Freddies on the edge

I got a message from Scott S. the other day. He had heard about the collision from two weeks back in which South Bay cyclist Steve Shriver was run over on PCH, suffering catastrophic injuries. Coming hard on the heels of Jon Tansavadti’s death in March, as well as a rash of near misses in Long Beach, Scott was concerned.

“Anything we can learn from these tragedies?” he asked.

My answer was simple. “I don’t have the answer, Scott, but I can tell you this: What we’re doing now isn’t working.”

Then we talked about the gaping hole in our cycling experience, otherwise known as the utter lack of formal cycling education. Steve had been run over riding single file, up against the edge of a construction zone. Jon had been killed by a right-turning moving van.

We can argue all day about where they were and where they should have been, but we can’t argue about this: Neither rider had ever taken a formal bike education course–one, with more than 30 years of experience, the other, with less than twelve months.

Perhaps education isn’t the answer, but it sure seems like a great place to start. Moreover, whether education can save any one person is less important than the grim recognition that collectively the cycling community spends way more time on gear and clothing and equipment than it does on education. We encourage people to ride, help them select a fancy bike and a cool kit, and throw them to the wolves.

“Would you come ride with us next Wednesday and talk about this?” Scott asked.

“Sure,” I said. “What time?”

“We roll at 6:00 AM sharp.”

I gulped because that meant a 4:50 roll-out from PV, and there was only one other person in all of Los Angeles crazy enough to get up at 4:30 so he could meet me at 5:15 and pedal through the bowels of the nation’s biggest port at daybreak to ride with the Long Beach Freddies.

In short, this was a job for Major Bob, the grumpiest guy with the biggest heart in all of cycling. “Can you squire me to the Freddie ride on Wednesday?”

“Sure,” Bob said when I explained the misssion. He didn’t mention that on Sunday he’d be doing the 145-mile Belgian Waffle Ride, and that on Tuesday he’d knock out a cool 90 doing the NPR beatdown and a legstretcher up the 6-mile Mandeville climb.

At 5:15 sharp he was there at the corner of Vermont and Anaheim and Gaffey and PV Drive, and a happening place it was.


I was apprehensive about proposing education to the Freddies because despite their name they ride with some of the best people in cycling. Tony Cruz is one of the Freddies, as well as Olympic gold medalist Steve Hegg and Rio aspirant Nate Koch, and their fast Fridays are, well, fast. Very fast. One of the walls in cycling has always been between the fast people in lycra and the slow people with mirrors. Needless to say the one don’t always take kindly to advice from the other.

Problem is that the mirror dorks are the ones who have actually studied  riding in traffic from a perspective more sophisticated than “bunnyhop the curb, flip off the asshole driver, and keep going.” Going to the Freddies and pitching a dork session was, I feared, going to be a hard sell.

It was anything but. Unlike most clubs, which operate with multiple levels of decision making atop glacial epochs of implementation, the Freddies have a “Fuck it, let’s go,” attitude. They politely listened to my speech.

“So where should we start?” Scott asked after I finished.

“Maybe four or five of you should take the Cycling Savvy Dorkcycle and Autopsy Avoidance Course like we did at Big Orange, see if it works for you, and then think about encouraging some of the other members to do it.”

“Nah,” said Scott. “We’re in, all of us.”

I blinked. “All of you?”

Bill H., not known for his lengthy speeches, stood up. “This is important and we need to do it. We’re in.”

So as far as I know, the guys down in Long Beach are the nation’s first speed club to take formal cycling education as seriously as they take their clothing. Which is, frankly, incredible, and which, if it prevents even one collision or saves even one life is worth it a million times over.

I’m humbled and awed.



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47 thoughts on “Freddies on the edge”

  1. Those guys are a class act. Two years ago I got lost on the Solvang Century. After getting back to the full century route the Freddies rolled up along with Major Bob. (Btw, I had no idea who he was until your blog). They had just finished a weeks worth of distance training for BWR and were using Solvang to finish up. They let me join as long as I shared the pulling. Fair enough. The thing that really has stayed with me was that no-one rode faster than the slowest riders (who weren’t that slow) and every one took turns pulling when they could. Thanks guys for helping the wayward LG’er out.

    1. As someone who is certified to teach Smart Cycling and has taken the Cycling Savvy course, Cycling Savvy is better. They are mostly similar but where they differ, CS wins.

  2. That’s a smart group, there. Nice to read about people investing in another part of their game than carbon, aero, and training.

    We mirrors guys salute you!

  3. Seth….tanks for your time, message and pointing us in the right direction. In addition to being able to deliver a very powerful message, you are very respected on and off the bike. “We” will make take your message/suggestions and direction(s) and make this happen!

  4. This morning’s experience will be a game changer for our “Freddie Group” thanks to Seth, Scott, Maj. Bob and our entire group who are passionate about our cycling as well as the safety of all of us and others who ride in Southern California.
    Seth, thank you for putting things in motion.

  5. it’s interesting to see defensive bicycle driving education making its way to Long Beach in the form of CyclingSavvy. After all, Dan Gutierrez of Long Beach and Brian de Sousa of Orange were the pioneers in developing the traffic cycling video techniques that demonstrated how and why bicycle driving works and which form the core of the CyclingSavvy materials.

    Here is their most popular video from 2008 with over 176,000 views:

    Kudos to Seth for being an influential ambassador for bicycling education.

    1. Thanks, Gary, as you know I’m an inveterate kudos whore, but the credit goes to those who’ve developed the theory and the teaching materials, those who are now teaching, and most of all those in the lycra crowd who aren’t too proud to say, “We want to learn more because if it prevents even one single collision, it’s worth it.”

      Plus, it’s way more fun to blog about real people than UCI motorized doll-men.

      1. You’re both right.

        We need more evangelizing from people like you who are in the lycra crowd. As you’ve noted, the lycra crowd doesn’t like to hear from the mirror crowd. Keri and Mighk can make a fantastic course. Gary can teach it (I took it from Keri and Gary), but if people don’t know about it, if people know about it but think that they don’t need to try it, then it’s not benefiting them. Getting a hardcore speed club like the Freddies on board is a huge win. Once enough of them have enough experience riding the safe way, they will be able to influence other spandex speedsters in ways that the mirror dorks could not do on their own.

        1. Underwear Meets Mirror, a new five-minute video coming to North Hollywood soon.

  6. Jon did not die and Steve did not suffer catastrophic injuries because they did not take safe cycling courses. In these cases, at least, it’s the drivers that needed education. Mind, I am not saying we, cyclists, couldn’t benefit from these.

    1. That’s the million dollar question: With a safe cycling course would they have still gotten hit?

        1. Yes. And I agree with you. The absence isn’t the cause, but maybe it’s presence could be preventive.

    2. Yes, they were hurt/killed by bad drivers.

      The thing about safe cycling courses is that they teach defensive riding. They teach you how to discourage bad drivers from hurting or killing you. It’s kind of like in gambling where card counters improve their odds, except that with this, you improve your odds far better than any card counter could dream of.

      Improving drivers is a much, much bigger problem. I encourage you to try to tackle it. It needs to be addressed. In the meantime, I’m going to ride the way that I learned from Cycling Savvy, because it helps me avoid becoming the victim of so much bad driver behavior.

      1. Agreed. They were hit by bad drivers. And agreed, it’s all about reducing the risk. Drove to Santa Monica last night and was amazed at how hard it is to drive, even in a Prius going 15 mph, through the maze of bike lanes and bumper to bumper traffic. The bike lanes shunt the riders off into an invisible edge. Exiting Ocean Park and trying to turn right onto Main was so deadly. It would be hard enough to see cyclists in the center of the lane. It’s impossible to see them if you’re turning right, there is traffic parked on the road side, and they’re hugging the edge because of “protective” bike lane.

  7. I reviewed a few explainers, and they make sense, I like the acknowledgement that a move might be technically illegal, (changing lanes in an intersection) but it good for the conditions. In general, one has to be predictable. The other take away was uniform, logical, movements.
    So many out there don’t ride that way.

    Way way back, there used to be bicycle education in grammar school. I forgot who put it on but the reward was a cool sticker for your bike, cool by a 7 year old’s standards. That is gone. Too bad.
    A number of years later I volunteered to provide a bike check at one, what I found (affluent neighborhood even) was scary. The bikes were often ready to do the kid in, forget outside forces.

    1. Traffic density increases, fewer people grow up riding bikes, let alone know how to keep one in basic working order. “How do I put air in the tires?” etc.

  8. Awesome blog Seriously wow you brought education to not just your club but another club also. You are like the bridge between the mirror dorks and the racer geeks as you call them your words not mine. I guess this makes you a maven because of all your connections.

    On the downside it kind of sucks that they didnt ask you what they could do earlier before the two crashes. And it took a catastrophic crash to get them to go the education route. It’s bittersweet.

    1. I’ve been part of the problem too, hardly a prophet in the wilderness with the answers … but thanks. I used to think a maven was kind of bird.

      1. no read the tipping point. for a maven they connect people they are instrumental in change.

  9. err the “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell , The book will explain quite well the definition of a Maven. It has been a while since I read it but certain people have connections and they bring others together causing change in societies.

  10. I am old, but I don’t think there is much drive education for new drivers when it comes to cyclists. There is plenty of education about how to handle stopping for school buses. Everyone seems to know that drill. Perhaps this is a problem best educated from both ends.

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