February 16, 2018 § 4 Comments
It takes a lot to shock me when it comes to bicycling, but yesterday, pedaling home from a cup of coffee near the Center of the Known Universe, I got a shock. A big ‘un.
I was on Esplanade in Redondo Beach, about to start the ascent into Palos Verdes, when I saw a familiar bare back a couple of hundred yards ahead. Blonde hair, check. Jeans shorts, check. Work boots, check. Shirtlessness, check.
It could only be Shirtless Keith. And it was … I thought.
As I approached, though, the picture didn’t add up. Sure, that was Keith on a bike. But it wasn’t the bike, not by a long shot. Instead of his legendary Raleigh hybrid, 55-tooth single chain ring with a Pop-Tart strapped to the rear rack, Keith was riding a NEW BIKE.
And not just any new bike. This was a spit-polished, all chrome GT BMX single speed. I did a double take, then a triple, then a quadruple. “Hey, Keith,” I said. “What’s up with the new bike?”
“Aw,” he said, “my old one broke. Cracked the frame just before Christmas, and then the crank sheared off. She was just done.”
“How many miles did you have on that thing?”
“I dunno, but I logged 19,000 last year.”
“All in PV?”
“That’s about 100 feet elevation per mile, so you’re at nearly 2 million feet.”
“I reckon so.”
“How many years you been riding that Raleigh?”
“Well, a real nice old lady gave it to me ten years ago, and it had a big wicker basket on the front, and I rode it a bunch, you know everything broke on that bike, but I could always fix it.”
“20,000 miles and 2 million feet of climbing a year for ten years works out to about 200,00 miles and 20 million feet. And I’ve seen you ride. You don’t go easy. I’m not sure that bike was designed to handle that kind of riding.”
“It was time for a change with that cracked frame.”
“How do you like the new ride?”
“I like it. It’s got a beefy rear hub, real solid. Bike weighs 34 pounds, which is nice; the Raleigh was about 36, so I’m actually saving some weight.”
“What about the single speed?”
“It’s okay. I don’t mind it.”
“How’d you get into riding, anyway?”
“Like I said, lady gave me that Raleigh and I just started riding it, couple laps around the hill, one lap is about 22 miles, and then I lost a bunch of weight and was having cardio problems and some other issues but they all cleared up.”
“How much did you weigh when you started?”
“How much are you now?”
“About 170. That’s a good weight. Anything less and I start eating too much.”
By now we were going up Silver Spur, a really steep climb followed by Basswood-Shorewood, which are even steeper. Keith cruised up the hills, chatting and not even breaking a sweat.
“People are gonna be surprised seeing you on that new bike.”
“Yeah,” he said. “But it was time.”
We parted company, me to go home and rest, Keith to knock out the remainder of his 65-mile ride. I still couldn’t get over the sight of Shirtless Keith on anything other than the Raleigh + Pop-Tart. There was hardly a rider on the Hill who hadn’t been dropped by Keith and his legendary rig. The new bicycle sparkled as he rode away with a wave.
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March 18, 2017 § 45 Comments
If you ever meet someone who claims to know what’s up in the South Bay, you can ask this simple question. “Do you know Shirtless Keith?”
The answer will tell you all you need to know.
Shirtless Keith isn’t legendary or even mythical. He’s way beyond that. He is the Holy Grail in bicycling.
Shirtless Keith rides (you’ll never guess) without a shirt. And instead of girlish Italian cycling shoes with fancy clip-in pedals, he rides with boots. Big, heavy boots. Boots that you can use for pedaling a bike or for walking 10 miles one-way to the brewery. Yep, he did that. And after having a few beers, he walked home.
When it comes to nutrition, Shirtless Keith don’t need no fancy-shmancy biker Barbie food. “Cyclists” carefully consume properly balanced foodstuffs made by elves who grew each organic ingredient on a small plot of earth farmed by earthworms and hippies from the 60’s. When Keith starts running low on fuel, you know what he eats?
Yep. You heard me right. And when he gets a hankering for a Pop-Tart he doesn’t reach into his jersey pocket because, shirtless, he don’t wear no stinkin’ jersey. Instead he pulls over, unstraps the bungee cord on his rack that holds down the Pop-Tarts, and eats it on the spot. And Shirtless Keith don’t need no water bottle. When he gets thirsty he rides over to a water fountain and drinks.
You think I’m joking? That’s okay, you’re just proving that you don’t know squat about the South Bay.
Keith rides an old cromoly Raleigh with knobby tires and a steering tube that’s longer than a fishing pole. Keith don’t need no carbon and no 25mm tires. All Keith needs is a 55-tooth chain ring, and that’s all he’s got. If the 55 is too big that just means he has to pedal harder.
And Keith don’t need no Internet coach. He rides 48 miles a day, seven days a week. But his favorite day is Saturday because that’s when the Donut Ride goes off. Keith rides around until the group comes barreling up to the Domes and he hops in with the leaders, goes to the front, drops a couple of people (usually me), then swings off and finishes the climb by himself.
Keith’s signature move is to troll for wankers. It never takes long to hook some mid-40s dude on a $15,000 rig. The dude takes one look at Keith’s boots, 40-lb. bike and shirtless back, rolls his eyes, puts the hammer down, and blows by. Dude looks back and sees that yeah, he passed Shirtless Keith, but now Shirtless Keith is passing him. Fast. Dude hops onto Keith’s wheel and pretty soon he’s stuffed into the pain burrito as Keith gets the 55 rolling.
Then Keith stands up and starts pounding like the world’s biggest mashed potato maker, and pretty soon the dude is gazing down at his $5,000 power meter which is telling him that he left his FTP back in Portuguese Bend and it’s exactly fifteen seconds to detonation time.
Shirtless Keith rides away.
If you talk to him he is humble and polite and the friendliest guy on the Hill. One time he hopped in with the Aussie women’s national team and rode with them around the peninsula. Like the classy guy he is, he asked if he could join before hopping in.
The funny people are the ones who tell him to “get a road bike” because he’ll “be a beast.” These are always people he’s shelled, by the way, like a rotten pecan.
Keith don’t wanna be no roadie. Keith don’t want no road bike and no fancy outfit. Keith wants to ride his bike, troll for wankers, hop in on the Donut every now and again, and enjoy cycling his way, on his terms, not yours. One Shirtless Keith is better than all the Velominati put together.
Like I said, the Holy Grail.
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