September 22, 2016 § 29 Comments

After reading a thoughtful article about the benefits of unplugging, shared by a friend who’s recovering from a broken collarbone after crashing on the NPR, I switched everything off last night around 7:00 PM and didn’t turn back on until I woke up, just after five. I woke up without an alarm.

Then today I powered down at 4:30 PM, plowed through thirty more pages of a book that is dense but that, as one friend put it, “Is a hairbrush for the tangled mind.” I did some other etceteras and was looking forward to bed when I realized I couldn’t very well blog on paper.

During those few hours of relative mental calm I reflected on the terrible chain collision that happened on Tuesday’s NPR. A big chunk of asphalt didn’t get called out, one rider hit it, another launched over it but didn’t fall, and a third went down hard. At least five other riders hit the deck. One left in an ambulance with a fractured scapula and broken ribs, another broke a clavicle, and a third suffered a severe concussion.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but none of it resolved a key question. Does the Big Group Fake Race belong on the streets anymore?

Leaving aside for the moment that no one was killed but easily could have been, and leaving aside for the moment that the NPR has been the site of many bad falls, one serious car-bike collision, and at least four huge gang pile-ups … wait, we can’t really leave that aside because that’s pretty much the point.

If the pace is slow, everyone bunches up and it’s sketchy as hell. Then the group is frisky for the sprint and people who shouldn’t be going full-gas in a packed group are. It’s scary.

If the pace is fast, everyone from mid-pack back is gassed and can barely keep their head up. Any irregularity in the road, large rock, or sudden change in speed up ahead can cause the kind of catastrophic chain reaction that we saw on Tuesday.

For a few months we had a police escort, but the powers that be eventually quashed that and now the group is back on its own. At least now everyone stops at red lights.

We all know that riders assume the risk and that when you’re feeling good the risk is worth assuming. It’s when everything goes sideways that you really have to wonder.

  • Why am I here?
  • Why are you here?
  • Are there too many people?
  • Is it time to euthanize this ride and do something else?



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§ 29 Responses to Unplugged

  • dankroboth says:

    It was this sentiment that birth the Flog on Thursdays nearly two years ago. NPR was an constant state of construction. People were searching for something else. I’d given up and was riding the hills of PV solo, and would swing by CotKU on Tu/Th to hear my friends near death experiences of the day.

  • Eric R says:

    Well, roads in poor repair are a big problem just like cagers trying to take to much space. There was a hole on Highland at the light leaving Manhattan Beach that I finally called in and they fixed it the same day. Also, they did fix the holes in PV after G3 found one that took him down. Maybe activism is in order? We all know that groups will have crashes but better not to happen for poor roads. Oops, I never called that hump in the road that caused me to break some ribs on Thanksgiving. Hope everyone heals up.

  • Michelle landes says:

    It’s always been a love and fear ride for me I crashed my second time after getting dropped and hitting that huge blob in the road! Even after a broken collarbone I was determined to come back and do 4 laps! I did and have enjoyed it since, but the construction has really changed the dynamic ! There is no rush ride like it and so many freinds to see and hang on the bricks after ❤️Maybe a alternate ride is in the cards

  • Pickle Juice says:

    Having lived through this horrific wreck, and replaying it over and over in my mind (although my brain aches from the impact), I came to the realization that NPR is everything I hate about cycling. There is no comraderie. There is no joy. There is no fun. It is all about aggression and who thinks they have a bigger dick. The fact of the matter is that 75% of these “racers” would not last 3 laps on Telo. They would not last to Hawthorne on the Donut. And they would not last until La Cuesta on the Flog. I bring mention these 3 rides because they are not only they most difficult training rides in the South Bay, but they are also the most enjoyable. I learned how to race through corners at Telo. I learned how to bridge on the Donut. I learned how to mentally test and press at the Flog. At NPR, I learned how to ignore everyone’s bitching and yelling. Oh you think you’re a badass? Take a pull at NPR. Quit hiding for shit’s sake. Quit bitching the Big Orange takes over. You don’t like those tactics? Get to the front! Guess, what? They won’t. Yes, I’m angry. Simply because that wreck on Tues should never have happened. I was in the middle of the pack. How is that no one saw this mini boulder in the road? You know what? They did. And they ignored it. And people got hurt. Seriously hurt.

    • fsethd says:

      Something’s gotta change, and that’s the problem. NPR meets so many people’s time requirements by allowing them to get in a fast paced ride before work.

      NPR meets so many people’s physical requirements. Even if you get dropped you can hop back in, and with practice you won’t get dropped.

      NPR meets people’s “wanna race” requirements. They get to compete against racers without having to race themselves and make that commitment of time, money, effort, ego, and risk.

      The problem is that NPR by definition can’t be led, so no one can define it or regulate it the way the other three rides you mention are regulated. Those rides also have a component of difficulty that, as you note, is a quality all its own.

      Whether NPR goes slowly (huge crash at the finish in 2013, huge crash going up WWW in 2012 over a pothole that’s still there), or whether it goes fast as on Tuesday, the mixture is really lethal, particularly if you’re in the middle or at the back of the pack.

      The reality is that because it’s an organic grouping that meets so many criteria for so many people (especially location), it’s always going to be there unless the police come in and make it stop.

  • Bob S. says:

    No doubt about it. Racing on open roads is not worth it. As Pickle Juice mentioned above, “There is no joy.”

    Of course, taking this stance leads to the inevitable and unfortunate virtual alternative – competing even moreso for Strava KOMs and Zwift “wins.”

  • DougJ says:

    I’m an almost regular for NPR and have survived several near hits in the last three years.

    That said, I’m there for the training
    I think you’re there for the training.
    There are just the number of people there are on any given day.
    If the ride gets euthanized it will be replaced with something else, which will likely result in people crashing periodically.

    When I first started oh so many years ago, well ok, five, I remember the pier ride coming though the marina and mixing it up with the Tuesday LG ride (Westsiiiide!). At that time, for me, it was a very intimidating experience because of the shear numbers. When the South bay guys started the NPR, I started to migrate to that ride because of relative lack of red lights. That, and the big mileage start to my week was nice.

    I suppose all group rides have the inherent risk of idiocy, we are after all riding around in our underwear pretending we’re something we aren’t!

    Maybe the high speed portion of NPR should wait until Westchester parkway where the road is slightly better and the only hazards are traffic, U-turns in traffic, running red lights in traffic and crashing in our underwear……..in traffic.

  • dan martin says:

    NPR isnt ez and its full of danger. That piece of asphalt even if it was seen and called out wouldnt be heard more than 1 rider back because of the wind noise riding at 30+mph. The whole road from the alley to the finish is nothing but sketch. The parkway can have solid baseball sized seed pods from the magnolia trees on the road. Pershing and VDM is full of bike swallowing rutts. You might even fall down on the hill after the alley before the ride even starts. And if you arent near the front on the westbound hussle up the hill the whole ride accordions as riders pop. People like to crash and sketch out there too. But If you like to work and rotate at the front at your limit the NPR is a great ride. For me the key to survival is to always have one eye on the asphalt and the other on the wheels in front. Man grip the drops, no limp wristing. Anticipate. Stay near the front or on the sides of the peloton when recovering, never in the middle. Watch for sketchy riders and seal pups. Leave the sprint for the sprinters. NPR.

  • Bearclaw says:

    Two things we all have in common:
    1) a beliefe that riding fast with buddies is fun, and
    2) a desire to return home safely

    Perhaps a slight change in protocol would accommodate both. Beat the crap out of each other on the wide streets of Westchester, but ride neutral everywhere else.

    I used to love riding NPR, but won’t return until we decide as a group to be smarter about the risks we take. We can learn a thing or two from one of the wisest folks in our silly peloton: Virgil Ford, who runs a very tight ship Tuesday evenings during the summer.

  • Don W. says:

    A 30 mile ride in an hour and half two times a week and close to home? That’s hard to pass up. Are there other options? Sure, but there is a reason that the PR/NPR has been going on as long as it has. It meets the need for a lot of riders. Those stupid pieces of asphalt pop out of the road all the time, and they are much heavier than they look for their size. I pick them up whenever I see them on my way to the ride. I also pick up metal pipes, pieces of wood, various car parts, and discarded bodies when they would present a hazard to a group of head-down idiots in Lycra. Another rider and I moved a chunk of asphalt last night near the scene of the latest crash. It has been years since there have been any serious road repairs on Vista Del Mar or Pershing and those roads are both getting really sketchy. How can we get that fixed?

  • jowdog1 says:

    Another idea would be for the guys waiting for the group on Pershing to run a sweep of Pershing and WWW looking for debris and such. I often warm up on the Parkway and remove anything that seems dangerous (usually rocks, limbs and trash). But I like the neutral Pershing as well. That road has gotten really bad and has some huge holes northbound near the traffic lanes. Definitely a shame as NPR is a great ride.

    • fsethd says:

      Until someone steps up and takes responsibility it is what it is what it is … as others have noted, the ride has been around since 1985 and will be going long after we’re dead. The time and location are irresistible.

  • Pickle Juice says:

    I’m not suggesting this ride by abolished. I could care less whether it lives or dies. I care whether I live or die. So I’ll not be riding it.

  • AssHat says:

    AssHat saw The Wily Greek running in the bike lane the other day in full cross country / ultra marathon gear complete with tall compression socks. AssHat says to AssHat, “Hey, AssHat, didn’t Wanker McWankface write a nice piece about The Wily Greek no more cycling?”

    “Yes” says AssHat to AssHat.

    Then AssHat think out loud, “The Wily Greek have the word wily in him name. That mean smart or something.”

    Then AssHat think in AssHat head, “Maybe AssHat sell bike, run in bike lane like Smart Greek. Maybe tripping hurt but not like tripping on a bike.”

  • UstaBeFit says:

    The Original Pier Ride was started by bob Evans of Fleet Feet Triathelete in Hermosa. 6AM at MB Pier for a fast lap of the Marina,with a sprint on Pacific, a sprint on the breakwater, & a sprint to the Botts dots on Pershing just before Imperial as Westchester Pkwy didn’t exist yet. Talk about sketchy! Being mostly Tri dorks nobody wanted to draft so instead of a paceline you had more or an arrow. We had crashes in the Marina, we had crashed on the breakwater, hell there were crashes everywhere! Then along came Westchester Parkway & we did away with the Marina & added the Parkway. For a few months we had the freshly paved road to ourselves with no cars, nirvana! The group shifted from Tri guys to road guys & grew & grew. As we all know so has the population with all the new development in the area creating way more traffic on the route. IMHO riding fast group rides on public roads will always be dangerous due to the changing conditions & hazards from one day to the next so regardless of route there is always risk. My biggest problem with the current NPR is the speed of the traffic on the Parkway & the fact you have to make two illegal U turns per lap on said Parkway…Eastbound in the morning slightly downhill into the rising sun scares the shit out of me! I’m always fearing a passing car will now thru the strung out peloton as we swing left to make our illegal turn…thankfully it hasn’t happened but I have seen some close calls. IMHO we do shit on that ride we wouldn’t dream of doing in our cars so I think the buck stops with us. Did I mention I haven’t done the ride in 3 years?

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