Hateful drivers?

November 19, 2019 § 15 Comments

For years I’ve had it in my head that cagers in LA hate bicyclists. That drivers are the enemy. That as far as they’re concerned, the only good cyclist is one driving a car.

Yesterday, though, it struck me that I have been terribly wrong.

It’s true that there is a disturbing number of cagers who, when they see bicycle underwear, racy bikes, helmets, and Terminator glasses, go apeshit. I certainly haven’t imagined the decades of honks, middle fingers, punishment passes, offensive shouts, and physical altercations that have happened while being a #leakyprostate #mastersfake #profamateur cyclist.



I left the South Bay at 11:30, rode through downtown, had a meeting in the Fig/Cypress area, rode through densest LA crosstown traffic, crossed Hollywood to Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, had another meeting, then pedaled through insane 6:00 PM Santa Monica traffic, all the way down Arizona to Ocean, along the entire length of Main Street which was jammed bumper-to-bumper all the way into Marina del Rey and the marina bike path. I got home at 8:20.

It was the most extended traffic jam I’ve ever seen, literally stretching in a giant loop around the bulk of the LA metro area. But get this: I got honked at once.

And get this: I’m not even sure the dude was honking at me.

And get-get this: I had innumerable vehicles nudge their stopped cars to the left to make space for me to get up the gutter or to split the lane, and the couple of times I had gnarly, high speed, no-room-to-maneuver left turns with no space to change lanes (think hanging a left onto Argyle off Franklin, with 8 billion cars queued to get onto the 101), I made the move by simply putting out my hand in a “halt” sign and watching as traffic patiently let me cross two lanes of traffic and slot into the left-hand turn lane.

Equally telling, in the long stretch along Fountain Ave., which has BMUFL markings, my 16-17 mph speed and liberal interpretation of the numerous stop signs angered no one, engendered no punishment passes, no middle finger salutes, zero ugly honks.

What does it all mean? Here’s what it means:

  1. When you are riding with seven super bright rear lights, people see you from a long way off even when they are texting. And a big chunk of motorist rage is their shock and surprise at having you “come out of nowhere,” i.e. having to navigate your presence when they weren’t paying attention in the first place. This displaced anger is a large part of cager rage–they’re the ones at fault for not seeing you, and they blame you for it. Put on the massive rear lights and voila, the rage disappears.
  2. The brilliant, 1200-lumen headlights also explain why cars make space when you’re up against the curb, passing a hundred stopped cars as you skip to the front of the line. Your headlights blast their side and rearview mirrors, a/k/a THEY FUGGIN’ SEE YOU. And a lot of cagers are either cyclists or at least sympathetic to them or, perhaps, appreciative that one bike means one less car.
  3. Hair (or bald head). When you ditch the helmet you look like a person. When you wear the helmet you look like a Star Wars storm trooper. Remember them? They were the true villains of the whole movie. But underneath those helmets that fell off after Luke killed them with his blaster, they were actual people. It’s just that when you saw the mask you hated them because mask = enemy.
  4. Backpack. Storm trooper cyclists deserving of death look inhuman. Person on a bicycle lugging a backpack looks like a barista late for work, and a late barista means you may not get your coffee! It’s hard to feel superior to a storm trooper all sleek and shaved and getting fit while you’re gaining weight sucking down a mocha frap in a 3-hour traffic jam. But it’s impossible not to feel superior to someone who not only is too poor to own a car but who also has to carry a backpack en route to a minimum wage job. And when you feel superior, you often feel just a little bit nicer. At least you don’t feel consumed with rage.
  5. Jeans and t-shirt and sneakers. This completes the human outfit. #winning

There may be other factors involved. I’m sure they are. But yesterday wasn’t an anomaly. I’ve now crisscrossed some of the nastiest gridlock in LA, Orange, and San Diego counties, and my experience isn’t that motorists hate me, it’s that they see me. And once seen, for the most part I’m safely and patiently steered around.

Light yourself up. Take the lane. You will be surprised.


Battle fatigue

November 18, 2019 § 5 Comments

Before he abandoned bicycling and took up tennis, Derek the Destroyer always used to say “You race best on tired legs.”

In which case I’m ready to win the fuggin’ Tour.

My analog Stravver shows that I rode 7.9 fucktons last week. My easy day was a 35-miler to LAX and back, and my legs feel it. More than that, my mind feels it.

To quote Baby Seal, “You look like you’ve been used harder than an old dishrag.”

I’ve been thinking about that all morning, contemplating today’s calendar: a 32-mile jaunt up to Dodger Stadium, a subsequent meeting over by UCLA (adds 20-ish), and then the 25+ miles home from Westwood.

As Baby Seal was observing my rather haggard countenance, he asked “Have you noticed any changes since you started doing all this commuting?”

My answer was immediate. “I’ve gotten strong as shit.”

Because as long as the riding is endurance as opposed to intensity, more miles make you stronger. It’s that simple.

And it’s that complex, because the single hardest thing that people encounter when it comes to riding a bicycle is, surprise, riding the bicycle. All of the #socmed, #stravver, #powermeter, #data, #virtualcycling, ALL OF IT, is an ersatz for getting out on your bike and actually riding. But it’s an ersatz with this caveat: none of it works unless you actually go out and ride your bike.

To put a finer point on it, you don’t need any of that stuff to get stronger, faster, fitter if you go out and ride a lot. But if you don’t ride a lot, none of that stuff will get you anything more than very marginal gains. And it’s why lots of riding is what professional road cyclists have as the core component of their job preparation. First they have to ride 25 hours a week. Then they have to tinker with the data and the drugs in order to eke out the gains in bodies that are already operating at near-peak efficiency under near-maximal loads.

To quote, and re-quote, and re-quote Eddy Merckx. “Ride your bicycle more.”

But back to me, my wig, my flat pedals, and my gallivanting around LA in lieu of sitting in traffic:

  1. Tired all time but I go faster, longer.
  2. I need more sleep.
  3. My conversation is monosyllabic, i.e. grunting.
  4. I cannot eat enough, and the corollary: I eat all the time.
  5. Don’t leave home without suspenders.
  6. Chamois cream. Thank dog for chamois cream.
  7. Legs constantly ache from fatigue.
  8. Monthly budget for bath salts through the roof.
  9. Stronger core and back from lugging massive u-lock and cable everywhere.
  10. Mentally okay with any and all road/traffic/weather conditions (as long as it’s sunny and warm).

Okay. Monday, here I come.


Bike-friendly LAX

Carmaggeddon Day #44: Path to destruction

November 8, 2019 § 10 Comments

I tried to figure out how much I’ve been riding since I quit driving back on August 17. Closest I could figure was, “A bunch.”

But how bunchy?

Before going to bed I whipped out my analog Stravver and wrote down the most recent rides I could remember. I’m sure I’ve left several off, but the total is about 620 miles in the last 15 days, or a touch over 300 miles/week. It also leaves off my epic commute to Rancho Cucamonga and a slew of other rides before that.

That is nothing if you are Napoleon Moore, who rides 100 miles+ per day, or if you’re Shirtless Keith, who logs over 18,000 miles a year.

But if you are me, it is a lot of miles and it means you are tired and dragging around bags under your eyes that look like you’ve lost a bad fistfight. I suspect it’s because I’m slow, old, weak, riding a heavy bike with fat tires and lugging a Kryponite + cable, but it’s probably also got to do with the fact that in addition to all that bike riding there is a pile of work that goes along with it. Another thing about commuting in LA: You hit lots of lights and so there is a bunch of starting.

Today I only have about 30 miles on the menu, but I’ve got 150+ coming up over the weekend. I don’t hate my bike yet, but I look at her differently.

Here are some #fakestats:

  1. Daily calories burned: 3,000-5,000
  2. Daily hours on bike: 2-6.
  3. Daily calories consumed: As many as I can get in my mouth.
  4. Tires replaced: 1.
  5. Flats: 0.
  6. Mechanicals: 1/2, when my rear derailleur got badly out of whack and Boozy P. had to fix ‘er up.
  7. Number of times hit in shin by rock: 1.
  8. Late appointments: 0.
  9. Miserable commutes: 0.
  10. Cups of ice cream at Union Station: 6
  11. Bicycle falling off incidents: 0.
  12. Pants waist: 30.
  13. Weight: Nothing fits.
  14. Riding lights: 9.
  15. Regrets: 0.


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