On the rivet: Interview with Jessica Cerra

February 5, 2015 § 20 Comments

Jessica Cerra is one of those riders who has earned her spot in the peloton through skill, toughness, resilience, and force of will. She came to road racing via triathlon and MTB, and burst onto the local North County San Diego scene a couple of years ago as she was recovering from surgery to correct a severe case of iliac artery compression syndrome in her right leg.

By the time she had healed, she was thrashing men on the group rides, and from there it was a short hop to dominating the local road races, riding as the marquee women’s racer for SPY-Giant-RIDE. With powerful performances on the national stage, notably at Redlands in 2014, Jess was picked up for the 2015 season by Twenty16 p/b ShoAir.

It will be her first full year with a professional women’s team, and although she had calendared an ambitious season, a few weeks ago she learned that she was also suffering from iliac compression syndrome in her left leg. She’s had the surgery and is expected to make a full recovery, though she’ll have an obviously different racing schedule. Jess was kind enough to talk with me about a whole host of topics related to racing. Enjoy!

CitSB: What are your goals for 2015?

Jessica Cerra: My biggest goal was a stage win at Redlands and a top-3 GC finish. I don’t know that that’s a reality anymore [due to surgery — ed.]. An NRC stage win, a podium at nationals, definitely a podium at Winston-Salem or in Philly. Qualifying for the road world championship team, I guess that’s the biggest goal that I have overall.

CitSB: What kind of mental prep goes into a shot at making the road team for worlds?

JC: The more I try to hold back expectations the worse things go. The more I go in relaxed, remembering that I’m here because I like to race my bike, then the more instinctual decisions I make and things turn out better. This year I planned to go in being the strongest, most durable, fittest person out there because in those situations you can think more clearly; you’re not hanging on, you’re affecting the race. That’s how I want to race this year. I put in a huge base this year, 2,000 miles just in December, and I took good care of my body, got consistent massages, and have been working with a coach now, documenting sleep and weight, and taking a more professional approach. But my coach also likes me just being me; I like numbers and knowing my power but I also like doing the group ride with Thurlow on the front just killing it, and putting myself on the front, in the wind, so I know what my body can do in those super tough scenarios and then I can rely on those things to get me ready for racing, where those super hard moments happen all over again. Since I don’t have a lot of experience as a racer, the group rides are a huge part of my training.

CitSB: How does it feel to be the only woman in the first 25 wheels or on the entire ride when Thurlow and company are drilling it?

JC: It’s my favorite part about riding my bike. It’s pretty cool! After a while I don’t even feel any different from anyone else. I compare myself exactly to the peers I’m riding with. I’m hard on myself, too, I only see my weaknesses.

CitSB: What’s the hardest thing for women throwing their hat in the ring on the hard group rides?

JC: A lot of women are intimidated. There’s the fear of getting dropped, that everyone will notice, and it’s so embarrassing. I always try to encourage other women and make sure to compliment them when they do well or make it to certain points in the ride. I remember being nervous going to the Swami’s Ride, feeling exactly like I was going to a race! It’s intimidating and you don’t want to do something goofy and be “that person,” and you’re obsessed about training and don’t want to ruin your training by getting dropped. I encourage every woman to get out there. It’s the reason I’ve gotten as strong as I am; I’ve put myself in situations that are harder than what I have the strength for. You learn so much about racing and handling when you’re over your limit. It’s true, too, guys have better bike handling skills. You learn so much by racing with guys in a crit, about the lines that they take, and you start to see things, like how they can squeak through the inside of corners. It’s faster and more aggressive so there’s less time to think about what you’re doing. Most of the riders have the fitness to race but a lot of it is, “Why am I getting dropped when there’s five laps to go?” The more you do it, you realize it’s not fitness, it’s efficiency and awareness. You keep putting yourself in those situations, and it’s scary and you just do it. That’s how I learned.

CitSB: Now you’re a fixture on the North County rides and guys know that you can grind them up into little chunks of meat and they fear you. How does that feel?

JC: I don’t know if I look at it like that. I’m so focused on my own internal fears of what’s going to happen when I get to the power climb, and I know the women’s pro field is so strong and they know what they’re doing and are so good. NRC races are so different from local ones. I was supposed to go with the national team to do the spring classics which I’m not doing now, but I think of those situations on the local rides getting me prepared to be in those types of pelotons. When you don’t have a ton of experience in these races but you live in a place where there are 150 people on a group ride, you can apply the same things you know are going to happen in a race. If you want to be part of a race, then I go into a group ride practicing rotating through in the first 10 or 15 positions, gauging the effort to pull through, really what I’m doing is preparing myself to have to do those things in the peloton. It’s nice to ride with the guys; it used to be fun but now it’s more about completing a job. I expect them to make it hard and I expect them to look at me like I’m one of the people up there where it’s windy and not to make it easy because I’m a girl.

CitSB: Do you feel guys cut you slack? Or do they try to slaughter you like everyone else?

JC: They treat me like everyone else.

CitSB: How do you make the jump from racing Boulevard to the national or international level?

JC: Without my mountain biking background it would have been harder. I have lots of natural positional awareness and muscle memory where things happen in a race and I can read where to be, how to navigate through tricky situations, and how to feel confident about how I ride my bike. That’s huge. The second you don’t have confidence it’s going to be the worst day. When you’re riding scared nothing goes smooth.  You bobble and crash, and it’s the same in the peloton. Confidence is so huge. You take control and put yourself where you need to be. Combined with my fitness, I was lucky. I went into pro racing and figured I can handle a bike and am one of the best descenders, I’m fit enough to see what’s going on, to read how the lead-out will go, so in a lot of races I could freelance and observe and notice, and you know, I could also be focused on what I was bad at–I tried to practice those situations to get better because I didn’t have a lot of racing experience. I think the biggest thing about the transition was positioning and being efficient, and that same transition happens going from the national to the international peloton. It’s a whole different level. The courses are harder, the conditions are worse, the fight for position is constant, you have to keep putting yourself in position over and over and over again. I also learned that every time at end of a race when I decided to think through what was happening, I got my face kicked in, zero results. When I just “did” it rather than think it, something inside told me what to do and it seemed to work. It takes time to trust that inner feeling. I also didn’t feel I belonged. I was stoked with a top 20 at Redlands, and had no idea about my potential. I figured out that I was more prepped than I thought I was. It’s a hard balance, though. You can’t let it go to your head but you still have to be confident enough to trust your instincts to put yourself where you need to be.

CitSB: How are things going with Harmony Bar?

JC: We had a setback with the name. We filed for a trademark and then a couple of other companies filed for the same name and our application was denied. So now we’ve filed for a new name and have been in a year of a holding pattern because we can’t make our packaging and take the next step; without the name and the brand it’s hard to move forward. The good news is that we’re still consistently selling all of our inventory online and in the bike shops we work with. There’s no marketing except word of mouth. People say it’s the best they’ve ever had and they tell our story. The next couple of months will be quiet because we’re sorting out the name. We also signed up with SmartStop, which is a big opportunity for us. By Tour of California time we’ll be with SmartStop and ready with our new name, branding, and packaging.

CitSB: For someone not familiar with Harmony Bar, how is it different from the zillions of other energy foods out there?

JC: It’s unique because I never made it to market and sell. I made it because I have a master’s degree in exercise physiology, I was in the kitchen with ingredients, paper, and pen, and mixed them a hundred times over, over, and over until I got a bar that tasted like a cookie and had all the macro nutrients that I wanted for my training. This was something I was making for myself. I knew the research was there showing that bars higher in fat were good for endurance athletes. So basically, I wanted to eat cookies on the bike! I love food and eat a ton of calories on the bike and wanted to eat things that tasted good and were like real food. Everyone said “Holy crap, this tastes like a cookie and works so well and can I buy some?” It got popular on its own because, you know, athletes out there like cookies and like to eat!

CitSB: Do you see yourself as a role model for other cyclists?

JC: I’m starting to. Unfortunately, as much as we’re trying to grow the sport of women’s cycling, coming from triathlon and MTB, I can say that road racing is by far the most intimidating to get into. Its very clique-ish, the teams and their kits and the people keep to themselves. I remember feeling like “Whoa! This isn’t like mountain biking where we finish a race and all have a beer together!” It’s hard to feel like you have a place in it. For me it’s important to change that atmosphere and for women to feel like the sport is approachable, the people are approachable, that I’m approachable. People come up after a race and they’re intimidated and I don’t like that. I’m open to talking to everyone. Lots of people are continually asking for advice about food and particular race courses and I spend lots of time answering questions on Facebook and getting to know people. I’m genuinely interested in people and their goals. After having my setbacks, the biggest joy for me is seeing others succeed. I gave a girl my racing clothes from SPY because she didn’t have any; the team kits weren’t ready yet. There’s more I can do than just racing and trying to win.

CitSB: How do you help people break into the secret society of road racing? How do you get them to take the step to enter a race?

JC: Maybe it’s different for women? I just go up to women and tell them how well they’re riding. For women it’s different. A lot of people wlll approach me and say, “My friend said you’d be on the ride,” and it’s someone new or who’s not in a club and I’ll be cool and tell them to keep coming out, and find out what they like, do they like climbing or sprinting, and the more you start hanging around the more you’ll learn. It’s in my nature to help. When I started cycling in grad school I was a a Fred, or a Frieda, I didn’t have any money for equipment and cool, nice people helped and supported and gave me pedals, for example, and had that never happened I would have never gotten to the point I’m at now. I want cycling to grow, and rides to grow, and races to grow, and people who complain about prize money or promoters are missing the fun–it’s about knowing people and being excited about seeing people you know, not avoiding the race because you don’t fit in and aren’t going to beat Monster Media and Surf City and SPY and not get a result. I try to imagine if I were a Cat 5 dude how tough that would be and how intimidating. But there are enough people who are cool and who have the same perspective that I do, who want to help. We want local racing and good group rides and an atmosphere of mutual respect. There are a lot of really good people on SPY, the team I rode with last year, people who are great riders and humble and who want to help. Without the opportunities given me by SPY and Michael Marckx I wouldn’t have ever gotten to race Redlands and then gotten the call-up to the pro ranks. MMX knew I wouldn’t be at SPY in the long run but he saw the potential and the opportunity to help grow and launch an athlete. He really put his faith in me and I couldn’t have done it without him and the support–the financial support, the logistical support of getting to races, and just a group of people who were always so cool and who believed in me.

CitSB: Tell me about your new team.

JC: The new team is amazing! It’s called Twenty16 p/b ShoAir, and we’re a UCI team this year. The director is Mari Holden and the GM/owner is Nicola Cranmer. They appraoched me and had watched my racing earlier and saw something they liked and it seemed like a great match. We’re a unique team. We have a lot of team goals and do a lot of big races but we also emphasize individual goals like doing ‘cross or track or the national team and racing in Europe. The theme of the team is “Women that race with continued education.” They encourage college and want us to have things off the bike to contribute and bring to the team as well. I’m 32, I did the reverse — went to school first and then found pro cycling!

CitSB: How many teammates live in SD?

JC: Only me. A couple live in Orange County, but we’re from all over the place.

CitSB: Has the team targeted any races this year?

JC: Redlands, which is big for women, and this year TTT nationals is a good one for us because it will be good prep for TTT worlds, which is in the USA in Richmond. One of the big sponsors is SRAM so having them support the TOC women’s race is a huge addition to our calendar and something we’ll focus on. Tour of the Gila is UCI for women this year, so it’s a focus for all of the teams, as well as Winston-Salem and the Philly race, and Philly is a world cup event. All the races are around the same time as nationals, which will be key racing for our team.

CitSB: Anything you want to add?

JC: The team has been really supportive so it’s scary being the new person on the team and I’ve been waking up every morning with photos and texts from team camp. It’s a pretty good feeling to not have really met teammates and already be included. They truly have my best interests at heart! I know that it’s going to be a good season this year–a bunch of bad-ass women with a lot of horsepower on this team!

END

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Double punch to the face and groin

August 20, 2014 § 4 Comments

For a long time I have been telling LA and Orange County wankers to get off their asses and go do the Swami’s Ride, which leaves every Saturday from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas at 8:05 AM. Finally, a whole bunch of them listened, and last Saturday night as I watched one of the fastest masters racers in America do backflips off a cliff into a swimming pool wearing a thong while a 200-lb. long-haired pig rooted around the pool area and people started taking off most of their clothes and jumping into the pool after drinking a keg of Lost Abbey BWR Ale … what was I saying?

Oh, yeah. So, there I was at Phil’s 40th birthday bash and it turned out that many of the attendees had also taken the Swami’s Challenge and done the ride. Here’s what they had to say:

“Very hard ride.”

“Hardest group ride ever.”

“Hard. That was a hard ride.”

“Man, that was hard.”

“Super hard.”

And of course, my favorite comment, “Hard.”

So now that everyone from outside North County San Diego agrees with me that yes, the Swami’s Ride is hard, it’s time for me to introduce two painful punches, an old friend and a new one.

The old friend is the SPY Holiday Ride. I blather about it all the time because it, too, is a very hard ride. That’s “hard” as in “very painful and difficult.” As in “You will get shelled.” As in “Not easy.” The next SPY Holiday Ride is on Labor Day. It leaves at 8:00 AM from RIDE Cyclery. There are lots of good reasons to do this ride, but the best one is that most of the fastest riders will be at masters nationals, which means you might not get dropped immediately.

The next-to-best reason is that this ride symbolizes grass roots riding at its best. Beer primes are given away (a case per prime), and it’s the result of a company — SPY Optic — supporting bicycle riding on a community level. You don’t have to race or have a license, just a bike, a pair of legs, and the desire to shrink your ego down a few dozen sizes.

The second punch, and by far the more painful one, is the SPYclocross Series. The series starts on September 20 and has six races. In past years, SoCal cross series races have not qualified for USA Cycling upgrade points, starting positions at nationals, or juice boxes because, money. SPY has stepped up (*note to self: let’s find a better verb. “Jumped up.” “Drunkenly staggered up.” “Raged to the fore like a crazy man with aliens in his undergarments.”) and donated the extortionate, ridiculous, bullshit fees that USAC demands in order to ensure that the grass roots are not only mown as short as possible, but dug up as well.

Whatever. Thanks to SPY the series now “counts,” which is kind of a bummer because I always used the “no staging points for nationals” as my excuse for not going.

The series has everything that the road season doesn’t. Great and exciting venues. Spectators. A minimum of shattered braincases or the likelihood thereof. And although it is not allowed and I will personally report anyone caught drinking it, beer. Fortunately, since there are no craft breweries in San Diego (the site of the first race), sobriety should not be a problem.

Cyclocross is a growing sport, in part because studies show that if you are crappy as a road racer, you will redefine suckery in ‘cross. However, it allows the purchase of new equipment, you never get pulled, it sounds vaguely hipster, and if you take it seriously and train for it you will get to say things like “Ryan Dahl only lapped me twice.”

Swami’s Ride? Holiday Ride? SPYclocross Series? Pick yer poison.

Horn if you’re honky

July 29, 2014 § 15 Comments

When the hardest group ride in America starts out at 30 mph on the neutral section, you know you’re in for a beating, an “in the wrong neighborhood” beating, a Muhammad Ali beating, a mad charwoman with a steel bat-on-a-carpet beating, an adult video + tissue box beating, a John Bonham intro to “Rock and Roll” beating, or you just recognize the facts: You’re on the North County San Diego Swami’s Ride and it’s not going to be pretty.

After the warmup had slimmed the group of 50 down by a rider or two, we roared up Levant. Rather, Phil Tinstman roared. Everyone else cowered, grit their teeth, and cursed whatever draft they had for not being draft enough.

The group slimmed a bit more.

The previous night I had ended up in a bar slurping Hangar 24 DIPA’s. Now, dangling by a wheel, they were starting to slurp back. It was a briny, acidic, poisonous taste, kind of like drinking from a port-o-potty.

Thankfully, as in “Oh my dog thank you baby Jeebus,” the light at Rancho Santa Fe was red, which meant that those who made it could catch their breath, and those who straggled up just as the light turned green would meet their doom shortly up the road. The climb up Rancho Santa Fe shed a few more pounds, and the climb up to Elfin Forest blew the stragglers and strugglers out the back like a snot rocket.

A breakaway formed with Phil, Brian Stack, Chris Johnson, and about ten others. Those of us in the shelled group would have been done for the day had we not been joined by Karl Bordine. Karl rides like a wood chipper. He grinds everyone up into little organic bits that are useless for anything except mixing with cow shit and spreading as fertilizer.

Karl brought the break back, and broke the back of many in the group, which further slimmed. The peloton was now a walking ad for SlenderBolic. Phil won the sprunt to the church. There were perhaps 15 or 20 riders out of the starting gaggle of 50. I got off my bike and lay in the grass, cursing the beer and the speed and the hills and bicycles and Newt Gingrich.

“It was fast today,” said one of the Fast Men.

“Yeah, it was,” said another one of the Fast Men.

“Blecccch,” I said.

The second half wasn’t as torrid, since several of the fastest riders continued on for a longer ride. But coming into the final rolling section, Tater attacked, Stack followed, and I got dragged along. He broke the group into pieces, towed me up over the last hill, took a deep breath and towed me all the way to the imaginary sprint finish, which I apparently won. Brian is sixteen.

After the ride Mrs. WM and I decided to go the pool. The Econolodge’s bathing facility was a 10′ x 10′ kiddie pool surrounded by a steel fence. “This thing look like its onna jail,” she said.

“Yeah, but we can drink all the beer we want and not have to worry about lifeguards.”

“I ain’t wearin’ onna my bikini here.”

“How come?”

“Itsa pool lookin’ out onna highway. Itsa creepers driven’ slow googling on my panty bottoms.”

So we called up a pal who was staying at the La Costa Rich People’s Hotel and Snoboretum. “Yo, Toronto,” I said. “Can we come hang at your hotel pool?”

“Sure!” he said.

“We got beer and chips and salsa and pork rinds and dried octopus legs with kimchi.”

“Ah, okay.”

Pretty soon we were at the Snoboretum. We had to give our name and driver license to the security guard, put a placard that said “Visitors/Too Cheap To Afford A Room” on the dashboard, park in a rock garden, and walk three miles over to the area where the real guests were.

But it was a bitching pool, and my appearance wearing bright red shorts, a bright red t-shirt, and hiking boots made quite a splash. Fortunately I had “SPY” plastered everywhere, making a good showing for my sponsor. The only down side was that the pool had a bar and restaurant in the pool area, so when we staggered in carrying six plastic bags that said “Safeway” which were filled with chips, beer, and dried octopus parts, the pool staff, who were wearing outfits modeled on “The Love Boat,” told us we weren’t allowed to bring in outside food or drink.

“Thatsa okay,” said Mrs. WM. “We don’t eat no outside food. Alla this food is inside food.”

By the time they had brought in an interpreter, who ended up tearing out his hair and ripping off his Love Boat insignia in despair, I was already a full six-pack in and didn’t care when security confiscated our salsa. Surprisingly, they left the octopus parts.

Shortly after we were escorted out, we ended up at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach. It was a sold out event, and the main attraction wasn’t the Pine Mountain Logs, whose name reminds me of something left behind in a public bathroom, but the jazzy rock band, or the rocky jazz band Horn if You’re Honky.

The drummer for HiyH, my good friend Michael Marckx, was celebrating his 50th birthday, and it was an awesome performance. Many songs were sung, melodies were horned, rhythms were banged, bass lines were thumped, and keyboard accompaniments were hammered. I was amazed at the athleticism of the percussion, or maybe I was just having a hard time not falling out of my chair after swilling too much beer. Who knows?

It was an electric performance.

Towards the end of the set I mingled with the crowd and marveled at its energy, as well as at the fact that no one seemed to be getting high. So many friends and teammates from the cycling community were there that I half expected someone to announce that we would be rolling out in ten minutes. Instead, we grooved on the amazing HiyH set and huddled around our tequila shot glasses, trying to discern whether we were holding up the bar or vice versa. I think it was vice versa.

At the end of the evening, Mrs. WM gave me a small baggie filled with a sopping wet sports bra and workout panty that she had borrowed earlier in the day for a yoga workout. I toiled through the crowd until I saw Alan. “Yo, dude, here’s some wet women’s underwear. Can you give it to Mrs. xxx? We gotta hit the road.”

Alan, ever the good sport, said “Sure!” and immediately posted it for sale on eBay via his iPhone.

We sailed home through the deserted SoCal freeway until we hit the not-so-deserted freeway shutdown at Westminster, where a 5-mile detour took two hours to navigate. Home at 2:30 AM, we may not have horned, but we sure did honky.

The eyes have it

November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments

In a month and a half we’ll begin our third season of the SPY bicycling team. Lots of people wonder what it’s like to be an old creaky fellow with a leaky prostate and bad vision while riding for the premier old fellows racing team in California and therefore the galaxy. I’d sum it up like this:

Riding for SPY is fun.

In the first two years we  saw that there were other teams with better racers. We’ve never had the fastest  racers on our squad, but despite that our 45+ team was the winningest one in SoCal, our cyclocross masters teams are hands down the best, and our 35+ team, P/1/2 team and development riders mean that each year more and more people want to ride with us. Add into the mix that our women’s team, led by Jessica Cerra, is already primed to have a super year, and I think the reasons that people want to join the SPY cavalcade are simple : Swag and fun.

When you’re an old fellow, if you have any perspective at all, you realize that if your hobby is best measured in wins and losses, it’s probably no longer a hobby and has become what the rest of the world calls a “job.” You realize that as much as you’d like to win, even more than that you’d like to compete — and win — with people you actually like, doing things you actually enjoy, decked out in swag that makes you feel like you’re winning even when you place 78th.

SPY’s ethos is best described as having a happy disrespect for the usual way of looking at life. Put another way, “Beware of the usual!”

Living up to our mandate

We’re not told to go forth and win races, although we’re given plenty of leadership and racing and training opportunities to do so. What we are told is that once we put on the kit, we’re ambassadors for a brand. Not sales staff, or preachers, group thinkniks, but ambassadors, people who are here to deliver a message.

What message? This message.

1. Ride the front as much as you can on group rides, wherever you may train. Be a leader. Why? Because the usual way of doing things is to hide in the pack and show your face, if at all, at the coffee shop. The usual way of doing things is to use the work of others in order to benefit yourself. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to put your share of work into the group effort, and maybe even a little bit more than your share. If you’re too afraid of getting dropped or of not making the split, bite the bullet and … go to the front.

2. Take care of one another, and take care of others. The usual way of doing things is to only stop when you’re the one with the mechanical. This is your Sunday ride, right? You’ve waited all week for this, right? So if someone has a flat, well, that’s bike racing. The unusual and irreverent way of doing things is to recognize that there will be another Tuesday morning ride, and it’s probably not gonna kill you to help out a fellow cyclist. You’ll make a friend, you’ll energize the person you help to pass on the good karma, and you’ll go from being “all about me” to “serving others.”

3. Represent SPY and its team sponsors in the same way that you’d want them to represent YOU. Success doesn’t mean a podium in an old fellows criterium. Success is the sum of a life predicated on our collective good deeds, leadership, and the vicious clubbing of baby seals (to whom we apologize in advance and posthumously).

4. As a bike racer, or more accurately, as an elderly fellow drowning in a delusional vat of swag and beer and navel gazing, when you race your victory isn’t what matter. What matters are  your actions and how they affect your team. What matters is whether you were ready to toil in anonymity and lay it all out there for the sake of a teammate.

5. Make people HAPPY. Collective groupings of old people racing bicycles isn’t a formula for happiness. Smiling and spreading positive energy is. So go forth and happify. Now.

From the touchy-feely to the hard facts

You probably expect me to praise SPY for all the usual reasons, but what are those “usual” reasons? And aren’t we supposed to beware of the usual? Rather, my affinity for the company, begun through personal friendship and swag, has transcended those two things to reach a level of discrimination I never thought I’d reach.

Because you see, I don’t really give a rat’s ass about bike products. Of course I love nice stuff when I can get it, but I’m not now and have never been a “bike guy.” I have one road bike and one ‘cross bike. One extra wheelset for the ‘cross bike. My road hoops are the same ones I train on and race on. For me, it’s always been about being lucky enough to cycle and to be part of a cycling community. The bike and the clothes and the parts are icing on the cake.

Of course, there’s one exception to that, and it’s the unusual exception of my eyes. I began wearing glasses at age 13, bout six or seven years after I first really needed them. My vision was so bad that I could only see movies from the front row. I’m still convinced that much of my early problems in school stemmed from an inability to see the chalkboard.

Having terrible vision has affected me throughout my life. I never learned to surf above kook level despite decades of trying. Why? Because I’m horribly uncoordinated and weak. But being unable to see the wave until it was breaking on my head didn’t help. Ball sports were always impossible, and even though I could see on a bike, my eyes were constantly irritated from the wind that incessantly screamed around the edges of my Laurent Fignon frames. Wearing superb prescription eyewear from SPY enabled me to win the Tour in 2011 and was directly responsible for the winning Powerball ticket that I bought down at the corner 7-11.

In actuality, my vision transformation on the bike thanks to SPY wasn’t accidental or the result of lottery-like luck. This eyewear is authentically bound to technical performance. The prescription glasses work in an incredibly demanding range of light and weather situations, including getting bounced on my head at 40 mph and remaining intact (the glasses, not the head).

This authenticity is so much more than, “The glasses work, dude.” It’s part of the background of the product, where and why it came into being, and what drives its evolution and subsequent iterations. Plus, SPY has never sponsored Lance.

The combination of “ride at the front” and “this shit works” forms the core of the proposition when you’re thinking about buying glasses. Do you want a product made by non-cyclists for cyclists and owned by a giant Italian conglomerate that also handles leather handbags, or do you want a product that’s made by cyclists who have to live with the shit they create, and who have to answer to the product’s utility in their own races and group rides?

Putting glasses on your nose … who knew it was so complicated? Well, it is, because when you wear SPY you’re choosing between Italian luxuory monolith or a variation on ZZ Topp: “That Little Old Performance Eyewear Company from Carlsbad.” Do things like happiness, irreverence, riding at the front, helping those who need it, and buying locally make a difference to you? If they do, maybe there’s something in this story for you.

The pros who ride SPY gear are chosen in order to transcend their stereotypes as “jocks” and tap into a multicultural lifestyle based on a love of outdoors activities. Us grizzled old dudes with leaky prostates believe in that transcendence, too.

And now a word FOR our sponsors

August 10, 2013 § 4 Comments

You can’t be a pro masters racer in SoCal without sponsors. You know, they’re the people who spend money on you for no obvious reason. The people who donate clothes, equipment, and services so that you can live the dream, and boy, is it ever a dream, if not a full-blown fantasy psychosis.

Our team, SPY-Giant-RIDE, bends over backwards to make us think we’re special and to treat us like we matter, even though I’ve shown at 35 races this year that I’m not and I don’t. It has made for a tremendous couple of years as we’ve benefited from the perfect formula for happiness, which is: Swag + Bikes + Racing + Fun + Friends = Happiness.

Here’s what some of the SPY-Giant-RIDE athletes have to say about the gear and services they use.

  1. Ryan Dahl: I can’t thank MMX and SPY-Giant-RIDE enough for all that they have done for the team. It really is a privilege to be a member. Every rider on the team is an exceptional athlete and person, and I’m proud to be able to call each and everyone of them my friend. On top of the great friendships, we have been fortunate enough to wear and ride the best equipment made. Of course, MMX has good taste and a focus on quality products, and we all reap the benefit of that. SPY: They really are the best eyewear company out there. The designs are fresh, the optics are crisp, and the SPY brand is one that I am so proud to represent. GIANT: You know you have a good bike when you polish it to a shine every night. I love this bike. BONT: I’ve always known Bonts were the best so when I found out they were going to be sponsoring us I was really stoked. They are raw performance; nothing else compares. ZIPP: I polish these every night, too. These wheels are so fast, and perfect in every way. But everyone knows that, too!
  2. Garnet Vertican: When I think back to last CX season, one of the products that stands out as having helped me land on the podium twelves times was my GIRO helmet. It performed flawlessly in every condition and situation, it weighs almost nothing, and stays in position no matter how rough the course is. The comfort and style of this helmet was top notch. Lots of riders focus on bikes and other components, which are really important, but the comfort and stability of your helmet is important as well. Giro fits perfectly, super, super product. SPY: Love my glasses, especially when the mud and dirt get flying!
  3. Steven DavisGIANT: I have been fortunate enough to have ridden some of what the industry might consider the best bike frames on the market, but I’m certain that there is only one “best” of anything. That for me is the Giant TCR road frame. When racing and training, my enjoyment comes during the climbing phases. My excitement and appreciation comes from the way the Giant responds. Stiff, light, aero, and compact would be a few key descriptions of what it provides for me. The Giant is uber responsive to those fast accelerations or attacks on steep grades, then once unattached and free to fly, my Giant allows me the speed necessary to stay away via its aero-prowess. One of a kind technology! BRL Nutrition: I have been traveling on the road, racing since the first of June at multiple stage races across the U.S., and what BRL has provided me with is the ability to recover and maintain optimal health, and to keep my immune system strong so that I don’t succumb to illness. With travel, six-day stage races, different time zones, altitude, and everything else that comes with racing the circuit, stress can saturate your system. With BRL supplements and performance-oriented nutrition, I have been able to push my physical limits and maintain my health. BRL allows me to continue moving forward by taking care of a huge aspect of this sport–health via nutrition. SPY: The frames are light, compact, and so easy to wear. The lenses are crisp, sleek, and most certainly stylish. The company and its employees are irreverent badasses and technological innovators. I am lucky to be an ambassador for such a gnarly group of against-the-grain, unsatisfied with the status-quo, avant-garde trendsetters! BONT: “Performance machine” is how I would describe their shoes. The technology is in place for a cycling shoe that is created for one reason and one reason only: Optimum performance at the highest level of the sport. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Joe Yule, the designer for our team kits, has an eye for the fashionably sensible yet eye-catching in a crowded peloton filled with flashy colors. He’s just got a nose for what will look good, an ear for staying on top of the industry’s needs, a feel that makes the user comfortable, and a taste for what works.
  4. Damian Stevens: The support from SPY has been tremendous. They’re the key sponsor and everyone they’ve put together from their internal operations to fellow partners/sponsors has been insane. There is nothing but support.  No egos, and no BS, except for Seth, but that’s because he’s mostly drunk.  Straight-up, solid people who offer the best gear known to any cyclist out there. We’re eternally fortunate and beyond. I’ve never had this kind of experience on a team. To sum it up? Gratitude, and peace.
  5. Logan Fiedler: This has been an amazing year full of happy moments that have been shared with some of the nicest/strongest guys I know. The bar is set high when you’re representing the lightest, stiffest bike on the market, and if you don’t believe me, test ride one. I had my last “race” bike sold within two weeks of riding my Giant. Having the SPY logo on your jersey has been something to be proud of. No one puts on an event like the Belgian Waffle Ride, no one supports the sport of cycling more than SPY, no one cares more about their racers than SPY and NO other company has a CEO who will make you ride home with your tail between your legs after he rides you off his wheel. Notes from the year: Our SQUADRA kits are badass and better than those worn by most pro teams. Our BONT shoes make our legs an extension that connects to the pedal with the stiffness and lightness of our bikes. They are molded and they fit like a glove. SRAM is just badass and hasn’t mis-shifted or jumped a gear all year.
  6. Erick SobeyGIANT: This bike just feels “tight.” When I mount up, the SLR becomes a part of me. ZIPP: My new ZIPP gear bag is my new life bag. BONT: A great way to surgically attach your legs to your pedals. I don’t even remember which sunglasses I used to wear, and now, I don’t even remember that I’m wearing sunglasses because SPY are the lightest, most secure, and most advanced lenses I’ve ever experienced. No sweat marks EVER!! Oh, and they will make you look great!
  7. Josh Goldman: GIANT: The TCR has been a simply amazing frame. Coming off a Specialized S-Works SL4 in 2012, I was skeptical after being very satisfied with that bike, but the TCR did not disappoint. It is extremely light, dives into corners with ease and confidence, climbs better than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and makes the rider feel very connected to the road by way of the integrated seat post. Thanks for a great season Giant! SPY: Are there any other glasses on the market, seriously? I cannot say enough about the amazing people, products, and community support from SPY. SPY is truly a world class organization committed to its customers and to being the best. After many years with a competitor, I was truly blown away, I was HAPPY with the perfect lens combinations and performance of the SPY Screw! Their lifestyle optics are second to none and everyone in my family loves them! BRL: I am very picky about my nutrition, its ingredients and quality. Endurafuel was there for me every hard ride, race, and final effort, efforts that were so hard almost everyone got shelled. I experienced a substantial advantage with Endurafuel in my bottle and am confident my performance could not have been what it was without it!
  8. Eric AndersonSPY: The Cutters are by far the coolest and yes most functional performance glasses I have ever worn. I’ve never worn another pair of glass that have generated so much attention. “Wow, those are cool,” “Wow, those look like my grandpa’s glasses,” and “Those don’t look like other cycling glasses!” To which I respond, “Yes they are cool, yes your grandpa is cool, and these really are great performance glasses.” To be honest, my Screws and Quantas have been collecting lately, that’s how much I love the Cutters. BONT/GIANT: This combination is the sprinter’s delight. I can’t imagine a stiffer combination of frame and shoe. Without any actual data to verify this claim I’ll go out on a limb and say 99.9% of your effort gets transferred to the pavement when you clip into a Giant TCR Advanced SL with Bont Vaypors. One note about Bont sizing, if you use their online measurement method they come in exactly as they say!
  9. Oliver Stanley: Let’s crush some motherfuckers on Sunday! This is our course! I know we can do this, WM, even though you’re a flailing wanker! SPY: Sweet styles, multiple lens options, and perfectly clear vision with these things. My biggest problem with the SPY glasses is deciding which ones to wear! Favorite right now? Black Cutters with the Happy Lens. They make me happy, as advertised! GIANT: Where do I start? This TCR Advanced SL is an absolute weapon. Compact, light, aero, and responsive. This bike will make any wheel sucking tosser feel like a pro. I climb onto the TCR and I’m ready to smash the pedals like a hammer on a nailhead. It just feels right, every time. BONT: Yup, these are the shoes for me. Little bit of heat forming in the old kitchen oven and they fit like ass-kicking slippers. I came over to Bont from another high end shoe company, and there’s no going back for me. These Bonts are solid; they’re lightweight, super stiff, and mad stylish. I could wear my Bonts all the time. Maybe I’ll get another pair for lounging around the house and heading out to the bars. The chicks dig them. ZIPP: Speed weaponry, indeed. I’m rolling on a set of 404 tubular Zipp wheels and they just work! Great ride quality, super light, yet stiff and responsive. A set of Zipp wheels will give any bicycle that badass look. Don’t believe me? (I’m talking to you here, Wanky!) Pop some 303’s into your bike, stand back, and feel like a badass. Even YOU will go faster. Okay, maybe not you, WM. These tubular 404 Zipp wheels have given me the confidence to get out there and make the break, or jump across that gap and chase down the leaders. I’m not much of a sprunter, but with my 404’s I’m ready to go head-to-head with anyone. The product line doesn’t stop at wheels and tires. My carbon Zipp handlebars are the best I have ever ridden.  Great ergonomics, light as a feather and zero flex. GIRO: I love my Giro helmet. Ventilation is second to none. Stylish, yet fully functional design. I really can’t tell that I’m even wearing a helmet most of the time because it’s so light and comfortable, but I’m glad it’s there to keep me safe and hold my SPY sunglasses in place! SQUADRA: All cycling kits are the same, UNTIL you’ve worn Squadra. Oh my, what a difference. The SPY-Giant-RIDE Pro Issue bib is perfect. The cut is supreme, holding everything in place without being too smothering. I’m not just talking about the business parts, either. The relatively low waist band allows free breathing and stays cool in warmer conditions. The pad/chamois offers a comfortable ride for hours and hours, and those long leg bands keep a firm but even pressure on the quads. The Pro Issue jersey is the best jersey in the business. Slightly longer sleeves keep my arms just that little bit more protected and stop the dreaded sleeve roll into the armpit. The material breathes and contours to the body. On race day I bust out the aerodynamic Squadra Speed Suit. It fits like nothing else except maybe a great condom, gives me that all important aero advantage and to be quite honest, it makes me feel like a bad bitch. I would wear it every day, but I don’t think I could quite pull that one off. I’m not Stathis. STAGE ONE: I don’t know how these guys do it, but oh wait, that’s because IT’S JUST ONE GUY AND HE’S A GENIUS. Every season, when you think you have the coolest looking gear, the new Stage One kits just blow the old stuff out of the water. It just doesn’t make sense. I was so stoked on my 2012 SPY kit, hand washing it instantly after each ride so I could wear it again. Until…BOOM! The 2013 kit arrives and I’m all 2013 clad. Poor old 2012, he never stood a chance. Thanks to every sponsor and every single person that has a hand in building and supporting our racing team. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such a positive and friendly crew. To those I have met, and more importantly, the folks behind the scenes that I have not yet had a chance to meet, thank you so very much!
  10. Jim MillerRIDE Cyclery: The best bike shop I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing. Service is done quickly, accurately and with a smile by Blaize, the best damn mechanic anywhere. Aside from being a cool kid, Dillon is super friendly and exceedingly knowledgeable about the products in the store, and he’s always willing to help you find something or explain the finer technical details. Of course it all starts at the top with Brent! He’s put his heart and soul into his business and it shows in everything this amazing crew does. GIANT: The best bike I have ever ridden. Period. The experience is made even better by getting to work with the Giant team, which has gone out of its way to get us their great bikes and help us promote the team in a way that leaves a big impact. GIRO: They have been amazingly generous in providing us with the best fitting helmet on the market. BRL Labs: Their products, EPO Boost and Endurafuel, work very well. Bob Gentile is a great ambassador for their brand and I’ve enjoyed working with him. SPY: Hey, we make the best eyewear anywhere, and we’re not owned by some big Italian conglomerate. Okay?
  11. Chris Nesbitt: As soon as I could start riding again, RIDE had my GIANT bike ready to go. My TCR had only suffered a few scuffs and scratches despite a wreck at speed north of 35 mph with multiple rollovers, a testament to this bike’s build quality. Furthermore, SPY had already arranged a replacement kit, helmet and shades, as all had been destroyed, so I could resume training immediately! While I missed the balance of the 2013 season recovering physically, I am excited to enter 2014 and begin to contribute. With this kind of support and equipment behind me, it’s humbling to say the least. I am proud to represent SPY-Giant-RIDE on the road!
  12. Harold Martinez a/k/a Critboss a/k/a King Harold: SPY: Best casual and sport eyewear I have ever worn. I’ve never looked cooler in a race or at a rave. Put these bad puppies on when me and the missus get down and it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. BHL: EPO Boost is an amazing product. Not only does the powdered drink mix taste good but it keeps me riding stronger with less fatigue and a shorter recovery. RIDE Cyclery: What can I say?  First Class Operation. Excellent support, great prices, top team of mechanics, and that’s coming from a wanker engineer. STAGE ONE APPAREL: Designer of the finest cycling kits in North America, okay, the galaxy. If your kit is not being designed by Stage One, stay home or hide in the pack  because chances are it was designed by some junior high school punk with a pirated copy of Photoshop. StageOne is pro from top to bottom, and Joe Yule is the world’s foremost cycling kit designer, which is kind of like being the world’s most famous snake charmer. SQUADRA: Most comfortable chamois I have ever saddled up in, and after 30 years of racing, the twins have been rubbed and chafed by more chamois than I care to remember. I can ride for days in Squadra bibs. The twins love them, and when I peel them off, the missus is ready for a whole new ballgame. GIANT Bicycles: Hands down the best bicycle in the world, okay, the universe. It’s like cheating a little bit every pedal stroke. When I hop off this bad boy after a hard ride and the missus sees me all covered in sweat, well, it’s a whole new ballgame. SOCK GUY: Best cycling socks for my feet! Cool and comfy all day long. I even wear them off the bike, but not in bed. Usually. GIRO: Lightest and best looking helmet on the market. Fits my melon just right!
  13. Derek Oldfield: For 2013, I’ll be entering into my second year as a SPY-Giant-RIDE cyclocross rider. My 2012 and 2013 experience with SPY-Giant-RIDE has been nothing but frills and good times with strong athletes who push my limits and make me a better cyclist. I really appreciate having the opportunity to be part of this grassroots team and am excited to see the ‘cross season approaching! It feels great when you have the backing of companies that are really involved in competitive cycling. The equipment is the best! Awesome SPY eyewear, killer kits from STAGE ONE and a fast GIANT TCX bike that has made a world of difference at my races! RIDE Cyclery has been amazing as well! Thanks to Brent, Blaize, and Dillon, as they all contributed to helping me figure out the logistics to building the right bike for me! RIDE has great customer service and it’s been awesome working with them!
  14. Lars Finanger: The one piece of equipment I never leave the house without are my SPY shades. Whether it’s an early morning triathlon (yup, I’m a tri- geek) or a late afternoon crit, their lineup has an excellent variety of frames and lenses that keep my eyes protected and happy. My favorite model is the Daft, in large part because I ride my time-trial bike three days each week. It’s the lightest pair of sunglasses I’ve ever used and the biggest advantage is not having to get disoriented from staring at a frame like you end up doing with other manufacturers’ so-called offerings.
  15. David Anderson: Last year had so many highlights, but the thing that stood out the most was capturing the Bear. Our equipment makes a difference in performance. If you don’t have it, you don’t win.The EPO Boost by BHL  had me floating around the state championship course for 45 minutes and it felt like a mere ten. Performance eyewear rarely works well for racing ‘cross, and I’ve tossed quite a few optics off my face just so I could see what was happening around me. Then came along the SPY Screw (under lens). No fogging, no sweat streaks, no glasses bouncing off my face, just pure clarity. If you don’t think seeing makes a difference between winning and losing on a ‘cross course, well … Wearing SPY was one less thing to worry about, plus they look so damn good. I praise my GIANT bike to anybody that will listen. I always lay out that I’ve ridden quite a few ‘cross bikes in my day and my Giant is by far the best bike I’ve ever ridden. The confidence that I have when lining up for a race took me to a number of podiums this year. The stability and tracking is what slows things down in a very fast and hectic environment. I was taught years ago that you need to go slower to go faster in this discipline. When you;re stomping the pedals after the hundredth hairpin the bike just jumps with every pedal turn. What a joy. Thank you sponsors for all that you’ve given!!!
  16. Andy SchmidtI have an extremely flat foot that prevents me from wearing shoes with any type of arch support. In the past I have relied on shoes with zero arch and zero support for riding.  Most of the time it felt like I was standing directly on an oversized pedal.  My foot would basically slide around if I left the top straps too loose, or they would cramp and go numb from over-tightened straps. Every ride would end in sore tired feet. BONT Vaypors are amazing because of the Super Mold Technology.  Stick the shoe in the oven for 20 minutes, then put your foot into the warm shoe and feel it mold. The instructions are simple, and I was a little skeptical of the promised outcome. I followed the instructions and spent extra time pushing the arch down, and didn’t pay attention to the molding that was going on around the rest of my foot. So, off I go on my first significant ride in the Bont Vaypors.  What I immediately noticed was that my foot was a single unit with the pedal. I rode and didn’t feel my foot sliding around inside the shoe and I didn’t even have to crank the top straps.  More importantly, it felt like my foot was a part of the bike rather than two separate units. In one single ride the Bont took me one hundred miles and 10,000 vertical feet. For the first time ever, I didn’t experience any cramps, soreness, or fatigue in my feet. The shoe has perfect power transfer.  That is what makes the Bont so fabulous. SPY: Best eyewear ever. You gotta see if you want to ride well, and SPY lets you see and it protects your eyes. SPY put the other eyewear companies to shame. The quality is the best and the grassroots support for our support makes you appreciate the company even more.
  17. Wankmeister: Fuggit, I love all this shit. This team is so awesome, and the attitude of “strength through destruction” comes from the top down. My SPY eyewear never leaves my face. Ever. Think about that for a minute. My Giant bikes, I sleep with. Yeah, I got grease marks in funny places. My  Squadra kit fits like a tailored tuxedo. StageOne makes me look like a gigolo on a bike. RIDE Cyclery makes sure my bikes and wheels are running perfectly. Lost Abbey keeps me drunk. But most of all, it’s the people. A better group of wankers I’ve never run across, nor hope to.
  18. Alan Flores: It goes without saying that SPY eyewear is the best I’ve ever worn. Not much to add except that their glasses are great on the bike or off. I was starstruck the first time I threw a leg over my GIANT Advanced TCR ISP.  The balance of stiffness, from the 1 ¼ – inch steer tube and massive carbon stem was matched by the smooth transfer of power to the drivetrain, so that all my energy was used to push the bike forward. I raced my new GIANT that following weekend, winning easily. I am not a strong time trial rider, but by taking a long shot attack off the front of the race I was able to maintain a large gap on the field for much longer than I ever have before. That move drew out the best riders in the field to join me the breakaway. The conclusion of the race came down to a six-man sprint finish, in which my GIANT proved  superior by taking me to victory. Simply put, the GIANT Advanced TCR is “superbly responsive.”
  19. David McNeal: Two years ago when I was new to California and to the race scene, and not knowing a sou,l I approached MMX during ‘cross season about racing on the Masters 35+ SPY team with the promise to put the best eyewear in the world on the podium in CX. With an open heart and an open mind, MMX threw me a kit and some SPY Alpha’s without any questions, and thanks to the team’s support I was able to get 3rd in the Master 35+ overall series, as well as win in the Masters 35+ SoCal CX series. I couldn’t have done it without the awesome support from SPY, GIANT, and RIDE Cyclery. Of course, getting to pedal in the SQUADRA kits designed by Joe Yule at STAGE ONE SPORTS made a difference as well. Light-as-air GIRO helmets, BHL supplements, and the best ‘cross footwear on the market made by BONT made me feel like I was a UCI pro racing in Europe. Most of all, though, I’m profoundly grateful to the SPY-GIANT-RIDE team that has helped me make Southern California my new home, and to my teammates who have made me part of their SGR family. And thanks as well to Seth for his write-ups and most of all for the post-race beer hand-ups. I couldn’t be prouder to be an ambassador for this team.
  20. John Hatchitt: It’s impossible to single one of our amazing sponsors as the best. They’ve all had a huge impact on my racing this year. My SPY performance eyewear has come through again and again, helping me see better, protecting my eyes, and helping me look good on the bike! The first time I used my ZIPP 303’s, I was rolling down the hill from my house and thought, “Wow! These are the real deal!” They are fast, light, and amazingly smooth. I got them with the intention of using them only for ‘cross, and rode them to numerous podiums as well as my biggest ‘cross victory to date, the top step in the  “UCI Cross After Dark.” Once the road season started I pulled off the knobbies and glued on road tires. They have been my go-to race wheels all season, with never a creak or an out-of-true wheel to date. My GIANT TCX ‘cross bike was incredible, and of course I love my STAGE ONE kits. Most of all, I love the team. It’s been a blast, and the only thing that’s going to be better is 2014!

Why Los Angeles is way better than San Diego

May 11, 2013 § 27 Comments

It’s really simple: We have the best early morning weekday rides. San Diego doesn’t.

What is a “best” early morning weekday ride? It’s one that begins around 6:30 AM, has a huge regular turnout, and rips your legs off.

“Oh, no!” I can hear you wailing. “We have the awesome Tuesday-Thursday ride! It’s hilly and it shreds the field!”

First of all, our ride is better because yours doesn’t even have a cool name. That’s because you’re too dumb to think one up. All that supposed surfer-cyclist-artiste creativity in North County and the best you can do is two names of the week? Sad.

Second, our ride is better because your ride has such a tiny turnout. Five semi-fast guys showing up with a hangover and pulling out each others’ teeth with rusty pliers does not a legendary bike ride make. Maybe it’s the early hour and you wike your wittle warm bwankie. Maybe it’s the lack of a swollen pack of baby seals among which the weak can cower and hide ’til the moment of reckoning. Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists in North County ride Trek. But most likely, it’s the fact that your riders just aren’t that good.

Third, our ride is better because we have Rahsaan Bahati, Suze Sonye, Greg “32” Leibert, Eric Anderson, and Cory Williams as regulars. Who do you have? That dude with the full purple bodysuit and the bad smell, that’s who.

Fourth, our ride is better simply because of the riders that you have and we don’t. Leaving aside for the moment that none of your guys have even halfway decent nicknames, let me list a few rotten limbs in the pile of  deadwood that makes up your “ride”:

Stefanovich–Comes north to do our NPR, returns home a shell of his former self, which was a shell to begin with.
Crazy Legs–The name kind of says it all, eh? Along with him, “Sketch,” “Skitters,” “Twitch,” and “Jerky”…
Andy McClooney–The best rider to never come north and get his serving of NPR humble pie.
Number 2–Pyeeeeeewwwwh!
Celo Pacific Wheelsuckers–This is a club developed around the riding “strategy” of “do nothing until the end, then do even less.”
Los Ranchos Suckeros–Every yummy pie has filler, but these sandbaggers don’t even taste good when you chew them up and spit them out.
Velo (barely) Hangers-on–Close relatives of NPR baby seals who think “towards the front” is synonymous with “at the front.” It isn’t.
Swami’s B, C, and D Riders–It’s the alphabet soup of lowly categorized wankers. Their best ones make the first ejecta from the first acceleration on the Saturday ride. Their worst ones don’t even have bicycles.
Nytro trigeeks–They don’t always look and ride like idiots, but the 99.9% of the time when they do, they’re so far behind that no one knows or cares.
The Wolf Pack Up-and-Leavers–Last to the fight, first to the feast.

Fifth, our ride is better because we brag about  it. If it weren’t for my amazing powers of investigative journalism, I wouldn’t even know your ride existed. If you don’t brag about it, it must not be any good.

Sixth, our ride is better because we have a cool FB page. Do you? Of course not. Without a cool FB page your ride can never be more than sucky. Sorry.

Seventh, our ride is waaaaay better because Robert Efthimos and Cory Williams video everything and then post cool movies of wankers like Jay “Manslaughter” LaPlante trying to murder his buddies. Then we get to spend the entire workday on FB chatting about it. What do you poor slobs do? You go to work and work, that’s what.

Eighth, our ride is better because we actively make fun of people who wear Oakley. SPY is how we roll, yo.

Ninth, our ride is better because we have that cute Asian chick who’s always jogging down the alley as we roll out. Who do you have? That furry dude who lives in the shopping cart behind the Starbucks.

Tenth, our ride is better because we have a ride kit. That’s right. Our ride is so pimpin’ that we have a kit with our cool ride’s name on it and lots of clever “in” jokes emblazoned on it by Joe Yule. Our ride is beautifully tanned Argentine leather. Yours is naugahyde.

Eleventh, we have Joe Yule. You have that dude who lives in his mom’s garage and builds web sites with Dreamweaver.

Twelfth, we have CotKU. You probably don’t even know what that is. Sad.

Finally, after our awesome ride, which is always awesome and so much better than yours, we get to sit around at CotKU, drink coffee, and watch Dave Perez do interesting things dressed up in purple and yellow. What do you have? A bunch of really serious MRI dudes dressed up in electric green  baby dwarf artichoke outfits. Hint: You can’t be serious if you are a dude in a baby dwarf artichoke suit. A clown, perhaps, but not a serious dude.

The day of reckoning

Although I’ve already reached my conclusions, invented my facts, and printed my story, I thought I would at least do you the favor of coming down to the next Tuesday ride to confirm that your ride is a complete sham and pose fest. I have no doubt about what I’ll find: A handful of scraggly, half-shaved riders, tummies hanging out of their undersized stretch pants while they suck down a gallon of pre-ride sugar goop pretending that their “ride” is a ride.

Please also be advised that I will be showing up fully primed and prepared to teach each of you the meaning of the word “beatdown.” Although I don’t expect to break a sweat, you should expect to suffer a calamitous clubbing. This is what LA is all about: Schooling the noobs in the south about how to ride their bicycles. After that I will give the survivors a surfing lesson, beginning with “How not to purl every time” and then followed by a video showing you the difference between a rideable wave, a closeout, and whitewash. Not that it will help.

See you soon, and bring your moped. You’re gonna need it.

The broken window karma bitch from hell

September 30, 2012 § 13 Comments

Aging is like driving an old car. We try to make the best of a deteriorating situation, hoping that the failures are incremental rather than catastrophic. My Camry is in fantastic shape for its 195,000+ miles. It’s got a character ding on the rear bumper, a character gash on the passenger door, and a driver-side window that won’t close all the way.

The window makes a huge whooshing sound once you hit about 40, a whoosh that drowns out radios, cell phones, directions from your spouse, screaming kids in the back seat, and sirens. I’ve been meaning to get it fixed for the last 30,000 miles or so. Meaning to. A great concept.

A brief psychlocross instructional

I left at 5:30 AM to meet up with MMX in North County to borrow a pair of ‘cross shoes, do the Swami’s ride, and get some pointers on how to succeed in my first psychlocross race, which is Sunday. I whooshed all the way to Encinitas, where MMX handed me the shoes.

They were covered with a thick crust of dried mud. They were battered, torn, and had dried mud shoved up into areas where you wouldn’t have thought there was anywhere to shove, like up under the sole. “How do you get mud up under the sole?” I wondered. “So,” I said. “What do I need to know for my first race?”

“Hmmmm. ‘Cross is a lot of fun. After it’s over. During the race you pretty much feel worse than you’ve ever felt your entire life for every single pedal stroke.”

“Oh. Okay. So, like, what do I need to know, technique-wise and stuff?”

“That’s kind of it.” There was an uncomfortable silence as he looked at me. “And don’t crash.”

“B” is for “Babies”

We rolled off to the world-infamous Swami’s “B” Ride, which was founded as an alternative to the leg-shattering, soul-destroying, lung-incinerating Saturday fuckfest now known as the Swami’s “A” Ride.

“You can’t hammer on the B Ride,” MMX said. “Or they’ll kick you off it.”

“Oh. Why?”

“Because if you want to hammer, you do the A Ride.”

“So why are we doing the B Ride? Isn’t that kind of like repeating kindergarten after you’ve graduated from high school?”

“We have a race tomorrow, so we’ll just spin our legs, that’s why. And whatever you do, don’t go to the front. That counts as hammering.”

“Even if I’m just soft pedaling?”

He raised an eyebrow. “Yes.”

Karma Strike One

The B Ride really was a flailfest. Even when they were pedaling hard, they weren’t going very fast. Before long I was up at the front. MMX kept waving me back, but by the time we got to Elfin Forest, the herd had thinned a bit. After the church sprunt, it was just MMX, Mark Nagy, and I, rolling along.

Although I thought I’d done a reasonably good job of not hammering, Karma Bitch was unimpressed. She keeps very accurate records, and knows every detail about you, right down to your Social Security Number.

A hero’s welcome

Up ahead as we climbed by the lake was a very old dude. He kept looking back, and was hustling hard to stay away.

“That’s John Howard,” said MMX.

The John Howard?” I asked.

“Yep. Four-time national champion, three-time Olympian, PanAm Games gold medalist, Ironman winner, four-time RAAM finisher, former holder of the land speed record on a bike, and all-round badass. That’s him. He’s sixty-six, and still rides better than most guys in their 20’s.”

I put my head down, and it took three of us working together to chase him down. We caught him on the bottom of the final ascent. He swung over, MMX pulled through easy, and I came through hard, keeping the gas on until I’d shaken off one of the greatest American cyclists ever, without so much as showing him the respect of saying “hello.”

Karma Strike Two.

Caloric value falls with distance from home

Much like cheating on your spouse, the farther away you get from home the less it counts if you eat chubomatic food when you’re on a diet. After finishing the ride, I got in the car and prepared to swing by HapiFish and get a bowl of cold oatmeal with non-fat milk.

However, I was now 104 miles from home, and the smell of the carnitas wafting out from the open window of Kojita’s Jr. Burrito Palace and Lard Kitchen was overpowering. Doing the caloric math, the 1,500-calorie burrito would probably only be worth 300 or 400 calories this far from home, so I bypassed the healthy oatmeal and went straight for the lard log. Oh, yummmm!

Karma Strike Three.

What’s a whoosh plus a screech?

Tummy pleasantly distended with crunchy, fried bits of fish and tortilla and burrito sauce, I headed up Leucadia Ave. to catch the 5 and return home. As I waited in the left-hand turn lane to get on the freeway, I realized that the window whooshing was caused by the window closing at an angle. It had taken thousands of miles and several years to figure this out.

“I bet I can fix that!” thought the guy who once almost lost his thumb trying to lube the chain on his track bike.

I lowered the window to try and straighten it, and as I raised it I slightly pushed the glass outward, trying to slow the rear part of the window so that the entire edge would seat properly. But I pushed too hard, and the glass popped completely outside the door frame.

The light turned green, and as I turned left I frantically tried to push the window back down with my right hand. That didn’t work, so I even more frantically hit the “down” button with my left hand, temporarily taking both hands off the wheel.

The window jerked down slightly, and sucked my thumb down into the crack along with it. I yowled a curse as the window, now hanging entirely outside the door frame, still wedged my thumb. I had to reach over my right arm to grab the wheel as I entered the freeway. The window began flapping in the wind and whacking against the outside of the door frame.

Each smack smushed my thumb, which felt like it had been caught in a door that was slowly opening and closing on it, over and over. It was Simon’s Hand in the Electric Gate all over again. I was afraid to push the button while driving, thinking that it could get my thumb caught up in the door motor, but at the same time I was afraid the window would shatter into a million pieces. The passing traffic looked amazed, as if they’d never seen a screaming madman with his window flopping outside the car, banging the side of the vehicle at 50 on the freeway while he drove with one hand stuck in the door and the other hand crossed over it while wearing a bicycling outfit and knee-high pink socks.

The only good thing was that everyone could see the SPY sticker on my bumper and the SPY logo on my kit, so my sponsors will know that I was representing.

The next exit took forever. I got off, pulled over, and gradually worked my thumb free. Then I sank into the seat and passed out.

Window repair 101

Upon reopening my eyes, it took a minute to remember why I was parked on the side of the road with my front window hanging out of the car. By the time it all came back, the Karma Bitch had gone. Her work was finished. With a little ingenuity and pushing and angling, I got the window back into the door and seated it properly.

Best of all, when I closed it for good the window sealed perfectly, and the whooshing was completely cured. I drove home listening to my only CD, enjoying music in the car for the first time in years.

Karma may be a bitch, but she can be a good bitch, too.

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