It’s not every day that you get to see Ryan O’Neal groggily collecting his morning newspaper on PCH well past noon, looking like he lost a knife fight to a gallon of cheap tequila and shouting “Whoa!” in surprise as the speeding South Bay wankoton barreled by within two feet of his chintzy velour bathrobe and plastic slippers.
But then again, it’s not every day that you get up at 5:00 AM, have your first cup of coffee, prepare for the 115-mile beatdown with a small bowl of oatmeal, and rendezvous with 38 other wankers at the Center of the Known Universe amidst gorgeous weather offset by the rich blue of the placid Pacific Ocean.
Rules is rules
There were really only a couple of rules, and they were badly needed as the group had swelled to over seventy by the time we reached PCH. Rule 1: Don’t pollute the stunning oceanside panorama of the coast highway with an ugly outfit. Rule 2: Don’t show up on the group ride with shitty tires.
The “Looks Like a Pro Transformation Prize” was instantly awarded to Arkansas Traveler, he of the baseball cap-under-a-helmet-with-bloody-ass-hanging-out-from-shredded-shorts-fame. ArkTrav had put away the gimmecap with the 7-inch bill and replaced it with a svelte and stylish and old school cycling cap.
Fashion point one, check.
Next, he had discarded the old saggsalot jersey with spare pockets ample enough for a backup radiator, and had jettisoned the Brad House “wear ’em ’til the bunghole shows through, then wear ’em some more” bib shorts.
Fashion point two, check.
Finally, he had kitted up in what I still maintain is the best looking, most elegant, and well fitting kit on the road anywhere: The SPY weekender kit, which is cleaner and more rad than the racing outfit. It’s no surprise that both are the creation of Joe Yule, who has done more to beautify the highways and byways of California than the entire roadside garbage pickup division of CalTrans.
Now, about that shitty tire rule
The first tire casualty of the day was Cary the Elder, who flatted near Pepperdine and would have been left for dead had the Pilot not stopped to help change the flat, but more importantly, to tow him back up to the group…38 miles later.
The second tire casualty of the day was “She’s just now got good and broke in,” otherwise known as Ol’ Wrinkles, the man famous for using equipment until it either becomes so obsolete that tools no longer exist to repair it, or until it disintegrates from overuse and age and falls from the frame in a powder of rust. Ol’ Wrinkle’s first flat came on account of a “slice in his tire.”
Close examination revealed that indeed the tire was sliced…as are most tires with over 25,000 miles of heavy road wear. Closer examination revealed that the slice was actually about fifty slices, all of varying length. Closer examination still revealed that of all the tire products available to the cycling consumer, he had opted to go with the Trojan Papershell, a tire advertised by its Indonesian manufacturer as “Smooth and Thin as Your Second Skin.”
“Damn, Wrinkles,” several people said as they watched him insert the wrong kind of tube. “What are you riding a premium crit tire for on a road like this?”
“They’re the best cornering tire made.”
“Yeah, but when’s the last time you went around a corner at anything over 5 mph?”
After successfully loading the tube, the group got together to chase the main pack for the next hundred yards or so, when the tire flatted and he replaced the wrong tube with another wrong tube. After cleaning out the grupetto of their last CO2 cartridge and last spare tube, Ol’ Wrinkles did a u-ey and headed home.
Pearls before swine
Elron is one of those dudes who knows more about bike fit than you do, and consequently he never gives advice. Pros like Matt Goss get fitted by him when they come into town, so unlike all the other advice sausages out there, he feels zero need to show off.
Once in every rare while, however, he sees something so wrong and so bad and so fucked up that he can’t help himself.
About thirty miles into the ride, he came up to me. “Dude. Your saddle’s too low.”
“Oh really? It does feel kinda low. But I like a flat stroke at the bottom.”
“You should raise it.”
“Start with about three inches.”
Since I never travel with a wrench, we waited until our first stop at the Rock, where Elron raised my seat. “Man,” I said, “that’s a lot.”
“You’ll get more power on the down stroke now that your knees aren’t under your chin.”
And he was right.
Put your junk into the wind
After Cross Creek, our group yo-yo’ed with the tentative uncertainty of various people on the front, none of whom understood the key point behind being on the front: If you’re comfortable, everyone behind you is expending zero energy because of the draft. This contributed to a horrible accordion effect that was also occurring because the leaders didn’t know how to pick a steady pace and maintain it.
It was more mayhem and crossed wheels and raggedy bunchedy herdball bike slop than you see when they let loose the 150 kiddies at a crit for the one-lap children’s event. To make matters worse, when we rolled through Trancas someone dived into the parking lot at the filling station, even though it wasn’t an approved stop.
Sheep being sheep, we all followed until Douggie yelled “What the fuck? This isn’t an approved stop!” So those of us who hadn’t hit the head or gone on a candybar marauding mission turned back onto PCH, effectively splitting the group and losing a handful of our most trusted leaders, which included Knoll and Pablo.
In order to steady the pace I wound up in front, this time with Junkyard at my side, plodding into a stiff 20 mph headwind. We reached the Rock in tatters, getting help from Bucks, Kramer, and Long Beach Freddy Wayne. Wayne, who was fresh as a daisy towards the end of my 20-mile headwind effort, chirpily asked, “Hey, Wankster, there’s gotta be a story behind those pink socks!”
“Ungh,” I grunted.
“Let’s hear it!” he said, chirpily.
“I’ll…tellya…another…………time,” I said.
We all dismounted at the Rock, with half the contingent dashing off to the chainlink fence to pee and the other half assaulting Legit Girl when they found out she was traveling with 25,000 calories of energy food. I crawled to her on my knees. “Got food?”
“Gosh, yes! What would you like?”
“What have you had so far?”
“But what have you been eating?”
“You can’t do a 120-mile ride on water! That’s unhealthy!”
I didn’t argue, but voraciously scarfed up the two little chocolate protein ball thingies that she flung my direction.
He who is always near but never quite at the front
By the time we got back to Marina del Rey, our group was down to about a dozen riders. At first I thought I was hallucinating when on the bike path Jensie, our German transplant, got on the front. A collective gasp went up, as one of the biggest shirkers in the wankoton not only hit the front but took fifteen or twenty pedal strokes.
“Oh my Dog!” shouted one rider.
“Quick! The camera!” shouted another.
“Call NBC News!” screamed a third.
Unfortunately, this was the one day I’d decided to ride without my GoPro, and before long Jensie had melted back into the anonymity of riding behind girls and elderly fellows with helmet mirrors. Inspired by this brazen display of on-the-frontery, a mere one mile from home, and after sitting in for a hundred miles, Eric of the South Bay Wheelpersons took a pull on Vista del Mar, ramping up the speed so that it kicked a couple of struggling, bonk-addled bikers out the back.
Once we reached the safety of the Center of the Known Universe, the survivors quaffed cold espresso drinks and reflected on another day in paradise. I’m sure it could have been better…maybe if it had been Tatum in that flimsy bathrobe instead of her dad?