Be careful what you ask for

August 7, 2013 § 15 Comments

That’s what I was thinking as Punkin moved aggressively to take Zink’s wheel. Punkin had been pedaling madly and never spent a second at the front. Now, just before the launch up the first nasty roller, he had decided that what he wanted was the Cadillac draft: Zink, he figured, was big, strong, and able to tow him to the promised land.

I let him in. “You want Zink’s wheel, Punkin?” I thought. “Okay. Let me know how that works out for you.”

Punkin grabbed The Wheel, and The Wheel surged up the hill with the ferocity that only Zink seems to have in these situations. Punkin pedaled hard, then harder, then started trying to find the right gear, something in between an 18 and a 19, say, an 18-1/2 or perhaps an 18-3/4.

Smoke began pouring out of his ass. His head drooped. Zink beat the pedals even harder and Punkin rolled out of the formation, his left engine hit, his right engine in flames, and the nose already pointing downwards as he began spiraling out of control. We didn’t see him again.

Be prepared

This day had started like every other Big Ride Day. The night before I’d laid everything out, packed my bag, ground the coffee, charged my lights, and set the alarm for 3:45 and then again for 4:00 AM to make sure I would be able to wake up and be out the door on time at five.

And like every other cyclist since the beginning of time who has prepared the night before, I was late. I continually woke up all night, anxiously awaiting the alarm, but it wasn’t until 3:30 that I fell into the sleep of the dead so that when the clock went off fifteen minutes later I was in the profound REM sleep of someone who’s been up all night.

I snoozed the alarm until four, staggered up, fixed the coffee, put on my kit, drank my coffee, and checked email. The next time I looked up I only had five minutes before departure. No problem. I got up and remembered I hadn’t aired up my tires. No problem. Aired ’em up. Then I noticed my taillight wasn’t affixed. Ran into the bedroom. Couldn’t find it. Began hollering. Woke up the household. Finally found it, amazingly, where I’d left it the night before.

Went to put it on. The velcro strap came loose. Dashed back into the bedroom. Wife now livid. Turned on the light. Wife started throwing ashtrays. Ran to the drawer where I kept random bike shit that doesn’t go in the toolbox but can’t be tossed because you might need it someday. Dumped out the drawer and began feverishly looking through spare helmet pads, extra GoPro sticky pad thingies, spare bolts and washers, extra tire levers, and a stack of decals. Where was the fucking extra velcro strap?


Now my five minutes were long gone. Ran to the bike. Strapped on the velcro. Hooked on the light. Stumbled out to the car. Forgot my coffee. Ran back up three flights of stairs. Got the coffee. Ran back to the car. Got the bike and bag into the car. Now I was fifteen minutes down. The drive to North County would be insane, and it was.

First, my son, ye shall have communion at the holy Leucadia Donut Shoppe

I got to Leucadia with fifteen minutes to spare and hit the donut shop. Then I sped over to the Starbucks where the ride started. I scarfed the donuts, drained a coffee mug, and hopped on my bike just as the ride rolled out.

All of the other riders had ridden there and were warmed up. I was colder than a math teacher.

We set a wonderful, leisurely pace for the first hundred yards. Then Lars the Viking gently increased the speed to thirty-five. Zink came through at 36. Nails came through at 37. Ryan came through at 37.5. Everyone else got kicked out the back, reducing our starting group of forty to about five riders.

We regrouped at a light, if “regrouped” is what you call a gaggle of gagging, gasping bicycle riders whose tongues are stuck in their forks. Zink whipped it up again on PCH as he, Dahl, Viking, Sobey, and a handful of other SPY riders pushed it all the way to Carlsbad. The ragtag group of wheelsucks wouldn’t, or couldn’t take a pull, with the exceptions of Stefanovich and Jim, who both found the front just long enough to remember why they’d been in the back.

“Gee, I’d love to, but … “

As we hit the first nasty roller I thought about all the people who had told me how much they’d “love” to come do this ride. None had made it. I appreciated their wisdom.

One flailer who appeared to be on life support rolled up and patted me condescendingly on the head. “You’re doing better!” he said. Zink kicked it up another gear, I followed, and Headpat disappeared into oblivion. I love riding people off my wheel after they compliment me.

After the endless series of rollers, each of which permanently shed another fistful of gasping wheelsucks, we finally eased off. “This one’s tempo,” said MMX.

Viking, Zink, Dahl, and Sobey didn’t get the email, though, as they stomped off with the enthusiasm of a newly licensed executioner trying out a new Zwilling blade. MMX, Dandy Andy and I were gapped out. MMX mashed away for as long as he could, doing 23 rpm in his trademark meatgrinder pedalstroke, then ceded the front to Dandy Andy. Dandy flogged it like a monkey trying to write kanji and somehow closed the gap. I spit up an appendix and part of my shoe, then caught my breath with a 7/0 treble hook on 400-lb. test line and a Daiwa Dendoh Marine power assist reel.

Thanks to the “tempo” climb and the robotic thumping of MMX, Zink and Viking, MMX closed out the day with thirteen KOM’s and a new course record. I finished with a migraine and a sense of astonishment that on a 29-mile ride there could be over three hundred Strava segments. Dahl gave me a funny look at the end.

“Dude,” he said. “When you were eating  the kimchi diet and the vegan thing and no gluten and no beer and only masturbating biannually you were slower than an IRS refund. Now that you’ve switched to beer and donuts you’re actually keeping up. What’s that all about?”

“I dunno,” I said. Then I hopped into my car, dashed onto the freeway, drove like mad to the McDonald’s in San Clemente, inhaled a Big Mac, and fell asleep in the parking lot.

Go big or go home? I had gone big AND was going home. And the next time you get a hankering to find out how tough your local Tuesday morning ride actually is, give me a call. The passenger seat’s always empty.

Short news brief in summary and abbreviated form

July 6, 2013 § 8 Comments

I have been banging the drum here in L.A. for some time now regarding the great bicycle riding opportunities in North County San Diego. This is not because I want to encourage people to get to know others, have fun, and enjoy cycling. It is because I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing my friends and riding buddies suffer obliteration. Although riding in North County won’t make you faster, it will permanently devastate your self-esteem. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”

I joined my first SPY Holiday Ride yesterday. The evening before we had a team celebration at RIDE Cyclery. MMX, Slim Jim, and Brent had stocked the deck with giant coolers filled with fresh growlers of beer from Lost Abbey. None of the growlers had fancy beer names like “Working Stiff” or “Take Five” or “North County Rough Road.” No, they just had percentages of alcohol content written on the caps with a Sharpie.

This was beer for people who were serious about drinking beer. The Lost Abbey figured out how to make the beer, and apparently it was your job to figure out what to call it. The next morning I awoke with a screaming, blinding, pounding, stomach-churning hangover from hell, so in the future I will call their beer Sbpsc Hfh. Add vowels as needed.

It would be easy to blame the next day’s dismal ride performance on the hangover were it not for the fact that I have never done a hard ride in North County that didn’t either kick me out the back or reduce me to a whimpering puddle of drained legs and melted ego.

Why you should do this ride

1. There is no “B” ride. It is uncompromising. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, be kicked out the back, and forced to find your way home alone or in the company of other lost damned souls. How many things do you do in life that are uncompromising? That demand everything of you and guarantee nothing but defeat? (Don’t answer this if you’ve been married for more than five years.) That bring out the best in you even when your best is a pathetic, sniveling NOTHING? So, you should do this ride because it replicates, in the tiniest of ways, your natteringly, immeasurably insignificant place in the universe.

2. You are a chickenshit. Yes, you. You, who hide behind wheels, always take the short route home, sandbag in the easiest categories, or “compete” by “racing” exclusively against Strava and your own “personal records.” Thing is, you don’t have to just be a chickenshit. You can go on this ride and be a smashed chickenshit and earn the contempt of the august men and powerful women on the SPY Holiday Ride who will crush you like an eggshell beneath the wheel of an Antonov An-225.

3. There is order in the court. Unlike the Manhattan Beach Holiday Ride, in which 300 freds and 50 solid riders usurp the roadways of coastal L.A. in a mad, undisciplined dash to Mandeville Canyon, the SPY Holiday Ride is ordered. Yesterday about 175 riders went two-by-two for the first five miles, a sick single file for the next four, and all-hell-breaking-loose at the nine-mile mark when the peloton shattered at the base of the San Diegueno climb.

4. Prizes galore. Yesterday an entire case of The Lost Abbey’s BWR Bad-Ass Ale was awarded to the sado-masochist who spent the most time on the front. Unsurprisingly, the winner was Phil Tinstman. KOM winners got cool SPY sunglasses. OTB-wankers got as many servings of ridicule and contempt as they could swallow.

5. Natural selection. This ride rather quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, and you eventually rode with the category of your true ability. Once the pain train hit Lake Hodges, those who had pulled early, blew early. Those who had sucked wheel in hopes that a miracle would get them up the punishing rollers had to re-evaluate their faith. Those who had saved so they could punish finally “Let the Dogs Out.”

6. Variable terrain. The terrain in North County is different from much of SoCal, and punishing. It doesn’t feature many long climbs, but it continually throws rollers in your path no matter which direction you go. These variations wear you down, break your will to live, and leave you looking for a quaint coffee shop with yummy pastries, or failing that, a Starbucks, or failing that, a house with a garden hose. But there are none.

7. Heatstroke. Once you leave the coast it gets A-fucking hot. The poorly hydrated crack, crumple, and cave. The lucky ones die.

8. Benign indifference. Although close two hundred riders started, only a tiny handful finished with the lead group. The rest were ground beneath the wheel, or, as Hesse would say, “Unterm Rad.” This is of course how the universe views you: With benign indifference. Many people go to Sedona or buy crystals or use Feng Shui to align themselves with the universe’s forces when really all they need to do to discover their true quotient of universal meaninglessness is go get their balls stomped on the SPY Holiday Ride.

9. Free salt for wound-rubbing. Post-ride, one wanker said “We normally ride a bit faster going up to the first climb, but we had a pretty gentle roll over there today.” This was the section where I pulled my fucking brains out, drove the pace like a madman, then cracked and split open at the bottom of the first climb only to learn that it had been a tad on the slow side. Sorry bastard motherfuckers.

10. Lots of awesome Strava KOM’s. The SPY Holiday Ride is a great chance for you to bag some prestigious KOM’s, kind of like “The lottery is a great chance for you to get rich.” Only, the chance for you is zero.

11. Regrouping. The SPY Holiday Ride regroups a couple of times, although neither time is for your benefit. It is to allow the baby seals to rejoin so they can be re-clubbed and re-skinned. And you will be.

12. Race simulation. The pace was very much like a tough road race with a series of difficult sections, each of which caused destruction at the back of the pack. Unlike real road races, however, where you can conveniently categorize yourself according to age and gender, this ride forced you to match matches against monsters like Thurlow, Full Gas Tinstman, MMX and the SPY Train, Brett Clare, and a handful of very strong wheelsuckers who never took a pull but attacked and attacked hard.

13. Fireworks. Although illegal due to the dry conditions and high temperatures, the ride offered constant explosive detonations that occurered when riders like Zink, Hatchitt, David A., Stinger, and Tait lit the fuses of Those Who Shall Not Be Named For Now and watched as they snapped, crackled, fizzled, and popped with a whimper.

14. Del Dios KOM. This bad boy has over 6,500 riders on Strava, but yesterday Full Gas Phil whomped the snot out of the record time and set a blistering new pace of 12:38. You should do this so you can be like me, who gave it everything he had and got 98th place. 98th.

15. The 130-lb. Exemption. After the first pitch the road flattened out and this was where, if you were still there (you weren’t), various hardmen went to the front. Then some dude hit the jets, even though he had never taken one pull the whole day. His reasoning? “I don’t have to pull, dude, I’m only only 130 pounds.” So take notice: Anyone 130-lbs. or less need not bring along so much as a shred of self-respect.

16. Watch Brett sprint. On the return there was a sprint into Rancho Santa Fe. Those hoping to pass Brett, Full Gas, Thurlow, MMX, Josh, etc. brought mopeds.

17. Pity the fools. The 3 Witches ascent had the next sprint at the top, featuring three risers that topped out with a nasty sprint. For the first two witches, a couple of wankers from SDBC set tempo with Thurlow, Full Gas, and MMX sitting behind. For the third and final witch, Thurlow pulled and dropped the fools, with Full Gas Phil taking the sprint, MMX next and followed by Thurlow. Everyone else was shelled here. You were, too. Oh, wait, no you weren’t — you were shelled like an hour ago.

18. Visionary delusions. After a few more merciless beatdowns, sprunt points, and complete draining of all bodily adeonsine triphosphate, the handful of remaining riders “remarked what a great ride it had been.” Uh, sure. Whatever. Bunch of fucking liars.

19. Horrific inland heat. The weather got hotter as the ride went inland. The heat sucked the life out of the weak, the lame, and the too-many-Lost-Abbey-brews-the-night-before. I staggered into a convenience store in Del Mar and doused my head in water, then lay on the cool pavement and hoped for a gurney or for someone to run over me. No one did.

20. Making great friends. After Zink flatted I was miserably stuck on his wheel for 30 miles while he “repaid” my assistance with the tire change by dragging me up hill, down dale, periodically dropping me, sitting up and waiting, towing me for a while, dropping me again, and generally making my life a living hell while trying to help me out. Note to self: Don’t ever stop to help Zink change a flat.

Ride facts:

— 60 miles with 3800 feet of climbing

— 4 sprint waypoints, and the KOM at Del Dios

— Held every national holiday. Next one will be on Labor day.

— Ride size: 100-200, depending on weather and time of year

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