Just riding around

October 17, 2020 § 9 Comments

Yesterday was a sort of test day, and so was today.

With the frame bag I needed a place to put my water bottles, so I went onto the Internet and found that there are a lot of options if you want bottle holders on your forks. Then I was surprised to learn that all of them, without exception, cost something called “money.”

“What the hell is that?” I wondered, so I called up Ol’ Grizzles in Texas.

“Money? It’s the root of all fuckin’ evil, that’s what,” he growled.

“Yes, but how does it work? I saw some things on the Internet, wonderful things, beautiful things, mesmerizing things, and I want them all. Yet each web site requests money or it won’t let me have them. How does it work? And where would I find some money? Do you have any?”

The phone went dead, as it always does when I call up Ol’ Grizzles, not because he truncates the call intentionally, but because he day-naps every ten minutes or so.

So instead of going outside and seeing if I could find some money somewhere, I decided to make the bottle holders with materials at hand; namely, a couple pieces of foam and a couple zip ties. Soon enough I had zip tied my chain to my handlebars, which wasn’t what I wanted, and then later, with much cursing, I came up with the finished product. And it didn’t cost any money!

I rode around and the bottle holders stayed in place, worked perfectly, and gave off the illusion that I am handy.

On the way to Long Beach to see my grandsons, I stopped at Target to get a couple of Hot Wheels for them. A guy standing outside smoking a cigarette admired my bike, so we got to talking. In case you didn’t know, cigarette smokers are almost always ready to chat. I mentioned that to the guy, Robert.

“It’s the nicotine. Your brain has more neurons than stars in the galaxy, and the nicotine stimulates them. So smokers like to talk.”

“Do you ride?” I asked.

“I used to in Ohio.”


“Yeah. I lived fourteen miles from town and always rode my bike there. People thought I was crazy. ‘Why are you riding so far?’ they’d ask.”

“What’d you tell them?”

“Hey, man, all I had was a bike. Fourteen miles is nothing, and it was a BMX. Kept me in great shape.”

“People are always in such a hurry.”

“They got it all wrong. We need to slow down. Why hurry up to death? So what if you got somewhere five minutes faster? What did you do with the time? Sit in the lobby and look at your phone? The secret to getting something out of your life is going slow. That’s how you see stuff, think stuff, experience stuff. Not driving a hundred miles an hour so you can do who knows what.”

“You’re right,” I said. He was a contemplative guy and definitely not entering the rat race any time soon. We chatted a bunch more, then he went into the store with his wife and extremely cute son.

I rode to Long Beach and was passed by a truck that said “Seal” on the back. That JP Baby Seal! He’s fuggin’ everywhere now that he has that bike shop. What’s next? The side of the Goodyear blimp?

In Long Beach the boys were disappointed at their cars. “We like the classic Hot Wheels,” they said.

“What are those?”

“Classic,” they said, as if speaking to a two-year old.

“They didn’t have any at the Target I was at.”

“We go to a big Target. Was yours big?”

“Seemed like it.”

“Then it should have had classic.”

I felt defeated but made a note to ask Robert Efthimos to point me in the direction of these mysterious classic Hot Wheels. Or maybe Chris Down.

After the disappointment they dug up the positively last watermelon of the season from the weeds. It was tiny but sweet, like they are. After dinner we climbed into the tent and watched more episodes of Ultraman 80 and Ultraman Leo until someone went to sleep. “Someone.”

Then this morning I rode back to Torrance, made pancakes, and re-packed my backpack. It now weighed a little over 40 lbs. and I wanted to see if the bike was still faster, even with that much weight on my back.

It was. I did the Cove Climb, and then on PV Drive caught and dropped a passel of Saturday riders. In Portuguese Bend a guy got mad because he was overhauled by a dude in sneakers and a giant backpack, and he tried to hang on, which he barely did until we turned up Forrestal. He didn’t want any of that medicine and continued on to the Switchbacks. Forrestal/Ganado is a hard climb with a 40-lb. pack, and with that much weight you can’t effectively get out of the saddle, different from 30-lbs. So I slogged until the little gate thingy, where I got off and rested.

A guy on an e-MTB came by. He stopped and we chatted. I checked his bike. It was only a few pounds 5-8 I’d guess, heavier than my backpack. He told me that the motor didn’t help all that much, e-bikes were pretty much the same as road bikes. He had a bad ankle and a fanny pack full of excuses as to why he couldn’t ride a road bike, but since the motor didn’t hardly make any difference and it got him off the couch, he loved it.

He also told me that he hated his road bike because it hurt. “It sucks,” he said. “This thing doesn’t hurt at all.”

“Amazing,” I said.

We started off together. He was chatty as heck. Then we hit the bottom of the wall and started going what felt like straight up. He was still chatty as heck. Chattier, maybe. I could barely speak and was crawling. He looked at me with my bulging eyes and lolling tongue.

“You know,” he said, “I’m only doing 15% less than you. Cool, huh?”

“Wow,” I said. “You are crazy fit.” Jason, which was the guy’s name, was about 5′-5″, 190 lbs., and not even sweating. Did I mention he was on an MTB?

“Yeah,” he said, still chatty, but now chatty af. “This thing is a real workout.”

Then he effortlessly pressed the pedals a couple of times, like when Lance dropped the field in 1992 on that South Austin Tuesday Nighter I was at, and he zoomed away, up the steepest wall I know, at about 25 mph, a real workout every inch of the way.


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§ 9 Responses to Just riding around

  • Paul Thober says:

    Just a bit of unsolicited advice about the fork-mounted water bottle cages: insure that they cannot slide down the fork, get loose, and rotate back where they can get caught in the spokes of the front wheel. I would be inclined to put the foam between the cage and fork blade right where the zip tie is at either end of the cage and cinch he ties very tight. My $.02 for a total of $3.01 for the month.

  • Randall M Collins says:

    Those el cheepo water bottle holders looks scary as hell.
    You wack something, bottles go into wheel, wheels stop turning.

    Also money is not the root of evil, love of money is the problem.

  • David King says:

    First, it was no panniers and everything on your back. Then, it was shorts w/o chamois because … weight/packing volume? Third, it’s bottle cages on the fork blades with zip ties.

    I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post! I can’t figure out if you are the world’s most grand contrarian or pulling our legs (or both?).

    Okay, but only because you did NOT ask… my experience with riding with a heavy back pack was terrible. Fatigue and soreness from my body supporting the pack and not the bike. Okay, so *maybe* that was positioning of the pack. BUT, consider this (in re: no chamois shorts): the more weight on your back/hips the more that is on your ass/taint. Also, the easier that you ride, the more body weight/pressure that your ass/taint put on the saddle…. riding hard places pressure on the pedals which, believe it or not, alleviates pressure on the saddle. As you’ve noted, touring is generally not riding hard.

    But, I digress. Looking forward to reading about, and dreaming about and escaping via, your adventure to Texas.


    • fsethd says:

      As my friend Derek remarked, “It’s easy to understand Seth. Tell him to do something one way and he is guaranteed to do the opposite.”

      Which is mostly true.

      However … most things in cycling/aka/life are done by convention. Few people try to do things a different way simply for the fun of doing it a different way. With regard to bike touring, I’m incapable of doing it the accepted way. I commuted with a 20+ lb. pack throughout LA for about a year before taking my first big tour, and the heavier the pack, the more miserable I was. So I needed no convincing to jettison the backpack for panniers. But when I heard that you can go faster with the backpack and not have the discomfort simply by lowering the pack onto your actual back (it’s a backpack not a shoulder/neckpack), I thought I would try. It really seems to work, but riding around the hill on steep climbs is not the same as riding 150 miles in a day.]

      Same with shorts. I’ve experimented without them and it SUCKED. But was that simply a factor of having a too-tender undercarriage? I don’t know. So far things have been fine. It’s amazing how tough skin gets when rubbed daily. And of course I always reflect on how people used to do things, before gears, brakes, tires, and I reflect on how much we change for the sake of change, especially when consumption and money come into play.

      No two people, of course, ride the same way for the same reasons, and their pleasures are always uniquely theirs, however much they share the activity. Digging around in the bike touring sandbox is fun. It’s well stocked with the moldy cat poop of “this is the best way” and “your ideas suck” and “one day you’ll understand our wisdom.” While I’m waiting for the wisdom of the clerks of nostalgia to sink in, I’m going to keep having fun!

      And thank you for riding along!

  • Jorgensen says:

    Last trip it was the seat stays.

  • Walter says:

    My experience with zip ties holding things to the bike on tours was that they would eventually let go due to the vibrations or just being out in the sun too long. Try some stainless steel hose clamps. Available at any gas station, farm house, lodge, camp host, etc that you happen to be riding past. They’re incredibly strong, stay tight, and last forever. Put a wrap of cloth bar tape behind them and they won’t slide around either.

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