when the group left the alley and got on Vista del Mar, they were surprised to see this.
Incredibly, the cop had shown up to escort the group, and along with his flashers he had tacked a giant 3-Feet-Please sign on the rear and right side of the patrol car. The effect on the morning traffic was amazing. Rather than having angry and impatient commuters buzzing the group within inches, people gave a wide berth and passed slowly. And (surprise) no one even thought about running a red light.
The cop has shown up each Tuesday and Thursday, and may be well on his way to becoming a permanent assignment. Of course, his presence hasn’t been without issue. This past Tuesday he stopped while approaching an intersection to give us safe passage, but there was a parked truck on the right that created a narrow bottleneck. Much yelling and brake-grabbing ensued, as you’d expect from a gang of wankers, but no one went down or even got bumped.
There are a couple of other things, such as having the cop car go ahead of us and clear the turnaround rather than hanging at the back when we turn. It’s only a matter of communication, though. The cop is friendly, rumor has it that he’s a tri-dork, and he is following the attacks and accelerations with the interest of a spectator as well as an official, i.e. he appears to know what’s going on.
Of course some people don’t like the po-po no matter what they’re up to. I’m not one of them. Hats off to the LAX police, to Helen’s Cycles for coordinating with them, and thanks for giving us protection rather than giving us tickets.
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