The way the cookie crumbles

August 25, 2019 § 3 Comments

Joannnnnnn Zwagerman’s world famous Fun Donut Ride had a star invitee yesterday, the galactically famous Phil Gaimon, he of the cookie monster, of the Cookie Fondo, of the Stravver-smashing, and of the No Kid Hungry that raises money to feed children.

The combo of JZ’s call-to-arms and Phil’s call-to-cookies meant that the parking lot of Miramar Park at Redondo Beach was filled with cyclists who wanted to pedal down to Giant-Santa Monica, scarf fun donuts, swill boiling coffee, and enjoy a spectacular day cycling in Los Angeles, THE WORST CITY ON EARTH TO RIDE A BIKE, with the exception of all other places on earth to ride a bike.

We started off with Dear Leader being appointed ride leader, and he swelled up (predictably) knowing that he was really benefiting from the white privilege of owning a Lamborghini, for being a multi-millionaire, for inheriting all his wealth from his father, and for acting like one of those rich kids that fill the South Bay who have never earned anything on their own a day in their life. I started at the back enjoying the company of Colin Zwagerman, new cyclist newly fitted out on a retro Raleigh, buffed, tuned, and spit-polished by the Bike Palace for the incredible deal of $150. Colin was being officially initiated in the mysteries of riding in the South Bay, and as Dear Leader shouted instructions to the sheep, Colin was inculcated with Rule 1: Dear Leader has lots of inherited wealth from daddy, so STFU.

More impressive was Colin’s and my conversation about … philosophy. There aren’t many brilliant science-math students enrolled at one of the country’s finest universities who shrug it all off and throw in with the misfits, dreamers, visionaries, and idea-lovers that comprise the rubric “major in philosophy,” but Colin had, and as a former philosophy major and parent of a philosophy major and son of a philosophy major, it was pretty exciting to me.

Of course it wasn’t as exciting as listening to Dear Leader screech “Tree! House! Sky! Hole in road! Bump on forehead! Booger in ear! Stop sign! Slowing! Red light! Green light! Going!” but it was close.

I endured it for a really long time, about three minutes, before riding to the front and taking away the lead from Ride Leader like a mean playground bully yanking a lollipop away from a three-year old. Dear Leader was livid. “I was appointed ride leader!” he pouted, after which I sent him to the back of the bus without any Lamborghini for dinner.

From Redondo through Hermosa Kevin regaled me with the amazing story of his family Europe vacation in ’72 when his father had taken an old VW bus named Rasmussen and driven across the continent with his family, camping and exposing them to the joys of real travel. The best part of the story was when his badass 13-year-old older sister, having gotten all the culture and family time she could stand, abandoned the family at a campground in Ukraine and flew back to Copenhagen, booking herself in a 5-star hotel until the family returned.

In Manhattan Beach, Phil rolled to the fore and we pedaled on this brilliant day to the bike shop. En route we met a dude on a low-rider, playing jams from his sound box. He was stoked to ride with us for a bit, but we couldn’t keep up with his motor assist, so we waved goodbye and that was that. When we got to the bike shop, Joann raffled off some amazing, incredible Wanky socks, a Pedal Mafia jersey and a helmet donated by Giant-Santa Monica, as well as a changing tent made by Carbana.

I saw Kevin munching one of the fried-dough delicacies. “How are the donuts?” I asked.

He looked at me pityingly. “Uh, Seth,” he said. “Have you ever had a bad donut?”

“Good point,” I said, and snatched one for myself.

JZ then walked the shop floor collecting donations for No Kid Hungry, and the assembled crew coughed up $260, coming more than halfway to hitting the goal of $400, which is extraordinary given how cheap the average cyclist is. You’d think that someone who owns apartment buildings in the Bay Area, beachfront property in LA, and a Lamborghini would gladly, if not out of shame, make good the whole amount, but one thing we know about rich brats masquerading as liberals is that THEY GET RICH AND STAY RICH BY TAKING IN FISTFULS AND GIVING OUT CRUMBS.

However, at day’s end one of JZ’s friends, upon learning that the goal hadn’t been met, kicked in the remaining $160. Needless to say, she wasn’t a cyclist.

The ride back to the South Bay was equally stunning. My day had started off at 4:30 AM with three hours of climbing/TT intervals doing loops around the infamous WSPL+kickerz route, and it finished with a peaceful climb back home, but not before we spied a buddy with his bike half-stuffed in the back of an Uber.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Flat and no spare,” he said. “And now we can’t get the bike into the back of the Uber.”

The Uber driver nodded. “Trunk won’t close.”

I applied some whiz-bang Wanky analysis to the physics problem at hand. “Gents,” I said, “I can get that bike in the trunk quicker than a freshly-Vaselined finger doing a rectal exam.”

The Uber driver was skeptical. “We have been working on it and it won’t go in. We have tried everything.”

I dipped my hand in the Vaseline jar, took the bike out of the trunk whipped off the rear wheel, and easily slid in the frame. Everyone stared. Then laughed. And then we left.

JZ and Phil had raised some money for hungry kids, the crew had had a fun day on the bike, I had slid a bike into a tiny trunk, and say what you will, I’ll take a skinny donut over a fat cookie any day of the week.


Ego meatgrinder

September 30, 2018 § 6 Comments

This morning we went down to the Donut start and had a cup of coffee. Joann met us there with son Colin and his girlfriend Julia. Colin is smarter than everyone else in the coffee shop put together, which is not saying much, but he’s one of those Pomona science kids who has a taste for the hard stuff and still manages to be kind, respectful, and more importantly, amenable to being sucked into wasting his Saturday helping out with a bike ride.

And not just any bike ride.

This morning was a special edition of Joann’s FDR, a/k/a Fun Donut Ride, which came about as an alternative to the Donut Ride on which everyone eventually gets dropped and fun is minimized. It was a special edition because Phil Gaimon had selected this day to go for the trifecta:

  1. Take the Switchbacks KOM.
  2. Get people to sign up for his Cookie Fondo.
  3. Raise money for the No Kid Hungry foundation.

The bait was several hundred dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and the VeloFix entourage running tech support, sag, and PR for Phil. Paparazzi snagged cameo photos of Enduro Breader before the ride, snaring down donuts.

Land of the Lost

The Stravver, dislike it or hate it, is where much of modern bike competition resides. KOMs are precious things to a great many people, and the Stravver allows riders to simultaneously live in Delusionville and to keep tabs on their training data.

When Phil’s pro career ended and he took up KOM collecting full-time, it created a bit of a sensation. You see, Stravver KOMs for the really iconic segments are owned by about four percent of the people on the Stravver. Ninety-six percent of the people on the Stravver cannot stand the other four percent. The reasons are complex, but in a nutshell it boils down to this: Your local Stravver hero is quite likely an insufferable dick.

Does anyone remember Thorfinn-Sasquatch, the Stravver KOM collector who was busted hawking PEDs? Right. And while I’m not saying that big time KOM collectors all dope, we are familiar with the chicanery that these big fish employ: Favorable winds, leadouts by friends, pacing by motor scooters, and any other number of questionable tactics.

Bottom line is that Phil has made a nice retirement out of going out to the local iconic climbs across the country and wresting them from the treasure chest of That Guy, who typically then turns to the Internet to complain about the injustice of having his KOM “stolen” by someone who was, uh, faster.

Of course the 96% peanut gallery loves it …

Taken under cover of night

When Phil heads out to take a big deal KOM, the locals don’t always welcome him with open arms, and by “locals” I mean the riders who fancy themselves the biggest frog in the local pond. No mind. Phil straps on his camera and has a go, and more often than not he collects the KOM. But it’s a bit of a solitary undertaking, soldiering out into hostile territory to wrest the crown from the local prince.

Enter Joann’s FDR.

For whatever reason, perhaps because she hasn’t been cycling long enough to know that you’re supposed to resent “outsiders,” rather than meeting Phil at the gates of the South Bay with an armed vigilante squad, she put out the call and close to 70 riders answered.

Their job?

Line the Switchbacks and cheer Phil on in his attempt to snatch away the title of fastest rider on our most hallowed hill.

He was taken aback. As he began the assault, the entire route was lined with riders from Big Orange, South Bay Wheelmen, and random riders in the area eager to witness and cheer a pretty gnarly physical feat: The Switchbacks has been ridden over 8,000,000 billion times, and the current KOM as of Saturday morning was Eddy Merckx, who set the record shortly after setting his one-hour world record in Mexico City in 1968.

I talked with Phil afterwards.

“What was it like being cheered?”

“It was weird. No one has ever done that before.”

“Good weird or bad weird?”

“It was awesome. People screaming for me, urging me on … that just doesn’t happen in Stravaland.”

“Did you get the KOM?”


“What was your time?”


I don’t know what Merckx’s time was, but obviously it was slower than Phil’s.

After party

The next item on the menu involved a big party at the Bike Palace in San Pedro, where local San Pedroian delicacies were served to the ravenous bikers, and where generous donations poured in for the No Kid Hungry foundation.

It was a great day thanks to Joann, Bike Palace, VeloFix, and donuts. Not cookies. Donuts.



The middle ground a/k/a FDR

January 15, 2018 Comments Off on The middle ground a/k/a FDR

There is a sweet spot in cycling for most people, located right in that middle ground between “pound” on the one hand, where everyone feels like they had eye surgery sans anesthetic, and “flail,” where you finish the ride and wonder, “Did I ride?” The South Bay’s Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, hits the sweet spot almost every time.

It’s a hard spot to find because any grouping of riders invariably attracts an outlier or two. The pounder whines because it was “too easy,” and the flailer moans because it was “too hard.” Of course no ride is right for every rider, all the time. But coming up with that Sweet Spot Ride, getting it started, and hardest of all, keeping it alive, is fiendishly hard to do, yet it’s precisely this kind of ride that builds community and participation in cycling. How to do it?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joann Zwagerman’s FDR.

Genesis: How the FDR came to be

I could give you the background of the FDR, but why? Joann has already done it for me. With a few edits and emendations, here it is:

Greg Seyranian had a South Bay ride called the Anti-Donut. I would show up week after week and pedal my ass off. It was mellow for them but it was totally challenging for me. I did my best to try and keep up. They never abandoned me and they always waited for me and I found that remarkable.

Once race season began and the Anti-Donut ended, I found myself looking for a similar ride. If you were a racer, you were on the Donut Ride. If not, you were looking for friendly people to ride with. Thus, the Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, was born. It is an inclusive, non pretentious, friendly, fun and challenging ride.

Maybe today is your biggest ride? Your first group ride? Your first FDR? Whatever it is, I hope you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of it even if it’s just eating your first donut with chocolate sprinkles in ten years and making a few new friends!

Thank you everyone for all your support! Ride on and be safe!

Exodus: How riders joined the FDR

As we all know, it’s fairly easy to start a ride. You tell a few friends the time and place, give them a general rundown of the route, and three of them show up. If you invite a hundred people, you can expect maybe four. Everyone does the ride, has a more or less good time, and then you do the ride for a couple more weeks, and participation increases a bit or stays the same.

Then comes the crunch moment. It’s the day for “your” ride. You’ve told everyone you’ll be there. But yesterday you got a bo-bo on your boo-boo, or maybe a boo-boo on your bo-bo and it’s feeling really ouchie as you lay there in bed with only thirty minutes to crap, air your tires, drink some coffee, pull a pair of shorts out of the dirty hamper, and scurry to the start.

What do you do? You roll over, of course! This isn’t your job! It’s your hobby! Those wankers know the route! You’ll be there next week anyway! Snxxxxxxxzzzzzzzz!

Of course your pals see it differently. They get to the start and you’re not there. They check their phones. They call you. Someone finally rouses you and you groggily text back, “Boo-boo on bo-bo, out.”

And guess what? You just drove a wooden stake through the heart of your nascent ride. Because for a ride to continue, the person who started it has got to keep showing up. It’s like being married, only far worse because at least when you’re married, rolling over and snoring is an accepted part of lovemaking. Requisite, actually.

What Joann figured out with the FDR was that if you’re cycling in the South Bay and you want people to commit to you, you have to commit to them. And that means a date, a time, a place, and a commitment to be there “til death do us part.” Week in and week out, the FDR went off with Joann present to shepherd her lambs, and it went off in some pretty extreme situations.

Broken hand? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Broken wrist a few months later? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Ride founder overtrained and barely able to move? No worries, Joann either did the ride, sagged in her Rage Rover, or rustled up a deputy. And this last part, “rustling up a deputy,” has been a great innovation because the FDR’s success has led to its having two routes: A fixed loop around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and a variable route that can venture pretty far afield. Having a deputy means that the fixed FDR route always takes place, and people aren’t left showing up to a ride where they are the ride.

Revelation: You can make an FDR, too

Joann’s FDR has brought a lot of people into cycling and now serves as a focal point for people who are looking for a regular ride–not too hard, not too soft–and for event organizers who want to get the word out about their event. From Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Fondo, to the Belgian Waffle Ride, to Rivet Cycling’s Santa Barbara ribs extravaganza, people in the cycling community recognize that FDR is there for the community as a whole.

This, of course, is how you grow the cycling donut, and then get to eat it, too. One rider at a time.



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About This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

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