May 15, 2014 § 8 Comments

My alarm clock went off but I did not. So, at 7:30 I rode down to CotKU to at least say hello to the forcats du NPR, who were massed on the bricks drinking coffee, exaggerating their greatness, and minimizing the derring-do of others.

I minimized and exaggerated as best I could until Eric, Surfer Dan, Sam, Phoque de Paris, Chris, and AEPie-hole indicated it was time to ride some more. We approached the light at Beryl. “Which way?” asked Dan.

“Let’s do Gussy’s Cobbles,” I said.

“Gussy’s? You mean mine.”

“No, those cobbles were discovered by Gussy. He showed them to me about six months ago and I’ve been doing them ever since.”

Surfer Dan sighed. “Wanky, they’ve been a Strava segment called ‘Tha Surfer Dan’ for well over a year. That’s my turf.”

We flew through the stop sign at the end of North Harbor drive, dashed through the parking lot, and shunted onto the gravel-and-cobbled walkway that threaded between two concrete posts. Any error here and you were gash.

Through the posts the mini-cobbles led up a grass-stone-dirt-tree root embankment and we charged, full bore, Surfer Dan in the lead until he veered off to the right. Unbeknownst to me, “Tha Surfer Dan” Strava segment went right whereas the “normal Wanky commute” went left.

Erik, charging hard on my left, also veered right at the top of the embankment, precisely where I began to drift left. There is no better epilogue to a Strava segment charge than taking out your good friend and teammate, but unfortunately we only smashed bars and untangled at the last minute.

Everyone else laughed and cat-called as we hustled our way up to Catalina.

A happy disrespect for the usual

Ever since the first Belgian Waffle Ride in 2012, I have been impressed with the SPY Optic motto of “A happy disrespect for the usual way of doing things.” But I never really understood it until Tha Surfer Dan.

Over the last two years I have altered my perspective about road bicycling. I used to think that road bicycling meant pavement, but the BWR taught me that there are other paths you can take using the same things you have always used. New paths, different paths, exciting paths, not limited to cycling.

Tha Surfer Dan was a little mix of grass and mini-cobbles I would have never sought out before 2012. Now I went out of my way to ride it.

At the top, Surfer Dan said “Let’s do a couple of climbs. Anybody up for Dirty del Monte?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Instead of going up Via del Monte the usual way, we hop onto a dirt track next to the library, go up a wall, empty out onto the golf course, then go up another dirt track, follow an abandoned road, and come out near Paseo del Sol.”

This seemed very happy and very disrespectful to the usual way of climbing Via del Monte. “I’m in,” I said.

“There’s a chute you’ll have to walk up, though,” he said. “I’ve never made it to the top without dismounting.”

Far from the madding crowd

Riding in Palos Verdes is weird. You’re in the heart of Los Angeles but it’s mostly quiet and almost rural. There are hardly any shops or stores and almost any road takes you up to breathtaking views of the Pacific. Nothing prepared me for Dirty del Monte, though. It was like being spirited into a different world.

We blasted off the pavement and up the narrow dirt track, suddenly surrounded by trees and shade, and the noise of traffic was instantly obliterated. We beat the pedals until we mounted the wall, dumped out onto pavement, and a few moments later were again ensconced in the silence of the trees. We clawed our way up and up and up until the dirt track gave way to an abandoned and overgrown narrow strip of shattered pavement.

On every side were trees, and each sharp turn threw out another priceless view of the ocean and the bay all the way to Malibu.

It finished almost before it had begun, a 1.5-mile dirt climb straight up the face of the peninsula on road bikes and narrow tires.

No one said a word. We stopped our bikes and caught our breath. Whatever we were feeling, it wasn’t disrespect. But on the other hand, it wasn’t usual, either. Finally, I understood.



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Top 10 climbs in Palos Verdes

May 13, 2012 § 14 Comments

The South Bay produces lots of riders who can absolutely smoke it on the uphills. This is due in part to the excellent climbing available on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Below is my ranking of the ten best climbs. Route descriptions are referenced according to Strava.

1. Forrestal-Ganado-Domes: 3.4 miles, average grade 6.3%. The toughest climb on the peninsula. It begins on Forrestal when you turn off of PV Drive South, connects with Ganado, then takes Crest all the way to the radar domes. If you do “Segment Search” in Strava for “The Big One, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA,” you’ll find it. It’s a solid 20-minute climb. The first part of Forrestal is deceptively steep, and the rest of the climb to Crest is not deceptive at all. It goes up, and up, and up. The wall before Ganado is horrific, and Ganado itself is beyond horrific. This is as close to a pro climb as we have in the South Bay. Long, leg breaking, steep, lung busting, relentless, and ridden rarely because it hurts so much.

2. Anchovy-Friendship Park-Domes: 4.0 miles, 7% (est). This would be harder than Forrestal except that after you complete the climb above Friendship Park there is a substantial respite before you hit Crest and climb to the domes. Otherwise, it’s an absolute killer. It starts off as an 8.2% wall, climbs for half a mile, then finishes at 11.6% for another five hundred yards before briefly leveling out. You enter the park’s parking lot, pedal to the back, lift your bike over the barricade, and continue up the paved road for another .5 mile, averaging a solid 15% along the steepest part. Then you get another breather from Calle Aventura to PV East until you turn right on Crest and grind the final 1.6 miles at 5.3% to the radar domes.

3. The Switchbacks: The Strava segment is called “RPV Switchbacks.” This is the gold standard climb in the South Bay. 1.9 miles, 5.1%, and a mere 508 feet of climbing, it’s hardly a tough or challenging climb. You can big ring it or spin it…as you wish. However, if you want to crack the top three times, get ready to leave something on the road. This is the most popular climb in the South Bay; everyone’s done it, it’s drilled every single week on the Donut Ride, and although there are many harder climbs, there’s none that’s tougher if you’re out hunting a legit Strava KOM. Which I know you’re not. But just in case…

4. Calle de Suenos-Crest-Whitley Collins: 3.3 miles, 4.5% (est.) this is a harder, more interesting, and less common route than Hawthorne-Crest, which I’ve left off the list because it’s so ugly, boring, and such a wretched slog compared to Calle de Suenos. Hawthorne is slightly longer and slightly steeper, but this is my list. Sorry. The section on Crest after crossing Hawthorne is not steep but kind of a grind. The kicker is the back side of Whitley-Collins, which rips up at 7.8% and is gnarliest at the end…as it should be.

5. Paseo de la Playa-Via del Monte-Granvira Altamira-Whitley Collins: This is an amalgamation of several climbs, beginning at Paseo de la Playa in RAT Beach, connecting with Palos Verdes Drive Boulevard, doglegging through Malaga Cove to the Strava segment called Via del Monte Full, straight across Hawthorne to Ridgegate, right on Highridge, and then finishing with the front side of Whitley-Collins and its .2 miles at 9.9%. The entire climb is like a billion miles long, has one traffic signal and four hundred stop signs. You’ll have to decide for yourself what to do about them. This is a killer climb to do early in the morning, shortly after or just before the PV cops park their dummy patrol car with the blacked-out windows somewhere on Via del Monte. This climb has everything. Steep sections, 180-degree turn, flat spots, false flats, slight and brief downhill, long grinds…and it finishes with a leg-breaker. As it should.

6. Eastvale-Sunnyridge: This is a little-ridden extremely noxious climb that will completely crush you. It’s only about a mile long, but averages a solid 9%. The key is to bear right when Eastvale meets Sunnyridge. From there it kicks up and up and up. Take care descending Sunnyridge. It’s a residential street. This is certainly one of the nastiest climbs on the hill, and gets bypassed for that very reason. You pick it up on PV Drive North just past Crenshaw.

7. Crenshaw-Crest-Whitley Collins: In the spirit of miserable, dangerous, grinding, unpleasant rides with nothing to recommend them except length and dreadfulness, I bring you Crenshaw. If you begin it at PCH, it’s about 4 miles at 7%. The traffic is dense and fast and dangerous on the lower slope. The traffic is not as dense, but faster after you cross PV Drive North. However, the width of the lane makes it relatively safe. Relatively. After the light at Silver Spur, the road jacks up considerably and really sucks. You get a brief respite on Crest, and then pounded in the face with a brick when you hit the final .3 miles on Whitley-Collins. This climb is so miserable and awful that you’ll never, ever do it more than once.

8. Reservoir-Homes & Domes: This is the climb up Palos Verdes Drive East to Miraleste, down Miraleste, and up through the neighborhood back to PV Drive East, then up to the radar domes. It’s a terrible, dangerous climb up from the reservoir due to the traffic, narrow lanes, angry drivers on their way to church, and bad pavement. The climb is neither challenging nor particularly scenic. The Better Homes Section up Via Colinita is about .7 miles, fairly steep, pretty, but not otherwise notable. So why do this climb? Because it’s a standard.

9. Zumaya-Coronel: This is actually the name of the Strava segment; it’s 2.9 miles at 4.4%. It has a couple of steep sections and only two brief sections where you can catch your breath before it kicks up again. It includes the sweeping uphill grind on Coronel and finishes at a nice little grassy park. It’s often included at the end of the Donut Ride for those who haven’t left everything on the Glass Church sprint and The Rollers.

10. You tell me.

The angry smell of blue-haired democracy

November 11, 2011 § 16 Comments

I once managed a U.S. senate campaign, and it was there that I learned to hate democracy. As a concept, it’s great. But in practice, it seems like the only people who care enough to show up are the mean-spirited, crotchety, my-way-or-the-highway douchebags who believe that because they reached the age of 70 everything they think is a fact.

The city of Palos Verdes Estates, where I lived for four years as a renter, has its own pecking order. Here’s the complete ranking sheet that you need to have before you do anything in PVE, just so you know where you stand. The lower the number, the higher you rank.

1. People who bought and have lived in the same house for forty years or more.
2. God.
3. People who bought and have lived in the same house for thirty years or more.
4. White people with a net worth of $50 million or more.
5. White people with a net worth of $10-$50 million.
6. White locals who surf at Lunada Bay.
7. White board members of Lunada Bay Little League and PEF.
8. White members of the PV Beach and Athletic Club.
9. White non-members of the PV Beach and Athletic Club on the 15-year waiting list who blow the members of the PV Beach and Athletic Club.
10. Anyone who was responsible for reducing property taxes.
11. Anyone who donates $20k or more to the PEF to make up for the shortfall in school revenue caused by the reduced property taxes.

If you’re not on this list, you don’t matter. However, there’s also a score sheet that the city uses to rank the degree to which you don’t matter. They use this when people impinge upon the city’s whiteness and try to alter the character of the community or the nature of its laws and regulations, by, for example, showing up at city council meetings and daring to speak. The lower the number, the more despicable you are.

11. Child rapists.
10. People whose skin isn’t really white and/or Jews.
9. Serial rapists and/or murderers.
8. Non-white people who apply for membership at the PV Beach and Athletic Club.
7. Non-local surfers.
6. Anyone from Rancho Palos Verdes.
5. Non-PVE residents who use its roads.
4. Democrats.
3. Non-owners of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
2. Cyclists.
1. Renters.

Democracy in action

I showed up at the city’s traffic commission meeting, where they were soliciting public comment on the new “traffic calming measures” being touted by the city. Held conveniently on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. so that no one but the resident blue-hairs and the wealthy retirees could reasonably attend, the meeting room was packed. Out of the fifty or sixty people who had come to flex the tired, flabby, and grossly untoned muscle of local democracy, only four of us were cyclists.

The city’s engineer, Allan Rigg, who can be reached at arigg@pvestates.org, presented a schematic diagram that showed the city’s innovative approach to calming traffic on Via del Monte. Once I saw the residents speak, I understood why they called it traffic “calming,” as the angry white people were furious and raging beyond belief at the deadly state of affairs in Palos Verdes Estates. They called me first to the lectern to deliver my three minutes’ worth of comments. My pitch was simple. I live in RPV (disgust so thick you could cut it with a fork). I love cycling on the Peninsula (contempt overlayered with revulsion). The changes the city makes to Via del Monte should take into account cyclists (snorting derision). A war hero suffered catastrophic injuries after installation of the traffic cushions (serves him right for riding a bike). Thanks for the hard work you’re all doing for the community (it’s our community and fuck you we don’t need your thanks you dirtbag RPV Democrat cycling Camry-driving renter).

Ve haf vays ov slowing you down

The engineer’s recommendations for calming the outraged traffic are so dangerous, stupid, and ludicrous that if he didn’t have the word “engineer” appended to his job title I would have thought it was a comedy routine. Unfortunately, here are the solutions to calm the angry, angry traffic on VDM:

1. Put up electronic signs so that speeders will know they’re speeding. These are effective because when someone is doing 90 in a 35 they can use the signs to calibrate the speedometer in their vehicle.

2. Add several zillion huge reflector dots all up and down the street, with a few million smack in the middle of the hairpin. These will ensure that any cyclist whose line drifts too far out will hit the bumps and be flung into oncoming traffic, and hopefully die or at least suffer permanent debilitating injurty.

3. [This one I didn’t really grasp, and have asked Mr. Rigg to send me the diagram.] Add differential levels to the edge of the road in the hairpin to “channel” the traffic. This will slow people down on the hairpin, and again, kill lots of cyclists.

The voices of disreason

The good citizens were then advised that the meeting was not being held to consider the existing traffic cushions, which are here to stay, so the meeting began and ended with the angry blue-hairs talking almost exclusively about the traffic cushions. With the exception of Dave Kramer, Brad House, and a Mr. Eastman, no one else had anything to say, intelligent or otherwise, about the proposed new measures. Below are excerpts of the rantings that will, in due course, support the commission’s recommendations to make VDM off-limits and/or a [greater] death trap to cyclists.

Eldora Snagbottom: I’ve lived on Via del Monte for 43 years and these traffic cushions hurt my hip which has been replaced and hurt the shocks on my car.

Evelyn Whackdoodle: I’ve lived on Via del Monte for 47 years. These speed calming cushions slow traffic for those of us with V8’s we should be able to go faster.

Samuel Ratslinger: Are we a third world city who can’t afford cops? Let’s get more cops. And we want more speed bumps to stop the speeders. Speeders are ruining this city. I moved here in 1963 and it’s changed for the worse, I can tell you.

Peony Pukesy: I oppose anything that interferes with parking on this street. I moved here in 1952 and parking is important. Everyone else needs to respect us and parking. We pay taxes.

Howeldella Smoots: Have we ever measured the speed of bikes? They’re faster than cars. Those bicyclers are crazy and dangerous I can’t hardly get my car out of the drive without one of them whizzing by at 60 miles an hour or faster. Can we arrest them? They are a big problem. I moved here in 1973 and it’s gotten worse every day. Every day.

Frederick Putz: The bumps are great and slow people down. The bumps push people off del Monte and that’s good. Why do they come here anyway? Why can’t we have more bumps? We need a big bump, I mean a big giant one that will rip the front end off a tank, something that blends in so it catches you unawares if you’re not going slow. Lose a few front ends and by God that’ll slow ’em down. Moved here in ’69.

Helena Abercrombie: Why does the city let the concerns of fire trucks and emergency vehicles trump residents’ concerns about this awful dangerous traffic? Especially the bicyclers. They are the worst. We pay taxes and own property here. I’ve lived here 46 years.

Biff Huttbole: I drive VDM six times a day. There are other ways to do this other than speed bumps. I live here because it’s beautiful. I don’t want some new sign or speed bump blighting my beautiful street. Let’s get the cops involved. Ticket the hell out of everyone, especially the crazy bikers. Hand out $50,000 in tickets every day, full-on lockdown, SWAT team, paddywaggon, we’ll get those bastards and raise a heap of money to boot. Enforcement and punishment works! Haven’t these clowns ever heard of prison?

Suzanne Frumpwad: I don’t want a sign in front of my lawn. I’ve lived here for fifty years. These speed cushions aren’t cushions! They’re hard and they hurt! I’ve lived here fifty years. Cyclists are problems and they speed, run the stop signs, and if they hit a bump and take a whack to the head, maybe they’ll slow down next time! I know I would. I’ve lived here fifty years. Those bumps are discomfortable.

Being heard through the howls of the angry locals

The one useful thing I learned from attending the meeting, aside from the fact that no one gives a flying fuck about bicyclists except bicyclists, is that the traffic commission actually pays attention to letters and phone calls. Huge kudos to the cyclists who took the time off from work or from play in order to show up and say something. For those of you who ride VDM and who don’t want it made worse, please call the city clerk, Ms. Judy Smith, at (310) 378-0383 x2250. Tell her your name, where you live, and that you oppose the newly proposed traffic calming measures and you request that the city remove the speed cushions on Via del Monte. I know that it’s hard to pick up the phone, but get off FB for just a minute or two and give it a go. Thanks.

Accident waiting to happen (again)

November 7, 2011 § 2 Comments

There is a meeting of the Palos Verdes Estates Traffic Safety Committee on Wednesday November 9 at 4:00pm at PVE City Hall. The first item on the agenda is traffic calming on Via del Monte. See the agenda at http://www.pvestates.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=953. Wankmeister will be there and he hopes you will be also. It is important that cyclists are heard to demand that they take us into account in any plans for changes to that roadway. We need to insist that they remove the deadly speed “cushions” near the bottom of the hill. One cyclist has already been seriously injured, and we need to convince them to remove the cushions before another catastrophic collision occurs.

If you can attend the meeting and wish to speak please arrive a few minutes early and fill out a speaker’s slip. You will want to check the box to speak about the item on the agenda “Traffic Calming on Via del Monte.” At the appropriate time your name will be called and you will have three minutes to speak. Those three minutes go by very quickly so think carefully about what you want to say.

Here is a suggested “comment” if you want to attend but don’t have time to organize your thoughts, or if you get nervous speaking in public. Practice it a few times and you’ll win the whole council over in three short minutes:

“Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to comment on traffic calming on Via del Monte. As a cyclist, I fully support calm traffic. Perhaps we could begin by shooting all of the irate, over-caffeinated, asshole motorists who buzz us, scream at us, and smash into us as we legally try to use the roadways. An effective alternative method for calming traffic is by making the crazy fuckers trying to kill us wear straighjackets, and then dosing them up with huge quantities of sedatives. A small, padded cell would also, I believe, have a calming effect on the nutjob motorists who lurk along the roadways of Palos Verdes Estates.

“It has come to my addition that this fine city, in its laudable attempt to calm traffic, has installed traffic cushions at the bottom of Via del Monte. I learned about this one morning several months ago, as I descended VDM in the wee hours. Although I had a light and am very familiar with the road, you can imagine my surprise when I hit the brand new speed cushions, which were ‘fresh’ and therefore had no warning signs or reflective striping, at the modest pace of 15mph. I did a somersault, trashed my $7,000 carbon frame, and got an exciting trip to the trauma center at UCLA Harbor where they bored a hole in my skull and drained the fluid that had accumulated from the bruised and bleeding surface of my brain.

“Unfortunately, this did not calm me down at all. In fact, it made me mad as hell. What the fuck were you people thinking? I mean aside from the obvious ‘Let’s kill a few cyclists to let them know we hate them and don’t want them here.’ More importantly, aside from killing and injuring cyclists, who came up with the name ‘cushion’? I have a cushion on my sofa and a couple on my bed. They are soft, pliable, and greatly assist my ass from getting sore when I sit, and they help me fall asleep quickly. I have also been known to prop them under my girlfriend’s butt in order to achieve a more satisfying angle. These fucking things on VDM don’t seem to serve any practical effect other than bashing my head against the asphalt. Maybe ‘bash’ is the new ‘cushion.’ But as far as I’m concerned they suck.

“Finally, I’d like to tell all the fine residents of PV who think their shit doesn’t stink—it does. And the sooner you rip these stupid fucking cushions up and start coming down as hard on motorists as you do on cyclists, the better. Thank you.”

P.S. “When’s the last time an irate cyclist ever ran over a motorist?”

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