Work together!

December 2, 2018 § 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END

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Chick wins #fakerace, wankers groan

November 30, 2018 § 15 Comments

I still remember three-ish years ago when Kristie said, “I want to win NPR.”

“Never gonna happen.”

“Why’s that?”

“Look around. See all these wankers? 98% of them have never won and never will.”

“Why?”

“If it ends in a bunch sprint you have to be able to bunch sprint. Only a few riders can. If it ends in a break you have to be strong enough to make the break, ride the break, then attack the break or outsprint the break. Only a few can. If you go solo you have to be strong enough to stay out there and run all the red lights for four laps. Only a few can.”

“How do you know I can’t?”

“You’re a woman. Women have been riding the NPR since it began and none has ever won it. Suze Sonye never won it, for dog’s sake. Tink, Lolo, Emmy Sue, Katie D., Kate V., the list goes on and on. It’s woman-proof.”

“I’m gonna win it one day.”

“In your dreams,” I said.

The Rule of Brauch

Derek the Destroyer once told me the secret of bike racing. “Your race is decided by who shows up.”

On Wednesday night Kristie sent me a text. “NPR tomorrow? 100% chance of rain and 40 mph wind gusts.”

“In,” I said.

We rode down there in the nastiest gale imaginable and by the time we got to the pier the rain had slackened but the wind was insane. We were a crowd of two.

The rain resumed. We hammered out Vista del Mar, the rain beating so hard it drilled into my face like needles. Atop the Pershing Bump there was no one. “Gonna be your day,” I said.

Four laps later Kristie cruised to the win. We were frozen to the core as we pedaled back to CotKU. “But did I really win?” she said. “Does it count?”

“Did you leave the MB Pier on a Tuesday or Thursday at 6:40 AM, pointy-sharp?”

“Yes.”

“Did you complete the entire NPR course?”

“Yes.”

“Were you the first rider across the #imaginary #fake finish line?”

“Hell yes.”

“Then you won the NPR.”

“But didn’t you let me win?”

“Bike racing has a hallowed tradition of breakaway riders cutting deals. Sometimes it’s for a past favor. Sometimes it’s for a future favor. Sometimes it’s for cash. But that actually makes it more legit because while you’re cutting deals for the win, the Pillowbabies are back there slitting throats for third, or hitting snooze for the fifth time.”

“So what do I owe you?”

“Coffee,” I said.

Pillowbabies

Of course the hardest thing about a chick winning the NPR is all the guys who HAVE NEVER WON IT AND NEVER WILL. It is quite painful for them. There they were, lying in bed. The alarm went off but they hit snooze after listening to the rainfall. “Ain’t nobody stupid enough to do the ride today,” they thought.

Unfortunately, Gary Cziko, who lives atop the Pershing Bump and trains his video camera on the NPR every Tuesday and Thursday, recorded the morning’s heroics and posted the video on Facebag. “Who’s stupid enough to do NPR this morning?” he asked rhetorically, before answering “Seth and  some guy.”

So far so good until it was pointed out that the other guy was Kristie Fox. The Pillowbabies moaned. Facebook creaked. The excuse factory went into overdrive as each Pillowbaby angrily thought about how HE couldashouldwoulda #won the most prestigious #fakerace in California.

Below are the top Pillowbaby excuses for getting owned by a chick:

  • There wuz only two riders! [Please refer to Rule of Brauch, above.]
  • I woulda beat that chick if I’da been there! [You weren’t.]
  • They wuz goin’ eezy! [They were going full gas, per eyewitness and video footage of Dr. Cziko.]
  • That’s bullshit! [Please refer to Rule of Brauch, above.]
  • Aw, man! [Please refer to Rule of Brauch, above.]
  • I’m gonna kill it next week! [Along with 80 others, which means you’ll get 35th. Again.]
  • Next time it rains I’m gonna show up and beat two other people! [We’ll be waiting.]
  • This sucks! [You snooze, you lose.]
  • I am gonna totally kill the Gram later today! [Okay.]
  • Check out these new socks and kit I just bought! [Nice.]
  • It’s the off season! [Which is now 12 months in SoCal.]
  • Aw, man! [We heard you the first time.]

END

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Individuation

November 27, 2018 § 14 Comments

I’ve noticed that there are lots of mini-rides now, calving off from the formerly massive weekend group rides.

Some of the rides, like the Old Donut Ride, are aged riders who are still fast and fit but who can’t keep up with the youngsters and don’t like the sketchy, argy-bargy circumstances of so much naturally occurring testosterone.

Other of the rides, like the Origin Rides, are secret social gatherings, invitation only, where like-minded souls follow their own recipes without having to bother about meeting or being nice to people they don’t know or don’t like.

Yet other of the rides are simply twosies, people who would rather pedal and chat than gallop along in a group while focused intently on not falling down.

The ultimate instance comprises those riders who, formerly attendant on every gathering, formerly leaders in their cycling community, simply go off on their own and abjure the company of others. It’s preferable for them to be completely alone than to spend so much as a minute with another cycling human being.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, because it’s not a zero-sum game. Part of the reason there are so many groupings is because there are so many more riders than there once were. You’re no longer constrained to “the” group ride. Options are bountiful and wheel-chopping gets old.

No unity?

Not that cyclists were ever an especially unified bunch, tending as they are to be misfits, but I sometimes wonder if all of this fracturing is also a reflection of societal individuation, where people are able to zone out in their own Internet space and make hard-and-fast delineations about the kind of people they are going to hang out with, and similarly inflexible decisions about the kinds of opinions they are going to tolerate, much less discuss.

When everyone on the ride thinks basically the same thing about the ride, it doesn’t make for diversity of anything except perhaps a few watts here and there. As no one has to contend with anything that’s different, it lowers everyone’s tolerance for things that are different.

Although I’m skipping it today, that’s at least one good reason for the NPR, where diverse people get together and slug it out in a not-always-very-safe manner. At least they are together and coping, which our world needs a lot more of, not a lot less.

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High school reunion

November 14, 2018 § 5 Comments

I went out and did the NPR today, but not before posting the Wanky NPR call sign on Facebagland, “Switching to Glide.”

It was kind of like the old days, a reunion of sorts minus Sausage, Eric A., Hair, Davy, Rahsaan, G$, Surfer, Derek, and a bunch of others. Still, plenty of tough riders answered the call including the legendary Head Down James, making his reappearance for the first time in ages.

My goal was to go hard until I couldn’t anymore but I got more than I bargained for. Head Down James, Chris Rothermel, Shoutypants Faye, Sleepy David Ellis, and Ram-Ram lit it up on VdM. Cam Khoury blitzed after World Way Ramp, and by the time we were on the Parkway people were already gassed.

James, Chris, and a couple of other riders hit it again and they were gone. The group chased hard until the turnaround on the first lap. The leaders had a red light and they simply stopped. No breakaway rules, they just stopped and patiently waited. We “caught” them, otherwise they would have been gone for the day.

After seeing that kind of stone cold restraint, I’m never running an NPR red light again. Chapeau, guys.

I kept drifting to the front, taking a swing, then drifting to the back. Rudy Napolitano showed up and all hell broke loose. James kept the gas on and people were getting shelled left and right, then playing hop-in-wanker as they cut across the Parkway to hitch back on when the group rolled back around.

I made a hard effort halfway into the second lap, then eased up because my legs were shot as the group came by on the golf course bump. I waited until the last rider then dug, almost at the top, to get back on.

For the first time ever, I couldn’t. It was only about 20 yards to cover, which was about 19 yards too far. “Man,” I thought, “this is a combination of old age and being really weak.”

As I rode alone for a bit, then Tim Gillibrand, the 95-year-old guy who still comes out twice a week, passed me. “That all you got?” he said with contempt.

Yeah, Tim. It was.

END

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Asian Methodists

October 19, 2018 § 21 Comments

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

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

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

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

Back at the ranch

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

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

“A what?”

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

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

Sausage text

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

“Thanks, Sausage,” I texted back.

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

“Really?”

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

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

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

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

“What kits?”

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

“Rahsaan and Charon?”

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

THEY DO NOW.

END

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safety_first

The art of mercy

October 8, 2018 § 11 Comments

We had gathered at the Center of the Known Universe for a 160-mile ride to Ventura and back. It was 5:30 AM and none of us wanted to be there. As we stood around waiting to leave we unanimously decided that riding to Ventura was a stupid idea.

Instead we would ride fifteen miles to Santa Monica, get coffee, and be back home and in bed before 8:00 AM. This, we decided, was a great idea.

In Santa Monica everything was closed except Urth Cafe, the most overpriced place with the worst service and the mediocre-est coffee you will ever drink, anywhere. But it was open.

We ordered and then huddled around the giant heater to stay warm. Before long it was time to go. I went over to the bikes, then came back as no one was leaving the heater.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“Hush,” I was told. “Baby Seal is telling a story.”

“What story?” I asked.

“He’s explaining how he learned about kindness and mercy in cycling.”

Once upon a time

“There I was,” Baby Seal said, “as the tiny NPR pack turned left onto Vista del Mar, I saw my idol pull over and take off his rain jacket. ‘Are you okay?'” I asked.

“‘Yeah,'” he said.

“By the time he had stowed his jacket the group was gone, and they weren’t coming back. I’d been riding for about two years and had gone from a 230-lb. smoker to a fairly fit rider. But I still hadn’t really earned my chops, and I didn’t hesitate to stop to help my idol. Together, I figured, we could chase back on.

“I hit it hard and for two minutes pulled my brains out. I looked back, and Idol was tucked on my wheel and not coming around. ‘He’s recovering,’ I told myself. ‘We got this.’ I pulled even harder, longer.

“A couple of times I looked back but Idol was in the box. ‘No worries,’ I told myself. We’ll get within striking distance, somehow, and he’ll close the gap. We got this!

“I rode my heart out, and for the first time I felt like one of the gang. The rain had kicked back up, it was cold, and I was driving it on the front, giving my idol a chance to recover. This was teamwork, what cycling was all about. Once you feel that warm glow, you never forget it.”

“Then what happened?” asked the Wily Greek.

“We came up over the Pershing bump and there was the field, maybe 100 meters away. I was done, but had saved just enough to be able to catch on when my idol finally came through.”

“Then what happened?” asked Adam.

“The motherfucker attacked and dropped me, bridged to the field, and left me for dead.”

Heads were shaken all around.

“But you know what was the worst part of it? The fucker never even looked at me, not a nod, not a ‘good job,’ nothing. And he didn’t ride by me, he attacked me. I have never been dropped that hard since, ever. I was crushed. Left alone, abandoned like a little kid on a doorstep, I was too shattered emotionally to even try to catch on. I turned around and went home.”

“Wow,” said Wily. “What an asshole.”

“Yeah,” I chimed in. “What a dick.”

Baby Seal looked over at me. “Yeah,” he said, “you ought to know. Because it was YOU.”

END

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IMG_9148

Ebb and flow

September 12, 2018 § 7 Comments

Rides come and go, they ebb and flow. The last two times I’ve done NPR I could only think, “Man, times have changed.”

NPR used to have 60+ riders even on Thursday. Tuesdays had more, everyone was fresh from Monday’s rest, and it was filled with hitters. You could expect the Tuesday NPR to be either single file for four laps, or hugely surgey with a crazy sprint.

No more, apparently.

Yesterday’s group was tiny, maybe a thirty-rider peloton that shrank over the course of the ride. Most telling was the fact that the last two rides I’ve been able to get away and stay away for four laps. Anytime you can’t catch a 54-year-old grandpa on a short ride like that, you have what is known as a very slow ride.

At the end yesterday, Frexit hunted me down and passed me at the last light, but the pack was still well more than a minute back.

NPR’s regular crashes got old, I guess, and some of the last pile-ups were huge. But more importantly, people have gotten old and quit. Or maybe I should say “older.” You still have guys in their 80’s like Jim and Tim out doing laps, but a whole generation of fast people who are now in their late 30’s and 40’s have simply quit NPR like the bad habit it is.

Gone are days when the Sausage Cam captured all the excitement, spliced and put to music.

Gone are the days when the sprunt involved Davy Dawg, Hair, Destroyer, Rahsaan, Pischon, Sausage, Cam, EA Sports, Inc., and half-a-dozen riders good enough to be there but not quite good enough to win.

Gone are the insane pulls by Dave Miller and Head Down James, the hopeless attacks by Richard Whose Last Name I Don’t Know, the shouting by Leibert … “We’re only going 28! Get off the effing front if you can only do 28!”

Gone are the guest appearances by Daniel Holloway, Justin and Cory Williams, and the regular appearance of women like Lisa, Chris, Tink, Suze, Katie D., Lolo, Michelle, Marilyne, and a whole bunch more.

And of course there are the aged ones who have simply moved into convalescent homes with Italian gentlemen. Kramer, Yule, Spalding, and dozens of others whose names I no longer even remember and whose features are kind of a blurry blot, like watching a face through a rainy window pane.

END

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