The heart of rock and roll is still beating
July 29, 2017 § 6 Comments
It was either Huey Lewis and the News pounding out a gnarly backbeat or it was my heart; if the former, the heart of rock and roll was still in fact beating as I labored up the awful Piuma climb, hanging by a meat thread onto the wheel of someone much faster, better looking, and more nicely clad than I. If the latter, my ticker wasn’t going to keep beating much longer. A heart has a finite number of beats and a finite number of beats per minute. Both appeared close to being reached.
When I got gapped out, I mean when I was in the wrong gear, I mean when it was only a club race, I mean when I’d already achieved my Strava result on a segment back there, I mean when my power meter said to ease off, I slid out the back and plodded for a while. Tony Manzella, Chad Moston, Matt Wikstrom, and Drew Kogon vanished in the twinkling of my bloodshot eye.
Then Jaycee Carey came by and dropped me, followed by Roberto Hegeler. I finished faster than some people, slower than others. Atop the climb there were tents from Helen’s Cycles and Velo Club LaGrange, sponsors of the Piuma Hillclimb and the LaGrange Cup. Finishers staggered onto a stage and were strobe-blinded by a camera rig set up by Joe Pugliese.
Yes, that Joe Pugliese.
It’s not often that a bad beating on a long hill adds up to wonderfulness, but this third informal bike race was part of the LaGrange Cup, a three-race series that club members are eligible to race. You can do one, two, or all three events. You don’t need a USAC license or any race experience at all.
Marco Fantone, the eminence gris who takes care of the gris with copious doses of Grecian Forumula, is the mastermind behind this annual club event. It’s a phenomenal amount of work, not only because all 400 members send him multiple emails like “What was the start time again?” and “Do I have to pay?” and “What gearing do you suggest?” and most of all “Do I need a track bike to ride on the track?”
That last one seems obvious, but isn’t. The answer is “no.” The LG Cup’s first event is a 500-meter sprunt on the Encino Velodrome and you can do it on your road bike. The second event is a 20k time trail on PCH. The third is the epic, 3-mile Piuma hill climb, and making reality stranger than the ultimate bike racing stereotype, in 2017 the prize for each event is actually a pair of socks.
But this isn’t a paeon to the LaGrange Cup or to Marco’s email answering prowess.
It’s a model for amazing bike racing in an era when USAC-sanctioned events are dropping faster than a Baby Boomer at a rave. In 2002, LaGrange club member Bryan McMahon put on the event as a way to give everyone in the club a chance to race, whether or not they held a USAC license. The result has been a massive success. The LG Cup is the signal event of the year and is followed by an amazing picnic blowout after the Piuma hill climb.
Every club, whether purely recreational or genuinely fake profamateur, should put on an event like this. It gets everyone excited. It promotes racing. It allows cross pollination between wannabe-but-too-scared racers with completely fake profamateur dreamers. It brings out extraordinary competition. Who thought anyone would try to kill him/herself for a pair of socks? It sharpens the club’s mission and makes for a damned good time.
And whether it’s rock and roll or not, it keeps the heart beating.
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I have a heart condition
October 17, 2015 § 8 Comments
The first time I rode with Stryker was on the Palm Springs Century, a nasty, windy, hot, unpleasant slog through the desert in February that I’ve done my best to forget. We were seventy miles in and he said, “You know, I’ve got a heart condition.” I immediately eased up and let him sit on, afraid I’d kill the kindly old soul.
Five years later Major Bob called. “Hey, wanna go ride with the Long Beach Freds?”
“Are those the guys Stryker rides with?”
“Sure,” I said. “As long as it’s easy. The intergalactic Donut Ride championship and celebrity beatdown with Steve Tilford is tomorrow and I’ve been training for this since June. So I need to go real, real easy.”
“Come on. When the club name has ‘Freds’ in it, how hard do think it can be?”
Major Bob picked me up at my apartment at 5:20 and we drove to Long Beach, which is only ten miles away as the crow flies. But unless you’re a crow you have to drive or ride over there, and it takes forever. We went through the pre-dawn haunts of Long Beach, past smoking piles of slag, cadmium, mercury, lead, cesium 137, and strontium 90.
“Breathe deep,” said Major Bob.
We passed a group of youths gathered around an elderly fellow with whom they joked and chatted as they robbed and beat him with a tire iron.
The ride began in the pitch black but everyone had a light. “Where does this ride go?” I asked Gil.
“Yeah, but I mean the ride. Where do you ride?”
“Is there an echo out here?” someone piped up.
PCH through Long Beach is clogged with cars, stoplights, trucks, glass, rocks, sand, manhole covers, open manholes, trenches, and smoking piles of slag, cadmium, mercury, lead, cesium 137, and strontium 90. “As long as we go easy,” I said.
Hegg laughed. “It’ll be plenty easy.” [Note to self: When Olympic gold medalist says it’ll be easy, he might mean something different from you and me.]
Shortly thereafter the speed increased to 30, with only a few of the 40-odd riders doing any work as the rest gasped and lunged for a wheel. By the time Lotts ran into an open manhole and exploded his tube with what sounded like a rifle shot, the group was in tatters, spattered in ones and twos for more than a mile.
I had taken exactly three pulls, and each time it had felt like the final 200 meters of an uphill sprint after a 100-mile road race that you did on your hands.
We regrouped and the insanity began again. It stopped briefly as we turned around and rode home, this time in a rotating paceline. The twelve riders of the forty who began the rotation while the others sat on dwindled to ten, then seven, then six, and then five. Each time he pulled through, Lotts would punch another person out the back.
Dutifully doing my turns until the remaining five riders all began breathing like winded water buffaloes, we came to a red light. One of the dudes looked at me angrily. “Quit pulling through like that! It’s too fast!”
I apologized for making him tired and slunk to the back, as the shards of the group rolled up to the light. First among them was Stryker. “Hey Seth!” he shouted. “Ease up. I have a heart condition, y’know!” Then he pounded off the line, dropped ten guys, and would have won the final sprunt to the bagels and cream cheese if he hadn’t flatted.
“Can you give me a hand?” he barked. “I have a heart condition.”
I did my best to put his wheel on backwards, but couldn’t. About this time a huge deluge arrived. A giant forklift that had been riding on the shoulder while its operator smoked a bong saw us changing the tire, hit the brakes, and watched in amusement as his 40-ton piece of equipment with bald tires began to go sideways. “Ever had a forty-foot forklift prong stuck up your butt?” asked Stryker.
“No,” I said.
“Me either. And thank dog we’re not gonna start today,” he said as the forklift came to a stop inches from our huddled pooping group.
At the coffee shop Major Bob and I were treated to a cup of Long Beach’s special blends; you could choose strontium or cesium flavor, depending on which half life you liked best. Now that no one had to actually pedal, the shit talking assumed epic proportions. “Next time you chop my wheel like that I’m putting a fucking bullet in your nuts,” said Lotts, which was his polite way of saying “don’t move over so quickly.”
Each person recounted a version of reality completely at odds with what we all had seen, but the stitched-together delusions gradually began to replace actuality. Instead of a hot burning in my thighs, raspy lungs, and the feeling that tomorrow I’d be lucky to get out of bed, I was beginning to recall an easy, pleasant spin with friends.
“We went easy today because of my heart condition,” said Stryker. “But come back on Wednesday and we’ll make sure you get a workout.”
I spit up a pair of ribs, hobbled back to the car, and went home. Freds, indeed.
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Youthful crotches and shaved cats’ balls
May 21, 2015 § 60 Comments
A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but if you want to do it quickly, hop on a triathlete chat forum. A friend sent me this link, which better judgment and common sense urged me not to click, but I am the reason that viruses, trojans, and clickbait always work.
Here it is, I dare you not to click, but be forewarned … it is a lethal computer virus that will infest your hard drive, your soft drive, and your sex drive as it vacuums up all of your personal data and sells your SSN, DOB, and bank accounts to Russian Internet thieves and Oleg Dickov for $2.99.
Clicked yet? Yes?
Then you have seen that an anonymous tri-dork self styled as “Duffy” has written a nasty little diatribe about one of the local West Side heroes who dared to take the lane on PCH while Duffy was hurrying to his cat testicle shaving appointment. Now before we get into the substance of Duffy’s complaint, which is that Our Hero should have been in the bike lane (there isn’t one, as the sheriff can now tell you), let’s all take a minute to appreciate Duffy’s online presence in Ye Olde Tri-dork Chatte Forum, and we might as well begin with his self described occupation as “Murders and Executions.” (Viewable, along with his profile pics, to members only).
So you see, Duffy is funny.
But he has a serious side, too, and since it focuses on vulvas, what better way to proclaim his passion to the world than with a profile picture of a woman’s crotch? Detached from a body or a face, Duffy’s idea of a woman is apparently a vulva in a miniskirt. I’ll take a wild leap here and guess that Duffy is single, and not by choice. Unusually for me, I will take the high road and not post the picture.
“Gosh,” you’re probably thinking as you touch yourself gently, “that’s probably someone who is known to law enforcement.” What you’re probably not thinking is, “There’s the profile picture of someone who is knowledgeable about traffic laws.”
Of course, it’s possible to get the wrong impression, and Duffy spares you that error by using a second profile picture, where he veers from dirty old man to straight up sicko.
By now we have lurched so far down the rat hole of Internet crazy that there’s not much more to add. How can you improve on the headline “Ignorant Pervert Cager-cum-tridork Who Fantasizes Over Shaved Cat Dicks Berates Law Abiding Cyclist”?
Answer: You can’t.
What you can do, though, is briefly scroll through the forum comments, where Duffy, in good company, finds much support for the proposition that cyclists on PCH should ride in the non-existent bike lane and/or in the rubble-filled gutter, or else face getting honked and screamed at by cager cat dick fanciers, and possibly run over, too.
What’s most shocking about the supportive comments is that most have at least three words with more than one syllable, and that “Duhhhh” is used sparingly. Is it really a tri-dork forum?
What’s sad is to see the Helen’s team name dragged through the mud until you realize that these are anonymous Internet trolls who don’t shop at stores, who don’t ride on roads, and whose main pastime is, well, shaved cat dicks. The bright spot, about 26 comments down, is the reasoned voice of Club La Grange’s El Presidente Robert Efthimos, who puts together coherent thoughts, proper punctuation, correct orthography, and effective reasoning to defend the Helen’s rider’s right to take the lane while he diplomatically points out that Duffy is a maroon.
Best of all, El Presidente presents the rider’s side of the story, a rider we all know and highly respect, which gibes exactly with the facts you’d expect: Mr. Cat Dicks began the confrontation by blasting the horn although the rider was legally in the lane coming down from Pepperdine at 42 mph. The aggressor then sped away, and when the rider caught Cat Dicks at the light, the cager began his lecture with The Opening Phrase That Marks You For All Time As An Asshole, i.e. “I’m a cyclist too, but … ”
No, Duffy, you’re not a cyclist. You are in a car harassing cyclists, which makes you a cager. You spend your cage time leaning on a horn, misstating the law you haven’t bothered to learn, and threatening us with death. That makes you not a cyclist, but an enemy, and if the worst you get out of encounters like this is an angry middle finger from a calm and accomplished cyclist, consider yourself lucky and go back to the shaved cat dicks, at least until we turn you in for animal abuse.
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The tired radicals
May 10, 2015 § 38 Comments
On Saturday morning I rolled up to the Manhattan Beach Pier and was pleasantly surprised to find a large group of riders who had made the 6:30 AM commitment to pedal north for a couple of hours, take the full lane on Pacific Coast Highway, and then lodge an informal protest at Malibu City Hall regarding the illegal ticketing of cyclists on PCH.
By the time we arrived we had added another ten riders or so, and a handful had only ridden part of the way. The pre-ride publicity was pushed by Greg Seyranian of Big Orange, and I got a lot of help from Mario Obejas at the Beach Cities Cycling Club, as he invited me to come speak to the group about our protest and included ride information in the club’s newsletter. I also greatly appreciated the efforts of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, who sent their president from San Diego, Jim Baross, and his henchman from San Clemente, Pete van Nuys.
Don Ward of Wolfpack Hustle also put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, and a random and incomplete list of people who showed up includes Dan Kroboth, Steven Thorpe, Robert Cisneros, David Huntsman, Mikki Ozawa, Tamar Toister, Debbie Sullivan, Michael Barraclough, Pete van Nuys, Gary Cziko, Jim Baross, Eric Richardson, Bob Kellogg, Peter Richardson, Connie Perez, Alx Bns, Mark Jacobs, Don Young, and Les Borean.
The day before the ride I got a call from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The lieutenant and I spent close to an hour talking about cycling on PCH. Although the department understands the right of cyclists to control the lane when there are debris or other hazards that make riding as far to the right as practicable unsafe, the bone of contention continues to be what constitutes a substandard width lane, because it is this exception to the FTR law that cyclists use to get away from the fog line and out into the full lane on PCH.
Our position has always been that the statute, CVC 21202(a) is plain. It defines a substandard width lane as one in which a bike and a car cannot travel safely side by side. Some of the sheriff’s deputies believe that on PCH this is a matter of judgment and interpretation, whereas regular cyclists who simply want to follow the law insist that it’s no more subject to interpretation than the rules governing stopping at traffic lights.
Simple math shows beyond any reasonable dispute that the substandard width exception applies on PCH. Why? Because nowhere on the stretch from Santa Monica to the Ventura County Line do the lanes exceed 11 feet in width, 12 at the absolute most. The width of a cyclist, when you add in one foot for variation of the line of travel, is about 4 feet. California law now requires cars to pass bikes with a minimum 3-foot buffer. This puts the effective width of the cyclist at about 7 feet. The width of a car or truck, including its mirrors, is at least 6 feet.
6 + 7 = 13, and 13 > 12. In words, a 12-foot lane isn’t wide enough to accommodate 13 feet of bike and car. And of course along many sections of PCH, the lanes are only barely 10 feet wide.
We took the lane as soon as we exited onto PCH at Chautauqua, and the entire morning we saw only two squad cars, neither of which paid us any attention whatsoever. It’s my opinion that the upper management at the sheriff’s department agrees with our interpretation of the law, but I also think there are deputies on the line who simply don’t accept the right of cyclists to take the lane no matter what the law says. They see a group of riders who aren’t cowering in the gutter and think, “That can’t be legal.” But during our ride we got nothing but courtesy from the law, which was kind of the point: The ride was staged as a protest against a ticket issued to a Big Orange rider several months ago for failing to ride in the bike lane, and at the time there were no bike lanes on PCH.
At Temescal Canyon we took a break, waited for the West Side riders to show up, and tweeted/facebagged our protest ride info to the Lost Hills Substation, the City of Malibu, and the CHP.
The entire ride from Temescal to Cross Creek, about six miles, we got honked at exactly once and were chopped exactly once — by an asshole on a motorcycle, no less. I always find it hilarious and pathetic when the second-most vulnerable users on the road treat us with aggression and hatred.
Although getting our message across to law enforcement and to the City of Malibu was the main purpose of the ride, as it turns out the real impact of this type of cycling is the message it sends to cagers. Hundreds of motorists were educated this morning about the rights of cyclists to take the lane on PCH–it was a lesson worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in radio spots or TV ads. Forcing drivers to see cyclists in the lane and accept the reality that as with a slow moving bus or cement mixer you have to slow down, put on your blinker, change lanes, and pass on the left, are the most important results of this type of activity.
Which leads to a couple of other observations: First, of the couple of hundred cyclists we saw on PCH that morning, none was in the lane, all were huddled in the gutter. Several times we even had riders catch up to us, sit on for a few minutes, and then come racing around on the left, only to dive back into the gutter. Whereas law enforcement seems to be coming around to our point of view, judging from the cyclists on PCH, most riders prefer to be entirely out of the roadway. This is where the actions of large groups like La Grange, Big Orange, and semi-organized rides such as NOW and Kettle need to continue pounding home the message that the lane is legal and it’s safe. In fact, when I did the NOW ride a few weeks ago it was amazing to see the entire 70-person peloton crammed up onto the shoulder.
The most extreme example of the cower mentality was on the BWR a few weeks ago, when riders refused to take the lane even when protected by a police-escorted, full rolling enclosure. Old habits die hard.
On the other hand, you can’t force people to do what they don’t feel comfortable doing, and the main point is that riders who understand that they’re safer in the lane now have a pretty strong reason to take it without too much fear of harassment. Even as I’m writing this the California Highway Patrol from West Valley tweeted to say that they agreed cyclists can ride in the lane as long as they’re not impeding traffic.
A final point was recognizing that despite all of the advocacy and fundraising by the numerous bicycling organizations in Southern California, the most effective thing you can do is to get a group together and take the lane. All the emails and fundraising campaigns in the world don’t speak as loudly as 25 riders legally riding in the lane.
Related to that there’s this issue: Getting riders to commit to a Saturday or Sunday of cycling advocacy is tough because the weather’s nice, the early morning roads are relatively empty, and would you rather get in your workout with your pals … or try to change the world with a little two-wheeled advocacy? Most people will choose the former, but for those who took the time to make themselves seen and heard on PCH, thank YOU!
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Malibu’s middle finger to cyclists on PCH
May 4, 2015 § 41 Comments
When the Rolling Stones released “Some Girls” in 1978 I was in junior high school. Like most rock lyrics, the title track sounded like “Some girls blahblahblahblah some girls blahblahblah everything I own!” The ratio of blah-to-intelligible-words was about 27-to-one, which meant that I, like most kids, had to hum a lot.
Many years went by and thankfully rock music went with it. However, after moving to California and getting initiated to riding on Pacific Coast Highway I was able to encode one of the mystery lyrics of “Some Girls,” and it was the “blah” after “Let’s go back to blah beach, I’ll give you half, of everything I own.”
There it was, in living color: Zuma Beach. And the reason Mick was going to take the girl back there was to ply her with drugs and then, in the paternity suit/divorce settlement that followed, give her half of everything he owned because California is a community property state.
Even 1/10,000th of everything that Mick Jagger owns in Zuma Beach would be awesome because Zuma is stunningly beautiful. It has great surf. It has eye-popping scenery. The first thongs of spring usually alight here, and the section of PCH that runs through Zuma deposits cyclists onto the doorway of famed canyon climbs like Decker, Encinal, Yerba Buena, and the Beast of the Coast, a/k/a Deer Creek.
PCH also winds its way up to The Rock at Point Mugu, another stunning vista that also happens to mark the turnaround point for most 100-mile PCH sojourns from the South Bay. The stretch of PCH that goes through Zuma Beach is like the rest of PCH after you bust out from Santa Monica. It’s easy and safe and pretty much hassle-free as long as you have the presence of mind to take the lane. The flip side is that being a gutter bunny on PCH is nerve wracking and deadly.
What PCH isn’t, is susceptible to “bicycling infrastructure,” i.e. bike lanes that collect trash that you’re required by law to ride through and that make you fair game for motorists and buses who are only staring straight ahead. PCH is thankfully not susceptible to bike lanes because in most places along PCH to Zuma Beach the highway abuts cliff on the left and streetside parking on the right. There is no place for the misguided to build bike lanes into which cyclists must be corralled.
This is great because the absence of a bike lane really encourages you to take the lane and learn how to ride in it.
The City of Malibu, however, driven by bike-haters, non-cyclist city planners, foolish CALTRANS highway engineers, and I suppose a coterie of cycling “advocates” who are worse than ignorant when it comes to the reality of cycling on PCH, has put in a two-mile bike lane on the southbound section of PCH that goes through Zuma Beach.
For 25 miles in either direction there are no bike lanes and then suddenly, bam, a bike lane. To make things worse the bike lane is jammed up against a two-mile stretch of Zuma Beach streetside parking. All of the Some Girls and all of the Kelly Slaters park here. You don’t know fun until you whiz by a parked van at 22 mph only to have the door thrown open and some stoned dude tumbles out with a 7-foot surfboard. Then he yells at you and tells you to fuck off assuming you aren’t now on the pavement and awaiting a life flight.
After two miles the bike lane ends and you’re back where you started — hopefully in the lane, but more likely crammed over onto the shoulder because the bike lane has primed you to cower and huddle and avoid the passing traffic. This is an easy fear psychosis to fall into because the traffic is passing you at 60 when you’re in the bike lane, unlike when you’re in the travel lane and the approaching traffic slows, changes lanes, and passes you in the No. 1 lane with space and speed to spare.
Even if you’re a bike lane advocate (and I hope you aren’t) this one is complete rubbish unless you live in Zuma Beach. For anyone just passing through, and trust me, like Mick the residents really want you to keep on trucking, the bike lanes are the ultimate in confusion and stupidly incomplete infrastructure.
On May 9 I’ll be protesting the illegal harassment of cyclists by LA Sheriff’s Department at Malibu City Hall on Saturday, 9:00 AM and also complaining about these awful deathtrap bike lanes. I’m leaving the parking lot at Temescal Canyon and PCH at Will Rogers State Park at 8:00 AM-ish and will be riding slowly, safely, and legally — in the lane! I’m leaving the South Bay from the Manhattan Beach Pier at 6:30
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The date is May 9
April 6, 2015 § 63 Comments
One of my buddies has a place up near Paso Robles, and he rides his bike there a fair amount. There isn’t ever any traffic, the roads are scenic, and the weather is nice there year-round. But don’t let the scarcity of cars and the bucolic byways fool you. The three-tooth mouth breathers may not graduate from high school, but they can still use a spray can.
Yesterday as my buddy was pedaling along, minding his own business, a pickup coming in the other direction took the time to slow down, honk, roll down the window, flip him off, and holler in a healthy “Fuck you!” for good measure. There is nothing that reminds you how much you are hated more than people taking the time on a beautiful, uncrowded morning to honk, scream, and flip.
On Saturday morning as we returned from a ride out to Trancas on PCH a motorcyclist did the same thing. We were in Manhattan Beach, the traffic was light, and we approached a signal. The biker happily raised his middle finger and cursed us. There is also a guy who regularly rides his motorized bicycle illegally down the bike path with a surfboard on the side, spitting exhaust fumes as he rattles along. He can invariably be counted on to scream The Greeting and display The Gesture.
And of course a few weeks ago another Deppity Doofus on PCH pulled over a group of Big Orange riders on PCH and punitively ticketed one for not riding in the bike lane. Detail: There is no bike lane on PCH. Still, time and effort and expense will be wasted defending against the targeted police harassment, just as with the forty or so riders in the Conejo Valley who were all ticketed by a cop for running a stop sign that they didn’t all run.
You know, group guilt. It’s the new individual guilt.
On Saturday, May 9, at 9:00 AM I’m going to be at the Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, to protest the continued illegal harassment of cyclists by the LA Sheriff’s Department. The city advised that I should “attend a council meeting instead,” but when I checked the U.S. Constitution there was nothing in it about the Malibu Municipal Code. Feel free to show up and voice your opinion about this.
The City of Malibu has no police force of its own and instead contracts with LASD for police services. The sheriff’s department is responsive to the demands of its employers. Both law enforcement and the entitled bike-haters on PCH need to know that their harassment is as unacceptable as it is offensive.
Anyone who wants to pedal to the city hall can meet me in the parking lot at Temescal Canyon and PCH, at Will Rogers State Park at 8:00 AM. I’ll be riding slowly, safely, and legally, where I belong.
In the lane.
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Belgian Waffle Ride practice ride
March 5, 2015 § 40 Comments
This ride is not sponsored, authorized, approved, recognized, encouraged, abetted, aided, promoted, offered, suggested, referenced, affiliated with, created by, managed, supervised, regulated, reviewed, evaluated, or in any way, shape, method, means, form, or function related to or otherwise connected with SPY Optic and its officially endorsed Belgian Waffle Ride.
But that is not all,
Oh no, that is not all!
On Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 7:00 AM pointy sharp I’m leaving from the bricks of the Center of the Known Universe a/k/a CotKU a/k/a the Manhattan Beach Pier Starbucks in order to ride my bicycle. I will be riding my bicycle for one reason and one reason only: To prepare my spindly legs and spongy lungs for the battering that awaits on April 26, 2015, the day of the 4th Annual Belgian Waffle Ride.
This BWR practice ride of mine, which is wholly unaffiliated with the actual Belgian Waffle Ride and its sponsors, will ride from CotKU to Pacific Coast Highway and from there to The Rock, where I will pee, take in the view, and then turn around and head back towards Los Angeles.
On the way I will make a left-hand turn up Yerba Buena, and when I get to the top I will go down Mulholland Drive until it hits Pacific Coast Highway again, where I will turn left. After a little while I will make another left-hand turn, this time up Decker Lane. When I reach the intersection with Encinal I will turn right and go back to PCH.
Then I will pedal back to CotKU and from there back to Palos Verdes where I will climb another long hill. After it’s all said and done I will have ridden about 140 miles, which is a long way, and will have gone uphill a whole bunch. I will be very tired.
You can come if you want and you can ride as much or as little as you see fit, and here’s the thing: Anyone who wants to join me on this practice bicycle ride can. The same way that you can jog behind someone on the bike path, or follow someone on the freeway, or hop onto the tail-end of a bunch of wankers sliding along a cross-country ski trail, well, you can ride in my vicinity when I go ride my bike, too.
The catch? I’m not promoting the ride other than to note its existence, and I’m certainly NOT suggesting that you do it. I’m not providing protection, medical care, organization, road permits, or anything else. Why? Because it’s my own private bicycle ride that I plan to do alone. If you show up, that’s your business. It’s not a race or century ride or a Grand Fondue or a public event or a private one. It’s not an event of any kind. It’s my own personal bicycle ride.
What does this mean? It means that if you decide to leave from the same place at the same time with the same destination in mind as I, you may well die or suffer horrible, catastrophic injury. You may get hit by a car, you may fall off your bicycle and split your skull, you may have some wanker smash into you, you may slide out on a descent and get killed, you may blow a tire, bust a rim, snap a chain, crater a fork, or have any of a million other bad things happen to you.
And unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you ride a bicycle on public roads. You are trading the fun of riding your bicycle on the street for the risk of death or catastrophic injury. I’m not encouraging you to do it, to the contrary. I’m warning you about the danger and telling you that if you show up, it’s your life, it’s your safety, and it’s your responsibility to come home in one piece — not mine.
If you do decide to meet up with me, it will be good training for the BWR. I won’t be hammering, that’s for sure. And at the end of the day, although you may well get killed, you may well not. It could even turn out to be fun. Your call.
So see you on the road. Or not!
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Thanks for blowing me off
November 29, 2014 § 19 Comments
Over Thanksgiving Dinner I had sternly lectured Sherri about forgiveness. “Sure, ol’ Puddinhead is a fourteen-carat asshole. But you can’t get too angry at him.”
“Why not? Nobody can stand the bastard.”
“Because cycling isn’t like the real world. In the real world when you meet an asshole, you avoid him forever. But in the cycling world, when you meet an asshole, chances are great that he’s going to be on every group ride you do for the next ten years. And when it’s your turn to fall off your bike on your head, chances are excellent that it’s asshole who will be there to call EMS or drag your corpse to the roadside so that the embalmer doesn’t have to get truck treads out of your face.”
“Easy to say, Mr. Turntheotherbuttcheek.”
“I’ve got a lot of practice. There’s nothing that happens in cycling that’s worth getting angry about, at least not for more than a few minutes. We’re too dependent on each other — on rides, in races — just being on someone’s wheel is a leap of faith of the biggest sort.”
Sherri shook her head. “Some assholes just need a good killin’.”
I had been excited all week about Friday’s SPY Holiday Ride. One of my buddies who had never done it before kindly offered to give me and the Wily Greek a lift down to San Diego. He, like many others, wanted to see how he would “stack up” against the monsters of North County on their home turf — a 60-mile, hilly, crushing, full-on dick stomping contest of the very first order.
Normally I don’t accept such ride offers because they are invariably accompanied by a phone call the morning of the ride saying, “Hey dude I got really sick last night and barfed and can’t make it sorry have a great ride.” There’s something about anticipating the ride that makes people sick at about 3:00 AM the morning of. I call it the poopy diaper effect.
At 5:00 AM I got out of bed, loaded my junk, and roused Mrs. WM. She loves getting up at 5:00 in the morning to drive me places. It is fun for her, especially if it is bicycle related.
A few minutes before we got to my teammate’s house, my phone rang. It was Wily. “Yo,” he said. “You still going?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you get Poopy’s text?”
“Yeah, dude. Poopy got really sick last night and barfed and can’t make it.”
I flipped through my phone. Sure enough, Poopy had sent a text at 4:58 AM. “That motherfugger,” I said. “I guess it was too much trouble to actually call.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I dunno,” I said. “Mrs. WM needs the car today. I guess I’ll go home.”
“At least now you have something to blog about,” he said.
“Nah. I wouldn’t want to call out Poopy in public. Some things you gotta keep to yourself.”
I sat around and fumed for a couple of hours, then went out for a ride. It occurred to me not to be angry or hold grudges since, you know, we cyclists all depend on each other, but I was furiously mad. It’s one thing to lecture people, it’s another to have to practice what you preach, which I make a practice of never doing.
It was going to be hot so I took two water bottles. One of them was a very nice Specialized bottle with the premium nipple that had caused a big marital spat. I had found it on a ride and brought it home.
“What’s this?” asked Mrs. WM.
“It’s a water bottle I found.”
“You gonna drink onna nasty found bottle?”
“Sure. Just wash it up and it’ll be good to go.”
“I ain’t washin’ on no nasty found bottle. Maybe he had onna AIDS.”
“You don’t get AIDS by drinking old water bottles. It’s in perfectly fine condition.”
So Mrs. WM disassembled the actual nipple, including the two rubber washers on the inner nipple assembly, then took a toothpick and ran it inside the washer grooves. As I was peacefully sitting on the couch she came over with the toothpick, whose end was covered in a black, nasty slime. “Here’s onna your supposed okay water nipple,” she said.
I looked at the slime. “What the hell is that?”
“That’s onna your water bottle that you was gonna stick in your mouth.”
“Is it clean now?”
“Sure it’s clean. I been cleanin’ it!”
It’s been a great water bottle ever since.
The day’s anger management route was out PCH to Latigo Canyon. Latigo is a 40-minute climb if you are really, really good, and a multiple of 40 minutes if you are me. I decided to ride steadily and not push it. As the first section of the climb kicked up, some dude came whizzing by.
He was riding a wankish red bike with three chain rings, MTB pedals, and a helmet visor. I was tempted to let him go, fully expecting to see him again, when I noticed his legs and kit. The kit was very pro, and he looked super fit. “Hello,” he said in an is-it-English-South-African-Kiwi-or-an-Aussie accent as he flew by. I pedaled up behind him and noticed a yellow ANZ tag on his seatpost. “Air New Zealand?” I wondered.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
He smiled. “Woody.”
“No kidding? What’s it short for?”
“I’ve only met one other Woodrow my entire life.”
“Oh, really? Who’s that?”
“My youngest son.”
It was his turn to be surprised, and we chatted about names, he chatting while I gasped out little chopped syllables. He was flying. Woody, who’s only been biking for two years, is a pilot for Air New Zealand, and had brought his beater bike to get in a ride during his layover. “I don’t want to get m’heart rate over 160,” he said, as mine pushed 180, then 280, then 1,000.
Before long the residual anger I’d had about being stood up by Poopy was wholly replaced by the burning pain of the climb and the gnawing fear that Woody was going to ride me off his wheel with a helmet visor and a triple. I hung on, barely, and after we crested the top I gave him lots of advice about how to climb properly. He seemed to listen.
We descended Kanaan Dume and got back on PCH. Woody put his head down and started going somewhat fast. For the next twenty miles he averaged a solid 30 mph. It was all I could do to tuck and suck. When we reached Will Rogers Park I sprinted around him for the win, then gave him lots more advice about how to get strong on the flats. He seemed to listen to that, too.
We parted company in Manhattan Beach and I pedaled, decrepit, back home. It had been a great day, the water from the water bottle had tasted fine, and I wasn’t angry anymore.
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Why “cyclists” make the worst advocates
August 8, 2014 § 24 Comments
Have you ever noticed that for the most part, good bicycling advocates are hardly ever “cyclists”? By “cyclist” I mean:
- Wannabe racer
- Anyone who owns more than $5k worth of bike
The people who show up at town hall meetings, city council meetings, and transportation committee meetings are almost always slow, hairy-legged, wall-eyed bicycle riders who stumble up to the lectern with one pant leg still rolled up.
They are so uncool.
The cool people “ain’t got time for that.” They race. They train. They sprunt. They fall of their bicycles and file police reports. They send in entry fee reimbursement requests to their team boss, the timely receipt of which will determine whether they can pay the rent. But they sure as hell don’t drag ass downtown to make a 7:00 PM meeting so they can add their comments to Subsection 2-15(a) of the amendment of the municipal city plan that addresses bicycle infrastructure.
Nope. The people who take the time and make the effort are the one-leg-rolled-up wankers who get shelled on the first lap of the Tuesday Night World Championships. Worse, they’re often technical people, like engineers, who actually study traffic patterns, who have experience in roadway design, and (the real whackos) who spend their free time analyzing detailed planning reports.
And of course, it’s thanks to them that the rules get changed, that laws get passed, that the rights of bicyclists are addressed by our non-cycling elected officials.
It would be a cliché if it didn’t hurt so bad: The most numerous people who show up at public planning meetings are the rabid, SUV-driving, bike-hating crazies who shout the loudest, while the isolated bike advocate, smelling of a long commute, stares down the mindless cager mob with facts, statistics, and the bloody, penetrating lance of reason.
Fortunately, the Bike Plan Team in charge of the Regional Bicycle Master Plan for the Las Virgenes-Malibu regions has set up the equivalent of a cyclist roach motel in order to snare the wary and cunning “cyclists” into doing something positive for the greater riding community. The Bike Plan Team will be hanging out this coming Sunday at Malibu Country Mart from 8:30 AM to 12:00 noon. They’ll be there so that all of the “cyclists” rolling up and down PCH can engage in the equivalent of Internet activism. All you have to do when you roll through Malibu is stop for a minute and give your thoughts about making the Las Virgenes-Malibu region safer and more comfortable for bicycling.
When you stop by the Bike Plan tent to speak with team members you can complete a short bicycle survey and grab free bicycle-related swag. This approach recognizes that cyclists just want to ride, and generally don’t want to attend evening meetings (except for Brad House and David Kramer). It also lets you (yes, YOU) add your voice to a plan whose goal is to make the PCH corridor and region a more enjoyable and safer place to bike. Hint: Advocate for our and YOUR right to control the full right-hand lane on PCH.
Another thing you can do when you roll through is to tell them that you want — NOW — sharrow lane markings and “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs on Pacific Coast Highway.
Of course, many “cyclists” are too busy to even do that because, Strava. There are KOM’s to chase, pace lines to keep up with, and training databases to populate with VAM’s, w/kg’s, and what you had for breakfast. But the Bike Plan Team is ready for you. You don’t even have to stop; you can fill out an online survey to help create a plan that reflects your needs, wishes, and dystopian fantasies, most of which likely involve Cher on a 400-mile gravel grinder somewhere east of Bakersfield. Take the survey by going to this page and clicking on the survey link. No matter how lazy you are, and if you’re a bike racer you’re plenty lazy, you can’t possibly be too lazy to do this.
I would absolutely be there in person for the event except, you know, I have to race on Sunday.
You can subscribe to this blog and support bike advocacy in Southern California by clicking here. $2.99/month, cheap. Or you can support it because you read it every day and, you know, it’s the right thing to do. This means you, Douggie.
We’re halfway there
July 28, 2014 § 51 Comments
As part of the “Cyclists Belong in the Lane on PCH” project, on Sunday the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department met us at 8:00 AM in the parking lot of Will Rogers State Park. They were in an unmarked Ford Explorer. Greg Seyranian and Dave Kramer had rallied the Big Orange troops, along with other riders from the West Side and the South Bay. There were about fifty cyclists total.
This was the second phase of our law enforcement-cyclist cooperative. The first phase involved getting ticketed for riding in the lane, and then throwing a shit-fit about it followed by meetings with Captain Pat Devoren and his team of deputies. Much of the heavy lifting was done by Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition wunderkind Eric Bruins. Give them some money if you’re feeling so disposed.
As a result of the meetings, Captain Devoren suggested a ride-along where deputies would follow behind a Sunday group ride. This was going to be our opportunity to educate them about the realities of riding a bike on PCH, and about how much safer it is to ride in the lane than in the gutter.
The Big Orange peloton had prepared an excellent ride plan. From Temescal to Las Flores they would ride in the gutter, switching to the lane at those points where the shoulder vanishes, or where there are cars parked on the shoulder, or where other space considerations make continued progress in the gutter impossible. This would give the following deputies an opportunity to see how dangerous it is to continually switch from gutter to lane.
After Las Flores, the peloton would ride single file “as far to the right as practicable” per CVC 21202. This would show the deputies two things: first, that a line of 50 riders going single file on PCH is significantly more of an obstacle to motorists than a single, compact peloton riding 2×2. Second, it would demonstrate with utter clarity that even when riding “FTR” there is not enough space for a bike and a car to share the lane — and that’s without the 3-foot passing law that kicks in this September.
At Cross Creek the peloton would flip it and ride back to Temescal utilizing the full lane. This would let the deputies compare traffic flow, safety, and predictability of the cyclists versus the other two methods.
The peloton rolled out and we hung back in the unmarked vehicle for about a minute. Then, we got a little surprise: because it looked like we were tailgating the cyclists, a park ranger put on his flashers and pulled us over. It’s pretty awesome getting stopped by law enforcement when you’re in an unmarked vehicle with two dudes carrying LASD badges. Suffice it to say, no one got a ticket!
The deputies were immediately impressed with the difficulty and inherent danger of doing gutter-and-lane back-and-forth maneuvers. Although motorists didn’t harass anyone or honk, the constant motion from gutter to lane was plainly fraught with potential conflict, especially since the traffic at 8:00 AM on Sunday is incredibly light compared to what happens on this stretch of PCH during a weekday, or later in the day on a nice weekend.
When the Big Orange group shifted to single file, it was also clear that there was no possible way that a car could safely share the lane with the cyclists. The deputies immediately saw that putting fifty riders in a long single file created an extremely long line of riders. When I told them that as of September the weekly Big O contingent would be double that in size, they understood the importance of keeping the group as compact as possible.
On the final leg from Cross Creek back to Temescal, the chief concern of the deputies was how traffic would be obstructed. It wasn’t, not even a little. One deputy commented that it was no different from a motorist who has to go around a slow moving vehicle like a bus or a dump truck. They also noted the incredible number of obstacles for any rider who might choose to ride in the gutter. Cars parked up against the fog line, people opening doors, surfers magically appearing with surfboards, and bad surface conditions in the gutter were all things that became easy to understand when pointed out while following the peloton at a slow speed of 20/21 mph.
The deputies were fully on board with the idea that the best place for a group is in the lane. This is a huge change and represents a watershed in the way that law enforcement views bicyclists on PCH. The only concern they still had was how this type of lane control would affect traffic when it was only one or two riders and when it was done during rush hour.
I volunteered to do another drive along, this time with only one or two riders so they could see that although the obstruction of traffic was minimal, the motorist harassment is extreme and terrifying. We’re going to set up a date for that experiment, perhaps this coming week.
The take home for cyclists who want to ride in the lane on PCH is this: the deputies will report back to Captain Devoren and based on their report we will follow up with LASD to confirm that for now, at least as regards groups of riders, cyclists can expect not to be cited for CVC 21202 violations simply for riding in the lane. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that confirmation in writing or as a directive that is sent out to deputies working traffic enforcement on PCH.
I want to stress that this is a work in progress. We’ve gotten key deputies to examine this stretch of PCH from a cyclist’s perspective, and in their words, “We’ve been educated about what cyclists face on PCH.” It doesn’t mean that the issue is fully resolved, especially with regard to solo riders or cyclists in groups of two or three.
Although it’s tempting to describe this as a “victory,” it’s much more a significant step in the right direction. The sheriff’s department has been professional and not even the slightest big adversarial with regard to these discussions. With the continued support and open-minded approach of LASD — not to mention the riders who are willing to come out and help with the process of educating law enforcement — we may not be too far from the day when all cyclists will be able to exercise their right to ride in the lane all the way from Santa Monica to County Line and beyond.
Huge thanks to all of the people who have given time, lent encouragement, and donated money to keep this project moving ahead. Thanks as well to Captain Devoren and LASD for being open to change. If you want to get involved as a volunteer, send me your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also:
- Subscribe to this blog: Your $2.99 monthly donation helps me advocate for cyclists.
- Join California Association of Bicycling Organizations. $10, cheap.
- Join LA County Bicycle Coalition.
- Talk with your club and discuss riding in the lane on PCH the next time you’re out that way.
It’s been less than a year since Greg Seyranian and Big Orange began using lane control on their group rides on PCH. Thanks again to all who have helped.