New Year’s Evolution

November 25, 2019 § 10 Comments

I’m getting the jump on 2020.

Seems like resolutions for the new year are quaint. Studies show they don’t work anyway.

But what about a New Year’s Evolution? I kind of like that. Evolution isn’t as quick and it’s ongoing. Plus, you can (and will) break a resolution, but you can’t break evolution.

My New Year’s Evolutions are these:

  1. Ride my fuggin’ bike more.
  2. Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.

And because I am in a generous mood, I’m going to give YOU a list of evolutions to consider, in case you’re so inclined.

  1. Ride your fuggin’ bike more.
  2. Depend on fossil fuels less in all things.
  3. Ride your bike to the grocery store once a week.
  4. Ride your bike to the coffee shop once a week but not as part of a group ride.
  5. Ride your bike with your family to dinner once a month.
  6. Ride your bike to work once a week.
  7. Swap out ONE car for ONE e-bike.
  8. Retrofit ONE of your road/cross/MTB/vintage bikes as a commuter bike.
  9. Ride with huge headlights at all times.
  10. Ride with huge taillights at all times.
  11. Control a busy lane once a week.
  12. Ride from the South Bay to DTLA once a month.
  13. Ride the bus with your bike.
  14. Ride the train with your bike.
  15. Use a Metro bike locker then walk somewhere.
  16. Ride with a friend/family to Union Station and have a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
  17. Do one trafficky gnarly commute (full lights) through somewhere like Anaheim/PCH to Long Beach or Orange County from the South Bay.
  18. Do an East Side Riders Feed the Hungry Ride.
  19. Take a Cycling Savvy online course.
  20. Ride your bike somewhere and lock it up.

Do this list in 2020, starting now, and you’ll evolve. Guaranteed.


#21: Take your bike up an elevator!

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 29: Inspire!

October 24, 2019 § 8 Comments

You can’t change the world.

But you can change yourself +1, and that’s pretty much the same thing.

One thing I’ve noticed about bike commuting is that people love to hear about it. Here are some things no one has said when I tell them I just finished the first half of my 70-mile, round-trip commute:

  1. You’re crazy.
  2. That’s stupid.
  3. Get a car.
  4. That’s dangerous.
  5. You stink.
  6. You look terrible.
  7. Glad I was able to sit in traffic for two hours while you were riding your bike.

Here are some things I’ve heard:

  1. That’s awesome!
  2. I admire you!
  3. I love to ride a bike, too!
  4. You look like you just stepped out of a Tesla! (The lady at the Starbucks register at the courthouse downtown really said that. Still not sure what it means.)
  5. I’m going to start riding again.
  6. You are in amazing shape.
  7. Your shirt and slacks are so crisp!
  8. You look so happy.
  9. Be careful out there!

Yesterday’s commute would have been a bear if I’d done the whole thing by bike. I had a meeting in Mission Viejo which is a solid 65 miles one-way, and instead of sucking it up and riding the entire thing, I did the pedal downtown then hopped on the Amtrak Surfliner, with my bike, to San Juan Capistrano. From there I pedaled the five miles to Mission Viejo, had my meeting, and then caught the 1:33 back to LA.

You really don’t need a car in L.A., but when I offloaded back at Union Station and faced the 32-mile, full-on traffic commute home ending in Basswood-Shorewood, I sure wished I had one. More to the point, I realized that there was an easy solution–the bus. There’s a direct, 50-minute ride that dumps me off about 40 minutes from home, and then, if you’re still not feeling the love, another 40-minute bus ride almost exactly at my front door.

Minus Basswood and Shorewood.

“I’m taking the bus,” I said, “but first I’m eating one of these.”

Dinner in a cup

As I licked the spoon clean, my mood changed, I hopped on my bike and began the 2-hour ride home.

Changing the world is great and everything.

But ice cream is even better.


Carmaggeddon Day 21: Bike Lawyer

October 17, 2019 § 11 Comments

I sat on the hot asphalt atop the spillway, legs splayed, the fiery sun beating down while a dry wind blew dust over the caked salt that stained my t-shirt and pants. My jaws mechanically chewed dinner, the second of two ham sandwiches, while I intermittently sipped on a dwindling bottle of water.

I gazed out over the bike path that stretched along the L.A. River back towards home. “I’m almost there,” I told myself. “Only 30 miles to go. Or so.”

It wasn’t convincing because 20 of those last 30 miles would be straight into the headwind I’d been battling all day long, and the last five of those miles would involve 1,000 feet of climbing, and the last two of those miles would require getting up two short walls, Basswood and Shorewood, one of which pitched up to 18%. Ish.

So many lessons learned today …

For example, when you have a 130-mile commute and you insist on wearing bike commuter pants instead of cycling shorts, your undercarriage will become, ah, sore. WHO KNEW?

For example, 32-mm tubeless sand tires are great for flat avoidance, but that combined with a tall, heavy ‘cross bike they are poor for speed.

For example, a backpack with a 10-lb. lock and cable, plus food, extra water, paperwork, extra lights, and a jacket starts to weigh about 150 pounds after eight or so hours.

For example, it takes 12 hours to meet with a client and ride from Rancho Palos Verdes in L. A. to Rancho Cucamonga in Riverside County.

For example, in the morning it’s an uphill headwind the whole 65 miles there.

For example, in the late afternoon it’s a headwind the whole 65 miles home.

For example, there are long stretches where it is uphill both ways. Exhausted commuter cyclists will understand.

And yet there were so many amazing parts of the day, for example, hopping off your bike to meet a new bike client and earning the instant respect of a fellow cyclist that you were doing a 130-mile commute to meet with him. Or the quiet beauty of the river trail, passing kestrels as they perched in mid-hunt, watching a snowy egret dabble its yellow foot in the water, or seeing the glow of a gorgeous sunset as you make your way homeward.

The transitions were amazing, too, from elbow-to-bumper, brass-knuckled jockeying in morning rush hour traffic along Vermont to the peaceful hum of tires on the 30-miles of bike trail where it’s just you, your bike, and the other cyclists outside pedaling, same as you are. It was also reassuring to sit in 50 miles of traffic out and back on Arrow Highway and get honked at exactly once, and that by a motorist who may have even been honking friendly.

At times euphoric and moving effortlessly, at others tired and struggling to stay on top of the gear, the undulating ebb and flow in strength, motivation, confidence, and optimism cycled me through every sensation and emotion, and no emotion more intense than the weary satisfaction of pushing my bike over the threshold.

You can’t live without a car in Los Angeles.

You just can’t.


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