September 23, 2015 § 22 Comments
The big off-season news this year is that SPY Optic has lost its charismatic and cycling-centric CEO, Michael Marckx. It’s big news mostly because of the void that Michael’s departure will create in the local bike racing scene.
The most obvious result has been the merger between the former SPY Elite Cycling Team and Monster Media a/k/a Team Sponster. Whichever way you look at it, one less team is bad news. The obvious reason it’s bad news is that fewer teams means more strength among the teams that have stable squads and sponsorship. If you thought it was hard beating Surf City, try lining up against stacked Surf and stacked Monster.
But other things are swirling about, too. Michael’s interim replacement has indicated that SPY Optic won’t be the cycling-friendly company it has been for the last four and a half years. Sure, we’ll whine about the tourniquet being applied to all the cool stuff Michael so generously handed out, but there’s more to it than that.
SPY infused an amazing amount of enthusiasm and energy into SoCal cycling with Michael at the helm. Like any CEO he had his detractors, but I’ve never heard anyone dole out anything other than praise for his financial, time, and emotional commitments to bicycling. And those commitments were incredibly substantial, as Michael sponsored juniors, women, aspiring Cat 1’s, Cat 2’s living with their girlfriends, and legions of vain old men with too much money and too little sense.
At its zenith, SPY boasted a squad of 80 riders, a handful of whom were truly national caliber competitors, several handfuls of whom were state level competitors, and a whole bunch of posers and fakers like me who rarely raced but who flew the team colors with pride and who were visible and vocal proponents of competitive cycling. In addition to SPY’s own team/club, few people are aware of the degree to which Michael poured resources into other clubs, teams, and events, yet his encouragement gave a handful of truly talented racers the opportunity they needed to showcase their talent, get results, and turn pro.
From Udo Cross in honor of his good friend Udo Heinz, to sponsoring USAC at the national level, Michael willingly lent his logo to clubs and teams, offered great deals on world class eyewear that was innovative, stylish, and functional in the extreme, and did everything in his power to promote local events, including road, track, cyclocross, and MTB. If you were on two non-motorized wheels and were dedicated to it, Michael lent a sympathetic ear that was often backed with product, time, staff, and resources.
This grass roots approach was epitomized in his development of the Belgian Waffle Ride. “Most unique” or not, this 130-mile monumental beatdown over paved and unpaved roads became the high point for many people’s entire seasons, and the boneyard of dreams for many, many others. A celebration, a festival, a good old fashioned hard-ass bicycle ride that tipped its hat to the past while casting a hungry eye on the future of cycling marked everything that MIchael did at SPY. Thankfully, the BWR will survive his departure as a separately managed event under his new company, Creative Disruption, but it’s a loss to not have the full SPY corporate backing behind the event. Knowing Michael, the 2016 edition, which is already calendared for April 26, will be the best one yet.
As much as anything, local racing has been further hit by the departure of key staff at SPY who were hard core devotees of cycling. We may not have realized what a boon it was to have so many advocates within a company, advocates who showed up at races, who helped make events happen, and who worked social media to keep the world apprised of what was happening in SoCal cycling, but their absence is already felt. People like Phil Tinstman, Victor Sheldon, and John de Guzman, to name only three, were powerhouses on the bike and powerhouses in their corporate roles as well.
I can’t thank Michael enough for the support he gave me personally, and for the support he gave to pretty much anyone who asked for it. His impact on local cycling was huge and I, for one, am going to miss having him at the helm over at SPY. I have no doubt that his new business will boldly go where none has gone before, but in the meantime my hat’s off for the superlative work and the amazing contributions he made, contributions that have benefited every bike racer in Southern California, and thousands of others who’ve never pinned on a number.
I’m riding for a new team in 2016, but will proudly wear my SPY underwear costume until it reaches that Brad House level of threadbare when the rider behind is quite literally staring into the black hole of the abyss.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and hopefully take a minute to give MMX the shout-out he deserves, and maybe the shout-at, too. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
August 21, 2015 § 16 Comments
Carlsbad-based SPY Optic announced today that it had hired agitator and loose cannon Seth Davidson after an exhaustive executive search to replace outgoing CEO Michael Marckx. Marckx, who led the company from the brink of bankruptcy onto solid financial footing, announced last Friday after everyone had gone to bed that he was leaving the firm.
Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Davidson to ask about his plans as SPY’s new helmsman.
CitSB: How did you get the job?
SD: It was pretty easy. They were looking for someone who wasn’t constantly falling off his bike. I haven’t fallen off since the BWR back in April. And I think they were looking for a new approach.
CitSB: And what is that?
SD: After almost five years of creative disruption, Michael had put the firm in the black, rolled out an industry-leading portfolio of functional and stylish glasses across a spectrum of sports and lifestyles, and reinvigorated the brand. Plus, he fell off his bike a lot, which made for huge cross-posting marketing upside on Facebag.
CitSB: Those will be some big shoes to fill.
SD: Not to mention big hospital beds. But I’m tearing a page out of Michael’s creative disruption handbook and am going to simply focus on disruption. Blow some fucking shit up.
CitSB: Excuse me?
SD: I’m not particularly creative but I am extremely disruptive. Disaster pretty much follows me wherever I go. I can bring that disruption to SPY. I can see implementing some massive disruption there. Fire everyone, sell the building. Or just fucking burn it down, collect the insurance, and buy myself a new Prius.
CitSB: But how does that help the company?
SD: Who gives a shit? Once I ink the contract, which you can bet will have a sweet severance package, I’ll be focusing on Job #1.
CitSB: What’s that?
SD: Not falling of my fuggin’ bike. And Job #2, which is swag.
SD: Is there an echo on the Internet? Yes, swag. When the masters bicycle racing team heard that Michael was leaving we were happy for his new endeavor blah blah blah but we were mostly freaked out about losing our sweet swag deal with the company. Bikes, sunglasses, kits, wheels, helmets in case we fall off our bikes like Michael … that shit’s expensive and without a sugar daddy driving the train it was starting to look like Retailmageddon, a cyclist’s worst nightmare.
CitSB: This may be the most cynical approach to running a company I’ve ever heard.
SD: One day I’ll tell you a little story about a bank named Countrywide.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn cutting edge business management strategies. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
August 13, 2015 § 13 Comments
All in a day’s riding …
- One stop swap shop. I was coming back from REI in Manhattan Beach, where I’d purchased a pair of manties with a little pad to put under my regular shorts to reduce the incidence of cheesegrater ass. Dude on a fixie pulls up to me at Rosecrans and Inglewood. “Where are you riding from?” he asked friendlily. “Where did you get my arm warmers from?” I retorted. Confused pause. “Are they yours?” “Used to be.” “I got them at a bike swap.” We had a good laugh.
- Crustacean ride. Before going to MB I rode to San Pedro with two very old South Bay hermits, Crusty and Crusty Jr. Coffee was had at the Starbucks where Perez’s bike was stolen and he commandeered a vehicle from an old lady in order to (unsuccessfully) give chase. Every now and again you should take an old bikie crusty out for a ride. They need the sunshine and someone fresh to lie to.
- Celebrity spotting and re-spotting. In MB I had to stop at the Center of the Known Universe for a crucial subcommittee meeting of the Wanky Awards support staff. Big planning secrets were discussed in detail. At that moment in walked Fireman and Soundman. “We were driving by and we saw the trick racing bike with the big stupid purple pedals and figured we’d stop in and say ‘hi.'” An hour later at REI someone yelled at me in the parking lot, “Get a helmet you idiot!” It was them. Everyone goes to CotKU and REI on their day off, I guess.
- Flog terror. It’s not often that I get a pre-apology for not coming to a ride but the Thursday Flog Ride is so terrible that *someone* felt compelled to send me this missive after being gently reminded of his long-running and noted absence from the ride: “I will be high altitude training in Mammoth until next Monday. Next week I will be in Holland working on my punchy-cobbled climbs … the following week… the FLOG is MINE!!!” My cred-o-meter rates this one at a -77.9.
- Check eBay for a cheap laptop NOW. After winning the TELO training crit eight times this year, Aaron W. received the grand prize of a Samsung laptop from teammate Prez. This looked suspiciously like the laptop that Prez was going to donate to the Wanky Awards, but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
- South Bay Cycling Award categories. Here they are. Submit your nominees by email, as a comment on this blog, or on the bathroom wall at the Ocean Park toilets by 5:00 PM Friday.
- 2015 Greatest Advocate
- 2015 Best Bike Shop
- 2015 Best Young Rider
- 2015 Best Old Rider
- 2015 Most Improved
- 2015 Best Club
- 2015 Best Event
- 2015 Wanker of the Year
- 2015 Belgian Award
- 2015 Group Ride Champion
- 2015 Best Sponsor
- 2015 Best Male Racer
- 2015 Best Female Racer
- 2015 GC Award
- 2015 Crashtacular Fred
- 2015 Strava KOM
- 2015 Most Happy to Help others
- 2015 Most Fun
- 2015 Best Spouse/SO
- 2015 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and win a 5-year-old pair of filthy arm warmers from a swap meet. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
July 10, 2015 § 10 Comments
The 3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015 at Strand Brewing Co.’s new facility in Torrance. The event begins at 5:00 PM. Mark your calendars now. Award presenters Sherri, Steph, Lisa, and Chris are already getting their stiletto heels and high-slit dresses ready.
In addition to the usual nonsense, self-congratulatory platitudes, and having the chance to play “Who’s that cyclist I ride with all the time but can’t identify unless my face is four feet from their ass?” the following activities are on the calendar.
1. Receive tremendous swag offerings from SPY Optic, our sponsor. SPY’s CEO Michael Marckx has supported this blog and grass roots cycling from the day he took over as boss in Carlsbad. Those of you who attended last year will recall the SPY glasses that were given to category winners (not to mention the ones that were stolen by drunken attendees), the SPY t-shirts, and all of the other support that Michael & Co. personally delivered on the day of the event. This year I’m leaning on SPY again to bring the HAPPY, and they have already delivered.
2. I won’t be drunk at the mic. The down side is that I probably won’t have much to say. The up side is that since we’ll be at LA’s best brewery, no one will notice or care.
3. This year I’m flying in a special guest, the legendary Steve Tilford. I can’t do a better job of introducing Steve than by sending you over to his blog, www.SteveTilford.com. But I can tell you this: Steve is one of the greatest cyclists this country has ever produced, and he still races with the intensity today that he brought to the sport as a junior more than thirty years ago. Steve is a fitting keynote speaker for the event because he has been an advocate of clean racing for decades, and has paid the price for refusing to cheat. Yet the reward he has reaped–a career marked by integrity and amazing palmares–shows that some things are worth fighting for. Steve will also join the Saturday morning Donut Ride, where you can try to follow his wheel. Good luck with that!
4. In 2015 we’re introducing a South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame. The first inductees are people you will recognize for their advocacy, their skill as cyclists, or for their contribution to the unique culture that makes LA one of the best places in the world to ride a bike.
5. Award categories this year will be posted soon. You’ll get a chance to vote, and like any good authoritarian regime, votes will only be counted to the extent that the comport with a pre-ordained outcome.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and keep up with the super exciting planning for the 3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
PS: Don’t forget to take the 2015 Bike Racing Survey here.
April 29, 2015 § 29 Comments
The story of the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride was the story of a bunch of people, the majority of whom didn’t even do the ride.
My slog across the dirt and somewhat-paved roads of North County San Diego was essentially a mosaic image of good-hearted volunteers, beginning on Saturday morning when scores of orange-shirted SPY employees began setting up the expo area. The weather was rainy and cold and it seemed as if the day of the big ride would be a true Belgian mudfest, but no one seemed in the least bit perturbed. Dispositions were as sunny as if the sun had been out and forecast for the next 48 hours.
Led by Victor Sheldon, volunteers like Logan Fiedler, Brian Zink, Stephen Lavery, Tait Campbell, Dan Cobley, and a whole host of others sallied forth to put up markers and hammer in wooden staked directional signage for over 125 different turns, many of which were set along dirt paths miles from pavement.
The pre-registration tent was staffed with people who cheerily took on the task of putting names and ID’s to packets, and of course dealing with the inevitable registration snafus of “Where’s my fuggin’ packet?” and “Can I register for my pal Dilbert?” and “I ordered an S but do you have an XXL?” Didn’t matter. They were equal to every task.
The day of the ride everything was more intense by orders of magnitude. A giant start/finish area had to be set up and a short cobbled section was installed, but participants saw none of that effort because we were welcomed to the area, seamlessly and flawlessly, by more orange-clad volunteers. It’s easy to believe that they were smiling at the beginning. It’s incredible that 8 or 9 or 10 hours later they were still smiling and cheering us on as we crossed the home line.
For sheer survival the vast majority of riders could not have finished without the volunteers who staffed the refreshments stands. The bananas, electrolytes, energy gels, cokes, and gallons of water made the difference between finishing and not, and the aid stations provided their services under incredible stress: A group of 20 or 30 would roll up, screaming, gasping, choking, famished, begging, elbowing, and in a matter of seconds each rider would have multiple refilled water bottles, pockets filled with food or gels, a pat on the back, a shout of encouragement, and a push to get going again.
The volunteers did this for twelve solid hours.
Our survival was further abetted by the turn volunteers. Tricky or potentially problematic turns like Lemon Twist and Questhaven (staffed by my friend Serge Issakov), or the turnaround at Del Dios, had small crews to slow or stop traffic, wave us along, and make sure that our safety was paramount. They did all this with smiles and extra bottles of water for those who needed them. The small crew who had set up their own tent en route to Fortuna saved my BWR by plying me with the last two bottles of GQ6 electrolyte. Without it I’d still be out there somewhere, mumbling, dessicated, looking for the beer garden.
Getting back in one piece was also a function of the sheriff’s deputies and city law enforcement who stopped traffic at intersections, provided rolling enclosures for the leaders, waved us through intersections, and made sure that the cagers gave us a wide berth. They were professional, expert, and seemed to appreciate Sam Ames’s giant waffles heaped with ice cream, fruit, and chocolate fudge after their shifts finally ended.
The physical act of survival was one thing, but the mental part was a whole other world. My mind had come unhinged going up Double Peak when up jumped the devil. “Want a push?” he asked.
“Hell yes!” I said, and he gave me a fiery lunge that propelled me yards up the road.
Another bystander watched me flail and gave me another huge push (was that you, Kelsey?), and just as I caught my breath cresting the top I got the cheer of all cheers from Jenna K. who made me feel, despite my earlier faceplant and ragged appearance, like the champion of champions.
Each person who shouted, cowbelled, cheered, encouraged, handed up, and stood out in the hot sun for our benefit made the ride, to say nothing of the bikini-clad babes and guys at the Oasis who bathed our sore eyes in the most beautiful of sights while simultaneously offering us kudos, cold cokes, and a hug if we needed a shoulder to cry on. And we did, right Marvin and Pablo?
Once the ride finished “we” had done our job, but the people running the BWR still had hours of labor ahead of them. The Strava validation table worked feverishly to ensure that riders had in fact completed the route; the Gear Grinder folks cranked out miles of sausage and yards of chicken; the Lost Abbey beer tent loosed the heavenly fermented waters; and David Wilcox at the Rapha tent slung the world’s tastiest espresso like it was last days on earth.
And none of this even touches on people like Maddy I., who poured out the pre-event PR and made sure our inboxes were populated with funny and enticing emails. Trina J. is probably having nightmares from the thousands of emails she got asking if “I could move my registration to next year ’cause I got a boo-boo on my bo-bo,” and if Phil T. ever reads another message starting “Can I get into Wave 1?” he will probably shoot his iPhone. Roving SPY johnnies-on-the-spot like Aden, Zach, and slew of other people whose names I don’t know were always there and always getting ‘er done, whatever the ‘er of the moment happened to be.
In sum, this year’s BWR was so big and so seamless and so well executed that it transcended ride status and ascended to the status of cultural event. And how did that happen?
I’m honored to say that it happened by dint of the imagination, inspiration, originality, and relentless quest for improvement of my friend Michael Marckx. Great things only happen with great vision, and the BWR has, thanks to Michael’s efforts, turned a fun gathering of friends into a broad-based cultural event that spotlights bicycles, food, drink, fun, camaraderie, challenge, and Belgium in the epicenter of Southern California’s bike culture.
Michael’s passion for cycling and his restive will to always make it better than it was before have infused the BWR with a new and funny way of looking at the world. And while I wouldn’t say that pounding the pedals on some dogforsaken stretch of gravel-studded mountain path made me any happier, finishing my fourth BWR and relishing the accomplishment sure did. For that little piece of serenity, we’re all in Michael’s debt.
If you missed this signal good-time-gone-great in 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015, don’t worry.
We’ll be back!
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and start getting ready for BWR 2016, which, after all, is only 361 days away! Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments
It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.
“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”
“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”
“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”
“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”
I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.
And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.
You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)
The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.
Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”
Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”
Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.
So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:
- Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
- Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
- Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.
So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and get psyched for the BWR. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
You can also follow me on the Twitter here:
March 6, 2015 § 35 Comments
I know you are a big fan of that Thursday Flog Ride around the PV Golf Course and I am too. I have done it several times but I always get dropped. The hardest part is right when we turn out of the parking lot. I’m tired of getting dropped and have spoken with some other people who have also been dropped, and what we’d like to know is if you would make everybody stop at the top at the golf course and regroup, that way we could all be together until the next lap, and then after we all got dropped you could wait for us again and then we’d do that for all six laps and it would be like doing intervals on the Amalfi Ride that they do over in West L.A.
First, it’s not my ride and I don’t control how people ride it. If you want people to wait for you then at the start you should say to everyone in a loud voice before rolling out, “Hey, guys and girls, please wait for me after I get dropped, okay?” Then each person can decide how he or she wants to proceed. The Amalfi Ride is indeed a regroup-and-wait ride, yes, it certainly is.
I am sick of getting dropped by all the snooty SPY wankers on the Flog Ride. How come you don’t regroup? The thing that’s awesome about the NPR is that everyone stays together. Or at least make a B Ride. Quit being such an asshole, okay?
You’re being unfair. Your’re not just getting dropped by SPY, you’re also getting dropped by the Big O wankers, the Surf City wankers, and the Monster Media wankette. Have you noticed that the no-drop NPR goes off on Thursday at exactly the same time as the Flog Ride? Hint, hint.
You SPY guys reek of elitism and exclusiveness. Get over yourselves, and while you’re at it please let’s do a regroup at the top and also have a B Ride and maybe also a C Ride for the people who can’t ride with the B’s. Really. I’m serious.
Rather than pointing to SPY’s elitism and alleged exclusivity, please let me point you to their fourth quarter results. How did they do this? By having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at things. In most cycling communities, when a ride is too hard, it gets watered down with a B, C, and D ride. Then “no-drop” rules get instituted. Before long, you know what happens? Someone like Tony Manzella goes out and creates a Dogtown Ride, which shreds everyone until people start complaining and the watering down starts all over again. Our Thursday Flog Ride is an alternative to the usual way of doing things. It was thought up by a creative genius, and the participants like hard rides. If it will make you feel any better (it won’t), everyone eventually gets dropped. Especially me.
Shelled but happy,
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and maybe go out and do the Thursday Flog Ride, where you will get dropped. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
You can also follow me on the Twitter here: