One foot in the grave

September 20, 2017 § 45 Comments

After finishing that very long bicycle ride back on September 9, all 243 miles of it, I have been very tired and very hungry. At least one of my co-conspirators has also felt like, how shall we say it, shit?

Falling asleep at weird times, eating compulsively, general mental and physical malaise … it’s obviously going to take my fragile old skeleton a while to get back to its normally fragile old state. This has caused me to reflect about the toll that this kind of effort takes in a big picture way, not in a “When will I feel good enough to hammer the Donut?” way.

There is a lot of sciencey evidence that says long-interval endurance sports aren’t particularly good for a whole particular bunch of people. Basically, your heart has a finite number of beats. How do you want to spend them? Because riding your bike hard for long distances will get you less mileage out of your heart, not more.

One friend has answered that clearly. She went from suited-up, middle-aged hammerhead to helmetless, floppy shorts-and-flipflops on a beach cruiser. She still gets in 100 miles or so a week, looks great, goes super slow, knows everyone on the beach path, and doesn’t get any closer to a Fartlek than I do to cigar bar.

If you think that lots of hard exercise is good for you, and you believe in science, you have a problem. A study recently came out that says triathletes’ hearts stop a lot more often than other people’s, to the tune of about 1.74 times per 100,000. If you’re over age 60 and for some incredible reason still trying to do three sports badly, your risk skyrockets to 18 per 100,000.

That is crazily out of whack with ordinary Americans, who are the world’s fattest, least active, least healthy people on the planet. In other words, if you’re a couch-sitting, Cheez-it scarfing, beer-swilling slug, there are about .5 heart attacks per 100,000 people. If you sell the couch, swear off the beer, burn the Cheez-its, cancel your 24/7 NFL subscription and start your fake middle-aged-wanker bikeracerunswimming career, your chance of having a heart attack skyrockets to 1.74 per 100,000. If you are in the leaky prostate division, it’s 36 times higher.

[*Note to people who don’t believe in global warming: Since all of the above is based on science and numbers, the same things that drive your Strava account and Garmin, you can ignore it. Please pedal harder for longer.]

It’s easy to understand why all this activity is bad for you. Your heart is a muscle and it wears out. It’s also easy to understand why this would be the same for other activities that require your heart to be more or less pinned for hours at a time, like my ride to Santa Barbara. The effect of extended exertion on the heart has been well documented in an article by Leonard Zinn, published a couple of years ago in VeloSnooze.

We all have sat up after a particularly nasty effort and laughed, nervously, while we said to ourselves or out loud, “This can’t be good for you.”

Well, it’s not.

To which I say, so what? Or better yet, to which I say, listen to this song and get back to me.



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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 300 guests, so get there early.


Don’t get hit and then what?

September 15, 2017 § 24 Comments

There are a lot of dark stories in the world today about the cager v. biker wars. And they are wars. The bikers get killed and maimed and the cagers get a speeding ticket. The bikers put in an imaginary magic protection road stripe and the cagers rip it out. The bikers say “You’re killing us!” and the cagers say “Exactly!” Cf. Jennifer King and the troll triumvirate of Garrett Uno, Cynthia “the Beast” Uno, Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr., and the unbearable heaviness of cager hate and stunted lives of those who wage it.

Maybe I will get around to expanding on this article by Peter Flax, but I doubt it. How do you expand on the universe? Read it and bleed.

However, on September 21 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM at Performance Bicycle in Long Beach, I will be expanding on my own tiny little universe of how not to get killed while riding your bike. If you’re in the neighborhood I hope you can make it.


Performance Bicycle, Long Beach

Cycling Savvy, led by Big Orange’s own Gary Cziko, has been instrumental in the last two years teaching people the very best in Bee Gees riding techniques, i.e. “Stayin’ Alive.” Gary’s techniques work. There are two parts of the Cycling Savvy curriculum, however, that are either ignored or lightly addressed, kind of like not enough vinaigrette on a mountain of salad, and I’m going to talk about them at the event in Long Beach.

  • What to do if you’re a victim or witness to a bike-car collision.
  • How to protect yourself and your family if you or they get hit while cycling.
  • How not to get hit through insane use of over-the-top lighting, day and night.

Performance is supporting the seminar with some killer deals on, guess what, lighting. There will also be covfefe to keep you awake. However, I can promise that you won’t need it, or you’ll get your money back at this free event.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


The skinny

September 5, 2017 § 25 Comments

Back in April I was reading Steve Tilford’s blog and came across one of his musings on air conditioning/heating and whether or not it caused weight gain. He thought that being hot and sweating burned more calories than sitting under the AC.

It makes sense. So I thought about it as a general proposition. Maybe the solution to trying to stay warm when it’s cold out, or trying to stay cool when it’s hot out, starts with foregoing as much clothing as possible and letting your body do the regulating.

I chucked my hoodies and knit caps and started going around in a t-shirt full time. Of course in Southern California that’s no great feat, since the weather here is pretty much perfect year-round. But if it’s so perfect, why do so many people wear so much warm clothing in the winter? And why do they wilt any time it gets over 90 degrees?

The obvious answer is that no matter how balmy the weather, when you depend on clothing and climate control to make things perfect, anything less than perfect sends you scurrying for a jacket or howling for an air conditioner.

My experiment is about four months in, and I can assure you that it hasn’t caused any weight loss. But what I have noticed, especially during my recent jaunt to Las Vegas, is that my body quickly, almost instantaneously, adjusts to the ambient air temperature. I could go from the frigid casino to the outdoor inferno and acclimate right away. I could re-enter the air-conditioned environs and within a minute or two be sufficiently warm to not even think about putting on a jacket.

The only time during my three days in Vegas that I had to wear a dress shirt and sport coat, I was unbearably hot. I’m not claiming that I could easily walk around in the extreme Vegas heat, either. One day I spent about thirty minutes on the Strip mid-day, and I took a pounding. No natural acclimation in the world will accommodate 110 degrees.

But upon returning to the South Bay in the midst of a horrible heat wave that saw (gasp!) temperatures in the high 90’s, I had no problems at all. It was hot but far from unbearable, or even miserable.

We’ll see how this fares when we hit the frigid winter temps that will certainly dive down into the low 60’s or even high 50’s; brutal stuff. In any event, I’ll save on winter clothes.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


Just a fun ride

August 28, 2017 § 30 Comments

Have you ever wanted to do a gravel grinder? Have you ever wanted to know what one is? I did my first one on Saturday and it was different from what I expected. This ride was called the Chatsworth Chain Crusher and it was sponsored by Velofix, the mobile bicycle fixer-uppers. I should have known that anything with the word “crusher” in the title was going to be difficult, but it wasn’t difficult, it was brutal.

“How much dirt is there on this thing?” I asked before we started, sipping on a exceptional cup of covfefe brewed up by Matt Michaels of Gear Grinderz.

“About thirty percent,” said a fellow, thus teaching me a very important lesson about gravel grinders, which is that if you haven’t read, memorized, and Strava-checked the route you are going to be fucked, because when he said “thirty percent” he meant “eighty percent.”

“Everyone here looks pretty hard core for a fun ride,” I commented to another gentleman.

“Nah, it’s just a fun ride,” he said.

“Who is that fellow in the Giant kit riding the Giant bike who appears to be sponsored by Giant?”

“Him? That’s Ryan Steers.”

“The pro?”


“Ah, yes. Just a fun ride. Of course.”

The “just a fun ride” split up immediately as the just fun riders pedaled at a very just fun pace that smashed everyone into just fun pulverized bits. After some endless fun climbing we hit some nasty just fun dirt and then I was by myself because even though I am terrible in dirt I can go uphill pretty good and since it was just a fun ride why not murder myself?

On the descent all of the just fun riders I’d dropped came whipping by and I learned something else about off-road riding: Climbing has two parts, an uphill and a downhill, and unlike road riding, they are equally hard. It doesn’t matter how fast you go up if you are a granny with a hip replacement going down.

I rode along on some just fun single track for a long time, hoping that one day I would find the gravel grinder on wide fire roads that was just a fun ride, but instead all I found were technical, twisty, nasty roads whose every inch spelled potential calamity. After a while I encountered my friends Bjorn, Lauren, and Mathieu, who were walking. Bjorn’s right arm was hanging lifelessly at his side while Lauren and Mathieu pushed his bike. We were a thousand miles from anywhere.


“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I took a header and did something to my shoulder,” said Bjorn.

Another cyclist rode up. “Hey Seth, can you help me pop his arm back into the joint? I’ve seen people do it on TV.”

“Sure,” I said. “What could possibly go wrong? A couple of men pulling hard on a dislocated arm out in a dirt field. You know how to do this? You’ve seen it on TV, right?”

Bjorn shook his head. “I’ll wait for a doctor.”

Since he was in good hands I continued on. My rear disc brake was rubbing, which was annoying until I popped out of the endlessly fun dirt section to find a Velofix van waiting with food and a mechanic.

Jim popped my bike on the stand and fixed the brake while his wife Hilda proffered the world’s finest p.b. and banana sammich quarters, which I scarfed. I got back on my bike and got lost, returned to the van, but everyone had taken off. Jim pointed me onto the trail, which went up a midget Mt. Everest. I could see the riders far away clinging to its side in a cloud of dust like fleas on a white dog’s belly.

I rode just for fun until my guts spilled out my mouth, caught the other fun riders who were having so much fun they were pinned and gasping, passed them, got passed on the short downhill, then passed them all again, just for fun of course. After a long time I was having so much fun that there were only two riders still with me. They dropped me before the next-to-last sag stop. Then I had some more p.b. and rode on by myself, luckily missing the turn to the Millenium trail, which everyone said was the worst and hardest trail of the day.

I got lost some more and ended up doing an entire just fun section of dirt again before finally reaching the finish. I drank a lot of water and ate some delicious, fiery hot tacos that got my bowels quaking in a flash. As people arrived in bits and dribs and tatters and drabs, they all looked as horrible as I felt, but after a few minutes sipping fresh beer from the tap of Hand Brewed Beer, they started to come around.

Now that I’ve done a gravel grinder just for fun, below is a handy guide to this new and exciting type of fun bike ride.

Q: What is a gravel grinder?
A: It is endless pain smothered in dirt and perhaps blood.

Q: Do you need a special bike for a gravel grinder?
A: Yes. And a special brain (to disregard terror such as falling off cliff sides).

Q: When they say it is “just a fun ride” what does that mean?
A: It will be a just fun before the start and after the finish, but in between it will be a full-on race.

Q: I heard that gravel grinders are done on fire roads, which are unpaved, wide, not technical, and fun.
A: Yes, except the fire roads are disguised as single track that plunges down impossible lines with infinite chances to have a bicycle falling off incident.

Q: I heard that you don’t need a mountain bike or MTB skills to do a gravel grinder. Is this true?
A: No.

Q: The idea of a chill bike ride with coffee, sag, tacos, and beer sounds great. Isn’t that what gravel grinders are all about?
A: Yes. But in between the coffee and the beer is about five hours of hell.

Q: How does a gravel grinder compare to a ‘cross race?
A: Harder. Longer. More technical. Instead of crashing and limping 200 yards to your team tent you will crash and hike five miles cross country with a broken femur.

Q: Will gravel grinding help my bike handling skills?
A: Yes, if you ride in war zones.

Q: Would you ever do another one?
A. Never again until September.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


Train ’em up

August 26, 2017 § 11 Comments

Last Sunday we were fortunate to have Brian McCulloch and Joy Duerksen-McCulloch come to the South Bay and put on a riding clinic. Brian just finished the Tour of Utah and earlier in the year raced the Tour of Taiwan. Joy is a long-time pro racer on the SoCal and national circuit. They run Big Wheel Coaching in Redlands, and are absolute professionals in the realm of coaching and teaching.

The clinic was in two phases. First we practiced various techniques for riding in a paceline. Later we simulated bike-to-bike contact on a grass surface at a local park. The clinics were geared to beginning-intermediate level road riders, but there was excellent instruction and practice that proved useful no matter what your riding level. The bumping and rear-wheel contact exercises created numerous breakthroughs for almost every participant.

Does your club offer training clinics? I belong to Big Orange Cycling, and in addition to the Cycling Savvy classes that we offer free of charge to members throughout the year, we also offer skills clinics that focus on various aspects of riding. We draw on the expertise of our members and we also hire private coaching for these clinics. The next clinic will feature Methods to Winning on September 30, a racing clinic put on by Rahsaan Bahati and Charon Smith.

If your club doesn’t offer ongoing education and skills training, please consider doing so. It helps new members get comfortable with the rules of road riding, improves intra-club communication, attracts new members when the clinics are open to the public as ours are, and it is perfectly in line with the mandates of most 501(c)3 organizations. Most crucially, it educates riders about how to become safer riders.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


Your covfefe

August 25, 2017 § 17 Comments

Got this email:

Hey Wanky,

Hope all is well. Life’s dandy here with two little kids. Things are very quiet and organized, no messes, and I have everything totally under control. Really.

However, I’m basically in dire need of covfefe on a regular basis. By “regular basis” I mean every thirty minutes or so. Who knew that herding two small children was like doing a Tour stage twice a day? I’m routinely dissatisfied with the usual whole roasted beans that are then ground up at home. They taste like unko and my coffee expenses now exceed my rent.

I’m curious about where you get your raw beans and what your technique for roasting them in a pan is. I’d be grateful for your fake news report. If the covfefe has enough kick, I might even be able to ride my bike once a month. Not that everything isn’t totally under control, of course.

Have a good evening,
Burnsy McBurnston

To which I replied:

Hi, Burnsy

Covfefe advice is highly personal, I’ve found, not unlike bedroom positions. And once you start roasting your own covfefe you kind of have to find your own way. As with cycling, the first best step is to ignore everyone and fail on your own. Only then can you find the failure method that is right for you. However, you’ve reached out, and like a lot of my cyclist friends, have reached out to the wrong person.

Nonetheless, here is my method:

  1. Buy from Usually I buy in 50-lb. quantities. This lasts forever x 1,000, even at your obvious desperation rate of consumption.
  2. I don’t care about quality of the green beans, only price. My palate and roasting technique are not sophisticated enough to discern the difference, but my wallet is.
  3. Green beans last for 20 years. So there are no spoilage issues if you “overbuy.” As if there were such a thing regarding covfefe.
  4. Use a large cast-iron frying pan. Costs $24 at Wal-Mart. This is a store that you, as a cyclist, have likely never heard of.
  5. Get a big wooden spoon.
  6. Set the fire on 5-6 if electric, low-medium if gas.
  7.  Put 1 cup of beans in the big-ass dry skillet. Resist the temptation to put in more than a cup, because in a frying pan they will get on top of each other and roast even less consistently than they are already going to. Using a frying pan to make covfefe is like using a stick to make a fire when in your left pants pocket you have a giant box of Strike Wherever matches.
  8. Stir continually for 20 minutes until the covfefe is the color you want. This is highly personal/trial-and-error. No one can help you here, even a yogi or a pretty woman in LuLu Lemons. If you err on the side of too light the covfefe will be bitter and green tasting with overtones of battery acid. I kind of like this but normal people retch. If you err on the side of too dark, the covfefe will be burned at the stake and taste like Joan of Arc.

There are numerous YouTube videos showing how to fry your own beans in a pan. Most home roasters start with a pan and quickly graduate to popcorn poppers or actual countertop roasters. The reason for this is that pan roasting sucks. I’ve been pan roasting for a couple of years and have no intention of upgrading. Why? Because down that path likes madness, expertise, and no cost savings.

Pan covfefe is a Schwinn Varsity. Once you start dropping people on the group ride with flat pedals and downtube shifters, you will be bike-shamed until you upgrade, unless you have the fortitude of Shirtless Keith. I can only urge you to be a Shirtless Keith roaster. When you seek to achieve truly great covfefe home roasting, it is worse than home brewing. It will consume you.

The downside to pan beans is uneven roasting. Some beans will be perfect, some black, some not quite brown enough. Cognoscenti will scoff. “Where is your 100% carbon roaster made of carbon that is all carbon?” they will sneer.

However, your unko covfefe will taste better than any coffee you have ever bought. Why is an unko roast at home better than a super expensive, perfectly evenly roasted batch bought at a specialty coffee roaster for $18.00 per 12-oz. thievery bag?

Easy: Because your beans are freshly roasted and theirs have been on the shelf for a week or more. 90% of covfefe ‘staste depends on its freshness after being roasted. So in reality, bought covfefe , even when it has a maddeningly addictive name like “Intelligentsia” or “Handlebar” only has 10% of the overall taste that can be manipulated by type of bean, skill of roast, etc. The covfefe game is won and lost first in freshness. It’s like getting a 90-mile head start in a 100-mile road race. No matter how much excellent doping your competition does, you will win on your Schwinn Varsity.

After cooking, your beans are ready to grind and drink immediately, although experts say you should wait 2-3 days to let the flavor maximize. I say that you’re probably roasting beans because you ran out the night before and were too lazy to fry up a new batch, and if you have to wait another minute someone will be killed, so drink it immediately.

Also, I’m too dull to tell the difference. Still, it cracks me up when people wax on about their favorite coffee and how it’s so much better than X brand. Once it’s roasted and bagged, the clock is ticking, and the bomb will go off long before you ever make your first cup, much less before you get to the bottom of the bag.

After the beans are roasted, let them cool. You’ll notice in the roasting process that a thin husk is cooked off the beans and remains as detritus. Don’t drink the husk.

Before you grind the beans, using two fine colanders, spoon out the amount of beans you want to grind. I grind four large tablespoons for about 2 cups of coffee. This makes a strong and bold taste, and I make it in a French press for more Euro-fakery and cheapness. Then, pour the beans into the other colander. You’ll see that this pour-back-and-forth action separates out the husks. At the very end you can pick the few husks that remain with your fingers. It sounds like a pain, but it isn’t; takes a minute at the most. Yasuko grinds up the husks and I can never tell the difference. I’m not OCD but the husks are shit. Why drink unko if you don’t have to?

The best way to test your covfefe is to serve it to people who come over to your house or shabby apartment. They will say it’s fantastic, the best they’ve ever had, wow, etc., and be embarrassed that they have a $10,000 Italian espresso machine whose coffee is worse than yours. Only then can you tell them it’s home roasted in a pan and watch their eyes bug out.

I will say that roasting your own covfefe in a pan is kind of magical. It takes time and forces you to take a time out from life. We need time outs. Not to the extent that we’re spinning our own yarn and weaving fabric on a hand loom, perhaps, but we need some connection between what we consume and how it’s prepared.

Second, it’s incredibly cheap. No explanation required on that one, right?

Third, it’s lights-out. If you can resist the temptation to become an expert and can be satisfied with the daily great grind you’re roasting and drinking, pan covfefe is an amazing addition to your life. The only down side is that the roasting process becomes very smoky at the end. You’ll need your kitchen vent and fan going full blast (or open tent flap if you live under one of LA’s scenic freeways), and a window or two open if you have it. The initial cooking smell is marvelous but it becomes less so the longer you roast. The smell quickly goes away, but there’s a reason that commercial roasters only roast after midnight and are located in sparsely inhabited or poor areas of town. Think refineries …

Now, go forth and roast.



For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog 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.


Wanky Race Predictor!

March 31, 2017 § 20 Comments


Wanky Race Predictor for CBR Crit #4

Last 20 laps of the MP12 race will be fast.

Last 20 laps of the WP123 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Cat 3 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Cat 4 race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Old Fart 35+ race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Oldest Fart 45+ race will be fast.

Last 15 laps of the Sandbagger 35+ 3/4 race will be fast.




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