Sock it to me

October 23, 2017 § 37 Comments

The first time I met Diego, he must have been around fourteen. His dad Joe had brought him along on the Man Tour, a ridiculous odyssey of geezers riding five days from San Jose to Los Angeles, flatting, falling, complaining, getting indigestion, getting road rash, getting saddle sores, getting achy, and having the best time this side of a fresh box of Depends that we were ever going to have.

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Diego’s signature move each day was to collapse on a bed, unable to move, where he was essentially force-fed enough nutrients to make it through the next day. We were old and our prostrates were leaky, but we were still able to cover more ground faster and recover quicker than a little kid.

A couple of years passed and youth put age in its place as Diego became one of the fastest riders in SoCal, eventually landing a spot on the Hagens-Berman team and planning for a career in Europe. Along the way he became an Eagle Scout, because, you know, why not? More important than any community service or academic achievements, he also set the KOM on the Switchbacks here in Palos Verdes. Way, way more important.

After a brief stint in Belgium where the distance from home, poverty wages, brutal competition, lousy weather, unfamiliar food, and daily risk of life and limb convinced him that SoCal wasn’t so bad after all, Diego came home, put the $12k bike racer dream out to pasture, and embarked on a new  venture–his clothing company, Base Cartel. The ethos behind the clothing, in addition to quality construction, is a design aesthetic that focuses on the sights, sounds, and cultures of Los Angeles. Not being a designer myself, and only vaguely an imported Angeleno, I’m not sure what that means, but his stuff certainly looks great.

I can’t otherwise comment on Diego’s bike clothing line other than that it looks sharp and the people who wear his kits say great things about it, people who are pretty critical when it comes to cycling apparel. I can tell you that bike riders and bike racers in the South Bay love to support a hard-working young man whose business is community based and devoted to all things cycling. It’s refreshing to see a small business flap its wings and get off the ground, supported by friends, family, and personal relationships.

What I can comment on are Base Cartel’s socks. It was well over a year ago that he gave me a pair of his Pro Mesh socks to wear. Of course, even if they had fit like a plastic sandwich bag and felt like sandpaper, I would have gone ahead and purchased a couple of pairs to help the kid out. But I wouldn’t have bought more than thirty pairs for my own personal use, and I certainly wouldn’t have bought over 500 pairs to give to friends and as prizes for the La Grange Cup if they weren’t amazing beyond any words.

Pro Mesh sock, how can I describe thee? Thou art soft and comfy beyond any reason or rhyme. Thou grippest my toes in a loving embrace and leave nary a chafe or raw spot, no matter how tightly I lace down my shiny white dancing shoes. The first few times I wore these socks I thought, “They’ll be falling apart after the fifth wash. No way that anything this delicate and soft and smooth can last.”

But in addition to a softness and form-fitting nature that makes you want to snuggle with them between the covers, whisper sweet nothings into their cuffs, and bring them pancakes in bed, the socks are crazy tough, no, they’re Wanky tough. I don’t know what the secret sauce is that they pour into the Base Cartel socks in China or wherever the socks are brewed, but it is at least one part frog’s wart for every cotton/polyester fiber. That’s how magical these things are.

Of course, knowing that you’re supporting locally grown talent adds to the comfort, too. As it should.

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Low Fidelity Podcast No. 5: Lance’s date with destiny

October 7, 2017 § 8 Comments

My fifth podcast …

Bleak House. Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. The lawsuit that never ends …

https://southbaycycling.podbean.com/e/low-fidelity-podcast-5-lance-armstrongs-date-with-destiny/

That’s what Landis v. Tailwind Sports is like, an epic mountain of paper, hearings, and court filings that is now a veritable Mt. Everest. Filed in 2010, the case has finally reached maturity. Scheduled for trial in November, Armstrong made a last-ditch plea to the court to kick the can down the road until spring of 2018, which will possibly give cycling’s perennial bad boy a chance to settle.

Make no mistake, delay is the friend of the defense, and Lance has spent an estimated $15 million defending this assault on his personal fortune, which remains considerable.

How will it all shake out?

Tune in!

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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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Guns ‘n bikes

October 5, 2017 § 38 Comments

There’s a reason that Stephen Paddock massacred 58 people in Las Vegas. There’s also a reason that people driving cars have killed 49 people so far this year in Southern California. The reasons are the same.

In the first instance, Americans have decided that mass shootings are a reasonable and acceptable cost of being able to easily and legally obtain weapons of virtually any kind. In the second, Californians have decided that individual killings of cyclists are a reasonable and acceptable cost for being able to drive as fast as possible to get where they want to go.

The shootings appear gruesome but they are not. Bullets do not make nearly the mess of a car smashing into a cyclist. But shootings are better for news media because they correspond to TV, movie, and video images that we have internalized as “dramatic.” Shootings are also better entertainment because the good guys always get the bad guy with even more shooting, even when the bad guy shoots himself.

Shootings are also more entertaining because victims get prayed over, flags get lowered, and the human story behind each victim gets told in horrifying detail. Memorials spring up and the event is commemorated each year by survivors.

Not so with people who kill bicycle riders. As the rider’s family finds, there is rarely any criminal proceeding of any kind. The killer almost always walks free and goes back to his or her job. “Sorry I’m late for work. I killed a bicycle rider and had to talk to the cops.”

Dead bicycle riders don’t get their stories told much beyond their club or their family or the local paper. President Trump certainly doesn’t visit their next of kin to offer condolences and paper towels.

Despite the difference in treatment, the cause is the same. Both are acceptable and reasonable costs of the activity that society has chosen to permit. When I read about people who have been killed using guns, I have no expectation that guns will somehow be limited in any meaningful way. Americans like guns. Americans like killing people. Americans like the entertainment of mass shootings. In order to have those things, you have to allow mass murder. Freedom isn’t free, and in this case, neither is slavery. In the same way that Americans believe health care is a privilege and guns are a right, Americans believe that cars are a right and bicycling on roads is a privilege.

You cannot discuss or negotiate this latter point with drivers any more than you can negotiate the unlimited right to weaponry with those who choose to misunderstand the 2nd Amendment. Deaths and horrific injuries are not mishaps, tragedies, accidents, or collateral damage, they are a necessary product of a system that everyone embraces in more-or-less democratically enacted laws.

If it is your right to drive as fast as possible to get to a destination, then your exposure to civil and criminal penalties for killing people should be minimal. If it is your right to own any weapon you choose, then mass killings will happen. If you think that there should be fewer mass murders and it disturbs you greatly, or you think that bicycle riders shouldn’t be killed with impunity, then perhaps this is the wrong society for you.

As Senator Thune wisely said, and I believe it applies to bikes as well as Las Vegas concert goers, the only real protection in America today is simple, if hard to achieve: “Get small.”

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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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Your tiny niche is now a global plumber’s crack

September 28, 2017 § 25 Comments

The day you knew your weirdness was now mainstream? That’s the day that Men’s Journal came out with an article praising Strava as “The Only Fitness App That Matters.”

Notice I said “your.” Not “my.”

I remember the first day I heard about Strava. I was in Bull’s living room. We were talking about something bikish and he said, “Hey you gotta check out this really cool program, it’s called Strava.”

Notice he said “program.” Not “app.” And certainly not “fitness app.”

Bull walked me through it on his laptop. “See?” he said. “It records everything and has these segments where you can look at parts of a ride and a leaderboard. See?”

“Stupidest fucking thing ever,” I said.

“It’s super cool,” he added, unfazed. “You’re gonna love it.”

I think that was in 2012. I did Strava for a couple of years until it became as unbearable as my power meter had been, a relentless reminder of quantified suckage, and what was worse, accelerating suckage. One day I took it behind the outhouse and shot it. Then, a year or so ago, shortly after my nutsack-breaking-incident, I resuscitated it.

But Men’s Journal has now anointed Strava as the only fitness app that matters; the killer app. Before you go proudly clapping yourself on the ass, please check their home page and note that Men’s Journal features:

  • A giant, inflatable Irish pub.
  • Kelly Slater paddling his surfboard.
  • Some tatted up dude tossing an exerball.
  • How to break in raw denim.
  • Killer indoor exercise machines.

In other words, the mag has zero cred unless you’re a drunk surfing tatty-poo fashionista who exercises in front of a giant mirror.

The article is long on words but short on substance, which is like Strava itself, robustly empty. Basically, Strava is a killer app, the writer says, because it has a slick interface, yo. And segments, yo. And everyone’s on it, yo. This last part is the thing that makes it most killer for the author and therefore the type of person likely to read Men’s Journal. It’s kind of like a restaurant review that says “The food is incredible because everybody likes it.” Ah, yes. I see.

What the article missed is that Strava succeeds because it’s the digital equivalent of  the giant mirror in front of the free weights where you can stare forever at the tiny bumps between your shoulder and elbow masquerading as muscle. Every Men’s Journal subscriber will understand.

Strava lets you ogle, stare, admire, note tiny differences from the last workout (“See! A new vein! I think.”), and just as importantly gaze at the lifter next to you, the one whose arm is twice the diameter of your torso. A few more reps and you’ll be exactly like him because you both belong to the same gym.

The digital narcissism of Strava has perfectly melded with the desire to watch yourself in motion. Nextgen versions will integrate with the four personal drones that follow you on the ride, and it will also connect with Zwift riders who virtually challenge you in their basement on the live video feed while you pedal the actual street. The live feed on Facebag will show realtime power/HR/elevation/speed and a 3-D topographical map running along the bottom of the screen. After the ride you’ll relax with some diet water, eat some raw almonds, compare your performance with people who are similar enough to beat but not similar enough to beat you, and review the whole thing in a video podcast that you upload through your glasses. The world isn’t all about you. The world is you.

And really, the author did get it right. Strava is the killer app. And the thing it killed? Fun.

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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 300 guests, so get there early.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

If you’re yelling, you’re losing

September 26, 2017 § 26 Comments

Team Lizard Collectors got into a big dust ’em up on the Facebag yesterday over bicycle yelling, or shoutypantsing, as I like to call it.

It seems that Dear Leader ruffled a few rectums with his repeated hollerings. Some felt that being a shoutypants was bad form. Some thought that being a shoutypants was necessary for the survival of the group. Some thought that being called a shoutypants was retribution enough and we should move on to whether or not it was more patriotic to stand for the National Slavery Anthem, kneel for the National Slavery Anthem, or tsk-tsk as Puerto Rico sank beneath the flood without so much as a ripple.

As background, the Team Lizard Collectors Sunday Bicycle Ride And Educational Clinic And Primal Scream Therapy Group Thingy leaves every Sunday from CotKU at 7:00-ish, pedals over to PCH, and then runs an orderly boot camp all the way out to Cross Creek.

The riders who sit on the front are called “Horsemen.” No, I didn’t make that up. If I had made it up I would have called them “chevaliers” or perhaps “chevaliers-errant.”

Anyway, there is much discipline and order in the ranks and different people have job descriptions which must be earned through fealty and acts of derring-do such as the aforementioned chevaliers-errant, as well as “gatekeepers,” “sweepers,” and of course Dear Leader. The Team Lizard Collectors SBRAECAPSTGT also has a set of rules that are set forth in the Book of Peloton 101, and it goes like this:

  1. On the first day Team Lizard Collectors, henceforth known as TLC, created wanker and it was good.
  2. On the second day wanker discovered PCH and rode in the gutter and it was bad.
  3. On the third day Dear Leader got Wanky’s lane control religion and began taking the lane, and it was fuggin’ awesome.
  4. On the fourth day TLC grew from 10 members to about 600 and it was unmanageable, to put it mildly.
  5. On the fifth day it was fuggin’ mayhem on PCH, and it was scary AF.
  6. On the sixth day Dear Leader decreed that everyone shall ride 2×2 at prescribed pace using prescribed cadence with prescribed wattage for prescribed duration according to such ranks and titles as Dear Leader may bequeath, and that each baby wanker shall learn the Holy Ways of the Mystic Peloton, and it was humbling.
  7. On the seventh day Dear Leader realized that his charges were all a bunch of fuggin’ dumbasses and began yelling at them continuously, and it was a harsh reality slap in the face for them.
  8. On the eighth day they all got butt hurt, and it was Charmin.
  9. On the ninth day Dear Leader DGAF, ‘cuz that was the way it was gonna be.
  10. On the tenth day everyone was issued a copy of Dear Leader’s Holy Weekly Training Plan with wattage, and it was a boon for cycling Internet coaches everywhere.
  11. On the eleventh day everyone started getting nervous for the upcoming fourteenth day, and it was loose bowels.
  12. On the twelfth day everyone studied the manual like crazy, and it was anxious.
  13. On the thirteenth day no one slept worth a shit.
  14. On the fourteenth day it all started over again, and that’s how it hath always been.

Anyway,  after several years some people became unhappy about the yelling, to which Dear Leader diplomatically said:

  1. I’m shoutypantsing so you can hear me.
  2. I’m shoutypantsing because you don’t do anything right, you stumblebum knuckleheads.
  3. I’d rather shoutypants and have you butthurt than not shoutypants and have you crash me out.
  4. If you don’t like it go the fuck somewhere else.

This response revealed a huge chasm in the wankoton. First, it showed that many riders wanted to have their wheel and suck it, too. They wanted to get pulled along PCH at 24 mph by the chevaliers, do no work, and then be fresh to ride up in the canyons. However, although they wanted a free ride, they didn’t want to be subject to Dear Leader’s shoutypantsing.

Second, it showed that even after years of careful instruction, many of the lizard collectors still needed to be shoutypantsed. Thoughtful thinkers might conclude that the pedagogy was flawed, the instructors were ill-trained, the students were hopeless, or some combination of the above.

Third, repeated choruses of love expressed on the ‘Bag for Dear Leader’s methods showed that a frightening percentage of the adult lizard collecting population thought that being yelled at was a normal part of a fun recreational activity. [Note to self: Begin developing Shoutypants Podcast #1, suggested retail price $2.98/mo.]

I didn’t know what to make of the whole thing. It had been obvious for years that if you wanted to do the TLC SBRAECAPSTGT, you were gonna have to follow the SBRAECAPSTGT rules. It was also obvious that if you didn’t like the rules, well, PCH seemed like a pretty big street and it seemed more or less public, so why not do your own ride?

However, the thing that seemed weird to me was that shoutypantsing would be a normal part of a regular ride. In my adult life, to the extent that I have one, no one shouts at me. When I was a kid, though, people shouted at me all the time. “Goddammit, Seth!” was a favorite around the homestead, followed by “Shut up!” and “What did you say?” and “You’re in for it now!” and a whole bunch of phrases that even now get my blood pressure up just writing them.

Combine that with the fact that pretty much everyone on the SBRAECAPSTGT is an adult as well as a person who’s somewhat accomplished in life, and it struck me as odd that on one of the two days off each week that you have to ride, you’d choose to do it in an environment where repeated yelling, for whatever the reason, was a guaranteed item on the menu. It probably explained why a whole bunch of the lizard collectors who have been around awhile and who might have something to offer didn’t ever bother to show up.

But as I learned a long time ago, cycling is everyone’s vector to somewhere else. If I can get to my happy place with a minimum of yelling, though, that’s the path I think I’ll take.

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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 300 guests, so get there early.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

To cast or not to cast?

September 25, 2017 § 45 Comments

One of the best things about writing a mostly-regular blog is that it keeps you in shape. One of the worst things about writing a mostly-regular blog is that it looms over you each day until it’s finished, like a giant safe suspended over your genitals, ready to be dropped should you fail to bang out the requisite half-baked thought or meaningless musing.

Of course as a friend pointed out, “You don’t have to do it,” but that’s mostly like telling a drunk “You don’t have to take another drink,” when it is very much in the nature of being a drunk that yes, in fact, you do, else you will no longer be one.

A while back a different friend called and suggested I do a podcast. I was dismissive. “Where the fuck am I going to get the time for that?” [Side note: It’s weird that friends don’t call me up very often.]

Anyway, my eldest son started a most excellent podcast dedicated to Magic the Gathering in Austria, and it warmed the cockles of my heart to see that my offspring had decided to focus on a microcosm within a niche within a microfissure that was, if anything, potentially more narrowly focused than delusional profamateur avid recreational cycling in the South Bay of Los Angeles.

“Have you ever thought of doing a podcast?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, but didn’t add the “Where the fuck am I going to get the time for that?”

I listened to his podcast and liked it and thought I would give it a try. “It can’t be any harder than blogging,” I thought, “and it can’t be any less interesting.”

Now I’ve completed my third Low Fidelity Podcast and can say that podcasting isn’t any harder than blogging, but it isn’t any easier, and it sure takes a lot more equipment. You also don’t get any do-overs unless you have that thing called “time,” and those things called “editing skills” and that thing called “patience.”

Several people politely said they like the first two Low Fidelity Podcasts, and several people politely said they didn’t, but since only a couple of them were actual $2.99 subscribers, I took it all with a rather large grain of IDGAF. Going forward, I’ll try to do a little of both paying great attention to those who pay and studiously ignoring the deadbeats. The variety of talk/write is easier on my brain, and switching from broadcasting to blogging and back again takes my eye off the dangling safe, if ever so slightly.

So here’s Low Fidelity Podcast #3: World champions? (Please don’t pay attention to my stomach gurgling noises, thank you.)

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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 300 guests, so get there early.

south_bay_cycling_awards_poster_2017_final

Low fidelity Podcast #1: NPR!

September 22, 2017 § 67 Comments

Click the bar above and listen to the podcast.

You can click the link in this sentence and see video of the September 19, 2017 NPR crash.

Podcast recorded from the comfort of my bed, spoken into my iPhone.

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