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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January 13, 2016 § 34 Comments
The average time that it takes a 1mm fracture in your pelvis to completely heal is 5-6 months. During that time it is important to exercise in such a way as to bring increased blood circulation to the fracture site, yet not to “overdo it” such that the soft tissue around the fracture becomes inflamed.
The best thing to do is to let pain be your guide as to any rehab program. Moderate pain is to be expected, whereas severe or excruciating pain likely indicates further damage or re-injury of the fracture.
Full resumption of pre-fracture, intense activities should not be resumed until at least five, preferably six months after the injury.
I had all this in mind as I rode to the NPR this morning, fully aware that I was merely seven weeks into the Wanky Rehab Plan. Then I became even more fully aware as the ride kicked up Pershing and gravity plus wind resistance plus speed forced me to the tail end of the 80-plus gaggle of flailing idiots.
As we made the sweeping turn for our first lap on Westchester Krapway, a place where I am accustomed to land the first blow, I grit my teeth firmly around my small intestine, hanging by a thread to the wheel of Scrubby Carbuncle, a poor fellow who, resplendent in his new 2016 team kit, had failed to adequately prepare for the physical stresses about to be placed on the fabric when it almost ripped after Scrubby doubled to his normal size by enormous gasps, and as a result began to gap me out as the massive, spiked Baby Seal Club of Turncoat Cobley swung a mighty blow across Scrubby’s tiny seal testicles.
The gap widened and there was nothing I could do. Slow of leg, weak of spirit, and fractured of pelvis I watched the gap widen as this–MY HOME RIDE–punched me in the kidney and prepared to drop me on the first acceleration of the very first lap.
Fate intervened, though, which was bad, because the brief stop at the first red light allowed me to catch back on, something as happy as, saying, getting the opportunity to ram your dangling, bloody stump back into the garbage disposal a second time.
I skittered briefly off the front only to hear the whooshing of The Club, this time being swung by the mighty G$. It cracked me across the nape of the neck and sent me hurtling to the back, where, instead of dying on the wheel of Scrubby, who had been skinned and had his bloody carcass dripping with entrails tossed into the maw of the rear-pack sharks who gnawed his guts while spinning in the slipstream of the mighty clubbers on the point.
Now my savior was the rear wheel of Daisy O’Doodle, a nice enough person who was suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous clubbing by Benedict Alverson, Sausage, and the gore-soaked South Bay Baby Seal, who had graduated from the ranks of the skinned into the ranks of the dickstompers.
Daisy’s skull split with the first whack of The Club, and as she sank to floor of the ice floe I felt huge shooting pains fire up into my crack, the tender fibers of barely knitted bone infused with the unholy fire of nerves being stimulated with red-hot coals. My tender nutsack, barely joined to my pelvic crack, dangled and jangled with each blow of the The Club as I shuddered and swayed, pushing harder than hard to close the four-foot gap which threatened to mushroom into a solid quarter mile.
By the final lap the monsters of the deep had taken over, with the Williams brothers, national clubber Holloway, Nutjob Pedalbeater, Dawg, Benedict Smasher, Baby Seal, Turncoat Cobley, and a host of murderers forming a final arrow that flew from the bowstring directly through the throats of all pretenders. I finished so far back I had to read about the sprunt in the newspaper.
At the post-coital lie and whopper exchange at CotKU, I required three people to help me dismount. After coffee I pedaled home at record slow pace, my tightened and aching bones barely able to turn the pedals.
Later that morning I had my first appointment with Dr. Patchumup, the bone guy who had diagnosed my strained nutsack as a broken pelvis.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Great,” I lied.
“What kind of activities are you doing now to help with your rehab?”
“Oh, just the usual.”
“You know, walking slowly in a heated pool. Stretching on my bed in the mornings. Trying not to move too quickly or to overstress anything.”
“Good,” he said. “Keep it up and you’ll be back on your bike by June at the latest.”
“Okay, doc,” I said obediently. “I will.”
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November 11, 2015 § 12 Comments
I was riding with my Internet cycling coach and psychologist and financial adviser and child-rearing counselor yesterday and he told me all about saving watts.
“What?” I asked.
“Yeah, watts,” he answered. “It’s not simply about gaining watts, but saving watts.”
“Oh … ” and then I mumbled something and the wind howled for a second.
“What?” he asked.
“I thought you said ‘watts.'”
“But I couldn’t hear what you said,” he said. “So I said ‘what.'”
We went along like that, who’s-on-firsting it until we got back on topic. “I know you hate Strava,” he said.
“But you should use it to do a few Nega-Stravas.”
“What’s a Nega-Strava?”
“It’s where you measure how few watts you can use instead of how many. It’s an efficiency test. The best climbing happens when you get to the base having used less energy than anyone else.”
This made sense, so the next morning when I got ready to leave for NPR I downloaded the Strava app for my iPhone 2. “I’m gonna ride the NPR with maximal Vince di Meglio wheelsucking efficiency, avoiding the wind at all costs and following the most robust ass I can find.”
On the way out, when it was still neutral, I saw Hank Stengenbladdammit from Scottsdale who had shown up on the Donut last Saturday and flayed us all. I’d been hoping he would go home, but alas.
“Hi, Hank. I know this is your first NPR, but since it’s the off-season it will be really slow. You can go hard if you want but I’ll be chilling at the back.”
“Okay,” said Hank as we started up Pershing. We weren’t going very fast so I figured I would stay at the front until the Hop In Wankers at the top of the hill hopped in, and then I would slink to the back.
We passed the H.I.W.’s and I swung over and Hank came past like shit through a goose. “I’d better hop on his wheel so he doesn’t get lost as it’s his first time, plus, I’m on a wheel so it’s not that much effort.”
Hank ended up going really fast and I had to huff and puff a bit. “No problem. As soon as those H.I.W.’s pull through I will pull over and sit for the rest of the ride.”
It was a super windy morning and we hit the parkway hard. I was farther to the front than I wanted to be, and when Toronto swung off the point I was on the front. But I didn’t go too hard until Hank battered by again and I had to go a tad harder than I wanted.
Over the next three laps I masterfully sat on Hank’s wheel, but it seemed like we were always in these little three-or-four-man-plus-Katie-Wilson breakaways, then we’d get caught at a light because I never run red lights anymore and then we’d start off again and I’d head for the back but suddenly there would be a good opportunity to punch it with Hank going balls out but not punching too hard but probably harder than, say, sitting at the back.
At the start of the fourth lap everyone looked funny so I decided to sneak to the back for good this time but first I figured I should jump a little bit and test the waters. Then I was accidentally off by myself but I wasn’t going too hard except for a bit when I had to push it to keep my gap, which kept getting bigger but I don’t think it was too hard because I wasn’t going all that hard as much as it was they were letting me go. (All my pals are on the NPR and they like to help me a lot.)
At the final turnaround I had a very red light but since I’d stopped at all the other ones and the peloton was pretty close it made sense to keep going since there were 60 of them and 1 of me and they’d catch the green by the time they came around or at worst would have to stop for a few seconds so I started pedaling kind of hard. It was harder than if I’d been sitting in but hopefully not much except for the bits of oatmeal and almonds and blood from breakfast that kept coming up.
They must have all stopped and taken a nap and gotten caught by a bunch of lights and been concerned about the off-season and have wanted to let the old feller have one because I won the imaginary sprunt with lots of time to spare and when they caught up to me only Toronto and my Internet coach said “Good job.” Everyone else glowered, but they were happy glowers.
At coffee I checked my phone and said to Coach, “I averaged 352 watts.”
“What?” he said.
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October 14, 2015 § 26 Comments
People basically don’t give a shit.
Our apartment was built back in 1873 and there are no individual water meters for the units. So the total water bill gets divvied up and is reflected in the rent. And since no one person’s water usage can make much of an impact on the overall amount, and since you don’t get a monthly water bill there’s no incentive to conserve water unless you’re instinctively a cheap ass, which I am.
Because California is in a mild drought about six months ago I bought a $5 waterproof five-minute hourglass with a little suction thingy that sticks to the shower wall. It’s amazing how quickly five minutes in the shower go by, hardly enough time to scrape the crusty places and rinse the sand out of my ears.
Then one morning I was riding with Geriatric Jedi-in-Training, and we got to talking about saving water. “Well,” said G-JiT, “you oughta try a Navy shower.”
At first I thought he was inviting me to something obscene. “Thanks, man, but I don’t swing that way.”
“No, no,” he said. “It’s where you switch the water on for a few seconds to get wet, switch it off, lather up, rinse, repeat. That way you’re not dumping gallons of hot water on your head just for the fun of it.”
So I tried the Navy shower and now that’s all I do, and lately I’ve not even been using the hot water. So it drives me insane when I get up in the morning at 4:30 and do walking laps around the complex, because that’s when they run the sprinklers and about half of them point out on the sidewalk. The conservation effect of my tiny little 30-second showers are all completely negated for the month in the first minute of a single morning’s sprinkling.
I was telling this story to the guy who always points. It was after this morning’s NPR, where I scored a glorious victory, attacking with two laps to go, shelling the breakawanker who refused to pull and dropping the other one before going on to a solo win. Later, allegations of cheating, course cutting, and general skulduggery were leveled against me, and of course I denied them all.
The guy who always points is the only person in the peloton who always points. You can be whizzing along at 30, teeth grazing the stem, and he will always point out the crack, the pothole, the broken glass, the magnolia seed cone, or the dead body in the road.
“People are selfish and stupid beyond any comprehension,” I said, complaining about my selfish apartment complex management and its wasteful ways.
“Yes,” he agreed. “They are.”
“And they don’t give a shit.”
“No,” he agreed. “They don’t.”
On cue a woman darted out in front of us in her car without bothering to stop at the stop sign I was preparing to blow. Then another woman almost clocked us as she gabbed on her cell phone and sipped coffee.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked. “People are crazy. They don’t care if they kill you, and if they’re like the mob at the Dallas Cowboys game, they do care if they kill you, and then they kill you.”
“Yep,” said the guy who always points. “They sure do.”
“And you can’t change them. For every person who does the right thing, there’s a thousand who text and drive and like the Dallas Cowboys.”
The guy who always points pointed out some glass. I moved over. “But you,” I said, “you’re different. You’re always pointing shit out no matter what.”
“Yep,” he said. “I am.”
“And it’s because of you that about twelve billion idiots have avoided crashing or flats or both.”
“Yep,” he said. “They have.”
“So why do you do it? Other people don’t point shit out, even the ones whose asses you save by pointing shit out.”
“Seth,” he said, as he pointed out a nasty crack that I narrowly avoided. “We’re all in this together.”
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September 30, 2015 § 30 Comments
This isn’t going to end well, Head Down James I’ve got, no problem, he’ll flog himself and explode like a can of tomato paste in the microwave and he’ll be happy with the flogging and last place because he initiated, rode, and drove the break, that guy’s head is made of concrete which is why he’s so loved you can pour words over his head like a bucket of water but not a one will ever sink in and there’s no hope with Davy he goes on the list of “never beaten” and “never even held his wheel when he kicks” and no fuggin’ wonder he’s the masters national kilo champ and he hasn’t taken a single pull since bridging and he’s licking his chops the real problem is Sausage he also goes on the “never beaten never even close” list he’s got a ferocious kick and worse than that he’s smart but at least I’m on his wheel and not vice versa nine hundred to go and boom there goes Head Down James launching off Davy’s wheel now it’s Sausage, me, and Davy and Head Down James is opening a nice little gap but he won’t be able to sustain it on this riser but whoa now Sausage is on the front and he’s slowed way down he’s not chasing his teammate except it’s LaGrange so he eventually will and plus Sausage is no dummy he’ll never in a million years sprunt from the front I get it these wankers are waiting for me to close the gap yeah, perfect, I close, Head Down blows, and Davy beats Sausage or maybe Sausage gets real lucky and beats Davy but anyway I’ll be left dangling fuck it I’ve never won out of a break ever ever ever not in thirty years and now I’m stuck with two sprinters eight hundred to go Head Down’s gap isn’t growing his speed will crater any minute but Sausage is going so slow it won’t matter and Head Down will take the win this is maddening I’ve ridden the break the last two laps exactly like Daniel said don’t be the strongest guy in the break make sure we don’t get caught but don’t be the stud still the math isn’t here one slow old hairy legged guy never beats a kilo champ and a sprinter seven hundred to go well I’m not chasing that fucker isn’t that what Derek said sometimes you just have to be content with someone else winning because if you go it’s not gonna be you and he also said patience and holding back at the end is the hardest but you have to wait for the other guy to flinch six hundred to go I can see Davy’s shadow and Sausage just went up a gear so he’s ready for the jump better upshift too and he thinks it’s gonna be me but he knows it might also be Davy boom there’s the sound of Davy’s whole bike groaning under 1800 watts five hundred to go shit here comes Davy off my wheel shit Sausage was totally ready shit this hurts shit they’re pulling away shit go go go shit I’ve got Sausage’s back wheel oh man this hurts but is Sausage gonna get Davy’s wheel three hundred to go shit he got Davy boom Head Down’s blown we’re passing him like a bullet train passing a tree now Davy’s fading no way oh yes way he’s been conventioning at Eurobike and Interbike and hasn’t been training of course two hundred to go boom there goes Sausage but closing to Davy has hurt him he doesn’t have his usual kick go now attack his rear wheel and shear off into the wind at the last minute oh man one hundred to go there’s the finishing tree Sausage is staring over in disbelief with the you need to pee-in-a-cup look now I’m flying past him damn this is sweet should I raise my arms hell yes but it’s just the stupid NPR yeah but everyone’s looking so rub their noses in it arms up and don’t fred out and crash oh that feels good just keep them up, fingers spread, palms out, forever.
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