So you’re in the South Bay. Lucky dog! And you’ve got your bike…luckier dog! Here’s a list of the standard rides, including a couple of the “top-secret don’t fucking show up here” ones, which are, of course, the ones you should make a priority.
Dearly Beloved Clusterfuck Of The Ages: The Donut Ride
Begun a long time ago in front of a Winchell’s Donut Shop far, far away, the Donut Ride has gone off every Saturday at 8:00 AM in the Riviera Village of Redondo Beach since 1975. 8:00 AM means “8:05 or 8:10 or whenever the group rolls out.” It NEVER means “8:00 AM.” I’m sure you have your own Donut Ride wherever you live, and this one is no different. Slow start, hammer up a hill, hammer on some flats, hammer along some some rollers, hammer up a hardass motherfucking 8-minute climb (“The Switchbacks”), hammer another 10-minute climb with the broken remnants up to the radar domes, stop, preen, vomit, let the wankers catch up, roll down the hill, ride to San Pedro, climb Miraleste and Via Colinita back to the radar domes, and then take PV South for a nasty headwind grind up by the glass church followed by a sprint before Hawthorne, concluding with a horrible ascent up Via Zumaya to certain death. This super-rad video was taken by local hammer Derek Brauch, beginning near Trump National and going all the way to the top of the Switchbacks. Watch ’em pop and fry!
- Solid workout with elevation.
- In good weather, which is most of the time, it’s a group of 30-ish.
- After ascending the Switchbacks, there are numerous ride variations tailored to your level of wankerdom, including a hard climb up from the Reservoir + Homes & Domes + Glass Church hammer & sprint + Via Zumaya. You’ll be crushed if you eat the whole Donut. It’s never sugar-coated, and the legendary Donut Coma will leave you trashed the rest of the day as you slump on the sofa while your S/O berates you for ignoring the family, kids, errands, and life.
- Best scenery of any Saturday ride, anywhere.
- It has lately become a shadow of its former self. Riders have either aged out, given up, or are riding in their basement on Zwift.
- Stopping and preening is pretty stupid and cools you down prematurely.
- The LA Sheriff’s Dept. and especially PV cops sometimes harass and endanger the group in the name of “safety.”
- It’s no fun getting kicked out of the back at Trump and flailing all the way to the top by yourself with some fat dude wearing sneakers and carrying a floor pump.
- If you’re one of those people who thinks that everyone’s shit smells bad except your own, it can be a real downer riding with ordinary humans, sitting as you are atop UCI world rankings.
Twice-Weekly Ballbuster Before Work: New Pier Ride a/k/a NPR
This was originally the worst ride in the South Bay. It went along the bike path, meandered through parking lots, wandered over narrow bridges, perambulated along jogger trails, then turned into a series of mad, pell-mell dashes through a deadly gauntlet of traffic lights, stop signs, destroyed roads, and horrific morning traffic. That was the Old Pier Ride. The New Pier Ride starts at the same place, the Manhattan Beach Pier (a/k/a Center of the Known Universe, “CotKU”), every Tuesday and Thursday, and rolls out promptly at 6:40 AM. “6:40 AM” may mean “6:38” or “6:39.” It never every means 6:41, so if you show up then or later, be prepared to chase and chase hard. The ride now skips the bike path, rolls through an alley of death for a mile or so, pops out onto Vista del Mar, keeps a fast tempo all the way to Pershing, and then is a complete hammerfest with four laps around Westchester Parkway, except when it isn’t.
The NPR, not to be confused with National Public Radio, has ebbed and flowed. It has experienced more bad collisions than any group ride I know of in LA. The chief reason is that over the last couple of years the consistent cohort of riders who would drill it from the beginning and keep the pace high the entire ride have migrated away and haven’t been replaced. So sometimes it is fast and safe, with the pack strung out or, better yet, shattered into little fragments, and other times it is one slow-moving clump, bunched up with lots of wheel-crossing and shoutypantsing. These days it can be quite dangerous. On the plus side, you can always make the ride safe by being the animal who takes the bit between your teeth and drives the pace, so don’t ever do this ride and say “It wasn’t very hard.” That will prove you were nowhere near the front.
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get Facebag recognition and perhaps even a mention in the most influential bike blog in the universe.
- Guaranteed to get your heart rate up, and then some, before work.
- Sizable group on most days, 30-40 riders, so lots of places to suck wheel and cower.
- No big hills, just one small bump on Pershing and on the Parkway.
- If you get dropped you can pick up the pack when they come by in the other direction. And get dropped again.
- Ex-pros like Rahsaan Bahati, national champions like Justin Williams, and local beatdown artists like Jeff Mahin, Eric Anderson, and others may show up wearing their best pair of stomp boots. When America’s best crit racer Daniel Holloway used to show up, it was incredible.
- The post-coital coffee chill at the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a the Starbucks at Manhattan Beach, is the apogee of all that is fun about being a marginally employed bike wanker. We sit. We joke. We check FB updates. We delay going to work. We soak in the sun. We slobber as the local talent slinks by. What’s not to like?
- Distinguish yourself here, and you’ll likely get Facebag recognition and perhaps even a mention in the most influential bike blog in the universe.
- Too many places for the frail and the infirm to suck wheel and cower.
- Too many sprunters sit in and do nothing the entire time, then spank everyone in the sprunt.
- Unclear finishing line. Is it the beginning of the third traffic island? No one really knows, so it’s usually a case of “raise your hands and declare victory wherever your legs give out.”
- If you break free, there are numerous riders who never seem strong enough to go with you, but are always strong enough to chase you down.
- Occasional near-death traffic experiences.
- More crashing.
Secret Ride of Champions
This ride leaves every Thursday from the Center of the Known Universe at either 5:30 or 5:45. No one will tell you when. It will be dark. The other riders will materialize out of the shadows and grimly nod to one another, if at all. No one looks happy but that’s just a front. They’re actually miserable. The best reason to crash this ride is that, even though you’ll be squished like a bug, you’ll be squished like a bug even if you are invited. It’s hosted by the South Bay Royalty, presided over mainly by Jeff Konsmo and Dave Jaeger. Unless they tell you before the ride that they’re going easy, they will crumple you like a tin can. The ride rolls crisply out to PV, buries it up the Reservoir climb, crushes it up Better Homes, then squelches the life out of you up to the radar domes on Crest. Other times it goes elsewhere, always up, always fast. When the king and queen are preparing for states/nationals, they throw in a handful of additional brutal climbs at race pace. No matter how good you think you are, you’re not.
- Pain beyond your wildest fears.
- Being dismembered by the fang and claw of nature.
- Once in the office you will stare at your computer screen with a befuddled gaze until it’s time to go home.
Doin’ the Double: TELO Tuesday Training Crit
After doing the NPR on Tuesday morning, you have the evening option of the TELO Training Race, which goes off every Tuesday at 6:00 PM from the spring time change to the fall time change. In practice, participation drops off significantly from September It is named after Telo Street in Torrance, a feeder road that leads into a lovely little office park. The first lap is neutral, and the race lasts for an hour or until an errant vehicle takes out the field, whichever comes first. Packs are as small as 15 and as large as 40. Cat 5’s mix it up with some of the best riders you’ll ever compete against. Mercy is never shown. There’s almost always a bitter headwind on the back half of the course, which consists of two long sides with a chicane and two short sides. Sprinter wheelsucks are always waiting in the wings, but the hard section isn’t the headwind, it’s the tailwind. The course is filled with evening traffic from a kiddie gym and pet hotel. The race has been going on since the 70’s. It has been pronounced dead before, but always, somehow staggers back to life. Telo is unsanctioned and simply happens organically, as it has for decades.
- Super fast, super hard way to end your Tuesday.
- Close to South Bayers and free.
- Great way to get in a double workout if you do the NPR in the morning.
- Generally very safe racing. Crashes are rare, as traffic generally knows about the race and is generally very considerate.
- Way harder than Eldo.
- It’s a crit. Yawn.
- If it comes down to a sprint between you or Eric Anderson, there’s no fucking way in hell you’re going to win.
- Wheelsuck sprinters who treat training races like the real thing. Yawn.
No, Virginia, Halloweed isn’t a holiday: The Holiday Ride
When there is a national holiday, whichever day it falls on is the Holiday Ride. This often creates confusion on the part of most people in Manhattan Beach, and quite a few others in the South Bay who don’t really have jobs, and for whom every day is a holiday. So I get emails and texts from them like, “Hey, is there a Holiday Ride tomorrow?” “Tomorrow,” of course, is usually Halloween, or Gothic Rune Day, or National Prayer in School Day, or the day We Honor Our Teachers but Still Pay Them Shit Day. These are not national holidays, however much you like to use them as an excuse not to finish those three shaping orders that have been 80% completed for the last six months, and therefore, no, there won’t be a Holiday Ride. If it’s Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, MLK Day, 4th of July, etc., everyone meets at CotKU at 8:00 AM and leaves super promptly at 7:59. You’ll never catch if you show up late. If the weather’s sunny expect 200+ idiots. The ride goes north to Santa Monica, turns right on San Vicente Blvd., makes another turn or two and then hits Mandeville Canyon. From the light at Mandeville, it’s game fucking on. The speed instantly snaps the mob into a single file line of death. If you think you’re a contender (you aren’t), don’t be more than ten wheels back. People begin frying and charring immediately. It’s an endless climb, never very steep except at the last few hundred yards, where it turns into a wall. The finish rarely includes more than two or three people. The remaining 200 or so are flogging the little meat in ones and twos all the way back down the hill.
- It’s the ultimate “see and be seen” ride
- You get to see all the rich folks’ houses in Brentwood, or at least the ones you can see with your fucking face plastered to the stem, your eyes watering like a firehose, and sheet snot pouring out all over your face
- The climb up the canyon is intense and humbling
- It’s always a full-on beatdown
- Too many idiots
- Angry canyon residents have tried to kill cyclists using “their” road
- It’s a full-on beatdown, but only for 18 minutes
The Flog Ride around the Golf Course: “Golf” spelled backwards is “flog”
Rides come and go, mostly go. When the New Pier Ride was ruined by construction on Westchester Parkway back in 2015, a new ride was subbed in. Dreamed up by local rider Junkyard, the new Thursday ride has now reached a point of such viciousness that its founder not only gets shelled in the first three minutes, but it’s gotten so hard that he can’t even get out of bed. Now that, friends, is a hard bicycle ride. The Flog leaves at 6:35 AM pointy-sharp from the fountain in Malaga Cove. In 2019 it completed its fifth season of pain. The route is simple:
- Right on PV Drive.
- Right on Paso del Campo.
- Right on Via Campesina.
- Right on Via Chico, through the arch, and back to PV Drive.
- On the sixth lap, left on La Cuesta, where the ride terminates at the top and you vomit.
- Back to Riviera Village for coffee and lies.
This is a pure interval workout that climbs to the golf course, where everyone regroups and then does another lap. The awesomeness of the ride is expressed by the fact that it immediately starts with a climb, so people immediately get shelled. No imagining, no hoping, no fantasy that you actually had sort of a good ride. You start, and if you don’t have the legs you’re gone. There is something beautiful about this type of summary execution, where the usual habit of lingering, wheelsucking, and flailing by at the end becomes a nasty sort of trial, judgment, and punishment within the first few hundred yards. However, the fun doesn’t stop there because the beginning climb isn’t that steep, and the following climb up around the golf course is steep but short. So with practice you can get strong enough to hang on, although the humiliation and crushing sense of defeat that comes from getting repeatedly shelled the first few times you do the ride is usually awful enough to make people go away and never come back.
But it gets better because there are no stoplights. On the NPR, indeed every group ride in L.A., the ride is controlled partially by stoplights, and largely by stoplight whiners. Essentially, when you’re off the front on the NPR with one other wanker and you have a pack of 85 chasing with a tailwind and you’re pedaling harder than teakwood and you approach a red light and you run it, at the end of the ride all the wheelsuckers and never-seen-the-fronters and wait-til-the-end-sprunters and why-are-we-hammering-it’s-Novemberers will berate you for scofflawing. Never mind that there was never any danger, and never mind that the whiners are the very people who will pull the craziest death-shit in the middle of the pack fighting for a wheel. The point is that they want to detract from your awesomesauceness and your heroic brokeaway antics. Plus, they’re pissed that their sprunt didn’t count because you had already crossed the imaginary line in a fantasy victory.
Not so with the Flog Ride! There are no stoplights to run, and the stoplight whiners never, ever, ever show up for the ride. It’s like killing two birds with one stone, then fricasseeing them and eating them for dinner. The ride offers up lots more goodness, for example racing tactics. There is always one idiot or two who will attack from the gun and establish a healthy gap. Said idiot, who often writes a daily blog, then gets reeled in and crushed. But rather than simply floating to the back to regroup and attack again, the torrid pace and the constant rolling climb punish the would-be attacker to such an extent that the next hard acceleration typically crushes him. In short, you can get all the misery and failure of a race every single week without paying a nickel or driving a mile.
But wait, there’s more! Repeat riders get stronger (can you imagine that?) so the ride gets even harder. Best of all, there is no cheating. Once you get unhitched, you’re on your own to struggle and suffer and try to catch the little red blinking light in front of you until you reach the regroup point and do it all over again on the next lap. Or you can pair up with another wanker and suffer in tandem. The ride is short; the six laps take just under one hour to complete, and after finishing the climb on the last lap you jog left and go up La Cuesta. It’s only a little more than a quarter-mile long, but at 12 or 13 percent it feels like a light-year. Now if the ride’s creator would only start showing up again.
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