Flash mob

The Donut Ride began with the fakeness of every group ride. People who would, in minutes, be stomping each others’ testicles with mindless fury, instead slapped backs, smiled, and asked the eternally meaningless question asked on every group slugfest ever, shortly before the slugging began. “How ya doing, Bill?”

Bill, his sphincter puckered so tight you couldn’t prize it open with a stick of lit dynamite, lied as sincerely as he could. “Doing great. You?”

Neither was doing great, and if they were, that was about to change. Eighty idiots had coalesced for the weekly Saturday romp along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and like any good flash mob, they all knew the routine.

  1. Crush (or)
  2. Be crushed
  3. Repeat until you end at #2

This week also promised big fireworks, as a Facebag tempest had raised the question of bragging rights as to “best climber in the South Bay.” After an intense battle of adjectives, supporting oaths sworn to by paid surrogates, and references to various Strava KOM’s, near-KOM’s, and teammate assisted/wind assisted/motor assisted/drug assisted KOM’s, the protagonists in the “Battle for the Hill” had decided to duke it out like men, or at least like skinny little fellows with eating disorders on plastic bicycles in their underwear.

The champ

Most observers concurred that the King of the Hill was Surfer Dan, and not because he was the fastest one up the hill. Rather, Surfer was the acknowledged champ because of his surfing ability, his hairy legs, and his infinite good humor. Even though the Wily Greek had faster climbing times, Wily was notorious for attacking, sneaking in front of oncoming traffic, and driving wheel suckers over onto the left-hand side of the road to certain death. Worst of all, Wily was guilty of youth.

Surfer on the other hand was no longer a pup and instead a sort of eminence blonde-turning-grise, a mentor of upcoming wankers, and most importantly a rider who never shirked his turn on the front, except for those times that he did.

The challenger

The tempest-in-a-Facebag challenger was little known to newcomers, but well known by the old guard. “Analytics” MacGruder believed that excellence in cycling was a function of numerical analysis. No one had bothered to point out that “excellence in cycling” was an impossible quality right up there with “military intelligence,” “military music,” and “Republican family values.”

Analytics, or “Anal” for short, had crunched every number, reviewed every Strava/WKO+ data point, and calculated every VAM, WHAM, and BAM (excluding only, perhaps, the “Thank you, Ma’am”) and concluded that if Surfer Dan were the best climber on the Hill, then he was numerically better. And numbers don’t lie.

The day of reckoning

This Donut Ride began with a ferocity not seen since the days of the Donut of Yore, when the course was shorter, had fewer climbs, and could be ridden hard from start to finish. The modern Donut with Nail and Glass Sprinkles admitted of no such riding. Any rider who hit the gas hard early would be gaffed and gutted on the first climb up the Switchbacks.

Much early wheelsucking was observed as Surfer, Anal, Wily, and the Destroyer hid artfully behind the efforts of Pistol Pete, Wankmeister, Erik the Red, and Wee Willy Winkums. Winkums stormed up from Malaga Cove, and each time that Wanky came around Winky, Winky would take a breath and wank back around Wanky. It was Wanky, then Winky, then Wanky, then Winky! The excitement was palpable!

On Paseo del Mar, Erik the Red pushed the pace of the early break up to a modest 40 mph, causing so much damage in the flailing chase group that by the bump in Lunada Bay fully half of the field had already declared victory, turned around, and prepared a lengthy description for their wives to suffer through over a hero’s breakfast of pancakes and beer.

Pistol Pete kept the Donut Testicle Vise clamped down hard on the survivors as the reconstituted group sped through Lunada Bay. With the other protagonists still seeking shameful shelter while Old Leathery Balls Wankmeister and Wee Willy Winkums pounded at the front, one thing became clear: when the remnants of the field hit the legendary Switchbacks, at least two riders would be toast.

The art of addition

Unhappily, when the field hit the Switchbacks, there was only one piece of toast rather than two, as Wee Willy Winkums, clad in his superman USC cycling outfit, took a brief breath and fully recovered in a few pedal strokes as Wankmeister detonated into small fragments of ego and self-pity, not to be seen again for a while.

The field was now reduced to about fifteen corpses, and Surfer Dan rowed to the front, beating the wheel suckers over the head and shoulders with his mighty, hairy oars. Anal cowered and hid in the rear, as one after another the group was reduced to the Stupendous Six: Surfer, Anal, Wily, the Destroyer, Winky, and Pistol Pete.

After a sustained effort, Surfer swung over, his leg hairs covered in lactic acid, his day done. But at least, he said to himself, Anal had been wiped.

To his chagrin, Anal was clinging tenaciously like the experienced dingleberry he was, and Surfer saw that he was going to be the victim of his own heroics. Wiping the lactic acid off his leg hairs and flashing his new tooth at the crowds linking the road, he surged back onto the tail end of the break and caught his breath just as the riders approached the Final Ascent to the Domes of Death.

Slaughterhouse Six

Anal, unable to handle the short kicker that began the final climb, performed a series of statistical analyses and computed the height-weight-airflow coefficient of his current power output. The conclusion was that the only way he could reduce the burning pain in his lungs and the unendurable agony in his legs and the swimming, watery, barely focused field of vision dancing before his eyes was to give up.

So he did, and the Stupendous Six became the Fabulous Five.

Next to come unhitched was Surfer, although it was in another zip code from Anal. Wee Willy Winkums was pounding the snot out of the Destroyer, and even though the Destroyer kept reminding him “Have respect for your elders!” and “I’m old enough to be your grandmother’s grandfather!” Winky kept dousing the followers with repeated ladles-full of pain broth.

Surfer spiraled out of control.

Wily then launched another of his infamous attacks and only Pistol Pete could follow. It is unclear who actually got to the top first, but it doesn’t really matter because the real battle had been between Surfer and Anal, and Surfer had kicked Anal’s butt.

Moral: Numbers may not lie, but they are often misunderstood, especially by cyclists.



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38 thoughts on “Flash mob”

  1. So let me get this straight. You were shattered into a million fragments, then how did you know what happened after you were shattered? did you interview the surviors? And you believed them??? Of course they told you the truth except for when they were lying. My dream is to ride the donut ride before I am relegated to a recumbant or wheelchair. Whichever comes first

    1. He didn’t have many of the details right, but he is correct that I got dropped soon after the college, and before Surfer Dan did. What he fabricated/missed includes the extent to which he was on the front, and that there was ever any Facebook dialogue, or its content. In fact, I emailed Seth, after reading a Facebook post of his saying Dan was the Damned Best Climber, and said I thought there were better climbers than Surfer Dan, and the conversation should include guys like Stathis/Greek, Gavin, Diego, and Konsmo, and I also said that I thought Dan was a great guy and a great rider. It is true that in my email I cited data for steep climbs (the switchbacks are only 5%) showing that even I had faster times than Dan. Being tiny, I am relatively strongest on steep climbs, and particularly short ones. But Dan has never even ridden some of those climbs, and certainly not given his all on them, as I have. If he did, I’m sure he would amaze, as he has whenever he has put his full effort into something. Also, Seth didn’t mention that Dan stormed up the steeper Zumaya later in the ride, climbing on the front w Stathis, while I came in after the two of them. He additionally left out any reference to an earlier email I sent him in which I told him that my results since my return to the bike have shown me that I am definitely not the best climber around, but I would still enjoy being the best I could be. And FWIW, Stathis, who recently put up some jaw-dropping times on a few climbs and has really elevated his cycling, is in my mind the best climber around. Of course, all it takes is one pro to ride these climbs to show us that winning group ride climbs or sprints, or getting a Strava KOM on a segment that hasn’t been ridden by many riders, is all kind of a joke. That said, I still enjoy trying my hardest, improving, and doing so with good people who are also giving their all, and I consider myself fortunate to be able to even pedal a bike.

      1. huh…and I thought he made it all up, except for the parts I saw when I cheated, did a completely different ride, and clogged the road when the Donut ran into me on the switchbacks.

        1. Ha, ha! I’m going to be starting another blog soon, called “Nothing but the Facts.” It will be a power/Strava analysis of my farts.

        2. I’m pretty sure I got the part right about me falling apart, except for the part where I didn’t.

  2. I don’t know who any of these people are…..except for Surfer Dan who I said hi to once. He seems like an unreasonably nice bloke.

    Brilliant read again.

    1. I forgot to add the part about how, as a young boy, Anal had his humorous bone removed.

      1. yeah, there’s nothing as funny as publicly belittling cyclists and people in general, and to do so with selective storytelling in your blog. pure class, seth.

        1. I’m trying to find the part of my blog that forces you to read it, but I can’t.

          Although they do not teach this in business school, stories are made up things designed to mimic aspects of reality. People who cannot read fiction without objecting to its factual accuracy should not read fiction, or at least they will be continually frustrated by it. As much as you would like — love — to think that you are the subject, you are not. One suggestion might be for you to begin a blog of your own in which you set forth the exact factual nature of every ride/person/race in which you participate. You could carefully curate each write-up so that it was based on data, interviews, and independent verification of various things. On the other hand, this would be what most people consider journalism, and it might be more work than you suspect.

          What I would also encourage you to do is to not read things that try to be funny which you do not find to be funny. Forcing yourself to wade through fictitious, unfunny stories, and then posting lengthy factual “rebuttals” to the fake stories makes you part of a wholly unintended joke that others will find hilarious but that you will find even less funny, less classy, and more frustrating, even as you try to come up with another factual rebuttal.

          Think of it this way: would you try to rebut something in the Onion? Yes? Then you should probably not read the Onion. If the answer is no, then it is probably smart not to rebut anything here, either. Of course, I rarely delete comments, so you’re free to continue posting your version of events.

          You have made previous comments regarding the lack of class that this blog exhibits. This is another warning sign that this material may be unsuitable for you, because “low class” is something I particularly strive for, and whereas you see it as a pejorative I take it as high praise. This is because, as a 99 percenter, I identify with the one much more readily than the other.

          At any rate, I appreciate the fact that you take the time to read my writing, particularly since it is so devoid of humor. There is no greater sign of devotion than reading things you dislike. I will also assure you (again) that the best way to read this blog is by carefully perusing the “About” section, or better yet, simply reading another blog, or best of all putting pen to paper and seeing how long you can sustain the energy to write about something you love. It’s harder than it looks!

      2. Gee. Sorry if I struck a nerve, Seth. My reply was sincere, except when it wasn’t. Wanna come climb Fernwood/Saddle Peak with my mates and me tomorrow? Leaving CotKU at 0830. Maybe you guys could take a little detour up there before heading on to Encinal?

        1. We will join you for part of the way, up PCH for Decker and Surprise Bonus Climbing Segment. With NPR it will be 150+ of good times.

  3. Wanky isn’t it true, counsel, that you intentionally blew your wad early to avoid the indignity of being dumped on the climb?


    1. In order to put Climb One in perspective, I would have to pen Chapter 2 (Homes & Domes and the Crushing of Anal by Wanky), Chapter 3 (Wanky Shatters Field on Glass Church, Gets 2nd in Sprunt, Anal Misses the Split), and Chapter 4 (Wanky Obliterated by Everyone Including Man in Wheelchair with Dangling Colostomy Bag on Final Ascent up Via Zumaya). However, rather than pouring more oil on the digital fire, the best way for you to appreciate the Donut would be by making a guest appearance. Let me know your travel dates and the appropriate welcoming committee will be formed for your riding pleasure!

      1. Oh, Seth, no need to call me out — I’ll be off the back at the cafe, still indulging in donuts as the group rolls away.

        1. Actually, the reason I went hard is because I was going to get shelled anyway. How’d you guess?

          If you come down here, we’ll eat donuts together and blog about how we shelled everyone. Promise!!

      2. Well, I was sorta down there last weekend — in San Diego. On Friday, I rode the PCH to Oceanside and back to Mission Bay. I suppose we could have had a summit meeting at Camp Pendleton.

  4. Seth has a unique ability to give a local recreational ride where geezers are milking the last remanants of their naturally-produced testosterone the gravity of the deciding climb of a Grand Tour.

    Which is great, because why else do we get out of bed in the morning.

    1. Some people want it to be more factual, apparently. I try hard to do that, except when I don’t.

  5. Chris have you ever seen a go pro of one of our group rides? It’s like watching paint dry dude. If Seth wrote his blogs in that same manner I don’t think anyone would enjoy his writings and keep reading on. Although he can barely ride a bicycle himself, his storytelling ability about riding is top notch. Sometimes it’s at the expense of others including myself but you just gotta roll with it cause it’s hilarious. He’s not being malicious just ribbing us a bit my man! If you wanna get the Wankmeister back go hammer him on one of the group rides. I’ll help you

    1. Well stated, Stathis. I do have a tendency to take things more personally than I should, and I know I invite criticism at times. In fact, if what Seth said had no twinge of truth to it I wouldn’t pay it any mind bc it would be absurd. But I have in the past certainly been guilty of sitting in rather than driving the front, and I definitely qualify as methodical/obsessive/anal. And I have spent hours poring over ride data. I guess I need to get some thicker skin, change my ways, and/or find a new hobby. And I agree that Seth would like it best if I did just as you suggest and as you have done: ride like a Banshee and tear people’s legs off. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, hours before he posted this story, he invited me to carpool down to SD with him for some rides. Or that he thanked me on Saturday for pulling him up to the college on the second climb after Erik dropped off. And thanks again, Stathis, for that push on Saturday, as well as the perspective here. See you on the road!

  6. WOW!!! I feel you have cornered the market on “Freds”!! But rather than belabor someone’s inability to enjoy ‘piss in my britches” humor I will digress.

    Mister Wanker, How do you feel about compacts. Not the one you carry in your jersey pocket for the end-o-ride touchup, but the ones you pedal. Down here in Texas, where bigger is better, we would consider it un-manly (yes I read your other blog) on riding anything below a 54/42 combo. In fact Senator Cruz has been seen doing the Italian press…no he is not Italian but so what…in the 54-11. All the while that hairy legged Hillary chick rides a sub-compact!! From a purely cycling perspective, do you not find her weak and disgusting?

    1. She and I used to date, and I have a firm policy of never, ever making comments about my exes other than positive ones.

      Yes, we do have an unusually high percentage of Freddies here, but we got nothing on Long Beach.

      Compact? You mean like between nations?

  7. Thanks to EVERYBODY involved here. Awesome stuff all around. Also I vote Stathis because the dude has never failed to give me a “good morning” while blowing past me. One thing we cannot debate is that my own THC-to-hematocrit level is “not normal” yet I still make it up all the same climbs here. Plus one for the group hug, and don’t change Wanky, obviously a lot of people love your pseudo-journalistic stylings. Now let’s debate “best dressed” or maybe “most likely to succeed”. Also it was kind of lame taking that shot at John Phillip Sousa like that.

    1. “Most likely to succeed while best dressed” is the next category, for sure.

  8. So, just as a warning, you guys should never actually use strava to compare/evaluate ride times.

    It’s a web frontend that draws graphs using a backend that has never represented, compared, estimated gps tracks well. Ever.

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