Big City, Bright Lights

October 21, 2017 § 8 Comments

Where you sit in the roadway or the shoulder while pedaling your bike is up to you. I simply hope you’re doing it with a lot of lights.

After the recent smashback here in L.A. from cager trolls and the pitchfork peasants who were enraged that a safer, cleaner, cheaper, sexier, healthier, happier mode of transportation might slow them down fifteen seconds on their one-hour commute, it has become even more evident that cyclists themselves are riven. Lane control advocates shrug at the loss of bike infrastructure; they never wanted it to begin with, beyond sharrows and BMUFL signage. Infrastructure lovers are heartbroken and trying to rally themselves for the next big beating, like kids shuffling into dad’s bedroom knowing he already has the belt off.

I’m happy to report that there’s a solution. We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers. We should stop sharpening our rhetorical sticks, hardening them with fire, and jabbing them into the tender fallacies of those who want more things built in roads to protect bicycles. We should let them go about their business.

In fact, I’m happy to give infrastructure advocates all the rope they want. They can take it out to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Palso Verdes, do their advocacy, show up at meetings and present factual data, but when they do, here’s a pro tip: Don’t do it near any trees with sturdy, low hanging, horizontal limbs. Because when the pitchfork peasants see your bike infrastructure rope, and understand that it’s a threat to the hegemony of their cages, they will know what to do with it.

Rather than poking holes in the infrastructure lovers’ arguments, we should make common cause with them in this way: Tell them, without judging, that while we’re waiting for the amazing infrastructure that will protect us from cagers (for example, the Santa Monica bike path where no one ever gets hurt by other bicycles and where no bicycle has ever run over and seriously injured a pedestrian), we will all take the fuggin’ lane while lit up like Christmas trees. This includes the infrastructure lovers.

bmufl_car

And then, after my cremated ashes have been dispersed by the winds of time, been blown to Jupiter and are circling its outer moon, eventually, I say, when the great infrastructure project is completed such that it has constructed those supremely segregated, superbly striped, sexily signed, perfectly protected, and beautifully barrier-ized bike path/lane/road/highways to cover every alley, every back road, every country lane, every cul-de-sac, every county road, every byway, every dirt road, every highway, every city street, every parking area, and every other possible place where cars and bikes might possibly be at the same place at the same time, then we will be able to have another discussion about whether bike infrastructure is better, safer, preferable, cheaper, more efficient, cheaper to maintain, more popular, and more conducive to expanding cycling than following existing traffic laws and exercising lane control in a lawful manner.

‘Til that happy day when The Infrastructure Saints Go Marchin’ In, however, let’s all take a deep a breath, swallow our ideologies, and take the fuggin’ lane. Lit up like Christmas trees, of course. Mirrors optional.

END

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Science won’t save ya

October 20, 2017 § 42 Comments

For a brief blip I saw salvation in the offing when I contemplated autonomous cars. “What,” I wondered “could be dumber than a human behind the wheel of a two-ton, speeding steel box?”

“Nothing,” was the obvious answer. “Certainly not a computer.”

Next, I read an online article in Consumer Reports about crash avoidance systems in cars and felt even better. In addition to replacing the dummy behind the wheel, sciency things were going to turn the driving over to an inanimate thing that didn’t text or drink lattes or scream “Faggot!” or live on Via Horcata. Bicyclists would only benefit.

Plus, a friend of mine who flies giant commercial airplanes seemed to think that airplane crash avoidance systems were a predictor of how cars might eventually operate. Airplanes don’t run into each other (much), and that’s because they have some sciency stuff that keeps big, fast-moving objects from hitting other fast-moving objects, such as the ground. “Why don’t they just stick airplane sciency stuff into cars and be done with it?” I wondered.

The frightening answer is that airplanes don’t use sciency stuff at all to avoid collisions. They use acronyms. Big, long, complicated, similar-sounding, confusion inducing, memorization-defying acronyms that scramble up the English language into a foul sounding soup of letters that do nothing but bring on a migraine when you try to commit them to memory. TCAS, PCAS, FLARM, GPWS, TAWS, SV, and OCAS are the acronyms that work in airplanes, along with the actual spelled-out word of “radar.”

More about that later, but about the time I started worrying about the acronymization of car driving, I ran across this gem on the Tweeter: “Semi-autonomous BMW Will ‘Fight Driver’ to Deliver Close Passes to Cyclists.”

“Huh?” I thought, so I clicked on the link and learned that my pilot friend was right. Airplane crash avoidance systems will indeed be the template for semi-autonomous cars, with the overwhelming problem being the word “semi.” In other words, the technology that will make cars safer will ironically require much better driving skills. In a society where there is a race to the bottom in every conceivable metric for driving skills–physical fitness, situational awareness, mental response time, physical response time, behind-the-wheel training, alertness, familiarity with the vehicle and its handling characteristics, patience, a safety mindset, heightened concern for vulnerable road users–we are suddenly going to be presented with vehicles that require all of those parameters to increase, and increase drastically.

Should work well in a rapidly aging society filling up with crotchedy old blind farts.

Heightened user skill makes sense, because crash avoidance systems in commercial airplanes operate in an environment of highly trained pilots who are continually tested, re-tested, and required to pass regular physical exams. No multiple DUI pilots at United, folks, and you gotta have that 5th Grade reading level, at least. As the article above emphasizes, “The key to autonomous vehicles is training, training, training. The skill of driving must be robotic before the software can be developed. The skill of driving is being eroded and this can be seen every day.”

Training? For U.S. cagers? For the idiots who throw shit at cyclists, drive while severely impaired, blame the victim, recall elected officials who support road safety, troll pedestrian/cycling advocates, and who are routinely given a pass for carelessly killing bicyclists? Those assholes? Train them how, exactly? With a rolled-up newspaper and a cattle prod to the testicles? If you think adding bike lanes brings out the rage, wait ’til you tell Joe Q. Driver that he has to actually possess driving skills before he can go rampaging down the freeway. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Every piece of technology that relies on a smarter, better, more experienced and well-trained U.S. driver is operating on a massively flawed assumption, because U.S. drivers aren’t simply horrible, I’ve always contended that they aren’t drivers at all. They are pointers. They start the car and point it, unable to do even the most basic emergency maneuvers such as brake or turn without skidding. The minute that operating the vehicle transitions from point to maneuvering, 99% of drivers are f-u-c-k-e-d, or rather the bicyclist/pedestrian in front of them is.

As a cyclist who almost got clocked yesterday by a fully autonomous idiot who decided that the No. 1 Lane was inconvenient, and he’d rather whip into No. 2 without checking any mirrors, I can tell you that in Los Angeles drivers are older, meaner, angrier, more stressed, stupider, less skilled, more impulsive, and nastier than they were even ten years ago. Thanks, Obama.

And it’s not just my anecdotal experiences. The dumbphone has crazily accelerated the trend, making the “semi” half of the semi-autonomous car nothing more than an airbag dummy for all the crash avoidance systems that have to rely on drivers who can perform at least some minimal dum-dum maneuvers, such as, say, not switching off the autonomous systems.

Fortunately, virtually all of the problems with distracted cagers, and with systems that require cager responsiveness as it concerns cyclists, can be minimized or eliminated entirely by taking the fuggin’ lane. Even the most rudimentary systems will significantly brake if not completely halt when the object (we’re “objects,” folks) is directly in front of them. Close passes and clipping will happen to gutter bunnies, but not to Christmas Tree riders smack in the middle of the lane.

So there it is. The dumbphone dummies are taking over. You’ve been warned. Science won’t save ya. But takin’ the fuggin’ lane WILL.

END

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My KOM

October 17, 2017 § 15 Comments

I’m not big on the Stravver, and not least of all because its welcome page says “Connecting the World’s Athletes.” Newsflash: I ain’t no athlete. I’m a creaky old profamateur masters bicycle delusioner.

Occasionally, however, I will be forced to participate in a KOM conversation, where someone who doesn’t have any KOMs is talking about KOMs, kind of like me talking about a full head of hair.

“I don’t have hardly any KOMs,” I will meekly say.

The person will look sadly at me. “That’s just because you don’t go after them,” he will answer, trying to make me feel better.

“No, it’s because I suck.”

“Aw, come on,” the person will whine, sensing a dose of reality in the offing. “You could get tons if you tried.”

“No, I couldn’t, because I’ve tried. Here in the South Bay there are no KOMs available to me. Lane, Spencer, Chris Tregillis … the KOMs are all theirs.”

However, I do have three KOMs on the Stravver. Two of them suck and you could take them with little effort. One of them is for the Wednesday Bro Ride, a loop that has a bunch of lights and stuff, and only twenty-five people have ever done it. The course record is 1:45 and some seconds. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could snap up this KOM without hardly breaking a sweat.

The other one is the “neutral” on Western, the part of the Donut Ride that goes through San Pedro. It’s a more legit than the “brochelada” segment; the KOM is nine minutes flat and it has been stravvered by about 1,800 people. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you could take this one too–it’s got the word “neutral” in it, after all–but your legs are going to have to sting a little bit. So go ahead and grab it. Be my guest.

Then I’ve got one last KOM, and I think I’ll be hanging onto it for a little while longer. It’s on Vista del Mar, 2.1 miles, the segment rolling out on NPR. I share it with Eric Anderson, and the segment has been recorded on the Stravver 4,107 times. We set this in a seven-man rotation last January including Dave Ellis, Ramon Ramos, Peyton Cooke, Jon Paris, and Kristie Fox doing an alt-NPR ride called “The 6:50.” As is often the case, we had a tailwind. And we went pretty hard. Unlike my other KOMs on the Stravver, this leaderboard is littered with hitters. Lane/Spencer/Chris, you might not be able to take this one, but if you do, you’re going to need some help, and you’re going to have to like the taste of your own puke.

But none of those KOMs that I got on the Stravver compared to the one I got on Saturday, which was snatched away the moment that the other riders uploaded their data. This was on the Donut of All Donuts, which will be the subject of a future blog, and which occurred this past Saturday.

Every year when we have the South Bay Cycling Awards, which is on a Saturday, we also have the biggest Donut of the year. Last year some of the monsters from North County showed up–Josh Stockinger, Phil Tinstman, as well as a big contingent of West Side killers. I was dropped into the meat grinder and spit out pretty quickly.

This year Ryan Dahl, another North County tough guy, made the trek, and the full Santa Monica BMW/Helen’s squad showed up, led by Tony Manzella and “reinforced” by Alex Barnes, Matt Wikstrom, and the rest of their team. Diego Binatena, who holds the KOM on the Switchbacks was there, evergreen Rudy Napolitano, along with Derek Brauch and a bunch of other bad boys. For the first time in memory, maybe the first time ever, I didn’t even ride to the Domes on the first climb, quitting at the college after trying to follow a pace to the base of the Switchbacks that left me in tatters.

So you can imagine how my heart went pitter-patter the moment I uploaded my ride on the Stravver and saw a little crown for the 6:36 segment through San Pedro. Whaaaaat? A KOM on the hardest day of the year on one of the hardest Donuts ever stacked with the RuggedMaxx II wrecking crew? “It must be a mistake,” I thought, because although I remembered going balls out up Western, trading the front a couple of times with David Wells and everyone else just sitting on, I couldn’t have imagined it was a KOM effort. I’d been off the bike for two weeks, I have tendinitis, and it’s friggin’ October, fer fugg’s sake.

Well … as soon as the uploads started, it was gone as quickly as it had come. David Ellis sneaked by me a second or two, and a handful of other sitters equaled my faux KOM due to the way the Stravver works, which I don’t understand, but it has something to do with how if you start at the back and use the draft of the group to move up you somehow are going faster than the people who stay in the same place. Kind of makes sense but it really doesn’t, like why rednecks don’t want free healthcare. The Stravver is obviously flawed to begin with, putting me at the top of any leaderboard for any reason.

Getting that one faux KOM made my weekend, even though it’s all gone now. I got to brag about it all day and night at the Wankys, refusing to check my phone so I could honestly say “I have the KOM going through Pedro.” And I did. And at 53-almost-54 years of age, it may have been brief but I’ll take it.

diego_binatena

Diego Binatena solo on the Donut. Photo by JP Baby Seal.

END

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The good times rolled

October 16, 2017 § 14 Comments

The 2017 South Bay Cycling Awards are in the books. The Academy voted on a slate of incredibly worthy nominees with the following results:

2017 Greatest Advocate, Lynn Ingram
2017 Best Bike Shop, ShiftMobile and Jason Morin
2017 Best Young Rider, Makayla MacPherson
2017 Best Old Rider, Keith Ketterer
2017 Most Improved, Thomas David Rennier
2017 Best Club, Velo Club LaGrange and Patrick Barrett
2017 Best Event, Belgian Waffle Ride and Michael Marckx
2017 Wanker of the Year, Greg Seyranian
2017 Belgian Award, Dan Cobley
2017 Group Ride Champion, Eric Anderson
2017 Best Sponsor, BonkBreaker and Greg Leibert
2017 Best Male Racer, Jay Williams
2017 Best Female Racer, Megan Jastrab
2017 GC Award, Rahsaan Bahati
2017 Greatest Recovery, Debra Banks
2017 Strava KOM, Meagan Jones
2017 Most Happy to Help Others, Pablo Maida
2017 Most Fun, Michelle Landes
2017 Best Spouse/SO, Sarah Butler
2017 Steve Tilford South Bay Rider of the Year, Charon Smith

This year’s award ceremony was dedicated to the life of Steve Tilford. Steve’s wife Trudi Rebsamen and her sister, Susan Ohlman, traveled from Chicago to attend the awards, along with a contingent of Midwestern friends of Steve. Steve was posthumously inducted into the South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame and Trudi was presented with the induction statuette, hand made and hand painted by an artist in England. It was an emotional evening for everyone who had known Steve, and his presence was strongly felt.

But the fact is that these were also the Wanky Awards, and like the event from 2015 when Steve attended and gave the keynote speech, it was a night of celebration mixed in with a healthy dose of silliness and a massive dose of good times. Those good times weren’t immediately apparent to Academy member Derek Brauch and his teammate John Abate, who found themselves feverishly assembling the famed Wanky backdrop with broken pieces of PVC piping, missing nuts/bolts, all with a few minutes to showtime. A quick trip to Lowe’s and some more feverish duct-tape engineering resulted in a shoddy backdrop perfectly appropriate for the proceedings that never collapsed on the stage or the crowd but at all times appeared as if it might.

Academy member Dan Martin pulled off another stunning year of twenty hand-made Wanky plaques, beautifully painted and mounted horseshoes to signify the incredible stroke of luck and confluence of astrological alignments that it takes to win an award. Winners fought like vicious dogs to keep people from pilfering their hard won trophies and swag bags, but it was only when Jon Paris slit the throat of the pinata baby seal, spilling out hundreds of dollars in swag from Performance Bicycles that things went berserk. No one died, thankfully.

The event continued with Rahsaan Bahati co-hosting the awards, and he actually carried the day with witty commentary and impeccable delivery. One of the most important things to deliver, of course, were words of thanks for the numerous people and organizations who prevented the award ceremony from being a complete failure. In no particular order:

  • Strand Brewing, via Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello, who made the best brewery in the South Bay our home for the third year in a row.
  • Yasuko Davidson, who baked the most prestigious awards of the entire night … the magical loaves of bread! Recipients James Cowan and Greg Leibert looked pretty stoked!
  • Patrick Barrett came to the awards with pounds and pounds of smoked brisket, making himself a true champion of the people.
  • Velo Club LaGrange donated $1,500.00 to defray expenses, and believe me, otherwise we would have been quite frayed.
  • Big Orange Cycling kicked in $1,000.00 to further defray the frayees, and it was awesome.
  • Long Beach Freddies gave $1,000.00 to this august event, meaning that with a bit of creative accounting and skulduggery and cooking-of-the-books, we would almost end up in the red, instead of being drowned in red ink.
  • South Bay Wheelmen gave $300.00 to buy flowers for the wives of the Academy members.
  • Pedal Industries, via Todd Brown, donated custom race-day bike gear bags to three lucky recipients. The bags were custom-designed with the Wanky logo for 2017.
  • Wend Wax, via Ryan Dahl, donated Wend chain wax kits to every recipient. It’s the best lube for your chain; I won’t use anything else.
  • Echelon Color, via Tony Manzella, donated the printing for our posters and for the memorial poster we presented to Trudi.
  • Metadzn, via Joe Yule, donated design services for our logo and for the poster design.
  • Law Office of Seth Davidson, via me, donated South Bay Cycling socks to every recipient, Steve Tilford memorial socks to every recipient, 20 signed copies of Phil Gaimon’s “Living the Cycling Dream,” and 12-oz. bags of Groundworks whole bean coffee to all winners.
  • JoJeBars, via John Abate, donated awesome energy bars–fresh baked, delicious, and healthy food to fuel your ride.
  • Methods II Winning, via Ken Vinson, donated killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • Mammoth Gran Fondo, via Caroline Casey, donated another set of killer pint glasses to every recipient.
  • BeachBody Performance, via Denis Faye, donated recovery drink mix and energy drink mix to every recipient. Denis also showed off his French insults on stage, which were the best!
  • Origin Clothing, via Marco Cubillos, donated clothing to every recipient and also provide models Bailey and Flint to work the room and be generally awesome.
  • VeloFix, via Matt Brousseau, donated tire repair kits to all recipients.
  • Special shout-out to Hint Water via Kevin Salk, for providing several hundred bottles of  Hint Water which made a huge difference as the night wore on and thirsty cyclists began thinking about the next day’s ride and getting hydrated. Talk about saving the day!
  • Extra-special shout-out to Jami Brauch for getting customized swag-bag stamps with the Wanky logo and hand-stamping all of the bags for that extra custom look.

Of course a ridiculous event like this could never have happened without lots of people flailing around and making stuff up at the last minute. Again, in no particular order …

  • Chris Gregory, who’s been with us since the beginning and is the inventor of the world-famous hashtag, #ewaw, Everybody Wants a Wanky! Chris designed and made the necklaces for past winners, designed and sent out all of the finalist invitations, picked up all of the Charmin for butt-hurt runners-up, survived Costco to get water, and of course served as podium presenter for the fifth year in a row.
  • Sherri Foxworthy, who’s also been on the podium from Year One, providing guidance laced with a bit of profanity, and lots of laughs on the stage. “Batteries.”
  • Stephanie Lin, podium presenter who never misses a chance to dress up and make us all look better than we otherwise possibly could.
  • Kristie Fox, who for the third year has done the hard work of ordering and designing and getting the cake, the cupcakes, the coffee vendor, organizing all of the e-invitations, completing the database, moving huge amounts of junk from pillar to post, serving as shipping terminus for things as varied as lamps, socks, and drink mix, and then of course dancing until the very end.
  • Tara Unversagt, who managed all of the winner signatures on the poster and made sure that the right thing was in the right hands at just the right moment.
  • Delia Park, who managed sign-in and traffic flow.
  • Lynn Jaeger, who showed up as a guest but ended up getting conscripted to the sign-in table.
  • Marc Spivey, Academy member who lined out the sound system and the killer playlist.
  • Derek Brauch, Academy member who built the backdrop under great pressure.
  • Dan Martin, Academy member who made the world-class trophies.

Additional thanks to Bjorn Snider for the great write up! I’m sure I’ve left lots of people off who donated time and money to make this event happen, but hopefully you’ll remind me so I can add them in! Already planning for 2018!

Awesome thank you to Jay Yoshizumi for the fantastic photos below!

END

Winter is coming!

October 14, 2017 § 13 Comments

It’s mid-October which means my birthday is near so please send cash. Better yet, subscribe to my blog which is the same thing and allows you to give me carbon that is 100% pure carbon all year long.

But it’s almost winter, too, and no challenge is greater in SoCal for hardcore avid recreational cyclists (HARCs) than throwing a leg over when it’s a brutal 52 degrees outside and forcing yourself to shiver through the first hour of your ride until it reaches a barely tolerable 65 degrees.

Whatever else you want to say about it, cycling makes you as tough as our President.

I don’t normally recommend products unless I have something truly awful to say about them, but since your comfort and winter profamateur training schedules are at stake, here are the “must have” items if you’re going to be crazy fit and raring to tear legs off in January’s first Cat 4 30-minute crit.

  • Most people dress in layers, building thin strips of heat-retaining fabric on top of one another and capping it with an outer garment. Fugg that. In SoCal you start with the heavy stuff and work inwards. When you have forced yourself to get out of bed and be on the road by 10:00 AM, when you are battling the fierce late morning sunny temps, when it might, later in the week, start to sprinkle, you come prepared. And preparation in SoCal means the AGV Sport Thunder 2-piece Rain Suit. Brang it, beeyatch.
  • It’s Tuesday. No, it’s Thursday. Oh, wait, IDGAF because whichever day it is, it’s time to hit the NPR and stomp some fuggin’ dicks and club some baby seals. Thaswha I’m talkinbou. And you won’t be stompin’ and clubbin’ in a pair of Wanky’s shiny white dancing slippers. No sir, when it’s threatening to sprinkle and there’s a massive wisp of a cloud over at 3 o’clock threatening to plunge the temps even deeper than the current 59, you need to have the right footwear. You need stompin’ boots that will keep your feet dry and your ankles sexy and that can double as comfy apres-beatdownwear for when you are hanging out at CotKO and booting tourists from Ohio off your perch on the bricks. I’m talkingbou the Chrome 415 Storm Pro Bike Shoe. You will be, too.
  • Okay, you’ve got your rubber hood cinched down. You’ve got your Storm Pro Bike Shoes laced tighter than a granny’s girdle. But you ain’t goin’ far in a SoCal winter lest you have your hands taken care of. Studies show that after less than ten minutes of blasting frigid air on your hands, you will lose circulation and nerve sensations, and it doesn’t blast much colder than here in SoCal, where you lose ten degrees to wind chill making the morning temps an inhuman 52 degrees. Inhuman, I say. The Arete Pro will take you from HARC to your first UCI contract. Gare-awn-teed.

Of course there’s more to surviving the sub-60 temps than buying a bunch of stuff, although frankly, like a cyclocross bike, once you’ve bought it why in the world would you use it, but if you’re going to tough out the crazy winters here, there are some SoCal-specific training plans you need to consider purchasing from your online coach. We’ll discuss proper mental preparation in another exciting post.

Until then, enjoy these last days of fall, as the leaves turn, the state burns to a crisp, and temperatures begin going from 72 to 71 or even 70.8. Brrrrrr.

END

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Car death

October 12, 2017 § 58 Comments

Once you go electric, you’ll never go back. Ever since I got a Chevy Volt, my car life changed. Most Americans drive 29.2 miles a day, and that fits with my wife and my driving habits. Since my Volt gets about 70 miles per charge, during the week we use zero gasoline. Once a month we have to fill up the 8.9-gallon tank, which takes a couple of minutes and a fistful of dollars. I have a small fist, too.

I used to drive by gas stations and marvel at the people standing there, or jockeying for position, or scowling because their card got rejected, or, my favorite, simply waiting in line. I don’t notice it so much any more, but for about a year, every time I passed a gas station I thought, “Wow, it sure does suck to be them.”

Now it’s a simple fact of life. Gas stations are, in the main, no longer part of my existence. People who choose to hang out at them are, like smokers, simply making bad choices.

Even more than a Prius, electric cars generate huge amounts of superiority complex. You’ll hear a car’s engine and think, “What an outdated clunker.” So what if it’s got a black horse-on-a-yellow-background or if its badge is a three-pointed star?

Or, “Wow, your car is so noisy. What a junker.” Or, “Don’t you know that your car stinks?” Basically, electric cars generate all the superiority of commuting by bicycle without all the sweat and health benefits, although not getting run over by a car is a pretty big health benefit.

Electric cars are going to massively increase bike ridership. This is because they will morph into self-driving cars, and once you take the idiot out of the driving equation and replace it with electronic avoidance systems, cagers will mostly stop hitting people on bicycles. This will also put bicycle injury lawyers out of business, another benefit on the immediate horizon.

Gas carophiles think that the full electrification of cars is a long way off, but they’re wrong. Why? Because China.

China has a big pollution problem, and unlike Trump, they’re trying to address it, not perhaps because they see intrinsic value in clean air, but because the regime sees intrinsic value in people not being furious about having to live in a carcinogenic soup. China, Inc. also recognizes that every place “USA! USA!” drags its feet on clean technology, it is giving China, Inc. a massive head start in the global sales war and the global mass production war.

According to Forbes, “…there are now more than 140 EV [electric vehicle] battery manufacturers in China, busily building capacity in order to claim a share of what will become a $240 billion global industry within the next 20 years. As in all things auto, EVs and the batteries that will power them promise to be big industries in China.” What Forbes doesn’t add is that if it’s a big industry in China, China is going to be a gargantuan player in that industry. Tesla’s big Nevada battery factory, with its 35-Gigawatt/hour production capacity, is a newt compared to China’s capacity, which today stands at 125 GWh, and in two decades will double to 250.

Oh, and another little detail: It’s a zero-sum game. Each new electric car replaces a gasoline one.

Of course my secret agenda isn’t simply to get rid of smoky cars, it’s to radically increase safety and bike ridership. Thank you, China, Inc.

END

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

Not for airline consumption

October 10, 2017 § 16 Comments

There I was, sitting on the sold-out 5:00 AM from LAX to Denver, wedged between the wildebeest and the sweating bald accountant with the hacking, sputum-laden cough of a Cat 1 smoker, when I innocently pulled out my copy of Phil Gaimon’s latest book, “Draft Animals.”

The plan of the entire cabin was the same: Sleep until Denver. My plan? Get through as much of Draft Animals as I could before reaching Houston, my final destination. The two plans would turn out to be irreconcilable, like Sunnis and Shias.

First, let me get a disclaimer out of the way. Phil Gaimon is a close personal vague acquaintance of mine, a guy I have known for many long months who is a year older than my oldest kid. We have shared many Twitter hearts and lols as only close socmed friendies can, so don’t think I’m going to be objective about this book which was free to me but won’t be to you.

Second, understand that I would heartily encourage you to read this book and would rate it ten out of five stars even if it were a steaming pile of shit, which it is because in the footnote on page 296 it says “complement” instead of “compliment.”

Jeez.

Anyway, I would still urge you to buy it, read it, and buy another copy as a Christmas gift because it is worth its weight in guffaws, snickers, chortles, snot-bombs, wheezes, hacks, gasps, screeches, snorts, and howls. Phil and his copy editors and their Word grammer chek and the whole fucking editorial apparatus of Penguin Books may stumble over “complement,” but if you don’t laugh yourself hoarse you are probably getting injected with formaldehyde and being prepped for the viewing.

You should buy this book because it is cheap and funny and I’m a fanman because I once got Phil to nod at me from across a dimly lit room, or maybe he was nodding at the model who I was standing next to, but the other reason I’m bound to praise it no matter what is because he talks about so many people I know or have stalked. Matt Wikstrom, Rahsaan Bahati, Hrach Gevrikian, “Joanna,” and others get honorably mentioned, and a really good review here ups the odds that in his next book, “How Seth Davidson Made Me Famous,” I will at least get a mention.

Speaking of butthurt, fuck Phil Gaimon for not mentioning Tony Manzella and that day on Mandeville when courtesy of Phil, Thorfinn Sasquatch’s tainted KOM on Mandeville Canyon was ripped away and returned to its rightful owner. I can’t believe he wrote about competing at the highest echelon of human endeavor and Paris-Roubaix and stuff and left that out.

But back to my story about spraying phlegm all over the cabin en route to Denver and the murderously enraged passengers …

“Draft Animals” goes far beyond Phil’s last book, “Ask A Pro,” which was hilarious and a polished gem in its own right, and far, far, far beyond his first book, “Pro Cycling on $10 a Day,” a book I never read but which Penguin described as a “cult classic,” which I think means “funny book about a weird niche that sold way more than the fifty copies we expected,” and anyway, who doesn’t like a good cult?

This post-cult effort of Phil’s goes super deep, like any good blowjob, into the inherent contradictions wrapped up in chasing your dreams. Not limited to sports, many try and almost all fail. Why bother? How do we justify the risk? What does success taste like and is it salty?

Phil plumbs the depths of an underpaid journeyman pro with the sophisticated literary devices of poop jokes, dick jokes, pee-pee jokes, and a strange mix of poignant stories and jagged edge realizations that are as moving as they are unexpected. And he remembers to toss in a couple of metaphors and similes to show his college English prof that the A- he got in creative writing was a miscarriage of justice.

Everyone knows that life is hard and failure is the wages of birth but “Draft Animals” itemizes the paystub in the poverty, injury, fear, pain, shock, privation, gnawing physical hunger, betrayal, and disappointment of “clawing his way to the middle” as a pro cyclist. It doesn’t all suck, as he abundantly makes clear. Despite the ten-year grind, he once won a big race. Another time he got to eat a whole bar of dark chocolate and only felt slightly guilty about it. Amazing highs.

Like any great writer, Phil tries to make sense out of absurdity without doing us the indignity of pretending that it all makes sense, that the circle can be squared, but without the nihilism, either. He reserves a polite decency for those he cares about, and he boils the objects of his ire in scathing derision without ever pretending that he’s better. Even in the awful and despicable character of Jonathan Vaughters, he finds, if not redemption, at least a death penalty commuted to a life sentence of douchebaggery.

Phil’s protesting lady of modesty retains its reminders of success: He may have sucked as a pro, but lots sucked worse and don’t even think you’re his equal. He may never have struck it rich like Thomas Dekker, who waltzed out of his career as a failed doper and into the budoir of a multimillionaire Beverly Hills heiress, but he has three fine books published by Penguin, he owns two homes, and he rode two years on the World Fucking Tour.

That may not be success measured against Warren Buffett’s finances, but it sure doesn’t smell like failure to me. And anyway, as the book makes muddily clear, what in the world does success even mean?

If you love good writing, you need to buy this book. Where else can you find Thoreau jokes next to dick jokes next to ruminations on good and evil interspersed with ridicule of Jens Voigt and the Schlecks? Nowhere but in “Draft Animals,” that’s where.

When we touched down in Denver my sides ached. The cabin was sullen. I couldn’t help giggling about Thomas Dekker’s giant foreskin, allegedly long enough to cover ten quarters. As I walked up the jetway puffing white balls of water vapor and thinking about the day’s schedule of airports and connecting flights while simultaneously smiling at this guy’s funny stories, interesting life, and fine writing, I knew that the long day ahead wasn’t going to be so grueling after all.

END

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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early.

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