Telling it like it is: A conversation with Elijah Shabazz
February 16, 2021 § 8 Comments
Elijah has, as he will tell you, “been around.” With more than fifty local race wins and two state titles over a career that spans close to twenty-five years, if you’ve ridden or trained competitively in Los Angeles you have most certainly run across Elijah Shabazz.
Good-natured, competitive, friendly, and never afraid to speak his mind, Elijah is one person in the LA-area peloton who will call bullshit when he sees it. I’ve known him for years and reached out to him to see if he’d be willing to do an interview. He graciously agreed.
Seth Davidson: When did you start cycling?
Elijah Shabazz: I started in 1997 at the age of 14. I’m 38 now.
Seth Davidson: What got you into cycling?
Elijah Shabazz: I was getting into trouble in my early teens and a guy from the neighborhood introduced me to Rahsaan Bahati and he introduced me to David Pulliam. They got me my first bike and I’ve been going ever since.
Seth Davidson: When did you start racing?
Elijah Shabazz: When I was a junior. I raced extensively locally, I’ve won 50 races, and two state titles when I was young, but now I’m a regular old masters enjoying the scene, nothing serious.
Seth Davidson: How long have you been doing the competitive group rides in LA?
Elijah Shabazz: I’ve been doing them since about 1998 back when NPR was called the Morning Ride, and Montrose, and the Donut when it was a different route.
Seth Davidson: What is your favorite ride?
Elijah Shabazz: My all time favorite is still Montrose. I did it yesterday. Not that much climbing, I love racing down the street with 40-50 people, I love it.
Seth Davidson: Can you describe the ride?
Elijah Shabazz: The Montrose Ride is in Pasadena and it goes around there and the San Gabriel Valley. There is a long and short group, 45 miles and 35 miles, and the long loop is about 2,100 feet of climbing and the short route is about 1,500 and a little less. It’s been around since before I was around.
Seth Davidson: Are there many African-Americans on the ride?
Elijah Shabazz: Basically, per every twenty people there’s one black person. So no, not really. Recently they had an influx of black people since the covid came and they’ve been calling themselves covid riders, about twenty new black riders. It’s nice to see everybody’s getting on bikes.
Seth Davidson: How are relations between whites and blacks on NPR? [New Pier Ride is a regular Tuesday/Thursday ride on Westchester Parkway, fast and competitive.]
Elijah Shabazz: The relationship seems cool, everyone knows each other, so they’re normally pretty good. Personally I’ve heard a lot of smaller talk but I’ve never seen anything personally racist towards anybody and I’ve never heard anything racist either.
Seth Davidson: What is the general attitude towards black people showing up on a ride that is mostly white?
Elijah Shabazz: I’d say that since I’ve been around a long time the vibe is always cool to me, it’s inviting, they speak to you, I never see anything really negative especially with the rising of a lot of strong black athletes like the Williams brothers, Charon, Rahsaan, they’ve helped us earn respect in the peloton, they know we’ve got the racing, sprinting aspect of cycling covered.
Seth Davidson: What is the general attitude towards white people showing up on a ride that is mostly black?
Elijah Shabazz: We’ve had that a lot and honestly, it’s okay, we all like to blend in, on certain rides like Black Lives Matter ride and the MLK ride I personally like to keep it within one mixture of people, everyone has their own thing and culture, so it’s like me bombarding a Jewish ride on Rosh Hashana, I personally feel like I shouldn’t be there. An all brothers ride like the MLK ride, unless people are invited I feel like it’s for certain people. But we’ve had rides with other people, Movement Ride and such, and we’ve accepted other people and no one was ostracized, we’re all cyclists and under one umbrella. We want to keep it fair for everybody.
Seth Davidson: Have you witnessed or experienced racism in bike racing?
Elijah Shabazz: I can say that I’ve seen things personally where I thought it was racism or it was because a person was black, but it wasn’t directly said, but certain situations were taken away from people or magnified because they were black and it would have been different if it had been another race.
Seth Davidson: Do you consider yourself more outspoken than other black riders?
Elijah Shabazz: Absolutely, I have a lot of times where people will pull me to the side or tell me straight up, “You say what’s on everyone’s mind.” People appreciate me being me. People don’t always have the heart to say it and they really appreciate it, me being myself.
Seth Davidson: Would the situation be better if more people were like you?
Elijah Shabazz: It would make lines of communication clear, people wouldn’t be so frustrated, so you can get things off your chest. When I speak my mind I feel better because I didn’t hold it in and let it build up like a volcano. Like people going postal. I don’t have anything serious or violent in me because I address it then and go about my business. I let you know how I feel right then and I leave it at that rather than something going on over the years and turning into a fistfight. Life shouldn’t have fistfights and conflict, you should get it out at that very moment.
Seth Davidson: What needs to be done to get more black kids into the sport?
Elijah Shabazz: Honestly, they need more money, for one. Cycling is very expensive. I tell people cycling is so hard and so expensive you have to love it to do it. A lot of kids would get the opportunity if it happened when they were younger but I’ve realized how expensive it is, if my son wanted to do it, to get the top equipment, it’s crazy. The Specialized push-bike, carbon fiber, was $1,000 for a 3-year-old to ride for six months. Rahsaan, Justin, they do things where their sponsors donate bikes to kids, a stepping stone to get kids to ride. So many people say that cycling makes them feel free. But when they see the prices they back out. It takes a lot of riding and a lot of money. So it would really be the price points. A lot of people would do it more if it were cheaper. It deters a lot of people from actively getting into the sport. And also, when I was racing years ago, every race had 50-60 people, and kids had thirty racers at least. Racing was cheaper back then. The general consensus is that cycling is expensive and dangerous, and it’s gotten so expensive over the years, $50 for the first race $20 for the second, travel, food, the riders can afford the bike and wheels but I can’t afford $150 every week and risk crashing. Numbers have gone down and it’s a domino effect because promoters don’t give out quality prizes and money because they don’t have the attendance. I don’t care about a box of Clif bars. I’d rather have a medal and a jersey, something I can show my son even if it’s local. My son sees stuff like that he might be motivated to achieve things in life. Nobody cares about a box of Clif bars that expired three months ago. I don’t care about the money, I’d care about trophies, medals, jerseys that my son could see. I can buy gels off Amazon and get the flavor I want and it’s not out of date and I’m good. It’s not rocket science. Races used to be full, family events, nowadays nobody goes, the morale is down, and it’s not cheap enough to do. It shouldn’t be $75 to race two races.
Seth Davidson: What do white people need to know about racism?
Elijah Shabazz: The movement with Black Lives Matter and a lot of white people that jumped on or came down to the protests and did the ride and have been pushing for BLM, they’re not doing it for the hype or because it’s in style and I think they have to keep pushing that awareness to people who aren’t aware. White people have come to me and said, “I was racist and didn’t like black people but have learned through cycling that we’re all the same.” That shows a lot. Those type of people I respect more, they have the balls to admit they are learning. That’s important. People in California are diverse and they look outside the box more than the Bible Belt. Same for racism in cycling in different states. Here they’re a little more understanding and free, not as bad as Middle America or the South.
Seth Davidson: How does racism harm the cycling community?
Elijah Shabazz: Since the community is so small, we should all be together in life, but because we’re so small you have to figure like if I’m on the road by myself at 6:00 AM and two white guys who don’t like black people ride by and I’ve got a flat they’re going to ride by and leave me, which shouldn’t happen. You see someone on the side of the road you should wave and check in on people. It takes all of us. I’ve had times in cycling where people have asked me, “How can you afford this stuff?” What kind of question is that? Is it because I’m black? I have a good job and can afford it. We have to all be together.
Seth Davidson: Have you ever gotten in a confrontation with a white cyclist and been defended by other white people?
Elijah Shabazz: Yes. Plenty of times. I don’t want to say the guy’s or lady’s name who always come to my defense, but I don’t know if they do it privately to keep their names cool or in the loop or if they don’t want any problems. When something happens I speak my mind, I have people who always hit me up and say you weren’t wrong it’s okay. It’s not as genuine as if they would squash the situation. In a group the adrenaline is up, one thing happens, it’s a yelling fest. I need those people, anybody, to step up and say “Let’s chill. Relax. Let’s ride our bikes.” That’s more important, to address it right there in front of everybody.
Seth Davidson: What do you think about white people calling up certain black people to complain about a black person they have conflict with?
Elijah Shabazz: I took a break from cycling and when I came back people were telling me what to do and I was like man, I been around, so you got to give me more respect. I had a lot of confrontations and people would reach out to Rahsaan. I’ve known him since I was a kid but he’s not my father. I’m grown, right? They need to come talk to me. What is he, the liaison for the black community? I’m not the liaison for the black community. You talk to people individually, and with social media, Strava, if I get into it, I can find Strava, contact them personally and apologize. I don’t need to go through anybody. What would I need to go through you or someone else? Nowadays people do that. In the past year I haven’t had too much confrontation lately and it’s gotten better. I’m getting older. I just want to ride my bike, go home, and take care of my child. Now I don’t always tell people when they’re wrong and just leave it alone. It’s more peaceful for myself.
Seth Davidson: What do white people need to know about Black History Month?
Elijah Shabazz: White people need to know that black history was around way before slavery, people need to understand that we are just different people. We enjoy more flamboyant stuff, we come from African royalty because it’s in our lineage. People will see our flash and stuff like that and personally say things about Justin, for example, “They’re too flashy,” you gotta understand I’m not on your side on that. I knew his dad for years. They’re enjoying the moment, that’s in their culture to be that way, to be fly, and our history isn’t just a month, it’s all year, people create black history every day. We celebrate everybody else’s history too, Cinco de Mayo, I have Jewish friends, everyone’s history needs to be celebrated all the time.
Seth Davidson: Did George Floyd affect white-black relations in cycling?
Elijah Shabazz: It opened the door for everything. I saw a lot of people who never said much about anything come out and really represent, and really it was sad, but a lot of white people said, “Enough is enough,” but I say “Enough has been enough for a long time. But keep it up when it’s not trendy.” I don’t knock people for learning but I took it for what it is, we been pushing for a long time and I’m glad you finally showed up. Everyone doesn’t get good at the same time, just like in cycling, and I’m glad some people are stepping up, at least you finally came with it now. You have to see the glass is half-full, even if it was only last year that they realized it.
Seth Davidson: Whites often say, “I don’t see color.” What do you think of that?
Elijah Shabazz: Prove it. There’s a lot of racism that happens because they’ve never been discriminated against, that’s fine. Prove it, don’t just put it on a t-shirt. You have to live it and push through with it and be down with the struggle and in the trenches with us fighting for black rights and for all human rights. That will show me that you don’t see color.
Seth Davidson: Whites often say, “I didn’t invite any black people because I don’t know any.” What do you think of that?
Elijah Shabazz: At this point you should know everybody in cycling. Charon, Rahsaan, Justin, so many blacks in racing and riding and hanging out and working at bike shops. That’s an excuse. If you’re friends with someone, you have a certain group of people, there are black people in every club. I was in LaGrange for a year and I got invited to everything, so I think it’s just an excuse.
Seth Davidson: Have relations improved over your lifetime or worsened?
Elijah Shabazz: I think they’re pretty much the same. Racism has always existed, you’ve always had people who didn’t like blacks, people who fought for blacks, and blacks being misunderstood, which is about 90% of the time. Now people can express themselves better because of social media. It’s for the world to see. Like I said, you can post it but you have to live it. It’s like having all the bike stuff and not going and doing the rides. That’s the same as posting #BLM on social media, you have to live it.
Seth Davidson: You were recently on the cover of Cycling Tips. Tell me about that photo.
Elijah Shabazz: I did a photo shoot with them. Alonso Tal, a well-known African-American photographer, and when Cycling Tips had shoots available, he sent headshots and they asked for me. I have the look for cycling and I don’t have any ties to any sponsors where it’s a conflict of interest, for example I ride for one team so I can’t model someone else’s bike. I can cycle model for anyone. Alonso hit me up, we went up Highway 2 for about four hours and did a bunch of pictures, stills, drone shots. He’s very creative, one of the best creative minds I’ve ever seen.
Seth Davidson: Do you want this to continue?
Elijah Shabazz: It’s not a big goal of mine, but if people call me to do it and it fits my schedule, I’ll do it. I’m not trying to be a model, it’s just a side hustle and if it helps Alonso out then I’ll do it.
Seth Davidson: Thanks, Elijah.
Elijah Shabazz: You’re welcome.
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Shazam! Shabazz for the #fakevee!
December 18, 2019 § 13 Comments
Yesterday’s NPR started out very hard by which I mean cold. 48 degrees in SoCal is no laughing matter, so out came the fur-lined mittens and insulated panties for those hardy enough to brave the elements. Only Fearless Fred M. dared show up gloveless or, as he put it, “I realized two minutes in that I’d forgotten my gloves, but I was already late so I just went with it.”
The pillow babies were nowhere to be seen on this cold morning, but there were hop-in-wankers aplenty once we got to the Parkway. The new 5-lap configuration has made NPR faster because about half the peloton jumps in somewhere on Laps 2 or 3, fresh as a daisy and ready to pummel those who’ve dutifully rolled out from the Center of the Known Universe at 6:40 AM, pointy-sharp.
My two readers of this blog will readily acknowledge I’m just not that smart, as this week I went out hot, got caught, and then wound up on the wheel of Dante Y., the NPR’s most infamous hop-in-wanker. I don’t know if he just has trouble getting out of bed, if his watch doesn’t work, or if he does a real ride after NPR, or if he just don’t GAF, but he always hops in late, fresh as a daisy, and mauls everyone else to death in the sprint.
Some riders whine about it, but I think it’s great. This is a training ride and you should feel fortunate that there are riders there who will split you in half and not even send you a bill.
Yesterday Dante didn’t wait until the finish. At the start of Lap 3 he caught up to me and I grabbed his wheel, which was a mistake because he went so hard I thought I was going to have a medical event. He flicked me through, I didn’t come around, and he smashed me with another beastly effort before swinging over. I wobbled for a few seconds on the front before the peloton caught us. On the back side of Lap 3 another HIW revved it up again and I got dropped.
However, the small size of the group meant that even the HIW’s eventually wound up in difficulty, as all of them got dropped, and the riders who were fit and/or who had husbanded their resources properly came to the fore. Fearless Fred attacked with half a lap to go and left the field in tatters. Riders were strung out for almost half a mile behind him.
Then Elijah and Rebekah bridged up to Fearless, and Elijah, who as usual hadn’t done any work since the last pull he took on his baby bottle in 1986, leaped around Fred and Rebekah for the #fakevee. Kudos. That was a hard and gnarly ride.
From which we have several takeaways:
- If you are old and brokedick don’t squander a single pedal stroke on the new-new-pier-ride because the HIW’s are so fresh and lethal that they will turn you into creamed soup.
- Follow Elijah’s wheel if you want to save watts. He makes Vince DiMeglio look like a workhorse.
- Rebekah P. is en route to a straight-out NPR win.
- The new NPR is a lot harder if you do the whole thing.
- Avoid the front at all costs.
- When you get shelled, blame it on [your favorite excuse here].
Shocking *yawn* news
November 6, 2019 § 9 Comments
Wisdom is called wisdom because it has been proven over time. Those who intentionally ignore wisdom are fools.
The only advice that Eddy Merckx ever gives people who want to know how to become better is this: “Ride your bike more.”
And hard on the heels of his protege’s junior world road title, Olympian and Lux coach Roy Knickman said this: “Our program is based on lots of riding and lots of racing.”
Contrast that with the programs offered up by most experts and local club “coaches,” programs whose only heavy lifting involves social media preening, wattage prescriptions, “controlled” rides presided over by a “ride boss,” and admonitions to not “overtrain.”
How the fuck can you overtrain when you don’t even train? That’s what I want to know. Fields would have scoffed at this like you can’t imagine.
And when it comes to doing local, hardass events like BWR, Phil’s Double Fudge, Nosco, the Full Fig, why aren’t these rides packed with people trying to get better?
So you can imagine how stoked I was to learn that the NPR was extended to five laps to make it safer (questionable) and harder (UNQUESTIONABLE). Of course the West Siders still play hop-in wanker by shaving off the start of the ride, and numerous of them still only do four or even three laps, but the pack is smaller, the speeds are higher, and if you aren’t on your game you’re gonna come unstitched like a cheap pair of bib shorts.
Enter Exhibit 1 of “I guess in order to go faster I will have to work harder,” a/k/a Denis Faye.
Denis is one of those midlife crisis dudes who discovered cycling as an alternative to life’s headaches, and over the last few years just keeps getting stronger. His signature move is to NOT dick around on the NPR but to hit out hard, hit out early, and devil-take-the-hindmost.
He used to get caught and dropped a lot but now? Not so much.
Yesterday he opened the festivities with a fist to the mouth and was followed by Wes Morgan, barely recovered from Nosco on Sunday. They rolled away fast. Their “neutral zone” is back in bed.
On Pershing, SoCal’s fastest and strongest rider, Evens Stievenart, dropped a bunker buster on the peloton, strung it out to 35, and the chase was on. West Side hop-in-wankers glommed on at the Parkway, there were a series of counterpunches that shattered the group, and Jeff Mahin rolled with Evens in tow, or vice versa.
They caught Denis and Wes, eventually shelled Wes, and Denis hung on by a meat thread for five entire laps. The peloton chased its brains out and never got close. I was shelled on the first lap and only re-glommed thanks to a stop light. I got shelled again on the third lap and again re-attached thanks to the traffic signals. Later on I mercifully flatted and was able to rest before playing hop-in-wanker myself and catching the group for the last lap and a half.
Denis made it to the finish with two of the strongest riders in LA, not because he’s any good, not because he’s a wattage maven, not because he has a structured ride program, but because he rides a lot, races ‘cross on the weekends, is grittier than a EULA, and isn’t afraid to go all-out.
That’s how it used to be, folks.
That’s how it still is.
It’s called “wisdom” because it works.
Poke the bear
October 11, 2019 § 6 Comments
There are lots of rules in cycling. One of those rules is, “In the sprunt, get out of the way.”
This is the rule for 99% of riders. If you are not leading someone out or getting ready to unleash your killer sprunt, you are in the way. You are a “clogstacle.”
As a career clogstacle, I understand how this works. On the last lap of the NPR #fakerace, I tenaciously grab the wheel of EA Sports, Inc. People try to horn in but I elbow them out of the way.
With 1k to go the pace goes from torrid to unbearable. People are now fighting like mad for any shelter from the wind and are ready to kill in order to latch onto the wheel of EA Sports, Inc.
This is when I stand up, take my briefcase off the overhead rack, and quietly shuffle to the back of the bus while the real racers do their thing, i.e. risk death and catastrophic injury for the massive jolt of hormones that are released when you kill the mastodon with your sharpened stick.
Fortunately, there is constant churn at the #fakerace, and someone is always having to learn the Rule of Clogstacles. Last Tuesday the scholar-in-training was Aaron Somebody in a USC team kit.
There were a mere 400 meters to go and hardly anyone was left in the tattered front group. EA Sports, Inc., was locked onto the wheel of Dante Young as Davy Dawg wrapped it up so that the tires were whining like a cur getting beaten with an iron rod.
At this very inopportune moment, the USC rider decided that where he really wanted to be was where EA Sports, Inc. was, and physics not readily allowing two bodies to occupy Dante’s wheel at the same time, USC Boy did what any self-respecting sprunter would do. He leaned into EA Sports, Inc. to nudge him off the wheel.
Unfortunately, dense masses of muscle and ice cream do not nudge easily, and EA Sports, Inc. nudged back, sending USC Boy off on a somewhat different line of travel.
Undeterred, USC Boy came back to the buffet line to see if he could get another helping. This time the nudge was more of a hard bang, but dense muscle and ice cream and a 20-lb. weight advantage and a 150-lb. meanness advantage weren’t impressed.
EA Sports, Inc. moved his bars forward and then drifted back a few inches so that now the two gentlemen’s handlebars were locked together. “What do you think you’re doing?” EA Sports, Inc. politely inquired.
“That’s my wheel,” USC Boy said.
“I don’t see your name on it,” EA Sports, Inc. replied.
As the speed hit the mid-30’s and the actual sprunt was about to occur, and as EA Sports, Inc. was in the clear position to slightly twiggle his bars and send USC boy somersaulting atop the pavement, USC Boy relaxed on the pedals, the bars unhooked, and EA Sports, Inc. went flying around Dante for the immortal, unforgettable, legendarily mythic NPR #fakerace #fakewin.
I quit observing, folded up my Hubble telescope, and caught up to the scraggle at the light. EA Sports, Inc. and USC Boy were having what is often called an animated discussion but in cycling means “almost coming to blows” about who did what when how and why.
USC Boy tried to explain that he wanted to improve, that he was seeking instruction from the master, that he only wanted to rectify misunderstandings, but at the same time was insisting that EA Sports, Inc. had opened up a bit of a gap that he was merely trying to exploit.
“Dude,” EA Sports, Inc. said, “there was a massive gap all right.” He pointed his thumb at me. “But it wasn’t at the sharp end of the spear.”
USC Boy considered that for a moment, nodded, and went off to the university for what was presumably his second round of schooling for the day.
August 29, 2019 § 2 Comments
Let me die free.
Let me die like this: hammering off the front on the world’s dumbest and most exhilarating group ride ever, the New Pier Ride.
Let me die like this: helmetless, the wind blowing through the locks that I yet have, by colpons oon and oon, my hairless enemies gnashing their teeth, eating their livers in my wake.
Let me die like this: young and enthusiastic riders, not beaten down by conformity and fear of death, bridging up and refueling the break with the force of twenty bulls.
Let me die like this: pinned on Ramon’s wheel as Pornstache passes, hye on hors he sat, frame too big, catching wind as a spinnaker, throwing watts onto the pedals like copious ocean foam upon the rocks.
Let me die like this: John Candy Trump ignominiously cutting the course and reappearing out of the neighborhood just in time to blow by him, my caboose latched onto the Pornstache Express.
Let me die like this: a thousand slow deaths as Ramon and Pornstache take turns motoring even farther from the dejected and dispirited group.
Let me die like this: face bismotered and slathered in, uh, pain.
Let me die like this: the end in sight, having saved every ounce left in these old bones, punching once and dislodging the raging bull.
Let me die like this: watching the bull counter and ride away.
Let me die like this: with Pornstache slapping his ass in the universal bikespeak of “hang on, hang on, hang on.”
Let me die like this: the Pornstache catch, the raging bull fade, and the leadout at every punishing mile per hour that Pornstache’s legs can churn.
Let me die like this: coming around with every ounce of strength in my sagging body, gifted the #fakewin at the #fakerace by a #truefriend, arms raised in the #fakesalute, all caught on video by Fran Sur in the LAX police follow car.
Let me die free.
No place for old men. Or women.
March 6, 2019 § 17 Comments
I went to the NPR yesterday and hung on for dear life.
All the people drilling, grilling, and killing were twenty years younger, at least.
All the old farts who used to line it out at the front were cowering, grabbing wheels, wondering when the root canal was going to end.
A whole second NPR has formed now, the Old Fux NPR, consisting of Great-grandfather Time Timmy G., Jim H., and a whole bunch of superannuated bristlecone pines who plod around the course with various hangers-out and hangers-on.
I’ll be joining them before long, it seems.
I can see how some people get depressed at the harsh reality of their doddering weakness and infirmity, and deal with it by riding somewhere else, or creating a secret OF Ride, buying a cruiser bike, or finally, finally, getting serious about golf.
For me, it’s a breath of fresh blast-furnace air to get pummeled by crazy strong riders in their 20’s and 30’s, because that is how it is supposed to be. It is nice to be reminded of the true order of things, which is this:
You get old, you get weak, and you die, if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky, you just die.
Major Bob and I were laughing about it on the parade pedal back to the coffee shop. “I don’t even know who these young guys are,” he said.
“And I’m pretty sure they don’t know who we are, either.”
“Or who we were.”
“Yeah. It’s just, ‘Get out of the way, old fuck. Your senior citizen seat is at the back of the bus.'”
“That’s the way we were, too.”
Boyz badly beaten
December 29, 2018 § 5 Comments
Today CitSB sat down with Lauren Mulwitz after her amazing NPR #fakerace #fakewin on Thursday in order to get her take on this hard-fought battle.
CitSB: So, you’re now the second woman to ever win the NPR. How does it feel? Best feeling in the world?
LM: Second best.
CitSB: Right. How did it unfold?
LM: There were a bunch of riders and I beat them.
CitSB: Yes, got it. What happened exactly?
LM: Everyone pedaled hard and went crazy fast.
LM: But I went just a little faster.
CitSB: Um, okay. What about the strategy? How did you pull it off?
LM: I pedaled as hard as I could.
CitSB: Is it true that Charon was in the field?
LM: I think so. They were behind me so I don’t really know.
CitSB: Ouch! And Evens? Did you beat Evens, too?
LM: I don’t know. Was he back there?
CitSB: Ouuuuuuch! Ouch!
LM: Look, it was NPR. I don’t know who all was there.
CitSB: Oh, that is painful, just painful. So how did it unfold?
LM: Cressey and some really strong dude bridged on the golf course bump and the pack didn’t chase. They let me have it.
CitSB: Riiiiiiight. Kind of like a late Christmas gift?
LM: Yes, I guess so.
CitSB: Because everyone on NPR is so nice and friendly and loves to see women win?
LM: Well …
CitSB: Nice job out there.
CitSB: But don’t go beat all the guys again, okay? Please?
December 2, 2018 § 1 Comment
Cyclists often have a conflicted relationship with law enforcement. This is because law enforcement often does not give so much as one-tenth of a broken fuck about cyclists. They often don’t know the law, don’t care about the law, and have even been known to willfully ignore it to the detriment of the cyclist.
My best worst memory was having a Hayes County sheriff’s deputy outside of Buda pull his service revolver and point it at my head as I tried to escape by riding off in a bar ditch. I fell over so he didn’t have to kill me for failing to pull over.
But it’s not always that way. There are cops out there who know the law, and even more unicorn-ish, cops who actually cycle.
One of those cops is officer Fran Sur. And he’s the classic example of why it matters to have law enforcement on your side.
Last week on the NPR an apparently crazed and/or insane and/or drug-addled and/or drunken driver came close to mowing down the group. He then flipped a u-turn and had a second go, which thankfully came to naught.
Officer Sur, who works for the LAX PD, was immediately on the scene and helped apprehend the suspect. It’s not the first time he has gone above and beyond to make sure that cyclists are respected on Westchester Parkway. An avid and dedicated triathlete (forgiven, dude), and member of Big Orange, he’s an example of what happens when cops and cyclists are one and the same.
Nor is he the only one. Many cops ride, a few of them race, and they are dedicated to making sure that the laws are fairly enforced, not just against cyclists, but against drivers, too.
October 19, 2018 § 21 Comments
My wife did her first NPR on Tuesday and it didn’t go so hot. She tipped over on the hill waiting for the light at the Chevron and skinned her elbow.
Everyone dashed off when the light turned green except one guy who waited for her. She pedaled over the hill and onto Vista del Mar. He came up alongside and gave her a push to get her up to speed.
The group was disappearing fast and she was still in shock from tipping over and now scared because she was going down the big hill at the Chevron. The helpful guy pushed a little more until he realized that she was too nervous. “Please go ahead, I’m okay,” she said. “And thank you!”
Released from bondage, the rider sped off. Yasuko called her friend Michelle who picked her up and took her to coffee. Thankfully, unlike her daredevil husband, Yasuko kept her helmet on inside the car, which is where most non-self-inflicted, non-fall related head injuries are likely to occur. I hope that all helmet advocates are equally consistent.
Back at the ranch
“So who was this nice guy who helped you?” I asked.
“I couldn’t recognize him because of his glasses and helmet but he was a nice young man, a kind of tall guy, an Asian Methodist, I am pretty sure.”
“An Asian guy, I think. He looked Asian.”
We talked about the rest of the ride but I still couldn’t figure out what the hell she meant by Methodist. Sometimes, when you have been married for more than thirty years, you just shut up, and then after you get finished shutting up, you shut some more.
The next day I got a text from Sausage. “Hey, man, Mrs. WM did great on the NPR despite her tipping-over-incident. I gave her a little push to try and get her up to the group but she didn’t look very comfortable so I did what any self-disrespecting bike racer would do, I left her and caught the group before they were gone for good.”
“Thanks, Sausage,” I texted back.
Yasuko was sitting at the table. “Hey honey,” I said. “The guy who pushed you was Sausage.”
“Yeah, the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Greek Caucasian Asian guy.”
“Oh,” she said. “Well, I couldn’t tell. He looked like a nice young Asian man at the time.”
Finally I couldn’t stand it any more. “Why did you say he’s a Methodist?”
“Because of his kit. It looked like one of those kits.”
“You know, Rahsaan and Charon’s team.”
“Rahsaan and Charon?”
“Yes. Don’t they ride for Methodist Winning?”
THEY DO NOW.
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Down and out
April 4, 2018 Comments Off on Down and out
One of the funny things about cycling is that you don’t always know that much about people, even if you ride with them a lot. It’s weird in cycling to ask someone, “What do you do?” or to make small talk about jobs. There are people on the NPR I’ve ridden with for years whose names I don’t know, but whose riding characteristics I’ve memorized and whose butts I can pair with a face from 100 yards.
Yet many of those same people are complete strangers. What they do, where they live, and the other huge parts of their identity? No fuggin’ clue.
What’s more, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what someone’s personal details are when you’ve got your nose smashed against the stem and you’re struggling might and main to keep from getting shelled. Stockbroker? Trash collector? IDGAF because your occupation is not going to help me hang on. And after the ride, who in the world wants to talk about work when we can talk about the epic NPR screaming match between Major Bob and Anthony?
The anonymity of the back
There is one guy who does the NPR a bunch but he always rides towards the middle or the back. I know his name and we always exchange that classic biker throwaway line, “How’s it going?” before we sprint off. I’ll call him Ol’ Jake. He’s a chiropractor. How did I know he was a chiropractor? Because he looked like one, that’s how.
One day I heard some bad news. Ol’ Jake had gotten in a bicycle-falling-off-incident and smashed up his leg pretty good. It was smashed up so good that people weren’t sure he was going to walk again. Cyclists being cyclists, that is, uninsured, a group of guys decided to put together a Kickstarter campaign for him, because it was the kind of injury that would cost a fortune to fix, would keep him off work, and would take a long time to heal.
It turns out I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know Ol’ Jake very well. There was a lot of confusion about where he lived and where his office was, that kind of thing.
Eventually someone got hold of him and got his address. A group of guys took the afternoon off and rode over to his place to check with him and make sure he was okay with the Kickstarter thing. Cyclists are almost never too proud to beg and accept charity, but you never know.
Kickstarter for whom?
When they got to Ol’ Jake’s apartment building they were surprised because it wasn’t your typical deadebeat bike rider apartment building. It was a high-rise, and Ol’ Jake wasn’t simply on the top floor, he was the entire top floor, with a view of the ocean and city and mountains and pretty much everything else.
When Ol’ Jake ushered them in their eyes about popped out at the opulent furnishings. “I guess you done pretty good at the chiropracting,” one guy said.
“Sorry?” Ol’ Jake said.
“The chiropracting. You must have a good business with all those adjustments and shit.”
“What makes you think I’m a chiropractor?”
“Wanky said so.”
Ol’ Jake laughed. “No, I haven’t ever tried my hand at that. But I’ve restored the classic car collections of a lot of famous people, and of some royal families in the Middle East. I’m just a mechanic, really.”
They looked around. Ol’ Jake was “just a mechanic” like Muhammed Ali was “just a boxer.”
“So, we, uh, came over to see if you’d mind if we started a Kickstarter campaign to help you pay for your medical bills, but I guess you probably don’t need it, so what do you say to starting a Kickstarter campaign for us?”
Ol’ Jake laughed. “It’s pretty darned nice of you to come by. You fellas sit down and let me get you some coffee.”
And they did.
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