Brutal fun

April 20, 2018 § 6 Comments

Yesterday was the 51st Running of the Flog. Actually, there have more like 130 floggings, but for some reason I started counting late and so fifty-one is the number.

A solid crew showed up, except for me. I’ve been licking wounds all week from the Baby BWR beating and simply couldn’t face six laps around the PV Golf Course followed by an ascent of 18,000% Via La Cuesta, so I decided that instead of riding I would show up and take photos.

No kidding, five minutes before the ride started, down came the rain. The temperature plunged into the 40’s, which is plenty cold if you’re not dressed for it (only two riders were), and unendurable if it’s accompanied by buckets of rain. Several of the riders got early onset hypothermia. One jumped into the shower at home fully clothed and ruined his cell phone. One didn’t feel her feet again until noon. All were miserable beyond belief.

The Flogroll was comprised of Scotty E., Ken V., Fred M., Bob R., Trevor D., Kyle J., Salvador B., Mike H., Luke R., Kristie F., Greg S., and John L.

It was Trevor’s very first Flog, and he was one of the five riders who lasted to the bitter end. What a nice, warm welcome to hell.


Two points

April 7, 2018 § 5 Comments

In this, our fourth year, we have had more riders on the Flog than ever before. Used to be, ten was a huge turnout and five or six was often the norm. This past Thursday eighteen riders showed up, and it’s common that twenty or more cyclists appear at the Malaga Cove fountain every week at 6:35 AM to flog themselves around the golf course for six laps.

One guy who is there without fail is Luke. He and I battle it out quite a bit, with me usually dropping him up to the top of PV Drive North, and then him surging by and dropping me on the wall. About half the time I catch him and beat him to the top, and about half the time he beats me.

He is very tough. You have to be tough to do the Flog Ride. You have to be a lot of other things, too, none of which are very flattering.

The leaderboard

This year a leaderboard was instituted. The person who got over the top first at the end of the climb got a point. “What about points for second and third?” a rider asked me.

“What are second and third?” I asked him back.

The last lap of the Flog continues past the golf club and ascends La Cuesta, which is an 89% grade and is roughly 12,000 miles long. The first one up La Cuesta gets two points; everyone else gets a selfie.

As you’d expect, the same riders collect all the points, week in and week out, and the rest of us get shelled and are non-first up the climb. Surfer Dan, Kyle, Adam, and a couple of other riders look down from the top of the leaderboard … way, way down.

And of course all the riders who have precious little chance, as in “zero,” of ever being first up the climb, let alone first up La Cuesta, have to settle for disappointment. And there is a lot of disappointment to go around each week, along with the faint glimmers of hope that show up each Thursday, only to be doused by the wattage rained down on them by the Cobleys, Jacksons, Floreses.

A boy can dream, can’t he?

This past Thursday the hitters overslept except for Kyle, who showed up in rare form. He took each point every lap, and he took them by a long, long way.

But after the fifth lap he didn’t stop in the parking lot to regroup, he kept on riding, and when Lap 6 began he hadn’t come back. We all looked at each other and it became instantly clear: Two magical points, the holy points up La Cuesta, were now on offer. You could feel the excitement.

In the past three Flog years, I’ve been first up La Cuesta less than five or six times. And the pattern in Year Four was painfully the same. I’d hit the bottom hard and get passed by Luke. Not passed by a little, passed by a lot. I was the tin can and he was the oncoming freight train. If I was gonna get those two points today, I’d have to beat Luke. And he wanted the points badly, desperately, because even though he is really good, he’s never been able to get a point.

I, on the other hand, through skulduggery, wheelsuckery, riding on blizzard/ice storm days when no one else shows up, and all manner of chicanery, had twelve points on the leaderboard. It would be a battle of ability and honor versus faithlessness and cunning.

Against the wind

Peter was the lead-out goat up to the top of PV Drive North. I was glued to Luke’s wheel as he sprinted over the top of the first climb and drilled it on the downhill and then all the way to the wall. Halfway up the wall I still hadn’t taken a pull, and as Luke slowed, Emily, and Ennis charged by with Lauren in the lead. Luke grabbed onto the back.

Reichmann caught us and sprinted by, cresting the climb and shooting down towards the base of La Cuesta. A few pedal strokes up La Cuesta and everyone fell away except Luke and I. He surged and immediately stuffed me into a place that made the hurt locker look like Club Med.

He wanted those two points so badly, but the knowledge of those points on offer somehow kept me from tailing off in the spots where I usually crumple and melt. We hit the final two hundred yards, which on La Cuesta, at 16 or 17%, feels like the face of a glacier by the time you get there. The cumulative sprinting and 5-minute intervals from the preceding five laps have worked your legs into putty, and there is nothing but pain.

And desire.

With a hundred yards to go, all of my wheelsucking started to pay off. Luke began to go from smooth hammerstrokes to uneven jabs, his speed dropped, his head began to hang ever so slightly. He was digging down into a place where most people not only never go, they don’t even know it exists. It energized me too, in a different way. Something about the sight of raw meat gives a cyclist energy, like a jolt of caffeine injected into the base of your skull.

But then in a brief second I considered everything: He had pulled the whole way. He had zero points on the leaderboard. He had never won a lap. He was one of the ride’s most faithful, strongest, safest, and reliable riders. He was tough as nails. He was a good person. He had never said a cross word, never complained, never pulled a dick move, and every lap he rode his heart out.

I had twelve points. I’d won plenty of laps in years past. None of it made any difference anyway, and what kind of person was so selfish that he couldn’t sit up and let a pal have a taste of glory on a fabled South Bay climb? If there were ever a place for decency, I realized, this was it.

I hit the gas as hard as I could and sprinted to the top, the sound of his labored gasps echoing in my ears.



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Hey, you, get offa my cloud

March 22, 2018 Comments Off on Hey, you, get offa my cloud

After writing about e-bikes I remembered that someone had once written me about allowing e-bikers to join a dino bike club. Unlike Sam Nunberg’s drunken inability to remember how to use the “search” function in Outlook, I easily found the email. Here’s what I said:

What follows are my personal opinions. I do not represent you or your club (indeed I don’t even know which club you’re in), and I haven’t done any legal research on this issue. If you are facing real or threatened litigation, you should retain legal counsel versed in non-profit law who can guide you on the proper steps to take. My comments below do not represent legal analysis and should not be relied upon to make any legal decisions. As a consequence, no attorney-client relationship is being created by the personal opinions expressed below, and you should have no expectation of confidentiality or privacy with regard to these communications as they are strictly personal and not based on any type of legal consultation or advice. As you say in your email, you are not seeking legal advice and are asking my personal opinion only.

In general, I think that a club is free to admit or deny membership based on whatever criteria it sets forth in its bylaws. That would include excluding e-bikes or motorized riders. I think that a club’s board could amend its bylaws to state that the organization exists to promote non-motorized, non e-bike, human-powered vehicular travel and that participation in group rides is limited to traditional, human-powered bicycles.

While you can’t stop people from hopping into your group rides since the roads are public, I think you are on pretty solid ground to limit your rides and membership to non-e-bike, non-motorized vehicles.

I think there are serious safety issues involved in mixing vehicle types. Speed and weight are the two most obvious ones, but I think there are fundamental problems concerning people on bike rides getting to compensate for their declining strength by using motors. Why not admit electric mopeds or small-displacement e-motorcycles? Why not admit high-powered wheelchairs, at least on flat roads?

If it were me, I would tell the e-bike riders to go form their own club and to ride with someone else. Failing that, I would leave the group or at least not participate in the mixed rides. I have enough problems staying upright without considering the additional parameters of mixed motorized vehicles posing as bicycles.

That said, e-bikes are an amazing innovation that have gotten tens of thousands of people on bikes. They also are mobility enhancing for older and disabled people. I support them and think they’re great, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ride with one in a mixed group.

No, my opinion hasn’t “evolved”

It drives me crazy when people say their opinions have evolved. They think that somehow the word “evolved” makes it look more reasoned than ‘fessing up to the truth, which is “I was a dumbass and wrong and now I have changed my mind.”

In other words, I was a dumbass and wrong and now I have changed my mind about these two paragraphs:

I think there are serious safety issues involved in mixing vehicle types. Speed and weight are the two most obvious ones, but I think there are fundamental problems concerning people on bike rides getting to compensate for their declining strength by using motors. Why not admit electric mopeds or small-displacement e-motorcycles? Why not admit high-powered wheelchairs, at least on flat roads?

If it were me, I would tell the e-bike riders to go form their own club and to ride with someone else. Failing that, I would leave the group or at least not participate in the mixed rides. I have enough problems staying upright without considering the additional parameters of mixed motorized vehicles posing as bicycles.

Group rides and e-wankers

The whole point behind the hammer ride is to measure testosterone as expressed by who gets dropped. The more people you drop the more you are #winning. The more you get dropped the more you are getting #trumped, i.e. being #pussygrabbed or #weeniegrabbed.

Mixing vehicle types might be a safety issue if one rider had a throttle and was goosing it mid-pack, but such assholes exist on dino bikes as well, riders who chop your wheel, execute dangerous gutter passes, or hook your bars. They are excoriated and ostracized, just as a misbehaving e-biker would be. Otherwise, e-wankers on hammer rides are just that, people who can’t make the bike go fast with their legs so they do it with a motor, convincing themselves that they really did put out the same effort as the 18-year-old with an ftp of 376 watts. This doesn’t make e-wankers dangerous or a “fundamental problem” on the hammer ride. It just makes them lame.

In fact, for years we’ve had the equivalent of an e-wanker on the Donut Ride, a dude who is very fit and fast who hops in mid-ride on one of the climbs and puts scores of people to the sword simply because he’s fresh. He isn’t a safety issue, he’s an ego issue who quickly deflates the carefully nurtured self-perceptions of all the people he passes. As long as your e-bike isn’t dragging a wagon or running handlebars that stick out to Houston, go ahead and hop in with your crazy delusions about fitness and speed.

Why is that okay? Because we’re all delusional in varying degrees and it doesn’t make sense to punish one group of whackos any more than another.

But what about the Flog?

Every Thursday morning there’s a fitness ride that leaves Malaga Cove at 6:35 AM, pointy-sharp. The point of the ride is to do intervals. It is a bastion of #profamateurism, delusion, and efforts so hard that they actually make people vomit.

What about on the Flog? What are we gonna do when some brokedown e-wanker shows up and wins all the sprunts? Dusts us up La Cuesta? Slaughters us on the golf course wall?

We are going to do the same thing we’d do if he or she were on a dino bike. Explain the course, explain the etiquette, explain the safety rules, and ride our fuggin’ bikes. Because not only are more bikes on the street a good thing, but my delusions are too old, too thick, and too impervious to be punctured by your electric motor.



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Build it and they will leave

August 31, 2017 § 12 Comments

When Junkyard came up with the idea of an alternative Thursday ride to the NPR due to massive construction on Westchester Parkway, it was a doozy: One warm-up lap followed by four hard efforts around the PV Golf Course, finishing on the monster climb of La Cuesta.

We skipped the warm-up that first ride and got straight to business. By the end, the group was in tatters. I think the day was November 6, 2014. The next week we also skipped the warm-up and added a lap. It was horrible beyond belief. No one could believe that anyone would voluntarily do such a thing.

As the months went by, one by one riders heard about The Flog. They came, they sampled, they never came back. From a training perspective, the ride was worse than useless. But far more awful was the damage it did to your ego. Always dropped and left to ride alone.

After a year, Michael Hines suggested we stop and regroup after each lap, effectively turning it from a race into interval training. We agreed. The ride only got harder, and the non-benefits even more pronounced. A two-fingered handful of riders soldiered on, but by then the ride’s reputation was so bad that new faces were few and far between.

The ride wrapped up its 35th edition for 2017, to resume again in January. I love this ride more than any other. It represents the best that competitive cycling has to offer: A small group of friends who take care of each other, who are safe and respectful, who go all out, and who make progress in whatever way they’re trying to improve. And at the end, if things work out, covfefe.

This ride has so many great memories for me! The day that Daniel Holloway and his crew showed up and destroyed the course record. The countless times that Stathis blasted the group apart, effortlessly, it always seemed. Amazing feats of speed on La Cuesta (and everywhere else) by Chris Tregillis. The continual, never-say-die efforts of Michelle Landes, one of the toughest riders around. Evergreen Mike Hines, reliable and hard as nails. Greg Lonergan who always made the hardest efforts even harder. Derek Brauch, always raising everyone’s game. Emily and Aaron, the happiest couple in the world! Lauren Mulwitz and the times she has come out and smashed. Josh Alverson, fearsome, funny, friendly, and quick to show us how Stanley O’Grande gets things done.

David Wells and his countless antics, videos, and photos. Luke Rokuta, dependable and smiling and thrashing it with his Pioneer power meter. Bill Klahr and Stacy Hill, two regulars, and of course Tim Vaughan and Steve Shriver!

And there were the handful of incidents! Marc’s fall in the hairpin, Emily’s fall in the hairpin, Kroboth’s fall in the hairpin, Michelle’s wheel-tap, Hines’s chain snap, the incident with the jogger, and Rico’s collision with the curb. For a ride that has gone off more than 140 high-intensity times, that’s an enviable record–and there have been no serious injuries.

Of course what I miss most are the people who used to come and don’t any more. The ride is too far, too early, too painful, too stupid, too pointless, or just too boring. Robert Efthimos, one of the best people I know and a tough competitor, Stathis and Chris, Stacy, Eric Anderson, Greg Seyranian, Greg Lonergan, and Head Down James, who I once screamed at for taking the hairpin at lightspeed.

“You crazy sonofabitch!” I yelled. “You can’t take the wet downhill hairpin like that! People will follow you and get killed, for fuck’s sake!”

Head Down James didn’t shout back. He looked at the ground and said quietly, “But I was only going 35.” That was his last flogging; our loss.

Jon Davy, Bob Spalding, Major Bob, and the immortal Francis Hardiman! Riding with him and Alex Barnes was such a low point in terms of ego but a high point of humanity … so many fine riders and good people have moved on to other and better things, which I get. But I miss them all anyway! Turbo Tom Duong, and remember Peyton Cooke? I do! He used to be there every time, along with Eric Anderson.

And of course the people who showed up once or twice, delivered their message or had it delivered, and never came back. Michael Smith, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Jeff Konsmo, Dave Jaeger, even Dan Sievert, “the Bull.” Dave Holland came and dished it out once, Gussy did half-a-Flog, and our Dear Leader, Junkyard Joe, comes once a year whether he wants to or not. The one or two cameo appearances of Evens Stievenart and Julien Bourdevaire were never to be forgotten.

Between the “been there” and the “done that” there are all the people on the Facebag Flog page who’ve never ventured forth. Please come! We will be gentle, and if not gentle, at least respectful. That’s my promise.

And I’m grateful to those pedalers who still make this ride a part of their lives. Josh Dorfman, the eternally happy Michelle Landes, Kristie Fox, Mike Hines, Emily and Aaron Wimberley when they can swing it, Luke Rokuta, Bill Klahr … thank you all.

It was a great year of flogging. 2018 will be our fifth anniversary, the make or break date for most marriages. Let’s keep this love affair alive.




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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could.


Have a Hartt

July 28, 2017 § 17 Comments

One of the least talented athletes I ever knew was Roger Worthington. Zero cycling physique. Couldn’t climb. Couldn’t sprint. Couldn’t time trail. Lousy physio numbers, and he was whatever the opposite of an all-rounder is. An all-squarer.

But as a bike racer, he was one of the best. What he lacked in every other category, he made up for in the only one that mattered: Desire, or in bike racing terms, meanness. Roger didn’t hate to lose, he refused to accept it as an outcome. Roger had more desire than entire teams.

Time and time again he won races in impossible scenarios. Bitter climbing road races. State titles. Stage races. Track races. Crits galore. And even time trails. Roger won a couple of those out of sheer spite. To Roger, no pain was worse than the pain of defeat and he would endure any physical pain not to lose. The ability to endure longer than everyone else comes in pretty handy when you’re competing in an endurance sport.

One time, I think it was in 2007 shortly after Roger had his first hip replacement, he was mounting a comeback. We were doing a training ride in PV and it was a very unpleasant and nasty little lunchtime interlude that he, John Caron, and I did together. We had dropped John and were pounding up the reservoir climb on PV Drive. Roger was in a lot of pain because he hadn’t bothered to let the leg attachment surgery heal properly before throwing himself into a grueling ride regimen.

As we hammered up the climb we passed this old dude who was pretty small. He didn’t like being passed, and he hopped on our wheel, then passed us. We chased him down and he attacked. We chased again and he attacked again. After a third effort we gave up and he rode off. It was the only time I saw anyone out-mean Roger Worthington on a bike.

That day was our first encounter with Steve Hartt. Steve died the following year while descending into Friendship Park when he smacked a park truck head-on at what must have been 50 mph. If you’ve ever bothered to read the little brass plate up by the water fountain atop the Switchbacks, it has his name on it. A ferocious rider, he was a legend.

I sometimes think about Steve’s ferocity and the way he battered the snot out of us that day, and for some reason was thinking about him this morning on the Flog Ride. Some new dude had shown up and was putting the wood to us. We’d chase him down, drop him, he’d batter back, we’d drop him again, and he’d pass us, repeat. Just like that day Roger and I got worked over by Steve.

The first five laps we managed to dislodge the guy each lap before the regroup, but it was hard going.

On the sixth lap Adam Flores and I hit him hard, he hung on, but we dropped him over the last part of the climb. As we hurtled towards the bottom of La Cuesta, the 19% monster that we ascend on the last lap, I looked under my arm and saw the dude catching back on just as we hit the bottom of the wall.

Adam jumped away, the dude came by, just like Steve did that day ten years ago, hard, ferocious, annoyed. He caught me and dropped me but the road kicked up more and he slowed, then kicked and caught up to Adam. He was riding on something that burned pretty hot inside. The two of them locked in battle for a while until Adam faded. The dude passed him, then Adam caught a third or fourth wind and battled him around the turn where I lost sight of them.

I got to the top, gassed. “Great riding, man,” I said.

He grinned. “You, too.”

“What’s your name?”


“Brooks what?”

“Hartt. With two ‘t’s.”

“You related to Steve Hartt?” I asked.

“He was my dad.”



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June 8, 2017 § 16 Comments

I was out flogging this morning with Josh Dorfman, Mike Hines, and Kristie Fox, and in between smashes we got to talking about cycling longevity. The question was along the lines of “How do people keep racing not just for years but for decades? How do you keep from burning out?”

I had to think fast because we only had a couple of minutes’ rest in between Flog intervals, but here’s what I came up with. Your results probably vary.

  1. Every day you have to win the pillow battle. If you can get up at 5:00 AM every day no matter what, you will get enough control of your day to ride.
  2. Don’t chill, rest. Bike people are generally hard-nosed and competitive. You can’t change that and “chill” or become a “relaxed chick.” But if you don’t give it a rest every now and then you will burn out. How much rest? I don’t know.
  3. Variety. People who race for decades change stuff up. Kevin Phillips has raced road, crit, pursuit, Madison, team time trials … and he always seems to find something new.
  4. Look down as well as up. People who eventually get frustrated with racing are typically looking up too much, focusing on all the people who are better than they are. You have to also look down sometimes. If you got 22nd out of 45 riders, you beat half the field.
  5. Race clean. Dopers eventually quit, regardless of whether they get caught, because their results depend on the drugs, and taking drugs over decades is an almost impossible regimen to continue–cost, routine, fear of exposure, and side effects eventually take their toll.
  6. Accept the fact that you suck, but enjoy the battle. Hardly anyone is a consistent winner in cycling and most people never get on a podium, as in “never.” But where else in life can you compete so intensely, so all-in, no matter how old you are? Treasure the opportunity to pin on a number. It’s a privilege and a gift.
  7. Pass it on. No matter how much you suck, most people suck waaaaay more. Teach what little you know. Help people whoask for it. Gratitude is a tremendous motivator and esteem builder.
  8. Smash. Resist the temptation to only “ride for fun” or “ride for enjoyment.” There’s a crucial element to cycling that involves unvarnished misery and the taste of your own puke. Make sure that no matter how you ride, you always save time for the nausea cage.
  9. Quit buying stuff. Stuff isn’t the answer. Pedaling is.
  10. Race. You can’t be a racer unless you race yer fuggin’ bike. And racing will keep the delusions at bay like nothing else ever invented by man.



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I’m not judging

April 15, 2017 § 2 Comments

I’m evaluating.

Different people obviously enjoy different things about riding bikes, and you can tell a lot about what they like by the rides they do. Here are my rides from last week:

  1. Saturday Donut beatdown.
  2. Sunday 60-minute TTT practice with Kristie.
  3. Tuesday Telo fake crit with real vomit pieces.
  4. Thursday Flog intervals.

I’m doing TTT practice again today and no matter how I look at those rides about the only thing they have in common is that they aren’t any fun. It’s obvious I don’t like fun, or spoken another way, not having any fun is a lot of fun.

The Flog ride that we do on Thursdays is the least fun of any ride I have ever done. It’s in its third year and I wish I had a quarter for every person who has done it once. This past Thursday I felt awful, as I hadn’t recovered from Telo. The reason the Flog ride is so bad is that it is six hilly 5-6 minute intervals, which is not fun, but since you do it with a group, each lap is a mini-race.

Because we’re bike racers we keep score in our heads each lap, which is silly. We regroup in the parking lot after each interval, descend a twisty road to the start, and do it all over again. Everybody keeps score and strategizes how to win the interval, or at least how to delay the droppage as long as possible. Like I said, silly.

The fastest lap times ever recorded were when Daniel Holloway and two of his teammates came out and did it. I love it when people say “Holloway’s just a sprinter.” So ignorant. That guy, in addition to being clean as a whistle, is good at virtually every aspect of bike racing. Stathis the Wily Greek did the Flog ride religiously before he retired at the unripe age of 30-something. He won every lap almost every time, including the horrible 13-14% grade up La Cuesta, the climb we do the last lap on and where we take a glory group photo at the end.

Some people found it demoralizing to get smashed every single lap by Stathis, but I didn’t. I love that kind of riding because it is so real. You don’t dangle in between delusion and reality, you get reality force-fed down your throat. Stathis was so much better than you even on his worst day and your best day. Like the Alabama rednecks used to say about Bear Bryant, “He can take his’n and beat your’n, or take your’n and beat his’n.”

Most people don’t like that, I guess.

Anyway, I felt awful from the start. Greg Seyranian’s fitness is really coming around; he blitzed us on Lap 1. Then he started hard at the bottom of Lap 2 and led out the whole lap, and then dropped us at the end. Then on Lap Three he led out the lap and I sat on and managed to pass him at the top. Lap Four he led it out again, and Josh Dorfman uncorked a nasty attack that no one could follow. Lap Five Mike Hines attacked us all on the mini-wall past the stop sign. I hung on somehow. Mike is a masters world champion on the track. He has these accelerations that just break you.

On Lap Six I quit and went home, which I hardly ever do. I had a deposition later that morning, but that’s just an excuse. The reality is I apparently had had a little bit too much fun.



You can see how steep the finish on La Cuesta is, plus Kevin Nix staring at his front wheel, Denis Faye looking dazed. Only Casey is smiling but he’s always smiling.



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It’s more than just a sprint

August 5, 2016 § 10 Comments

I’ve been riding with Josh for about a year now. We are teammates, but we first met at the Tuttle Creek Road Race out in Nowheresville, CA this February. It was a hard race and neither of us won.

Since that time he’s been an occasional attendee on the Thursday Flog Ride. I won’t bore you with how hard the ride is; I’m sure yours is harder.

One thing is pretty clear, though. Most people do the Flog once, maybe twice, and you never see them again. And another thing. Everyone who’s done it regularly since November has stood on a podium this year.

The ride goes around the PV Golf Course six times. It’s a 6-minute interval, then you descend to the starting point and do another loop. The intervals are hard (redundant) and they’re also strategic because at the top of the loop you sprint. Whatever kind of game you have, this ride improves it.

Last week Josh was making some hard efforts but in all the wrong places. I hate to give advice to anyone other than, “Keep your fuggin’ head up.” My philosophy is that any advice worth knowing can and will be used against me.

However, after one particularly disappointing lap (for Josh), where he had attacked on the first section of the golf course, then gotten caught and dropped, I coached him against my better instincts. “Dude,” I said. “You’re not strong enough to attack there and hold it to the end.”

“But I have to try,” he said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “but don’t try there.”

“Where do I try then?”

“Suck wheel until the last hundred yards then sprint like a bastard.”

“But that’s wheelsucking.”

“Fight the battle with the weapons you have, not the weapons you wish you had.”

This morning the first two Flog laps were, well, hard. EA Sports, Inc. took the first two sprints in typical dominating fashion. On the third lap as we made the right-hander for the final leg to the finish, I looked back. It was just Josh. “He’ll attack about now,” I thought. “Way too early.”

But he didn’t.

With a hundred yards to go I got ready to launch, but no sooner had I clenched the drops than Josh came rocketing by. He didn’t just win it, he owned it.

As we circled in the parking lot waiting for the re-group, he was smiling. “Good job,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “I feel good today.”



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April’s fools

April 1, 2016 § 11 Comments

Our fools here in the South Bay are not limited to April. Every Thursday morning at 6:35 AM we do the Flog Ride, which consists of six loops around the Palos Verdes Golf Course and a finish on Via la Cuesta.

Each lap is very hilly, and the finish on Via la Cuesta is pretty steep.


Via la Cuesta, the cherry on top, at the top.

The ride is pretty foolish year-round because:

  1. It leaves really early.
  2. It is really hard.

I know that it is possible nowadays to quantify “hard” with watts and Strava and kilojoules and TSS’s and amperes and such, but those methods are sterile. The best way to quantify the ride’s difficulty is in human terms, which is to say that hardly anyone ever comes back to do it twice, and many of the best riders in the South Bay have never even done it once.

How hard is the Flog Ride? After the fourth lap yesterday one of the new riders dismounted in the regroup parking lot and began fiddling with his bike.

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“I think my brakes have been rubbing,” he said. “I just can’t keep up.”

“It’s not your brakes that are rubbing on the rim,” I assured him. “It’s your lungs rubbing against your rib cage.”

At the Flog Ride, you can say with almost 100% certainty that when someone shows up to try it out, the rider will be a Reverse Terminator. He won’t be back.

The ride is only a year and seven months old, but two riders do keep coming back, and every week they have two goals:

  1. Don’t be last.
  2. Make it to the second turn with the group.

No dreams of beating the Wily Greek, no dreams of holding Destroyer’s wheel, no prayer of following Davy Dawg, no fantasy of ever even coming close to being first atop the climb, no goal of shattering the group on the puncher past the stop sign, no, none of that, just don’t be last and please, please, please dog let me make it the second turn before I get hammered, pounded, Mercury-in-retrograded into a quivering pile of gasping meat and flicked out the back.

But every week, with the precision of autocorrect, Michelle and Tom show up and get mercilessly vaporized. They are friends and teammates and good people, so we crush them.

Until yesterday. It was the last lap. We were all tired and dreading the final climb up Via la Cuesta. We made the first turn and Riddlebarger jumped away. Alan, a Big O teammate commuting to work who had jumped in with us, motored the tiny group into a tiny line. Michelle was second wheel and I was on her wheel.

Three riders launched at the stop sign but the group stayed intact. Atop la Cuesta, while the rest of us sat on the curb panting, Michelle and then Tom rode up. “We made it to the second turn!” she shouted, delirious with joy. Tom’s smile was bigger than a trophy bass’s.

“One and a half fucking years!” she said. “And we finally weren’t the caboose!”

We collected our lungs and got ready to descend to Redondo Beach for post-ride coffee and lies. “You coming?” Michelle asked Tom, who was standing on top of the hill, on top of the world, and gazing off into the distance, pleasure diffusing across his face.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to savor it.”



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Flappy happy

October 10, 2015 § 14 Comments

Some things make you smile. Big.

On Thursday morning it was pitch black as I rolled down PV Drive North to the start of the Flog Ride. Just before making the left turn to go up Via Campesina my headlight caught the edge of a pink t-shirt flapping in the wind. The rider blended into the dark better than any owl. She had no headlight, no taillight, was wearing black tights and riding a black bike. Did I mention it was pitch black outside?

She had earphones in so I didn’t say anything as I turned and started up the golf course climb. Halfway up I heard the sound of tires and glanced off to my left. She was charging past me, full gas, long legs spinning the hell out of those pedals. I’d planned on an easy warm-up but she passed with such authority that I couldn’t let it go.

I picked up the pace a bit, sitting about ten yards back. Pretty soon I was breathing hard and not closing any ground. “Ah hell,” I thought. “I don’t want to chase anyway.”

At the right-hander she went straight and I turned right, summited, and started the descent. Then I heard those wheels again. This time she bombed by, buried in the darkness, gone before I could see much more than the flapping edge of her shirt. “She’s gonna die,” I thought.

At the 180-degree turn she’d slowed down, a lot, and since I had a light I easily went by, going straight and starting the long climb up Via del Monte. Pretty soon I heard those tires again. But I had some momentum and matched her pace as she pulled alongside me, covered in sweat.

“Hi, there!” I said.

She pulled out her earphones. “What?”

“Hi, there!”

“Oh. Hi!”

“Where are you headed in such a hurry? You’re fast,” I said.

“I’m just doing a 45-minute ride before I have to work.”

“You’ve got talent,” I said. “I can see that in the dark.”

She laughed, embarrassed. “I just finished my first Ironman and am kind of new to cycling.”

“There are people who are real old to cycling who couldn’t keep up with you.”

She smiled again and we chatted going up to the stop sign, where I pulled over and gave her my card. “Hit me up if you ever want to go ride with some cyclists. You’ll get mansplained to death, but you’ll get faster and better. And it might even be fun.”

“Thank you!” she said. “I’d love that!”

That evening I got home and had an email waiting, an email filled with the enthusiasm and excitement and joy of a young person discovering that she can ride fast, and that there are other people out there just like her.

Grinning at my keyboard, I tapped out a reply.



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